A Short Play
The Mall in Washington DC, a cool October evening, mist is rising through the vents. Jeremy wanders to a bench and sits, he breathes in the air, takes in the view. He looks forlorn. Austin moves in from the shadows, from behind where Jeremy sits.
Jeremy: (without turning his head) You’re here.
Austin: You didn’t think I would be?
Jeremy: I wasn’t sure.
Austin: I wasn’t either.
Jeremy: But here you are.
Jeremy: (still not looking back) Are you going to sit down?
Austin moves to touch the back of Jeremy’s head, but doesn’t, he looks down at him adoringly.
Austin: You look good.
Austin: No. really, you do.
Jeremy: Thanks. (there is silence, Jeremy stares off in front of him and Austin glances at Jeremy)
I’m not sure what to say.
Austin: You don’t have to say any--
Jeremy: For Christ’s sake Austin there are things to say.
Austin: OK. But tread lightly, you don’t want to say the wrong thing.
Jeremy: Do I ever?
Austin: Tread lightly? Or say the wrong thing?
Jeremy: You know what I mean.
Austin: Yes I know, and No, you don’t.
Jeremy: I’m not doing so hot, these days.
Austin: I know.
Jeremy: Do you?
Jeremy: Keeping tabs?
Jeremy: Well, its to be expected.
Jeremy: You didn’t even say goodbye.
Austin: I know. I’m sorry.
Jeremy: Are you?
Jeremy: Do you know what that feels like?
Austin: Yes, and I’m sorry.
Jeremy: Stop agreeing and stop apologizing.
Austin: I figured that’s what you’d want.
Jeremy: No. And since when has what I wanted been a motivating factor?
Austin: Since before I knew you.
Austin: (sincerely) No.
Jeremy: Please. You aren’t making this any easier.
Austin: I thought I wasn’t supposed to be agreeable or apologetic.
Jeremy: For fuck’s sake Austin, will you just stop. You’re throwing my words back at me, and confusing me.
Austin: Confusing you? How?
Jeremy: By being here for one! What the hell are you even doing here.
Austin: We promised.
Jeremy: We promised a lot of things.
Jeremy: Forever. That was a big one. A big promise. A big lie, from a big fucking liar.
Austin: (without a hint of sarcasm) That’s right, let it out kiddo.
Jeremy: Don’t call me that. Kiddo. What a ridiculous thing to call someone. Kiddo, it reeks of condescension. I won’t be condescended too by you.
Austin: I didn’t mean it to sound---
Jeremy: I don’t care how you mean it.
Austin: You do.
Jeremy: I do. (silence) I hate you.
Austin: Are you done?
Jeremy: Hating you? No I don’t think so. I think I may have just begun.
Austin: I mean with this… are you done with this?
Jeremy: I don’t even know what this is.
Austin: Oh sure you do. You’re creating it. This is your design. The heartbroken guy on the bench, the lost love returns, one last confrontation, some sort of reconciliation, cllooooossssuuurrrree. The writer can put down his pen, and the broken hearted can return to the land of the living. The devil be damned. I like the steam, nice touch. Very American Gothic.
Jeremy: I didn’t choose the setting.
Austin: That’s right, I did, (looks around, smiles) I forgot.
Jeremy: Have you forgotten everything?
Jeremy: Why are you doing this?
Austin: Because I need to, and you need me too.
Jeremy: I don’t need this.
Austin: Would you rather I wrap my arms around you and warm my nose up against your neck, pull you tight into me and let my fingers tickle your back under your jacket. That’s a nice jacket by the way….
Jeremy: It was yours.
Austin: I know.
Jeremy: Is it wrong of me to want those things? To want you to do those things?
Jeremy: But I do.
Austin: But you know I can’t.
Jeremy: Yes, I know.
Austin: What else?
Jeremy: What else do I want you to do to me?
Austin: No. What else do you want to say? (no response from JEREMY)
Well if you have nothing to say, I guess I’ll be going. (AUSTIN turns to go).
