PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION – One Act Play

22 Nov

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

CHARACTERS:

ARMAN MARTINEZ (Originally played by Ryan Seffinger) – Construction worker, alcoholic, lives in the Hull Quarter

JANE PORTER (Originally played by Jessica Campanile) – Publisher, newly moved into the Uptown

JUSTIN MARTINEZ (Originally played by Timmy Obiso) – Son of Arman, great student, gets bullied, attends public school in Hull Quarter

CRYSTAL PORTER (Originally Played by Josie Des Rosiers) – Daughter of Jane, gay, attends conservative private school Uptown

BECCA VAN TINE (Originally played by Kathy Colatta) – Childhood friend of Jane

 

GIVEN CIRCUMSTANCES:

Time (for the beginning of the show): 8:30 AM, October

Setting: Milestown, Pennsylvania (Uptown: the wealthy, upper-middle class area [SR]; Hull Quarter: underprivileged area [SL])

 

SCENE 1

Lights up on ARMAN MARTINEZ standing alone next to the railroad track (SL), eating an Egg-McMuffin and listening to his IPod. This railroad track, literally dividing the stage into two sections, separates the town – Milestown, Pennsylvania – into two factions: a wealthy area (known as “Uptown”) and an underprivileged area (known as the “Hull Quarter”). On stage left is the kitchen/living room of a poorer family, ARMAN and his son, JUSTIN. Set on stage right is an evidently wealthier living area, which homes the newly arrived family: JANE PORTER and her daughter, CRYSTAL. Boxes fill JANE’s house, indicating she just recently moved to the area. It is 8:30 on a chilly Tuesday morning in October; ARMAN is eating his breakfast while waiting for the train to work, to a construction site in Philadelphia. No sounds are to be heard except the roar of cars, metal clashing against metal, and ARMAN’s chewing.

JANE PORTER rushes onto stage, flustered, with her iPhone GPS beeping in her hand.

 

JANE

You’ve got to be kidding me. I swear to god, I put in the right address!

 

ARMAN

Do you need some –

 

JANE

How do I get to the Milestown Swallding Station from here?

 

ARMAN

This is the Swallding station.

 

JANE

But… my directions specifically instructed me to arrive at the Milestown Swallding Station, and catch the 8:15 bus to Center City. I don’t see a bus.

 

ARMAN

Ah, well there’s the Swallding Park and Ride, which you missed about a mile uptown, and the Swallding Train Station, which you arrived at Just in time to make the 8:20 train to Center City.

 

JANE

You’ve got to be kidding me. (Beat) I saw a Swallding Private School on my route here. Big name in Milestown?

 

ARMAN

On your side, sure. You can find his mega-mansion a couple minutes up Orchard Blvd.

 

JANE

Only on my side?

 

ARMAN

(Chuckles)

Better investment.

 

JANE

I see. (Beat) Well, seeing as I would have missed my bus anyway apparently, I might as well just wait here for the train.

 

ARMAN

New in the area?

 

JANE

Painfully new. Can’t even find my way to a bus station.

 

ARMAN

Don’t take it too hard. It’s a common mistake for new-comers.

 

JANE

I’ll take your word for it, then. To be honest, my confidence can’t handle another blow. My daughter already got lost on her way to school. I was mindless enough to let her go alone on her first day.

 

ARMAN

Private or boarding?

 

JANE

Why not public?

 

ARMAN

How new are you?

 

JANE

Newer than I thought I’d seem after my first week. Private. Country Day Prep School.

 

ARMAN

(Phews)

God bless you.

 

JANE

What does that mean?

 

ARMAN

It means, good for you. It’s great education  for one shiny nickel.

 

JANE

(Shrugs)

We manage.

 

ARMAN

I’m sure you do. (Beat) You work by Rittenhouse?

 

JANE

Excuse me?

 

ARMAN

Rittenhouse Square.

 

JANE

Oh. Yeah. I got an editorial position at Trans-Atlantic.

 

ARMAN

So that’s how you earn that nickel. Publishing books.

 

JANE

You have to do what you love, right?

 

ARMAN

(Chuckles)

Sure.

 

JANE

Are you a builder?

 

ARMAN

Construction worker.

 

JANE

Do you love it?

 

ARMAN

This is getting a little deep for a first date.

 

JANE

Well, you’re forward. And I didn’t mean to pry. I’m sorry. (Pause) I consider it art, you know? Building.

 

ARMAN

Well, it’s not exactly my passion, I gotta say. But I like working with my hands.

 

JANE

Well, that’s good.

(Hears a faint rumble of the train. JANE checks her watch.)

And… right on time. It was nice meeting you.

 

ARMAN

Arman.

 

JANE

Jane. Thanks for the help.

(Boards train [escapes behind flat].  Lights dim indicating a time change to that evening. Exhausted, ARMAN reappears from behind the flat and enters his home after work. When home, he removes his jacket and pours himself a glass of water.)

 

SCENE 2

(There is a BOTTLE OF JACK and an ARRAY OF ENVELOPES on the table.

A moment later, his son JUSTIN arrives home from school, walking his bicycle out from behind the flat. JUSTIN is visually exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Drops his backpack.)

 

JUSTIN

(Is visually exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Drops his backpack.)

Hey, Dad.

 

ARMAN

(Concerned.)

Justin… where have you been? School ends at three. It’s almost seven-o’clock.

 

JUSTIN

Out.

 

ARMAN

Out?

 

JUSTIN

Out. I’ve been out.

 

ARMAN

Out with who? I mean, son, that’s great. I’m glad you’re seeing a little daylight. But, where have you been?

 

JUSTIN

With Daniel. At the Soldier’s Park.

 

ARMAN

Daniel, Mateo’s kid? I didn’t know you and Daniel were friends.

 

JUSTIN

Well, we are.

 

ARMAN

(Beat. Senses something’s up.)

Well, that’s great, son. I’m glad you’re getting out a little bit.

(JUSTIN doesn’t answer.)

How was school?

 

JUSTIN

It was fine.

