Page 3 of 6

Milk and Roses Promo Poster

Not My Son

Characters (in order of appearance)

Luke. Male, pre-teen
Myra. Female, 30s
Alex. Female, 20s
Michael. Male, pale-skinned, 30s
Marlon/??. Male, black, 30s
Joe. Male, black, 60s
Craig. Male, 40s

NOTES

This is a play about Michael Jackson or, more accurately, my interpretation of the man. As a way to truly explore him I have opted to create a sort of alternate reality biography to give readers/viewers the opportunity to experience Jackson (or my interpretation of Jackson) and certain members of his family without his bubble of super celebrity that seems to create a sort of wall of distortion, skewing our opinions of those existing on the other side. Overall, the piece will reflect the anti-celebrity sentiment in that it (lighting, set, and other effects) will remain wholly contained, intimate, and minimalistic.

~PLAY BEGIN~

Setting: New York City, 1991

ACT I

Scene i – Myra’s apartment. Living room.
The place is filthy and obviously owned by people with very little, despite its size and architectural hints of former extravagance. LUKE, 11, a fair-haired bright eyed boy, sits on the floor, playing with toy soldiers, lined up and ready for battle. He is wearing pajamas.

Luke: (grasping the general of one of the armies in hand) “Alright, gentlemen, this is what we’ve been waiting for. The enemy is right over there and they will not stop until every one of us is dead. Do you understand?” “Sir, yes, sir.” “I said, do you understand?!” “Sir, yes, sir!” “That’s more like it. On the count of three: One, two, three!” (Luke engages in wild battle between the two sides) Bam! Bam! Pow! Kssh! “Oh, no!” “My legs!” Ka-pssh! “Why can’t I feel my legs?!” “Henderson! Henderson, where are you?!” Bambambambam! “They’re coming from above!” Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh. “My arm!” “Why…why is everything so black? Why do I feel so…cold?” “I’ve got you!” “Aghhh!!!” “Tell my wife…I love her.” (silence falls upon the battlefield and no pieces are standing. Gently, Luke picks up the general, who takes in the gruesome results of war) “Miles? Rodriguez? Henderson? Report.” (there is no response) “Dammit. Dead. All of them. But at least we took out the enemy. At least we won.” (he grabs onto another fallen soldier, speaking for it with a female voice, he coughs and moans. He switches back to the general – the conversation flips back and forth between these two for the duration of the quotes) “What the…?” “Samuels? Jackson? Clemmens?” “They’re dead.” “You…monster. They were good men.” “Mine, too. The best I ever worked with. But this is war. People die. We know this when we sign up.” “Agh! My darn leg is broken. You gonna finish me off?” “This is war.” “Right. People die. I get it…But why does it have to be this way?” “It’s how it’s always been.” “That’s not an answer. This isn’t some game. Winning shouldn’t have to mean that other people suffer. (more silence) Shoot me then.” “I’m out of bullets.” “There’s a lot of guns around. Find one. (Luke moves the general around. The general reaches and lifts up a gun) There you go. That wasn’t so hard.” “Shut up.” (the general moves to the woman) “I hope this is worth all the lives we’ve ruined.”

MYRA enters, 30, but aged a great deal by a rough life etched with substance and other abuse. She’s wearing a simple elegant dress. She stumbles while inserting an earring and approaches Luke.

Myra: The hell is this?

Luke: I’m playing.

Myra: Go to bed. You have school in the morning.

Luke: It’s only seven-thirty!

Myra: Don’t yell at me! Get in the bath. Go to bed. Mommy has a business meeting tonight. And, Jesus Christ, Luke, clean up this mess.

She kicks the army men at the word “mess”. Lights go down as Luke cleans up his toys.

Scene ii – Michael’s living room.
The room is simple and impeccably clean. You can tell immediately that, while in no way lavish, the apartment and its contents are costly. Certain choices in color and decoration bring to mind the innocence and imagination of childhood. MICHAEL (Michael Jackson,33, a thin pale man simply dressed, always in long pants with long sleeves) hunches over a drafting table painting an illustration of a group of young boys and their dog. Moments pass and then his phone rings.

Michael: Hello?…Oh, hi Greg…Uh huh…Okay…Greg, we talked about this…Greg, listen to me. Listen to me, Greg…Uh huh…Greg, I don’t care about the money. The books are doing fine…Oh, I know…But I don’t want them to enjoy them because of a name attached to them. I want it to be for the art, for the characters, for the magic in those pages…Greg. This is what we agreed on. Either accept my terms or find a new series…(calms) Let’s talk about book five. I think that-

There is a knock at the door. Michael is genuinely surprised by this; even disturbed.

Michael: (to Greg) One second, Greg. Someone’s at the door…No, not at all…Hold on.

Michael places the phone on the table and moves to the door. He looks through the peephole.

Michael: Can I help you?

Alex: (offstage) Hi. My name is Alexis Wales. Alex. I’m looking for Mr. Michael Jackson. Do you know where I can find him? Does he live here? Is this him?

Michael: What do you want?

Alex: I just want to interview him…you…him. I sent a letter a few weeks ago…

Michael roots through a pile of unopened mail. He finds an envelop with her name on it.

Alex: I-I work for Cornerstone Publishing. We’re putting together a biography on Marlon, you know, Jackson, and we were trying to find any friends or family to interview.

Michael: How’d you know I was here?

Alex: Michael? I…well, the publishing houses have sort of a network sometimes and, contrary to popular belief-

Michael: Greg.

Alex: What’s that?

Michael: Nothing. Nothing. Hold on.

Michael goes to his table and picks up the phone.

Michael: You still there?…Yeah…I’m fine.

Alex: Michael?

Michael: (to Greg) I have to go…(coolly) You can bet we’ll talk later.

Alex: Michael?

Michael: Yeah?

Alex: Oh. There you are. We honestly didn’t expect to find you. That’s why they’ve been sending me around. I’m just an intern. Well, trainee. Wild goose chases are kind of my thing. But I found you! (beat.) So if you’d be kind enough to let me ask you just a couple questions-

Michael: Now’s not a good time. Sorry.

Alex: But-

Michael: Sorry.

Phone rings. Michael answers.

Michael: Hello?…Yes, I’m upset, Greg. We had an agreement…That’s not the point!…We’ll talk later. Bye.

Michael hangs up the phone. Beat.

Alex: It will only take fifteen minutes! Tops.

Michael: Please-

Alex: It’s nothing too intrusive, I promise. It’s a fluff piece, really. Just a PR stunt, to be honest, what with the new album.

Michael: (softly) New album? (to Alex) Please leave. I’m busy. I have work to do.

The phone rings once again. Michael raises the receiver and drops it on the table, off the hook.

Alex: (silence) Okay. Fine. To be honest, I don’t even care about this stupid biography. It’s flat. It’s dumb. It’s just a bunch of old photos strung together by empty text. There’s no art. There’s no challenge. I’m better than this, Mich- Mr. Jackson. I know it. The only reason I even took this job was that maybe- just maybe I could meet you. I remember listening to my sisters’ records growing up. You were the real thing. I just want to meet you, Mr. Jackson. I’ll leave my notebook, my recorder at the door.

Michael thinks and then opens the door. ALEX, (25, mousey and bright dressed in the casual style of her youth) steps in and begins to remove her notepad from her backpack.

Michael: No. Keep it. This was bound to happen sooner or later. Would you like some tea?

Alex: Uh sure. That’d be great.

Michael: Follow me into the kitchen…

Michael and Alex exit. Lights down as the phone busy signal erupts then fades as the scene ends.

Scene iii – Backstage
Marlon, 34, dressed in leather extravagance, enters, collapsing on a chair, exhausted and covered in sweat.

Marlon: Ah, shit man! Woo! Jesus.

JOE (63, a fierce confidence in a three-piece suit) enters slowly. There is a dark power in his every move as he nears Marlon, unbeknownst to the other.

Joe: You were off tonight.

Marlon jumps up, startled.

Marlon: Shit, man! Come back later. I ain’t in the mood right now…

Joe: (correcting) I’m not in the mood right now…

Marlon: Whatever, man…

Joe: Don’t “whatever, man” me, boy.

Marlon: You can’t tell me what to do, old man. You got no dominion over me!

Joe: Then why am I here?

Marlon: (deflates) What do you want?

Joe: I want you to be the best.

Marlon: Not this again…

Joe: Yes, Marlon! This again and again and again until you get your act together.

Marlon: I’m fine! Did you hear that applause out there? Did you see that crowd? I’m on my way!

Joe: At thirty-five you should be there already…

Marlon: They’re writing a book about me!

Joe: That don’t mean nothin’!

Marlon: (correcting, spiteful) That doesn’t mean anything…

Joe raises his hand to smack Marlon.

Joe: You ungrateful…

Marlon: I’m not afraid of you.

Joe lowers his hand.

Joe: You should be. You’re all washed up. You had you chance and you blew it.

Marlon: Get out of here.

Joe: You’re this family’s only hope.

Marlon: I said get out!

Joe: You won’t let me!

Marlon: Why me?! Huh?! What about the others? What about Janet?!

Joe: She abandoned us.

Marlon: (dripping with venom) And why do you think that is?

Joe: (hurt, but covering it up) You should be something better than this. Instead you’re on the fast track to being a nobody. Book or no book.

Marlon: (beat) I’ll never be him.

Joe: (beat) Work on the chorus. Your voice gets weak on the third measure. And your moves are getting sloppy in “Baby, I Need You.”

Joe exits.

Marlon: (beat) (determined) Thank you, daddy.

Scene iv.
Michael’s kitchen.
Like the living room, Michael’s kitchen is simple, modern, colorful, and pristine. He and Alex sit at the table, sipping tea. Alex is enwrapped by the other’s words.

Michael: Marlon and I used to get into so much trouble when we were on the road. There was this one time in Chicago when we were at the Drake Hotel. Jermaine and I always shared a room, but he was playing cards with Tito so it was just me and Marlon, bored, looking for something to do. We took the ice bag- you know that little empty plastic bag you fill up with ice? We took four or five of them into the bathroom and filled them up with water then tied them up. We thought we were so smart with our little makeshift water balloons. The two of us went out onto the balcony, a couple water bags each, and waited for someone to come by. We waited and waited. Marlon was getting impatient, but I told him it would pay off soon enough. After a while, the most perfect targets came around the corner. There was this tall skinny man in a three piece suit and a top hat with a feather in it. And beside him was this big round woman wearing a huge fur coat. They looked like they walked right out of a cartoon or something.

Alex: (laughing) How old were you guys then?

Michael: Hm. I was ten, I think. And he was eleven.

Alex: Wow.

Michael: Well we didn’t really get out much so mischief-making was kind of the closest thing we got to being kids on those rare nights without rehearsal. So we drop the first couple bags and- Nothing.

Alex: Nothing?

Michael: We didn’t really take into consideration how thick the plastic of the bags was. The bags fell and all but they just sort of hit the ground around them. No explosion of water. We didn’t even hit them! And Marlon and I were hiding inside by the time the man and woman looked up to see who was targeting them.

Alex: Hilarious.

Michael: That’s not even the end of it. Marlon still had one of those bags in his hand, full of water. Annoyed, he tossed the bag to me. As soon as that thing touched my hands it just – BOOM – water all over the place. We were drenched! And then Jermaine and Tito come running in and Jermaine sees that we got his favorite bell bottoms all wet – not to mention most of his bed. There’s a big commotion and then my dad walks in. Everybody goes quiet. It’s like there’s not a sound in the world. He walks up to me and Marlon with that intense look in his eye. I remember being so scared. He’s towering over us and he just raises his arm and…and…

Michael drifts off into his head.

Alex: Mr. Jackson? Michael?

