Author: admin (page 3 of 5)

Barbed Wire Oak

CHARACTERS

SKYE- airborne dreamer

ROSE- grounded beauty

BARTENDER (MILES)- traveled wiseman

STONE- rugged soldier

WEED- conniving flower

ORION- distant hunter

AMBER- exotic trapster

SAM LONGHORN- wily prey

JUNIOR: childhood friend

The set is set up into three distinct scenes, each fully visible and of equal stage presence. One scene is a bar, which should be as simple as a partial bar and two barstools. The second scene, a living room, can be a old couch, a rusty lamp, and an old coffee table. The third scene, a bedroom, can be a bed and an end table.

-PLAY BEGIN-

At the start of the play, Skye (at the living room scene) stands downstage, gazing dreamily out of an unseen window. Rose (in the same scene), sits on the couch thumbing through a magazine, secretly listening to the other with escalating irritation. Stone sits at the bar, facing upstage, head lowered. The Bartender is cleaning out a glass behind the bar. The Weed sits upright, hand around a mug of beer. In the bedroom, Orion and Amber kiss passionately, sitting at the downstage corner of the bed. All characters in the bar and bedroom scenes are completely motionless.
Skye. The rain falls so hard upon the fragile landscape. Lightning strikes, launching brilliant streamers of white across a gray and black sky. Then comes the thunder, pounding against the already weakened earth, causing all things, my heart included, to tremble. I could sit here-
Rose. Shut up.
Skye. Pardon me?
Rose. I said shut up, Skye. Come away from the window. Come to me.
Skye. (Focused outside) A squirrel. Look how it scampers about the yard, overcome with fear as the world around him rages onward, unfeeling toward the small creature, but a raindrop in the ocean of existence.
Rose. Skye-
Skye. He looked at me. The squirrel looked at me.
Rose. Skye, please-
Skye. For a second only, but, I-I think I could see the pain in its eyes. And the fear. The confusion. It wonders how I am permitted to live safe and warm inside this house while it is forced to survive under the cruel hand of mother nature-
Rose. Stop it, Skye! Just stop it! You can’t spend your entire life staring out of the window. There are far more important things like getting a real job, nine-to-five. Like going out into the world and meeting people. Like the fact that I’m carrying your child.
Skye. (Pause) No. You’re not. That’s impossible. You’re not carrying my child. I’ve never…been with you. I’ve never been with anyone. Ever.
Rose. Three weeks ago, Skye. You went to a party with Junior. My party. Your friend Junior. We met. I was extremely drunk and you were getting there. We found an empty bedroom, drank some more, and then we made love. We made love.
Skye. No. No, you’re crazy. You’re lying. I never went to any party. I don’t know any Juniors. We never had sex. Ever. (Returns attention to window) Such pain in his eyes.
Rose. Junior warned me about this. About the way you can just block memories from your head. You just…block them out and ramble on about nothing, hoping the memories, the reality, would just disappear. They won’t disappear. He warned me.
Skye. Such pain…
Rose. I’m going to make some tea. (Exit)
Skye and Rose freeze. The Weed takes a drink. Stone snaps out of a trance as the Bartender (Miles) continues to clean his glass
Stone. Miles, make me another one o’ those fruity numbers. My wife, Lily, she loved those. (Bartender gets to work on the drink) (to The Weed) Hey. You.
Weed. Yea?
Stone. You drunk?
Weed. Not yet.
Stone. Good.
Weed. Why?
Stone. You ever touch a kid before?
Weed. What?
Stone. You heard me. Have you ever touched a kid before? In the way no kid should ever be touched. In the way that hasn’t been legal since the Renaissance.
Weed. What the-? You mean-? No! ‘Course not! Who are-?
Bartender. (Gives Stone drink) Here you go.
Stone. (Takes a drink, eyes locked on the Weed) Good. Good. ‘Cause if you did I’d kill you. Right here. In front of everyone. (Moment of awkward silence. Stone takes a drink) Couple months ago someone took my little girls. Twins. Five years old. He took ‘em from a playground into the woods. Raped ‘em then killed ‘em. Cops found the bodies but never the mother fucker who did it do them. I can’t for the life of me understand why, how a human being could do a thing like that. Mental illness, maybe. Got abused as a kid. Sick bastard couldn’t get any from a lady his age so he thought he’d have a go at someone who couldn’t fight back. Doesn’t matter either way. (Takes a drink)
Weed. Wait. Yea, I recognize you now. You’re the dad. Stone Harper, right? Sick murder, I remember. All over the news.
Stone. Cops didn’t find jack shit. My wife left me a little while later. Said she couldn’t look at me because I reminded her too much of the girls. I got nothin’ now. No wife, no kids, no answers. Cops did nothing so I thought I’d do some detective work on my own. My brother sent me here. He’s a little guy, artsy type, but for some reason his idea of a good time is hanging around these kinda places with the scum o’ the earth.
Weed. Thanks.
Stone. Said it brought him down to earth. He told me about this place. He said it was a haven for all kinds of criminals. A place where questions could be answered for the right price. I never did understand my brother’s taste in friends…or lovers for that matter. (Stone takes a drink) Good kid, though. Confused. But good.
Weed. Well, I-I’m sorry about your loss, Harper, but if you’re looking for some sort of information from me…I got nothin’.
Stone. The Weed, right? That’s what they call you? (Weed nods. Stone reaches into his pocket) My brother told me about you. Said you’d say exactly what you did. (Stone hands a wad of cash to Weed) Said this would change your mind. I need you to find out who did this. I need to make them pay.
Weed. (Pause. Weed takes the money) I’ll see what I can do. (Exit)
Stone lowers his head onto the bar. Bartender faces Stone, concerned. Both freeze. Orion and Amber kiss passionately then pull away from each other, gazing into one another’s eyes
Amber. I love you.
Orion. I love you.
Amber. Do you?
Orion. More than anything, Amber. How was work?
Amber. Good. Five hundred dollars in tips. And no one tried to grab my ass.
Orion. Good. Very good. (Reaches for her butt) Very, very good. (Begins to kiss her neck)
Amber. Ry?
Orion. Hm?
Amber. Do you really love me?
Orion. Yes. Always. (Continues to kiss Amber)
Amber. (Orion’s kisses seem to hurt her. Pause) Orion, what do you do at night when you’re away for hours?
Orion. I go to O’Malley’s sometimes, with the guys from work. We talk business, have a few drinks, you know. Nothing, really. (Continues to kiss Amber)
Amber. Orion. Who is Sam?
Orion. (Stops kissing Amber. Slowly pulls away from her) Sam. I-I don’t know…Hm. How do you know about Sam?
Amber. Last night. You came in late. You tried to be quiet about it. You were on the phone with her. With Sam. I pretended to sleep. The things you said to her were the sort of things you should only say to me. (Amber cries)
Orion. (Places hand on Amber’s shoulder) I never said “I love you.”
Orion and Amber freeze. Skye continues to stare out the window. Rose returns with two cups of tea. She sits them on the coffee table.
Skye. (He hears Rose enter) The squirrel is gone. Into the great oak tree. It’s safe now. With its family. (turns to Rose. Moves to her) I did go to that party. I did meet you there. We did have sex.
Rose. I know.
Skye. (Sits beside Rose) You’re having a baby. I’m going to be a father.
Rose. Yes.
Skye. Wow. And I was going on about squirrels.
Rose. (Giggles) Yes. You were.
Skye. What do we do now?
Rose. I don’t know.
Skye. Hm.
Rose. Hm.
Skye. (Glancing out of the window) This storm won’t be stopping anytime soon. The squirrel, he’s going to be inside that oak for quite some time. Safe. Warm.
Rose. Plenty of time for us to talk.
Skye. Yes. Talk.
Rose. Would you like some tea?
Skye. Certainly.
Skye lifts the drink to his lips. He and Rose freeze. Bartender places a drink in front of Stone. Stone is inebriated.
Stone. It’s all gone, Miles. Everything. Everything I’ve ever loved. Forever. I have to find who did this to me. It’s all that keeps me alive, Miles. This thirst for answers. And most importantly, revenge. Not the most honorable motivation, I know, but it’s all I’ve got to get me out of bed in the morning.
Bartender. (Spends time cleaning out glass) Are you sure this is what you want, son? A guy in your position is in no condition to act like some kind of vigilante in this town. You’ll end up dead.
Stone. No. I won’t die. I can’t. Not until I kill the man who did this to me. (Removes gun from coat and places it on the bar)
Bartender. Suit yourself, son. It’s not my job to tell nobody how to live their lives. Just to make them forget a little. Drink up.
Stone grabs his drink. Stone and Bartender freeze. Amber moves away from Orion.
Orion. I love you, Amber. You know I love you. I’ve always loved you. I never stopped once. This…Sam… It’s nothing. Only talking, mostly. Kissing sometimes. Once, maybe twice…in a week. No sex. Never. That’s ours. All ours. (Pause. Amber doesn’t move) Stay there. (Orion exits for a short time and returns with some water) Here. Drink this. (Amber takes the water, still facing away. At this point, Skye, Stone, and Amber drink at the same time. Skye and Stone freeze after first gulp) I know there’s no possible way that I can make this better in your mind. I know that. I do. It’s just that- you know me. You know that I sometimes…want to try new things. Different…things.
Amber. (Crying) Fuck you.
Orion. Amber. Every night you go to work and you take off all your clothes and you dance for strangers and have I ever complained once? No.
Amber. Dammit, Ry, I do that for the money, not because it’s new and spontaneous. I’m not a whore.
Orion. We don’t need the money and-! (Calms) I know you’re not, baby. I know that. And neither am I. All we do is…talk.
Amber. And kiss.
Orion. And touch. Sometimes.
Amber. (Pause) Invite her over.
Rose and Skye take a sip of tea.
Skye. So…I suppose, with this baby…this…gift from above…we should live together.
Rose. Of course.
Skye. And, if at all possible, we should try to love one another.
Rose. Naturally.
Rose and Skye lean in to kiss each other and freeze just before contact.
Orion. What?
Stone takes a drink. He’s drunk.
Stone. (to Bartender) Maybe you’re right, ya know. Maybe I should just give up. Maybe I should just pack up and get on with my life.
Bartender. Sounds like the most intelligent thing you’ve said all night, son.
Stone stumbles off his barstool. He tries to exit but is stopped by the abrupt arrival of Weed, holding a manila envelope.
Weed. Mister Harper. I did it. I made a few calls. I found the guy you’re looking for.
Stone freezes, surprised. Bartender and Weed freeze.
Amber. Invite Sam over. If she’s so wonderful. So great to talk to. I should meet her. Maybe we could all do a late dinner. Catch a movie. Come back home. Talk. And kiss. And touch until the wee hours of the morning. Would that be different enough for you?
Orion. (Pause) Are you-? I mean, really?
Amber approaches Orion. Skye and Rose kiss passionately then freeze.
Amber. (Smacks Orion) Call Sam.
Orion and Amber freeze. The characters of the bar scene unfreeze. Stone snatches the envelope from Weed.
Weed. That envelope’s got everything you need to find the guy who killed your kids.
Skye and Rose unfreeze.
Skye. We should go for a walk.
Rose. But it’s raining.
Skye. We should put on coats…and then go for a walk. (Exit Skye and Rose)
Stone. Everything?
Weed. Address. Phone number. Places he frequents. Rough description. I didn’t have time to take a photo or nothin’.
Stone. It’s fine. Fine. Thanks. Goodbye. (Exit)
Weed. My work here is done. (Counts his money) Time for me to visit the love of my life. And then, when I’m all tuckered out, I’ll get home to my wife. (Exit)
Orion. (On his cell phone) Hey, Sam. It’s Orion. Uh…could you come over for a bit? See ya. Bye.
Amber runs off. Orion runs off after her. For a while the lone Bartender cleans out a glass, letting out a tired sigh. The sound of a clock ticking endures for about ten seconds. Skye and Rose return to their living room, throwing their coats on the couch.
Skye. (laughing) I am not going to have a son named Rufus.
Rose. (laughing) Aw, I think it’s a wonderful name.
Skye. What about Caleb?
Rose. I seriously hope you’re joking.
Skye. Caleb is a wonderful name.
Rose and Skye freeze as Amber rushes into the bar scene, escaping the cold. She sits down.
Amber. Gimme anything. Something strong.
Enter Orion
Orion. Amber. There you are. I’ve been looking all- What are you doing here? (Pause) I’m sorry, Amber. I am. Completely and unquestionably. You’re the one I love. The only one. I swear to God and Buddha and Zeus and anyone else I have to until you believe me.
Bartender gives Amber her drink
Amber. (Pause) Why?
Orion. What?
Amber. Why are you doing this to me?
Orion. I told you. You know how I like to try new things. Sam was something new. Different. Not better. Not by a long shot. (Pause) There’s something I think you should know about Sam.
Rose and Skye unfreeze.
Rose. What about…Orson?
Skye. Nope. Zeke?
Rose. Nuh uh.
Rose and Skye freeze. Sam enters the bedroom scene.
Sam. Ry? Orion? You here?
Enter Stone onto a part of the stage which does not belong to either of the three scenes. He examines his file, and investigates his surroundings.
Orion. Sam is…
Sam. (Playful) Ry, you hiding or something?
Sam freezes. Stone freezes.
Amber. What? What is she?
Orion. (Pause) A guy.
Amber. What?
Orion. Sam’s a guy. I met him in this bar a few weeks ago. We started talking, you know. Interesting guy, like most guys who come to this place. Society’s rejects. Criminals. You know the sort. Like I said, we were talking and one thing led to another and…
Amber. You’re not…
Orion. No. No! God no. It’s just…I’ve done so many things in my life. Traveled the world. Did that work for the military. Started my own business from scratch. Found love. But that I had never done. The opportunity had never come up and…
Amber. So, Sam is…
Orion. A man. Yea. Sam is actually short for…
Orion and Amber freeze. Stone and Sam unfreeze.
Stone. (Reading letter in envelope) …Samuel Longhorn. That’s the name of the guy who killed my children. Age thirty-six. Hair: light brown. Eyes: green. Ruined my life. Now he’s gonna pay. You already checked his house. No one there. Checked his favorite strip clubs…elementary schools. Thought I saw one more place listed here somewhere. (Reads and is suddenly shocked) No. (Exit)
Skye and Rose unfreeze. Rose pulls out a small piece of paper and a pen
Rose. Okay. We’ve narrowed it down to four names for boys and three for girls. (Notices Skye staring at her) What?
Skye. I think you’re the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life.
Rose rests the paper on the coffee table and moves close to Skye. They freeze. Orion and Amber unfreeze.
Orion. What are you thinking right now?
Amber. I’m thinking this is not what I expected. I’m thinking you’re fucked up.
Orion. Isn’t that why you fell in love with me in the first place?
Amber and Orion freeze. Sam unfreezes and sits on bed. He takes out his cell phone. Enter Stone, outside of the bedroom scene.
Stone. Ry! You in there?! Open up! It’s your brother!
Sam. (Hesitantly) Hold on. (Opens door) Sorry, Orion’s not here right now. (Pause) Y-you, alright, man? You seem a little pale.
Stone. Who are you?
Sam. (Pause) Sam. The name’s Sam.
Stone. Sam…Longhorn.
Sam nods hesitantly. There is a pause and then Stone pulls out a gun and aims it at Sam’s head. Everyone unfreezes.
Skye. Rose, I know this is quite sudden and the circumstances abnormal, but I think I…
Orion. Amber, no matter what, I need you to know that…
Stone.(to “heaven”) Lily, girls…
Skye, Orion, and Stone. …I love you.
All except Stone and Sam freeze. Stone shoots Sam in the gut then points the gun at his own head.
Stone. Daddy’s coming.
Orion and Amber unfreeze.
Orion. Let’s get out of this place. We have a lot to talk about, huh?
Amber. Uh huh.
Orion. Let’s go home. (Amber and Orion exit)
Rose and Skye unfreeze. Rose picks up the paper.
Rose. I hope the baby has your light brown hair.
Skye. And your emerald green eyes. (Examines paper) And what about…that name for a boy.
Rose. I think it’s a wonderful name.
Skye. (To unborn child) Hey there, little guy. I’m not completely sure that you can hear me, but I’m your father. And from the moment you enter this earth your mother and I will be there for you…no matter what. When the raging storm of life has you trapped and alone. We will be your great oak tree. We will keep you safe and strong. That’s a promise, my boy. My little Samuel Longhorn.
(Stone shoots himself in the head. Dies)

