Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 2 • Summer 2002 • Drama

A Couple (long story on a short arc)

a play in verse

Garret Jon Groenveld

Production Notes: It's best to find a way to have your actors find what works. This production used a large red bedsheet spread on stage to represent at various times, a bedsheet, a towel, a rope, blood.

The lines should be read as scripted, staggered but separate (except when indicated) so we can hear every word.

How we meet:  
  How we meet:
We meet at a party.  
  We meet in a dark room.
We say a crowded party.  
  Whose party?
A friend's. A mutual friend's.  
  We say we met at a party.
Yes, at a crowded party.  
  But --
A pause.

It is a dark room. We are all fingers and --

  A dark back room, a bar, sex. Drunken sex.
A dark room, I can't see anything.  
  But you can feel.
Everything, I still can, everything, about you. Sometimes, I still stand in a dark room, alone.  
  Like this.
Like this, I try to remember.  
  We were both out of work. It was a month of --
A beat.  
My tongue is numb.  
  He doesn't know what he's touching.
I've been kissing him so much,  
  This is my body, built for sound.
can't feel my lips. I move  
  This is not my first time. I think it's his.
them over his body --  
  This is different, he seems to care.
placing, lifting, wrapping,  
  Placing, lifting, wrapping.
pucker, bite --  
  Pucker. Bite.
can't feel anything on my face.  
  He's in love, he thinks, he says so,
Using it so much, needs so much.  
  almost, in the dirty closet, he almost
Now here he is again, mouth open --  
  says he's in love.
tongue again, I can't feel but  
  The crazy thing is.
I open up, because I think, "If I don't he'll leave me and this need is worth it, not to sleep right."  
  The crazy thing is -- I don't care. I think I'm in love too.
A beat. They look at each other.  
The day lacks, not a packed and stacked morning  
  spent flicking tongues over small surfaces repeatedly --
child at the tit  
  or a cat at a bowl of milk.
We waltz over squares of land, more following the rhythms than knowing to put our feet  
  or why feet step where they do
as if the echo of our bodies borrows our bodies,  
  doesn't return the glow morning gave, sends letters home about it,
to place the experience in an envelope on a shelf which we take out and savour throughout the day.

A pause.

Neither of us have jobs. I have unemployment.

A pause.
  I don't.
He moves in. Doesn't bring much.

A beat.
  Us gay boys wait for work.
Us gay boys wait for work.  
Us gay boys wait for work. Us gay boys wait for work.
  Not a one employed.
The sun rises and sets  
  without a finger lifted but to touch each other's bellies.
The sun rises and sets.  
  Hunger drives us to rise, line up at take-out counters.
The Chinese ladies call us ghosts.
  We see, well, I see, less of the us we used to be -- less of the me I used to be.
"We used to be," us gay boys say.  
  Because we're not Chinese, the ladies call us ghosts.
A beat.  
  And then I tell him why I'm not working.
And then I get a job.  
  I tell him why I'm not working.
I get a job, not because of what he tells me.  
  It's because of what I tell him.
No, I have been waiting for this job. I told you. I applied before we met.  
  I tell him --

Action in silence: STEVEN moves his mouth, telling BEN he has AIDS. They stare at each other in silence. BEN walks up to STEVEN, lifts him onto his shoulder, turns half circle, sets him down.


I think everything is fine, months and years ahead. All of that waiting for the right one to come behind. The world is not empty. Will not be. I love him. I tell him. I love him. I think I say this all out loud. That I love him. The world is not empty, filled with ghosts, the world is not empty. The world is not ... do I say this out loud?

A silence.

  He falls into silence.
No I don't. I want to travel. I say, "Let's take a vacation!"  
  He says he'd like a bit of travel to some land étrange to put us in a foreign context.
"We'd go tomorrow, if not for the refrigerator all the food that will spoil."  
  What could go bad so quickly? Besides, even if we ate every bit, we'd still be hungry. We consume it all. We've gotten fat. Nothing passes its expiration date. We'd even like to eat each other but these days keep our distance, look at each other like sweet things on the other side of the window. More than any éclair, I focus on my see-through reflection, intangible as ...
After eating, we sleep, dream dreams that do not reveal their purposes, lack the efficiency they usually carry-- the reason for this one's face on that one's body. My dream: all night, feet shuffle on some railroad platform like trapezists on a wire, lifting, lowering, to test if the next step is there, stuck halfway between poles. His dream: he's a cellist, fingering strings, vibrations, waving the bow until the horsehairs start to snap, snap. Later, I find scratches on my stomach.

