June 20, 2006

A Play A Day #68

A Race


Setting: Man sits at small table slightly behind and left of Woman, who is standing down center, as lights come up, it's clear the two of them have been laughing, light-hearted mood pervades.

Woman: (addressing man) O.K.! O.K.! We'll get going with it then, but I think this is one of your dumbest bets ever. This is a cakewalk. This one's mine. You'll be taking me downtown for ice cream... again. Not a chance. (Man is raising eyebrows, shrugging shoulders as if to say "that's what you think", woman turns to audience) My good friend here is always doing this... everything's a competition for him; he makes up these little challenges, races, contests... sometimes it's just individual; he'll say, ohhh... "I'm going to get a sub sandwich, time me!" and he'll vault out of the car and run into the fast food place, and I'm supposed to time him; as if there's a benchmark, world-record sort of time that he has to beat. He even bought me a fancy digital watch for my birthday with about eighteen different timers on it, so I can save his best times, I guess.

Sometimes he sets up a challenge that I'm supposed to be in too. Today, we're talking about his Diet Pepsi addiction, and how much he drinks, and how fast he drinks it, and he says he can probably drink an entire two-liter bottle at one sitting. I thought that was pretty lame considering he didn't say how long he'd be sitting. He fancies himself a writer; so he says that he can drink a whole two-liter bottle faster than I could read one page of something he recently wrote.

I'm not stupid; so I ask him: "Is it in English?" Yes. "Is it a huge sheet of paper or something?" No, regular sheet. "With margins?" Yes. "Spaces between the words?" Yes. "12 point font?" Yes. He tells me it's just a single-spaced page of writing, everything's normal. I have to read it out loud; so he knows when I've actually finished, and he adds that I have to speak the words clearly and fully.

So, do you have them? (Man produces folded sheet of paper, hands it to woman, then produces full 2-liter bottle of Diet Pepsi, he opens the top, picks up bottle, Woman looks back at him, he nods, she opens the page, he starts slamming the soda.)

"It's an odd relationship. What do you call a man and a woman who have been friends for fourteen years? Yes, we've dated. Each other. We've dated each other. Off and on, but they've really been just more intense periods of the friendship. We've never seen anyone else during that time, even when we, according to some obscure technical dating manual that I've never seen, were not officially dating. No one else. Just the two of us. Lots of laughing.

(Woman looks back at man, man is still slamming Diet Pepsi, she wants to slow down to savor this letter he's written about her, but he's doggedly pursuing his goal, she continues)

"I used to tell her how pretty she was, but that's faded. Not her beauty; she's more beautiful than ever to me. My comments about her beauty have faded. I don't say it often enough. She's beautiful.

(Woman looks back again, man continues with soda, but is struggling)

"The intensity of any real relationship fades with time, yet becomes stronger. As if the tide has gone out, everything looks lower than it was, but the undertow is that much stronger, invisible, beneath the surface, pulling. We began operating in a different mode a few years ago. I was not excited when I was around her; I thought it meant I didn't like her any more. I said mean things. I sulked. I blamed her. Low tide. I missed the fact that, though we had less to be excited about, we had more depth. We had less on the surface, and more beneath.

"I can't say when I began to realize that what were doing was insane. Late nights, trips together, movies, theater, eating out, and no real committment spoken. We're just friends. Do friends last that long? Friends like us, anyway.

"I guess you could say that I wanted to test the relationship. That I wanted to see if it was done. That would be putting it nicely. I really only wanted to see if I could be excited again. I met this other woman, beautiful, glamorous, outgoing. She definitely excited me. I felt alive again. Everything on the surface. We talked, exchanged long e-mail and phone messages, grew closer and closer. This was it, I thought. I'd finally met that someone. I couldn't tell you why I couldn't tell you. We were just friends, right? I had the right to see other people, didn't I? The excitement was too much for me. I had a few interludes with this new woman. I couldn't hold back. I thought that my dreams would be fulfilled. I could marry her and still have this great friendship with you. That would have only been possible if I could have told you about her. I couldn't. She was married; that gets in the way, sure, but it seemed like she was mine... on the surface.

"I hurt you profoundly, deeply and completely. I realized too late that she wasn't leaving her husband and family, and I wasn't leaving you. I did finally tell you. You already knew. We drifted apart for a few weeks. You'd call me at midnight: What was she like in bed? Where did you do it? I'd have to remind you that we never made it into a bed, and I couldn't tell you where it happened, because you'd be spoiled on those areas for as long as you lived in this town. Had I destroyed you? You were still calling. I told you to go away; that I was worthless to you. That we were through because of what I'd done. That I was not to be trusted ever again. I forgot that you could see past the surface; that you could see into the depths of me. That you could see into the depths of us.

(Woman is breaking down now, she turns back to man, who hasn't been drinking anything for a little while not wanting to finish before she gets to the end of the letter, woamn wants to slow down to reread passages, when she turns around, man quickly starts slamming the soda again.)

"You dragged me out of my despondency; you build up my trust in myself; you never gave up. You see more than I ever could. You have your eyes closed and your heart open, and you take it all in. Why you decided to trust me again, I don't know. You just did. I wasn't able to comprehend how much I hurt you; I mean, you were taking me back in, weren't you? You let me know, though. The crying comes from you out of the wounds I've caused, and I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

(Looks behind her, man quickly starts slamming soda again)

"So, where do we go now? Can this friendship last forever? I don't think it can. It's too much to ask any man and woman to keep something like this going for so long. Fourteen years, and the excitement has gone. We are at a low, low tide. I can't go on pretending that this relationship will work out any longer. If it did, I fear it would just be too dull, too predictable. I'm too comfortable with you. I need somethng new, some danger.

(She looks confusedly over her shoulder, trying to conceal her emotions a bit now, man tries to go back to the soda, only partially succeeds.)

"I tried one way to find that danger, and that road is closed now. I tried to pretend that it didn't matter how long we had been friends, that it didn't matter how much we had shared, how far into me you could see. Of course, it does, and I can't disguise that fact any more. It matters greatly. So how do I resolve this conflict? How do I rediscover the excitement; how do I honor everything that has passed between us?

(She looks back, man is trying to polish off the bottle now)

"Of course, the answer is simple. We just have to jump into the ocean together, to feel the strength of the undertow whispering away the sand beneath our feet. Pulling us under, but keeping us together. Together? Forever? Will you (man finishes off bottle, slams it on the table, looks at her proudly, she looks at him, crying profusely)... marry me?"

(she is shaking, staring at him)

Man: Yes?

Woman: (leaping into his arms, kissing him passionately) Yes!

(They start to exit, lights fading)

Man: You know, technically, I won the bet.

Woman: Yes, you did.

Man: I won it all. (pause) Ice cream?

(lights out)



Unknown said...


Brendon Etter said...

Thanks man, this marks 2 serious / sentimental plays in one short week.

What's happening to me?

I'll try to work it out; you keep popping the pills!

emcee emdee said...

Well done, b.

Wish I'd thought to propose to Joy with a bet. I might've added Mentos to the Diet Pepsi for a little extra explosive zaz.

Only one small quibble: the only way I could get all that text on one page with 12 pt font was to have half inch margins all around and use a "condensed" font.

Brendon Etter said...

Well, you can't include the stage directions! I knew some nerdy Iowan (Iowaian? Iowaman? Iowavian? Iowite? Iowegian?) would just have to check. It worked in AppleWorks on my Mac with half a line left over, I believe.

The real challenge of the play will be getting someone to drink a two-liter bottle of Diet Pepsi in 6-8 minutes. I could do it with Diet Coke, but Diet Pepsi? Heaven forfend!