[THIS IS WHERE THE PLAY ORIGINALLY AND POSSIBLY WILL END]

Fade to black. The set is completely cleared. A blue light shines down on center stage. Junior practically drags an unwilling Skye into the spotlight.
Junior. Come on, Skye. Mellow out, man.
Skye. No, Junior. I will not mellow out. I don’t understand why we have to go to this party tonight. There are far more productive things I could be doing other than being trapped within that social prison with-
Junior. Loosen up already. Besides I got someone I wanna introduce you to. Hey, Rosie! Rose, get over here!
Enter Rose. She and Skye share a look.
Junior. I’m sure you two’ll hit it off right away. (Exit Junior)
Skye and Rose take one step toward one another and then quickly exit. The moment Skye and Rose leave the area under the blue light Stone quickly enters. He is on the phone.
Stone. Lily, please… Lily. I know this is hard, but we can… We will… Please don’t do this. I…I need you. (Lily hangs up the phone) I need you.
Stone exits quickly. Orion walks into the light. Sam chases after him, grabbing his attention.
Sam. Hey.
Orion. Do I know you?
Sam. My name’s Sam. Sam Longhorn. I, uh, noticed you in the bar there and, uh, wondered if you wanted to get a drink sometime or something.
Orion. (he thinks about the offer) Sure. Sounds great. See you around then. (Exits)
Lights fade to black over Sam. The sound of a hospital room fade up. The lights fade up revealing a single small scene. A hospital bed. Sam is in the bed, hooked up to life support. Orion enters, unsure.
Orion. I don’t know why the hell I’m here. I really don’t. You were good to me. I never thought in a million years, in an eternity, you could’ve done the things to those kids that you did. To my brother’s…(begins to cry) How could you? How?
Lights rise on a new scene with the sound of wedding music. Skye and Rose are dressed slightly more formally than usual as they stand beneath a wedding arch. Rose is approximately 9 months pregnant.
Rose. So, we did it.
Skye. Yea. We did.
Rose. Any regrets?

 

Skye. What? No. None. None at all.
Rose. Me either.
Skye. Good. So, the baby…
Rose. He’s due any day now. Sam’s due at any day now.
The two hold each other close then freeze. Lights go up over the final scene: the bar. The bartender cleans out a glass. The Weed enters, sits at a stool.
Weed. Long Island Iced Tea. And give it a little extra punch, will ya?
Bartender prepares drink. Weed and Bartender freeze. Orion, Skye, and Rose unfreeze.
Orion. It’s just so…hard to accept, you know? You were so kind.
Rose. We’ll raise him to be kind, like his father.
Skye and Orion. And caring.
Skye. Like his mother.
Orion. How you could’ve been all these things on the outside and then such a…a… (loses himself)
Rose. A wonderful human being. That’s what he’ll be.
Skye. A scholar.
Orion. A monster on the inside. I-I just don’t understand.
Skye, Orion, and Rose freeze. Weed and Bartender unfreeze.
Weed. You got a paper? (Bartender hands Weed a paper from behind the bar. Weed reads it. As he reads Amber walks into the hospital room and freezes) Will you look at that? Blue Beauty took first down at the tracks last week. There’s a lot of guys owe me money placing bets on that washed up Queensmaid. Heh heh.
Weed and Bartender freeze. Orion and Amber unfreeze.
Amber. Orion…
Orion. Amber. Wh-what are you doing here?
Amber. I could ask the same about you. This man killed your nieces, Ry. You saw the papers. He’s a murderer.
Orion. I know. I don’t…know.
Amber. Come home, Ry. Your family’s been calling all night. They need you now. You need them. (pause) Your brother is dead, Orion Harper! This man killed his children! What the hell is wrong with you?!
Amber and Orion freeze. Skye and Rose unfreeze. Rose is suddenly taken off guard by happenings in her womb. She appears weak and unbalanced.
Rose. Skye…I…
Skye. Rose, what is it?
Rose. The baby…
Skye and Rose freeze. Weed and Bartender unfreeze. Bartender places Weed’s drink in front of him. Weed notices something of interest in the paper.
Weed. Will you look at this? That fool did it. He shot Sam Longhorn. Says here he shot himself afterwards. He’s dead. Sam’s in critical condition. I half didn’t think the big guy would do it. Thought he was just another wannabe vigilante. All bark. No bite.
Bartender. Not Stone. The man had the fire in his eyes. There was nothing that could stand between him and his destiny. It was all he had to live for, poor sap.
Weed. Hm.
Bartender. (pause) Sam was a good man. Wouldn’t be surprised if you had a couple sleepless nights over this one.
Weed. (prepares to leave) Business is business, Miles. No room for conscience when cash’s involved. (Exits)
Bartender cleans up. Skye and Rose unfreeze.
Skye. Rose. Rose…
Rose. It’s time, Skye. The baby’s coming.
Skye: Really? Th-the baby? Our baby?!
Rose: Yes. Our Sam.
Skye escorts Rose offstage. As this happens Amber and Orion unfreeze.
Amber. Do you realize how completely fucked up this is?! Can you not see what you’re turning into? The man is a sick, horrible monster and you just- you sit here, crying at his beside, like he’s some sort of saint. Like there aren’t people who love you, waiting for you to come home! Well, I can’t do this anymore, Orion. I can’t. You’re fucking impossible. Fucking pathetic.
Bartender finishes cleaning and exits. Amber waits for a response from Orion. She gets none and exits.
Orion. I’m sorry.
Fade to black. The sound of a patient flat lining is heard. Lights come up over the empty section of the stage. Orion walks to center with a flower in his hand. Skye and Rose enter, seemingly much older, consoling Orion.
Rose. Thank you for coming, Orion. Sam would’ve been so glad you did. He talked about you all the time, you know? He had nothing but good things to say about you.
Skye: Thank you, son. Thank you for being there for him. I made that casket myself, you know? From this old oak Sammy used to play on when he was young. I thought it was the right thing to do. To bury him with a few good memories.
Skye places his hand on Orion’s shoulder and he and Rose exit. Lights go blue. Stone enters, distraught.
Orion. Calm down, Stone. Just…just breathe.
Stone. (frantic) They’re gone, Ry! They’re gone! Lily. My…my babies. My girls. I-I gotta find out who did this. I have to. There’s no other way around it. They have to suffer just like I’m suffering now.
Orion. You just need rest. Time to clear your-
Stone. No! No rest. Can’t depend on the cops. It’s up to me. All of it is up to me. And you. You gotta help me, Ry. I know the sort of people you surround yourself with. I know, Ry.
Orion. (pause) Fine. (takes out a small piece of paper and writes on it. Hands the paper to Stone) Here. This’ll take you to a bar I know. Look for a guy named Weed. If anyone has the answers you want. It’ll be him.
Stone. Thank you, brother. (Exits)
Orion faces forward, fixated on his flower. He freezes. The Weed walks in from behind. He stands, waiting. Amber moves in, cautiously toward the Weed.
Amber. E-excuse me. (grabs the Weed’s attention) You’re the Weed, aren’t you?
Weed. Maybe I am. What do you want?
Amber. Well, I heard about your…talents. From a boy I’m seeing. (pulls out a large amount of cash)
The Weed. (takes the cash) What do you want from me?
Amber. There’s someone I need you to get rid of for me. Some home wrecker by the name of Sam Longhorn. Here’s some information I’ve picked up from a few phone calls. (hands Weed a manila envelope)
The Weed moves to the now-lighted bar scene, where Stone sits just where he did in the beginning. He tucks the envelope in his jacket pocket. The Bartender is in his usual place. The Weed approaches Stone.
Stone. The Weed, right? That’s what they call you? (Weed nods. Stone reaches into his pocket) My brother told me about you. Said you’d say exactly what you did. (Stone hands a wad of cash to Weed) Said this would change your mind. I need you to find out who did this. I need to make them pay.
Weed. (Pause. Weed takes the money) I’ll see what I can do. (Exits, grabbing for the envelope)
Lights go down everywhere except for a small spot on Orion. Orion drops the flower and blackout the second the flower hits the ground.

The end.

Absurdities

CHARACTERS

Sal– 23,with bright eyes and a sense of style all his own

Vinnie– 20, is the darkest of the bunch, of slender build

Pablo– 22, a handsome character, the most stylish, built for the nightlife

Leo– 27, noticeably the oldest, dresses in plain clothes and has a curious look about him

Georgia– 20, a wistful girl, as old as the others but with at once an old soul and youthful spirit

Venus– 19, the perfect woman, physically beautiful, seductive and mysterious

The entire play takes place in the messy living room. There is a desk with laptop. A couch, a recliner, and a coffee table. (Each new day all characters but Venus are wearing slightly different clothing). Sal stands downstage of the scene, right on the lip. Leo is at his laptop, one hand grasping a cup of coffee. Vinnie is hunched over, drawing on a notepad resting on the coffee table. Lights are dim on the scene. Leo and Vinnie are frozen.

Sal: (addressing the audience) Um…hello. Hi. My name is Sal. Just…Sal. This, behind me, is where I live. It’s not much, but…it’s not much. These are my roommates. Two out of three, anyway. The third one’ll pop up sooner or later I’m sure. Leo’s on his laptop typing to his secret lover. At least, we think it’s a secret lover. Hard to tell. Don’t let his somewhat lackluster appearance fool you. He’s a genius. An inventor. If you ask me, he should be a multi-billionaire right now, working on government-military weapons as secret as his romantic interest. But he’s not…that’s the world for you. The ominous looking fellow on the couch is Vinnie. An artist. A self-proclaimed Bohemian.

Vinnie: (unfreezes) Damn it! Piping hot hellfire damn it! (freezes)

Sal: He’s also tends to be a bit…mentally askew. A hothead, too. Hm. I guess these stage freezes can’t last forever. I’ll go ahead and wrap things up then. Like I said my name is Sal. I’m nothing amazing, really, but after years and years of ceaseless searching, looking for every symbol, every hidden meaning in every facet of everything, I have discovered the meaning of life!

Leo: (unfreezes. Sighs loudly and takes a sip of coffee. Freezes)

Sal: Oh. Well, I’d better get back to my apartment then. It’s time to share my discovery with the world…or my roommates. (Sal sits down in his recliner, lifts his notepad into his hand) And action. (lights go up. Everything unfreezes. Sal writes a little, building himself up, making sure he’s gotten everything right) Leo. Vinnie. I have an announcement to make. (clears throat) I have discovered-

Vinnie: I’ve created the perfect woman!

Sal: Huh?

Vinnie: For years and years I’ve searched…constantly, but I’ve done it. I have done it! Me! Vinnie! I knew that if I wanted it enough, if I embraced the true meaning of life, of love, I would eventually create the the perfect woman on paper for all the world to see!