Michael: (snaps out of it) Huh?

Alex: Are you okay?

Michael: Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. Would you like some more tea? I have some cookies, too, if you’d like that.

Alex: No thanks. I’m okay.

Michael: Okay.

Alex: When’s the last time you saw them?

Michael: Who?

Alex: Your family?

Michael: (after a pause) I think about them a lot. I never doubted that our dad loved us but- Sometimes I don’t know if I had the best life or the worst life a child could possibly have. It wasn’t a childhood. That’s something I’ll never have.

Silence.

Alex: I should probably go. I have to report back to my boss and then some of my friends and I are- Well, that’s not important. I wasn’t planning on this actually working out. Me finding you, I mean. Like I said. It was great. Thank you for letting me in.

Michael begins to rise from his seat.

Alex: Don’t worry. I know my way out.

Alex starts off.

Michael: Alex…

Alex stops.

Alex: Yes?

Michael: Drop by again, will you?

Alex: (smiling lightly, sadly) Sure.

Alex exits. Lights fade with Michael, dejected.

Scene v. – Myra’s apartment. The living room.
CRAIG (43, a long-haired burnout in a Hawaiian shirt) and Myra stand on opposite ends of the room like a pair of hungry beasts, ready at any moment to engage. They are both high on something serious, Myra, decidedly less than Craig, who is also wielding a half-downed bottle of liquor. Myra is half-dressed for work, as a cashier at a fast food restaurant. The rest of her outfit is scattered around her.

Craig: (growling) Rrrrrruff! Grrrruff! Woof!

Myra: (clearly loving it) Craig, you leave me alone you animal!

Craig: Woof! Woof!

Myra fumbles to get dressed.

Myra: Stop it! I have work!

Craig: Just one more time, baby. Please, baby baby baby, pleeeeeease?!

Myra: You’re a fucking animal! You’re a horn-dog!

Craig: (whimpers like a puppy)

Myra: Help me find my shoes.

Craig approaches Myra and begins kissing her lips and neck. Myra tries to push him away.

Myra: Get off of me!

Craig takes her hand and forces it on to his crotch.

Craig: Mmmm, dirty whore. (growls)

Myra: Craig!

Craig: Goliath hungers…

Myra: You’re disgusting.

Craigs: Hungers for your pussy…Mmm. Woof! Woof!

Craig pulls her in and they begin to kiss and grope wildly, collapsing on the couch in a fit of passion.

Craig: Oh yeah, baby. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah….

Myra tries to break free.

Myra: Craig. No. No!

Craig: (mocking Myra’s voice) “No, Craig, don’t stop!” “No, Craig, do me harder!”

Myra spots her shoe, a pump, on the floor beside the couch and begins beating Craig with it.

Myra: I! Have! To! Get! Ready! For! Work!

Craig rolls off of her.

Craig: Oh, you slut!

Myra: I can’t be late again this week.

Craig: Call off sick!

Myra: I’m out of sick days, moron.

Craig: Rrruff!

Myra: Enough of that! Some of us have a job and a kid to feed.

Myra gets dressed.

Craig: Aw, baby, don’t do that… You know I’m trying to get my business off it’s feet.

Myra: Hmph. His asshole daddy had to go and get himself killed. Crackhead moron.

Craig: I just need a little money and all our problems’ll be solved, baby.

Myra: All I got in that deal was this shitty apartment and a needy whiney mouth I have to feed for another six years…

Craig: I’m gonna be better than he was, baby. I just need a little money. (innocently) Do you believe me?

Myra: Craig…

Craig: Do you believe me, Myra? You believe me, baby? Myra? Myyyyyraaaa?

Myra: (endeared) Stop that! Of course I believe you.

Craig: That’s my l’il fuck bear. Grrruff.

Scene vi – a practice space.
Marlon dances while Joe keeps time. Marlon is a skilled dancer, and knows this, but the fact means little because he wants to be the greatest; redefine the art, leaving him frustrated. There is a stool on which Marlon’s backpack sits.

Joe: Again! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight… One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. Again! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight… One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. Again! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight… One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. Again!

A pager beeps and Marlon breaks out of the dance.

Joe: What do you think you’re doing?

Marlon: It might be important.

Marlon pulls the pager from his backpack and examines it. A sudden wave of surprise and disbelief washes over him.

Joe: What? What’s goin’ on? Is it Epic? What did they say?

Marlon hides the pager so Joe can’t see it.

Marlon: It’s nothing.

Joe: That look on your face don’t make it look like nothin’.

Marlon: Well it is!

Marlon hastily puts on his backpack.

Joe: Where’re you going, boy? We ain’t done here-

Marlon: I need to find somewhere to think…away from you.

Marlon exits.

Joe: Marlon. Marlon!

Scene vii – Michael’s living room. Evening.
Alex is joyously looking through a set of illustrations. Michael watches, warmed by her presence.

Alex: You drew all of these.

Michael: (laughs) Yep. Every single one.

Alex: And you wrote them?

Michael: I did.

Alex: This is so incredible, you have no idea. There was a little boy and girl who I used to babysit back in Buffalo. Hunter and Hadley, but anyway, they LOVED these books. I would have to read one to them every night before they even thought about going to bed. And I loved it, too. The Johnson brothers going on adventures, getting into trouble, saving the day. It was so honest and innocent like a child, but there was always this deep, beautiful message weaved in.

Michael: That’s very nice of you to say.

Alex: I can’t believe you did these. I had no idea you were a gifted artist, too!

Michael: It’s funny, actually. We were a music family so that was mostly what we were exposed to around the house. On the road it was mostly variety acts. But when we were really starting to make it big, my brothers and I moved out to Los Angeles. While our mom and dad got everything together to move from Gary, I stayed with Diana Ross a lot.

Alex: The Diana Ross.

Michael: The Diana Ross. Yes. That’s the one. She was like a second mother to me and also shared her love of art with me. Van Gogh. Picasso. All the greats. She taught me to paint and ever since then drawing has been very important to me.

Alex: Interesting. And I guess the writing part came easy for you. You had been writing a lot of the Jackson 5 songs…

Michael: Well, there’s song writing and then there’s story writing. Songs are stories, but you can get away with being more symbolic and less detailed. Fortunately, while we were on the road we got a tutor named Rose Fine who really instilled a love of literature in me. I’ve been addicted to books ever since.

Alex: I remember one- it was my favorite -where Michel had fallen through the floor at this abandoned house and got stuck in the hole he’d made. He was so sure that no one would find him and that he’d live out the rest of his life cold and stuck and alone. Then Andy comes in with his flashlight and Jerry with his little emergency fanny pack and they get him out and Andy says…

Michael: “You shouldn’t be afraid, Michel. No matter how far you fall, even straight through the floor, your brothers are here to lift you right up out of that hole every time. As long as we stick together, we’ll never be stuck for good.”

Michael deflates at his quote’s end.

Alex: That’s it! (pause, taking in Michael’s sudden melancholy) Michael?

Michael: Yeah?

Alex: Are you okay?

Michael: I’m fine. Fine.

Alex: You miss them, huh?

Michael nods.

Alex: What happened? Why did you leave?

Michael: (pauses to gather his thoughts) It’s complicated. I- It was the late seventies and a lot of things were changing. I was changing. I had been for a while. I remember my whole childhood looking out at all the kids playing in the streets and having fun and I’d cry, alone so no one would see me. I cried because I knew that that kind of freedom was something I might never have. My father was a stern man. A rough man. Everything was for the music with him. Sure sports were good and good grades were good, but we were performers. I loved music. I love music, but we weren’t free. So I got older. The Jackson 5 became the Jacksons and we were all changing. I had acne. I’m talking bad acne and I felt so self-conscious. Even more separated from people. My brothers were falling in love and getting married. I wanted something else. And I was an adult then. I was eighteen. Berry Gordy and Motown records came to me about a movie called “The Wiz.” They were considering me for The Scarecrow. So I get a call from Berry…that call that every performer wants to get. He said, “Michael, you got it, man. You’re gonna be the Scarecrow. Now all you gotta do is accept the role. Just say “yes” man and you’re a movie star!” I remember being real quiet then. My whole little life flashing in front of me. The late nights of rehearsal, the applause, the tears, my brothers and sisters, Motown, Epic, the crack of my daddy’s hand against my face when I missed a step. I remembered those kids playing outside of the window and, while I loved my life, I truly, truly did, I felt like I was missing a whole other one. And if I said “yes” to that movie I knew, I KNEW that things would just get bigger and bigger and I wouldn’t be able to be something different ever again. So I said “no.” My dad, oh he was furious. My brothers didn’t understand. We fought a lot, then. “No.” I had always been stronger than people gave me credit for and when I finally uttered that word, uttered it against my very self, I rebelled from it completely. I abandoned the music and performance that had enslaved me so wonderfully. I abandoned my family because I knew they’d pull me back in and- (teary-eyed, pulls himself together). Not a day goes by that I don’t miss them…

Alex flips through the illustrations.

Alex: Johnson Boys Mysteries. Ha, it all makes sense. Five brothers going on adventures and saving the day. Even your pen name: Benjamin Screws…

Michael: “Ben” for the rat that I identified with so much. My first movie. And “Screws”…

Alex: Your mom’s maiden name…

Michael: Despite everything, I was raised in a house of love. We’ll all tell you the same. (pause) How are they?

Alex: Honestly, I don’t know. They’ve been interviewed by someone else. Like I said, no one expected you to be found. When I told my boss that I’d found you, they made a big deal of it and were going to send in our main writer…but I kind of told them that you made me promise that only I would interview you.

Michael: (smiling slyly) Did you now?

Alex: Yeah. I mean…I couldn’t…that was bad huh?

Michael: I can’t complain.

They share a smile. Alex checks her watch.

Alex: Agh, once again I am totally late and have loads of editing to do so…

Michael: I’ll see you soon.

Alex: Yes. Totally. Bye, Michael.

Michael: Bye, Alex.

Alex exits. Beat. There is a knock at the door. Michael answers, assuming Alex has returned.

Michael: That was-

Luke enters, looking especially frail.

Michael: Oh, hi there. I recognize you. You live across the hall, right?

Luke: Mmhm.

Michael: What’s wrong?

Luke: My mom isn’t home.

Michael: Oh, okay. Do you know where she is?

Luke: (shakes his head) No. Probably with Craig.

Michael: Oh. (thinks) Would you like to wait in here until she gets home? It’s okay, really. I was just about to make dinner. Are you hungry?

Luke nods, treads deeper into the living room.

Michael: Okay. You make yourself comfortable. The remote for the TV is right there. There’s some colored pencils and paper by the desk. I’ll whip us something up.

Michael exits. Lights down.

scene viii. – Split scene
The scene is split in three. The first is a smaller version of Michael’s kitchen. Luke is at the table, scarfing down pancakes as Michael mills about the kitchen. The second, a slice of Myra’s living room, empty. The third is simply an open space meant to be the hallway between Myra and Michael’s apartments. Empty as well. Lights are only on the kitchen until each of the other scenes become populated.

Michael: How are your pancakes?

Luke: (swallows) Good. I never had chocolate chip pancakes before.

Michael: (laughs)

Michael hands him a glass of milk.

Michael: Milk?

Luke: (mouth full) Mmhm (swallows).

Luke takes a gulp of the milk.

Michael: Did you sleep well?

Luke: Yeah. Your pillows were soft. A lot softer than mine.

Michael: (laughs) Glad to hear it. I slept well, too.

Luke: Plus you’re the only grown up I’ve ever met that has so many cartoons on tape.

Michael: I like them. Besides they go great with pizza party sleepovers.

Luke: This is true.

Michael: Eat up. We need to get you ready for school.

