a comedy in two acts
by Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller
Liddie. 53. Realtor.
Janelle. 55. Actress.
Melia. 32. Computer programmer.
Tim. 31. Cabinetmaker.
At one side, the living room of Liddie & Janelle’s house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
On the other side, the kitchen of Tim & Melia’s house in Baltimore.
Other scenes take place in a bar and in a park. At times, furniture is reset to indicate Liddie’s dining room and other rooms of the house.
The fluidity of the scenes, as well as the texture of the in-limbo interludes, disallows fully-detailed realistic settings. The spine of the play is connection, not separation, and the visual field of the action should connote interweaving, warmth, embrace.
The span of the action is April to June, 1993.
Many scenes include fluid crossfades between strands of action. When action is continuous, there is no music bridge; passages of time are marked by music. The in-limbo interludes are spoken over music.
© 1993 by Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller. All rights reserved.
For production information, contact WordWorkers, 800-357-6016 or E-mail.
Act One
Scene One
At one side, facing front, Melia speaks, as if in conversation. At a distance, Liddie listens.
MELIA: I want—Actually I want pretty much what I have.
I want a good job, be very good at my job, which I am, making electrons form appropriate patterns, very peaceful, non-coercive.
And I want, politically, I guess I don’t need the entire feminist agenda right in my cereal bowl by Tuesday, but I just want a sense of moving forward. Get rid of the fungus.
But also, then, I want a very kind of quiet, run-down fungusy old place to live, trees and a bunch of cats, God knows I have that. I want to nurture things, trees, cats, whatever crawls in the door. I could be a successful tree. Flowers on my fingers, and mementoes carved in the bark, big branches to climb in, couple birdhouses, right brain, left brain.
And I want a sometimes placid, sometimes passionate relationship that’s pretty weird, yes, but totally secure. This guy, I could never have imagined being comfortable in this kind of arrangement, and yet it’s always felt safe. Even with health considerations, it’s felt very safe.
And I want—
LIDDIE: I want surprises.
Lights fade.
Tim and Melia sit at the table, telephone between them.
TIM: You’ve put it off for two weeks.
MELIA: Three.
Ok, phone call, then supper.
TIM: Eggplant?
MELIA: Ratatouille. So after I say hello. . .
TIM: “Hi, Mom, guess who!”
Melia laughs, then she’s gripped by terror.
Just do it. Really.
MELIA: Tim, I don’t need encouragement! I’m sorry, no, hon, I do. Ok. Ok.
TIM: You want me to stay in the room?
MELIA: You were going to fix that cabinet drawer. Oh God, I lost the number.
He points to it.
He rises. She puts her hand on the phone.
I think the problem is, there are no right angles.
Tim goes out. Melia stares at the phone, then starts to dial. Crossfade:
Liddie stands at her home office desk, talking on phone, flipping through file folders and checking a schedule book. Melia gets a busy signal, dials until she connects.
LIDDIE: I can show you the house in St. Michael’s tomorrow—No, tomorrow’s Friday. I’ve marked in big red letters I am taking one day this month totally off—Saturday? Yes, Barney, on Saturday Jupiter aligns with Mars! This is your day! No, I don’t do this for all my clients: only stockbrokers fall for astrology. Now I warn you, the rooms are great, high ceilings, woodwork, but a leaky basement can be a strain on a marriage. Maybe ten thousand bucks, fix it or invest in a boat. But otherwise—Ok, Saturday at ten? Great. Bye.
Hangs up. Phone rings. She answers.
Liddie Sherman. Lifestyle Realty.
MELIA: Lidia?
LIDDIE: This is Liddie Sherman.
MELIA: Liddie. Hi, you don’t know me, but I got your name from. . . I’m sorry, this is very. . .
LIDDIE: Are you in the market for a house?
MELIA: No. I. . .
LIDDIE: Oh, was this in . . . reference to something else? I’m sorry, I had my private number switched over to this phone, I forgot to punch it back—
MELIA: I’ve been trying for a long time, and I got your name and. . . Did you give birth to a daughter in June of 1962?
LIDDIE: Who is this?
MELIA: I’m looking for my natural mother . . . and I think you might be her.
LIDDIE: What’s your birthdate?
MELIA: June 5th, 1962.
LIDDIE: Where were you born?
MELIA: Brooklyn.
LIDDIE: What do you look like?
MELIA: Well, I have very thick curly sort of reddish brown hair and freckles and big eyes, and I’m sort of muscular, and I have size eleven feet.
LIDDIE: Oh my God. . .
Melia sits motionless at the phone.
Tim enters, carrying a cabinet drawer and a square.
TIM: You’re right. It’s amazing.
No response.
Are you alive in here?
MELIA: I did it. I’m gonna see her tomorrow. She sells real estate.
Pause. She whoops, laughs, screams.
Whooo! Gaaaah! Hold onto me!
They embrace, laughing, then she stops abruptly.
Tim, I think—
TIM: Is that—
MELIA: What you sense is the aura of what used to be the eggplant.
Liddie sits at her desk, her hand still on the phone.
Door slam. Janelle comes in, tosses an armload of notebooks on the couch, hangs up her coat.
JANELLE: Hi, it’s me! Oh Lord God! Jesus, I’m glad this one’s over. Hi sweetiepie. That drawbridge, I was stuck thirty minutes, the longest goddamn barge in my life, I was late for class—
She hugs Liddie, who clings to her, weeping. Janelle continues.
And not a single kid had read the damn play. They’d read their scenes. “What happens to your character?” “I dunno.” These big dumb lugs, and I began to read’em the riot act, and they sat there so stupified, I just blew it, I started to laugh—
Pause. Janelle realizes Liddie is crying. Kneels down to her. Liddie looks up weeping, ecstatic.
LIDDIE: My daughter called me.
JANELLE: Your what? Your daughter? What daughter? You mean your daughter?
LIDDIE: Her name is Melia. She found me.
JANELLE: God Almighty.
LIDDIE: Can you believe it, she lives in Baltimore, she works in computers, she’s coming at ten o’clock in the morning, and she has size eleven feet.
JANELLE: She just called? This is the baby you told me you—
LIDDIE: And I said “Well I knew you probably existed but. . .” And she said “I don’t want this to be disruptive to your life” and I said “This is amazing and this is wonderful” and she said “Thank you very much for saying that.” She’s in Baltimore, she’s—Thirty-two years, and she’s an hour away. What about the drawbridge?
JANELLE: I had to wait for a barge. . . This is unbelievably shocking. You want some scotch?
Janelle gets up, pours drink for herself.
LIDDIE: She’s coming at ten. I said to meet down in the park, and then we might walk back here. So in the morning, let’s see, you don’t teach on Fridays, so could you please go and do something and—
JANELLE: I won’t be here, that’s ok—
LIDDIE: And then please come back at eleven. Please. Be here for me.
JANELLE: You better wash your hair tonight.
LIDDIE: Should we get plastered or—No. How bout just . . . go out to dinner . . . and then I’ll shower, wash my hair. . . And then I just want you to hold me.
They embrace.
I refuse to say “What shall I wear?”
JANELLE: What are you going to wear?
LIDDIE: Meet her stark naked.
Janelle looks at Liddie.
JANELLE: Some people might think you were joking.
Scene Two
Liddie and Melia in foreground, others in distance. To themselves:
LIDDIE: Surprises, yes. Some people, there’s an energy buzz, and it’s raw—
MELIA: Long fingers. I really like long fingers—
LIDDIE: Long slow grins—
MELIA: Very wide mouths I find erotic—
LIDDIE: Kind of a rangy bone structure that drives me nuts, kind of borderline ugly, big sharp noses—
MELIA: Men’s eyes in India—
JANELLE: Stairsteps. Of all things, going up stairs—
LIDDIE: Gravelly voices—
JANELLE: Dirty words. They’re tacky, disgusting really, but I can’t help finding them compelling—
LIDDIE: Flex of a thigh where that long muscle gives a vertical hollow right up to the groin—
TIM: Dancing close and very dirty in public—
MELIA: Couples kissing, where you can’t see the faces—
TIM: Having my fingers sucked—
JANELLE: Buck teeth—
TIM: A very soft tongue—
JANELLE: A big lot of skin, walk down the street in summer and see lots of skin—
MELIA: I really do like sweat—
TIM: Sweaty smells—
LIDDIE: Strong buttocks—
MELIA: Oh yes indeed—
LIDDIE: Strong legs—
TIM: Strong legs—
JANELLE: The sound she makes—
MELIA: When he laughs—
LIDDIE: Laughing—
TIM: Laughing—
JANELLE: Gentleness.
LIDDIE: How’d we get on a subject like that?
Liddie sits on a parkbench, clipping her nails. Melia appears at the distance, approaches.
MELIA: Are you Liddie?
LIDDIE: Melia?
Melia shows her feet: size eleven.
MELIA: (offering) Want some party mix?
LIDDIE: This is dumb, I was going to say how old are you.
MELIA: How old are you?
LIDDIE: Fifty-three.
MELIA: Wow, you don’t look it.
LIDDIE: Yes I do. This is what it looks like. On me.
MELIA: Nice park. You live near here?
LIDDIE: Block down the road.
And it’s great, I’ve been here five years, before that in Baltimore, but I sold properties out on the Eastern Shore, and it always felt so peaceful, but I thought, no, I need crowds and traffic, I would go nuts in Peaceful. Then I got a call on this place, kind of a beat-up shingle place, blue mailbox—I bought it for the mailbox.
And I should report that I didn’t sleep a lot last night. Up at seven, drank about six cups of coffee, as you can tell. And Janelle said don’t worry, I’m always so good in a situation like this, just being funny and talkative and put everybody at ease, and oh my God. . .
Liddie is utterly helpless.
MELIA: So anyway, how I found you. . . I’ve been looking a long time. I work with computers, and—You know it’s a peculiarity of New York records, they’re sealed at adoption, but they keep the number of the actual birth certificate—And so through that I got my family name and—well, it’s a real tangle, but eventually your name. And then I was converting databanks of a mailing list outfit, and I spent coffee breaks cracking a few security codes, etcetera. But the fact is that No One Presently Alive Is Not In There Somewhere. And it just blew my mind that you’re on the Eastern Shore, I mean, forty-five minutes away.
LIDDIE: Do you have kids?
LIDDIE: You hate what I did?
MELIA: I—I don’t know—No, I mean I—I have my parents, my parents are fine, and one brother, their son by birth, he’s in Ohio, we don’t have much in common. . . And why I started looking, I don’t know, you get past thirty should I start thinking about kids? And what if I got pregnant and they say “Any history of this or that in the family,” and what family? Gosh I’m—Is there anything you’ve always wanted to know about computers?
LIDDIE: Could I see your hand?
They compare palms.
MELIA: I have a really long life line. I get the lines mixed up.
LIDDIE: Could I please hug you?
Long pause.
Not yet, huh.
MELIA: Sorry.
LIDDIE: No, hey, that’s ok—
MELIA: But I. . . Having met you I would like to, I don’t know, get to know you and. . . So you sell houses?
Melia offers the party mix. Liddie munches.
LIDDIE: Yeh, I sell houses. Things are pretty boring on the Eastern Shore. No big surprises.
MELIA: That’s fine. I think I need a little normalcy.
