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NEXT TIME
by Ken Tesoriere
.
.

 

          Characters

Lena - 29

Michael - 30.

          Time and Place

Now. Here.

          Setting

Two chairs, a table - all white. A red rose in a slender glass vase.

.

 

 

AT RISE: LENA is sitting at the table, staring at the backs of her hands flat on the table, fingers spread apart, and alternately traces over marks on the backs of her hands. Across from her, red rose in a vase.

20 seconds.

A NOISE off-stage.

LENA tenses, looks to the rose and back on her hands as----

----MICHAEL enters wearing a business suit, carrying a briefcase, halts, stares at Lena.

10 seconds.

LENA looks around to him.

MICHAEL smiles awkwardly, enters to her, pulling off his tie.

LENA draws away slightly.

MICHAEL freezes:

                                        MICHAEL
(tie) What? Did one of them...something with a tie?

HE releases the tie - "See, not me".

LENA looks back at her hands.

MICHAEL continues to the table:

                                        MICHAEL

How can I know anything? You tell me nothing. I can't guess their movements, their gestures.

LENA crosses to him, takes his briefcase, and pulls his tie off slowly, watching it come to her.

Motionless, MICHAEL watches her.

SHE now uses a head gesture to ask for his jacket.

Eyes never leaving her face, HE removes his suit jacket and leans in to kiss----

----SHE stiffens away, stares rigid.

HE straightens back.

SHE takes the jacket. looks into his face, leans to kiss him -not passionate but intentional----

----which HE receives as is.

LENA turns aside and exits with his jacket, tie, and briefcase.

MICHAEL drops to sitting on the other chair at the table and lowers his face into his hands, elbows on the table - with release of tension, his body sags.

10 seconds.

Determination returns, MICHAEL straightens up, draws over and unfolds the newspaper, reads - though he is actually waiting, aware of Lena's sounds and movements off-stage.

LENA enters bringing a plate of food, silverware, napkin, and the day's mail to the table.

MICHAEL pretends to read until she stands at his side.

LENA sets the items at their usual places before him, sits on her chair, stares at the red rose while tracing a finger over marks on the back of one hand.

MICHAEL pretends not to notice - shakes open the napkin, eats, peruses mail.

                                        MICHAEL

Read in today's news about Diamond Crystal settlement offer?

(pause)

Lena?

LENA shakes her head, no.

                                        MICHAEL

They're offering to pay the lawsuit only with a guarantee against all future indemnities included. Good stew, Honey. Hmmm, perfect. Which means Diamond crystal has more to hide. Pricks. Poison half a city neighborhood. Mark my words, 20 years from now, we'll learn Diamond Crystal poisoned the entire northside. These vegetables, steamed perfect...crunchy with the cheese all melted over---- What's this? House insurance due already? Fast six months gone. Taste some?

LENA shakes her head, no.

                                        MICHAEL

Tasting this good, no wonder you couldn't wait for me to eat. I tried to leave the office on time. The boss has some kind of mental radar. Like 2 days ago, just as I started out to lunch, he buzzed. The man has only commodities and futures for brain waves. Probably why he's considered a genuis...on a very narrow bandwidth. So, what did you do all day?

LEAN shrugs.

MICHAEL leans across and places his hand over hers, stopping her finger tracing the back of her other hand.

LENA stares at the red rose.

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued)

I've waited all day, Honey, to get home and talk about something other than commodities and futures, talk with you.

Pause: LENA sits frozen.

Furious, MICHAEL smiles and pats her hand and resumes eating----

----and LENA resumes tracing over her hand.

                                        MICHAEL

I've thought, next weekend, let's get away to the lake. Would you like to?

(pause)

Lena?

LENA shrugs, nods.

                                        MICHAEL

Sure. For the entire weekend. Drive out Friday night, not come back until Monday morning. I'll call Marty and Susan and reserve their cabin will you STOP doing that?

LENA freezes.

                                        MICHAEL

Sorry. I know I shouldn't shout, but I---- You doing that...reminds me.

LEAN lowers her hands onto her lap and stares out across the table.

                                        MICHAEL

I come home to be with you.

(beat)

I'm here for you.

(beat)

I'm not them.

(beat)

Your silence makes me feel like them.

(beat)

Look at me.

(beat)

Lena?

(beat)

I love you!

LENA looks at him.

                                        MICHAEL

Yes, love. Still. And forever.

LENA looks to the red rose.