 

ARMAN

How’s your research project coming in biology? (Pause, when JUSTIN doesn’t answer)  It’s the coolest idea, you know? Growing a little garden in a glass bottle. I never would have thought it up in a million years. (Pause, when JUSTIN doesn’t answer) To be honest, I don’t even understand it. You’re the brains of this family. (Pause, when JUSTIN doesn’t answer) So, how is it coming along?

 

JUSTIN

I have to start over.

 

ARMAN

What? You’ve been working on this project since August. What happened?

 

JUSTIN

The bottle broke before I could record any of the new data.

 

ARMAN

The bottle broke? How did that happen? You guard that bottle with your life.

 

JUSTIN

I dropped it. By accident. At school.

 

ARMAN

(Pause)

Is that the truth?

(JUSTIN doesn’t answer)

Someone broke it, didn’t they? It was those kids at school, wasn’t it?

(JUSTIN doesn’t answer)

Those little punks. I swear to God. Does your teacher know? Did you tell her?

 

JUSTIN

Dad, we tried that before. It’s not worth it. It doesn’t work, nothing changes.

 

ARMAN

What’s the point of a school that doesn’t protect its kids? Jesus Christ!

 

JUSTIN

My biology project is the least of their worries, with everything that happens there.

 

ARMAN

(Pause)

I want you to stay off the streets. I want you to come home after school.

 

JUSTIN

Okay.

(Beat. Motions to the liquor on the table.)

What’s with the bottle of Jack? I thought you stopped drinking.

 

ARMAN

Of course I have. You know that. It was a gift from Mr. Anderson.

 

JUSTIN

Our landlord? Why?

 

ARMAN

Paying rent isn’t easy right now, and he knows that.

 

JUSTIN

So he gets you a bottle of Jack?

 

ARMAN

Man to man. It’s “pity liquor”.

 

JUSTIN

Dad, I told you I can handle another job. It’ll help us. And if it’ll keep you from drinking…

 

ARMAN

I don’t drink anymore, Justin. And I just want you to focus on your grades. We’ll be okay, son. I have it under control.

 

JUSTIN

Okay. But the offer’s still there if you change your mind.

 

ARMAN

I don’t drink anymore, Justin. And why don’t you go upstairs and do your homework? I’ll make us some dinner.

 

JUSTIN

Okay.

(JUSTIN disappears behind the flat. Alone now, ARMAN stares at the mountain of envelopes on his table. With a breath, he begins opening the envelopes and stares helplessly at the bills that he cannot pay, getting more and more frustrated and exasperated with each opened letter. On the third envelope, he glances at the bottle of alcohol next to him, and opens the seal. As he pours himself a glass, lights dim on ARMAN’s side of the stage and brighten on JANE’s side.)

 

SCENE 3

(JANE is coming home from work. Her daughter CRYSTAL has her feet propped up on the kitchen table, reading the DaVinci code, and listening to her IPod.)

JANE

(Removes her jacket and lays that and her purse on the sofa.)

Legs down, please.

 

CRYSTAL

Hey, mom. How was work?

 

JANE

(Crosses over to kiss CRYSTAL on the top of her head.)

Wonderful actually. Exhausting, but it has a lot of promise.

 

CRYSTAL

I can’t even express how jealous I am. You better hook me up with a summer internship or something.

 

JANE

(Laughs)

I have to settle in myself before I start asking for favors.

 

CRYSTAL

(Groans)

Trans-Atlantic. The Mecca of publishing companies. I’m destined to work there.

 

JANE

I’m sure you will, soon enough. How was school?

 

CRYSTAL

(Shrugs)

You know they don’t have a GSA?

 

JANE

Well this isn’t like your old school, honey. It’s a little more conservative here.

 

CRYSTAL

So why did you enroll me in a school I wouldn’t fit into?  It’s practically the capital of Straight State over there.

 

JANE

I didn’t just enroll you, Crysie. You got accepted, into one of the best magnet schools in the area. And I know you’ll be your gorgeous gay self wherever you go.

 

CRYSTAL

(Shrugs. Beat.)

It’s a little difficult when everybody tries to cast you out. I mean, I’m all for being the black sheep,  but… (sighs) Somebody called me a dyke.

 

JANE

What? Who? It’s your first day!

 

CRYSTAL

These bimbos in my homeroom. They were having this twisted little cumbaya over who they hooked up with at a party last weekend. And I was sort listening in, so they asked me if I have a boyfriend. And I said no, but I told them I broke up with Ana before I moved in from Jersey. And they all stared like they’d seen Fanny the friggen Circus Elephant and asked if I’m “some sort of a dyke”.

 

JANE

Oh honey… I’m so sorry. This is unacceptable. I’m going to talk to your principal.

 

CRYSTAL

No, no. Don’t do that. You know me; I don’t really care what people say. I dealt with homophobes back in Jersey too. (Beat) But you know. Damn. That was fast.

 

JANE

Baby… Maybe I should pull you out. There are other good schools in the area with open registration periods.

 

CRYSTAL

No, it’s fine. I can’t quit now. And anyway, there’s gotta be a gay community in the area. I just have to look harder, is all.

 

JANE

My girl. You’re so brave. (Beat, tension softens) You know I would have decked her right in the face.

 

CRYSTAL

Useless. Her parents would have just paid for her nose job.

 

JANE

Just try to keep your nose safe.

(Kiss CRYSTAL)

Besides that. Do you like your classes?

 

CRYSTAL

Yeah, I do. Kinda harder than the academics at my old school though. And they actually check the homework here. I think I’m actually going to have to… study or something.

 

JANE

I know you’ll manage.

(A loud knock comes to the door.)

That must be Becca.

(Crosses to the door. JANE opens the door to her close friend BECCA, standing there in top-quality clothing, and holding a box of pizza and a bottle of red wine.)

 

JANE

(Looks at the bottle of wine and gasps.)

Silver Oak?! I couldn’t find it in any of the liquor stores around here!

 

BECCA

So the wine gets a hello?