LIDDIE: I know this sounds anticlimactic, but I’ve been drinking coffee all morning, and I have to pee something fierce. The house is a block away, I’ve got a friend I’d like you to meet. Could we—Do you have to go—
MELIA: No, yeh, sure, I mean—Yeh.
They get up, start to go. Liddie stops, looks at her.
LIDDIE: I can see the resemblance.
Liddie is rooted to the spot. After an awkward moment, they clasp hands.
Are you as terrified as I am?
MELIA: Almost.
LIDDIE: Good. I’ll warm up the coffee.
They go. Fade.
Scene Three
Liddie at one side, Melia distant.
LIDDIE: I watch little kids on busses. Little girl, maybe four, Korean maybe. Lady says, “Do you like busses?” “Yes.” “You like trains?” “Yes.” “Which do you like better, trains or busses?” “Busses. No, trains.”
Choose one. Which do you like better, trains or busses? Ice cream or pie? Rock or jazz? Men or women? Archibald or Reginald or Letitia? Why, from the age of three, do we have to choose? Not making discriminations, or sensitizing, but just subtracting options.
“My favorite color is red,” Therefore I must wear red. I must marry red, be faithful to red, head to foot, forever. I may not feel the hot lick of blues. I must not be promiscuous with the spectrum.
Bus or train: Hell, it depends on the schedule, destination, and who I’m on it with.
The four sit around the dining table, several empty wine bottles, plastic bottle of seltzer.
JANELLE: Should I open another bottle?
TIM: Not for me.
MELIA: I don’t feel like drinking.
JANELLE: Well I will.
Goes off.
TIM: Great food. Who does the cooking?
LIDDIE: Both. What about you?
MELIA: Both. Me mostly. I really caught fire about three years ago. No, in my job I cook up terrific software, pureed algorithms, but you can’t chew it. So I really envied how Tim, when he’s working with wood, first, he has to be alone, and he just has the instinct to look at wood and find the one thing it really wants to be, and work it, and love it—
TIM: I love it. You see a piece of wood, and “Oh baby, I want you, I need you”—
MELIA: And so I got into food. “What does this eggplant want to be?” And I lay out candles, flowers, fruit all over the place—
LIDDIE: People, when they eat—Janelle, where she teaches, these faculty parties, I go sometimes, and this raging dyke, Betty, this really broomstick-up-the-ass person—
JANELLE: (off) Get off Betty! She’s ok!
LIDDIE: —But she’ll stand there by the dip, sort of slurping with her fingers, and it’s so charming, she suddenly becomes this messy little kid—
Janelle returns with a wine bottle.
Where were you?
JANELLE: I had to dig out the cork.
LIDDIE: Use the screw with the arms—
JANELLE: You want some wine?
Liddie covers her glass. Janelle pours for herself.
What kind of furniture?
TIM: Copies of antiques—
MELIA: Very high-class, high-price, plus his own designs, which are incredible—
TIM: Hey! I’m showing next weekend, a craft fair in Bethesda, you and Melia could spend some time, see my stuff—I mean (including Janelle) all of us—
LIDDIE: Great. Sunday?
JANELLE: I have to work all weekend. Shooting a godforsaken idiot asshole fucking shit commercial. To be precise. Nother time.
LIDDIE: Well about time we loosened things up.
JANELLE: Normally it’s her. (to Melia) I’ve never seen her like this, for what it’s worth.
MELIA: Like what?
LIDDIE: (laughing) I dare you!
JANELLE: She’s an extremely self-possessed person.
LIDDIE: I’m a businesswoman. A good one.
JANELLE: A tremendously good one—
LIDDIE: I am not vulnerable—
JANELLE: And she’s been an ever-loving basket case this week. Braying with laughter, crying—
LIDDIE: Just grabbin’ hold!
She grabs Janelle’s ass. Confused fluster:
JANELLE: Want some ice cream? Tea, I could get you some tea?
MELIA: So, you’re a teacher, or I thought—
LIDDIE: She’s an actress.
JANELLE: I teach a class, but mostly—
MELIA: What do you do?
JANELLE: All kinds of stuff, mostly comedy. I’m a big, dumb clown.
LIDDIE: She’s very very good.
JANELLE: I am, actually.
TIM: I’ll have some.
Janelle pours for him.
MELIA: How’d you meet?
JANELLE: At a concert.
LIDDIE: Chamber music. One of these Sunday afternoon wine and cheese wonders, and we talked, and had dinner and—
JANELLE: How bout you?
TIM: She came to see a piece of my work—
MELIA: Little side table, with paws—
TIM: Black walnut, which I love. And she came again, and came back again—
MELIA: And he would not come down on the price—
TIM: Until I finally did—
MELIA: And I bought it.
JANELLE: You have parents?
MELIA: My mother and father. And they’re very sweet people, I love them a lot, although we don’t communicate real well, they see me as kind of bizarre—
TIM: They still haven’t recovered from Hakim.
MELIA: Previous relationship. But it wasn’t so much the racial thing as it was the tattoos.
LIDDIE: And they want grandkids, of course?
MELIA: My brother has two kids.
JANELLE: People are having babies all over the place, it seems to me.
TIM: How long have you two known each other?
JANELLE: Pushing eleven years.
TIM: Mind if I ask a personal question?
JANELLE: That depends.
LIDDIE: The answer is, you bet your sweet ass.
JANELLE: She has a way with words.
TIM: I mean that’s fine with me.
JANELLE: Well gee whiz, thanks!
Laughter. Melia takes Liddie’s hand impulsively.
MELIA: I’m trying to ask you a question.
LIDDIE: Go for it.
MELIA: It’s not really fair. Did you consider—This isn’t an accusation, I just want to—Did you consider not giving me up for adoption?
LIDDIE: Yeh. But the stud bull, that was not part of his picture, and he took off. And I lost my job. I asked my parents for help, my mom told me to take a flying fuck. So—And one of the most devastating things in my life—
Near tears, slaps herself:
Oh, really, lady!
Regains control:
—Was to sign my name on that paper. I remember it every time I sign a check. I was nuts. Still nuts, right?
JANELLE: Pretty much so.
LIDDIE: It’s scary how fast you can chicken out. I thought of keeping you, yes. Such a strong rush—And I hate to say how quick the jaws closed, I did the Sensible Thing—And how fast I mostly . . . forgot all about it. New job, night classes, new friends—
MELIA: “New Friends!”
TIM: Yeh!
MELIA: No, that’s it. I was trying to think. That’s where I found your name. That’s the mailing list. “New Friends.”
JANELLE: Swell. Swell. Yay, Liddie.
TIM: What’s that?
LIDDIE: It’s a swingers’ magazine.
Pause. Then Tim howls with laughter.
MELIA: A what?
LIDDIE: People who have parties.
TIM: New Friends! Perfect!
JANELLE: I think it’s tremendously tacky. Scuse me.
Janelle gets up, takes empty glasses to the kitchen. Awkward silence.
LIDDIE: Well I’ll tell you. If you judge a person by what they’ve done with their body, I’m a case for the Supreme Court. And to tell you the God’s truth, I have liked it. Yes maybe it’s tacky, I’m tacky, carnivals are tacky, carnivals are fun—
Janelle returns to pick up plates. Stops.
You know what’s so bizarre? About swinging, open relationships, free love, whatever you call it? Because for most of the people I’ve known, it’s their first experience with honesty. Just . . . honesty.
Pause. To Melia:
I hope you weren’t counting too much on normalcy.
TIM: There are no right angles.
Melia takes Liddie’s hand.
LIDDIE: Hi there.
LIDDIE: You have his hair. That goddamn hair turned me on to start with. I’m a real sucker for something that pretty.
TIM: I can relate to that.
LIDDIE: You got made with joy, baby, what can I say, it was not a dry fuck. I saw you once. Some newborns are red, wrinkled, but you were like a pink pearl, you were shiny pink like a pearl, incredible little jewel, I’d never seen anything so pretty in my life, and this kind of pink halo, the hair was pink. . .
Melia, listening to Liddie, open to her, has begun to weep. Very quietly, to Liddie:
MELIA: I’m pregnant.
TIM: Scuse me?
MELIA: I am pregnant.
TIM: Omigod. . . You sure? How long? Since when? . . .
She breaks down. He embraces her. To others:
This is news.
MELIA: Oh God—
TIM: It’s ok, yes?
MELIA: Ok with you?
TIM: Yes! Yes! Absolutely! It’s . . . a surprise, I mean, how did we—But it’s wonderful. How long have you known?
MELIA: Two weeks. But it’s something to think really seriously—I don’t want to put any responsibility on you, but half the chromosomes are yours—
TIM: It’s all right!
MELIA: It shouldn’t have happened—
TIM: Right, ok, but it happened, and it’s fine, and we go with it—
MELIA: I’m sorry, this is the craziest time for this, but I’ve been trying to—
TIM: Two weeks?
MELIA: I’m sorry. Well I really wish I could have some wine, but I guess I can’t.
TIM: I love you. (stomps feet) Wheeeeeee!
JANELLE: I’m gonna excuse myself, ok? I’ve gotta get up early—
TIM: Should we go?
JANELLE: No, that’s—Good God. Man oh man. Congratulations, really. No, I mean it. To you too.
She touches Liddie, who sits staring.
Liddie, lighten up.
Janelle goes out. Melia turns to Liddie.
MELIA: I am very very happy that I found you and I would like to get to know you—I said that. I would like to continue to get to know you, and I would like to have you, in whatever capacity, some part of my life. Is that something that you would be interested in?
LIDDIE: Don’t you chicken out.
Scene Four
LIDDIE: Eating. . .
MELIA: One time, this Italian street fair, this whole street of incredible messy eating, no garbage cans, just slurping and tossing melon rinds and shells in the street, sticky, juicy, greasy, messy celebration of eating and eating and eating. . .
LIDDIE: I met a woman who moved here from Texas. And she invited me over on a Sunday afternoon, with clear intentions, and she was this kind of plumpy bouncy frizzly type, I wasn’t really attracted, but I thought, she’s pleasant, be social. . .
MELIA: And this fabulous chef’s dinner, I don’t remember the boyfriend, but I sure remember the dinner. Eight courses, wine with each course, and this little printed menu, says what’s coming. . . appetizer, shellfish, salad, the pasta, filet, fruit and cheese, the meringue, for hours and hours and hours. . .
LIDDIE: And I went, and it was evident that this wasn’t working, we kept sort of brushing past each other’s eyes. . . And we were out in the kitchen, “You want a beer,” “Sure,” and she started making nachos in the toaster oven, and this big jar of jalapeno peppers, which I never could stand. . .
MELIA: I was seven or eight, some friends of my parents went crabbing, fishing for crabs. Take a fishhead, tie a string, crab nibbles, scoop it up, boil water, drop them in and they scream, it’s true, it’s terrible, it’s—then boil till they’re pink, and crack’em, dig out the meat, and dig and dig and dig. . .
LIDDIE: But I didn’t want to offend her, so I ate the goddamn thing, and I sneezed, and my eyes started running, I took a slosh of beer. . . And we caught each other’s eyes, and we knew right then we were probably going to have sex. . . And we sat and ate those things for two hours and I don’t think I ever spent a more erotic two hours in my life. And the final thing itself wasn’t bad, but the awareness of coming to it, the eye contact, “We know this is happening,” the burning in the mouth, prolonging it till you have to take that cold guzzle of beer, two o’clock, two-thirty, ten till four—Ohhh my.
