THE CARDS READ: "SMOKER", "PERSON WHO SHOULD NOT BE IN CHARGE", "DEBT", "INVITATION FROM A STRANGER"
SUCH AS THESE
SCENE: A living room. Victor is seated on the couch with phone in hand, busying himself absentmindedly. Suddenly, the door bursts open and Char, his wife, walks in. She stands there, staring athim.
VICTOR: (Still looking at his phone) Hi, Honey. How was work?
(Char doesn't respond. Victor continues to play on his phone. Char holds up the purse and laptop chase she's carrying and promptly drops them on the ground. Victor jumps and finally turns around to look at her0
VICTOR: What the...what's...what's wrong?
(Char just stares at him)
VICTOR: Oh god. Not this again.
CHAR: Not what again?
VICTOR: What did I do? I did it wrong, didn't I? What did I do wrong?
CHAR: (Arms folded, walking towards Victor) Are you talking about getting the kids ready for school?
VICTOR: Yeah. I did something wrong, didn't I?
CHAR: Yes, Victor. You did something wrong.
VICTOR: (Standing up and walking towards her discarded bags) That's a really nice laptop. You shouldn't just toss it. (He picks it up and assesses Char) Well, it is. (A pause) What did I do? Did the pack the wrong thing for lunch? Did I put Ethan in Wednesday's pants instead of Thursday's? What? What did I do that was so wrong?
CHAR: They were dressed just fine. They said that their lunches were fine.
VICTOR: Where are they?
CHAR: (Ignoring that question) You got them on a school bus. You mostly did what I asked you to do.
VICTOR: Where are the kids?
CHAR: It's Thursday, Victor. Every Thursday after school, Josh and Ethan go to your mom and dad's house.
CHAR: Every Thursday. Ever since Ethan started Kindergarten. Every Thursday--
VICTOR: Would you cut the bullshit and just tell me once and for all what I did? I followed your notes. The boys went to school. I had to fight with them. Everything was going well until we got out to the bus stop. The bus was coming down the road and I said, "Okay. Here ya go." And they started throwing a huge hissy fit. Both of them. They kept whining about how they didn't want to get on the bus, and I said some words, but they got on the bus. It's fine.
CHAR: No, Victor. It's not. It's not that they didn't want to get on the bus. It's that they didn't want to get on that bus. That wasn't their bus!
VICTOR: What do you mean it's not their bus? It's a school bus! It takes them to school!
CHAR: I told you...I specifically told you...one bus will stop...if that little blonde haired girl is there, she'll get on that bus. And then you'll wait ten minutes and then Ethan and Josh's bus will come. That bus was for a different school district! They went to the wrong school, Victor!
VICTOR: Hell, you're telling me now I have to know what school district they go to?
CHAR: (Stunned) I can't...I can't talk to you...I can't...I can't talk to you.
VICTOR: Oh, come on, Char!
CHAR: You are impossible! You are a child!
VICTOR: How the hell was I supposed to know that it was the wrong bus?
CHAR: Because I told you! I told you, Victor! And, what's more, your children told you. They were whining and complaining and throwing a hissy fit because they were trying to tell you that it was the wrong bus! And I texted you, Victor! I texted you the bus number, Victor! I told you what the bus driver looked like, Victor!
VICTOR: Stop saying my name!
CHAR: I want you to really think about something, Victor. Do you remember when Josh and Ethan were born?
VICTOR: What the hell?
CHAR: Do you remember butting the umbilical cord and holding them and crying and...openly weeping...at the sight of your child? You were so excited and joyful and over the moon and in love. I want you to think back and ask yourself if you're still that person. If you really are doing right by those kids--
VICTOR: I'm doing the best I can!
CHAR: How? How are you doing the best you can?
VICTOR: I work! I work day and night to put food on the table--
CHAR: You work until five. Five thirty at the latest. And then you go and sit on the couch and play on your phone. Half the time you don't even sit and have dinner with us. Even though we've been waiting for you.