Michael sits and joins Luke in eating breakfast. As this happens, Myra and Craig enter Myra’s living room, worse for the wear, drunk, stumbling around the room and fumbling over each other’s bodies.

Craig: It’s fucking dark in here.

Myra: Light’s busted. I’ll fix it. Gotta call the landlord.

Craig: Fat Jew fuck.

Myra: Watch your mouth. There’s children.

Myra checks her watch.

Myra: Fuckin’ shit it’s late.

Craig: Early, you mean, baby. We partied all night long.

Myra: That’s NOT what I mean. You’re goddamned retarded sometimes, Craig. Goddamned retarded.

Craig: That’s not what you said last night…

Myra: Oh, God, Craig! Help me find my shoes. They’re somewhere.

Craig: This is no place for shoes. I’m taking a shit…

Craig exits as Myra searches.

Luke: Ahh…

Michael: Full?

Luke: Yeah, but those are SO good. I could probably eat twenty more.

Michael: Let’s see if your mom’s home so we can get you to school on time.

Luke: (upset) Okay…

Michael: Come on. Let’s go…

Luke picks up his plate.

Michael: Don’t worry about that. I’ll clean it up later.

Michael and Luke exit. Myra finds her shoe and waves it above her head. Lights rise over the final third of the stage as Marlon enters the lobby, hiding his face under a hood, bristling with nervous uncertainty, looking around.

Myra: There you are! Ha. Luke! Luke! Get your little ass out here so you can get to school! Luke!

Marlon exhales deeply. Luke and Michael enter Myra’s living room.

Myra: What in the-? Luke, get over here!

Myra grabs Luke and pulls him away from Michael.

Myra: Who the hell are you?

Michael: I live across the hall.

Luke: When I got home last night I was locked out. Michael let me stay over.

Myra: You stupid idiot, you know better than to talk to strangers.

Michael: He was locked out.

Myra: Get out of my house.

Craig: (offstage) What’s going on out there?

Myra: Nothing. (to Michael) Out!

Michael looks sadly at Luke then starts off.

Luke: Thanks for the pizza and the pancakes and everything, Michael.

Michael: Anytime.

Myra: Get out! Get. Out. Now!

Michael exits.

Craig: Myra?

Myra: Get a job! (to Luke) Get your shit together and get the hell to school. And stay away from that man, do you understand me? Do you?!

Luke: (head lowered) Yes.

Myra: Good. Now get your backpack. Get dressed.

Michael appears in his kitchen, melancholy. He begins cleaning up as Myra sits on her couch and takes much longer than she should to put on her shoes. Michael grows tired of cleaning and simply sits at his table, head lowered. Joe enters beside Marlon.

Joe: What the hell you runnin’ away from me for?

Marlon: (startled) Dad! Not now.

Joe: Don’t “not now” me! We were finally getting somewhere… Where are we?

Marlon: I told you. There’s something I gotta do.

Myra: Luke!

Joe: Far as I can tell, you’re just standing around like a bozo.

Marlon: I just need to…prepare.

Craig enters Myra’s living room.

Craig: Luke, get your scrawny little ass out here! (to Myra) I’ll be back, baby. I gotta get a fuckin’ plunger. Shit.

Craig exits.

Marlon: And I can’t do that with you all up in my face!

The phone rings in Michael’s kitchen.

Joe: Ungrateful.

Myra: Dammit, Luke!

Elevator beep sounds. Michael answers the phone.

Michael: Hello?

Marlon: Fuck! Someone’s coming. Get away!

Joe hurries off. Marlon pulls his hood over his face as Craig enters the lobby.

Michael: I’ll have them for you by today at four.

Craig walks by Marlon, then stops himself to examine the other as if he recognizes him from somewhere.

Michael: I had an unexpected guest.

Luke enters Myra’s living room.

Myra: For the love of- Took you long enough. Let’s go.

Myra grabs Luke’s hand and they both exit.

Michael: Fine. Today at two. I promise. I’ll work on them right now.

Michael exits. Craig, giving up exits as well, followed by Marlon.

Scene ix- Michael’s living room.
Michael is working hastily on his illustrations. There is a knock at the door. He gets up and answers. Upon opening the door he is shocked. Michael , teary-eyed, takes a few steps back, as Marlon enters to meet him.

Michael: M-Marlon?

Marlon: Hey, Michael…

Beat. The brothers embrace fiercely then awkwardly come apart. Marlon examines his brother’s face, then the rest of him.

Marlon: What happened to you?

Michael: (side-stepping the comment) You’ve hardly changed at all.

Pause.

Marlon: Ten years…

Michael: More. (pause) You seem to be doing well for yourself.

Pause.

Marlon: I’m doing alright, sure. (beat) You abandoned us.

Michael: I- I had to find my own way…

Marlon: We needed you, Michael.

Michael: I needed you, too, but… Time slips away. I never intended…to…

Marlon: You were the soul of this family.

Michael: I- No. I was the black sheep. I think I’ve proved that enough. You were always the heart.

Marlon: What’s the heart without a soul, Michael? What’s a song without a soul? We fell apart without you. I-I’m doing better than most, but…(beat) I missed you.

Michael: Would you like some water?

Marlon: No.

Michael: I’d like some. I’ll be right back. I promise.

Michael exits. Joe marches in.

Joe: Marlon…?

Marlon: (startled) Dad! Shit, man! What did I tell you about doing that?

Joe: Watch your mouth. (notices Marlon’s expression) Where are we?

Marlon: Nowhere.

Joe: What’s going on with you?

Marlon: Nothing. Go.

Joe: You look like you’ve seen a ghost.

Marlon: I said “go”.

Joe: (compassionate) Marlon, tell me-

Marlon takes Joe by the arm and leads him toward the door.

Marlon: Go. Go. Go. Go. Go…

Michael enters with a tray of water and a bowl of grapes, perplexed by what he’s seeing. He is wholly unaware of Joe.

Michael: Marlon?

Marlon freezes in his tracks. Joe lays eyes on Michael and can barely stand, he’s so surprised.

Michael: Are you alright?

Marlon: I’m fine! Fine.

Joe drifts toward Michael.

Joe: (warding off disbelief) Michael…?

Michael: I brought some water for you anyway. And grapes. I know how much you loved them growing up.

Joe is practically touching Michael.

Marlon: (to Joe) Stay away from him!

Joe stops, but continues to gaze.

Michael: Marlon?

Marlon: Grapes, ha, yeah. I couldn’t put those things down. Sure, I’ll have a couple.

Marlon joins Michael and they sit.

Michael: How is everyone?

Marlon: Good and married, most of them. Some more than once. Ha. But good.

Michael: Mom?

Marlon: It’s strange seeing her age, you know? But good. Real good. We all take care of her pretty well.

Michael: And dad?

Marlon glances at Joe.

Marlon: Dad is…driven as ever.

Michael: And you? Following his dream, I see?

Marlon: (sharply) My dream. Our dream. Someone had to. I don’t know what he’d do if no one did. After you ran Janet was right after you. And the music just kind of fell out of the rest…except Jermaine, but…it didn’t work out for him.

Michael: How’s Carol?

Marlon: (it takes a moment for him to remember) Oh. She and I didn’t work out. She just didn’t understand the dream, you know? Couldn’t handle it.

Michael: That’s a shame. I thought the two of you were in it for the long run.

Marlon: The same could be said about a lot of people. (pause. With a laugh) You know, there are times that I think about Brandon, silly as that seems. My poor little twin. I’ll be alone and I’ll think, “Maybe, just maybe, if he would have survived, maybe if there were two of us, if I were double, then I’d be able to be the performer you were. And other times I think, “Hey, maybe Brandon was the lucky one. He didn’t have to deal with any of this shit.”

Michael: That’s not fair.

Marlon: I know. I know. I have a new album coming out next year.

Michael: I know. With a biography release.

Marlon: I think it’s a big deal. Dad, on the other hand…

Michael: It brought us together…

Marlon: (pause) Look. I have a bunch of songs I’m trying to get just right. If I… Could I..? I’d love to drop by and run them by you.

Michael: I… Okay.

Marlon: Good.

Marlon stands up and backs away to the door.

Marlon: (to Joe) Come on.

Michael: Huh?

Joe looks longingly at Michael and eventually comes to Marlon’s side.

Marlon: (irritated) See you soon.

Lights down.

Scene x: Michael’s living room.
Michael and Alex are sitting next to each other on the couch. There are a number of toys scattered around and paintings on illustration board that were definitely not done by an adult.

Alex: Redecorating, are we?

Michael: (laughs) They’re Luke’s.

Alex: Luke?

Michael: He’s a little boy who lives across the hall. He stays here from time to time until his mother gets home.

Alex: Oh.

Michael: Yeah…

Alex: The things you miss when you go away for two weeks. Sorry about that, by the way. They had me editing this top secret crap autobiography on a politician, let’s call him Shmonald Schmeagan, that no one will care about. Trust me. And speaking of things that I missed…

Michael: Yes?

Alex: Marlon?

Michael: You publishing people have no concept of confidentiality.

Alex: Hey, man, all is fair in media and literature. Knowledge is in high demand and always on sale. Plus, it’s not our fault you didn’t read the contract closely enough. So…how was it? An emotional embrace? A climactic battle. What happened?

Michael: Ha, nothing like that. It was good. Really good.

Alex: You missed him, huh?

Michael: (pause) I did.

Alex: Will you see him again?

Michael: Actually, yes. And I have. He’s been stopping by for the past two weeks. I’ve been helping him with his dance moves and some song writing.

Alex: No way.

Michael: (laughs) Yeah.

Alex: Well, I’m glad it all worked out.

Michael: It did.

Pause.

Alex: It did.

The two of them stare awkwardly at each other and other points in the room.

Alex: So now that we’ve gone through all that I guess it’s time to address the elephant in the room.

Michael: You’re leaving.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, we’re just about finished the biography on your brother. So…

Michael: A new project.

Alex: In a new place, yeah. It’s a social piece on youth and gentrification. It’s called “Youthinized” which is pretty terrible but I’ll be doing research in Boston. You know, the Harvard effect on the townies and whatnot. Definitely more up my alley.

Michael: It’ll be a great experience.

Alex: (pause) Michael, I-

Michael: I’m going to miss you, Alex. I’ve been locked in this apartment alone for so long with my books and then you knock on my door and…and then Marlon and Luke… My life…It’s like opening that door and letting you in opened the door to possibility and God delivered. So, thank you for that. I, um…to show my thanks…I made you this.

Michael reaches and pulls out an illustration of the Johnson brothers and Alex with them.

Alex: Oh my God. Is this…?

Michael: You and the Johnson brothers.

Alex: This is amazing. Thank you.

Alex sits the illustration down and faces Michael. A deep seriousness takes her as she gently takes his hand in her own. Alex thinks to herself, then grabs the bottom of Michael’s sleeve as if preparing to pull it up. Sensing her intention, Michael jerks away.

Michael: No…

Alex: These past weeks visiting you have been amazing. The fact that my job has consisted of getting to know the man who inspired me through his music and moved me with his art and writing has been more than I could ask for. You are a loving, gentle, passionate person and the world would benefit from knowing more of you. Like I do. People like you shouldn’t be hidden from the rest of the world. They shouldn’t hide.

Michael: I’m not-

Alex: You are. But from what I honestly can’t comprehend. Remember when you told me about how you got so self-conscious about your acne that you’d hide away from other people? And then when you told me about…your condition?

Michael nods.

Alex: Well, we all have things about ourselves that’s the worst, but we can’t use those as excuses to not be more; do more. I mean, you’re in an apartment alone and you still-! (pause) Show me. Let me see.