Jeremy: Don’t go.
(a handful of heartbeats)
Austin: Did you want me to stay for any particular reason?
Jeremy: That’s a loaded question, and can be applied to any number of scenarios.
Austin: Yes. And I know. Do you really hate me?
Jeremy: Yes. No. I don’t know.
Austin: It wasn’t my fault.
Jeremy: That’s what they tell me. (beats) Then it must’ve been mine.
Austin: I don’t see why there has to be any blame placed.
Jeremy: Because there has to be a reason.
Austin: Maybe there is and you just haven’t figured it out yet.
Jeremy: And you have?
Jeremy: Are you going to tell me?
Austin: I can’t.
Jeremy: Can’t or won’t?
Jeremy: Oh. Well my feeble mind can’t wrap itself around the idea of how this could’ve been in anyone’s best interest.
Austin: It will.
Austin: When its time.
Jeremy: I hate the way you are talking to me, right now. Riddles. Partial thoughts. No congruency. Nothing concrete. Like everything’s in pieces. It’s ridiculous.
Austin: You are so angry Jeremy. So much anger. It was always there, brimming underneath the surface. I saw it. I used to watch it come out in little spurts, but usually only when you’re pride had been hurt. Now… I don’t know….now it seems more, dominant. It doesn’t serve you.
Jeremy: Serve me? It doesn’t serve me? What do you know about it? (screaming) WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU KNOW ABOUT IT? Underlying anger? You stand there and talk to me about things surfacing, and pride and it not serving me? How dare you! You did this to me you asshole! You fucking asshole! (Jeremy is crying) You leave me… you abandon me there, here, everywhere! I was sitting in the airport lobby for four hours, FOUR HOURS, before anyone ever remembered I was there. Thought maybe I should be contacted. FOUR HOURS!
Austin: They were concerned, other things on their minds.
Jeremy: It wasn’t until after… almost an hour after… and I had no idea. I had no idea what was going on.
Austin: Didn’t you?
Jeremy: No. Just this feeling, like I’d been abandoned.
Austin: You’re so selfish. So, so selfish. Were you always this selfish?
Jeremy: The only thing I cared about in this world was taken from me, and I am selfish?
Austin: Its been taken from other’s too.
Jeremy: But it was mine.
Austin: well, yes, it was, ours.
Jeremy: Yes. Ours.
Austin: But it didn’t happen to just you, kid--- Jeremy. It didn’t even happen to just mainly you.
Jeremy: Well that’s how it felt. Feels.
Austin: I didn’t want to leave.
Jeremy: I know. Well, I thought I knew. Then I wondered, did he? Maybe he wanted to go. Maybe he wanted it to be over. Maybe that’s why he put himself in that situation. Maybe that other guy… maybe He wanted it to happen.
Austin: I didn’t.
Jeremy: That’s good to know.
Austin: Amid all the wreckage, I was thinking of you.
Jeremy: It’s ok, you don’t have to….
Austin: I remember hearing the---
Austin: No, I remember the light turning green, and I was so excited. Lunging forward into the intersection, and hearing the screech. It was like I heard the collision before I felt it.
Jeremy: Austin, please.
Austin: And in a split second, it felt like my body was being turned inside out. Like shards of glass were being thrust into every part of me, like strips of metal were curling around my throat chocking me. I could breathe one moment and the next I couldn’t. It felt like there was a semi on my chest. I was suffocating.
Jeremy: There was. There was a semi on your chest. You were crushed under its wheel.
Austin: So weird. Surreal.
Jeremy: Did you know you were dying?
Austin: I knew I was dead before I knew I had died. I guess that doesn’t make sense. All I could think about was you getting off the airplane and my not being there, how mad you would be, then how worried you would be, then how shocked you’d be and then back to how angry you’d be. I was right, wasn’t I? About the anger? You’re angry now.