 

JANE

(Embraces her friend warmly.) 

Becca. I’ve missed you.

 

BECCA

Well I had to make sure you were settling in smoothly. (To CRYSTAL) Hey, honey!

 

CRYSTAL

Hey! Thanks for the ride this morning. I would’ve found myself in Bumblefuck Nowhere without your GPS.

 

JANE

Watch your mouth. And really, thank you. I felt so guilty, having her call you.

 

BECCA

Don’t you dare feel bad. No niece of mine gets stuck in Bumblefuck Nowhere without my rescue.

 

JANE

You’re an angel. Let me take your jacket.

 

CRYSTAL

Can I take your pizza?

 

BECCA

Yes and yes.

(BECCA places the pizza on the table, and CRYSTAL begins devouring it. JANE retrieves two wine glasses, and they cross to the sofa.)

 

JANE

Thanks for coming over, Becca. It’s unbelievable that this all worked out so perfectly; me getting this job, us living close again. It’s making the transition so much easier.

 

BECCA

I’m as happy as you are. Living near my best friend, finally. Just like when we were kids.

 

JANE

We always said we’d move out of Jersey together. It just took me a little longer. (Takes a sip of wine.)

 

BECCA

(Beat. On a serious note.)

How have you been, Jane?

 

JANE

Tired from all the unpacking. But generally decent.

 

BECCA

You know what I mean, Jane. Has he called?

 

JANE

(Sighs)

No, he hasn’t.

 

BECCA

Good. It better stay that way. Just tell me if that prick digs up the nerve to call you.

 

JANE

C’mon. Leave it alone, Becca.

 

BECCA

You know I just want you to be safe and happy. You were neither of those things with him.

 

JANE

It was always more complicated than my happiness, and you know that. It still is.

 

BECCA

(Pause) Meaning you still haven’t told Crystal.

 

JANE

She knows he drank. That’s reason enough. She doesn’t need to know everything.

 

BECCA

I think she deserves to know, as his daughter.

 

JANE

It’s not about what she deserves. She’s going through enough with this transition. She doesn’t need to be held down by any more negativity.

 

BECCA

I’m just saying. She would stop blaming you if she knew how bad it got.

 

JANE

She’s not angry anymore. Neither am I. We’re both recovering, and we’re in a better place. Just please, leave it alone. I’ll always want your support but… give this some space.

 

BECCA

I can’t control what you do, Jane. And I’m not trying to pry myself into your personal life. I honestly just want to hold your hand through this all this. You remember how difficult my divorce was, and how much you helped me through that period. You helped me re-establish myself, and I just want to do the same for you.

 

JANE

I know, I know. You know I’m grateful for all your support in the past couple months. I’m just trying to do what’s right for myself and Crystal.

 

BECCA

That’s exactly what you’re doing, Jane. You got a fantastic job with stable pay, you enrolled Crystal in the best school in the area. You’re doing everything right.

 

JANE

I hope you’re right, Becca. You’re my objective eye, as always.

 

BECCA

And I always will be. Just one tiny thing… I know you’re not so familiar with the area yet. Just make sure you walk with somebody if you’re in the Hull Quarter at night. Tell Crystal too.

 

JANE

Where?

 

BECCA

You know, the neighborhood past the railroad track? It’s not the safest area, especially at night.

 

JANE

Really? I passed by Hull Quarter on my way to work. Houses are a little bit smaller, but it seemed pretty quiet to me.

 

BECCA

It’s not. There are some rough neighborhoods around there; this town is nowhere near as dangerous as it once was, but I still wouldn’t want to hang out around Hull Quarter. You’ll see cops racing there all the time. Just be extra cautious when you’re around that area.

 

JANE

Okay. You know better than I do.

 

BECCA

(Smiles at her friend)

I’m so excited for you, Janie. You couldn’t have moved here at a better time. It’s so up-and-coming.

 

JANE

(Laughs)

That’s exactly what my real estate agent said.

 

BECCA

And this adorable line of boutiques just opened up in town. I’ll take you there this weekend.

 

JANE

Please don’t encourage me to spend all of my first week’s salary.

 

BECCA

(Laughs)

Maybe just half. (To CRYSTAL) Hey Crys! How’s the pizza?

 

CRYSTAL

(Turns)

Well, it’s gone.

 

JANE

Of course it is. Your stomach is black hole.

 

CRYSTAL

I could go for some ice cream.

 

BECCA

I’ll drive.

 

JANE

You’re killing us.

 

SCENE 4a

(Lights fade and then blue light shines down on the stage. Action transitions to later that night, when JANE is alone and asleep on the couch with a glass of wine in her hand. ARMAN is plastered, sitting at the table. He attempts to stand, but his hand slips and he stumbles to his feet. He attempts to take a step, but stumbles again, falling this time. JUSTIN, having heard the fall, rushes to his father and silently aids him to his feet. JUSTIN leads him to the flat, where his bedroom is, but ARMAN breaks down crying. JUSTIN helps him up and leads him behind the flat. JUSTIN emerges again to pick up the handle of Jack on the table, and stare at it with disgust. While this happens, CRYSTAL, evidently as though still half asleep, enters from the closet to remove the wine from her hand and place it on the table, and gently and silently wake her mom up, leading her to her bed.)

SCENE 4b

(Blue light fades, and lights rise; the sound of the train indicates a time change to the following day. JANE prepares for work, pouring coffee into a thermos. Simultaneously, clearly hung-over ARMAN prepares for work, grabbing his equipment and his bag of McDonald’s breakfast. During this preparation, ARMAN’s phone rings. When he picks up, he arrives at the railroad track.)

ARMAN

Hello? … Mr. Anderson, hi. … I’m doing pretty good, thanks. Just on my way to work… Right, yes. Thanks for calling me back. I, uh, wanted to talk to you about delaying this month’s payment. Until next month… I know, I know. I’ll pay it, I promise. I just need more time…

 

(JANE enters on the other side of the railroad track to wait for her train to work, and catches the conversation. ARMAN doesn’t notice her entrance.)