MELIA: And I’ve never tasted anything that delicious. . . for many years. . .
Liddie sits at her desk, sorting checks, doing taxes.
LIDDIE: (calling) Back of the fridge, behind the orange juice. Bring me one. Death and taxes.
Tim comes in, with two beers, gives one to Liddie.
Oh God yes. I’m so glad you called—
TIM: Well I had to deliver a piece to St. Mary’s, so I thought why not stop by—
LIDDIE: And here I sit doing taxes—
TIM: No problem. Where’s Janelle?
LIDDIE: She’s out to dinner. Some academic types. God I love your furniture.
TIM: Sunday was great—
LIDDIE: Did you sell a lot?
TIM: I did. I have many dollars again.
LIDDIE: Those big sturdy, knobby, elbowy things—
TIM: I like elbows. The two of you were so—Melia just lighted up, she had such a buzz—
LIDDIE: (abruptly) What does she say about me? Sorry to be blunt, but this is desperately important to me, and I would like to put you in the untenable position of being an informer.
TIM: She thinks you’re a neat person. She likes you.
LIDDIE: Well ok. The true test of honesty is not only to speak the truth, but believe it when you hear it. I’m even honest on my income tax. Or at least I try. They expect you to predict the totally unpredictable. They set it up so you must necessarily cheat.
Pause. She starts on her taxes, but needs to talk.
Cheating, cheating, cheating. I’ll tell you something about cheating. My second husband—The first was my high school sweetheart, that lasted three months—My second husband, I worked so hard to stay faithful, only two affairs in five years. And then he had an affair, and the shit hit the fan, I told him about mine, and he said “No problem,” and that was unforgivable, because I’d wasted all that hard-earned guilt.
And then he beat the shit out of me.
TIM: So are you down on men?
LIDDIE: I go down on men a lot.
Pause. Liddie returns to her taxes.
Even once a guy that worked for the IRS.
Lights change. Liddie remains where she is, frozen. Tim turns, now in the kitchen. Melia come in, holding a set of boards held together with C-clamps.
MELIA: Is this my cabinet drawer?
TIM: Ok, what I had to do, every piece of the drawer is individually warped. And as a unit they fit together, but then the unit is massively warped. So—
TIM: So I disassemble it, straighten out each piece and they go back together square. Very fascist. Oh, Liddie called.
MELIA: You want a beer?
TIM: I have one. Thanks for helping unload.
MELIA: I love the wood smell on my hands. What kind is that?
Holds hands to be smelled.
TIM: Basswood. Wow. Six, seven months they’ve promised me this wood. Every week, “Not today, tomorrow, next month, later later!” But it’s worth it. It’s gorgeous.
MELIA: What are you going to do with it?
TIM: Some cabinets, one order, a display case for a museum—How bout a cradle?
MELIA: I’m going to keep the baby.
TIM: Well of course. My God. Yes.
Melia scratches her ankle.
What’s going on?
MELIA: I don’t know. I think perhaps I’m making a baby. Do your ankles itch?
TIM: No.
MELIA: Mine really really really itch.
TIM: It’s fleas. You need—
MELIA: Flea collars. It’s not good for the cats. Would you personally wear a flea collar?
TIM: I’m not tempting to fleas. Meel, you have three cats, you let’em out doors, and you don’t use heavy carcinogens, you’re gonna have fleas.
MELIA: I don’t really need that drawer. It was full of crap.
TIM: Huh?
Melia scratches violently, rises, goes out. Tim is dumfounded, gets up, goes to the doorway.
Liddie works at her desk.
JANELLE: (from the kitchen) Fuck! Thanks a lot for drinking the last beer.
LIDDIE: Sorry.
Janelle, angry, comes in with armful of notebooks—acting-class journals—and sits down on sofa, starts to read them and pencil notes.
“Hello, how was your day!”
JANELLE: Shitty.
LIDDIE: I never woulda guessed.
JANELLE: (bitterly) I appreciated the note.
JANELLE: “Hi. I’m out. Back in the morning. Love you.”
LIDDIE: Are we back in the Preferred Secrecy mode? I thought you said that hurt worse.
JANELLE: Just do your damn taxes! I’m busy!
LIDDIE: You said be honest.
JANELLE: Be honest. Being honest for you means—
Turning on full comic wattage:
“Nell, sweetiepie, excuse me, would you please hold your hand up there a moment, I have this Inner Need to nail your hand to the wall—”
LIDDIE: Nelly—
JANELLE: “Now I am crucifying you, I know, but I’m being perfectly HONEST about it. Don’t twitch like that? Would you hold these nails for me? Oh, you don’t have a hand free, sorry!”
Finishes with a flourish.
LIDDIE: You are a big dumb clown.
Janelle goes back to grading journals, writing in a large scrawl. After a moment, Liddie gets up, goes to her, starts to rub her arm. No response. Nuzzles her, puts arm around her, starts to make love. At last:
JANELLE: Jesus God!
Janelle goes into kitchen, leaving Liddie on the couch.
Tim comes down to sit by Liddie on the couch, both laughing.
LIDDIE: And once I was in the jacuzzi, big one, maybe fifteen people, and the water foam at the top, it’s great, you can’t see what’s going on under the surface. And this very foxy red-headed woman next to me on one side, this big, beautiful, bony ugly guy on the other. And somebody’s feeling me up, wow, but who? I thought, whichever, this is going to be special. And then she turned away. And he got up and climbed out. And I remained sitting there, on the jet of the jacuzzi. Very fulfilling relationship with the plumbing.
No, I’m still involved with men. This is the source of some debate. I love her, and she loves me, but we can’t file a joint return. Speaking of which—
Gets up, starts to go back to her taxes. Then turns to him, intensely, as if trying to work something out for herself.
Nellie wasn’t my first time with a woman, but she was something special. I met her, I was coming off a really rough time, actually I’d been in the fridge for a year, and she was springtime. I really didn’t care about anything else for, oh, two, three years—And then slowly the sun comes up, and it’s spring, and the cherry trees go crazy.
The more alive I feel, the more alive I feel. Once I was kinda tickling her ear, and suddenly, “My God, ears!” Next three months I was lusting after ears, “Scuse me sir, you mind if I nibble?” It’s not a matter of novelty, it’s when we’re playing jazz together, man, I wanta jam. See something brassy across the room, I think wouldn’t that be fun to play on! Improvisation, that pull of the next phrase coming, and it holds off, and it twists and tickles, and then it stabs right in there, oh boy. This is one thing I’m on this earth for. I’m created with this intention—
Refocus on Tim:
You’re easy to talk to. Were you born smiling?
TIM: Sure. About the age of twenty-two.
LIDDIE: Sunday was wonderful. Wasn’t it? It was family.
TIM: It was.
LIDDIE: And then I called you guys Tuesday, and she said “I’m busy, I’ll call you back,” and she didn’t. This is Friday. What, am I being too pushy? Did I freak her out? What?
TIM: Melia? No, she’s very open-minded. I mean astoundingly. Some ways she’s very straight, and controlled, and then she just happens to mention working in India, or living in a commune of radical Christian nudists. She’s a real explorer, and no, she very very much wanted to find her mother—
No, she’s at a strange time. Maybe that’s why I called.
LIDDIE: Problems?
TIM: Trouble getting a drawer to fit. But just be straight with her—
LIDDIE: I can’t be straight. Honest yes, “straight,” nooo!
TIM: Well, I’m not either.
Well, not entirely at any rate.
Melia comes in, sits at the table. Tim turns into the scene. Awkward silence as she continues scratching her ankles, staring at the table.
MELIA: So what do you think?
TIM: About what?
No response.
Well in general, I think life is cruel but pretty neat, and I’m against capitalism but I love my customers, and I don’t have the answers but I don’t really have many questions.
Waits for a response.
If you mean in terms of having a child—Are you ok?
MELIA: They all bite around the ankles—So what about our life, our routines?
TIM: Such as?
MELIA: What about Eric? Andreas?
TIM: Is that a problem?
MELIA: Why should it be?
TIM: I don’t know, maybe. . . You’re pregnant, there’s a feeling of insecurity, and maybe the kind of unconventional lifestyle on my part that used to be just fine now suddenly isn’t.
MELIA: That’s an interesting thought.
TIM: Should we get married?
MELIA: Oh God, that’d just solve everything wouldn’t it!
TIM: Huh?
MELIA: Marriage: what would be the difference between now and being married?
TIM: I don’t see a whole lot of difference, actually—
MELIA: What’s on my mind is I just want to know when we’re going to sit down and really answer the questions we need to answer.
TIM: What about right now?
MELIA: Sure, just like that!
I have a doctor’s appointment.
TIM: Meel. What—
MELIA: I’m sorry. I’m very bitchy right now, and totally irrational, and maybe it does have something to do with your being out with Eric on Tuesday night, and that’s not a problem, it’s never been a problem, but you asked me if it might be a problem, although there’s no legitimate reason why it should be a problem, and I am feeling totally absurd!
She goes out. Tim looks after her, stunned.
Janelle comes in with glass of scotch, starts grading journals. Liddie adds figures.
LIDDIE: Should I make dinner?
JANELLE: No. Not hungry.
Sudden rage:
You’re like a fucking cat in heat! Where were you last night?
LIDDIE: With some people.
JANELLE: “People.”
LIDDIE: You want a blow-by-blow description?
Janelle makes a violent gesture.
Both look away, speaking through a familiar dialogue:
JANELLE: Sorry. Sorry, I’m not going to live with it any more. It makes me feel like shit. I’m tired of you making me feel like shit, and I’m tired of feeling like a stuffy old fool for feeling like shit. You explain it, your explanations are perfect, you’ve really got your explanations down pat. Still I feel like shit.
LIDDIE: What is all this? I mean my God we’ve—
JANELLE: That’s not the point—
LIDDIE: The last two weeks it’s been like newlyweds—
JANELLE: It certainly has and it’s wonderful and then you go out last night, “Back when I feel like it, honey, Tally ho!”
LIDDIE: I love you.
JANELLE: (near tears) Well it certainly doesn’t seem like it to me.
LIDDIE: I’m not going to change.
JANELLE: Surprise.
LIDDIE: I’m not taking anything away from you. I’m careful, I am never unsafe.
JANELLE: Well goodie on you!
LIDDIE: Are you jealous of my daughter, is that it?
JANELLE: Not unless you’re fucking her!
Stunned silence. Janelle sits, tries to continue work on the journals.
LIDDIE: This is not worthy of you.
Janelle, we have been a committed couple for a very long time, and I am not half done with that yet. You are my mate. We scratch each other’s back. I nursed you through eight months of hell, and if I had an urge to turn left in front of a bus you would do the same for me. I get a tremendous energy from you, and the wind raises the surf. I will not kill what’s as much a part of me as my tits. I will not say Nasty Nasty, and stomp it out, and then hand you what’s left. I’m trying to make it work—
JANELLE: Well you’re not succeeding. Quite frankly, I think of myself as a tremendously creative woman, and trying for years to deal with what you’re doing to yourself and me and us, and you’re always telling me “I am who I am, I love you but I am who I am,” well for Chrissake CONTROL YOURSELF! Just CONTROL YOURSELF for a change!