Sal: The meaning of life?

Vinnie: Huh?

Sal: You said you embraced the meaning of life? What is it?

Vinnie: What? I don’t- Who cares? I have on this paper, written in these notebooks, what combines to be the true definition of the perfect woman for me, for you. For everyone! Flawless in every way.

Sal: I’m just saying that I’m interested in your meaning of life because I myself have been-

Pablo: (bursts in through the door and, as if all his energy drains out, collapses onto the couch, obviously hung over) Guten tag, mi amigos!

Vinnie: Watch it!

Sal: (aside) Pablo, our fourth roommate, back from another night of the intense perversion.

Pablo: (singing) I love sex. Sexy, sexy sex. Sex with ladies of all shapes and sizes…except for the fat ones. And the midgets. Sometimes the midgets. I have to be in a particular mood. (puts arm around Vinnie) I am so hungover. Woooo!

Vinnie: Will you-?

Pablo: (jumps up) Damn, I’m thirsty. (exits)

Leo’s computer beeps. He is immediately excited and types rapidly in response.

Sal: Anyway, guys, as I was saying…

Vinnie: The perfect woman. My mind has conceived her, but now I have to find her. She’s out there somewhere I know. (starts toward the exit)

Sal: Are you sure-

Pablo: (entering, holding an empty carton of orange juice) Who drank all the OJ? (notices Vinnie. Leo’s computer beeps) Where are you going?

Vinnie: You’ll see.

Pablo: Sal?

Sal: (sighs) He’s going after the perfect woman. He created her on paper and has decided to find out if she actually exists.

Vinnie: She does exist!

Pablo: You can keep your perfect woman. I like my ladies a little rough around the panties if you know what I mean. Experienced in the art of pleasure. Perfect girls are too clean. Too boring.

Vinnie: Excuse me for wanting more out of a woman than a drunken night of weightless lust and perversion. When I find this flawless form, this swan amongst swine, I will sweep her off her feet and she will sweep me off mine. And as we two merge into one being, the shared love will be far greater, far more potent than any love that this world has ever felt. (Computer beeps and Vinnie exits, slamming the door)

Pablo: (to Sal) Did you drink this? (Sal shakes his head. To Leo) You? (no response) I mean, I was really, really craving some OJ and then I open the fridge and what do I see? OJ! Right there, calling for me. I reach for it and, to my surprise, it’s empty. Another shattered dream for Pablo. Keep in mind that I’d be a whole lot angrier if I didn’t have such a sexy night. (singing) Sexy, sex sex…

Sal: I found out the meaning of life!

Pablo: Oh. (pause) Later. (Rushes out)

Sal: (creeps toward Leo, trying not to startle him) Leo? Um…Leo? (Computer beeps, Leo types something with a smile and then turns to Sal) Leo, hey.

Leo: Sal.

Sal: Sorry to bother you. I just- I made a discovery today and I- (Computer beeps, Leo returns to it and begins to type) I thought that I’d… You’d listen… Leo? Hey, Leo, I- Nevermind. (aside) It’s amazing how people can be so consumed by life that they fail to find the meaning in it. Oh well. Maybe tomorrow…

Sal snaps his fingers and the lights go out. He snaps again and the lights go on. Pablo is sitting in the recliner, reading an old book while listening to music on his earphones. Leo is at the computer, and Sal sits close to Georgia on the couch. Everyone but Sal is frozen at the beginning.

Sal: This is Georgia, my girlfriend of six months. We’re in love. She’s into nature and art and finding deeper meaning in life, like me. If anyone will appreciate my discovery it’s her. In a way, I’m glad she’ll be the first to know. It seems right.

Everything unfreezes.

Georgia: So you wanted to tell me something?

Sal: Yes, love. Yes I did. I have discovered the meaning of life.

Georgia: The meaning of…

Sal: Yes. Yes. I know it seems like a bit much for a mere mortal such as myself.

Georgia: No. Not at all. In the time I’ve known you I’ve found that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. So, my dear, what is the meaning of life?

Sal: Well… (Computer beeps. Leo types) I… The meaning of life…

Georgia: What’s wrong?

Sal: I…I had it yesterday, I did. Something about…fate…brotherhood…the art of nature…the stars. The answer was so clear. I don’t know what happened.

Georgia: Maybe it’s different now.

Sal: Different-?

Georgia: Sure. Why not? Maybe life as we know it is changing right under our noses. Maybe what was true yesterday isn’t true today.

Sal: But the meaning of life it’s…it’s as old as life itself. It’s constant. Always the same. Like…like the passing of time.

Georgia: (kisses Sal) Nothing is truly constant, love. Even constants like time are relative. The hour before your first art show is a lot longer than the hour after.

Sal: So life…

Georgia: …is going through a metamorphosis. Can you feel it?

Sal: I…no.

Georgia: (rises from her seat) Give it time. You’ll see. Life is not what it was yesterday. (checks watch) Oo…I have to get going. I’ve got work in an hour. I’ll call when I’m done. Love you. Bye.

Sal: Love you, too. (Georgia exits) (aside) Isn’t she great?

Pablo: (to Sal, laughing) Hey, Sal, check out what I found when I was at my parents the other day. It’s the journal I kept when we were kids. Listen- listen to this. April 14th, 1994: “I found a baby rabbit today. I didn’t see its mom or dad I guess they got shot or hit by a car or something so I decided I’d be its new parents.” Ha. I was such a nerd.

Sal: I remember that day. You loved that little rabbit. What did you name it again?

Pablo: Bobby. Ricky. Who cares? It was just a stupid rabbit. (checks his watch) Oh, shit. I need to change. (places journal on recliner) I’ve got a date with a set of twins from Romania. They don’t speak much English but they won’t have to for what I’ve got in mind. Ha. (exits)

Leo gets up, puts his jacket on, and heads for the exit

Sal: Where are you going?

Leo: A date.

Sal: With your friend from the Internet?

Leo: Yea.

Sal: Will this be the first time you two’ll be meeting in person?

Leo: Yeah.

Sal: Are you excited?

Leo: Yeah. I’m in love. (exits)

Sal: (pause) (aside) Life is changing. I think I’m starting can feel it. (exits)

Vinnie enters with Venus. The two sit down on the couch.

Vinnie: They didn’t believe me. They didn’t think you were real. But here you are, the perfect woman. You’re everything I knew you would be and more. So much more. And you’re all mine. And I’m all yours. Forever. (they kiss passionately)

Lights out. Lights go up. Pablo, in his boxers and a robe, is typing and focusing intensely on Leo’s computer. The journal is exactly where it had been before. Sal enters from his room.

Pablo: Hey, Sal, where’s Leo?

Sal: I don’t know. He had a date last night. What are you doing on his computer?

Pablo: Reading all his saved conversations.

Sal: Pablo! That’s private.

Pablo: This is the most sickeningly cute, make-me-want-to-vomit, crap I’ve ever read in my life. Leo. Sheesh.

Sal: Pab, you shouldn’t be on there.

Pablo: Did you know Leo’s gay?

Sal: What?

Pablo: Yea. There are a few elements of the human anatomy mentioned here that I’m pretty sure are male-specific.

Sal: Hm.

Pablo: Says here his homo-lover’s screen name is HardforYou16. Haha…hard for you- that’s pretty frickin’ hilarious. Hard for…

Sal: Pablo, leave Leo’s stuff alone. He obviously doesn’t want us knowing anything about it. Besides, who cares if he’s…gay. His partner…

Pablo: HardforYou16?

Sal: They seem to be very happy. Now get away from there.

Pablo: Yes, mama. (Pablo sits down, lifting his journal)

Sal: Last night was their first date.

Pablo: Yea. I know. Read it ten minutes ago.

Sal: So, how were the Romanians?

Pablo: Pretty kinky. Europe really needs to enforce laws against unshaven…parts, though. Kind of a turn off.

Sal: Pablo?

Pablo: Yo.

Sal: Do you ever think about…I dunno…finding a nice girl…maybe getting married some day-?

Pablo: Ha, nope. That’s not my world. That’s yours. Not mine. Yours. Life’s a party, man. Spending every day with the same person is a waste when you can have a different one every night. Variety, the spice of life. Sex, drugs, rock and roll. The old legends had it right. Granted, they all OD’d, but while they were alive…oh man.

Sal: But what about love? The sacred kind between two people. Knowing that there is someone who will be there for you no matter what. Someone who accepts everything about you and cherishes every moment you spend together. Someone you can grow old with. I’ve got it. Leo’s got it. Even Vinnie’s out looking for someone.

Pablo: It’s not for me, alright? It’s just…love and I don’t mix. I don’t…love. It’s a waste. It’ll end in heartbreak every time. Maybe not now, but eventually. There’s too much stress involved. Arguments over nothing. Always compromising who you are to make the other happy. Forever trapped in the prison of a relationship. It’s a waste of good pure frivolous fun. Sex with strangers. Parties all night long without a care in the wold. Ultimate freedom. That’s the life for me.

Sal: I’m sorry you feel that way.

Vinnie: (enters from his room) I found the perfect woman. (silence) Don’t believe me? She’s in my bed right now. Go ahead, look at her. Gaze upon the immaculate.

Pablo: (pause) I gotta see this. (exits)

Leo enters, smiling.

Sal: Leo! How was the date?

Leo: Very good. (he goes to his computer) We’re in love.

Pablo: (enters) Well…

Vinnie: Wasn’t she the most beautiful thing your eyes have ever beheld?

Pablo: Um… Leo. How was your date?

Leo: We’re in love.

Pablo: My sincerest condolences.

Vinnie: Well?

Pablo: Yea. Beautiful. Whatever. Big deal.

Vinnie: Y-you’re just jealous because I have found true love and you have damned yourself to a life of hard liquor and STD’s! You will never know what love is! Never! (scurries to his room)

Sal: Pablo…

Pablo: No one was there.

Sal: What?

Pablo: I walked into his room, looked around a bit. No one was there.

Sal: Maybe she was under the covers.

Pablo: Nope.

Sal: In the bathroom?

Pablo: Nope. Unless this girl took a fifteen story dive from the bedroom window there was no one back there.

Sal: So…

Pablo: He’s nuts.

Sal: No, there’s got to be an explanation.

Pablo: There is. He’s nuts.

Vinnie: (enters) Oh, she’s awake. My Venus is awake. I know! I’ll make brunch for us all. Belgian waffles. Her favorite. (exits)

Pablo: Well then…wow. (slowly creeps to the recliner and pages through his journal) Remember yesterday when you wanted to know that rabbit’s name? It was Bucky. And I thought I was creative as a child.

Sal: (sits down on the couch, closest to Pablo) Are you sure there’s no one back there?

Pablo: (ignoring that comment) I made him a little house with a milk crate, furnished it with grass and a dog dish filled with lettuce and carrots and water. Remember?

Sal: Yea. You and Bucky were real close. Honestly, I was a little jealous.

Pablo: And then he ran away. After all those weeks I was there for him, caring for him, he just up and ran away. How could he do that to me? After all I’d done for him.

Sal: You loved him.

Pablo: …Yea. I should’ve taken that as a sign. Would’ve saved me a lot of shit down the line I can tell you that much.

Sal: Life’s not always easy.

Pablo: Mine is.

Leo, angry, slams his fist down on his desk, startling the other two. Leo types furiously.

Sal: Leo. Are you okay? (no answer) Hm.

Pablo: (reading still) Hm. Frickin’ rabbit. I could really use some hot sex right now.

Vinnie: (enters with Venus) Hello, everyone, I would like to introduce you to Venus, my angel on earth! Have a seat my dear. (They both sit on the couch with Vinnie in the middle) Have you ever seen anything quite like this?

Pablo: (looking past Vinnie) Can’t say that I have. No.

Sal: (pause) Haha, good one. You had us for a second.

Vinnie: What are you talking about?

Leo bangs on his computer, distraught.

Pablo: (whispers) I think he’s serious.

Vinnie: She’s into poetry just like me. Aren’t you, Venus? (she nods excitedly) She doesn’t say much but I’ve found that Venus and I are so in sync we communicate on a level that’s almost…telepathic. (he begins to stroke Venus’ hair and the two playfully kiss each other)

Sal: (to Pablo) There’s no one there-

Pablo: (to Sal) I know there’s no one there!

Sal: What should we do?

Pablo: Nothing. I’m pretty amused.

Sal: (to Vinnie) Vinnie, um, about this…Venus.

Vinnie: Isn’t she everything you could ever want in a woman?

Pablo: Jesus…

Sal: About that…I-

Leo bangs on his desk three times and the door buzzer buzzes

Pablo: I’ll get it. (moves to the exit and presses the intercom button. Leo stands and starts for the exit, like walking dead) Who’s there?

Police: This is the police. Is there a Leonardo-?

Leo: (into the intercom) I’m coming. (to the others) I love him. (exits)

Lights out

Sal: I can feel it.

Lights up. Vinnie is making out with Venus on the couch. Frozen. Sal addresses us. He changes his shirt as he talks.

Sal: We didn’t hear from Leo for the rest of that day and most of the next. Pablo suggested we go look for him…at the local precincts maybe…but I figured Leo had a good reason for keeping us in the dark. Besides, (gestures toward Vinnie) there were more pressing issues to attend to. Vinnie has been kissing and fondling his imaginary Siren for the better part of an hour. Though I wasn’t exactly sure how to break the news to him that his perfect woman didn’t exist, I thought I’d bring in someone who could.

There is a knock on the door. Everything unfreezes.

