Not About Love, ch. 5: End Scene

“How are you?” She turned the conversation to me now. I pause. The house lights dim, the curtain draws, and the theater of my mind strikes up the opening score. Gentleman, I thank you for attending tonight’s production of Your Response; note the lack of exits in case of emergency, and please enjoy the show.

Act 1

Scene opens to a clear night. Tall, Handsome Man faces Attractive Woman in front of a small set of steps leading to his door. The couple is illuminated within the warm circle of light from the overhead street lamp.

“How are you?” She turned the conversation to me now. I pause.

“I’m… fine.” Man turns away from Woman, hands in pockets, teeth clenched. Her eyes strain after him, brows pushed together with equal parts incredulity and concern. Her mouth opens a fraction, choosing careful words before speaking.

“Ok… Listen, I know you don’t open up much, but you know if you need someone you can always talk to me, right?” Woman’s hand reaches toward him but retracts preemptively.

“Yeah, I know.” Man does not know.

“Ok. Goodnight. Try to get some sleep?” Woman smiles with effort.

“I’ll try. ‘Night. Text me when you get home safe.” Man scales the three stairs in two steps and enters through the door. Woman bows her head to meet her hand and exits the circle of light stage right. Cue car effects off stage. Man, silhouetted in the window, turns back toward her but halts the motion, resigning to simply trace the path of the vehicle with his gaze as lights fade. End scene.

 Act 2

Scene opens to a clear night. Tall, Handsome Man faces Attractive Woman in front of a small set of steps leading to his door. The couple is illuminated within the warm circle of light from the overhead street lamp.

“How are you?” She turned the conversation to me now. I pause.

“How am I? I… (music swells) I feel as though my very heart will burst through the confines of my chest if another day goes by and I haven’t told you how I feel! (merge streetlight into spotlight on Man, everything else fade to black) I can’t stop thinking about you. You’re my last thought before I sleep and my first when I awake. Not a day goes by I don’t wish to simply be where you are, if only to have the chance to admire you, all of you, your talent and your grace and the sheer rays of goodness which seem to emanate from your every step. If the words exist that could estimate the infinity of your light I have yet to know them. As such I am cursed with the pitiful use of clichés to make my feeble attempts at your boundless beauty and the unfathomable depth of your soul.” Man steps toward Woman, bringing the spotlight on them both. The two lovers lean in, less than an inch from sharing a deep and passionate kiss. Suddenly, Man backs away. Woman freezes, and as Man steps away toward audience she is cast in blackness. Man turns and addresses audience directly.

“Not like this.” Sole member of audience squirms in seat. Man continues, “You know I’m rooting for you. Of all people I am. But speeches are easy and you respect her more than that. You respect us more than that. I know we remember what it’s like, the real thing. When you really meet her, it’ll be more shaking than Shakespeare. It will be the most beautiful mental annihilation you have yet to experience and I just need you to promise me we’ll wait for that. Just, wait. Please. One more night. Not like this.”

Man ends monologue and walks back to Woman as the spotlight fades and the warm glow of streetlamp again circles the couple. She looks up into his eyes, hopeful. He turns his head away.

“Have a good night. Text me when you get home safe.” Man scales the three stairs in two steps and enters through the door. Woman bows her head to meet her hand and exits the circle of light stage right. Cue car effects off stage. Man, silhouetted in the window, turns back toward her but halts the motion, resigning to simply trace the path of the vehicle with his gaze as lights fade. End scene.

Act 3

Scene opens to a clear night. Tall, Handsome Man faces Attractive Woman in front of a small set of steps leading to his door. The couple is illuminated within the warm circle of light from the overhead street lamp.

“How are you?” She turned the conversation to me now. I pause.

The streetlamp cuts abruptly, immediately shifting to two spotlights: the first remains on her, standing in place though following his movement with a fixed, worried expression; the second keeps with him as he moves about the stage. Man walks stage left, away from Woman.