Jeremy: I am, but don‘t make it sound anger has been my dominate emotion, it hasn’t been. Regret, fear, loneliness, they’ve all been here too. You know, you were laying there, dying on a highway, I’m sure you had more important things to think about. You don’t need to try and make me feel better by telling me I was your last thought.
Austin: You’re right, I did have more to think about. My mind should’ve been swimming with thoughts of my family, my internship, the headlines, my porno’s under the bed (They smile at each other), there are so many things I should’ve been thinking about as mortality passed through me, but it was you Jeremy. It was always only you.
Jeremy: Austin. (he’s crying)
Austin: I know Kiddo, I know.
Jeremy: You can’t touch me, can you.
Jeremy: I can’t hold on to you, can I?
Austin: That’s why I’m here. To ask you to let go.
Jeremy: That’s why you’re here? To ask me to let go?
Jeremy: I can’t believe you. I’ve been crying my eyes out for over a year now, pining away for you, beating myself up, and now you show up here, this place, the one you chose. The place that you said we’d always… no matter what… the place you first told me… and You show up, all smug and vacant, controlled and distant.
Austin: I showed up all…dead.
Jeremy: I am aware of that…
Austin: No. I don’t think you are.
Jeremy: Of course I--
Austin: No I don’t think you do. You’re yelling at me for being distant, vacant, has it even occurred to you that its miraculous that I’m here at all? What, maybe I am going through right now to even be able to be seen by you? You are truly amazing, you know that?
Jeremy: I… its just I…
Austin: I’m dead Jeremy! ME! I’m dead. Not you. How is it that I can be killed mercilessly in a head on collision, thrown from my car, scraping my way across the rough road and landing in front of a moving truck, dying there on the pavement. Nobody’s hand to hold, no one to tell me they loved me, no parents, no you, no one! How can I have experienced that? Dying,! Literally dying and yet you still get to be the victim? Aren’t you tired?
Austin: Aren’t you tired of mourning? Of holding on to something that can’t come back to you? Of people walking on egg shells around you? Of taking pills to make you not feel anything just so you don’t feel me?
Aren’t you tired Jeremy?
Jeremy: Yeah, I am. I am exhausted. But not from playing the martyr. Listen to me Austin. It is not your death that has destroyed me. Its your life. Our life. It was collapsing in the airport and waking up surrounded by strangers, it was being led to a car that wasn’t yours by a hand that wasn’t yours. It was being sedated because the horror came in waves of anger, loss, resentment, nausea, fear all pummeling against me over and over again. It was having your mother bring me a box of our letters, our notebooks and asking me to explain who you were to me. It was your dad collapsing on me and asking why we thought we couldn’t tell them. It was going to your funeral, sitting next to your sister and being stared at by everyone. It was our fraternity brothers who couldn’t look me in the face. My parents reaction when they realized my loss was more than just a buddy. You left me. You left me here to explain everything. Questions I didn’t have answers for. Solitude I didn’t know I could feel. Loss I didn’t know was possible.
I didn’t have the answers and everyone kept asking. So am I tired? Yes Austin, I’m exhausted.
Austin: It’s time kiddo.
Jeremy: I can’t.
Austin: You just think you can’t.
Jeremy: So I let you go. Then what?
Austin: Live your life.
Jeremy: I don’t even know what that entails anymore.
Austin: Then you need to find out. You need to remember.
Jeremy: I can’t. I can’t remember what was before you.
Austin: You will. There was much.
Jeremy: But nothing that effected me as much as you do.
Austin: Did. As much as I did.
Jeremy: So am I just supposed to forget?
Austin: Of course not. That wouldn’t be possible. But you need to forgive and keep going. Start reconnecting, embrace experience. Be whole.
Jeremy: How can I be whole when the other half of me is gone?
Austin: I’ll always be with you. Which is such a cliché, but its true. In a sense you have no idea how lucky you are.
Jeremy: Lucky? I think we must have different definitions.