Michael hesitates. Alex gazes into his eyes, unblinking. Michael nods. Alex takes his sleeve and rolls it up, revealing spots of brown going with the length of his forearm and beyond. Michael can’t get himself to look at it.

Michael: I-t’s called vitiligo. It targets melanin and…takes away your… I hate it.

Alex: Thank you.

Alex hugs Michael tightly, slowly letting go. She grabs her illustration and rises.

Alex: You are a beautiful person, Michael. And you can’t hide forever. Keep in touch. Goodbye.

Alex exits and lights go down.

scene xi -Michael’s bedroom.
Michael and Luke are leaping around, flapping their arms as if they were giant wings.

Luke: Michael!

Michael: Yeah?!

Luke: Where are you?!

Michael: I’m flying high in the sky over Africa and I’m using God’s power to cure the sick and feed the poor. Luke!

Luke: Yeah, Michael?!

Michael: Where are you?!

Luke: I’m in South America. There’s rebel fighters terrorizing a village and I’m burning them to ashes with Hellfire. Woosh! Woosh! Woosh!

Michael: I don’t know if an angel would do that.

Luke: Have you met an angel?

Michael: Well, not personally, but I’ve read about a lot. They are peaceful loving things…

Luke: What about the angel of death?

Michael: (pause) I guess all things have their purpose…

Luke: Exactly. Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!

Michael: (laughs) Come here, you!

Michael scoops Luke into his arms and spins around and around and around.

Luke: Whoa! Hey! Not fair! Let go! You don’t see me trying to stop you from feeding the poor!

Michael spins until sufficiently dizzy and they both fall onto the bed together, lying down short of breath.

Luke: Are you still sad that you’re friend’s gone?

Michael: I feel a lot better now. Thanks.

Luke: You’re my best friend.

Michael:(breathing in Luke’s words) Mmm.

Michael puts his arm around Luke as they lay in silence. Shortly after Myra enters the room, inebriated. She sees her son in bed with Michael and flips.

Myra: Ohhh, fuck no!

Myra crawls over Michael, smacking him as she does, and retrieves her boy.

Myra: You sick fuckin’ son of a fuck! My God! Luke, get over here!

Michael: Myra, please-!

Luke: Mom!

By the time Myra climbs off Craig has entered the room, having heard her exclamation. He can hardly keep himself upright he’s so high. Michael climbs off the bed and to his feet.

Craig: What’s going on in here?

Myra: I’ll tell you what’s going on here! This sick, sick monster fuckin’ sick fuck was sleeping with my baby!

Luke: Mom! Let go!

Michael: It’s not like that. Let me explain-

Myra: Ohh you aren’t gonna get away with this you…you pervert! (coddling Luke) Oh you poor, poor thing…

Michael: I just-

Myra: Shut up! Shut up!

Michael steps toward them. Craig, in a sudden burst of masculinity, places himself firmly between Michael and the others.

Craig: Stay back, man. (suddenly lucid, sly) The man in the hallway the other day. I knew I recognized him from somewhere. The pictures on your living room wall. I know who you are. And we’re gonna rob you for every penny that you have for the horrible, horrible things you did to this boy. Shame.

Craig takes Myra by the shoulder and leads the three out.

Luke: Michael! Michael…

Michael: Please, wait! Please…

Myra: I said shut up!

Myra, Luke, and Craig exit.

Michael: Let me explain…

Michael collapses onto his bed, distraught.

scene xii ” Luke’s room.
The set is mostly darkness with the option of a few hints to make the place actually look like a room. Luke, furious, is playing on the floor with his army men. As before the toys are split into two rival armies, facing one another.

Luke: This is war. Only one can win. And to the other, you can only hope that the winners are merciful. If they’re not you better pray to God that you die. (pause) Three. Two. One.

Luke pushes all the soldiers together into a crashing battle.

Luke: Blam! Blam! Blam! Pow! Krshh! “Aiieee!” “We have to win!” “No. We do!” Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh. “Somebody! I need back up!” “I’ll be right th-AHH!!”

There is a knock at the door in another room.

Luke: “We need more tanks!” Pow! Pow! “Head for cover!”

Craig: (offstage) I got it!

Luke: “The bastards are coming from the air now!” RrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrBOOM!

Craig: (offstage) Oh, hey officers.

Luke: “We can’t beat this.”

Craig: (offstage)Yeah. I called.

Luke: “We lost.”

Craig: (offstage) That’s right. The fucker is right over there. My girlfriend caught him in the act herself.

Myra: (offstage) It’s true. I did.

Luke: “It’s over.”

Craig: (offstage) Her boy’s right in there.

Myra: (offstage) Hold on.

Myra enters Luke’s room.

Myra: (sweetly) Luke, baby, the officers are going to want to ask you a few questions,okay? Now I know you’re in shock, but I need you to tell them everything you can. Michael is a bad man, remember? Just like we said. Just talk to the officers like we said and you’ll have whatever you want. A puppy. That new video game machine…the Super Nintendo, right?

Luke nods.

Myra: And all the games you want. A new house. Everything we’ve always wanted (pause). I know I haven’t been the best for you and I have a lot of demons…big, angry, powerful demons that you get the full force of…and I hate it. It kills me the way I treat you sometimes. Because I love you, baby. And I’m sorry. And I plan on getting help and making sure that you and I have everything we’ve ever dreamed of. All you have to do is talk to those officers like we talked about.

Luke: But-

Myra puts her finger to his mouth, silencing him.

Myra: Do it, baby. For us. I’m so tired of being angry all the time.

Scene xiii ” Emptiness.
Michael sits on a chair, head lowered, in handcuffs. A single light shines dimly on him as the rest of the stage is darkness. Silence is broken Michael’s light whimpers can be heard from time to time then fade away. When the silence becomes too much, Joe emerges from the darkness. This Joe is different than the one before in appearance and demeanor. He is dressed in a white tank top, blue jeans, and work boots, grease- and sweat- stained from head to toe. Joe circles Michael, who begins to whimper once again. Standing directly in front of Michael, Joe stands perfectly straight and smacks Michael hard against the face, snapping the other out of his gloomy trance.

Michael: D-dad?

Joe: That’s right, Michael. You couldn’t run away from me forever. You know that. It was only a matter of time before this little fantasy came crashing down around you and you’d come crawling back.

Michael: I’m not crawling back-

Joe: Of course you ain’t. You’re too proud for that. A little more like me than you’d like to admit, you always were. It’s why I pushed you so hard. Because I knew you had the stuff of greatness. The real thing.

Michael: I know-

Joe: I know you know, Michael. But knowing ain’t nothing unless doing follows. You really messed up not accepting that Scarecrow part. This. This right here. This is just the fruits of your mistake, twenty years later.

Michael: I didn’t do anything.

Joe: Don’t matter. Either way, you’re bringing shame to our family name. Marlon’s trying so hard…

Michael: What do I do?

Joe smiles a little.

Joe: You stick with me, boy. We got ourselves a brand new decade and a whole Hell of a lot of people hungry for something a whole lot better than that 80’s jive shit.

Michael: I’m not that-

Joe smacks him again then composes himself immediately.

Joe: You don’t know what you are, Michael. I made you. I…love you. I know. And I will not stop until you fully comprehend that. Understand?

Michael holds his father’s gaze then let’s his head drop, exasperated. Lights down.

ACT II

 

[notes]

The second act is a departure from the world of the first. Most notably, the use of defined scenes and locales will be replaced with a more fluid emptiness; the sort that the first act left us with. Characters and items will float in and out of the emptiness as needed. At times escaping from reality, at others, escaping to, in Act II we have entered a deeper circle of the mind of our protagonist.

Michael is dressed in black pants and a long sleeved white button-down shirt. Marlon is dancing and Michael is considering his moves. They have been at this for a while. The chair that Michael was seated in at the end of Act I remains on stage. Marlon comes down from his dance-high and takes a swig from his water bottle.

Marlon: How was that?

Michael: Good. That was much better.

Marlon: But…

Michael: But don’t forget to keep your arms sharp.

Marlon: Damn arms…

Michael: (laughs) Yeah, but from the waist down you’re killing it.

Marlon: Thanks, Michael. This is a huge help.

Michael: It’s no big deal. It’s the least I owe you. And it feels good to be involved in this world again…

Marlon: I bet it does. I’ve got a thing I gotta be at in an hour. Come on, let me take you out on the town… It’ll be like old times.

Michael: No. No, I’ve got work to do.

Marlon: That kiddie stuff can wait, Michael.

There is a moment of awkward silence between them. One of sadness and understanding. Michael smiles and produces a piece of paper from his pocket.

Michael: This is a little something I was working on in the old days. I tweaked it a little recently. I think you should consider it for your album. It’s pretty heady.

Marlon takes the paper, examines it. He bops his head to the written lyrics and notes.

Marlon: “Not My Son”.

Michael: Working title.

Marlon: Nice, man. Thanks. Same time next week?

Michael: I’ll be here.

Marlon: Cool. Bye, Michael.

Marlon exits. Michael takes a seat and his demeanor shifts to one of deep sadness. Marlon reenters, also transformed. He is doused in a cloud of shame and regret.

Marlon: Michael…

Michael: Marlon.

Marlon: Hey.

Michael: Hi.

Marlon: This is some shit, man. (pause) This is bad. Real bad. (pause) You’re my brother and I’m gonna help you get outta this. If you need money for a lawyer or whatever, you know, just let me know. (pause) The thing is, I’m trying to build a career here. My new album is, it’s right around the corner. This is it. I can feel it. And, you know, yeah, we’ve been apart for a while but I couldn’t have done it without you these…couple… Until this blows over, I’m going to have to keep my distance. I can’t drop by like I used to. They’ll…

Michael: I’m getting evicted.

Marlon: (shouts) Damn it, Michael, how the hell did you get all mixed up in – ?! (calms) Let me know if you need anything.

Marlon starts for the exit, then turns back to his brother.

Marlon: Did you….?

Marlon thinks better of it and exits. Michael produces a bottle of pills and gazes at it like a strange quirk of nature. A phone rings. Michael puts the pills away, reaches behind himself, and pulls a receiver out of nowhere.

Michael: Hello? Oh, hi Greg…I’m…okay. Yeah, I called you earlier about the deadline for my next book. I didn’t hear back from you so…Uh uh. Right. Well, I think that might be a little drastic seeing as I don’t even use my real name…Then figure out another arrangement. Another name. I-I can put together a new series…with a whole new style…What do you mean they’ll know?…(irritated) Then figure something out!…Greg, I have given you quality work for years. You can’t just let one bad tabloid ruin our relationship. I am so close to finishing this last album…Book. That’s what I said…Don’t abandon me, Greg. Don’t you dare abandon me. (pause) Greg? Greg?

Michael puts the receiver away. Once again he produces a bottle of pills, this time opening it and taking a few, swallowing it with a swig from Marlon’s water bottle. Alex enters, dressed for the Summer, am expression of concern on her face.

Alex: Michael?

Michael notices her, rising from his seat.

Michael: Alex?

Alex runs to the other, taking his hands in hers.

Alex: Oh, Michael, how are you?

Michael: Fine. How did you find me?

Alex: I looked. Nice place you have here. Cozy.

Michael: I had to move-

Alex: I figured. (pause) I came down as soon as I heard. Sorry it wasn’t sooner. How are you holding up?

Michael: How’s Boston?

Alex: Not the speed I’m used to, but it’s been great. I’m learning so much. (instantly excited and bubbly) Oh my God, can I have your autograph?!

Michael: What?

Alex: (back to normal) I asked if you’ve been writing much lately?

Heartbeat.

Michael: Oh. No. A little. I’ve been painting mostly. It’s been therapeutic.

Alex: (excited and bubbly) I love you, Michael!

Michael: Alex?