LIDDIE: That scotch isn’t helping this conversation.
JANELLE: Actually it’s helping quite a bit.
LIDDIE: I think we need a span of time when—Look, let’s try two weeks, and I promise I will not give us any cause for dissension until we can really get our heads—
JANELLE: (subdued) This is just like you, this is so much like you, you’re so incredibly smart and rational—I am not, for God’s sake, jealous of your daughter, I like her tremendously. That’s a vile thing to say. Even if it’s true.
LIDDIE: Should I go get some beer?
JANELLE: Yes, please.
Liddie gets up.
No, I’ll go.
LIDDIE: I’ll go.
JANELLE: I will go get the goddamn Christalmighty sonofabitching beer.
LIDDIE: Get some chips?
Janelle goes out. Liddie sits, looking after her.
Lights shift. Tim enters the space.
TIM: And I’ve been honest about it from Day One. Or, maybe Day Two or Three. We first started going together, I said, “You know, I do need to tell you that I have some friends, and—” I stuttered around for what felt about five minutes, till finally she said, “You’re saying you’re bisexual?” “Yeh.” She said, “Well, that’s no problem as long as I’m one of the sexes.” I thought Where Have You Been All My Life! But it was such a risk to come out with it, because I really—We just really—
LIDDIE: Blended.
TIM: Meshed.
LIDDIE: Clinched. Coupled.
TIM: Mortised.
LIDDIE: Fused. Oh yeh.
TIM: God, how long have I—I have to get back—I just really needed to—See, I talk to my wood, and when there’s serious knots, we negotiate. But—
Tim gets up. Liddie rises.
No, Melia’s great about it. And I do think sometimes, well, am I giving her less, or she’d be more happy with the shortest distance between two points? And right now, I dunno—
LIDDIE: Tell me about it!—Are you safe with these other people?
TIM: Very.
LIDDIE: Sorry to sound like a mother-in-law.
TIM: That doesn’t sound much like a mother-in-law.
LIDDIE: Should I call her again? Just be myself?
TIM: God yes. Absolutely.
LIDDIE: Call me, would you? I need a younger brother.
Big hug.
And some night, when we’re on safe territory, let’s go out and tear up the town!
TIM: Ok!
LIDDIE: Close it, it locks.
He goes out. Sits back down to the taxes.
Estimated costs. . .
Hits total on the calculator. Fade.
Scene Five
Music. All in separate areas.
LIDDIE: Stuff we say when we’re making love. . .
MELIA: No, I’m very inarticulate, I. . . Well, I guess. . . “Do that some more.”
JANELLE: Lovely.
TIM: Oh yes.
LIDDIE: Lemme go to the bathroom.
JANELLE: Do that some more.
LIDDIE: Talk to me.
MELIA: That tickles.
LIDDIE: That hurts.
MELIA: That’s nice.
JANELLE: That’s . . . different.
TIM: Do that some more.
MELIA: I need you to scratch my back.
TIM: My arm’s asleep.
JANELLE: Should we answer that?
LIDDIE: Is that your stomach or mine?
TIM: Cuddle?
MELIA: Does that feel good?
JANELLE: Oh God. Oh Jesus. Oh mama.
MELIA: Ouch.
TIM: Sorry.
JANELLE: Thanks.
LIDDIE: Do that some more.
Tim stands at the door, holding the drawer. Melia sits, sipping from a cup.
TIM: What’s that?
MELIA: Hot milk and honey.
TIM: For the baby or the fleas?
MELIA: For me.
She investigates an ankle for fleas.
TIM: Is the spray working?
MELIA: Can’t tell. (pointing to the drawer) Does that fit?
TIM: I have to take it all down to the shop. This is square now, but the runners are not. Oh, your mom called again.
TIM: Liddie.
MELIA: What did she want?
TIM: She wanted to talk to you. Is there some sort of problem there?
MELIA: I like her. She’s not my mother. She gave birth to me. I just met her three weeks ago. She’s not my mother. Please.
TIM: Would you look at me a minute?
She looks at him, then searches for fleas.
Meel, I’m not sure how to talk to you. One day it’s fine, next day I’m one of the fleas. If you’re simply going to drop Liddie—
MELIA: I’m not—
TIM: You should at least tell her why.
She scratches sharply. At last finds words.
MELIA: You have to admit that our relationship—ours, this here thing—would not be regarded as quite normal, say, in Wichita, Kansas.
TIM: Probably not.
MELIA: Or anywhere else. And one doesn’t normally have her mother detail the pros and cons of S&M. Not as a general rule.
TIM: Are you saying—
MELIA: I’m starting, just starting, for the first time in my life, to feel the need for a Republican Administration. I say that metaphorically.
Tim. I don’t know if it’s hormonal imbalance, or the fleas, I don’t know. Maybe I hear this lump of illiterate protoplasm asking, “Mommy, why is everybody here so queer?” Maybe it’s time to grow up. I go into labor, there’s this big election about who is normal and who is a poor excuse for a parent, and we are outvoted two hundred fifty million to two.
I’m hurting you. I’m sorry. You’re trying to understand me, and—Tim, I love you but—Are you going out tonight?
TIM: I didn’t have any plans to.
MELIA: Maybe you should. I don’t want you stay because you feel like you have to. Just go.
TIM: What?!
MELIA: Tim! Hold onto me!
She reaches to him. He embraces her. A moment of real passion. Knock at door. Tim goes to answer it. At the door, he breaks into uncontrolled laughter. Liddie appears, wearing a derby and Groucho glasses. In comic accent:
LIDDIE: Ist looking for Ms. Melia Sherman? Ist you name Melia? I haf message from God: “Call your Mommy.”
Melia laughs, tries to stop, covers her face. Tim guffaws. Liddie thinks the ice is broken.
TIM: How you doing?
LIDDIE: Well I kept making phone calls, and then I drove up to see if Baltimore has been evacuated, because there might be some bargains in real estate. And then I heard you were shacked up with my daughter and I want to know what your intentions are, sir!
MELIA: (abruptly) I’m not ready to be the object of merriment. Or be discussed as if I’m not in the room—
She grabs her jacket, rushes out the door.
TIM: Hey!
He pursues her, then turns to Liddie. Slowly she takes off the glasses, gestures a “Well I screwed that one up,” dissolves in tears. Tim holds her.
Bad timing.
Melia, isolated.
MELIA: And I’d spent the day on a kludgy upgrade of a kludgy inventory software for beer distributors, and resisting the urge to include little screen window messages from Krishna. Then home, and he said my mother called, and I said “My mother?” and he said “Liddie.” And I was picking fleas. And I said, “Maybe you should go out tonight and have some fun,” but I didn’t say it quite right, and then the door opens, zowie, and I laughed, and I didn’t want to laugh, and I left, went out to the car, and sat there, scratching, for an hour and twenty-two minutes.
Janelle packs a suitcase. Liddie comes in, stops, stunned. Janelle becomes aware of her.
JANELLE: Damn, you caught me. I’m going to a motel. I’ve made up my mind.. I’m just gonna do it, Liddie. Just gonna go. Did you have a good time?
LIDDIE: (bitterly) Ecstatic. I drove to Melia’s. I walked in the door and she walked out.
I really don’t think you should do this.
JANELLE: I’ve made up my mind. I’m sorry about the timing, too bad, too damn bad, you’re getting it from all sides—
LIDDIE: No shit.
JANELLE: It’s been seven years like this, seven out of eleven, so I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to cramp your style, I’m tired of feeling like I’m a prissy old—
Liddie tries to touch her. She pulls away.
Stop. Just stop. I don’t—
Liddie tries again. She pulls away.
Stop it! I want you have a good time, I really do, so I’ve made up my mind and I’m going to have to go through with it because I’ve made up my mind. Where the hell were you!
LIDDIE: I was at Melia’s.
JANELLE: Why the hell should I believe that?
LIDDIE: Because I don’t lie. I do not lie and you know it. I made you a promise that until we came to some equilibrium I would keep my pants on, and that was a promise, and I do not lie!
JANELLE: Well for Chrissake I wish you would!
Pause. Janelle continues packing.
LIDDIE: You don’t want to live alone. This is something you’re not suited for, woman.
JANELLE: I don’t know what’s worse, to feel like a stuffy old bitch half the time, messing up your life, like I’m just a doormat for you occasionally when you feel like coming home—
LIDDIE: Oh bullshit! Bullshit!
JANELLE: Or living alone. I don’t see why one is all that much worse than the other.
Janelle tries to pack, then sits, exhausted.
MELIA: And I went back in. Tim was sitting there, and it was at that point I said “I love you very much.” And he said, “Is it me being who I am is what the problem is?” And I said, “Damned if I know.” Then I asked him could he go sleep in his shop a couple of days. He seemed to understand, which I didn’t, and so he packed a couple things, and came downstairs and said, “I’m off.” “Ok, see you soon, see you tomorrow.” “Have a good night.” “You too.” And he left.
LIDDIE: Janelle, I beg of you don’t do it this way. If we’d sat down and you said—
JANELLE: I’m not that kind of person—I took the two weeks, I made up my mind—
LIDDIE: We have to talk—
JANELLE: What? Same thing all over again, you’d say “I’ve got to live my life, I don’t want to be caged up”—if that—you—I don’t want to cage you up—
LIDDIE: I don’t want to lose you—I love you—
JANELLE: I spent years alone, I was fine, I was really fine alone, except that I actually wasn’t fine alone, and I met you, and I thought this was going to be the rest of my life, and I still—
On the verge of striking her:
God damn it, I don’t want to live by myself, goddamn you!
LIDDIE: I love you!
JANELLE: Well I love you too!
LIDDIE: Janelle!
Janelle breaks down, weeping, collapses to the sofa. Liddie embraces her.
MELIA: And I thought, Hey, is this me? I will cope with this in the way I cope. So I made myself camomile tea, dug out my scrapbooks, sat down and searched methodically for the Real Me: College. Social work. Freddie. Spiritual journeys. Politics. Hakim. Trade school. Meditation. Multimedia. Tim. I don’t diddle around, I have very passionate affairs with particular subject matter. So who on earth is this incoherent flake with fleas? And I stayed all night on the living room couch, blanket, corn chips, and cried and cried and cried.
Janelle starts to get up. Liddie restrains her gently.
LIDDIE: Janelle. Don’t go tonight. If you have to go, go tomorrow.
JANELLE: (exhausted) I have to do it. I have to follow through with this. I never follow through with anything. I’m so damn funny in comedy, I start doing one thing, and then do the opposite, and they laugh like hell. This is tremendously embarrassing. . .
LIDDIE: Come to bed. I promise not to make love to you. Just stay the night, I’ll bring you a hot scotch, and if you have to go tomorrow, for a while, but don’t do it this way tonight, please. All the motels are closed, you don’t want to drive down the road and have every damn sign say No. Stay one night. Like a sister.
JANELLE: I’m going to go in the morning. . . I’m going to keep packing, start in in the other room on the books. . . I’ll sleep out here.
LIDDIE: You sleep in the bed, I’ll sleep out here.
LIDDIE: I won’t sleep in the bed.
