9780571211388

The Mercy Seat A Play

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780571211388

  • ISBN10:

    0571211380

  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2003-02-21
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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Summary

Set on September 12, 2001,The Mercy Seatcontinues Neil LaBute's unflinching fascination with the often-brutal realities of the war between the sexes. In a time of national tragedy, the world changes overnight. A man and a woman explore the choices now available to them in an existence different from the one they had lived just the day before. Can one be opportunistic in a time of universal selflessness? Neil LaButeis a critically acclaimed writer-director for both the stage and screen. His works include the playsThe Distance from Hereandbash: latterday playsand the filmsIn the Company of Men,Your Friends and Neighbors,Nurse Betty, andPossession, as well as the play and film adaptation ofThe Shapes of Things. In a time of national tragedy, the world changes overnight. On September 12, 2001, Ben Harcourt finds himself in the downtown apartment of his lover, Abby Prescottwho also happens to be his boss. His endlessly ringing cell phone haunts their conversation as Ben and Abby explore the choices now available to them in an existence different from the one they knew only yesterday. Will Ben let his family know he's alive, or will he and Abby take this chance to create a new life for themselves? The Mercy Seatcontinues the brilliant American playwright Neil LaBute's unflinching fascination with the often harsh realities of the war between the sexes, brutally exploring whether one can be truly opportunistic in a time of universal selflessness. "Though set in the cold, gray light of morning in a downtown loft with inescapable views of the vacuum left by the twin towers,The Mercy Seatreally occurs in one of those feverish nights of the soul in which men and women lock in vicious sexual combat, as in Strindberg'sDance of Deathand Edward Albee'sWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"Ben Brantley,The New York Times "There is no playwright on the planet these days who is writing better than Neil LaBute . . .The Mercy Seat[is] the work of a master."John Lahr,The New Yorker "LaBute [is] our American Aesop, a mad moral fabulist serving stiff tonic for our country's sin-sick souls."John Istel,American Theatre "An intelligent and thought-provoking drama that casts a less-than-glowing light on man's dark side in the face of disaster . . . The play's energy lies in LaBute's trademark scathing dialogue."Robert Dominguez,Daily News "Though set in the cold, gray light of morning in a downtown loft with inescapable views of the vacuum left by the twin towers,The Mercy Seatreally occurs in one of those feverish nights of the soul in which men and women lock in vicious sexual combat, as in Strindberg'sDance of Deathand Edward Albee'sWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"Ben Brantley,The New York Times "[A] powerful drama . . . LaBute shows a true master's hand in gliding us amid the shoals and reefs of a mined relationship."Donald Lyons,New York Post "Uncomfortable yet fascinating . . .The Mercy Seatmakes for provocative theatersharp, compelling, and more than a little chilling."Michael Kuchwara,Newsday "InThe Mercy Seat. . . LaBute has given us his most compelling portrait of male inner turmoil."Brendan Lemon,Financial Times "The sharply funny and incisiveSeatis not a response to September 11, but a response to the response to September 11an emotionally jarring consideration of the self-serving exploitation of tragedy for personal gain . . . Perhaps it's time we stop thinking of LaBute as a mere provocateur, a label that condescends to an artist of grand ambition and a ni

Author Biography

Neil LaBute is currently at work on the film adaptation of his play The Shape of Things.

Table of Contents

"There is no playwright on the planet these days who is writing better than Neil LaBute . . . The Mercy Seat is . . . the work of a master."
--John Lahr, The New Yorker

"An intelligent and thought-provoking drama that casts a less-than-glowing light on man's dark side in the face of disaster . . . The play's energy lies in LaBute's trademark scathing dialogue."
--Robert Dominguez, Daily News

"Though set in the cold, gray light of morning in a downtown loft with inescapable views of the vacuum left by the twin towers, The Mercy Seat really occurs in one of those feverish nights of the soul in which men and women lock in vicious sexual combat, as in Strindberg's Dance of Death and Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
--Ben Brantley, The New York Times

"[A] powerful drama . . . LaBute shows a true master's hand in gliding us amid the shoals and reefs of a mined relationship."
--Donald Lyons, New York Post

"Uncomfortable yet fascinating . . . The Mercy Seat makes for provocative theater--sharp, compelling and more than a little chilling."
--Michael Kuchwara, Newsday

"LaBute's intriguing . . . new play . . . is most compelling when it is daring to look into [a] character's heart to explore the way self-interest, given the opportunity, can swamp all our nobler instincts."
--Charles Isherwood, Variety

"In The Mercy Seat . . . LaBute has given us his most compelling portrait of male inner turmoil."
--Brendan Lemon, Financial Times

"LaBute [is] the dark shining star of stage and film morality."
--Linda Winer, Newsday

"Sharply funny and incisive Seat is not a response to September 11, but a response to the response to September 11--an emotionally jarring consideration of the self-serving exploitation of tragedy for personal gain . . . Perhaps it's time we stop thinking of LaBute as a mere provocateur, a label that condescends to an artist of grand ambition and a nimble facility with language. With this gripping . . . new drama, he probes deeper than he ever has before."
--Jason Zinoman, TimeOut New York

"A nihilistic yet brutally honest work . . . As complex and unfathomable as human motivations . . . The Mercy Seat is haunting."
--David A. Rosenberg, Backstage

"LaBute risks offending contemporary sensibilities by using a historic tragedy as his turning point for a drama regarding a morally empty American . . . [The Mercy Seat is] controversial and compelling."
--Michael Sommers, The Star-Ledger

"LaBute . . . is holding up a pitiless mirror to ourselves. We may not like what we see, but we can't deny that--if only in some dark corner of our soul--it is there."
-Jacques le Sourd, The Journal News

Excerpts

The Mercy Seat
Silence. Darkness.
 