 

This time is different, I swear. I have two jobs, Mr. Anderson. And I’m driving an Uber in Center City on the weekends… I’m doing everything I can. I just need more time… Please, just consider it… Thank you so much Mr. Anderson. Yes, absolutely. Thank you. We’ll talk. (Hangs up. Sits and buries his face in his hands.)

 

JANE

I’m sorry, um… (Unsure of what to say)

 

ARMAN

(Stands)

Oh, hey. Can’t find the bus again?

 

JANE

No, no. I’m here for the 8:20 train, actually. It seems you’ve converted me.

 

ARMAN

It’s a part of acclimating to the town.

 

JANE

I’ve gathered that much… seems to me like everybody takes the train here more than they walk.

 

ARMAN

(Shrugs)

It’s how we all commute to work. Plus, it’s the one spot in this town where where we all sit together! Look at that: community. (jokingly but with a tinge of resentment)  

 

JANE

I’ve noticed that too. And the train is doing the town good, isn’t it? Bringing some great real estate to the area. And my agent tells me it’s just the beginning of an upward trend.

 

ARMAN

Yup. Life has never been better… (Sarcastically)

 

JANE

I mean it’s really up-and-coming. It’s making Milestown a really desirable area to live in.

 

ARMAN

Not with us here.

 

JANE

I’m sorry?

 

ARMAN

It won’t make the Hull Quarter desirable for my family. Or my neighbors. It’ll just kick us out one by one until everything is Uptown.

 

JANE

That won’t happen.

 

ARMAN

It already started happening. (Groans) I’m buried to my chin in debt. I haven’t paid my rent in two months. I’m going to lose my apartment.

 

JANE

You can get help, can’t you?

 

ARMAN

We’re all getting broomed out. It’s just a matter of time.

 

JANE

I’m sorry.

 

ARMAN

Thanks, but I really don’t want your pity.

 

JANE

But I’m sure there’s a specialist you could go to for financial advice. They can help you.

 

ARMAN

Specialist, ha. They all say the same thing. Cut spending, take up another job. Make Justin get another job. Useless.

 

JANE

You’re son, right! Does your son work?

 

ARMAN

For minimum wage, sure. He wants to take up a second job, but there’s no way I’m letting him. My son is finishing school.

 

JANE

Oh. Is he struggling with grades?

 

ARMAN

His grades are fine. Great, actually. Better than I ever did. (Beat) He gets trouble for it, to be honest.

 

JANE

What kind of trouble?

 

ARMAN

He gets bullied pretty badly.

 

JANE

Because of his grades?

 

ARMAN

Because he’s succeeding.

 

JANE

I see. Crystal isn’t having the easiest time acclimating to her new school either.

 

ARMAN

Because she’s new?

 

JANE

Because she’s gay, actually.

 

ARMAN

Oh.

 

JANE

That seems to be the general reaction from this town.

 

ARMAN

Well, Country Day definitely isn’t liberal. Neither is this town, if you haven’t noticed. At least not yet.

 

JANE

I’ve noticed. But she’ll find her niche, I’m sure. She’s a strong girl.

 

ARMAN

I wish I could say the same about Justin. If he’d just realize that all he has to do is stand up to those punks… they’ll leave him alone. He just needs to show them that he’s not a medicine ball for their problems.

 

JANE

Have you told him that?

 

ARMAN

Of course. But to take advice and to practice it are different.

 

JANE

I understand. Listen, I’m sorry, what’s your name again?

 

ARMAN

Arman Martinez. And you’re Jane, right?

 

JANE

Yes, Jane. Why don’t you and your son come over for dinner tonight?

 

ARMAN

No, no, that’s very kind of you, but –

 

JANE

I insist. It’ll be nice! Justin will meet my daughter, Crystal. It’ll be good for us to find friends in the area.

 

ARMAN

(Pause)

Okay then. Dinner tonight.

(Train sounds)

 

JANE

6:30?

 

ARMAN

6:30.

 

JANE

We’re at 150 Scott Street. The second house on the right, with the blue hinges.

 

ARMAN

We’ll be there. I’ll bring something.

 

JANE

(“CHOO CHOO” sounds.)

Great, I’ll see you at 6:30, then!

 

ARMAN

Bye.

(JANE disappears behind the flat. ARMAN, looking bewildered, disappears behind the flat and then lights dim to indicate that NIGHT has come.)

 

SCENE 5

(Exhausted, he arrives home and walks over to the bottle of jack to pour himself a glass, but then after a moment, puts down the bottle and pours himself a glass of water. He walks over to the table, and continues to open the envelopes. Soon after, JUSTIN enters with a ballcap covering his eyes. JUSTIN keeps his head down while speaking.)

 

ARMAN

Hey son. How was school?

 

JUSTIN

Long. I’m tired, I’m going upstairs.

 

ARMAN

Why are you wearing your hat like that? I’m sorry son, but only Michael Jackson can pull that off.

 

JUSTIN

Because I like it. Leave me alone.

 

ARMAN

Are you okay, son?

 

JUSTIN

I’m fine.

 

ARMAN

(Softly)

… Look at me.

 

JUSTIN

No, I’m going upstairs.

 

ARMAN

Look at me, son.

(Tilt the cap up to reveal a dark bruise covering his eye.)

Jesus Christ.

 

JUSTIN

It’s not as bad as it looks…

 

ARMAN

Like hell it isn’t! That’s it. I’m going to your school tomorrow.

 

JUSTIN

Dad, no.

 

ARMAN

Don’t try to talk me out of it.

 

JUSTIN

Dad, there’s a pattern here that you’re clearly not following. Don’t you realize that that’s only going to make it worse? It always does. You can’t keep doing this to me.

 

ARMAN

Son, I’m only trying to help you.

 

JUSTIN

I know you are, but you don’t know these kids. You don’t understand; they’re brutal. I hate it. I hate going to school. Everyday I walk into class, I’m horrified that today’s the day that they’re gonna pull a knife on me or something. You don’t understand.