VICTOR: I have a stressful job--
CHAR: I have a stressful job, Victor! And sometimes I don't want to give my full attention to those kids! And sometimes I yell and complain and we bicker. Sometimes I don't even want to pick them up from daycare because I am so tired and stressed out. But I do because I love them and they are my kids and they deserve my attention. Maybe it's not always my undivided attention or my perfect attention, but it's my attention!
VICTOR: I am doing the best that I can.
CHAR: I don't believe that.
(They stare at one another)
VICTOR: What do you want me to say?
CHAR: Do you honestly thing that you're doing the best you could possibly do?
CHAR: Okay. Josh has a dance recital tomorrow night. Come.
VICTOR: You know that I hate that he dances--
CHAR: And you know that I don't give a flying fuck if you hate that he dances. Come. Support your son. It's his life. Not yours. This makes him happy.
VICTOR: He's the only boy in the class, right?
CHAR: (Is about to get angry but takes a breath) No, he's not. There's another boy. Marcos. That's Josh's best friend. Marcos.
CHAR: Come to the recital, Victor. Support your son. Support your family. (She exits)
(The scene shifts to a kind of limbo. Victor stands center stage, addressing the audience. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He lights one up)
VICTOR: Don't tell Char. I gave these up. When Josh was born, I gave them up. (He sighs) Things dull after a while. Things become monotonous. First there was this girl and she was the most beautiful thing you'd ever seen. And the idea that you get to wake up to that every day...you can't believe it. But then you start waking up to that every day. And it just becomes expected. Until it's like the wallpaper or the couch. Only after you've been married for a while do you really start to wonder, "Is love meant to last a lifetime?" Is it really healthy for us to do the same thing every day? Our kids are five and seven. The other day i woke up and I counted it in my head...Ethan will be six next month and then it's only twelve more years until he's a legal adult. And when he's moved out, Char and I can call it quits. We can't now. We can't ruin the boys' lives like that. You see, Char? I do think of the kids. That was the first time I had actually thought about what life would be without her. And I haven't stopped thinking about it. It's one thing if you want to divorce your wife. It's a completely different thing if you want to divorce your children. A marriage? (Shrug) You tried. It didn't work. But there's no way you can say to your kids, "I don't want to be your dad anymore. Hopefully, we can still be friends." You divorce your wife and it's understandable at times. You might even have a party to celebrate the fact that you've broken away from that woman. But your kids? That's unholy territory. That's unimaginable. Even if you're abandoning them with a woman who makes five times what you make in a four day workweek and who actually knows the names of their best friends. Even then. You can't walk away from you kids. You have to try. But what happens when I don't want to try anymore? There's this little boy and he's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen and the idea that I get to wake up every morning and see that face...I can't believe it. And then I wake up every morning and I see that face. And I wonder, "Is this really what I want?" What if I'm just a normal person who is simply saying what everyone else is thinking? What if I'm the only sane one left who dares to ask?
(The scene shifts. In the darkness we see a troupe of seven-year-old girls (and two boys) enter the stage and stand in a line. Music begins and they (rather awkwardly but diligently enough) begin to dance. On the sidelines we see Char, seated with a five-year-old boy on one side of her and Victor on the other. Char smiles proudly at the dancers and Victor simply stares on, staring and looking as if he's seeing his son for the first time. The dance finishes. It's quite beautiful. Char begins to applaud and then looks over at Victor. He's openly weeping.)
VICTOR: That's...my son...
CHAR: Yes, that's your son.
(The scene shifts again. The soft music from the recital still hangs distantly in the air. Victor, Char and Ethan are waiting in a hallway for Josh who suddenly comes bounding towards them. Char hugs him and congratulates him. Ethan hands Josh a flower. Josh looks to his father who has only now begun to control his tears. Victor hugs Josh very. As the lights fade on everything but the father and the son, Victor looks to the audience)
VICTOR: It seems I am not the only sane one left. I am still, very, very much insane.