Sal: It’s open!

Georgia: (enters) Hey, love.

Sal: Hey there. Thanks for coming, I-

Georgia: (notices Vinnie) Oh wow.

Sal: Yea. I tried to get through to him a couple times yesterday but…he’s just…gone.

Georgia: (sits beside Vinnie) Vinnie. Excuse me…Vinnie?

Vinnie: Oh, Georgia! When did you get here? I was a bit occupied. I’ve found the perfect woman. Isn’t she amazing?

Georgia: (silence) She’s not real, Vinnie.

Vinnie: What…what are you talking about?

Georgia: Venus. She’s not real.

Vinnie: Haha, that’s the stupidest- She’s right here. Look.

Georgia: (thinks) When you kiss…how does it feel?

Vinnie: How does… It feels like- like the most wonderful, magical kiss that- that I’ve ever had!

Georgia: And when you make love?

Vinnie: It’s perfect. Perfect. It’s- I don’t have to talk about this with you!

Georgia: (to Venus) And, Venus, do you feel the same way?

Vinnie: (pause) She’s the quiet type. Shy. She only speaks to me. It’s…it’s…

Georgia: Telepathic?

Vinnie: Exactly. Beyond words.

George: Or all in your head.

Vinnie: No!

Georgia: She’s not there.

Vinnie: She is!

Georgia: You need help.

Vinnie: You’re just- you’re just jealous! Pablo, you, all of you! Jealous that you and Sal will never ever have what I do! Ever!

Sal: Yesterday during breakfast. Belgian waffles. Her favorite. She didn’t take a bite. Not one bite. She didn’t even drink a sip of water. Or pull her chair back when she stood up.

Vinnie: Maybe I’m the only food and drink she needs. Did you think of that? Did you think of that?! Jealous bastards. Fucking jealous bastards… (tries to hold Venus but she backs away, startled by his angry display) What are you-? (Venus stands up. He pursues) I’m sorry I…scared you. They don’t understand us. No one understands! The people in the restaurants, the park- no one! B-but we understand and that’s all that matters. That’s all we need. (Venus starts for the door) Venus. Where are you- ? Don’t go. Please…don’t go. Venus? (Venus exits) Venus!

Vinnie runs off after her, pushing past Pablo who is entering, holding a newspaper.

Pablo: Whoa. Trouble in paradise?

Sal: Georgia got through to him. Venus…ran away.

Pablo: Oh.

Georgia: I think he’s starting to realize that he was living a lie. His girlfriend’s departure is proof of that. Now it’s only a matter of time before his subconscious desires return to the subconscious. I just hope he doesn’t…

Pablo: Do something stupid? We’re way beyond that point, George. (holds up the paper) Anyway, check out what I found during one of my drunken odysseys in the wee hours of the morning. I was a little too wasted to read it at the time but…yea. (hands the paper to Sal. He and Georgia read)

Georgia: Is that…?

Sal: Leo. “Taken to the local precinct yesterday…in a five month relationship with local sixteen year old Ethan Sallis……charged with statutory…escaped during questioning…Ethan had been confirmed missing hours later…both claim to be in love…police believe the two are on the run…if anyone has any information…”

There is a long pause. Leo bursts into the room with a duffel bag and exits to his room. He reappears with clothing thrown in his bag then stuffs his computer inside. He runs to the exit, stops, shares a look with Sal and the others, and exits. Pablo’s cell phone rings.

Pablo: Hello? Yo, Mikey, what’s up? Uh huh…haha yea! (suddenly startled) Oh. I see. (continues to talk as he exits to his room)

Sal: (to Georgia) Leo…

Georgia: I-I…hope he’s… (exhales)

Sal: Me too. I mean…wow. I-I had no idea. The cops never came and- Whew. And Vinnie. An imaginary girl…

Georgia: I know. It’d be funny if it weren’t so utterly tragic.

Sal: A part of me still thinks it was a joke. I mean…an imaginary girlfriend?!

Georgia: You said he was on medication. Maybe he’s been skipping out, you know?

Sal: Maybe. Do you remember all that stuff you were saying about life changing.

Georgia: Mm hm.

Sal: I can feel it more and more with each passing hour. It’s…like a heavy weightlessness floating all around. Indescribable. Morphing. Terrifying. It’s terrifying. (Pablo returns, ghost-like) Pab…are you alright?

Pablo: Yea. Sure. I’m fine. I just have to go, that’s all. I’ll be back. (exits hurriedly)

Sal: Hm.

Georgia: Hm.

Sal: Life.

Georgia: It’s closing in.

Lights out. When lights come on. It’s dark in the room. Nighttime. Pablo sits in the recliner, mentally and physically disheveled, reading his journal. After a moment of silent reading Sal wanders in from his room in pajama pants and a closed robe, tired.

Sal: Pab. What are you doing up?

Pablo: (distant) Reading. I really did love that rabbit. L-listen to this. Listen to what I wrote with my little ten year old hands. “May 12th, 1994. Bucky’s been gone for a whole week now. I guess he’s never coming back. We were best friends. We played games and jumped and ate lunch together. But I guess he wanted to be off with the other rabbits. I guess it was time to go. But, I know wherever he is he’s still thinking about me just like I’m thinking about him. I bet he’s telling all his new rabbit friends about me. I’m sad that he’s gone, but I’m not mad. Because I will always have the memories of all the fun we had together. I’ll always have the love.” What happened to me? Why, because of a few tears at my heart, did I become this? You warned me. You’ve always warned me. But I was too far gone. Now I’m gone forever.

Sal: Pablo…

Pablo: It was Mikey who called yesterday. My buddy from around here. We go clubbing together sometimes, always competing to see who could get laid first. He said he ran into some street evangelist a couple few back with three ladies hanging from his arms. Heh. Said that evangelist put the fear of God into him and frightened him all the way to the hospital where he- he got…tested. The tests came out positive.

Sal: Pab…

Pablo: He’s dying, Sal. He’s dying. My buddy…

Sal: I’m sorry.

Pablo: And you know what else? He told me he was pretty sure how he got it. He said it was after a night he’d spent with a pair of twins from Romania. (pause) Fucking rabbit. (Sal moves close to Pablo who is growing more emotional by the second and they hug)

Lights out. Lights go up with Pablo on the recliner and Sal on the couch, both sleeping. Vinnie stands behind the both of them, darkness in his expression. Sal wakes up with a yawn, noticing Vinnie.

Sal: Vinnie?

Pablo: (Starts to wake up) Huh?

Sal: You’re back.

Vinnie: She’s gone. Gone. (reveals a handgun)

Sal: Vinnie, what are you?

Pablo: (sees gun) What the-?

Vinnie: (slowly raises it to his head) My Venus. My perfect woman. I was going to spend the rest of my life with her. We were going to get married and start a family and grow old together.

Pablo: She wasn’t real.

Sal: Vinnie, put the gun down. There’s no need for this.

Vinnie: (the gun is at his head) Of course there is. Without love there’s no reason to live. And when…when you’ve found the greatest love of all…and lose it, well…(to Sal) you’ll see.

Georgia: (in pajamas, from Sal’s room. Notices Vinnie)Vinnie!

Vinnie: Georgia. How could I forget? You’re the one who scared her away. (points his gun at her)

Georgia: AH!

Sal: (leaps to tackle Vinnie) No!

Lights out.

Pablo: Sal!

A gunshot followed by silence. Smoke fills the stage floor as Sal moves down center, looking out to the audience. Behind him, in a perfect horizontal line, Georgia, Pablo, Sal, and Vinnie (with Venus on his arm) emerge from the darkness and freeze.

Sal: (clears his throat) The meaning of life…according to me. Sal. Um…life is always changing. One minute everything seems exactly as it should be and the next everything you ever believed turns out to be a lie. Life is disappointment. It’s agony and heartbreak. But it’s yours. It’s mine. And we are its masters when all is said and done. (Walks to Pablo) Sometimes life stings us with harsh revelations. (to Leo) Sometimes it calls for us to betray what is accepted in order to do what we feel is right. (to Vinnie) Sometimes it forces us to betray reality in order to achieve our dreams. (to Georgia) Sometimes it gives us everything we’ve ever wanted…only to tear it away. Whatever life hands us we have freedom to react however we see fit. And, no matter what, no matter how oppressed, offended, defeated we feel life does go on. We learn from the hard times and face the future with knowledge and power we could never have achieved without the past. The meaning of life is love. Loving every aspect of your life. Yourself. Your talents. Your body. Your imperfections. Loving your world. Loving others. (opens his robe revealing a spot of blood, soaked through his shirt) Until death do us part.

Lights out.

-PLAY END-

Femme Noir

CHARACTERS
Bill
Anna
Roman
Lex
Marci
Shirley
Woman in Black
Jed
Hobo
Doctor

There are four scenes altogether. First, is the Wade kitchen. This is the kitchen of the basic newly retired middle-class family of the late twentieth century. In the kitchen there all all the basic appliances and a centralized table with three chairs. The kitchen seems like it is put to constant use. Second is Roman’s room. He is a teenager up to his elbows in the latest technology of the time, including an acoustic guitar, television, and flat-screen computer. There are no remnants of his childhood. Only a photograph of him and his brother. The third scene is the office space where Lex works. It is the office of a man who has become extremely successful in the advertising business. The fourth is a gray, lifeless, foggy street corner.

-PLAY BEGIN-

ACT ONE
Scene 1
Nothingness. Roman walks onto stage, suddenly notices the audience and addresses them with subtle ferociousness.

Roman. Don’t get used to this. This whole thing where I break the fourth wall and talk to you people. Because it won’t happen again. I’m not here to talk to you. I’m here to tell a story. For me. I mean, you can all enjoy it. I won’t stop you from enjoying it. Or hating it. Whatever. But at the end of the day the reason for this tale you are about to witness is so that I can fully understand the why’s and when’s of everything that went down. Anyway, this is a story about me…I guess. Well, I guess it depends on how you look at it. This could be a story about me. It could be about my brother, Alexander, named after the great…Alexander. Or maybe it’s about some obscure moral lesson I can’t even begin to comprehend right now. Hell. Maybe this single story could be about everything. But, seriously, who gives a starving shit what I’m about? The only reason I’m talking to you right now is to say that, after this, I’m never going to speak to any of you again. (Exit)

Scene 2-The kitchen
Lights come up over the kitchen scene. Anna is just finishing a plate of pancakes. Bill sits at the table, eating his pancakes while reading the paper.

Anna: (to offstage) Wash your hands! Breakfast’s ready! (Pause) Roman!

Roman: I’m coming!

Roman enters, starting for the table. Anna stops him, quickly handing him the plate of pancakes and starting for the refrigerator to get a carton of orange juice. Roman takes his seat.

Anna. Here’s your pancakes, Roman. You gotta cuttem’ up yourself.

Roman: Okay.

Anna: I got enough batter for a couple more if you want some.

Roman: No thanks.

Anna: You sure?

Roman: Yea.

Anna: You’re looking a little thin around the neck there.

Roman: I’m fine.

Anna: Okay. Let me fix you some orange juice.

Roman: Fine.

Roman begins to eat. Bill slowly lowers his paper, becoming increasingly focused on Roman’s hands

Bill: Lemme see your hands, boy.

Anna: (placing Roman’s orange juice in front of him) Bill!

Roman: What?

Bill: Lemme see your hands. Gimme your hand. (Takes Roman’s hand and feels it) Hm. Your hands are soft, boy. Like they ain’t never seen a day of work in their lives. Hmph. (Pause. Bill releases Roman’s hand and lays his own down in front of him) Feel my hand.

Roman: Feel your…

Bill: Feel my hand, Rome. (Roman lets out a sigh and unwillingly touches Bill’s hand) You feel that? That’s a real working man’s hand. Forty-eight years at the steel mill turns you into a man real quick. Hardens you. All kinds of men. Big, small, black, white, Asian. Don’t matter. All working together. Like some kind of paradise except instead of trees and vines there’s steel girders and giant cranes reaching way up to the sky.

Roman: (stands up) Okay. I’m done.

Anna: But, Roman, you barely touched your…

Roman: I’m done.

Roman begins to storm off, but is stopped by the arrival of Lex. Everyone’s mood seems to brighten when Lex enters the room, as if he’s the sun and everything else orbits around him.

Lex: Hey, all.

Anna: Lex.

Bill: Hey there, Lex. How are ya?

Lex: Fine. Better than fine, actually. Frank, from upstairs, you know, said that there are whispers of a new position opening.

Bill: Upstairs? But you’re already on the executive board. Can’t get much higher than that.

Lex: Vice President, Grampa. And Frank says he’s heard my name come up more than once in more than one meeting.

Anna: Well, that’s just wonderful. Your grandfather and I are very proud. And so is Roman. Aren’t you proud of your brother, Rome.

Roman: Yes. Yea. Of course.

Anna: (escorting Lex to a chair) Make yourself at home, Lex. Let me fix you some of your grandma’s famous pancakes.

Lex: Sorry, Gram, but I’m just passing through.

Anna: (sits Lex down, then starts on the pancakes) Nonsense. Tell us about Shirley. How is your fiancée doing?

Bill: Haven’t seen her in a while.

Lex: Oh. Shirley. She’s been busy. She’s been promoted to partner at the firm, you know. I hardly even see her anymore.

Bill: Partner.

Anna: She’s such a sweet girl. You two are so good for each other. So driven.

Bill: (to Roman) Maybe you could help your brother find a girl like that.

Anna: Bill!

Bill: Or any girl at all for that matter.