JANELLE: I’ll sleep here.
LIDDIE: I’ll get the sleeping bag, and I’ll take some whiskey, and sleep out in the car, so I know you won’t drive off, and you sleep in the bed.
JANELLE: I won’t sleep in the bed.
LIDDIE: I won’t be in the bed.
JANELLE: Then nobody sleeps in the bed.
LIDDIE: Too bad.
JANELLE: Then we’ll both feel like damn fools.
Act Two
Scene One
Liddie, remembering.
LIDDIE: The all-time most bizarre. . .
Ok. Frances. I answered an ad. When I was in the phase of my life of I-Must-Try-Everything-Once. Which often meant more than once. And Frances I met only once, in Providence.
Very tall, slender, auburn hair down the shoulders, green eyes, ivory skin, long fingers, and breasts. . . What is it in the Bible, First United Methodist search for the sexy parts. . . “Two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies. . .” Sweet breasts. . .
She was a man. As advertised. Pre-op transsexual, which I thought well, I’ve swung with couples and this would be Same Action, Less Confusion. Frances, ok. . . And she, he, she was very soft, and slinky, and funny, and hard as a rock, decisive beyond my wildest dreams—and I was scared out of my mind.
I was like on my first date, and the lousiest lay in Rhode Island. And that was a let-down for him, but she was very sweet, and that was my date with Frances. One time.
Like birth.
In a distant area, Liddie dresses for a party. At a bar, Janelle sits drinking a beer. Another bottle is beside her, and Tim’s cap. He returns from the men’s room.
TIM: Janelle, thanks. I called at the college, because we’ve got your home number but I just wanted to—I know it’s strange, but it’s like, if I’m looking for a better way to cut dadoes, I ask somebody that knows. Nother beer?
JANELLE: Not yet.
TIM: We’re at an interesting stage right now, Melia and I, and it occurred, I don’t know a lot of couples in open—long-term open situations, and so I’ve talked to Liddie, but I wanted to get kind of an inside-out perspective. Does that make sense?
TIM: You know I’m bisexual.
JANELLE: No. Yes—Well—Maybe I guessed.
TIM: Well I am. And for Melia that hasn’t been a problem, and for me it’s just who I am. And you and Liddie have been together ten years, more or less—
JANELLE: Eleven.
TIM: Wow. And we’re just three years, four. And you’re a great couple, and I’m sure there’s problems, but I gather that it’s a fairly open relationship, and we’re trying really to create our own definitions of—
JANELLE: I don’t have a whole lot of time.
TIM: I know it’s very personal, but from what I see it’s your own really incredible acceptance of Liddie being who she is, and you’re doing it so well.
JANELLE: What is it I’m doing well?
TIM: Your accepting of Liddie being—
JANELLE: Being what?
TIM: Being who she is. And that’s ok by you, that’s wonderful!
Janelle breaks into laughter. Tim misinterprets.
Really terrific, and if we could just understand what that involves—
JANELLE: You know that I’m not living with Liddie now?
Dead silence.
Yes. Walked out a week ago. Walked right out.
TIM: Oh.
JANELLE: Seems to me you can’t have your cake and eat it, honey.
TIM: But eleven years—
JANELLE: I hate open relationships! I hate the whole idea. No, I never managed. I knuckled under or got drunk or sometimes really struggled to be modern and smart but, no. No. Mind you, we never negotiated, we just fell in love, and about three years then suddenly Liddie, you know, IS WHO SHE IS, and then this talk about open relationships, books on it, I’ve read about it, worked really hard to understand it, but it has never for a second felt right.
TIM: Eleven years?
JANELLE: Well I’m patient. Well no, you know, Liddie, she’s not a monster, she’s—
TIM: She’s great—
JANELLE: She is, and so—I can also get wrapped up in my work, I can drink too much, there are a billion things I can do.
TIM: But if two people love each other, can’t you make it work?
JANELLE: I ain’t figured it out. It might have been easier if she weren’t so goddamned HONEST. She’s always been completely honest and never discreet. If she’d have been discreet, and then I would have found her out, and we’d have made up, and then she could cheat some more, and make promises, and cheat, and she never did. Cheating and lying and subterfuge are the way decent people do it.
TIM: I guess you weren’t exactly the person to ask. Beer?
JANELLE: I’m gonna have to go.
TIM: Could we talk?
JANELLE: Do we have to?
TIM: How do you make somebody into an actor?
JANELLE: What do you—How come you—Well how do you make a chair?
TIM: Try to make every join perfect.
TIM: Yeh. Well the wood says what it wants to do.
JANELLE: Some similarities. My students are quite wooden.
TIM: Raw material.
JANELLE: Raw material. . . I make them sing. They have to sing a song, most of them are terrified. But I set up very protective circumstances and. . . Watch a big homely techie, and she sings “Gettin’ on a Jet Plane,” see her become beautiful beyond words. . . I need another beer.
TIM: Amen.
JANELLE: What are we talking about? I don’t think you want to get to know me. I’ll give you hell, Tim. I mean it.
TIM: In the past, I’ve been able to handle hell.
JANELLE: I believe you. I believe when you say you love her, but you want to have flings with these men. I can almost—I believe you’re a decent creature. I even understand wanting it to work, one so much wants for these ideas to work—But I think it’s bullshit. Positive bullshit. From the bottom of my soul I feel like it’s bullshit.
TIM: It’s more like me being who I am. So rather than me being half who I am, I’m giving her entirely who I am.
JANELLE: That “Who I Am” garbage. I don’t buy it.
TIM: Would you stop acting if Liddie asked you not to?
JANELLE: Hell no. What? Why would she ask me?
TIM: Say you don’t have enough time together, you’re too involved—
JANELLE: No. Course not. I’m an actor. That’s what I do.
TIM: That’s who you are?
JANELLE: That’s who I am.
Oh damn you!
Long pause.
So how do you find these little outside tricks?
Liddie finishes dressing. For a moment, she starts to break down. Then continues.
Janelle with a beer. Beside her, a glass of soda and Melia’s jacket. Melia returns from the ladies’ room.
MELIA: Janelle, thanks. I thought it might be better for me to call at the college. Thanks for—
JANELLE: I have absolutely no advice. What are you drinking?
MELIA: Club soda. I’ve even cut out coffee.
JANELLE: Coffee gives me the runs. How are you?
MELIA: Confused—
JANELLE: Physically.
MELIA: Hungry. Nothing. Fine.
I found Liddie, and invited her into my life, and slammed the door in her face. I haven’t returned her calls. I don’t want her to go away, but—I’m starting to crash. System overload. Double pregnancy: having a baby and having a mother. I’m exploding at Tim, I haven’t called my mother, my other mother, meals I’m bingeing on party mix—Tell me about Liddie?
JANELLE: Don’t ask me, for Godsake!
Long pause.
She’s extraordinary. There’s not anyone in the world like her. She’s smart as hell, has balls of brass, so to speak. Very theatrical—not fake, but everything to the extreme. I couldn’t believe at the dinner table—
MELIA: Thing with the magazine?—
JANELLE: And it would never occur to her not to say it flat out. Describing the night you were conceived, for Godsake, bless her heart, it’s fabulous, but I couldn’t believe it— She has her own ideas about how people ought to feel, and if they don’t, why too bad for them.
MELIA: I do that. I have my own strong ideas how the world ought to be.
JANELLE: Well it won’t. Just forget it. Not in a million years.
Pause. Janelle drinks, very unsettled.
For Godsake don’t ask me—She’s unbelievably capable. This little partnership, they call it Lifestyle Realty, it’s hippie as all hell, but her clients just love her. She’s invented a life. Invented a life.
MELIA: That scares me. That’s what I’ve always wanted. What if I get it?
JANELLE: She’s crazy about you. She said, “Are you jealous of Melia?” and for Godsake no! Except maybe I am, a bit, or just it’s more like a, what?—
MELIA: Catalyst?
JANELLE: God knows. Jealousy, I don’t know why it’s there, in me, makes no sense, I know, to say “No you cannot be intense except with me,” no sense at all. This whole sex thing, “erotic friendships” she calls’em, Jesus, it’s disgusting, but when she talks about it, well yes she means it, it’s her blood, it’s what acting is to me, as natural as eating, for Godsake, the friendliest, most vitalizing—What am I—I don’t want to defend her, I want to kill her!
I was in a car crash, my own damn fault, and flat on my back for eight months, operations, casts, horrible, horrible. She nursed me. Cleaning my bedpan, sitting there holding my hand for hours. I gave her holy hell, and she just. . . She’s the most totally. . . my God. . . faithful . . . person I’ve ever known.
With great difficulty, she looks at Melia.
We’re not together now.
Takes a swig of beer. Starts to break down. Melia takes her hand. She recovers.
“Fasten your seatbelts, boys, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!”
Scene Two
LIDDIE: Sometimes it’s a bummer.
MELIA: Sometimes it is a bummer. What turms me off. . .
LIDDIE: Smelly feet.
MELIA: Dumb jokes.
LIDDIE: Endurance contests.
JANELLE: Grim determination.
TIM: Trying to set a record.
MELIA: Feeling I have to perform.
LIDDIE: Dishonesty.
TIM: Faking it.
JANELLE: Bad acting. Although good acting is fine.
LIDDIE: When they feel, “This is foreplay. Now we’re doing foreplay. Prepare for Phase Two.”
MELIA: A guy who thinks it’s a matter of pistons and cylinders.
JANELLE: Being worshipped. Ugh.
TIM: Being monitored for signs of ecstasy.
LIDDIE: Those who become comatose with passion.
MELIA: Lust that sounds like asthma.
TIM: There’s a difference between Gentle and Barely Alive.
LIDDIE: This CPA, and normally I’m not attracted to suits, but finally we got back to my place, and loosen the necktie, and he says, “You got anything to eat?” Meaning that as a dirty joke. And I thought, this is the kind of intellect I attract?
TIM: When I met this guy, had a very nice time, and next time he invited me to a dance, and I met him there, and he was the only one in full drag.
MELIA: Once when I didn’t feel like it, but I didn’t want to disappoint him, and he didn’t feel like it, but he didn’t want to disappoint me, and we both knew it, but we never said it, and so we did it. And felt like real fools.
JANELLE: Getting falling-down drunk at a party, and staying the night, and making love with this person but not remembering a thing about it, and thinking why in holy hell did I ever do that?
MELIA: Cologne.
TIM: Deodorant.
LIDDIE: Snaggly fingernails.
MELIA: People who don’t take care of whatever kind of bodies they’ve got.
JANELLE: Needing to go to the bathroom but feeling she might take it personally.
LIDDIE: This cold-fish compulsiveness that seems to be what people think sex is.
JANELLE: I suppose I shouldn’t say it, but. . . I never had a sexual experience that I couldn’t live without.
Liddie has dressed for a party, sits motionless. Janelle packs a box.
JANELLE: I won’t be real long. If I get this one load in the car.
LIDDIE: I’m getting a ride, so you lock up. What do I do about your mail?
JANELLE: I can drop by and get it. Actually, no, I’ll just—
LIDDIE: Phone calls?
JANELLE: Tell them—Just write down the messages. No, I’ll beep in. I called at suppertime.
LIDDIE: I went down and played with somebody’s big dumb dog in the park.
