Excerpts from Lost City
Characters in tight grouping, as if looking up at a Departure monitor.
Lost City. Lost City Lost City Lost City. Search for the Lost City. And the Lost City is ... Boston.
To black. Murmur of voices, into music. Waiting area of air terminal. People sitting or lying on seats.
Time is it, honey?
I don’t have a watch. I forgot it.
(trying to sleep) It’s 2:10 a.m. Goddammit.
William is tapping on things with a pencil.
Quite the storm.
Where you heading, honey?
Well, Boston. With luck.
Me too, me too. What you doing there?
Visiting a friend.
Yeh, me, I’m gonna see my sons.
I got four sons. I’m seeing the two that’s there.
Excuse me, it’s really late, and some people might want to sleep, so...
Leans over to William.
She gonna get upset about that. She trying to sleep.
Hey, you know there’s other waiting areas. Over there. You could be all to yourself.
I’m gonna grab a soda, does anybody want something?
Where you from, sweetheart? You a Japanese?
Me? No, China. Taiwan. And then San Francisco. And then Chicago.
China? What’s your name, honey? We all getting acquainted.
Viola. That a Chinese name?
(laughing) No. Viola is a character in Shakespeare. My parents loved Western culture, and they wanted me to play the violin, so they named me Viola.
So whatta you do?
I play the violin.
Mhm. Well I’m going to the toilet, and then you play us a tune.
Light focuses on Kareem, who stares at a notepad, lost in thought. Starts to make a note, gives up.
Give it up. Shit, if I’d gone to a motel room I could talk out loud to myself and then quietly drown in the bathtub.
Punches number on cellphone.
Liz, hi babe. This is me at two something a.m. stranded in Rochester. Long story. We had to land, and everybody went off to a motel, but there’s a little scraggly bunch of us waiting here to maybe get an earlier flight if it clears up. So just leaving a message for when you get back. Hope your mom’s ok.
I’m sorry I didn’t call yesterday. The workshop, as we expected, great honor, major players from the Chicago theatre scene, fantastic opportunity. That was the good part.
Bad part? I got totally trashed. “Well don’t take it personally, Kareem. You are a very nice person, it’s just your play that sucks.” I was gonna leave that news for after we reconnect, but—
I dunno, there may be a major theatre in Chicago that’s really looking for a badly constructed, sexist, cliche-ridden, masturbatory play that betrays the responsibilities of a black writer in white America. Might be a hot property!
Anyway, I’m pretty beat up. Trying to think why I’m writing plays about Mayan prophecies. I really miss you. But I’m stuck in this totally deserted waiting area with this bunch of zombies.
Oh, and one lady said that Search for the Lost City was tendentious. What is that? What the fuck is that? That means it’s got “tendencies”?!
Looks front. The group’s gaze follows.
Lost City. Where we all going, right? Lost City. Boston.
He laughs, but it hurts. Murmur of voices becoming music. All begin a mime walk in place, focused forward to their goals. Kareem speaks in a rapid, rhythmic performance-poet style, throw-away in tempo but deeply felt.
It’s dry it’s a dry spell baby Lizzie baby it’s so dry
Coming back to Boston—
Long road to the city in my dreams lost
city lost dreams lost in the fire—
Fire. It’s amazing. The flames—
And we lost direction they say north where’s north
they say no it’s west west of the moon
is that the moon? over there is that the moon or a
Oh Lizzie Lizzie baby tell me baby where this lost city in the
Mayan prophecies those ancient Mayans before they got
screwed by Cortez in his tin hat
and the powder-blue suits of NAFTA.
Where’s that Mayan prophet with all the arms?
We laughed, Sully, remember? That statue with all the arms?
Where is he when we need him walking the
dry dusty streets of Roxbury and South Chicago and Watts and
Beverly Hills in its decrepitude? I know that word decrepitude.
Mom and Dad. It’s me.
Where is he when we need him???
He’s lonely and batteries low on the cellphone and
he’s tired of being trashed by the Conquistadores cause his prophecies are
tendentious and so let the deluge the deluge the deluge
come that’s asking to come and the
hands speak the ancient language crying—
OH MY BABIES!
Passengers freeze, then slowly return to their places.
And the slow black waters fold over Atlantis and
fish thread the steeple of the Old North Church and
the Lost City
What a total crock.
Sully? It’s me. I’m in Boston. Yeh, I just flew back, we got stranded in Rochester, that was something. I wanted to surprise you.
How you doing? And you got your job back, that’s great. Cause I know that, you know, San Francisco was kind of a mistake for us, and I know I kinda pushed you into it and that was a mistake, but you know, I came back to kinda, you know, reconnect with, you know, friends here, and see how you’re doing, and maybe we could kinda get together and, you know, catch up, cause there’s a lotta water under the bridge...
Halt. Shifts persona: now he’s Sully.
So we moved to San Francisco, and it’s like no other place I’ve ever been to, right? I mean this fucking place, it’s one thing to have a boyfriend, right? But it’s like now I gotta be a faggot. It’s unbelievable. Like I gotta go to parties with guys who judge me on what shows I watch. Like I totally fucking lost it there.
And Ezra loved it. Down in the Castro, this friggin freak show, he’s like Mr. Rogers in the neighborhood. It killed me. Like he’s a different person. Like the first time in his life he’s breathed air. I got out. Headed back to Boston. I miss him, but it’s better. I’m sure he’s doing fine out there.
Back to Ezra:
Cause, you know, as different as we are— I still tell the story how we met—
But I think when you know somebody’s the right person then you need to do whatever you do to make sure they’re in your life. Make sure that they know that. So I wanted to give you a call and see if we can talk. If you could find some time? I got you a present.
Henry moves as if looking for a place to sit. Stops near Viola.
(pointing) Is that a gun?
I’m sorry, what? No, it’s my violin.
I saw a movie where they had a gun like that.
What do you do with that?
I play it. Do you play an instrument?
Pause. She sees he’s not going away. Sits upright.
Are you going to Boston?
If the plane does.
Talk some Chinese.
Just fooling. Just fooling. But they suck you in. They grab on your ankle and say pay attention. Like a baby.
And then here come the baby critics. “That’s a real ugly baby you got there, Mrs. Jones.”
“Kareem, your baby’s very promising, but it needs more arms. And it’s not black enough.”
“A very entertaining baby, but it drools.”
“That baby is not realistic.”
“Sorry, we got enough babies in the world, yours gotta be shot.”
No, godddammit! I am not getting pregnant again. I know what causes it. It is preventable.