Alex: (normal) I’d love to see some. If that’s alright.

Heartbeat.

Michael: Y-yeah. Sure.

Alex: (bubbly) Have my babies!

Michael: Alex!

Alex: (normal) What?!

Heartbeat.

Alex: Are you alright?

Michael: I think I-

Alex lets out an excited shriek, which Michael reacts to. Heartbeat.

Alex: Should I call someone…?

Michael: No. No I’m fine.

Starting as a small whisper, the sound of a cheering crowd gradually grows louder and louder as it shifts into hundreds shouting “Micheal! Michael! Michael!” etc… in unison. Only Michael can hear this. The sound becomes nearly unbearably deafening and then stops completely. Michael is barely holding himself together and Alex isn’t sure whether to help him or run.

Alex: Michael?

Michael: (exasperated) Thank you for coming, girls, but I have to go.

Alex: It’s Alex. I’m Alex, Michael.

Michael: Alex. I’m sorry you have to go. Keep in touch.

Alex kisses Michael on the forehead, gives Michael one final saddened look, then exits. Michael, alone, returns to his chair. It is obvious that the effects of the pills are becoming greater. Craig and Myra enter, excessively and outlandishly dressed as wealthy socialites. They enter with a table and chairs, seating themselves at either end. Michael is invisible to them.

Craig: (in a bad British accent) Pass the Grey Poupon, love?

Myra: (with a similar accent) Oh certainly, my dearest.

Craig: Do you recall mustard, dear?

Myra: I don’t think I do.

Craig: Dreadful stuff, really. Now, Grey Poupon…that’s the rich man’s condiment.

Myra: And you are a rich man.

Craig: Quite right. And you, milady, a rich woman.

Myra: Oh, stop!

Craig: It’s true. Accept it.

Craig lifts his glass.

Craig: And now a toast to our benevolent benefactor.

Myra lifts her glass.

Myra: A toast!

Craig and Myra: To Michael!

They toast and drink. After swallowing both burst into laughter. Craig then pulls out a newspaper.

Myra: Craig, it’s rude to read your newspaper at the table during dinner!

Craig: Not when you’re rich!

They both laugh. Craig pages through the newspaper.

Craig: “Younger Jackson Brother Charged with Sexual Abuse”, “Jackson Settles Outside of Court”, “Jackson Exhibits Strange Behavior”, “Michael: The Man Who Won’t Grow Up”, “Wacko Jacko on the Loose!”

Michael: That’s not me!

Myra and Craig go silent for a second as if uncertain as to whether they heard something or not.

Myra: Dessert?

Craig: I thought you’d never ask.

Myra: (singing) Oh, butler! Butler-boy!

Luke enters, dressed in black.

Luke: (to Myra and Craig) Yes, ma’am? Sir?

Myra: We’d like some dessert.

Luke: What kind?

Myra: (annoyed) What kind…

Luke: Ma’am! What kind, ma’am?

Myra: That’s better. I’m in the mood for some ice cream, I think.

Craig: Gelato.

Myra: What’s that?

Craig: Rich people don’t eat ice cream, love. It’s called gelato.

Myra: Oh. Right. We’ll be having the gelato then.

Luke: What flavor…ma’am?

Myra: Strawberry.

Craig: Chocolate for me, boy.

Luke: Sure. Okay.

Luke starts off but stops just short of exiting. When he stops, Myra and Craig freeze. Luke turns to Michael, the two fully aware of each other. Regret permeates Luke.

Michael: Luke.

Luke: Hey, Michael.

Luke approaches the Michael.

Luke: I’m so sorry…

Michael: It’s not your fault.

Luke: They told me what to say…

Michael: I know…

Luke: I knew it was wrong, but she…

Michael: You don’t have to explain. She’s your mother.

Luke: They needed the money. She told me what to say! I knew it was wrong!

Michael takes Luke in his arms.

Michael: It’s fine, Luke. It wasn’t your fault.

Luke: I miss you, daddy.

Michael pulls away, startled. Shaking.

Michael: What did you call me?

Luke: You seem cold, daddy? Can I get you something? A blanket?

Michael: What?

Luke: A blanket! Blanket!

Michael: Who…are you?

Luke: We miss you, daddy…

Michael: Who are you?!

Luke: (composed) I have to get gelato for the master and missus.

Luke exits, Myra, Craig, table and chairs with him. Michael is suddenly hot. He unbuttons his shirt. He’s wearing a white tank top underneath. Michael pops a couple more pills.

Michael: What is this?! What’s happening to me?! Why, no matter what I do, does nothing feel right?! What more can I do?! What more can I do…

Joe enters, dressed as a larger-than-life businessman in a purple suit, wearing also a black fedora.

Joe: You know what. (pause) Have you talked to your mother? (pause) Writer forget how to speak?

Michael rises.

Michael: You did this…

Joe: I did nothing but love you…

Michael charges at his father and the two engage, one struggling against the other until they are both on the ground, grunting, sweating, straining, giving it their all. Joe loses his hat in all the action. Eventually, Joe slips from the struggle, watching, pained, as Michael remains on the floor, continuing to fight alone. Joe looks up to heaven then back to his son with determination. Joe exits. Michael calms, breathing heavily. He looks around realizing that he is alone. He pulls himself into his chair. He produces the pills, stares at them intently, then throws them offstage. Then enters [Marlon], looking and seeming at peace to the point of utter enlightenment. He is dressed from head to toe in a white suit, including a white flat cap and gloves. He is holding the pill bottle in his hand.

[Marlon]: Yo, bro. What’s happenin’?

Michael: M-Marlon?

[Marlon] shakes his head.

Marlon: Nope. It’s me.

Michael shrugs.

[Marlon]: It’s Brandon.

Michael: Brandon…

Brandon: It’s good to finally meet you, bro.

Brandon gives Michael a quick hug then pulls away.

Brandon: Truly.

Michael: That’s impossible…

Brandon: You of all people should know that nothing is impossible.

Michael: Brandon. You’re…d-

Brandon: Dead. Yes. I tend to think of it as existing happily on a higher plane.

Michael: Does…does that mean I’m…

Brandon: Almost. Not quite. But almost.

Michael: H-how?

Brandon raises the empty bottle of pills, gesturing to them as well.

Brandon: Life, bro. Sometimes I’m glad I only got to live it for a day. Ha.

Michael: If I’m dead than what happens. Marlon…

Brandon: Oh, my twin is fine. He and Carol are happily married with three kids. Four grandkids…But you know this…

Michael: No. But…he’s pursuing a music career. He never married…

Brandon: Think hard, Michael. That wasn’t Marlon. You pursued the music career. You became the star. Maybe the greatest there ever was.

Michael: No.

Brandon: (laughs) Bro, come on now. You know how they say that right before folks die they see their lives flash before their eyes? Well, there are other times where people see the lives they could have had…or wish they had. There was a lot of pressure on you, Mike. From your family, from the world, and most of all from yourself. It’s no wonder your final thoughts are of the alternative. Living the quiet life as a writer, nobody knocking on the door, judging you. But the truth always comes crashing in. You can’t hide forever. The price of the spotlight is hefty, Mike, and you paid it in full, in advance, and…ultimately. They loved you. You loved them. They hated you…and you hated you too, sometimes. This was a pretty little fantasy you created for yourself, but this simply isn’t you. It’s not who you were meant to be. Who you are. Because for every person accusing you of being crazy or some sort of sexual monster there were literally millions who saw your beauty, your innocence, your drive to heal. Heal everything. There was your family. Your friends. Diana. Berry. Quincy. Liz. There were your children, Michael.

Michael: (remembering) My children… I remember. I remember everything…

Brandon: A world that had never known you, Michael…well, thank God we’ll never have to know how that sentence ends. Now, what say we let go of this fantasy and you show me what you got. Come on. I’ll join you.

Marlon steps up. Michael joins him. A light washes over the both of them and Michael is completely taken by it. Michael reaches down and puts on Joe’s fedora. Marlon then removes his right glove and hands it to Michael with a smirk. Michael nods and puts it on.

Brandon: Ready?

Michael nods.

Michael: One, two, three, four…

The two dance in perfect sync, better than anything Marlon had achieved earlier in the play. After some time Brandon backs away, watching his Michael with awe, further and further until he exits. Michael’s moves become faster, more complicated as the cheering once again surges into “Michael! Michael!” etc… He does the moonwalk and the beep of a heart monitor rises as the cheers subside. The dance grows more intense, sprawling fluid gestures with sharp edges, faster, faster, faster as the beeping becomes more and more frequent. At once, Michael stops dead center, the monitor/beeping flat-lines, and lights go out.

~PLAY END~

Method to My Madness

Maybe this is the most self-congradulatory thing I’ve ever written. If it is, I don’t care. What I DO care about, on the other hand, is that I got it done. And while I tend to spend a lot of my time surfing a chaos wave of random thoughts and actions, get things done I do. Lots of things. So many things that not a day goes by where someone doesn’t come up to me and ask, “Trystin, how do find the time to get so much done?” or something to that extent. After all, by the halfway point of this year, I’ve already written two plays, four essays, held two readings, wrote the first 10 chapters of a novel, moved into a new apartment, reworked the rules for a board game, got a new job, added 4 stone-solid friends to my collection, launched this very website, got cast in two short plays, and graduated from level one of Upright Citizen’s Brigade’s Improv Class. This isn’t me showing off…it’s just fact. I usually reply to the question with a smirk and a shrug or some snarky fantastical response like, “I bend time”  or “I’m an alien.” Well, stand back, friends, for I shall now trade in my answers of fantasy for one of reality…

PART ONE: PREP YOURSELF

Figure out your purpose.
Simmer down. This isn’t as ALL EMCOMPASSING as it seems. Well, actually, it is. But it’s not as difficult as it seems. Deep down we all know our purpose. It’s just that sometimes we’re either afraid of acknowledging it or covering it up with an over-glorified goal.

Check it: Purposes are more about who we are than what we want. They are not something we can attain (that’s a goal), they are the force that drives us. So when someone says that their purpose is “to become a famous actor” they are actually stating a goal and limiting themselves to other things they can be doing or being that could be just as satisfying. Also, by putting a tangible ceiling on something as big as a purpose there is this overwhelming feeling of disappointment if it is not reached…or a sense of “Damn…why am I still not fulfilled…?” if it is.

I’ve decided that my purpose is “to be an inspirer.” It’s something I can always explore and do and grow in different ways, through an insanely diverse amount of goals. Imagine if my purpose was “to become a great writer”. It pains me to think of all the other methods to inspire that I would miss out on!

Have a ton of goals, great and small.
This one’s pretty obvious right? If you want to get something done, have something that you want to get done. The most important part of this step the pluralization of the word “goals” as in, more than one (we’ll talk more about this later). Then there’s the “great and small” part. Every goal doesn’t have to be “Save the world” or “Lose a million pounds”. Try something like, “Buy some paintbrushes” or “Call best friend tonight.” These are simple tasks that will not only allow you to then move on to greater things (like painting a picture or venting, sharing, and laughing with one of your besties), but also give you a little boost of positive energy that you can use to tackle the bigger goals…or even unfortunate necessities like paying bills or going to work, with just a little extra pep in your step.