“How am I? I’m fine. I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine! (with each word man gradually walks over to the wall, and punctuates the tirade with his fist. He pauses a moment then turns back toward Woman) Well of course it’s not true! But I’m going to say it and you’re going to be ok with it because you’re ready for the real answer like Noah’s second cousin was ready for the flood! (Man’s voice escalates to a shout with that last word, as he draws near Woman. He suddenly withdraws, ashamed) It’s just lazy, you know, all of it. This whole thing we’re doing. We go through so many motions neither of us cares about because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Hi, how was your day? Good, and yours? Good! Good. And we cling to Hogwarts Houses and Love Languages and it all might as well be horoscopes for how terrified we are of touching anything real (Man gradually descends to sitting on ground, hugging his own knees). Worst part is all we ever really need to do is listen, for one second, and look for another. It’s all there. For you, too. I see the lines around your eyes, I’ve noticed the corners of your lips falter between sentences. I hear you exhale heavy and deep when you think you finally have a breath to yourself. We see these things, I know we do, I know we know we all know we do, but not a one of us will ever admit it, because if we ever said it out loud to each other, if any of us ever slipped up for one moment and answered absolutely honestly to that horrible question… well we might just have a shot at showing some genuine love toward each other, and I guess it’s not worth the risk. (Man trails off at this last thought, but snaps out of it and abruptly jumps to his feet, spinning furiously to face Woman) You know what though? I would. I would give you a real answer but I just know you won’t listen because you never listen! If you just listened for one damned moment you would know exactly what’s important to me, you would never have to—no, you would never want to make me summarize myself, make me package everything you want to hear into a nice palatable format so I can spoon-feed you lines and call it a meal. (Man is now only inches again from Woman, fists clenched at sides and last few lines shoved from tightened jaw through front teeth. He quickly relaxes and sidesteps to circle around her back as he begins his next soliloquy, facing audience stage right.)

“That’s not fair. I’m sorry. I just… how am I supposed to answer that question? I’m… good? I mean, I’m  not perfect. I’m selfish. I am wrong, I am right (I swear I’m right), swear I knew it all along and I am– no, sorry, that’s Dashboard Confessional (even though I am cleaning up SO well). I genuinely don’t know why we still do this to ourselves; of course I do it too. I’ve asked the same thing a dozen times to a dozen different people this week: Disinterested questions and disingenuous answers between people who still think it’s up to them to contain the vastness of humanity within the few words they use to describe both their feelings and a five dollar plate of waffles.

“And then, oh man,” Man now addresses no one in particular, his movements becoming more emphatic and descriptive of his words, “Then we have the gall to say we want honesty. Honestly? I’m just surviving. Honestly, the thought of being in this average life one second longer is an insanity that takes most of my waking energy to keep down. Honestly, you want me to “be myself” so badly but I’ve never known what the hell that’s supposed to mean. The best I’ve got is the self I need to be to get through each day of not being the self I want to be which seems so obsessively reachable and yet so impossibly beyond this place and these people that I sometimes don’t even know how I’m going to get there myself. (Man has now crossed over the entirety of the stage, but now stops and turns, meekly, back toward Woman)

“I know, I know; I hear myself. I get how arrogant, how disgustingly assuming all that sounds, which is why I don’t answer your question honestly. Honestly? I’m betting you feel something similar, but tonight and the rest of our lives we’re going to settle for something far more convenient, and we’re going to look people in the eye and say “well you’re just the type of person who-” and that way we can smile and laugh at nothing particularly funny because that’s the one rule that should never be broken—no one can ever know that you don’t laugh, all the time, every second of the day (Man now walks slowly back toward Woman, punctuating his final rant with each step).

“No, you don’t want honest. Honest isn’t convenient, and friendship is, above all, convenient. Thing is, someday we’ll both meet someone and we’ll want to spend the rest of our lives with them, and for some reason that will be the only person we know we won’t be able to “figure out” in any number of words less than the rest of our lives. So, this is going to hurt right now and I’m going to do it anyway. And when you meet that person, none of this will even matter.” Man is now standing face-to-face with Woman again. Spotlights cut out, shifting immediately to the glow of street lamp as she looks up at him, expectantly.

“What is it?” Woman reaches for Man’s arm, but he pulls away.

“It’s, uh, nothing. Don’t worry about it. Goodnight. Text me when you get home safe.” Man scales the three stairs in two steps and enters through the door. Woman bows her head to meet her hand and exits the circle of light stage right. Cue car effects off stage. Man, silhouetted in the window, turns back toward her but halts the motion, resigning to simply trace the path of the vehicle with his gaze as lights fade. End scene.

***

The houselights raise again as the production comes to a close, no bows, no applause, just me, standing in front of my apartment, facing her under the glow of an overhead street lamp.

“How are you?” She turned the conversation to me now. I pause.

“I’m… fine.”

11 Comments

  1. Not to say I understand how you feel, but your attempt to describe how YOU feel hit pretty close to home for me. Thanks for verbalizing my chaotic thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s addictive. I panic when I don’t have the noise for company. Don’t know if it’s any better 🙂 The being sleepless part is a constant.
        How’re you holding up?

        Like

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