Austin: Do you know how many people spend the majority of their time looking for love? Who think their lives will be complete after they’ve met ‘the one’? It is amazing that there are so many people searching, who need to be loved, who need to give love. There are people completely paralyzed by loneliness, who will latch on to anything just to be anchored. You are never going to be that person Jeremy. You’ve loved and been loved, so wholly, so completely, you will never have to question your value or worth.
Jeremy: I don’t feel very valuable or worthy.
Austin: Then you are doing my memory an injustice, not too mention you and your future. Never doubt that I loved you. Never believe you aren’t capable of finding that again.
Jeremy: Oh don’t even say that! I can’t even think about that right now.
Austin: You will be able to soon.
Jeremy: And that wouldn’t bother you? My being with someone else? Because I know that if it was the other way around, and you ever hooked up with another person, I’d haunt your ass relentlessly.
Austin: (laughs) Well I’ve always been more evolved then you.
Jeremy: Yeah I guess you have been.
Austin: Its time for me to go now.
Jeremy: I don’t want you to.
Austin: Promise me you’ll try.
Jeremy: I’ll try.
AUSTIN begins to move back into the shadows and disappears through the rest of the scene
Austin: I love you Jeremy.
Jeremy: I love you too. (AUSTIN’S gone) Austin? Wait! Austin!
Baglady: Stop screaming honey, people will think you’re crazy.
Jeremy: Yeah, well maybe I am.
Baglady: Nah, you’re not. Crazy people don’t dress like you.
Jeremy: How do they dress?
Baglady: Like me.
Baglady: Your eyes are read, you been crying? Or coming down?
Jeremy: Coming down? Are you kidding me?
Beaglady: So you’ve been crying then.
Jeremy: Look, really thanks for your concern, but I’m fine.
Baglady: Its beautiful here isn’t it?
Jeremy: I don’t mean to be rude, but…..
Baglady: The way the steam rises up, the monument shooting up into the sky, I’ve always thought it looks like a rocket taking off.
Jeremy: I’m sorry but I need to get….
Baglady: where? Where you need to get off too?
Jeremy: I don’t know.
Baglady: He was right, kiddo.
Jeremy: What did you say?
Baglady: You’re friend. He was right.
Jeremy: You saw him… that….
Baglady: of course. Crazy, remember? But he was right.
Jeremy: OK, what was he right about.
Baglady: Its time to start living your life.
Jeremy: You don’t know what you’re talking about, you don’t know me, you couldn’t have seen…
Baglady: You got any money?
Jeremy: This is ridiculous. I’m leaving.
Baglady: C’mon, its getting cold. Just a buck for coffee.
Jeremy: Yeah, ok, sure,
(pulls a dollar out of his pocket, hands it to BAGLADY, She takes it and grabs his hand)
Baglady: Crazy comes in all shapes and sizes kiddo, just like love, and just like pain. Just like loss. Mourn him, but don’t let your mourning define you. Hold on to him, but not to the point that you don’t have enough room to hold on to anyone else. Its time for you to live. Do it for him and for you. Don’t let it all be in vain.
(BAGLADY releases JEREMY’s hand)
Jeremy: (Shaken) Well, I gotta be going.
BAGLADY: Yes. It looks like your rocket is about to take off there kiddo. Make sure you’re on it.
Jeremy: Yeah, well… have a good night. (Jeremy Exits)
BAGLADY: I tried honey, I tried.
Austin: (re-entering) He’ll go home and think about it, he’ll make the right choices, that’s his way. He just needs to mull it over.
BAGLADY: Seems kinda whiney to me, not sure what you saw in him in the first place.
Austin: haha he was strong once, he will be again.
BAGLADY: Whatever you say honey. Whatever you say.
Austin: So, are you ready?
BAGLADY: Heh I been waiting.
Austin: (gesturing to the shadow and steam) You’re chariot awaits m’lady
Baglady: Chariot? You said we could take the rocket.
Austin: Ok, the rocket it is, time to blast off.
(BAGLADY walks into the steam, Austin walks over to the bench look off towards Jeremy)
Austin: Good bye, Jeremy. Be everything you were born to be. I’m watching. I love you.