Make lists.
I can’t even begin to say how important this step is. Make lists like crazy. Put everything on them. To me, lists come in two different flavors.  There’s the brainstorming list and the focused list.  The brainstorming list has EVERYTHING. This is the best list ever. Go crazy. The crazier the better.  Here’s an excerpt from one I did a couple weeks ago:

  • Become a bartender
  • Adopt a baby of a different race than me/husband
  • Write a play about terraforming
  • Learn Spanish
  • Be a motivational speaker
  • Eat at that ninja restaurant
  • Read a book from the Sociology section of a book store
  • Eat healthier
  • Use fear as a launchpad to adventure

I probably have way too much fun doing this…and you should, too. The more ground you cover and the more you override your doubts and allow yourself  to jot down, the more open your mind will be in actually achieving things. Plus, I guarantee the brainstorming list will reveal some desires you didn’t even know you had once you get on a roll. Really stretch yourself here. Some of the best things I’ve ever done have come from some random thing on this list. Last year’s trip to Buenos Aires, for example, is the result of a point on a list from early that year that read “GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!!” (it was a rough couple of months).

The focused list is more like the lists we’re used to making. Not really much imagination involved, we’re just writing down the stuff we already know we need to do. Maybe this looks familiar:

  • Pay rent…or bills…or…loan…or tuition
  • Finish project for work…or school
  • Clean [something in or around the house]
  • Fix [something in or around the house]
  • Pick [household item] up from the store
  • Get food for pet…or kids…or self…or spouse
  • See the doctor about that [fill in the sickness)

There is really no arguing the importance of that list. Ignoring that list will result in utter chaos…and we can’t have that.  We’re working towards growth and accomplishment here, people!

The focused list comes in three flavors. The one up above is the “Basic Needs” list. It’s that list that, if you don’t do it, you’re screwed. It can be lame. It can be boring. It’s always gonna be there.

Next up is the “Purpose” list. This list is pretty cool, because it’s all of the goals that are in line with your purpose. If you can’t think of anything, it’s a good time to refer to your brainstorming list and see if anything fits the bill, then grow it out from there. I could easily pull “Be a motivational speaker” and “Use fear as a launchpad to adventure” to mine. Then maybe add something like “Buy a book on motivational speaking” or “Start an inspiring blog” or “Talk to people on the street about who they want to be”.

Finally, we’ve got the “Rewards List”. This is basically a list of goals that don’t fit into the other list, but bring you some sense of joy or accomplishment. These are the things that keep you fresh, happy, surprised, exhilarated, and on your toes. These are the things you allow yourself once you’ve reached one of the other goals. Reward systems are super effective.

Let’s say you pay all of your bills on time this month. Do you know what that means? Ninja restaurant! And what if you officially launch and kick-off that inspiring blog? Why not start looking into bartending school? Using these things as rewards is a great way to keep your morale and sense of joy up while continuing on toward maintaining your basic needs and making headway with your purpose (two things that can be a tad heavy at times).

Oh, and if you have goals that aren’t basic needs (home, work, family, close friends etc..), don’t feed into your purpose, and don’t offer that sense of fun or adventure…get rid of them!

Right now. I’ll wait.

Also, you don’t have to actually write 3 separate lists all the time (I’d say I do it about 50% of the time). As long as you can identify what goal belongs where and you have ample examples of each, you are A-OK.

From here on out I’ll be focusing on the goals of purpose, as the basic needs pretty much get TOO much attention and the goals of rewarding are easy enough to motivate you to do on account of how utterly awesome they usually are.

PART TWO: PREP YOUR WORLD

Now that we’ve got ourselves in shape, let’s take it to the streets!

Operation: Trim the Fat from the Steak.
This is one of my favorite things and integral to reaching your goals and thus your full potential. Fat can taste really good in the moment, but at the end of the day it’s just slimy gloop that goes straight to your hips. For this reason we must look for the “fat” in our lives and do away with it, much like the goals that don’t fit I mentioned above.

The “fat” of our world are those things that stand in the way of our growth as individuals. The things we “hang on” to simply because we’re used to it or things that hang on to us like parasites (they take and take, but never give).  Things like a job that makes you feel like a waste, the ex you just can’t let go of, the friend that comes to you only when they need something and never any other times. Acknowledging and then either changing or removing these things should be among your  FIRST goals.  Put them on a list. Write them in bold, red, underlined. They are the weeds to your garden of possibility.

Enviro-trap.
This is something I’ve always been a big supporter of but haven’t really focused on much until recently. Despite the deceptively negative connotation I’ve given it, enviro-traps are fantastic at keeping your eyeses on the prizes. They are anything that physically exists in your world and support the achievement of your goals. They trap you so that you cannot escape thinking about what it is you should be doing.

The most obvious and powerful enviro-trap is the schedule. Giving a date and time (and alarm/notification) to a goal puts the heat on just right. Do it.

These beautifully laid self-traps can come in an unlimited amount of forms.  Keeping a journal in my messenger bag reminds me (and allows me) to write anywhere.  I bought a drafting table and put it in my room…it says “Trystiiin, draw on meee…” until I can’t take it anymore and put pencil to paper. Sometimes I’ll excitedly explain projects and goals to other people so they can later come to me and say, “So, Trystin, how’s [goal] coming along?”. There are few things I hate more than having to reply to that question with, “I haven’t started yet.” And I’ll be damned if I don’t start right after if I haven’t.

PART THREE: DOING IT!

Alright, now that we know our purpose and have a slew of goals on a slew of lists in a world that better suits our journey, how do we turn all this prep into some tangible action? Why, we just do it of course!

Time management.
You made a schedule, now follow it. If you can’t make one of your appointments, move it to the top of the list, highlight it, and keep it there until you do it. To me, time management isn’t so much a means of allotting a certain amount of time to a certain task as it is giving NO time to wastes of time (i.e. the “fat”).  Unless, of course, the time you’re putting in is time to alter or remove the fat (a noble quest indeed).  You will be amazed at how much time you magically have once you’ve gotten rid of the nonsense that wastes it for no personal gain. Things like excessive rutter-less Internet use and taking pictures of yourself in the bathroom mirror (you know who you are!).

Balance.
Balance as a means to success is everything; in love, in friendship, at home, while partying, and certainly when it comes to reaching your goals. Focus should be given as much to purpose as it is to basic needs. Think of it this way: Focusing too much on the basic stuff can be kind of a downer. It’s easy to get lost in the importance of it, thus inflating its impact on you and drowning out the other list. Focusing too much on your purpose can place you in this idealized world where you’ll lose sight of the reality and importance of your basic foundations (workload, house etc…) and overall stability. And instability effs up everything.

One of the most beautiful things along the journey towards higher purpose-driven life is that the basic needs start to look a lot more like the purpose-driven ones. Paying your electric bill isn’t so bad when you’re living in your dream house. Getting your work done on time is a breeze when you love what you do. Purpose and need-based goals should never be looked at as opposing forces. The ultimate goal is for both to feed each other.

Prioritization.
“Do what you feel.” This has been my slogan for a while and so when it came to prioritization I said “Screw it” and did what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted. Whatever “felt” important at the time. And, despite my use of the past tense, this is more or less the way I do things now, but with one shiny new thing to consider: Sometimes there are parts of a goal that you just don’t want to do.

For instance, I LOVE researching, brainstorming, and writing plays. I don’t need to prioritize. It just happens. And that’s all fine and dandy if my goal is “to write a play”. But what if my goal is to “have one of my plays produced”. I hate submitting things, I hate reformatting things, I hate looking for submissions. My lack of desire will make it so that I will rarely ever “want” to do it. This is where prioritizing comes in most handy to me. I take the crappy goals on my purpose list and I make them priority. I put them at the top of my list. I schedule them with an “URGENT” flag. Anything to put them on an even playing field with the fun stuff. It also helps to think big picture. Then everything, in the long run, is the fun thing.

Avoid burnout.
There are a number of ways to avoid burnout from working too hard, too much. One of them is to simply lie around and never try too hard.  That is extremely burnout resistant, but the productivity is almost nonexistent. Another way involves going at a single endeavor while taking ample breaks in the middle. This is productive and burnout is very slow to come, but it does come in the frustrating form of a “block”. Writer’s block being the most famous block-type, but anything can be blocked really.  It’s the brain going “I’ve had enough of this! I am more than this!” Standard burnouts are an overexertion of energy. Block burnouts are an overexertion of focus.

I never experience burnout when in the act of achieving my goals. A bold statement, sure, but a true one as well. Here’s how: First, I always have a number of goals I’m working on at any given time in at least three different areas. Right now, for instance, I’ve got a novel, a blog, an essay series, a board game, and aspirations to be a motivational speaker going on. This way, if I start to feel the burn out or blockage coming I simply hop on to another project, giving my brain something else to focus on for a change. This is how to beat the block. This is also why it’s important to have a purpose that isn’t “I want to be a writer” because coming down with writer’s block completely renders your progress at a standstill.  What other avenues have you given yourself?

Important: What I am explaining isn’t multitasking. Multitasking is juggling multiple things at once and one of the best possible ways to accumulate stress and burn yourself out. What I am explaining is simply complete and utter shift in focus from time to time.

Another version of this is the right-brain/left-brain leap. This one is pretty legit. If you’re tired of working on one aspect of a project but really want to keep working on it, then pick another aspect. If I start feeling stressed over the design aspect of my board game I turn on Excel and start working on the mathematical aspect.

Lastly, never take breaks. Or, more to the point, never do nothing. Even more to the point: never do something without a purpose-supporting reason for doing so. This step is one-part rationalization, one-part momentum-maintenance, and uber-effective.

Let’s say I’ve done all the writing, drawing, and motivating I can do. It’s time to step away from the obvious purpose-driven activity and engage in something that will aid my journey with less exertion of mind or body. Maybe I want to hang out with my friends and grab a bite. This isn’t “taking a break”, it’s “allowing fun and nourishment to recharge me so I can hit my projects even harder when I go back to them.” Maybe I want to watch an episode of Skins (British version, of course). This isn’t “taking a break”, it’s “allowing inspiration from another creative source”.

All of these things are necessary to prolonged work on an activity. This is mostly for those work-a-holics out there who are afraid to step away (recipe for burnout much?). It’s not a “break” if it’s, as a whole, for the better of the project.

One more thing: the “stepping away” option is the exception, not the rule. This is what happens once all other options have been used up…or you’re getting tired or hungry or your house is on fire..

Basic needs trump all here, I’m afraid.

Feel completely, act completely.
Here’s a fun one (especially for those who knew me as the anti-emotions automaton I used to parade around as once upon a time). We are people. We have feelings (Cry! Laugh! Scream! Let ’em out!). Feelings are chemical reactions of the body that are pushing us to take action. If the feelings are negative, we must take action against them. If they’re positive, we must take action to keep that party going. And what is the best possible way to take action in response to feelings? That’s right! Your goals!

If you’re sad, what good does sitting around in the dark with a pint of ice cream doing? If you’re happy, why waste that energy staring longingly out of a window and thanking the heavens for how happy you are? Lame and lame. Put that sadness into action. Use the energy and convert it to getting stuff done. I guarantee that whatever awfulness you’re feeling will simmer down while you’re achieving your goals.

I once put together, from concept to completion, a 24-page fully-illustrated and written book about a journey to Neverland for my boyfriend at the time. Each page was drawn in a different style (abstract, impressionist, “Dr. Seuss”, street graffiti…). I did this in six days. To this day I say this is the greatest project I have ever completed and you can bet your bottom dollar I would have never been able to do it without the love that was fueling me at the time.

A warning about negative feelings and goals: Don’t use your goals to hide from what you’re feeling. Use the feelings to give energy to your goals. It’s the difference between having a bear bite off your arm but continuing to grill burgers at the picnic and having a bear bite off your arm and using that pain to get your butt to the hospital as fast as humanly possible. Or what if you had an awful day at work and come home furious. You check your basic needs list and see that you have to take apart an old table for the garbage the next morning. Therapeutic destruction, here we come!