Furious, MICHAEL flings the newspaper, gets up, roams:

                                        MICHAEL

What do you want from me? You won't eat meals with me. You won't sleep in our bed. You used to cook like a chef, where now, this's like dog scrabble and you---!

HE sees LENA sitting rigid, staring out, terrified.

                                        MICHAEL

(gentling somewhat)

Do you still want me?

(beat)

Do you?

(pause - snaps)

DO YOU?!

Pause - 15 seconds - MICHAEL roams banging his own head and muttering. He goes up behind Lena:

                                      MICHAEL

(gently)

I'm sorry I----

LENA startles in fear, bends away from him.

MICHAEL reels back, rounds so that she can see him:

                                        MICHAEL

Sorry...I'm sorry.

(beat)

For everything I don't even know I'm doing.

(beat)

You can't know what it's like.

LENA looks to him, stares, then looks at marks on her hand and finger-traces.

                                        MICHAEL

What? What? Tell me so I'll know.

(pause - roams)

On my side, so little known. So few facts about the---- Only imagined. Which is why...which I don't...I only----

LENA looks to him.

MICHAEL moves to her quickly, remembers and eases to her side, crouches:

                                        MICHAEL

Lena, I need to know. Do you still want me here?

(beat)

Or would you rather be alone...all alone?

(pause)

Tell me some-thing?

LENA, looking at him steadily, raises a hand from her lap and hesitantly strokes his face, his hair, a flicker of a smile.

MICHAEL enthusiastically hugs her, kisses her face, hair, neck hungrily----

----LENA snaps rigid and stares out:

                                        MICHAEL

Yes...yes. I'm here for you...my wife, my love. Whatever you want, whatever you need, however long you need.

(draws away and looks at her)

Lena and Michael, how it's always---- What?

(furious, roams)

Shit! Fuck! God-DAMN them all to hell forever!

(looks to Lena frozen, his fury dissolves into helplessness, returns to his chair)

How?...I don't know how to be in my own home now. How with my own wife now? Lena, help me? Help me understand.

LENA gradually eases, puts her hands on the table, glances at her marks and covers that hand with the other hand and, in stages, looks directly at Michael.

                                        MICHAEL

Sweetheart?

(beat)

Do you still want me?

(pause)

Do you?

Pause.

                                        LENA

Yes.

                                        MICHAEL

Yes! Three little letters...the sun shines again. Like us again, together. I promise...Michael and Lena again.

(roams, picks up newspaper)

We need time. All the time you need. Like the doctors said, time and caring and openness. And day by day----

(sits)

I'm here to listen. Talk away...anything, everything.

LENA has resumed finger-tracing marks on her hands and watches that.

Pause.

                                        MICHAEL

Lena?

(beat)

You have to talk about it.

(beat)

The doctor said talking is the quickest remedy. Actually, he said release. Release and you'll feel better, be better.

(beat)

Lena?

(beat - tracing)

Would you please stop doing that?

LENA ceases, stares at the red rose.

                                        MICHAEL

Look at me.

(beat)

Please, Lena?

(beat)

Look at me.

(beat)

Your husband, your lover, I'm right here.

(beat)

Over here, Lena, look over here.

In stages, LENA looks to him.

                                        MICHAEL

It's me? Just me? Now, tell me...anything you need to. Whatever you want. Start with...start---- I'm listening.

(beat)

Maybe start from when you got out of the car. From the beginning, then work throu----

LENA has looked back at her hands and resumes tracing the marks.

Pause.

MICHAEL drops his head forward, hanging, in defeat.

LIGHTS abruptly dim.

All the previous repeats now exactly - all physical movements and Michael hearing only silence from Lena - except where noted differently.

 

LIGHTS brighten to find LENA sitting at the empty table, staring at the backs of her hands flat on the table, fingers spread apart, and alternately traces over marks on the backs of her hands.

20 seconds.

A NOISE off-stage.

LENA tenses, looks at the rose----

                                        LENA

The hopeful carrion circles closer: Has she killed herself yet?

----and LENA looks from the rose back on her hands, as----

----MICHAEL enters wearing a business suit, carrying a briefcase, halts, stares at Lena.

10 seconds.

                                        LENA

Is she really ruined completely?

LENA looks around to him:

                                        LENA

In all her new vileness?

MICHAEL smiles awkwardly, enters to her, pulling off his tie.

LENA draws away slightly.

MICHAEL freezes:

                                        MICHAEL

(tie)

What? Did one of them...something with at tie?

HE releases the tie - "See, not me".