Roman: I…I’ve been trying to…

Lex: When I think about Shirley and myself I honestly can’t think of whose luckier, she or I. And that’s the way it should be, I figure. Completely balanced like that. We treated ourselves to a movie last night.

Anna: A movie. How lovely. What movie was it?

Lex: Something Tarantino, I think. Funny thing is, I was hardly able to concentrate on the film. Not three feet in front of me this man sat. Normal guy. Nothing special. But there was something about his hair. It was short. A little greasy. I just couldn’t take my eyes off of it. For reasons I’m not exactly certain of I could not for the life of me look away. It made no sense. And when I was finally able to tear my eyes of this guy’s greasy dome I’m looking at some extravagant ninja fight scene, totally lost, so I decide my time would be best spent figuring out why I’d spent the past forty-seven minutes fixated on a stranger’s hair. This is the sort of thing I’m paid to figure out you see. In the ad business. (Lex waits for a response but receives shared looks of warm confusion by Bill and Anna. Roman is genuinely intrigued by his brother’s words. Lex moves to Roman, placing his arm around him) And don’t you worry, Rome. One day, when you least expect it, you’ll find true love like me. And you’ll spend every day wondering how you ever survived without it.

Anna: Aww…

Roman: I…I’ve been thinking that. About love, I mean. I want it. I mean, maybe you could help-

Lex: (starts to leave) That’s the spirit. Grampa. Grams. I have to go. Duty calls, you know. If you don’t answer duty when it calls it’ll just call out to someone less worthy. And we can’t have that. Don’t forget that.

Roman: I (Lex exits) wont.

Bill: Your brother’s a great man, Rome. A successful man.

Roman: I know.

Bill: Wouldn’t hurt to be more like him.

Roman: I’m trying (Exits)

Anna: Leave him alone, Bill. You haveta let those boys live their own lives. Rome’s never gonna be like Lex and Lex ain’t never gonna be like Rome.

Bill: That ain’t no loss.

Anna: William Wade, bite your tongue!

Bill: (following a long period of silence) I think the boy’s a fag.

Anna: Bill!

Bill: It would explain a lot.

Scene 3-Roman’s room
Roman lying in his bed, awake. Through his window, Marci enters.

Roman: Marci.

Marci: Hey, Rome. (Reaches into her pocket and pulls out a CD). Check this out. It’s Deathgrip 4. I just bought it after school. Fifty-seven gut-slashing levels in a completely interactive online 3-D environment. Wanna play?

Roman: Not really.

Marci: Why not? What’s wrong with you.

Roman: Nothing.

Marci: Fuck that. There’s always something wrong with you. You’re the single most depressing person in the world.

Roman: Thanks.

Marci: I calls ’em as I sees ’em. Besides, we’ve been friends-

Roman: Best friends.

Marci: For eleven-

Roman: Ten

Marci: Eleven years now. We’re like family. It’s practically my job to tell you all the things about yourself you don’t want to hear. So, ass face, what’s wrong?

Roman: I want to have sex.

Marci: You what?

Roman: Sex. I need to have sex.

Marci: You want to fuck someone?

Roman: No! No, not fuck. Sex. Fucking is dirty and loveless. Fucking is the lowest rung of romantic sexuality. No fucking. I want love. I want to make love.

Marci: Fine. Okay. Love. And what brought this on? You’ve never been to eager to teach your dolphin to jump through hoops before.

Roman: We were eating this morning and Lex came over and-

Marci: Oh. I get it.

Roman: What’s that supposed to mean?

Marci: It means that your head is stuck so far up your brother’s ass that all you can do is breathe in his toxic bullshit.

Roman: My brother is a great man! He practically raised me after our mother died.

Marci: And now he hardly acknowledges your existence.

Roman: He’s busy.

Marci: He’s an ass.

Roman: Fuck you.

Marci: (Starts for the window) I really don’t fucking need this right now. I’m leaving. It smells like shit in here.

Roman: (Jumps up to stop her) No! Marci, wait! I’m sorry. Please. (Holds Marci close) I need your help. You’re my best friend. My only friend. Lex is my hero. He’s everything I want to be.

Marci: He doesn’t give two shits about you.

Roman: Why should he? If I had his life I wouldn’t care about me either. I’m nothing! I’ve failed him. But if I could just prove to him…

Marci: And sex fixes this how…

Roman: Shirley. His fiancée. You should see how he lights up when he talks about her. It’s like she’s this interminable energy source for him. Always driving him to be more and do more than he ever could alone.

Marci: And sex fixes this how…

Roman: Marci. (Pause) I want to kiss you.

Marci: What!

Roman: I know we don’t love each other, but I’m so far behind. I need…I need to be ready when love does come. I can’t afford to waste anymore time.

Roman leans in to kiss Marci and Marci pushes him away

Marci: What the hell is wrong with you? You’re crazy! You’re a fucking crazy person.

Roman: Marci. Please…

Marci: No. (Starts out of the window) Give me a call when your sense comes back. (Exits)

Roman: Marci.

Scene 4-The office
Lex sits, unpacking his things onto his desk. Frank enters the room and Lex stands immediately, walking to the other.

Frank: Hello, Mister Vice President. Nice place you got here.

Lex: Frank. How are you?

Frank: Not as good as you, I can tell you that much. Have you told Shirley yet?

Lex: Not yet. She’s in court. I left her a message though. I figure we’ll do dinner tonight. Go all out. A double celebration for her making partner and my making VP.

Frank: Vice President. Man, oh, man. If I didn’t love you so much I’d hate you. Any other company and I’d be in that chair. But I had to go and apply to the one you worked for all those years ago.

Lex: Haha. Well, you could always leave.

Frank: And pass up the chance of mooching off of your success. I think not. Besides, one day your streak of perfection will come to halt and I want to be right there to jump up to bat.

Lex: Always the true friend.

Frank: Business first. Pleasure later. Unless you can combine the two.

Lex: Hey. Do you and Diane want to join Shirl and I for dinner tonight? Our treat. It’ll give the two of you the unique opportunity of being in the presence of two corporate gods. Wear glasses. You might go blind.

Frank: Pick us up at eight.

Scene 5-The street corner
Lights rise softly over the dark scene. A light fog rolls over the concrete and asphalt. Woman in Black walks along the sidewalk in a slow and sultry manner. She is 1930’s beautiful. Her skin is pale and lips bright red. She wears a long elegant black dress. She stops at the street corner, downstage. Lex enters, holding a briefcase. He stops the moment he notices the woman. He examines her, entranced for quite some time, and then has to practically tear himself away from her.

Scene 6-Roman’s room
Roman sits at his desk, talking on his cell phone.

Roman: Hey, Marci, it’s Roman. I…I need to talk to you. Come over tonight after dinner. I got something to show you. We can talk. Thanks. Bye.

Roman reaches for his backpack and pulls out a small white plastic bag.

Anna: (offstage) Roman! Your brother’s here!

Roman rises immediately, drops his things, and runs out of his room.

Scene 7-The kitchen
Anna sits down facing Shirley who sits as well. Lex stands behind Shirley, hand on her shoulder. There is a cake on the table. Anna has a slice on a plate in front of her. Shirley has a glass of water.

Lex: Where’s Grampa?

Anna: Oh, he’s out. Probably went down to the tracks, wastin’ his money away.

Lex: That’s unfortunate. I was hoping everyone was here when I made my announcement.

Roman: (Enters) Announcement?

Shirley: Oh, hi Roman.

Anna: Yes. Your brother has some good news for us today.

Lex: That’s right, Grams. You are now looking at the Vice President of Sunburst Advertising Incorporated.

Anna: Vice President. My. My. My. I am so proud of you. I’m not surprised though. I always knew you could do it. Yep. My grandson. Vice President. Did you hear that, Rome?

Roman: Yea. I heard.

Shirley: So, Rome how’s school going? How’re your classes?

Roman: They’re not bad. I-

Lex: Roman. Grams. Before I forget, I have to tell you about this thing I saw last night. I was leaving the office, just like I always do, and I saw this woman. This woman in black. She just stood there on the corner. Looked like she’d been snatched right out of the 1930’s. She just stood there and I watched her for a while. It was hypnotic in a way. Beautiful like a dream. Maybe it was a dream. It seemed almost too unreal to be anything else.

Shirley: Lex…

Lex: Oh. Sorry, honey. We have one more announcement. My fiancee, Shirley Anderson, and myself are going to be parents.

Anna: (to Shirley, ecstatic) You’re pregnant.

Shirley: No. We’re adopting. We thought it’d be best to share our ample resources with someone less fortunate. We’ve been thinking China.

Anna: Oh.

Lex: (to Roman) You’re going to be an uncle soon. What do you think of that?

Roman: I…um…That’s great.

Lex: I can’t wait to tell Grampa.

Anna: He’ll be so proud.

Lex: (As he helps Anna out of her seat) Alright, guys. We’ve gotta go. The adoption agency in Hong Kong is calling us tonight for the initial interview and I’ve got a few clients to research before then.

Shirley: We’ll stay longer next time, I promise. It’s just that life is so hectic right now.

Lex: The price of success.

Anna: Oh, we understand, dears. Don’t we, Rome?

Roman: Lex. Do you think, sometime soon, you and I could…hang out for a little while?

Lex: Sure. Of course. I’m totally booked this week, but sure. Give me a call, okay? Let’s go, honey.

Shirley and Lex exit.

Scene 8-Roman’s room
Roman sits on the edge of his bed, facing away from the window, practicing singing and playing his guitar. Marci comes in through the window, unnoticed by Roman until she speaks.

Roman: (singing)
Devil’s fingers digging trenches
Digging graves and burning souls
Devil’s fingers cradling angels
Tainted blood of tainted ghosts

Marci: Rome.

Roman: Marci.

Marci: I’m here.

Roman: Good. Thanks. I just, um, wanted to apologize for yesterday. I didn’t mean to…

Marci: Nice song. Happy.

Roman: (Goes to computer) So, I bought Deathgrip 4. Now we can go online and kick ass together.

Marci: Cool.

Roman: I really am sorry, Marci.

Marci: I know.

Roman: I’m sorry.

Marci: Fine.

Roman: I just created my character. It’s a Centaurian Warrior. I figured you’d be a Zombie Warlock or something like that so I…I thought the Centaur would be a good match.

Marci: (Moves to the computer) I’m a Troll Warlock. Close enough.

Roman works on his computer. Marci stands beside him. They both examine the screen closely for some time in silence. As time passes Roman’s gaze slowly leaves the computer and moves up to Marci’s face. He leans toward her, moving faster the closer he gets, and steals a kiss.

Marci: What the fuck was that?!

Roman: I don’t know! I-

Marci: You know what? Forget it! I’m gone!

Marci starts for the window but Roman grabs her tightly, pressing her against a wall and speaking close to her face

Roman: Please, don’t go! Please.

Marci: Get off of me!

Roman: Stay with me. I need you here. Last night I thought about it. I stayed up all night just thinking about us. The people at school have always said you were beautiful. I never thought about it much because, well, because we were friends. But last night, every time I closed my eyes you would appear in my mind and I began to see what everyone else has always seen. You are beautiful. And then I thought, I thought I could maybe love you someday. And we could love each other…if we tried at it.

Anna: (From outside of the door) Is everything okay in there? I thought I heard shouting.

Roman: I’m fine!

Exit Anna.

Marci: Let me go…now. (Roman releases Marci and backs away from her) What is happening to you?

Roman: I don’t know. (Pause) My brother came by today. He made Vice President. He’s adopting a child. He saw the strangest thing on a street corner. This woman in black. You should’ve seen the look on his face when he talked about her. It was something I’d never seen before. So entranced and-

Marci: I don’t care.

Roman: What?

Marci: I don’t care about your fucking brother! I care about your fucked up brain! You need help.

Roman: I’m fine.

Marci: You kissed me and you forced me into a wall. I have bruises on my arm! You are not fine!

Roman: I’m sorry.

Marci: No. You’re not.

Roman: I really want to love you.

Marci: I-

Roman: And I want you to love me. Just imagine the great things we could accomplish together. We could be rich and successful and have children.

Marci: Adopted?

Roman: To help the less fortunate.

Marci punches Roman and exits in a huff. Roman begins to cry. As he does this he reaches into his backpack and pulls out a syringe in a sandwich bag. He prepares his arm and shoots up heroine as the lights fade to black.

Scene 9-The office
Lex’s desk is covered with logo designs. All are black and red with a few small sketches of women in black dresses. There is an easel, with a picture facing away from the audience. Lex stands in front of his desk shaking the hand of an Jed, a slightly overweight white-haired businessman.

Lex: Thank you for doing business with us, Mister Holenberg.

Jed: Please, Alex, call me Jed, and the pleasure is all mine. With this campaign I can really see Holenberg Cigars taking the industry by storm in…three, four months.

Lex: I’m no miracle worker, Jed.

Jeb: Ah, my boy. You don’t give yourself enough credit. Not nearly enough. (Checks his watch) And on that lovely note I must be off to one stuffed-shirt business meeting or another. A good day to you. (Exits)

Lex works at his desk, typing on his keyboard and jotting down a few notes and sketches. Roman enters the room, more tense and jittery than usual, but keeping it for the most part under wraps. He steps up to Lex’s desk and waits to be noticed. Lex does not lift his head until Roman speaks.

Roman: Lex.

Lex: Roman? Hello, little brother, what’re you doing here?

Roman: I…I came here for lunch. Remember? Today was the day we planned.

Lex: I’m sorry, Rome, I’d love to, but I don’t have that kind of time today.