Other people.
There are people who are going to love what you do and those who are going to hate it. Whatever. That’s great. If they love it, use their energy to do more. If they hate it and that angers you, use the anger to fuel more of it (see above). Sort of a goal-based “In yo face!”. If they hate it and you feel discouraged, either you care too much about what people think about you (stop that!) or this goal is weak (because your knee-jerk reaction isn’t to defend it…which it should be) and needs to be tweaked or removed.

Another thing about other people. Never ever EVER achieve your goals for them. Do it for you. Go ahead and dedicate it to them if you must, but do it for you. The very second that you begin creating things for the sake of pleasing others you begin to muck up your style, your individuality, and your completed project is watered-down crap in comparison to what you would have accomplished for you.

Reward yourself.
Remember that rewards list? Use it. It’s motivational. It keeps things interesting. It reduces boredom, burnout, blockage. It raises morale. What more do I have to say?! When you achieve something reward yourself. And please make the rewards as complex and engaging as your other goals. A reward goal isn’t very effective at motivating or maintaining momentum if it’s something like “Eat a piece of chocolate from the bowl in the living room.” Yay, you’ve done nothing. But if you make it something like, “Make a tray of chocolates from scratch” now you’re cookin’ with cocoa!

Final thoughts and missing pieces.
I’m going to bring this to a close now. I’ve shared enough of my personal nuggets of wisdom to get you going, either toward them or away. The important thing here is to always do. Always. Every waking moment should be dedicated to becoming something more…or at least something else. I was going to write a gigantic section on overcoming fear and embracing change, but those are each posts in themselves. But, regardless, you need to overcome fear. It will always be there until you look it in the eye and walk on through. If you don’t do this you won’t gain much of anything out of life. Embrace change. A lot of fear comes from the change that needs to happen to reach your goals. Change in the form of sacrifice and acceptance of the unknown are absolutely necessary in reaching your goals. Accept that. If you don’t, go ahead and forget everything you read here. You’re wasting your time and everyone else’s.

Don’t be afraid to shuffle through purposes. If your life doesn’t feel right and you honestly can’t understand why, look at your purpose. Ask yourself if it was your choice or something that was handed down to you by your family or boss (or a past version of yourself) that you simply cannot relate to anymore. Upgrade it. You’ll thank yourself later.

Missing pieces. While I’m pretty good at getting things done there are a few areas in which I have to step up my game. One of them is overcoming fear (I can be pretty fierce and courageous, but I know in my heart that I haven’t even scratched the surface…when I do, expect that post). And there’s networking. Getting myself “out there”. I’ve had a lot of dumb luck with it but no set system yet. I’m working on it. When I strike networking gold there will be blog.

One more thing: this is a journey that will only end when you’re in the ground. There will always be mountains to climb and room to grow. Even as I sit here I know and feel that I am nowhere close to accomplishing the things I want to…and that’s exciting; a challenge that makes my mouth water and that I accept with everything I am. “This is just the beginning!” is my battle cry and I live for the adventure of what’s happening now and whatever happens next.

Thanks so much for reading. I hope you’ve been inspired to some capacity. If not, my bad. Epic purpose-fail. Ha.

Questions/comments, lay’em on me.

Now back away from this screen, make a sick set of lists, and get your life on!

Fact.

Faith is belief in what you cannot prove.

Hope is belief in your own potential for greatness.

Never lose hope. If you lose hope, all is lost. If you keep it, and take action in its name, it will prove your greatness to the world.

Mirror, Mirror

Let’s talk about reality for a bit, shall we? Reality is what’s real. It’s the truth of all existence. The funny thing is, we as human beings aren’t programmed to know jack-diddly about reality. Our thing is perception. When we look at an ice cream sundae, for example, our mind isn’t sending us this universal “ice cream sundae” that all mankind see when they look at this thing. What we get is our very own personalized perceived ice cream sundae. Our ice cream sundae is unlike anyone else’s. Imagine how these people would react to the treat:

 

Someone with a severe sweet tooth

Someone with severe diabetes

A health nut

A person who hasn’t eaten in days

Someone who’s lactose intolerant

The person who made the sundae

 

All six people would agree that this is indeed an ice cream sundae, but what that term means varies GREATLY.Other more intense examples of different levels of perception in action include people with colorblindness, or total blindness; people who believe the Holocaust never happened, religious fanatics. The point is, what is real and what we perceive to be real should never be mistaken for each other. Having said that, let’s look at these three “selves”:

 

  1. Your current self (according to you)
  2. Your current self (according to your social network)
  3. Your ideal self

 

By the way, there are TONS of other selves (your future self, past self, your self if you hadn’t turned left instead of right on the way to that party last night), but for now we’ll only care about these three. To repeat my past self, all three of these selves are perceptions and are, as such, prone to be REALLY off.

 

1. Your current self (according to you)

Think of those people who are so delusional as to who they are. We all know them.The slimy and gross guy who is convinced that he is God’s gift to women. The self-important actress with the chalkboard-screech voice who is 100% certain she’s destined for Broadway. Their confidence is admirable, but everything else is utter nonsense. Then we’ve got the incredibly talented people who, for some reason or another, don’t think they’re good enough; smart enough; pretty enough and therefore never have the confidence to reach the potential they have within. These examples are on the obvious side, but every single one of us has a set of perceived traits that are quite off the mark.

 

But what is “the mark”? In a world of perception, this is certainly a tricky question. After all, if everything is perception, how can we possibly know what “real” is? The short answer: we can’t. We can only take educated guesses at what the truth is and go from there. Some truths are obvious and almost impossible to refute: the law of gravity, aging, the existence of dogs…other things are not so simple: the existence of dark matter, ghosts, the wrong- or rightness of homosexuality. I’m sure I’ll tackle these scientific, metaphysical and moral subjects in near future, but for now let’s talk about you and how to get as close as humanly possible to the real you.

 

2. Your current self (according to your social network)

One of the crudest, but most important ways of discovering how close perceived self is from your true self, is through how you are perceived by the people around you. From birth we are told not to care what other people think of us. While that works very well from an individualist perspective, it’s not entirely correct. We are social creatures and as such what people think of us impacts our life and therefore is certainly something we should care about. As far as the world is concerned, what other people think of us IS who we are. They will treat us as they perceive us- not as we perceive ourselves. The genocidal dictator might see himself as a great champion of his people…certainly we do not. The talentless actress I mentioned before won’t be viewed as the next Bernadette Peters by the theatrical world. Examining the way others react to you; what they think of you, is a quick and dirty way of getting another perception yourself.

 

Of course, there are some HUGE risks involving this method of self-evaluation: First up, the dreaded “yes-men”. There are some people who are surrounded by a pack of people who will bend over backwards to tell them how great they are, supporting their every decision whether it be out of fear, greed, or pure admiration. These people have successfully bent their social world to mirror their self-perception, thus creating a safe bubble completely impervious to the truths and growth potential that a more diverse group would offer.

 

And how could we possibly forget the other end of the spectrum: those people who are, for one reason or another, surrounded by morons. Say there’s an island where every year, at the first full moon, a virgin must be sacrificed to appease their gods and ensure another year of good fortune and plentiful crop yields. One person decides that this tradition is wrong, inhumane, and she stands up against it. Obviously, this woman in this the right, but the other members of the tribe see her as a traitor. It’s this scenario that the cliche “Don’t care what other people are thinking” is referring to.

 

Basically, relying on what others say about you to truly know who you are is risky business…and not the smartest way to go about things, but never forget that the way you are perceived is the way you will be treated and must be taken into consideration in all you do.

 

3. Your ideal self.

Repeat after me: You CANNOT become the person you want to be if you do not know who you are.

Looking back to the crappy actress with delusions of theatrical superiority, because her self-perception is so off, she cannot become the Broadway starlett she so desires. Let’s say she had a potential to be truly great, all she needed was a few voice and acting lessons. In her current mindset, she is already a fantastic singer and actor, so lessons are out of the question.

 

Then there’s the guy who is attractive and gifted, but doesn’t see himself that way. In this instance, he is so blinded by his low self-worth that he’s convinced that his ideal self is impossible. Or maybe he’s aiming too low. In  both instances, faulty self-perception ruins opportunity for becoming the ideal.

 

So…?

If the opinions of others are a mixed bag when it comes to knowing yourself, our own perceptions could be just as volatile, and the ideal self is of no use UNTIL you know yourself, then how the heck do we figure out who we are?!

 

For starters, let’s take a crack at the people in our social network. How do they interact with you? Do they constantly shower you with praise? Do they think everything you say is a joke? Do they look for reasons to hate you? Once you’ve gathered answers from diverse groupings of your life (family, friends, coworkers, teammates etc…) it’s time to ask yourself, “What do they have to gain by thinking of you this way?” Once you’ve reached your results, take the answers that primarily focus on the other party getting something out of you (attention, money, pain etc…) and throw them away. Then take the answers that focus on giving something TO you (advice, training, critique etc…) and ask yourself, “Why do they feel this way?” The answer to this final question will get you to see yourself through the eyes of someone who has your best interests in mind; it is a foundation to figuring out your truest self.

 

Example #1

Subject: The Yes-Man.

Question: How does he interact with you?

Answer: He agrees with everything I suggest.

Question: “hat does he have to gain by thinking of you this way?

Answer: I am his boss. He says ‘yes’ because he doesn’t want to upset me. He doesn’t want to get fired. He wants to keep his job.

Verdict: The Yes-Man is saying “yes” for himself, not for you, and thus his opinion is irrelevant in this exercise.

 

Example #2

Subject: The Mentor.

Question: How does she interact with you?

Answer: She offers guidance and coaching in forming and achieving my goals.

Question: What does she have to gain by thinking of you this way?

Answer: Nothing, really. She just wants what’s best for me.

Verdict: The Mentor’s primary focus is to better you and therefore her opinion is quite relevant, because it is for YOU.

Question: Why does she feel this way?

Answer: Because she sees my potential to become something more. Because she wants me to succeed; she believes I can succeed.

 

Example #2 provides us with a beneficial relationship from within one’s social network. First, we’ll put this dialogue in the context of the bad actress. The mentor tells her that she’s not as great as she seems; that she needs practice or she’ll never make it. This may be hard for her to hear, but it’s coming from an honest and compassionate place and therefore should be considered…and rightfully so. On the other hand, let’s return to the island where virgins are being slaughtered. The mentor of the person who stands up against this act begs her to adhere to tradition. Sure, the mentor’s advice is coming from a caring place (she’s trying to convince the person that she is doing what she believes to be the right thing)…but the advice is misguided. Like I said, any info gained from social networks is a mixed bag.

 

Fortunately, there’s a little thing called “extending your worldview”. Extending one’s worldview is important because it forces a person to remove themselves from their usual area of thought and see how other cultures might view you. If you live in a small town, look to a big city. Or vice versa. If you live in one country, look to another. Look to areas that are known for their diversity and open-mindedness; where they are not governed by hatred, fear, or a severe control of freedoms of speech; for these places have themselves used an extended worldview to evolve themselves into progressive and welcoming places. New York City, London, Rio De Janeiro, to name a few. The anti-virgin-killer, those in support of gay rights, of racial equality, sexual equality, would find many friends.

 

Lastly, never underestimate the power of your gut. The fact of the matter is that most people know EXACTLY who they are; but they hide behind a mask out of the fear of embodying their true selves. They willingly alter themselves so that both they and the people around them can perceive them as something different than they truly are. What’s to be afraid of? Lots, actually. Losing the support of loved ones. Losing stability; easy answers. Having to start over again. In certain situations people might even fear for their lives. Whatever the fear, know that you will NEVER be happy unless you’re honest with yourself and your surroundings about who you are. So listen to your friends, your world, and, most importantly your heart. Don’t fear what others think of you, but consider it, and fear only what you will not become if you continue to be something you’re not.

 

And for all those who’ve got it all figured out…rock on and dominate!