LENA looks back at her hands:

                                        LENA

A silk tie gag.

MICHAEL continues to the table.

                                        MICHAEL

How can I know anything? You tell me nothing. I can't guess their movements, their gestures.

LENA crosses to him----

                                        LENA

Lord grant me strength to carry this man-child a while longer?

----SHE takes his briefcase, and pulls his tie off slowly, watching it come to her.

                                        LENA

His tie knotted around my throat, bending my arms back and bending me over.

(man's voice)

"In the trunk with the bitch!"

MICHAEL stands motionless, watching her.

SHE now uses a head gesture to ask for his jacket----

Eyes never leaving her face, MICHAEL removes his suit jacket----

                                        LENA

Like his fine suit jacket, the tall one....expensive jewlery glittering...his styled hair and manicured nails digging into me...digging and gouging my skin every time he----

---MICHAEL leans in to kiss her----

----LENA stiffens away, stares rigid.

HE straightens back.

SHE finally looks into his face----

                                        LENA

You can't save me, Michael. You can't even save yourself. But I can save you.

----and SHE leans in to kiss him - nothing passionate but intentional----

----which HE receives as is.

                                        LENA

(turning aside)

All of us fools believing our love-religion. For something to hold onto.

----and SHE exits with his jacket, tie, and briefcase.

MICHAEL drops to sitting on the other chair at the table and lowers his face into his hands, elbows on the table - with release of tension, his body sags.

10 seconds.

Determination returns, MICHAEL straightens up, draws over and unfolds the newspaper, reads - though he is actually waiting, aware of Lena's sounds and movements off-stage.

LENA enters bringing a plate of food, silverware, napkin, and the day's mail to the table:

                                        LENA

Save you because I know you better than you know yourself. Better than I know myself...these remains I am now.

MICHAEL pretends to read until she stands at his side.

LENA sets the items at their usual places before him----

                                        LENA

You'll never forget me. Or the sound of my name. But you'll survive.

----SHE sits on her chair, stares at the red rose while tracing a finger over marks on the back of one hand----

                                        LENA

And eventually, remembering my face clearly you'll find strangely difficult.

----as MICHAEL pretends not to notice - shakes open the napkin, eats, peruses mail.

                                        MICHAEL

Read in today's news about the Diamond Crystal settlement offer?

(pause)

Lena?

LENA shakes her head, no:

                                        LENA

I drank whiskey all day...good, steady numbing all day long.

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued)

They're offering to pay the lawsuit only with a guarantee against all future indemnities included. Good stew, Honey. Hmmm, perfect.

LENA

Silence here all day...silence in my reel of new twisted memories. Silence echoing with my private dead thinking. Keep drinking, dull everything, until---- Yes, until.

                                        MICHAEL

(continuing)

Which means Diamond Crystal has more to hide. Pricks. Poison half a city neighborhood. Mark my words, 20 years from now-----

MICHAEL continues speaking - what he said earlier - as his voice fades away.

                                        LENA

Funny...in my new perverse dead humor...when it was happening, after the initial shock? I wasn't surprised. Nothing turns out right. Not for me. Even with us...I thought I'd stolen one thing completely all mine. A Fool's desperate hoping. Trouble always has been my shadow. My curse hidden inside every charm.

                                        MICHAEL

(continuing - normal)

These vegetables, steamed perfect...crunchy with the cheese all melted over---- What's this? House insurance due already? Fast six months gone. Taste some?

LENA shakes her head, no.

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued)

Tasting this good, I understand why you couldn't wait for me to eat. I tried to leave the office on time----

Again, MICHAEL's voice fades away as he continues speaking.

                                        LENA

Strong medicine, keep it coming. Convince me I'm somebody else. Stronger until that shadow always following me----

I've died, Michael. I'm dead. You know that, deep down...us and me, we're dead. Only waiting now for---- Waiting. Why am I still waiting?

                                        MICHAEL

(continuing, normal)

So, what did you do all day?

LEAN shrugs:

                                        LENA

Blinds and curtains drawn dark so I can run wild with all my new dead drinking acquaintances.

MICHAEL leans across and places his hand over hers, stopping her finger tracing the back of her other hand.

LENA stares at the red rose.

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued)

I've waited all day, Honey, to get home and talk with you.

                                        LENA

(sitting frozen)

Probe. Interrogate.

(man's voice)

"Details, give us the details!"

Furious, MICHAEL smiles and pats her hand and resumes eating----

----and LENA resumes tracing over her hand.