Roman: You-

Lex: It’s the sacrifice of being successful I’m afraid. It’ll all be worth it in the end, though. I’m certain of that. For you. For Shirley. For Grams and Grampa.

Roman: For your Chinese baby?

Lex: Who? Oh. Yes. Him, too. That reminds me. I have to call the agencies. Adoption agency. Travel agency. Shirley and I have to fly out to China soon and pick out which one we want. I figured we could spend a few week’s vacation in Sri Lanka while we were on that side of the world. It would be a waste not too.

Roman: Lex-

Lex: Hey. I want you to see something. (He walks to the easel and turns it around, revealing a stylized painting of his Woman in Black, holding a cigar) Here she is. The logo design for Holenberg Cigars, inspired by none other than that dark siren I encountered a few night’s back. You remember the woman in black I told you about, don’t you?

Roman: Of course I-

Lex: Of course you do. Well, between you and I, I haven’t been able to get her out of my head for the past ninety or so hours. So I thought to myself, maybe I could use this unhealthy fixation to my advantage. And so this was born. Beautiful. Every night I leave this office I walk by that street, even if I parked somewhere out of the way, to see if she’s there. Don’t tell anyone any of this, please. Imagine what our Grampa would thing of such odd behavior.

Roman: I won’t.

Lex: Good. I knew I could always trust you with a secret. (Returns to his work)

Roman: L-like when dad ran away and mom was sick and you used to bring Amy Gonzalez in and you two would fuck on the couch and I saw the one time?

Lex: Yea. Sure. That’s it.

Roman: And you made me promise not to tell and I never did. (No response) So…no lunch then?

Lex: Sorry. Did you say something?

Roman stands there for a while and eventually leaves, head lowered a bit. As he exits Frank enters. Lex looks up the moment Frank nears his desk.

Lex: Hello, Frank.

Frank: You sure did a number on Holenberg. He sang your praises the whole way out the door.

Lex: What can I say? I’m a talented individual.

Frank: I see all this power’s already draining you of your modesty.

Lex: I can afford to be immodest. It’s a benefit I’ve discovered. Nice work, by the way, on the toothpaste thing.

Frank: Oh. You heard about that? Thought your ears were too stuffed with endless compliments and cigar butts.

Lex: Always have to keep an eye on potential threats to the throne.

Frank: I’m flattered. Got time for a quick lunch downstairs?

Lex: Actually…yea. And let’s hit that little coffee shop on the corner. I’m ahead of schedule today.

Scene 10-The kitchen
Anna is cooking spaghetti on the stove while Bill moves from place to place gathering ingredients for a sandwich.

Bill: (Reaches over Anna) ‘Scuse me, Anna.

Anna: Can’t you see I’m trying to cook here, Bill! Make you’re sandwich some other time. Get out of my kitchen.

Bill: Calm down, woman. It’s my kitchen, too.

Anna: Well, I don’t see you paying for any of the food in it. All you do is eat it up.

Bill completes his sandwich and goes to the table.

Bill: Where’s Roman at?

Anna: I don’t know, Bill. I’m not nosy like some people.

Bill: Hm. He have a girlfriend yet?

Anna: I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Let ‘im focus on his school work. There’s plenty of time for girls later.

Bill: Hope it’s girls.

Anna: The boy ain’t a fa- He ain’t gay, Bill.

Roman enters, backpack on. He’s a bit exhausted. Bill and Anna’s eyes move to him instantly.

Anna: Hey there, Roman.

Bill: Roman.

Anna: What have you been up to today?

Roman: (Walks by) Nothing.

Anna: (Blocks Roman. Checks his face) Roman. You look a little tired. Are you okay?

Roman: Yea. Just…didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. Writing music.

Bill: Loud ass guitar.

Anna: Bill!

Billy: Hm?

Anna: Are you hungry?

Roman: No.

Bill: You sure, boy? You look a little thin.

Roman: (Loudly) No! (Shocks himself) I mean…no. (Reaches for the cupboard and pulls out two cups) I’m just…need water…sleep. That’s all. (Exits)

Scene 11-Roman’s room
Roman scurries around his room, looking for something, more jittery than before. The glasses of water on placed on his desk. He finds his cell phone and calms down substantially. Digging into his backpack he pulls out a pill container. He places one pill in each cup. They dissolve to nothing in the water. He dials a number into his cell phone.

Roman: (In a panicked voice) Marci, it’s me. I need your help. Come over. Come over now.

Roman hangs up the phone. Lights fade to black. Lights go back up. Roman is practicing guitar on his bed. His backpack is nowhere in sight.

Roman: (Singing)
Fiery faces melt my mind
Persecution far from home
Tainted empire tried to find
Suffocating. Fall of Rome.

Desperate shadows call my name
Singing chorus drowned in moans
Tears and laughter sound the same
Suffocating. Fall of Rome.

Marci enters through the window. Roman drops his guitar and quickly runs to her.

Roman: Marci. You came.

Marci: Of course I came. Are you alright?

Roman: Well…it’s my brother…

Marci: What happened? Is he okay?

Roman: Yea. Sure. (Grabs the glasses of water and offers one to her) Here. Have a drink. This might take a while.

Lights go down. When they come up both glasses of water are empty and sitting on the desk. Roman and Marci sit side-by-side on the end of the bed. Both are in a light daze, Marci more than Roman, and they speak closely to each other.

Roman: So my centaur is at level five now. I came across this big spider-thing. You know the one?

Marci: Yea…

Roman: Yea, so I thought the thing was gonna kick my ass, but just when I could practically see the words “Game Over” racing across the screen I leveled up and squashed that thing. It was pretty amazing.

Marci: Sounds like it. (Pause) Hey, Roman. I’m feeling kind of…off.

Roman: What? Are you sick or something?

Marci: No. No sick. It feels like my brain is deflating. It- (She glances at the drinks) Did you put something into my drink?

Roman: Both drinks. Mine and yours. But don’t worry. It’s harmless. A minor tranquilizer. To relax the both of us.

Marci: Relax.

Roman: Yes. We’ve both been a little tense lately, I think. I figured it’d be good for you and I if we just took the time to calm down and talk to each other. Like we used to.

Marci: You fucking bast-

Roman: (Puts his pointer finger to her mouth) Shhh. It’s okay. I would never force you to do anything you wouldn’t want me to. (His hand creeps to her thigh)I love you.

Marci: Roman…

Roman: Can I kiss you, Marci? Ever since the first time I’ve dreamed of kissing you again.

Marci: Roman I…

Roman: Would you stop me if I kissed you?

Roman pushes himself onto Marci, kissing her. His hand moves up her thigh, while his other hand works at her face and torso. Marci jerks back at first but gradually gives in to the other.

Roman: You’re beautiful, do you know that? I’m sorry I didn’t realize this sooner. We could’ve done this years ago. You’re so soft and fragile and wonderful. I want you so badly. (Roman kisses her again and she shivers a little. He pulls away) Are you okay?

Marci: I-I don’t…I can’t think.

Roman: It’s okay, Marci. I can think for the both of us. We’ll be one soon. (Roman pulls the covers back from his mattress) We’ll have each other. We’ll never be alone. We’ll drive each other to success and adopt a small child from the Philippines. (Roman guides Marci back onto his bed and climbs on top of her, pulling the covers over the both of their lower halfs) It will be perfection in its purest form. Happiness like neither of us have ever felt.

Marci: Roman…

Roman: Shhh. All is as it should be. (He kisses her neck as he undoes his pants and belt with one arm, while propping himself up with the other) I love you, Marci. More than anyone has ever loved anything, I think. Do you love me yet? (Pause) Do you, Marci? (Pause) Do you love me?

Marci: I…No…

Roman: (Taken aback) No? No. No! No! (Roman climbs off of Marci in a hurry, redoes his belt and pants, and leaps from the bed, disgusted and disbelieving, experiencing a violent tantrum) This is wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Anna: (from outside the door) Roman Wade, what on earth are you doing in there?

Roman: GET THE HELL AWAY FROM MY DOOR!

Anna exits. Roman moves back and forth, motioning to hit something, then he slumps over, exhausted and defeated. He reaches under his bed and pulls out his backpack. He puts the backpack on and exits through the window, leaving Marci alone on his bed.

Scene 11-The street corner
Woman in Black arrives at the corner. She is wearing a large black hat with a veil that falls over her face, covering it from view. The black dress is even more elegant than before. Lex enters, noticing the Woman instantly. He stops and examines her as before. This time he tries to approach her from behind, moving carefully as not to frighten her or snatch her attention. When Lex is almost close enough to touch her she turns to him, frightening him.

Lex: It’s you. It’s really you. Just when I started to think that fateful night was all a dream, some dark fantasy, you’re here. Here you are.

Woman in Black moves with liquid motions. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a black envelop. She hands the envelope to Lex and hurries offstage. Lex starts after her, stops, and opens the envelope. He reads the letter, becoming increasingly excited and exits the way he came.

Scene 12-The kitchen
Anna is pouring hot tea into a teacup as Marci sits at the table, distant, rubbing herself for warmth.

Anna: (Places the cup in front of Marci and sits down beside her) How are you, dear?

Marci: Fine, thanks.

Anna: I haven’t seen you around here in a while.

Marci: I’ve been sneaking in through the window.

Anna: Oh. (Pause) So…What happened up there?

Marci: I don’t want to talk about it.

There is silence as both Marci and Anna drink their tea. The silence is broken by the arrival of Roman from another room of the house. Roman sees Marci and the two share a glance. Roman then goes to the refrigerator and pours himself a cup of milk.

Anna: Roman. (Pause) Roman.

Roman drinks his milk and exits the way he came. Marci stands up and marches off in the same direction.

Scene 13-Roman’s room
Roman sits on his bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. Marci bursts in and stops a few feet away from him.

Marci: Where were you? (Pause) I asked you a question. Where the fuck did you go?

Roman: Nowhere. I was right outside. Under the big tree. I couldn’t stay in here. I couldn’t look at you.

Marci: (Pause) You practically raped me. I hope you know that. I hope you understand what you almost did to me. What you did to our friendship. You fucking drugged me, Roman! You drugged me! With one phone call, ONE call, I could put you behind bars…or in an asylum. I could. I should. (Pause) I hate you so much. More than I’ve ever hated my spiteful mother, my alcoholic father, my abusive boyfriends. And do you know why? Of course you don’t. It’s because out of all my crappy relatives and neglectful friends you were always the only one I loved. And it wasn’t the kind of love that results in you and I fucking in the backseat of your ’97 Civic outside of a movie theater. It was much more real than that. (Pause) I guess that wasn’t enough for you. I guess I wasn’t enough. (Starts for the window) I’m leaving your room now, Roman Wade. Don’t expect to see me again. (Exits)

Roman begins to cry. He reaches into his backpack and pulls out a syringe.

Scene 13-The office
Lex sits back in his desk chair staring at the letter from the Woman in Black.

Lex: Amazing.

ACT TWO
Scene 1-The kitchen
Anna and Bill eat breakfast at the table.

Bill: Where’s Roman?

Anna: I don’t know, Bill. He hasn’t been here in days.

Bill: Think he went off with that girl you were talking about?

Anna: I don’t…think so. I don’t know, Bill.

Scene 2-The office
Lex sits, working hard in his office. The office is covered in pictures and designs of the Woman in Black. Covered to the point of obsession. Frank walks in, disturbed by all the new decorations.

Frank: Jesus, Lex. Obsess much?

Lex: Hello, Frank. What can I do for you?

Frank: Nothing. Nothing at all. Just wondering why we work on the same floor of the same building but I never see you anymore.

Lex: I’ve been busy, Frank. It’s an undesirable yet unavoidable side effect of my new title.

Frank: I think there’s a little more to it than that. I talked to Shirley. She doesn’t see you either.

Lex: You talked to Shirley.

Frank: As concerned friends, of course. Nothing more. Lex. Something has happened to you. Everyone sees it. This strange behavior. You missed the closing meeting with Holenberg. You missed it and had no real reason to from what I see. (Pause) I was placed in charge of phase two of the campaign in addition to the toothpaste thing. (Pause) Did you not hear me? I’m in charge of your campaign. (Pause) Has there been any news about your brother?

Lex: Huh?

Frank: Your brother. Roman. He’s been missing for days. Shirley told me.

Lex: Roman…

Frank: Wow, Lex. You’re gone. (Starts to exit, but is stopped by Lex)

Lex: Frank! Wait!

Frank: I don’t have time for-

Lex: The Woman in Black. The mascot for the Holenberg campaign.

Frank: Uh huh. What about her?

Lex: She’s real.

Frank: Oh boy.

Lex: I met her once on a street corner. A week or so ago. She came back to me a few days later and gave me a letter. The letter said that she would meet me again tonight. It’s all I can think about. (Frank stands in silence, thinking to himself) What? What are you thinking?

Frank: I’m thinking that this office is going to go through some major renovations when it’s mine.

Scene 3-The kitchen
Anna, Bill, and Shirley sit under dim lights, drinking tea.

Anna: I don’t understand it. We gave that boy a good home. Always fed him.

Bill: Always had money. Damn kids today. Acting so stupid for no reason. Had a lot more than any of us had.

Shirley: I’m sure he’ll show up. He’s a smart kid.

Anna: Honor roll every year.

Bill: Better than his brother at that age.

Anna: Mm hm.

Bill: Hope he didn’t go off into the streets. Boy like that wouldn’t last long. Angry boy. I always knew he was a little off…but with a father like that…

Shirley: Father? Lex never talks about his father to me.