Janelle continues packing, Liddie watching her.
Melia packs a lunch. Tim stands with an overnight bag.
TIM: Meel, I’m having a hard time with this. Are you asking for monogamy? I could try. If it has to be a choice—
MELIA: I really don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t. You want the last of that Chinese food?
TIM: You know it seems ironic that you’re asking the father of your child to move out because he wants to marry you. And you’re packing my lunch.
LIDDIE: Why are you taking books? Just take your clothes, you’re coming back.
JANELLE: I don’t think I’m gonna want to.
LIDDIE: You don’t mean that.
JANELLE: You like honesty. Well, “honestly” I don’t think I’m gonna want to.
LIDDIE: I didn’t hear you say it till you say it three times.
JANELLE: I don’t think I’m gonna want to, Liddie. I do not think I’m gonna want to, Liddie. I do not think I’m gonna want to come CRAWLING BACK!
She slams the suitcase lid. Stops, frozen.
Melia sits, speaks directly to Tim, very controlled:
MELIA: I’m sorry I haven’t been fair with you. I’m not reacting to. . . No, early on I didn’t know how I might react, and I thought well fine as long as it’s not somebody I know, so it’s not really real. And then Henry came into the picture and I thought Omigod, Henry! But then it was fine. It was Henry. It was fine.
Pause. Tries again:
But I’m pregnant, and I found my natural mother, who’s not whatever I expected, and you say “Let’s get married,” which I don’t know what the hell that means, it’s like everything is saying, “You thought you were so smart, that was fun, but now it’s time to GROW UP!” and I’m dealing with fleas! Fleas! Goddamn fleas! Excuse me!
She goes into hysterical scratching. Stops suddenly. Rises.
I caught one. I have to put it out the door.
She rushes out.
Janelle suddenly breaks, lunges at Liddie, holds her in an embrace from behind, hysterical.
LIDDIE: Lady, let go!
JANELLE: Please don’t be like you are! You are too damned old for that! You are just too damned old, your fanny’s hanging all the way down to your knees for Godsake!
LIDDIE: Woman, you have got your wires crossed!
Liddie struggles, Janelle hangs on, out of control.
JANELLE: This is home! There’s enough here at home for you, I love you and that’s just gonna be enough, you’re beautiful, you’re sexy, stop trying to prove it every two minutes!
LIDDIE: Get your fucking hands off me!
Liddie breaks free, Janelle collapses on the sofa, sobbing. Long silence.
Nell! You are too smart for this! This is grotesque! You’re not going to grovel at me!
JANELLE: You got a kleenex?
Liddie hands her one, takes one herself. Both blow their noses.
I better stick to comedy.
LIDDIE: Jan, please. I want to stay home tonight. With you. Please.
Janelle picks up box, goes to the door.
JANELLE: I’ll call when I’m ready to pack the other stuff. You have my number if you don’t have anything better to do and want to talk to one of your many fans.
LIDDIE: Hey! You like my new dress? Right across here it says FUCK ME!
Janelle stands looking at her, deadpan. Liddie breaks down, sobbing in helpless pain.
JANELLE: Byebye.
She goes out. Fade.
Tim rises. Melia returns, back to fixing lunch.
TIM: Well look. You need the space. I’ll be at the shop. I’ll call on Friday.
No response.
What are you doing? Melia? What are you doing? Just what the hell are you doing?
MELIA: Slicing rutabaga!
She loses control, starts throwing pieces of rutabaga. Sudden cramp. She cries out. Tim rushes to her. Fade.
Phone rings. Liddie, still in her party dress with a loose flannel shirt over it, hurries in to answer it.
LIDDIE: Liddie Sherman. . . Roy, how you doing? No, right, I thought I was, but every piece of shit hit the fan. Well I was getting a ride with Terry, but I had to cancel. No, family stuff. Oh God I’m still in my party dress. Look, I have to get off the phone—Maybe see you next month. No, it’s ok, sweet cheeks, I’m fine, I’m just miserable. I’ll survive. Love to Gail. Tell her she can have my share.
A knock on the door.
Who is it?
TIM: (off) Tim.
LIDDIE: Hold on.
MELIA: (off) No!
Liddie goes to the door.
LIDDIE: My God. What? Did she lose it?
TIM: No. (supporting Melia) There.
He helps Melia to the sofa.
MELIA: I’m not gonna stay. . .
LIDDIE: What do they say?
TIM: She’s ok. She’s maybe ok. She needs to lay flat.
LIDDIE: Sheets are in the dryer, I’ll make up the bed and—
TIM: She was in total hysterics, the fleas were driving her nuts, she couldn’t calm down, throwing things, and she started to spot.
MELIA: I broke. . .
TIM: You broke what?
MELIA: This thing, plaster statue I made in fourth grade. I threw it at a flea!
LIDDIE: Real shitsuckers aren’t they?
TIM: Settle down. Don’t wake up the baby.
Melia sinks back, exhausted. To Liddie:
So we went to the hospital, and it seems ok, but she’s gotta be flat for a couple of days, then see the doctor, sonogram, stuff. But clearly we can’t go back to the house, and there’s just my shop space, fourth floor loft, or maybe her parents, but—
TIM: So I called—
MELIA: The doors are unlocked, the cats’ll get out—
TIM: I’ll take care of it.
MELIA: I don’t want to stay here!. . .
LIDDIE: You have no choice.
TIM: Ok with you?
LIDDIE: Tim. This is my daughter. Go. Take care of the cats. These cats will take care of themselves.
TIM: Are you in the middle of something?
Liddie looks at her own garb.
LIDDIE: Just housework.
TIM: Ok. I’ll drive home, then back here, I’ll be back in a couple of hours.
MELIA: My legs itch!
LIDDIE: I’ll get some Calamine.
Goes to fetch it.
MELIA: What’ll I tell Mom? She’ll freak out.
TIM: Well she doesn’t know you’re pregnant. Doesn’t know about Liddie. So be honest. Lie.
Liddie returns.
LIDDIE: Out of Calamine, I’ve got some aloe.
She sits at end of sofa, dabs it on Melia’s calves.
MELIA: I tried rubbing alcohol.
LIDDIE: Bad idea.
TIM: So what the doctor said. . . No dilation, but possibly the placenta is in the wrong something-or-other, but so stay calm, stay horizontal, maybe two days. She can get up, go to the bathroom, but any cramping, call the doctor. He said it’s not unusual, but not a good idea to get up and roar around the room. Ok? Love you.
He goes out. Liddie continues soothing her legs.
LIDDIE: What did you make in fourth grade?
MELIA: A turtle. A bright green turtle. Clay.
LIDDIE: I made something like that. What was your teacher like?
MELIA: She was really nice. . . I had a British friend, taught me the word for eraser in England was “rubbers,” and I went to my teacher and asked if she had any rubbers I could use.
LIDDIE: In France, it’s “preservatifs.” And the American tourists who ask “Does this food contain preservatives?”
Faint laughter.
Nice to hear you laugh again.
MELIA: Where’s Janelle?
LIDDIE: With friends. So there is some space. We don’t have fleas.
MELIA: I brought my own.
LIDDIE: We’ll kill’em.
MELIA: Don’t kill them—
LIDDIE: Ok, I won’t kill’em, I’ll drown’em.
MELIA: Funny. In the middle of everything. . . We went to the nearest ER, this hospital, I started to giggle, something like Sisters of Constant Virginity or. . . Total Charity. . .
LIDDIE: Our Lady of Perpetual Motion?
MELIA: And I flashed on the name of the hospital on my birth certificate, it never struck me for some reason, but. . . Sisters of Life. I like that.
LIDDIE: Sisters of Life.
MELIA: Are you Catholic?
MELIA: Liddie, I can’t stay here. . .
LIDDIE: Hon. . .
MELIA: No. Liddie. . . You asked the first day, was I mad at you? No. No. But I can’t help it, my picture of what a mother is, the picture printed in my head is what my other mother is. Is not bizarre. Is not a walking, talking alternative lifestyle. Does not wear a funny nose. Does not give up her baby. . .
Pause. Tries again.
Is it normalcy I need? I love Tim, but love isn’t enough. I’m your baby, but you didn’t shape that little Presbyterian inside me that’s looking around and “What the hell is going on?” Suddenly we’ve got Motherhood, and we’ve got Marriage, and the pictures don’t look anything like they did in the coloring books. . .
I like you a lot, Liddie. . . But not as. . . my Mother. . . And so I’m very uncomfortable here.
LIDDIE: Would you like me to call your parents?
Silence. Liddie rises.
Well then as the lesser of two evils, I’ll make up the bed.
MELIA: Were you going out?
LIDDIE: My dancing togs, and then Tim called, and I cancelled, and then I tossed this on and washed the sheets and cleaned the fridge and polished all the silver. Talk about rationality.
MELIA: Dance for me.
MELIA: I’d like to see you dance.
Liddie hesitates, then takes off the flannel shirt, adjusts her party dress. Starts to dance, free-form, minimally. As she focuses inward, she dances more freely, and music begins. Melia watches. Fade.
Scene Three
Tim and Melia come in, walk down to the sofa.
TIM: Want anything?
MELIA: Everything.
TIM: I’ll see what I can do.
MELIA: Thanks for finding this doctor. She’s ok.
TIM: “This is your body’s way of saying YOU WILL PAY ATTENTION.”
MELIA: Tim. Don’t jolly me.
She sits down on the sofa, puts her feet up. Liddie enters, arriving home. Goes to desk, opens briefcase, files papers.
LIDDIE: Find me some people who are not such phenomenally interesting clients. The Schultzes need a yard big enough to build a sweat lodge, plus a playroom for their Vietnamese potbellied pig—and be close to a liquor store. I have to keep this crap in my head.
MELIA: Don’t you have a database program?
LIDDIE: It doesn’t have a column for potbellied pigs.
MELIA: It’s easy to set up.
LIDDIE: It’s set up, it’s fine, it just doesn’t work.
TIM: So. The doctor says six weeks.
TIM: Six weeks. The placenta’s moving half a centimeter a week, and once it’s across the cervix then it’s ready to sign a lease. But in the meantime, flat on the back if we want the baby.
MELIA: I don’t need to stay here.
TIM: The cats are being defleaed, I’ve called the exterminator. Do you really want to move back into chemical warfare?
No response.
Ok. I’ve called Janelle. She’s coming over.
LIDDIE: What?—
TIM: Because we really need help on this.
LIDDIE: She’s coming here?
TIM: I felt it was necessary. Sorry, but half the chromosomes are mine.
MELIA: Stop saying that!
TIM: You said it!
LIDDIE: This isn’t going to work—
TIM: It’s your house. But we are going to need the help.
MELIA: I don’t!
TIM: You do! Goddammit! I am trying to handle this.
MELIA: I don’t want to be handled!
LIDDIE: Tim, it’s not necessary—
TIM: (in an exasperated rant) I fix the drawer but the boards are warped. I straighten the boards but the runners are warped. I replace the runners, the damn cabinet is a corkscrew. The fleas keep coming. “Melia, what can I do?” “Nothing, I’ll work it out.” “Are you working it out?” “No.”
MELIA: I never said—
TIM: And if it didn’t matter, then fine. But you love that cabinet—
MELIA: I hate that cabinet, my uncle gave it to me, I hate my uncle, I’ve carted it all over hell—
TIM: You love it!