 

ARMAN

I know you hate it, son. And I know you’re scared. I’m so sorry I can’t make it better.

 

JUSTIN

I want to drop out.

 

ARMAN

Justin, no. You can’t.

 

JUSTIN

Yes, I can. School doesn’t do anything for me. The academics suck, the teachers suck, the people suck. I don’t want them to hurt me anymore. Why aren’t you helping me?

 

ARMAN

Son, listen to me. You can’t drop out. Milestown High is the worst kind of hell. I get it. I remember. I’m sorry I can’t afford to send you to a better school. But you have two more years, that’s it! And then you’ll graduate, and go to college. And you’ll get so much farther than anyone in this neighborhood ever did. This won’t be your life.

 

JUSTIN

I don’t want to let you down, Dad. But I can’t stand it anymore.

 

ARMAN

Yes, you can. You just have to stand up for yourself. Have confidence. Show them that you’re not a punching bag for them to take their problems out on.

 

JUSTIN

I’m trying.

 

ARMAN

I know you are. When they see you standing up for yourself, they’ll back off. You hear me?

 

JUSTIN

Yeah. I hear you.

 

ARMAN

Good. Now, why don’t you go and take a shower? We’re going to a friend’s house for dinner tonight?

 

JUSTIN

Really? Who?

 

ARMAN

A family that just moved in.

 

JUSTIN

Into the neighborhood?

 

ARMAN

No. Into the other side of town.

(JUSTIN does not answer.)

What’s wrong?

 

JUSTIN

You know what’s wrong, Dad.

 

ARMAN

I do?

 

JUSTIN

Since when have you been hanging out with people from there?

 

ARMAN

Since now. And not “people”. Friends.

 

JUSTIN

Dad, it’s just… there’s a reason nobody crosses the tracks. We don’t go there, they don’t come here, that’s just the way it works.

 

ARMAN

Son, they’re people, too. Just like us.

 

JUSTIN

Dad, these are the people that who don’t want to fund our schools while they send their kids to private schools. You know that. Those are the people who make it harder for us to live here. They’re kicking us out! You’ve always told me that.

 

ARMAN

I know I have. Just… be nice. Please.

 

JUSTIN

If those kids at school find out that we’re hanging out with them… They’ll kill me. I swear, they will.

 

ARMAN

No they won’t. You’ll stand up for yourself, remember? (JUSTIN doesn’t answer.) Now, take a shower. We’re leaving at 6:15.

(After a pause indicating his acquiescence, JUSTIN escapes behind the flat. ARMAN pauses for a moment, and takes the bottle of Jack and places it under the table. He escapes behind the flat as well.)

 

SCENE 6

(ARMAN and JUSTIN, decked in clearly worn suit jackets, hesitantly cross the train track. [This is a strong moment]. ARMAN is holding a Quick-Chek bag in his arms. They escape behind the SR flat. Meanwhile, in JANE’s home, JANE is preparing the table for dinner, putting down plates, cups, etc. CRYSTAL is on the ground with a sprawled deck of cards, playing amazon solitaire. A loud knock is heard at the door.)

 

JANE

(Glances at her watch)

Shoot. Shoot shoot shoot. (Rushes to finish fixing the table)

 

CRYSTAL

Is that what’s-his-name?

 

JANE

(Corrects) Their-names. Arman and Justin. Yeah. And right on time, too.

 

CRYSTAL

That’s a good thing, for most people.

 

JANE

I know, I know. Okay. How do I look?

 

CRYSTAL

(Jokes) That depends. What are you trying to achieve tonight?

 

JANE

Nothing. Making new friends in our new home, that’s all.

 

CRYSTAL

Then you look like Betty Crocker. Take off the apron.

 

JANE

(Realizing she still has it on.)

Shoot. (Takes it off) Dress isn’t too much?

 

CRYSTAL

You look good. (Another knock) Okay. They’re not going to let themselves in.

 

JANE

Okay, okay. (Straightens her dress, and opens the door) Arman! Hi! Welcome! (Kisses both his cheeks.)

 

ARMAN

Hi, Jane. Thank you again for having us over.

 

JANE

It’s my pleasure. (She looks to JUSTIN and gasps when she sees his bruises, badly covered with make-up. Tries to act normal.) Hi, Justin. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about you.

(JUSTIN doesn’t answer)

ARMAN

Say hi, Justin.

 

JUSTIN

Hey.

 

ARMAN

He’s a little shy.

 

JANE

Almost the opposite of my Crystal. (To CRYSTAL) Crys, why don’t you come and introduce yourself?

 

CRYSTAL

(Stands and comes to JUSTIN. Extends her hand.)

Hey, buddy. I’m Crys.

 

JUSTIN

(Hesitantly meets her hand)

Justin. (Looks to the cards on the floor) What are you playing?

 

CRYSTAL

Amazon solitaire. And I can’t beat it. I’m literally losing to myself. Do you know how to play?

 

JUSTIN

No.

 

CRYSTAL

Want me to teach you?

 

JUSTIN

(After a pause)

Uh… alright.

(The two sit around the cards, and CRYSTAL silently explains the game to JUSTIN. ARMAN and JANE are still standing.)

 

ARMAN

Take a look at that.

 

JANE

It’s nearly impossible to feel awkward around Crys. She’s the most sociable person I know. I must admit she gets it from her father.

 

ARMAN

You wouldn’t call yourself sociable? You spoke to me that first day.

 

JANE

I had a question.

 

ARMAN

Could have asked Google.

 

JANE

Technology wasn’t acting so much in my favor. And besides, you seemed so approachable, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

 

ARMAN

Don’t blame the technology. It’s not Google’s fault you didn’t know there were two Swallding Stations. But still, I’m glad you asked me.

 

JANE

As am I. Would you like some wine?

 

ARMAN

No, I shouldn’t. Thank you though.

 

JANE

Are you sure? It’s my favorite. Silver Oak. My friend got it for me in Napa.

 

ARMAN

… Maybe one glass.