Anna: His father was a good man. Our boy. A confused man, too. One morning he just decided he wasn’t happy and left his family with some man. Tore his wife apart. Wasn’t long after her sickness set in. Cancer. When she died the boys came to live with us.

Bill: About a two weeks after she died, you mean. The boys ran off on their own. Lex and Roman. Had to have been twelve and six at the time. Lex took care of Roman out on the streets. They were both a bit thrown by their mother’s death. They didn’t want anyone else raising them. Police found them eating out of a dumpster and sent them here. Haven’t complained since.

Anna: Lex and Roman were inseparable for a time. But the difference in age and-

The phone rings. Everyone is quiet and still. Shirley picks up the phone.

Shirley: Hello, Wade residence, how may I- Oh. I see.

Bill: Who is it?

Shirley: Okay. Thank you. We’ll be right there. Goodbye. (Hangs up the phone) They found him.

Scene 4-The street corner
Lex stands on the corner, searching the area impatiently, holding a dozen red roses.

Lex: Come on. Where are you? You said you’d be here by now. Please, come. Please.

A Hobo wobbles onto stage from upstage. He looks around and then notices Lex.

Hobo: Hey, you. (Gets Lex’s attention) You lookin’ for her?

Lex: Her?

Hobo: The lady. The one in black.

Lex: I am.

Hobo: Well, she ain’t comin’. She had some business to attend to. Busy lady, you understand. But she told me you’d be here. (Reaches into his pocket and pulls out a red envelope) Make me promise I’d make sure this got to ya.

The Hobo hands Lex the envelope and hobbles offstage as Lex opens it and reads the letter inside. He seems disturbed by its contents. He exits.

Scene 5-The kitchen
Anna, Bill, and Shirley, in a panic, rush in through the outside entrance. As they speak, Shirley pulls out her cell phone as she hurries Bill and Anna through the kitchen and both of them exit through the other side.

Shirley: You two get whatever you need. I’ll be right here waiting.

Anna: Thank you, dear.

Bill: Where’s Bill?

Shirley: I’m calling him right now. (Bill and Anna exit) Hello. Bill. It’s Shirley. There’s been an emergency. No. I’m at Bill and Anna’s. No. They’re fine. It’s Roman. They found him in the city. He was- What? You need to-? Bill, you and I can talk later. This is your brother we’re talking about here. At the hospital. He’s in a coma. Drug overdose. The doctor’s say he’s in critical condition. Your grandparent’s are packing to stay overnight. We’ll meet you there in a- What? What do you mean you can’t make it tonight? He’s your brother! Fine. Look, I-I hear Bill and Anna. We’ll talk later.

Bill and Anna rush in.

Bill: Did you get a hold of Lex?

Shirley: Yes. He’ll be there as soon as he can.

Scene 6-Blackout
Lights fade to black. There is a period of silence.

Shirley: You have reached the voicemail of Shirley Myers. I am not able to answer the phone right now but if you leave your name, number, and a detailed message I will get back to you as soon as possible. Have a great day.

There is a beep.

Frank: Shirley. Hey, it’s Frank. Lex hasn’t been to work in three days. I was wondering if you had any idea where he’s been hiding. Talk to you later, babe. Bye.

There is another beep.

Frank: Hey. Frank again. I heard about Roman in the hospital. I’ll try to get down there as soon as I can. PS. I’m acting Vice President until your man gets back.

There is a succession of beeps, soft, one every other second.

Shirley: The doctors say he’s falling fast.

Anna: Oh, God. Please. Please don’t take my baby away.

Bill: Where’s Lex?

Shirley: I don’t know, Bill.

Anna: Our father, who art in heaven…

Bill: You told him his brother was in the hospital, didn’t you?

Anna: …thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth…

Shirley: Yes. Three days ago. And a million times after that. He hasn’t returned any of my messages.

Anna: …and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…

Bill: What is wrong with him? Wasn’t anything Roman wouldn’t do for him and he can’t even show his face.

Anna: Amen. (Anna gasps)

Doctor: Mr. and Mrs. Wade?

Shirley: (Pause) Doctor?

Doctor: I’m sorry. He’s gone.

Scene 7-Roman’s room
Bill and Anna enter. Anna is crying, carrying a box of Roman’s belongings, including his backpack. Bill holds her in his arms. Anna places the box on the bed and the two exit. Once Bill and Anna are out of sight a spotlight appears on Lex, standing on an empty portion of the stage, shivering from the cold. In his hand is his latest letter from the Woman in Black, wrinkled from endless use.

Lex: (After a moment of silence) Well, I’m here. I did everything you said. My job. My family. Everything. I left it all…for you. Now, come to me…

Marci climbs in through Roman’s window

Marci: Rome? You here? (Looks around) Hm. (Sits down on the bed. Notices the box of belongings. Casually looks through the box, eventually making it to the backpack. She opens the backpack and finds something of interest) What in the…? (She stands up, pulling out a long black dress. The one the Woman in Black last wore) Roman Wade. You need some serious help.

Light fades out over Roman’s room. Five seconds later the spot light over Lex goes out. In a second it comes back on but Lex is gone. It is Roman who stands under the light. He is dressed in light colors, but in the same style as usual. He examines his surroundings a bit, takes a few steps downstage, lets out a deafening cry, shouting until he’s out of breath, collapsing to his knees, and the lights go out.

-PLAY END-

The YOU Network

I’ve acquired an addiction recently.  And while I’ve never had cocaine, heroine, or any of their friends over, I’m going to go ahead and assume mine is just as addictive. What is this mysterious thing that has made me it’s slave?

I’ll tell you: My ideal self.

My ideal self. The “me” that I can be. The perfect Trystin.

What set this addiction from being a harmless pastime to a full-blown obsession was a task I received from my Life Coach last week.  The task: Write for 5 to 10 minutes in your journal every day as if you ARE your ideal self; as if you are and have everything you want to at this point in your life. The goal of the exercise is to make a person form a stronger attachment to their desires, making them seem all the more attainable. There’s also the aspect of manifesting your desires, but that’s a little more metaphysical than I’d like to go right now. (We’ll save THAT for later)

The exercise has the effect on me that it was supposed to; one that I’ve preached but never felt so strongly. Try it some time. You’ll love it.

It also succeeded in bringing to the foreground another idea that I have always spoken about but never put in writing or lived as deeply as I should: The YOU Network.

We each consist of a single self. That self is what we refer to as “me” or “I” (or by our names if we’ve got a case of the Elmo’s). It’s who we are. It’s what we are. But we are creatures of desire, of need, and these desires fall into categories that tend to separate the self into six pieces. These pieces include:

  1. The work self (Your job)
  2. The social self (Your friends/family)
  3. The health self (Your physical and emotional health)
  4. The extracurricular self (Your hobbies/interests)
  5. The romantic self (Your love life)
  6. The material self (Your belongings)

As these creatures of desire, we often have the tendency to want one of these so badly that others suffer. A new job. A better relationship with our mother. A book club that selects more than the latest John Patterson every month. Whatever it is, it’s SO easy for us to allow that one thing to stunt our growth or attention to the others. It’s a danger of seeking out the ideal self. It’s not the ideal health self…or the ideal material self…it’s the ideal self. Singular. If we ever want to find true happiness and balance, we’ll have to grow them ALL.

To take it to an extreme level, let’s say someone is ALL about satisfying the romantic self. It’s all they can think about. It consumes them. The pain, the fixation, is so deep that all they can do is think about it. They think so hard that it interferes with their work life and they get fired. It intereferes with their health life and they stop going to the gym. They don’t have the drive to engage in any of their hobbies either and just spend the day shuffling through online profiles for “the one”. Tell me: Who’s going to fall in love with an out-of-shape, jobless obsessive with no active interests? Exactly.

We are each a single entity, but our desires form a sort of network. A YOU Network. And only by maintaining a balance between all six pieces (and the mysterious seventh) can the ideal truly be reached.

 

Motivational

I’ve always had this dream of becoming a motivational speaker. Last week I decided to write a quick draft of what my speech would be like. Without further ado…
“Becoming Your Ideal Self”
[Applause and greeting. Something nice about the neighborhood]

Okay. Let’s give another round of applause to you. Come on. Don’t be shy. You’re here. You’ve made it. The very fact that you are sitting here is solid tangible proof that you’ve given your life a good hard look and said to yourself, “Hey, it’s time to kick it up a notch.” Either that or a friend dragged you…or maybe you just wanted to try some of these sick snacks that will be provided at intermission. Either way, you’re here and I have made it my sole mission to give you some cool tools to improve your world the SECOND you step out of that door [time of day]. Now I wish I could tell you that this was the easy part. You came. You listened. You leave a beautiful butterfly. We wish, right? The road to substantial change is a rough one, filled with more frustrations…and more highs than settling could ever give you. But if you stick with it, the end result will be…wow.

I like to start off with some conversation. An ice breaker, if you will. Something simple to loosen us up and to help us realize that, [time of day], we are all here united. We are an unstoppable force, moving fearlessly toward a single goal: more. Okay. I’m going to ask you guys a question. Raise your hand if you care to answer out loud. And for every answer you give the rest of us are going to cheer like our favorite team just won the superbowl and our best friend scored the winning point. Okay. Here’s the first question: What do you want?

[question answer session]

Next question: What is standing in your way?

[question answer session]

This is the last one: When, in your current life, do you feel you’re at your best?

[question answer session]

Awesome. You guys are amazing me already. Thank you so much. One more round of applause for those brave souls putting themselves out there like that.

[applause]

Okay. “What do I want?” I always smile at the amount of people who answer, “I have no idea.” They know. I ran around, aimlessly getting myself involved in this and that, completely sure that I didn’t know. I knew. I’ve found that “I don’t know what I want” is code language for “I know EXACTLY what I want but the thought of going after it is so overwhelming or so terrifying that I have tricked myself into thinking it’s not really for me at all…or isn’t even worth trying.” Fear, right? Scary stuff. Fear. That invasive force of inner self that can take YEARS of living off of the human life. Fear, the number one cause of failure. The greatest supporter of inaction. If you have a choice between a relationship that survive anything and a relationship that crumbles, which do you choose? [audience answers “works”] If you have a choice between your dream job and one that feels like it’s draining a little bit of your soul every day? [audience answers “dream job”] When you have the choice of ruling with courage or being ruled by fear, which do you choose? It’s an easy answer, right? It’s a no-brainer, but why do so many of us constantly choose fear when courage is the alternative?

I bet that there is very little fear involved today when you’re engaging in those things that you said make you feel like you’re at your best. But how about when you were just beginning? [give examples from an audience answer to the third question] Those first steps are terrifying. In love. In having children. In starting a new career or hobby. Heck, maybe they’re still a little freaky at times but you’ve become stronger than your fear. I find that most of the greatest things that come to us are the ones that are preceded with an irrational fear. I’d even go as far to say that irrational fear can sometimes be the best determinate of how much you want something.

Now notice I’m talking irrational fears here. If a tiger is charging for you that is not the time to stick around and see what happens.

A few years ago I wanted to move to New York City from my small town in Pennsylvania and the second an opportunity arose a BILLION horrified voices started ringing in my head. It’s expensive! You don’t have a job! You’ll be all alone! Homeless people are crazy! What if you don’t make it?! Ha. Only one way to find out. I moved up there and have lived there ever since and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. A few years before that, when I was a wee little lad graduating from high school, I attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for animation. Ever since I was two, I drew pictures. I was pretty good. My dream was to work for Disney or Nickelodeon and everything would be perfect. I thought, “I’m afraid to be so far from home!” “”I’m going to miss being near my friends!” “What if I don’t make any friends?” “What if I’m not good enough?” Naturally, it was the stuff I didn’t freak myself out about that got me in the end. First of all, I was 18 and had a 36 year old roommate. That was fun. Secondly, after a whole short life of eating, drinking and breathing cartoons, I learned that the animation industry was not for me. Out of all the things I was unsure of, that’s the one thing I knew I wanted…and it wasn’t. And this, above all other reasons, is why we try. We try…so we can know. Who we are. What we want. If we want what we think we want. Picture being the person who is so sure that he wanted to be a dancer…but never tried once…died, never trying once. Now picture the person who is so sure he wanted to be a dancer…went to dance school and hated it. But in trying he learned something about himself. One door closes. A million more possibilities open. While at dance school he realizes that it’s not so much the movement, but the music that he enjoys so he picks up a violin and becomes a music major, satisfied. Fear of failure is almost entirely unjustified because if you try, there is no failure. Only growth and a clearer perception of what it is you want to be.

Any questions?

[question/answer]

Having gotten us all through that beautiful disclaimer let’s get to it. The same of this seminar is “Becoming Your Ideal Self” and that’s what we’re gonna move a little closer to doing. Like I said, behind all the apprehension, we all know what we want. We all have a pretty good idea what this ideal self is…so, it’s time to say hello…

I’m going to need you guys to close your eyes. Don’t by shy. We’re all brothers and sisters of change here. Okay. I want you to picture your ideal self. I want you to image them into existence right here, right now. Make them as real as you are. Are they thinner? Are they happier? Do they have a better job? A new puppy? A more fulfilling social circle? A really sweet dragon tattoo on their left arm? Do they keep calm in stressful situations? Are they the voice of reason that everyone turns to? Are they madly in love? Do their words inspire people do to great things? o they do great things? Are they ruled by fear? Are they ruled by others? Do they go to bed every night with an emptiness inside of them? Do you? Eyes still closed, I want you to look into the eyes of your ideal self. Take in their body, their face, the way they dress and smile and stand…and, on the count of three, I want you to say “hello.” One. Two. Three.