A beat. Now they speak to each other. A long pause.
  We met in a dark room.
Like this.  
  Why is this awkward?
Because I know how it ends.  
  (softly) Not like I do, not like I do.

Action in silence: STEVEN turns away from BEN, who touches STEVEN on the shoulder. STEVEN turns and lifts BEN on his shoulder, turns half circle, sets him down.
  A year later.
A beat, they sit in chairs, positioned slightly askew.
Two men sit close. A broad room, but positioned, so their knees are but inches, although askew, slightly. My face lowered. His face turned, almost as if an interview has taken place and no questions were asked. A desk, an ashtray. A sky out the window. Although I don't remember until later, how clean and oceanic it hangs.

A beat, it is morning.
  We kick the sheet down the bed, until morning, it hangs like a moon from the end, about to fall off the sky. You sit at your side, feet firmly planted, a stoop shouldered doll, weary at the way morning pours out.
I stand before the mirror, slip the razor over the face until smooth. I lean in -- the mark on the mirror, breathing makes.  
  The sheet falls, I rise, make the bed, turn on your coffee, maneuver into the bathroom around you, the last time I'll see you.
The last time I'll see him.  
  I move out.
He moves out.  
  (Accusing) You try to sleep with someone who isn't when you are positive. You try it!
A pause.

You fucking coward. (pause) He takes:
  (as if in a note) your old bookshelf, it was just gathering dust, and your old paper backs. A chair. I hope you don't mind. I took my ashtrays, I know you don't mind that. I don't know what else to say. Goodbye, whatever that means. Don't try and find me.
I don't.

Pause while STEVEN exits.

but get a call, a few months later.
"Come clean up his effects," the voice says.
His effects, is that all it boils down to? Effects?

A beat, he is in STEVEN's apartment.

unopened mail       comic books       calendars with pages not ripped off       the seat of the chair worn smooth       spilled cups dried out       coffee scent reawakened by wiping up       papers filled with lists       pictures       your face indelible in each one       heating pad       checkbook       work boots       a candle burned in a container until it is a puddle of wax       overturned wine bottle       "I'd be honored," you said, twirling       disability check       tax forms       gauze       I hand-write, "Deceased, return to sender"       a string of Danish flags       your mother's Christmas plates       ashtrays       unmade bed       tubing       cosmetics       a half dozen cans of Campbell's chicken noodle             my old bookshelf crammed full of paperbacks       a syringe       cough syrup       serrated scissors to cut the fringe

STEVEN enters from behind.
  What are you doing?
Sometimes, I stand in the dark.  
  Like this?

STEVEN fades into darkness.
Like this. We meet at a party and we end up like ... who cares how we met, the world is not empty, I am saying this out loud, I am saying this ...

Action in silence: BEN pantomimes picking up STEVEN and carrying him to the other side of the stage. He pulls out a sheet.

I said I'd accumulate you somehow, gather you up, take the edges and make a seam -- when I'm done you will be a whole garment, ready to wear. I'll put you on when I remember you, twirling like Elizabeth Taylor, you'll be my Richard Burton, in love with purple eyes.

He unfurls the sheet, drapes it over his shoulders, takes a moment to wrap himself up in it. Then puts his arms to his side, and lets the sheet fall to the ground. Slow fade to black.
Garret Jon Groenveld

Garret Jon Groenveld is a poet and playwright in San Francisco. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals, including Modern Words, Fourteen Hills, frisson: disconcerting verse, and Blue Satellite. His play about Sarajevo, The Blood Winter, was featured in 1999's Bay Area Playwrights Festival. He has been awarded the Playground Emerging Playwrights award five times. Recently he was named the First Playground Fellow, which includes a commission for a new play. His original musical, Off-White Party Weekend, co-written with John Morace, premieres August 2002 at Theatre Rhinoceros in San Francisco.

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