 

JANE

Yeah, one glass can’t hurt. (Pours him and herself a glass) It’s the whole bottle you need to stay away from. Which is quite a challenge, with this brand. (They clink glasses, and take a sip.) A winner, isn’t it?

 

ARMAN

(Groans)

It’s been a while since I had good wine.

 

JANE

I can enjoy any red, but this is the top of the top.

(A knock is heard at the door.)

Oh, I’m sorry. Excuse me for a second. (Goes to the door.) Who is it?

 

BECCA

“Thing two”. With more pizza and wine.

 

JANE

(Opens the door. Laughs)

Becca. The queen of arriving unannounced. Come on in. (BECCA enters, and sees ARMAN.)

 

BECCA

(Politely)

Who is this?

 

JANE

Becca, meet Arman; he lives in town. Arman, this is my childhood friend, Rebecca.

 

ARMAN

(Extends his hand for a shake)

Pleasure.

 

BECCA

(Meets his hand. The meeting is clearly a bit tense, from  her side.)

Arman Martinez, right?

 

ARMAN

That’s me. Sorry, I don’t…

 

BECCA

Oh, I used to volunteer for Peace-Trade Alliance. I was your sponsor. We met once or twice at the community meetings.

 

JANE

Well, this is turning into a reunion! I didn’t know you volunteered, Becca. What kind of organization is this?

 

ARMAN

Oh, it was just —

 

BECCA

— We collected and cooked food for hungry families in the Hull quarter.

(Pause)

 

ARMAN

… We were.. It was just for a period of time. A little down on our luck, was all.

 

BECCA

It’s no reason to be ashamed, honey. We all have had our tough periods.

 

ARMAN

Yeah.

(Pause)

 

JANE

Why don’t we start eating? Becca, you’re welcome to join us, of course.

 

BECCA

Thanks, darling. Let me help you set up. Arman, why don’t you help the kids pack up the cards?

 

ARMAN

Sure.

(ARMAN goes over to the kids. BECCA pulls JANE over to the side.)

BECCA

Jane, I know this guy.

 

JANE

I know, you just announced that. Try not to make him feel so awkward, okay?

 

BECCA

No, I mean, I know him. You shouldn’t be hanging out with him, Jane.

 

JANE

Why, because he lives in the Hull Quarter? Give me a break, Becca. Open up a little bit.

 

BECCA

I’m just trying to —

 

JANE

— To protect me, I know. Just be nice.

 

ARMAN

(From the other side of the room.)

Do you guys need help?

 

BECCA

(Before JANE can answer.)

No, we got it! Thanks! (Pulls JANE into the closet to retrieve a large bowl of pasta and salad. The kids and ARMAN sit at the table patiently. ARMAN sparks conversation as BECCA and JANE bring out the food.)

 

ARMAN

So, Crystal. I know Country Day is a lot different from your old school. How are you liking it?

 

CRYSTAL

It’s okay. I’m going to try to develop an LGBT club there. Hopefully it’ll be established by the time I graduate.

 

JUSTIN

Are you gay?

 

CRYSTAL

Yes.

 

JUSTIN

That’s cool. I don’t know any gay people.

 

CRYSTAL

(Smiles)

Well, now you do. Seems like that’s the case with most people in this town.

 

JUSTIN

Must be hard.

 

CRYSTAL

(Shrugs)

You learn to pick yourself up. And not let anybody else phase you.

(JUSTIN stays silent. BECCA and JANE bring out the food, and sit.)

 

ARMAN

You’re strong. That’ll do you good in life.

 

JANE

Yes she is, my Crystal. Alright, guys, let’s eat.

(CRYSTAL  immediately reaches for the pizza. JUSTIN follows. BECCA pours herself a glass of wine.)

 

BECCA

So Arman. Do you still live in the same apartment complex?

 

ARMAN

Yes ma’am. Almost sixteen years, now. Did you live in Milestown your whole life?

 

BECCA

Nope. Born in Jersey.

 

ARMAN

And your parents?

 

BECCA

Jersey.

 

ARMAN

Oh. Fascinating.

 

JANE

Becca and I actually grew up as neighbors. We made a promise when we were young that we’d move out of the state together. Now it finally happened.

 

BECCA

Took us long enough.

 

ARMAN

I can’t imagine moving out of Milestown. I know it’s not Beverly Hills, butit’s home.

 

JANE

I can understand that. And it’s nice being only a train ride away from Center City, which is so convenient. (To JUSTIN) How are you enjoying the food?

 

JUSTIN

Amazing. We’ve had soup for a month straight.

 

ARMAN

I’m not the best cook.

 

BECCA

(Clears her throat)

So Arman. What do you do now?

 

ARMAN

I do a lot of things.

 

BECCA

That’s fascinating. Like what?

 

ARMAN

I’m a builder.

 

BECCA

A construction worker?

 

ARMAN

Yeah, a construction worker.

 

BECCA

JANE

(After a pause)

Are we all done eating? You know, Arman and Justin brought cheesecake. It smelled delicious.

 

CRYSTAL

I’d go for a slice. You down? I could finish teaching you that card game.

 

JUSTIN

Okay, sure.

 

JANE

It’s in the refrigerator. Why don’t you kids go to the kitchen and eat it before I can get to it?

 

CRYSTAL

No need to ask twice.

(Kids disappear into the closet)  

JANE

Becca, why don’t you go with them? Make sure they don’t hurt themselves cutting the cake.

 

BECCA

Crystal is seventeen. I think they’ll manage.

 

JANE

(Giving her the “GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE” look)

A little adult supervision can never hurt. C’mon.

 

BECCA

(Caving in.)

Fine. Fine. But I’m finishing that cake. And I’m coming back when we’re done.

 

JANE

Thanks Becca. (BECCA disappears into the closet after the kids.)

 

ARMAN

Thanks for dinner. It was delicious.

 

JANE

We’re glad to have you. (Beat) I’m sorry about Becca. She’s a little protective. She’s always been, but she kind of amped it up after my divorce.

