Saturday, June 26, 2004

What I Would Do (a one-act play)

LOCATION:  Nighttime, a bus stop in a large city.  One lamp post gives light. A woman in her mid-thirties sits on the bus shelter bench, reading a newspaper with a dire headline, perhaps, “War Expected to Worsen.”  She is maybe 5’2”, 130 pounds, a small woman.  She wears a nice coat and sensible shoes.

We watch her read, turn a page, look for the bus, go back to reading.  A man in his forties approaches and joins her at the bus stop.  He is an average height and weight and he, too, wears a nice coat and shoes.  The woman glances up at him, decides he doesn't look like a threat to her, and goes back to reading.  After a few more seconds, he speaks.

Man:  Do you know how often the bus runs at this time of night?

Woman: Um, I think about every 15 minutes?  Maybe 20?

Man (after another moment): It can feel like forever.

Woman: Yeah. (This time she keeps looking at him.  He smiles at her.  She smiles back.) Do you work downtown?

Man: My work takes me all over.

Woman:  So I might have seen you anywhere?

Man:  Yeah, you might have seen me anywhere.  Do I look familiar?

Woman: (squints or frowns) Kind of.  Do I look familiar to you?

Man: Oh, yeah. (He crosses and sits next to her during this next speech).  I’ve seen you.  I’ve seen everyone.  The pain, the anger, the celebration.  (She stares, mesmerized.) I’m sorry the world hurts you so much.  I’m sorry you can’t feel the love it also offers.  I can hear you right through the pillow.  You think no one can, but I do.

Woman (startled): What pillow?

Man: The red and black one. The one you scream into when you can’t stand it anymore.

(The woman gets up and moves a few feet downstage.  Her newspaper has dropped to the ground. She’s alarmed, vulnerable.)

Woman:  Who are you?

Man: I’m The One you think doesn’t exist.  The One you’ve stopped being open to.  The One you’ve been waiting for.

Woman (sarcastically):  Oh, let me guess. You’re, like, a prophet?  You think you’re a holy man?  You think you’re, like, linked to God, don’t you?

Man: Nicole -

Woman: How do you know my name?

Man: - you’re not alone.  The Universe is so much kinder than you want to believe. I'm here. I've always been with you.

Woman: Who are you?

Man: I think you know who I Am, Nicole. (Pause while the woman continues to stare and size him up) Tell your sister that her daughter’s okay.  Tell her to try Barbara’s house.  That’s where she is.

Woman:  What? (her cell phone rings.  She pulls it out and answers as she steps away stage left, turns her back to him and bends her head to talk.) Hello? (As she hears who it is, her head snaps up, snaps right to look at him, and snaps forward)  Yeah?  Uh…look, uh, Lisa, I’m sure she’s fine.  No, no, I’m sure she’s not.  She’s – (she looks at the man who nods at her) – um, Lisa, have you talked to Barbara?  Well, why don’t you try her?  Maybe Maddie’s there.  Okay, call me back, bye.

(The woman hangs up, puts the phone back in her purse, and stares at the man)

Man: Nicole, let me show you that the Universe is a loving, wonderful place.  You’re not alone.  You’ve never been alone.

Woman:  Is it really You?  I mean, are You really --?

Man: Yes.

(The woman moves towards Him and He holds out His arms for an embrace.  Instead, she slugs Him in the face)

Woman:  You Son of bitch!  (He staggers back, shocked)  You bastard! (another punch)

Man: Nicole!

Woman: Fuck You! (A punch in the gut.  He doubles over) Fuck You! (She shoves Him to the side of the stage. He pleads while she beats him up). 

Man: Nicole, please!

Woman: Fuck Your fucking world and Your fucking benevolent universe.  You son of a bitch, God damn You! 

Man: I know you’re angry –

Woman:  Big insight: I’m angry.  Yes I’m angry.  What the fuck kind of world are You running here?  What the fuck? (He’s down on the ground by now and she grabs Him by the lapels and shakes Him)

Man: (rapidly, desperately trying to get through to her) Nicole, I want to show you how good life can be –

Woman:  Shut up, Motherfucker!  Is this Your world?  Parents abusing their children and people in misery all over the world and stupid fucking leaders lying to their people and bombs dropping on people who never did anything wrong – is this Your world?  Why would a loving God create this?

Man: I didn’t create this, Nicole. God and man create together.  You all choose your paths –

Woman: Oh, shut UP! (she pushes Him back to the ground so His head strikes the pavement and then pulls Him back towards her.  She’s straddling His body, squatting on Him so His shoulders come up between her knees) Motherfucker, where the fuck have You been?  What the hell is this horrible nightmare of a world where some get to feel joy and light and the rest of us scrape – SCRAPE – burdened with fucked up lives and rotten childhoods and no control – NO CONTROL – over anything. What is this world where random chance determines who gets a shot at happiness and who gets to just tend to their own symptoms until finally death is our only escape? 

(The woman lets Him drop, gets off of Him, walks stage left)

Woman: You disgust me and Your world disgusts me.  Your world is a total failure with more misery than hope, more greed than mercy.  Life is a cruel series of sick punchlines for way too many people. Why the hell hasn’t the human race just died out yet?

(He opens His mouth to respond, then hesitates as He thinks better of it. He puts up His hands in a defensive gesture, hoping to avoid another attack. He glances warily at the audience, the woman, upstage.  Finally, feeling safe enough, He speaks.)

Man: (Sitting up, then standing) Man has self-destructive tendencies, but the survival instinct is strong and so is love.

(The woman balls her fists -- one last moment of fury as the man raises His hands in the defensive gesture again -- then drops them as her body sags. Emboldened, He presses forward.)

Man: Why do you think you’re still standing, Nicole?  As strong as your anger and pain is, your love force is stronger. That’s what has saved you.  That’s what keeps you going.  That’s what I Am. I’ve been with you all along.  You know I have been.

Woman:  Yes, I know.

Man (holding out His hand to her, arm straight): Let’s walk together, Nicole.

Woman:  No.  If this has been my life with You by my side, I think I’d rather try it without You for a while.

(She takes a few steps towards stage left, stops to make a sweeping “I’m through” gesture with her hands at him, and keeps walking, exiting.  The man’s holding-out-hand gesture has decayed into a plaintive, elbow-bent gesture of beseeching, almost begging.  Then He lets His hand drop in bewilderment. He sees her discarded newspaper, goes over and picks it up, scans it for a moment, then gazes forward, pensively. Fade to black.)

(c) Regina Rodriguez 2004

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