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued)

I've thought, next weekend, let's get away to the lake. Would you like to?

                                        LENA

Flee! Run! Hide her away!

                                        MICHAEL

Lena?

LENA shrugs, nods, finger-traces hand marks:

 

                                        LENA

Carrion finish picking off this carcass.

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued)

Sure. For the entire weekend. Drive out Friday night, not come back until Monday morning. I'll call Marty and Susan and reserve their cabin will you STOP doing that?

LENA freezes.

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued)

Sorry. I know I shouldn't shout, but I---- You doing that...reminds me.

LEAN lowers her hands onto her lap and stares out across the table:

                                        LENA

Poor Michael being reminded. While in my bones, in eveyr pore of my flesh now over and over how the tall one, all the way through biting my hand every turn he took in me some way?

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued)

I come home to be with you.

                                        LENA

Pressure...tell, tell...details, details.

                                        MICHAEL

I'm here for you.

                                        LENA

Not actual details. You want escape.

                                        MICHAEL

I'm not them.

                                        LENA

Not their deeds. But the same Man spirit - Rule.

                                        MICHAEL

Your silence makes me feel like them.

(beat)

Look at me.

(beat)

Lena?

(beat)

I love you!

LENA looks at him:

 

                                        LENA

(man's voice)

"Do I still want to own you, Lena, as this ruined merchandise?"

                                        MICHAEL

Yes, love. Still. And forever.

LENA looks to the red rose.

                                        LENA

(man's voice)

"Give me details!"

Furious, MICHAEL flings the newspaper, gets up, roams:

                                        MICHAEL

What do you want from me? You won't eat meals with me. You won't sleep in our bed. You used to cook like a chef, where now, this is like dog scrabble and you---!

HE sees LENA sitting rigid, staring out, terrified:

                                        LENA

(man's voice violently)

"Open up, Bitch! Open up again or I'll smash your face open up!"

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued - gentling somewhat)

Do you still want me?

(beat)

Do you?

(pause - snaps)

DO YOU?!

PAUSE - 15 seconds - MICHAEL roams banging his own head and muttering.

                                        LENA

(man's voice violently)

"Take it all, Bitch! Take it all! Take it again, take it again, take it!"

MICHAEL goes up behind Lena:

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued - gently)

I'm sorry I----

LENA startles in fear, bends away from him.

MICHAEL reels back, rounds so that she can see him:

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued)

Sorry...I'm sorry.

(beat)

For everything I don't even know I'm doing.

(beat)

You can't know what it's like.

LENA looks to him, stares, then looks at marks on her hand and finger-traces.

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued)

What? What? Tell me so I'll know.

(pause - roams)

On my side, so little known. So few facts about the---- Only imagined. Which is why...which I don't...I only---

LENA looks to him:

                                        LENA

(man's voice violently)

Details. How many? How many ways with them all? How many times? How many ways at once?

MICHAEL moves to her quickly, remembers and eases to her side, crouches:

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued)

Lena, I need to know this. Do you still want me here?

(beat)

Would you rather be alone...all alone?

(pause)

Tell me some-thing?

LENA, looking at him steadily, raises a hand from her lap and hesitantly strokes his face, his hair, a flicker of a smile.

                                        LENA

Poor man-child, shaking from your own echo. I can't fill your life up any longer. Time you finally stand on your own----

MICHAEL enthusiastically hugs her, kisses her face, hair, neck hungrily----

----LENA snaps rigid, stares out:

                                        MICHAEL

(Continued)

Yes...yes. I'm here for you...my wife, my love. Whatever you want, whatever you need, however long you need.

Lena and Michael, how it's always----

                                        LENA

(man's voice violently)

----"Take it, Bitch! Eat this, Lust Dog! Buttered bun service our full pack!"

(wild male laughter, that as abruptly ceases)

                                        MICHAEL

(draws away)

What?

(furious, roams)

Shit! Fuck! God-DAMN them all to hell forever!

(looks to Lena frozen, his fury dissolves into helplessness, returns to his chair)

How?...I don't know how to be in my own home now. How with my own wife now. Lena, help me? Help me understand.

LENA gradually eases, puts her hands on the table, glances at her marks and covers that hand with the other and, in stages, looks directly at Michael.

                                        LENA

(slips into a man's harsh voice)

Tell me, Lena, every slap. Every punch. Every grab. Every insertion. All of it---- "Details, give me all the details so I can escape guilt weighing me down!"