 

You’ve Been Warned

You get a little hands-on in a bar and someone punches you in the face. Your mind wanders while engaged in your morning routine and you accidentally iron your hand. You throw caution to the wind regarding your Halloween stash and all of a sudden you have an intense throbbing in your lower bicuspid.

Physical pain. The body’s warning system that something is wrong and changes need to be made in order to make things right: Apologize to the burly bar man…or fight back, if you’re into that kind of thing. Pull your hand from under that iron. Go to the dentist and hope the damage is reversible.

And then there’s emotional pain, which works pretty much the same way…

Your significant other breaks up with you: sadness. Your d-bag co-worker decides to spread various distasteful rumors about you behind your back: anger. You think you’re home alone until you hear something that sounds an awful lot like footsteps one floor up: fear.

Contrary to popular human behavior, emotional pain isn’t something to wallow in. That’d be the physical pain equivalent of waking up covered in hungry fire ants and just…sitting there, taking it. Emotional pain is occurs so that you no, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that changes need to be made: Sometimes things don’t work out, so define who you are and what you want alone. Confront your co-worker and work to dispel the nasty rumors. Get the heck out of your house and call the cops…or go upstairs and check it out, if you’re into that kind of thing.

No matter what, pain, whether physical or emotional, is meant to be a signal to you to bring it to a swift and secure close. Physical pain, left to continue, generally leads to death. So…that’s bad. Emotional pain, on the other hand, if let to carry on and on, leads you to something nearly as life-ending as the ol’ Grim Reaper’s work himself: a rut.

Ruts, in their most common form, are the result of allowing something in the sadness family (hopelessness, depression, loneliness) to persist. The feeling acts as a weight that gets ever heavier until all forward momentum is at a halt and all desire to act is all but squashed out.

Ruts based in the fear or anger families (terror, anxiety, contempt, disgust) are function a tad differently. In drug terms (emotions ARE chemical reactions in our heads, after all), sadness is a depressant and anger and fear are stimulants. Therefore, whereas the sadness rut de-energizes a person and takes away their will to act, fear and anger ride on waves of adrenaline that pumps you with negative energy which consumes all other abilities to envision and interact with the world. You see all things through fear- or anger- colored lenses. If let to take over,  anger and fear lead to ruts better known as “rage” and “paranoia” respectively.

“Bu -but Trystin? Paranoid people can be super active?” This is true, quote. This is true. But what is a rut really? It’s not a matter of being active or not. The guy in the sad rut is TECHNICALLY being active as he sits on his couch, clicking through, channels, shoving ladle-fuls of ice cream into his mouth while crying over happier times. Ruts, my friends, are not defined by a person’s inability to take action, but instead of their inability to be productive, to grow as an individual. This is why, while the rage-fueled rutter might concoct all sorts of maniacal ways to destroy the world or the paranoia-fueled rutter might have turned their house into a mighty fortress to keep out the aliens when they land, this behavior is isolationist, self-destructive, stunting and warping all other aspects of their lives, and therefore the very definition of counter-productive. A very accomplished and active set of ruts indeed, but ruts nonetheless.

Now that we’ve ID’d it, let’s see what we’re dealing with here; pull back the ol’ mask and see how to get to the bottom of this. Aaand…AHHHH!!! It’s…it’s….oh. Anti-climactic. While ruts might seem like these impossibly debilitating and life-sucking forces of nature, at the end of the day, they are nothing more than a clump of very stubborn emotions…painful emotions…and, just like sadness, fear, and anger in their lesser forms, ruts are NOTHING more than your body telling you that you need to take action. To change. If you’re the guy crying on his couch, turn off the TV and write a list of what’s RIGHT in your life. If you’re the person all locked up in your house, fearing the alien uprising, take a single step out of your barracks. These are little things, but these are the ways to move on, move forward; to beat the rut; to take life back and make it your own instead of being the whipping boy of your own insecurities. Act in defiance of your negative emotions every time and every time you will come out stronger and ruts and moments of perceived failure won’t even be an option. Rut: OWNED.

And it would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for this meddling blog…

Table For One?

The romantic self. If any of the six selves (see “The YOU Network” [Mar. 24th] for all six) deserves their own post, it’s this one. The desire to love. Or, more specifically, the desire to love something and then feel a sense of completeness once that “something” has been attained and THEN, equally importantly, the returning or rewarding of that emotion by the object of desire. Great. Awesome. While I fully intend to get into the nitty gritty of that last statement, the true reason for writing this post is to thoroughly answer the ultimate relationship self question:

Is it possible to reach the ideal self in this system without finding, loving, and being loved BY, a significant other?

Let’s start by examining why finding your husband/wife/life partner is so sought after. Aside from the occasional monk on a mountain or hermit in a cave, we are social creatures. We rely on one another for growth, support, nourishment, success, and a whole slew of things. Relationships are key to life and there is no type of relationship that exemplifies this idea than that of the healthy romantic relationship. Not only does it serve to fulfill all the needs mentioned above, but it also has a exclusivity to it. One person who has a special focus in one other person. When it comes to your friends, you are one of a group of their friends. When it comes to your teacher, you are one of a group of their students. When it comes to your significant other, you are their ONLY significant other (we’re talking standard healthy relationships here, remember, ha). Just as they are your only significant other. There is power in the fact that your relationship is unique amongst all your relationships with everyone else in the world.

Sure, the same could be said about your best friend or your parents, but the parent-child relationship is one that is expected to part. The whole goal of it is to create an individual, you, who is prepared to go out into the world and create your own life separate from them. As for a romantic relationship versus a best friendship, it’s a tad trickier. The best friend is someone who you can depend on, someone who helps you to grow, someone there for you in your darkest hours. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on your best friend for intimacy. Passion. Sexual stimulus. Its the physical side, that special part of the romantic connection, that gives the best friend a run for their money. Unless, of course, your lover IS your best friend in which case…well played.

The government likes romantic relationships because they create nuclear families which are more stable, spend more, and are a generally better economic tool. Religions like romantic relationships because they produce hopefully well-adjusted spawn to continue the religion into the future. Society likes romantic relationships because they feel so darn good and religion and media tell us that its all part of our destinies and the fulfillment of the American dream. Media likes romantic relationships because society does. Whatever the reason, they’re mutual, they’re exclusive, they’re physical, they’re sexual, they rock.

We also have men or women with many wives or husbands. It follows the same principles above because of the sexual aspect…just more of a handful.

And for the sake of mentioning them: relationships that are fruitlessly arranged or involve cheating, abuse, or any other array of unhealthy and non-romantic things are NOT a part of the point of this post in any way, shape, or form.  After all they are none of them ideal.

This brings us to the main event. Can we reach our ideal romantic selves without a significant other. The answer: yes.

While I stressed the physical and sexual side of the romantic self above, that was more as a means to separate it from other types of mutual healthy relationships than to establish sex as a required piece of the self itself. You see, dear readers, the only ingredients needed to fulfill is romantic self are a) an object of desire, b) an exclusive connection to it, and c) passion towards it.

We here the phrase “married to our jobs”. Truth be told, some people kind of are! Or their hobbies. Or, in some odd cases, certain objects (you’ve heard of those people who marry bridges and monuments). It’s a sort of connection that comes with a level of passion that is at a level so far greater than it is towards any other aspect of their lives that a deep love results and they are fulfilled. Take those who have decided to take a vow of chastity and sincerely devote their lives to a deity. The priests and nuns of the world. They are fulfilled. Take that hermit I mentioned earlier who, defying the norms of the human condition, craves the art of being at once alone and one with nature. Their passion lies in their solitude. They are fulfilled.

This alternate path of reaching the ideal self is ripe with options and not for everyone. Be it social conditioning or our biological needs, for some of us even the thought of living out the rest of our days this way seems all but terrible. Three of the biggest deterrents come in the forms of children, sex, and mutuality. People like kids. We are raised to have them. Plus, the idea of continuing our personal legacies in the form of a little version of us, hopefully embodying our strengths and void of our weaknesses, is a pretty powerful driving force for relationships in the first place.

Sex. Ohhhhh sex. It’s a thing we tend to like. It’s a thing we tend to want; expect from life. The romantic self is inseparable from it in the minds of many, but, if a person can feel exclusive passion towards something that sexual intimacy with is impossible then the sexual intimacy, one can assume, becomes replaced with other physical forms of expression. To the artist “married” to his work, the painting becomes the sexual experience. To the religious devoted to God, doing God’s work becomes the sexual experience or, since that’s kind of awkward, the apex of passionate exclusivity.

Lastly, there’s mutuality. The idea that the thing you love, loves you back in a tangible way. A painting won’t give the artist a hug when they’ve had a bad day. The squirrels aren’t going to bake the hermit a cake on his birthday. Even the priest will say that God loves him back but the “tangible” and the exclusive aspects are majorly lacking. In this situation, a strong core self is extremely necessary. With that highly tuned sense of self, confidence, and overall awareness, the desire for getting those tangible rewards for the love you give is greatly lessened. Add to that the exclusive passion towards one’s romantic object and being loved back becomes a non-issue in reaching the ideal romantic self.

By the way, a strong core is just as required in the romantic relationship. The last thing any partner wants in a healthy and not at all abusive relationship is to be partnered up with the “needy” one.

In conclusion, while nature, nurture, and the world at large tend to point in the direction of the standard one-on-one romance to fill the romantic self, there are alternatives that, with ample passion and desire, are capable of doing that job very differently but just as well.

7. The Core Self

Continuing onward from “The YOU Network”, let’s move on to the seventh (and most important) “self”: The core self.

Why didn’t I include this one with the rest? Well, unlike the six selves of “The YOU Network”, the seventh does not deal with WHAT we desire/want/need (a new car, a sultry lover, better coping mechanisms…). It instead defines WHY we want these things; HOW we want these things. It is the motivating force behind the desires that manifest the six selves. It is also our status quo.

The core self is the foundation of who we are, what we think,why we do the things we do. It includes powerful intangibles like confidence, passion, spirituality, beliefs, durability, standards, and moral code. It is at the heart of ourselves, a fruit of nature and nurture, and as such, a part of each aspect of “The YOU Network” as well as the center of the network itself.

The strength of one’s core self governs their capacity to function in the world. In other words, the more you know who you are, the more you know what you want. The more you know what you want, the greater the chances of you being able to have it. A strong core is crucial to becoming the ideal self, not only because it can solidify your desires, but also because it will sustain you when things don’t work out and give you the drive to try again.

An example: Let’s take the extracurricular self’s desire to join a weekend volleyball team.

Person A, someone in peak physical condition with all the athletic skill in the world, marches into the gym for volleyball tryouts only to find out that they’d misread the email and tryouts had ended thirty minutes before. Person A, someone with a weak core, is devastated. The failure to act in time results in them feeling a sort of invasive sadness that, in turn, spreads to the other five selves. They’re not so good at work that day. They don’t connect to their lover. They won’t try for another team that starts later in the summer. A strong desire on a weak core is like balancing a boulder on a toothpick. If that desire teeters and falls, the core is shattered and thus the entire network takes a hit.

Let’s put strong-cored Person B in the same situation. Are they upset? Of course. But with the strong core comes the idea that “life happens.” Mistakes were made, but no amount of anger will change that. They still know who they are. They still have a good job, a loving lover, plus there’s another team that starts in a few months and they’ll make extra certain they are there in time. There’s nothing better than a strong core to accept the unexpected and then adapt to it. The act of adapting only makes the core stronger, more resilient, than it was before.

A weak core perpetuates its own weakness. A strong one, own strengths. And the unexpected makes sure that growth continues in new directions.

Posts on change, the unexpected, and more in-depth takes on the other six selves to follow…

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-

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2018 TrystinBailey.com

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