[audience says “hello”]

t your ideal self? What do you admire the most about them? Why is it so admirable? What do they think of you? What do you have that they do not? What does your ideal self have that you do not? How did they get it?

Excellent. Let’s have one more good look at our ideal self. Picture them as real as can be and look straight into their eyes. I’m going to tell you something and I need you to listen because this is the most important thing I will say tonight. This person you’re gazing at. This culmination of all of your hopes and dreams and none of your fears and challenges…this is not some other person. This is not some unreachable figment of your imagination. This is you. You are looking at yourself and there is NOTHING in this person that you cannot become. You are your ideal self. It’s merely a matter of unlocking what’s been in there all along.

Alright, open your eyes and repeat after me.

I am my idea self.

[audience repeats]

I am my ideal self!

[audience repeats]

I AM MY IDEAL SELF!

[audience repeats]

Congratulations. I can feel keys turning and doors opening already. Let’s find some more brave souls… Who would like to share their experience with their ideal self? How does the thought of them make you feel? Enlightening? Weird? Overwhelming?

[question/answer]

It’s a funny thing we do,as people, with big ideas sometimes. When we have a dream or an idea that is so different than our current status quo we tend to separate it from ourselves. For example, I always wanted to be interviewed on a late night talk show. So I would imagine what it would be like. Sometimes I’d be in my room or in the shower pretending I was being asked questions by Letterman and Leno, answering accordingly. But even though that guy sitting in the chair in my head looked like me and talked like me, I had established him as “celebrity Trystin”, an entirely different person than “normal Trystin”, the guy who talked to himself in the shower. And by separating myself from my dream self I instantly created a wall between the two. He’s the one that made it. I’m the one that doesn’t. That’s what we do when we fantastize. We take energy that could be spent bettering ourselves and instead waste it on building pretty pictures in our heads. This is why accepting that “you ARE your ideal self” is so crucial.

Think about when yourselves were a kid. In middle school or high school. How you dressed. What you thought. The sorts of…trouble you got into. Talk about being a different person, right? Sometimes it feels like the “me” of the past was an entirely different creature from the “me” of the present. Obviously, though, we’re the same. The Trystin that thought giant sweatshirts with Looney Tunes printed on them was the highest form of fashion and bought Happy Meals for the prize inside WAY beyond the recommended age is the same Trystin that is talking to you right now. The relationship between child you and now-you is as real as the relationship between who you are now and who you want to…scratch that…who you WILL become. Got me?

Let’s do a quick review and then we’ll get to the good stuff. I know, I know, you thought that other stuff was the good stuff. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, guys. First off: Face your fears. You know what you want so accept it and let the confidence of accepting it help you conquer your fears and give it a try. Secondly:Trying is a coin flip with no losing side: Failure and success are two sides of the same coin and both lead to growth, change and a better picture of who you are. And third: You ARE your ideal self. Let’s give ourselves a hand, just because we’re awesome.

[audience applauds]

So we’ve tackled the what: Conquering fears, taking action a.k.a. trying and becoming your ideal self. Consequently, we also know the who: You. The time has come for the “How”. How, Trystin, how do we go about this Extreme Self Makeover once our time together is just a memory and we’re out on our own? The answer: Do it. [pretends to leave] I’m Trystin Bailey. Thank you for your time and have a good [time of day]. Haha, kidding. Let’s go back to the beginning of this party and think about why you’re here. Unless you’re one of those people who came merely to accompany a friend or for my precious snacks. YOU guys have heard enough of this. I want all of you to think of that big looming thing that you’re missing. It could be something that exists in your life now, but you want it to go away. Something that exists but you wish it would become better…or would be replaced with something better. Or something that isn’t there at all that you feel should be. What is that giant something …love, career, family, friendship, hobby, philosophy …that, if fulfilled would give you one GREAT leap toward your ideal self? Everybody have it? Are you grasping it firmly in your hands? Excellent. Now let’s take out our magnifying glasses and spiffy detective’s hats and inspect this thing.

WHY is this so important to you? Of all the pieces of your life why is THIS something that needs to be dealt with? I’m going to add that this should not be that difficult of a question to answer. It also doesn’t require a very detailed dissertation of an answer to be completely valid. Let’s say your goal is “to work in a more appreciative environment”. Why is this so important to you? Maybe it’s because “you think that your current workplace is making you depressed and therefore, a better job that gives you the attention you feel you deserve, would raise your morale inside and out of the workplace”. That’s great. That’s perfect. What’s worrisome is when someone has a problem such as “I can’t stand my wife” and their reasoning behind it is “I don’t know. I just can’t.” In cases like this, cases with a specific emotional response and nothing to back it up, sometimes the thing that a person is angry at…or the thing the person wants…is not the same thing that they’re taking their anger out on. Perhaps the problem isn’t that he can’t stand his husband, but instead he has a history of unrealized dreams and the frustration is something she takes out on her. This Transference of Anger happens sometimes and, as you can guess, completely throws off the journey toward the ideal self so before we move on, take that into consideration and adjust accordingly.

Another potential roadblock that can be uncovered by the WHY question involves the Incomplete Goal. The most common example: someone’s goal is “I want money!”. When asked why they want money, the answer is “Because I want to be able to be able to pay for my kid’s college education” or “because I’ve always wanted to backpack in China”. Paying for college and China are the goals here, not money. Money is just a means toward a goal and too vague to be a goal itself so, keep things specific. Ask “Why?” multiple times if you have to. The Curious Child Method.

[take time to lay a few “Whys” on an audience member]

See that? It’s a great learning technique. Use it for everything. But do it in your head as it tends to become pretty irritating if said out loud.

The last roadblock I’ve discovered in my own journey and observations throughout has been my personal favorite: It’s Not Me. It’s You. An example would be the issue, “My friend won’t put more effort into starting a  business with me.” I’m only going to say this once. I’m also going to say that, for some, this might actually be JUST as important as my “You are your ideal self” shpeal. You cannot place your personal fulfillment in the hands of anyone else but you. Not only are you shirking off responsibility for your growth, but you are severely lessening your chances of success. A healthier re-tooling of the exact same goal could be something like, “I want to start my own business.” Making the goal “me-oriented” places the responsibility on the goal-setter, where it belongs, and turns the friend from a crucial ingredient into something that is standing in the way, thus opening the goal-setter up to finding alternate ways of making their dream come true.

Honestly, guys. As long as your goal keeps the responsibility with you and can withstand three or four “why’s” you are on the right track.

Any questions?

[question/answer time]

Awesome. Moving on. Now that we’re all goal-toting champions with the firepower to back up our convictions, the time has come to answer: WHAT can I do to make this happen?

But first. Snacks! Eat up. Go crazy. We’ll be back in ten.

…………………

[welcome back and location-based anecdote/joke]

Refreshed? On the edge of your seat with anticipation? Okay then. Back to business:

WHAT can we do to get what we want? To take that goal we solidified before the break and turning it into realit? Here are the seven steps that are going to get us there: RESEARCH, PLAN/RISK, GAIN SUPPORT, ENGAGE, REWARD, ASSESS, EVOLVE.

RESEARCH. When we really want something, it’s sometimes a bit easy to become caught up in the emotion of wanting: desire. And sometimes that desire can become so powerful that it takes the form of infatuation (it’s not just for lovers) which leads to some impulsive responses that, the more complex the goal, can lead to some pretty messy results that do far more harm than good for your journey to the ideal.

Let’s say you want a shiny new car. You’re at the dealership and your eye catches the [following year], feature-packed, most beautiful vehicle you’ve ever seen. Instantly, you’re hit with 4,000 tons of passionate desire. It grabs you and will not let go. In a fit of infatuation you march to the dealer, voice your NEED for that car, sign the paperwork and take that baby home. You did it. Mission: accomplished. Goal achieved. Dragon slayed. Then you go home and reality sets in. You have to pay HOW much each month?! Your insurance is WHAT?! The mileage per gallon of gas is THAT low?! Your spouse is THAT angry you didn’t run this by them?! Especially with all the bills and the tuition and the roof that needs repaired… Uh oh. What happened? You got what you wanted, right? Sure. But you didn’t think it through and while you achieved something you didn’t have, you also lost a lot of things that you didn’t and effectively, by reacting without thinking in the name of reaching your ideal, you went and moved even farther away from it. The “RESEARCH” step performs two very important tasks: The first task, which was just outlined, is to ensure that taking action toward a new endeavor does minimal damage to the parts of your life that you enjoy. The second task is so that you know what you’re getting into. Let’s say you’ve wanted to be an astronaut since you were a kid. Sure, it seems like the coolest thing ever, but let’s not forget the months of intense training and isolation that something like that involves. This task also includes the revealing of other ways of achieving your goal that you didn’t think of before. For instance, you want to find that special someone, but limited yourself to the local bar or online dating. Research could open you up to the ideas of community events, book clubs and other ideas you wouldn’t naturally think of. The research step exists to answer the almighty question: Is it worth it? If you answer “yes” then it’s time to truly do something about it.

Step two: PLAN. You’ve done all the research so pull out a piece of paper or a word document, take all of your findings and bang out your To-Do list. The very act of writing a list is a powerful way of transforming a build-up of ideas into a tangible set of instructions; something for you to be accountable to. The stepping stones of your own design, pointing you toward your destiny. A warning to the wise: the planning phase is special in that it is the true bridge between idea and actuality and, as such, can be fresh breeding ground for the fear we talked about before which might lead to you wanting to play it safe. No. No. No. Start playing it too safe here and you’re compromising the effectiveness of ANYTHING you do next. You’ve done the research. You’ve decided that this IS worth it…chances are some of the steps won’t be easy to pull off. Most things weren’t having won’t be easy to pull off. A little bit of risk, the possibility of pain, of loss, of failure are just part of the journey. Obstacles to be overcome. If you want love, you have to accept the possibility of rejection. If you want your dream job, you have to accept the grueling work of sending out resumes and writing endless custom cover letters. If you want things to be better between you and a loved one, you have to be truthful in your feelings regardless of their reaction to them. Without some sort of risk there is no real progress. Your list has to reflect a sincere desire for lasting and meaningful change in the form of a solid goal. A watered-down list leads to watered-down, and ultimately unfulfilled, results.

Step three: GAIN SUPPORT. There are few things better than a cheering section when you’re going for that winning score. This step isn’t so much about forming a fan club as it is making sure that you’re surrounding yourself with positive influences; people who believe in you. These people are generally family and very close friends; those who care about you, are honest and want you to succeed. These people will be a shoulder to cry on if things go south, a voice of reason if your tactics are a bit off and a congratulatory explosion when you succeed. Those who wish only to tear you down are not worth your time, plain and simple. Same thing with those who live only to agree with your every decision. No-men and yes-men offer constant streams of discouragement or encouragement that holds no weight because there is no critical honesty to it. So beware them both.

One of the best things about having some sort of support is accountability. The more people you share your plans with the more people will be expecting you to accomplish them. Take it a step farther. MAKE them push you into taking action! Self-inflicted peer pressure is a powerful motivational tool.

Know that on some occasions there will be no support but yourself. And that’s okay. This step is optional. This is YOUR goal and, as I said before, you can’t place the success of your ideal self in the hands of others. While support is nice, it’s not atlall necessary to start off with it.

Step four: ENGAGE and REWARD. Take that list. Follow it. Start at step one and follow-through. You’ve put ample thought into this. You know why it’s important to you. You know why it’s worth it. You know the risks and the steps. So do it. Look your ideal self in the eye and OWN IT. And once you complete that list, NO MATTER the result, reward yourself. You took action. You should be proud. You’ve done what millions of people are too afraid to do; too lazy to do. You accepted the possibility of becoming something more. Congrats. You’re already amazing.

Step five: ASSESS. So you followed the list. Chances are you haven’t reached the jackpot yet, but that you are closer than you were before. Look at what worked. What didn’t. What should you have done differently? What should you have done more? Or not at all? What was missing? These are some of the most important questions of them all…and they can ONLY be answered by going out there and taking action. Engaging.

Once you’ve answered all the questions, you’ve firmly entered the next step: EVOLVE. This step starts the moment you go out there and start interacting with your world differently than you did before. In this case, by following your list. It continues through the ASSESSMENT step and truly takes form when you follow the steps of your new and improved list. This list is the the offspring of actual experience. It’s just as risky, but more attuned to your desires than the last one, which was based on more expectation than experience. Follow every step. EVOLVE.

Wouldn’t it be great if I said that that was it? You’ve reached your ideal self! POOF! The end. Ha. For some people it is that easy. Others, not so much. The key here is to know what you want, why you want it, and to stop at nothing to make it yours. Making it yours is a cycle of assessing and evolving, while rewarding yourself for even the smallest breakthrough. You’re growing! Celebrate it. And when you reach one goal, start on another. The truth is there’s no end to this quest for the ideal self. If you have everything you want, I guarantee by the time you reach it you’ll want more. Great! Chances are the ideal self you had when your journey began will be ten times less accomplished as your current self if you keep working at it. Think about THAT for a second. By assessing and evolving you will not only fully unlock the ideal self that it ALREADY IN YOU, but you will also surpass it in the most wonderful and often unexpected ways. It’s incredible and it is well within reach.

WHEN do you start this journey? What do you think? When you have some free time this weekend? When you get home tonight? [audience answers] Now. You’re starting it right now. Heck, you started it the second you formed a goal in your head, but the journey to achieve it starts right here. Right now. No excuses. No more dragging your feet. Life is short and living a life of inactivity is not living at all. Living a life of fear, not living at all. It is only when you are working toward a dream that you are truly and unarguably alive. Thank you.

Any questions?

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