                                        MICHAEL

Sweatheart?

(beat)

Do you still want me?

                                        LENA

Can you really be so dense?

                                          MICHAEL

Do you?

Pause.

                                        LENA

Yes.

                                        MICHAEL

Yes! Three little letters...the sun shines again. Like us again, together. I promise. Michael and Lena again.

                                        LENA

Whatever makes your clouds dissolve. Perhaps very soon. Perhaps for both of us----

                                        MICHAEL

(overlaps while roams, picks up newspaper)

----We need time. All the time you need. Like the doctors said, time and caring and openness. And day by day----

(sits)

I'm here to listen. Talk away...anything, everything.

LENA has resumed finger-tracing marks on her hands and watches that.

Pause.

                                        MICHAEL

Lena?

                                        LENA

Details.

                                        MICHAEL

You have to talk about it.

                                        LENA

(man's voice)

"Details, Bitch!"

                                        MICHAEL

The doctor said talking is the quickest remedy. Actually, he said release. Release and you'll feel better, be better.

                                        LENA

(man's voice mocking)

"Bitch taking us all on one more trip!"

(wild male laughter, abruptly ceases)

                                        MICHAEL

Lena?

                                        LENA

No, Sergeant, I do not know why they chose me.

                                        MICHAEL

(tracing)

Would you please stop doing that?

LENA ceases, stares at the red rose.

                                        MICHAEL

Look at me.

                                        LENA

(man's voice mocking)

"How many times did you fuck them?"

                                        MICHAEL

Please, Lena?

                                        LENA

(man's voice mocking)

"Took one in your mouth while another plowed up your ass and you expect us to believe you didn't want them?"

                                        MICHAEL

Look at me.

(beat)

Your husband, your lover, I'm right here.

                                        LENA

(man's voice)

"My rights! Details!"

                                        MICHAEL

Over here, Lena, look over here.

In stages, LENA looks to him:

                                        LENA

Yes, Michael, your chance to escape.

                                        MICHAEL

It's me? Just me? Now, tell me...anything you need to. Whatever you want. Start with...start---- I'm listening.

(beat)

Maybe start from when you got out of the car. From the beginning, then work throu----

LENA has looked back at her hands and resumes tracing the marks:

                                        LENA

Grampa's rose garden...that's where I return to get away...from them now...away from everything now.

MICHAEL drops his head forward, hanging, in defeat.

LIGHTS abruptly dim, then rise full.

                                        LENA

(strongly - directly at Michael throughout)

Twelve.

MICHAEL looks up from his head hanging, hearing Lena clearly now.

                                        LENA

Twelve times.

(beat)

Then I stopped counting.

(beat)

I stopped looking at any of them...all of them climbing on me, pulling me, shoving their----

(pause)

The next day, they began taking me all over again and several two at a time either by----

MICHAEL releases a small cry, stumbling further back, away...LENA follows after him:

                                        LENA

Till I found Grampa. He took their faces away...their voices and laughter away. No more cocks. None of their cum on my face. Or cum leaking from my ass or out of my vagina----

MICHAEL flees.

Pause.

LENA take out a vial of pills and sits, puts the vial on the table and considers it, as:

                                        LENA

It's better this way, Michael. You're already gone. You don't know that now, but you will. Soon you will.

(draws the red rose out and gently fingers petals and stem)

In Grampa's rose garden again, his big hands gently cut branches off. So gentle. I'm only 7 as I watch Grampa grafting cut rose branches onto other rose bushes. His big fingers gently tie the cuttings on and he wraps the new joints in moist peat mix. Then Grampa wraps it all around in plastic and ties the plastic top and bottom. Grampa smiles down at me. That tickles me inside. We go back in his house together and at home I count the weeks passing. I count six weeks.

(fingers the vial, back to rose)

Once Grampa says it's time, I run out ahead of him and wait, pushing up and down on my toes excited. Grampa cuts the plastic wrap away. Gently he peals off the peat and like some glorious wish, the two branches are one. Like magic. It's all new. I clap my hands. I want to be a magician like Grampa. Make new flowers. Make bright new flowers. Be a new magical flower, all on my own.

LENA replaces the rose and sets her hands flat on the table, stares out - as LIGHTS fade out.

 

End  of  The  Play

 

1998  Ken Tesoriere              about the author | catalan translation


This electronic version of  Next Time is published by The Barcelona Review by arrangement with the author.
This play may not be performed, archived or distributed further without the author's express permission. Please see our
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