MELIA: I hate it!
TIM: And the baby, and the cats, and the fleas, and I HAVE HAD IT!
Comes to a stop.
If you were all basswood I’d know how to handle this.
Goes out.
LIDDIE: I didn’t know he had a temper.
Knock at the door.
Round two.
Janelle appears.
JANELLE: It was open.
JANELLE: (to Melia) How are you?
MELIA: Fine. Not so fine.
JANELLE: Tim told me. Six weeks?
MELIA: I guess.
Tim reappears.
TIM: Janelle, hi. (to others) I’m sorry.
Tense silence. All attempt a practical tone.
LIDDIE: So the idea is what, we work out a three-way schedule?
TIM: That was my thought.
LIDDIE: So start with mine. (handing a piece of paper) That’s when I’m normally here. This week I have a problem on Thursday.
JANELLE: I don’t have classes on Thursday.
LIDDIE: I have a closing, I set it three weeks ago, for Thursday.
MELIA: This is nuts. I really don’t need round-the-clock babysitting—
TIM: If there’s a problem, and we’re all over the map—No.
LIDDIE: Right.
JANELLE: Here’s my schedule, when I’m free. Just work it out and call me. Oh and—Add Tuesday as well, actually after two o’clock Tuesday—Wednesday I don’t think I have rehearsal, no, I’m not in that scene—
MELIA: You have to drive down from Baltimore?—
JANELLE: Or what about—Betty, you could stay at Betty’s, she has tons of room and she loves to organize people, God knows, but— (sensing Liddie) No—Well—No that would have multiple . . . complications. . .
MELIA: Janelle—
JANELLE: You will not deny me my inborn right to be seriously inconvenienced.
Takes Melia’s hand.
I have to go.
LIDDIE: Could we talk a second?
Pause. Janelle stares at Liddie, nonresponsive, then follows her into another area. They stand by the table, as Tim sits beside Melia. After a moment:
How’s Betty?
JANELLE: She’s fine. It’s convenient.
LIDDIE: I was just going to say let’s try not to fight.
JANELLE: That’s wise.
LIDDIE: This was Tim’s idea. It’s great, but I wouldn’t have had the guts.
JANELLE: It’s fine. I still have lots of stuff here. I can do some sorting.
LIDDIE: You doing ok?
Pause. Surge of rage:
LIDDIE: That’s not what—
JANELLE: I do just dandy. I know exactly what this here lady likes, thank you, and I am perfectly content to fly solo. If you want it done right, do it yourself.
LIDDIE: That’s fine. That’s great. Do it.
JANELLE: Oh damn you!
LIDDIE: What are you—
JANELLE: Damn you!
Yes, I’m doing ok.
LIDDIE: Hold on, there’s a stack of mail.
Janelle and Liddie separate bitterly, Liddie into kitchen, Janelle back into the living room. Melia holds out her hand. Janelle takes it.
JANELLE: Well I’ve taken care of children, but I’ve never helped make one before. I’ve wanted to. At times I have very badly wanted a child.
MELIA: Should we make a boy or a girl?
JANELLE: Girl. Or a boy. Boys are impossible. Girls are becoming impossible. You decide.
Liddie returns, hands Janelle a packet of mail.
TIM: What needs to be done?
LIDDIE: You need to get lost. I need to talk to my daughter.
TIM: Ok. I have to finish an order. (to Melia) Will you call your boss?
MELIA: Come over in the morning and we’ll make a big list.
Tim hugs Melia, starts to the door.
TIM: (to Janelle) You need a ride?
JANELLE: I have Betty’s car. One of these hopped-up things, buckle in and it blasts off. Does everything but shave your armpits. Call me.
Janelle goes out.
TIM: You really don’t like the cabinet?
MELIA: I really don’t. It was a present. Like an extra toe: “There must be something we can do with this.”
TIM: It’s beautiful wood.
He goes out. Liddie approaches Melia.
LIDDIE: Say frankly. It’s six weeks. Would you rather stay with your mother?
MELIA: I don’t know. It’s been a unique three days. Talking with you. Stand back watching myself, very objectively, I do that, feeling hysterical and sometimes tremendously happy.
LIDDIE: I do talk about stuff besides sex, right?
MELIA: At times. But that’s great. It’s not one of the hot topics with my parents. Since I have a brother, I assume they’ve done it, they just prefer not to make it public knowledge. And I share some of that: for me, sex is fine, ok, but it’s not separate. My cats, my trees, my cooking, my mate, the nurturing, that’s the root of it. The sex is icing on the cake, and I do like icing, but—
LIDDIE: For me it’s friendship. Something friends do. And sometimes just pure adrenalin, or this funny little gadget you got for Christmas. . .
You didn’t answer my question.
MELIA: I’m uncomfortable here. Tim likes to call me “an explorer.” Ok. Maybe. But I still travel with full suitcases.
MELIA: But then so what? Discomfort, I mean, I’m stiff, my nipples are sore—
LIDDIE: God, I remember—
MELIA: I wanted to ask you—Never mind, I—This is embarrassing. . . Ok. My doctor said, if I want to nurse, that I should take some oil, and regularly massage the nipples, and that will relieve the soreness and so on, and it does. . .
LIDDIE: Great.
MELIA: But it also gets me . . . tremendously aroused. And I don’t know. . .
LIDDIE: I would advise: expand the parameters of the massage.
MELIA: (embarrassed) Stop that!
Nevertheless, yes. I would like to stay here. Because right now I need my natural mother. My natural mother, that’s the bottom line. Whoever she is.
LIDDIE: Whoever she is.
With difficulty, attempted lightness:
Remember you mentioned the hospital? Where you were born? Sisters of—
MELIA: Life.
LIDDIE: Beautiful name. That’s not where it was.
MELIA: It was. It—
LIDDIE: That’s not where I was. I checked. I did make a baby in my belly. I had a daughter in Brooklyn, June of 1962. Not at that hospital. Not you.
Melia looks at her, stunned. Fade.
Scene Four
Janelle at one side, the trio at the other.
JANELLE: Sometimes it works.
LIDDIE: Backrubs are a great excuse for starting. Well first it is a backrub, then pour a little oil right in the small of the back, and brush with your whole front, flat belly on the flat back slither, tobogganing. . .
JANELLE: There are rehearsals. Spans of rehearsals, you think you know where the character’s going, and it’s fine, it’s a job. And one day, some very simple question, “Jan, could you move to the sofa?” “Well, why?” “Well I think. . .” And you plunge into the jungle.
TIM: We’d just started seeing each other, and she came to visit, late afternoon, went out on my fire escape to enjoy the breeze, and started kissing, and before we were quite aware, we were doing it, and suddenly “Hoo, this is a fire escape!”
JANELLE: And it’s hell. Three weeks of absolute hell, the director’s pitching a fit, I’m a raging bitch and I start to smoke again, and then—If you’re very lucky, and if you’re all serving the play—Maybe all of a sudden, Friday before tech—It comes together.
MELIA: On the beach, whole image of sand and sky and sea, but the sand sticking, oh God, sheets would be so nice. . . And then home in the bathtub, kissing, and he says, “Talk to me, tell me what you like, tell me what it feels like. . .”
JANELLE: Yes, it does. Even with the most unlikely casting, you find some common thread, and it becomes a kind of a family. . .
LIDDIE: Roaring with laughter on a hot night, and all that sweat, raise up and smack together, like seals, and laugh till you almost lose it. . .
JANELLE: And it does take time to tie up loose ends, but it comes together. Maybe not quite as you’d like, and maybe some scars. But it does come together. Sometimes surprisingly well.
LIDDIE: Backrubs are a great excuse.
Melia sits propped in the sofa, writing. Janelle enters, carrying a cupcake with a candle in it.
JANELLE: Happy birthday. I would sing, but I’m not sure you’d welcome that.
MELIA: Thanks. I’m not much for sentiment.
JANELLE: It’s not sentiment. It’s plain tortured croaking.
She starts sweeping floor.
Isn’t that odd? I get my students to sing. But I’m scared to death. Never have. Never will. Feel good?
MELIA: Fine. Sore. Counting the days. Two more weeks.
JANELLE: Lord God, I would go crazy. Four weeks—
MELIA: Five now—
JANELLE: Five? (realizing) I already swept here.
MELIA: What’s this housewife stuff?
JANELLE: Well your parents are coming at six and they are Presbyterian.
MELIA: They’ll just stop in. Actually they’re very sweet. Liddie’s terrified. She keeps sorting the magazine rack.
JANELLE: What do they know about Liddie?
MELIA: Just that she’s a friend.
JANELLE: You don’t look a bit alike. . . . Well maybe you do. I can see it.
Pause, then Janelle goes to a half-packed box.
I had all these videos packed, then they all got unpacked to be watched. I couldn’t find the blades of the Cuisinart. When’s she getting back?
Tim appears, with a grocery sack.
TIM: Hi.
JANELLE: Would you please tell me where in the HELL you put the blades to the Cuisinart. I spent a half hour chopping for the stir-fry—
TIM: I built a rack. Right beside it.
Janelle looks, lets out a hoot of agony.
Happy birthday. Oh, your mom called me at the shop.
MELIA: Which mom?
TIM: The one who wants to name the baby Gerald.
MELIA: She’ll settle down.
TIM: No, it’s great. I love being treated like a son-in-law.
Pause. Tim sits by Melia. Janelle continues packing.
I was thinking—
MELIA: You’re doing lots of thinking.
TIM: Well forty miles here, forty miles back—Names, ok, we should give the baby a name—
JANELLE: (to herself) Neat idea.
TIM: But he, she, shouldn’t be stuck with it, if at some point he wants to change it, because childhood, I mean it’s a process of self-definition—
JANELLE: (unable to restrain herself) It’s a process of being a child!
TIM: (taking up the battle) The child discovering who they are.
JANELLE: I’m going to have to watch every minute that you don’t turn that child into a serial killer.
TIM: Janelle. . . Could I talk to you a minute?
JANELLE: I’m busy, for Godsake. Her parents are coming at six.
TIM: I’ll pitch in. Just—Out in the sunroom?
Motions her to follow. She follows, reluctantly.
I was thinking—
JANELLE: Here we go.
TIM: You know, we have disagreements on the surface, but we share kind of basic values—
JANELLE: What’s the point—
TIM: And you’re on your own now, you haven’t been out there for a long time—
JANELLE: What on earth are—
TIM: So I wrote you a Personals ad.
Now I know that seems crazy—
JANELLE: A what?
TIM: A Personals ad.
JANELLE: Fuck you.
TIM: And I think this is a really easy way—
JANELLE: Fuck you! Jesus!—
TIM: —For you to get back in circulation—
JANELLE: Circulation! That is absurd.
TIM: It’s not absurd.
JANELLE: It’s appalling. I would sooner die.
TIM: Why?
JANELLE: It just is. Because. It is. I don’t know. It is. (handing him broom) Do something useful.
Rushes back into living room, followed by Tim.
TIM: Janelle, I spent some time on this—
JANELLE: Bug off!
TIM: Here it is. “Woman seeking woman. Terrific sense of humor. Youthful—”
Janelle shrieks.