 

ARMAN

It’s good to have a friend like that. Keeps you safe. Where I’m from, your friends do anything to protect you. Your group is like your family.

 

JANE

Sometimes your family isn’t so loyal. My husband definitely wasn’t.

 

ARMAN

I see. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.

 

JANE

He had a drinking problem.

(ARMAN freezes. JANE doesn’t notice.)

He was fine when he was sober. Wonderful, actually. A perfect husband, a perfect father. But he got angry when he drank.

 

ARMAN

In what way?

 

JANE

Angry over insignificant things. Misplacing the remote, not having enough beer in the fridge. When he started drinking more often, it got worse and worse. He started… (Cuts) It turned into a really traumatic period.

 

ARMAN

Alcohol is poison. I’m sorry you had to deal with that kind of trouble.

 

JANE

I am too. Crystal knew he drank, but she never saw how bad it got. She was angry at me for a long time.

 

ARMAN

You did the right thing, protecting her. You’re a good mother.

 

JANE

(Pause)

Could I ask about Justin’s mom?

 

ARMAN

What would you like to know?

 

JANE

Where is she?

 

ARMAN

She passed away when Justin was a kid. Car accident.

 

JANE

Oh. (beat) I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.

 

ARMAN

No, it’s okay. I wish she was still alive, but to be honest, Justin is better off. She wouldn’t have been a good mother.

 

JANE

I see. How did you two meet?

 

ARMAN

High school. We were friends with the same “crowd”, you know.

 

JANE

Did you marry after high school?

 

ARMAN

No, no. Neither of us were ready. We didn’t really have the time, anyway, involved in what we were involved in

 

JANE

What was that?

 

ARMAN

Just the people I hung out with. The… “crowd”.

 

JANE

What, were you in a gang or something?

 

ARMAN

Something like that.

(Pause)

ARMAN

You have to understand… in my area, the only way you’ll survive is if you’re backed by one. You either throw the knife or get hit.

 

JANE

And your son?

 

ARMAN

No. Absolutely not. Justin’s not in a gang. But, to be honest, it’s why he has such a horrible experience at school. I know. I was one those kids that did the beating when I went to Milestown. He just doesn’t get that if he stands up for himself, they’ll leave him alone.

(Pause)

I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have told you all that.

 

JANE

No, it’s okay. I can’t say I understand because I never lived through it. But… I get it. I understand you.

 

ARMAN

It’s always been hard for people from Uptown to understand it. They look at us and see gangsters. Dangerous people. We’re just trying to live our lives in the place we’ve always lived

 

JANE

Of course. You’re not a bad guy, Arman, and I see that.

 

ARMAN

And you’re more than what I expected an Uptown girl to be like. Speaking honestly.

 

JANE

(Smiles slightly)

Then I think we’re both glad we met each other.

 

ARMAN

I’d say so.

 

JANE

I like to think things work out for the better.

 

ARMAN

That’s a sweet way to think.

 

JANE

(Laughs)

You sound like you disagree.

 

ARMAN

I don’t know. It’s a bit unrealistic.

 

JANE

I say it’s good to be positive.

 

ARMAN

I say it’s better to be realistic.

 

JANE

You could be realistically positive. Find the light in your circumstance.

 

ARMAN

Or, you could be realistically realistic, and take your circumstances as they come.

 

JANE

I vote we settle on realistically positive.

 

ARMAN

Okay, deal.

 

JANE

Shake on it?

(ARMAN extends his hand, and JANE takes it into hers. It begins as a shake, but then slows until they’re just holding each other’s hand. After a moment, JANE quickly reaches over and kisses him. ARMAN is surprised.)

 

ARMAN

Oh.

 

JANE

Sorry. I’m sorry. That was way too fast.

 

ARMAN

No, no. It’s okay.

 

JANE

I’m usually not this forward at all. Shoot. I’m sorry —

(ARMAN reaches over to kiss her. This is a longer kiss. After a moment of this, BECCA walks in, catching them; ARMAN and JANE jump apart.)

 

SCENE 7

(BECCA, surprised having walked in on them both, quickly turns around. She clears her throat.)

 

BECCA

The cake’s gone.

JANE

Oh, fast eaters. Must have been good.

BECCA

Let me talk to you for a minute, Jane.

JANE

Oh, um. Would you mind holding that off until later tonight?

BECCA

I’d really prefer if we spoke right now.

ARMAN

Don’t worry about it. I’ll just go see how Justin is doing.

 

JANE

Okay. Thanks, Arman. The kitchen is the second door on the right.

(ARMAN passes BECCA and disappears into the closet)

 

JANE

You promised me you’d be nice.

BECCA

Don’t get involved with him, Jane. If even for Crystal’s sake. Don’t get involved with him.

JANE

What? Why are you so closed off? You were just raving about how wonderful he was half an hour ago.

BECCA

Because I know him, Jane. I know his past.

JANE

So do I, he just told me.

BECCA

I seriously doubt he told you everything. You just recovered from the most destructive marriage, don’t jump back into fire.

JANE

Whatever you think he was, or is, he’s not anymore. It’s been, what, ten years since you’ve sponsored him? People change. People get better. He has.

BECCA

You don’t just grow out of that life. It’s with you, even if you try to cover it up. Like he’s clearly doing with his hand-me-down suit and Quik Chek cheesecake.

JANE

What is it, Becca? Where he lives? His income? His job? The fact that his suit isn’t Calvin Klein? Tell me, what is it?

BECCA

He’s a criminal, Jane. A thug. You nevergrow out of that.

 

JANE

You’re wrong.

 

BECCA

I’m sorry Jane, but I promised you I’d be your objective eye. And that’s what I’m being.

 

JANE

But, you knew him as he was before. He’s a better man now.

 

BECCA

If your ex-husband walked in here and insisted he’s changed. Would you go back to him?

 

JANE

That’s different.

 

BECCA

Is it? (Silence) You’ve already been with a drunk who hurt you. Beat you. That kind of violence doesn’t go away with time. You think this thug is any better?. (Beat) And think of Crystal.

