Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Conversation

Part II: Memory (fragment)

The phone rings. GIRL picks up.

GIRL: I thought I was a silent character. Now you’re calling me?
ME: Problem?
GIRL: I am you.
ME: Yes. Fictionalized.
GIRL: You are me.
ME: We’ve established this.
GIRL: You’re calling me. How is this possible?
ME: Do you watch Dr. Who?
GIRL: Time travel.
ME: Revision.
GIRL: Is this like a 12 step program? Are you calling to apologize?
ME: For what? I’ve been pretty good to me.
GIRL: What about the child?
ME: You’re not my daughter.
GIRL: No? I’m versatile. Besides, being just you is boring.
ME: Thanks.
GIRL: She forgave you? For leaving her with strangers, for forgetting her birthday, for always thinking of yourself?
ME: No…I don’t know.
GIRL: So you admit it.
ME: That’s not why I called.
GIRL: Why did you call?
ME: Is there something wrong with me? For not being able to lie? For calling things what they are? For demanding absolutes.
GIRL: Ugh, absolutes. Now you’re asking for trouble.
ME: Why? Why can’t I say, this is what I think, and this is what I’m going to do about it. Clear. To the point. Why can’t I say, I don’t believe you, I don’t understand how you can have two versions of the same reality, one euphoric, for the cheering crowds, and one meant to elicit concern. I don’t understand how you can be both annoyed and ecstatic. Both fulfilled and starved. Both glorious and insecure.
GIRL: What are we talking about?
ME: I mean, you’re either having dinner, or starting a revolution. You can’t do both.
GIRL: Why not?
ME: Because that’s how you end up with kitchen philosophy. You’re either consumed or complacent. Stranger or saint. Hero or traitor.
GIRL: But the hero always becomes the traitor in the end. You said that.
ME: But I didn’t believe it! I often say things because they sound good not because I believe every word. It’s called wit.
GIRL: Is it? Then what do you call the things you should have said but didn’t, so later, when you replay the conversation in your head and insert the lines that will crush your opponent, you feel even worse for not having thought of them at the right moment. What do you call that?
ME: Delayed wit. I have that too. It’s a disease, like nostalgia. (Beat) I often think I write plays to get back at people.
GIRL: Is this true?
ME: No…I write plays to have conversations I would never have otherwise.
GIRL: Okay. So what happened? You experienced a disappointment?
ME: More like a landslide.
GIRL: Well.
ME: What?
GIRL: That’s everybody. Everybody lets everybody down all the time. It’s like a law of physics only nastier. You start cherishing the people who only disappoint you on occasion. They’re your best friends. It’s not like we’re spoiled for choice or anything. Have you ever looked at people in elevators? Of course not. You don’t see anybody in a crowd. But people in elevators, all stuck together, so uncomfortable because their bodies touch, start talking nonsense, mostly about the weather, “Nice weather we’re having,” or “oh, isn’t it rather hot for this time of year?” and you think “rather hot,” first, who talks like that and, second, it’s 110 degrees, what the fuck are you talking about, of course it’s hot, and our bodies are in such close proximity, and this elevator never stops, and you smell. That’s how people really feel about each other. And if the elevator crashes, they’ll try to save themselves, maybe send a child up, out of shame. That’s what we call fellow-feeling. You think you’re the only one who’s disappointed? You want me to talk about driving, and honking at people doing insanely stupid things, and putting my life in danger because they felt like being assholes that day? I bet that’s probably why you don’t drive. Or, like, one of twelve reasons. (Beat) And I’m also mad at screenwriters. It’s like they’ve never been to college or took a writing class. All the professors in their films have insanely huge offices with Persian rugs and cappuccino machines, and giant windows, and they’re totally rude to their students, and teach only in amphitheatres - on the rare occasions they do teach – and if they’re poets or fiction writers – because nobody writes plays in movies – they forget to wear shoes on campus, and never direct a dissertation or go to a meeting. Where do those screenwriters get their material, that’s what I want to know? And when we get over it, and suspend our disbelief, and start caring for those absurd characters, the ending sucks. Like, hire someone good at endings if you suck at them, don’t put your audience through that disappointment at the end of each series. (Beat) And then there are the times when I compliment someone and say, I like your earrings, or your lipstick or whatever, and they tell me they like my shirt, I’m not sure if they actually like my shirt or just say that to return the compliment, because when I say, I like your earrings, I’m totally honest, but I don’t know about other people, because there are some compliment-returners out there. And I think, my god, what if everyone is like that? I guess I really just don’t like not knowing things, but also feel like you have to trust people at some point, but if you do it too often then you’re naïve, so how many times is too often and how many times is enough? All I’m saying is, I can’t win. (Beat) You can’t win. (Beat) What were we talking about?
ME: Men.
GIRL: Were we? I had no idea.

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