Well you are. “—Looking for compatible friend with interest in theatre, fine cuisine, and possible romance. Lucky you.” Now there are some loonies out there, so we could end with “No drugs or S&M.”
TIM: I just think it—
MELIA: I am not to be disturbed!
A whoop from the kitchen.
TIM: You found the peppers.
Liddie appears.
LIDDIE: Happy birthday. Any beer?
TIM: I’ll put some in.
He goes to the kitchen.
JANELLE: Liddie, the Cuisinart, why, you know, that’s mine, I’m taking that.
LIDDIE: We got it with green stamps.
JANELLE: That was the mixer. The Cuisinart my aunt gave me for Christmas, and you made one of your usual comments. Two weeks I won’t have any more excuse to be here, so—
Janelle puts a stack of videos down, goes out to the sun room. Liddie watches her go, turns to Melia.
LIDDIE: Two weeks.
I’m glad your mom and dad can come over for birthday cake.
Melia holds up Janelle’s cupcake. Laughs.
I like your mom. She said, “My own mother drove me crazy when I was pregnant with Jimmy. I’d do the same to Melia. Keep her!” I thought, “Gee, I’m so glad it was this woman who raised my daughter!” And then: oh.
She hands Melia a small box and card.
MELIA: “June 5, 1962. One pink pearl.”
Looks at Liddie.
Janelle said maybe she can see the resemblance.
LIDDIE: Tim said the same.
A moment of suspense, then they break into uncontrollable, long-suppressed laughter.
I haven’t known how to tell them!—
MELIA: Me neither!—
LIDDIE: Thank God for aluminum siding!
MELIA: We were both pretty comic. You told me about the hospital, I didn’t know what to say—
LIDDIE: I was absolutely petrified. Does this mean she’ll leave, or stay, or dump me, or—“So, well, I, uh. . .”
MELIA: “Yes, well, so, gee. . .”
LIDDIE: And ring, excuse me, hello, and “Well gee, you sound very sexy, but I’m not in the market for aluminum siding.” Thank God for nuisance calls. Then “Well we should talk about this. . .”
MELIA: “Yeh, we should. . .”
LIDDIE: “Maybe after supper. . .” We sort of procrastinated. Four weeks.
MELIA: Procrastination has its virtues. Gives us time to see the resemblance.
They hold hands, looking at the pearl. Tim comes in with a laundry basket. Janelle returns.
TIM: Any more laundry?
MELIA: My God!
MELIA: We’re all here at the same time. One two three four. That hasn’t happened since, God, when you three were all cleaning out the storage room for me to sleep in.
Janelle drops videos with a crash.
JANELLE: (flustered) I—Nothing—Never mind—
LIDDIE: Something on your mind?
Janelle looks at Liddie furiously. Tim comes through with a basket of laundry.
JANELLE: Nobody reads that crap anyway!
Janelle goes out abruptly, to the distant area. Tim looks around, then goes out. After a moment, Liddie follows Janelle into the sunroom.
JANELLE: Nothing.
LIDDIE: How’s Betty? She still forbidding you to cook red meat?
JANELLE: It’s a vestige of patriarchy. No, Betty is pretty intense. Pretty intense, bless her heart, she’s had me turned into pretzels, I’ve wound up defending your behavior, for God’s sake—Well no, she’s not stupid, I actually find it useful to listen to her, but she’s just got this bug up her ass, and if I show any sign of compromising myself, she gives me the ideological rub-a-dub. And her lover, Jane, just kinda chirps along, it’s not what you’d call a liberated relationship, I wouldn’t put up with it for a minute—
Why am I telling you? I have to finish the dishes.
JANELLE: Don’t say it. I couldn’t believe you would have the gall to bring up the storage room.
LIDDIE: I didn’t. Melia did.
JANELLE: Well you were thinking it. It will not happen again. Unbelievable. You will stoop to anything.
LIDDIE: I didn’t start it.
JANELLE: You did.
LIDDIE: I didn’t.
JANELLE: You did. My God it was embarrassing. Suppose Tim had walked in.
LIDDIE: Nothing to see. Fully clothed, standing up.
JANELLE: It’s amazing what’s possible.
LIDDIE: I didn’t start it, Nell.
JANELLE: Why the hell am I talking to you?
Janelle leaves abruptly, back through the living room into the kitchen. Liddie stands alone, uncertain. In the living room, Tim sits by Melia.
TIM: I was saying to Liddie that we seemed to be doing pretty well. . .
MELIA: Janelle asked me, and I said pretty well. . .
TIM: But I said that I wasn’t certain because in four weeks nothing had really been said. . .
MELIA: Except just talking. . .
TIM: And Liddie said, “I think Melia really wants you with her, I really do.”
MELIA: And I told Janelle I always have. But previous lovers, love meant totalitarian togetherness. But this guy, we give each other our private space, he has his furniture and his friends, I do computers and cooking and cats, but how does that make a family? And then surprise. Liddie’s my mother, and then I go nuts, and then do I stay or go, and I stay. I stay with my friends. My mom said, “You have very strange friends, but they seem to understand you.” They seem like family.
TIM: And I said, “Well, the house is clear and the cats are lonely. . .”
MELIA: And Janelle said, “You could do worse maybe. You’ve put up with fleas.”
They embrace. Liddie returns, brooding, sits at desk.
TIM: I’m gonna make popcorn.
He gets up, goes into kitchen. Liddie continues sitting at her desk, staring at it.
MELIA: Liddie?
LIDDIE: Two weeks.
MELIA: Liddie, I could set up your database. I do vertical applications.
LIDDIE: Is this a proposition?
MELIA: I customize programs to specific needs.
LIDDIE: (distracted) That’s what they did for me, I paid a bundle, but it’s this conventional real estate thing—
MELIA: It’s very simple. This application has its own language. I can set up the data fields; create entry forms, report forms, customize the menus, set up macros, import from your on-line listings, whatever. It has its own development language. There’s no visible signs that it’s alterable, these things get stripped down to a run-time version. But programs can be modified. Anything you want it to be.
That’s what I do. Daughters make potholders for their mamas. Think of it as a potholder.
LIDDIE: Daughters?
MELIA: Take about two weeks.
Yes you can.
Liddie and Melia embrace.
JANELLE: (off) All right already!
Janelle charges out of the kitchen, followed by Tim, pursuing her into the sun room.
TIM: Janelle!
In the sun room, Janelle halts, glares at him.
TIM: I was thinking. . .
Janelle makes a huge despairing gesture..
I feel we need to come to some resolves. I mean there’s a dimension here—
JANELLE: Cut to the chase, baby!
TIM: I would like to build you a bed.
Dead silence.
One of two ways, we could either take out the king-size, and I could make two really nice beds that could fit into the space, or—
JANELLE: Liddie’s room?
TIM: Well, so if you wanted to be here, and you didn’t want to share a bed, you could do that.
JANELLE: What the hell are you talking about! Damn, Tim! I don’t need a bed in this house!
TIM: Well—
JANELLE: Fucking Jesus! Unbelievable! You are non-stop!
TIM: I don’t think it’s so outrageous.
JANELLE: Mind your own business!
TIM: Don’t you really want to be here?
JANELLE: You are a dirty-minded little—
TIM: This is a family here! And families respect each other’s needs, and for that reason I did not come into the storage room.
A cry of outrage. Janelle goes out through the living room, followed by Tim. Melia and Liddie look up.
You’re not happy. It’s obvious. Be honest!
Janelle goes into the kitchen. Tim starts to pursue, stops, turns to others:
TIM: I don’t think I’m batting a thousand.
LIDDIE: Janelle?
JANELLE: (off) I’m doing the fucking popcorn!
TIM: I’ll do the popcorn!
MELIA: It’s my birthday!
Tim charges into the kitchen. Janelle emerges.
JANELLE: (to Liddie) Let’s talk.
Indicates. They move to the sun room. Melia starts brushing her hair. Janelle and Liddie stand silently.
First off, I would like to acknowledge that I was in fact the initiator of our encounter in the storage room. Second, that I enjoyed it. Third, that it might possibly happen again. Which I don’t find easy to say, since I’m not sure of your sentiments.
LIDDIE: I’ve felt there’ve been spans of friendly time between us?
JANELLE: Amazingly. And Betty’s been dinging at me, “You don’t have to be a victim!” By which she means I should kick your ass. But which I interpret quite differently.
So I will not be the victim. I will play comedy on stage and not in my personal life.
LIDDIE: Which means?
JANELLE: Which means, for a start, that I would like to be in this house, which I know and I like—It’s my house too, for Godsake. You say houses are like friends, lovers, maybe we share an old, leaky, garlicky lover. Tim can put a bed here in the sun room, set him making a bed, keep him out of my hair. Damn him, he saw right through me.
I thought, well if the sex business wasn’t an issue, then. . . But it is. I miss you, I’m having the most disreputable dreams, and I was afraid I’d just fall right back into it. Until I just reached out for it, and it happened, and I suppose for the first time I understood you. How it is for you. For once I wasn’t at your mercy or groveling or grateful, I was just doin’ what come natural, and fabulous, she really wants me, I was tickled to death, she couldn’t resist! Help me get through this!
She reaches out. Liddie clasps her hand. Tim comes from the kitchen, sits beside Melia, takes the hairbrush, starts brushing her hair.
I don’t mean I’m moving back. Well I am. Not as lovers. As friends. My thought is—Weekdays. Weekends I’ll be at Betty’s, or whatever the hell I want, but I won’t be here waiting for you, and whatever you do that’s when you do it, not when I’m around, do it on weekends like normal people do.
And you will be discreet, but I won’t make you have to lie, I won’t ask, and as far as sex, I mean with me, I just don’t know—Well yes—Well it depends—
Melia takes the brush, brushes his hair.
Maybe it’s bullshit—But if we can keep coming up with modifications and alternatives and options, and more or less stay stuck together, then eventually we’ll get old and die, and our problems are solved. I’m an optimist.
LIDDIE: Do friends have sex? What’s the difference, Nell? Friends and lovers? When do friends have sex?
JANELLE: When the spirit moves.
They draw closer. Janelle hesitates.
Sun room. This is fine. I like looking out to the garden.
LIDDIE: I’ve spent quite a lot of time in that garden.
They kiss, then embrace with passion.
MELIA: Popcorn!
JANELLE: I hate popcorn.
Liddie and Janelle return to the living room. Tim appears, with the cabinet drawer filled with popcorn.
MELIA: Any more preparations for six o’clock?
LIDDIE: I think we’re set.
MELIA: Is this what’s left of the cabinet?
TIM: No, I took it apart, and it’s beautiful wood, and given the fact that a baby has no right angles, I’d like to build a cradle.
JANELLE: Jesus God. . .
LIDDIE: It’s a birthday! It’s time to boogie!
Music begins.
MELIA: Boogie. . . I get chills. I think about cradles and babies, and I want to laugh and hoot and holler, and then suddenly I feel that we’re so fucked up, not to mention the rest of the world, and maybe first we need to straighten out ourselves, and then the world, and then it’s time to boogie.
TIM: No one will boogie then for six hundred years. The art of boogie will fade.
LIDDIE: Babies are born to boogie.
JANELLE: Just boogie and pray.
They sit, take handfuls of popcorn, eat. Fade.