(ARMAN comes back with CRYSTAL and JUSTIN)

 

ARMAN

Is everything alright here?

 

JANE

I’m sorry, Arman. But you need to leave.

 

ARMAN

What?

 

JANE

You need to leave.

 

ARMAN

I don’t understand. What happened? (To BECCA)  What did you tell her?

 

BECCA

Everything you didn’t tell her. Your past.

 

ARMAN

And what do you know about my past, exactly?

 

BECCA

Oh, c’mon Arman. Your record isn’t a secret to anybody.

 

ARMAN

Well, that’s exactly what all that is. My past.

 

JANE

I’m sorry, Arman, but Becca’s right. The past that you have… everything you did… it’s with you for the rest of your life. I don’t want to expose that to my daughter. I’m sorry, but I want you to leave.

 

ARMAN

You have no idea what it’s like. You live in a bubble, a utopia; you have no clue. Everyday I struggle for my life, my house, my job. To not get shot. To have food on the table to feed our children. It’s survival.

BECCA

So is drinking a survival mechanism now?

JANE

Drinking? What are you talking about?

ARMAN

Shit, Jane…

BECCA

He’s an alcoholic.

JANE

No he’s not.

BECCA

He was back then, and he still is now. One of my old co-volunteers was visiting his sponsored family in the Hull Quarter last week, and saw him plastered outside of his apartment building.

ARMAN

Jane, it’s not what you think.

BECCA

It’s exactly what you think. You don’t want to jump back into that.

JANE

Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you accept the wine?

ARMAN

It was exactly as you said! I didn’t drink the whole bottle. And one glass doesn’t hurt.

JANE

It does if you’re an alcoholic!

(Everyone goes silent. By this time, CRYSTAL and JUSTIN have made their way outside, silently watching the fight)

Leave.

ARMAN

Listen to me Jane, just hear me out –

JANE

There’s nothing to hear. I want you out.

ARMAN

But what about everything we were talking about before? Nothing changed.

JANE

Nothing would have happened between us. (ARMAN is stunned, stays silent.) Just, leave. Please.

(JUSTIN, who expected something like this to happen, sadly walks over to ARMAN and gently tugs his arm.)

JUSTIN

Come on, dad.

(Defeated, ARMAN and JUSTIN cross back behind the flat, over the railroad track, and back into their home, where [JUSTIN remains behind the flat] ARMAN enters the home, and sees an envelope taped to the door. He opens it at the table, and reads the eviction notice. Utterly defeated, he takes out the bottle of Jack and stares at it in his hand. After a pause and a subtly evident change of thought, he begins to cry as the stage goes dark.)

 

SCENE 8

(Lights up on JANE waiting for the train, listening to her IPod and drinking a shake from her thermos. ARMAN arrives, and clears his throat.)

ARMAN

Jane?

JANE

(Takes out headphones.)

Arman, hey. How are you? It’s been…

ARMAN

A couple weeks, I know.

JANE

It felt a little longer.

ARMAN

Well, you know. How our dinner turned out, I assumed you needed space.

JANE

Yeah, I did. And I do. I’m sorry it didn’t turn out the way it seemed it would.

ARMAN

I know. But, if you have a minute before your train comes… I want to apologize. About keeping my drinking problem from you. And taking that wine. I’ve been this way for years. It’s just… alcoholism is hard for me to grasp. Once you’re given a diagnosis, the problem becomes so much more real.

JANE

Arman, I’m –

ARMAN

Just… please. I’m almost done. (Continues) I came home that night to an eviction notice. So, you know. I was devastated. Terrified. But the first thing I did after I read the notice was take my bottle of Jack and pour it all down my sink. All of it.. (Beat) I can’t tell you how much I hated myself after it was all over. All I wanted to do was sprint to the convenience store and buy a handle of Bacardi and drink myself unconscious. I almost did, to be honest. But I didn’t. I forced myself to take an Advil and go to sleep, and worry about everything else in the morning. (Beat) I haven’t drunk anything since your wine.

JANE

You should be so proud of yourself, Arman. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been for you, but you did it. That’s an incredible amount of strength.

ARMAN

Well, it’s a step. Puts me in a better place than I was before.

JANE

It definitely does.

ARMAN

(Beat) So, Justin and I are moving into Philadelphia next week. We found an apartment complex by Cheltenham, in not so bad of an area. And the commute is only a couple minutes more than it was here.

JANE

Next week, huh? That’s… very abrupt. But I suppose it has to be.

ARMAN

Yeah, unfortunately. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is. Realistically positive, right?

JANE

That’s what we agreed on. (Beat) How does Justin feel about it?

ARMAN

Exactly as I feel. He’s nervous to start going to a new school in a completely new area. But I think a change like this will be good for him. Starting on an entirely blank slate. (Beat) It’ll be good for me too.

JANE

Arman, I want you to know that I thought about everything that happened, everything Becca said to you. And I said to you. And I want to apologize. You’re not your past, and I see that. I just don’t want Crystal to be exposed to a life that could potentially put her in danger. And then when I heard that you drink – (corrects herself) drank. It shook me. I didn’t want this to turn into something that I’d have to recover from. I’m sorry.

 

ARMAN

I forgive you. To be honest, I needed you to kick me out as much as you needed it too. My being three weeks sober, as of now, shows for that.

JANE

It definitely does.

(Rumble indicates the nearing train. They both look out towards the audience, seeing the train inch by in the distance.)

Well then, I wish you and Justin the best of luck.

(Reaches her hand over the train track. Arman clasps her hand.)

ARMAN

You too, Jane.

JANE

I hope I hear from you sometimes! And whenever you come to visit, you’re always welcome in my home.

ARMAN

Thank you.

JANE

(Train crescendoing into a roar)

This is me. I’ll talk to you soon, Arman!

ARMAN

You too.

(JANE disappears behind the flat, boarding the train. ARMAN takes a breath, and then returns to his home, which is now filled with boxes, as JANE’s was in the beginning of the show.)

CURTAIN