A spacious loft apartment, well appointed. Doors leading off in several directions, suggesting a hallway to bedrooms and a bathroom or two. A stainless-steel kitchen, visible. Three large arched windows display a view of other buildings across the street. A kind of amber haze in the air.
 
This is a large sitting room with lovely couches and chairs. Bookshelves heaped high. Framed pictures. A television plays quietly in one corner. A layer of white dust on everything. Absolutely everything.
 
BEN, maybe thirty-three, sits pressed into the corner of one loveseat, staring straight ahead. A cell phone rests in one hand. It rings and rings.
 
After a long moment, the front door opens and a woman of about forty-five enters, also covered in dust and carrying several plastic bags. This isABBY.She seesBENas she removes an Hermès scarf from around her mouth, but she says nothing, continuing on to the kitchen. She takes off her coat and hat, then begins putting groceries away. When she can't stand it any longer, she walks over and takes the phone out of his hand and pushes a button. The ringing stops and she returns the phone toBEN. White clouds of dust follow her every move.
 
ABBYSave it.
BENHmm?
ABBYThe phone. I turned it off to save it.
BENThat's okay.
ABBYI know it's okay, I know that. That's why I did it, because it's okay.
BENRight. / Sure.
ABBYIf you're not going to use it, then you should keep it off. / Save the battery.
BENUh-huh.
ABBYPlus the sound ... drives me crazy. You know?
BENSorry ... I didn't hear it.
ABBYOh.(She laughs.)Okay ...(She stands overBENuntil he finally looks up. Doesn't say anything else. She shakes her head and moves back to the kitchen.)So ... did you call?
BENHuh?
ABBY"Call." I asked if you called.
BENUmmm ...
ABBYOf course you didn't. I know you didn't.
BENNo, I didn't.
ABBYI knew it.
BENDidn't answer it, either ...
ABBYAnd are you planning to?
BENI'm ... I was, ahh ... I was going to, maybe ...
ABBYYeah, that's pretty much where I left you. At the "babbling-to-myself" stage.
BENI keep trying to.
ABBYReally?
BENYeah, but ... but I'm ...
ABBYHuh.(She walks over again, billowing little clouds of whitebehind her. She takes back the phone for a moment, turns it on. Waits. Checks something as it begins ringing almost immediately.)The last number you called was the Chinese place. Yesterday morning, for your shirts. / called, actually ... remember?
BENYes. / I do.
ABBYGood. / Just so we're on the same page here ...(Looking at the display.)It's foryou.(She sighs and turns the phone off in mid-ring. Hands it back.)
BENWhat I meant was ... in my head, I was trying to ... Several times. But I ...
ABBYYou couldn't. Right? / Justcouldn'tdo it ...
BENNo. I guess not. / No.
ABBYSo, you want to, then? You haven't, but you want to ...
BENI dunno. I guess so ... shouldn't I?
ABBYOh, I can't help you with this one. Uh-uh ...Thisone's all up to you.
BENI know, I know ... I just ...
ABBYYou should, of course. Call.
BENYes.
ABBYI mean, it's the decent thing to do.
BENThat's true ...
ABBYIt's theonlything to do, really ...
BENUh-huh.
ABBYYou know that, right?
BENYeah.(Beat.)Yeah, I do ... Yes.
ABBYYeah.(Beat.)Funny thing is, you were going to, anyway. I mean, for adifferentreason, obviously, but that's what you said.
BENI did. / I did say that ...
ABBYThat's what you told me. / You said, "I'm going to call her. I am. Right now." You were sitting on that couch, the samespot, really, and I was kneeling between your legs when you told me that. Five minutes before it happened. Like, aminutebefore all this ... happened.(Beat.)Of course, we've heard about that one a few times now, haven't we? The BIG CALL.
BENYes.
ABBYYeah, just a couple. / "I'm going to do it, I promise. This time I mean it."(Beat.)I even threw in a little incentive, didn't I? / Down there on my hands and knees ...
BENI'm aware of that. / Yes. / I did say it, I know ... and I should. Call.
ABBYBut that doesn't really mean shit. Does it?
BENI guess not.
ABBYThat's what I like about you, Ben. Your absolutely rigid commitment to being a flake.
BENThanks.
ABBYYou're welcome.
BENA lot.
ABBYYou're welcome a lot.(Beat.)You want a snack? It's cheese.
BENNo thanks, but ... no.
ABBYI'm gonna have some. I'm going to have some cheese.
BENThat's all right.
ABBYI know it is! I know it's all right, and that's why I'm going to have some. I'm going to fix myself a plate of this niceHavarti that I bought for you and a few crackers, and then I'm ... I'm going to ...
BENGo ahead.
ABBYOh, I will, I will ... I'm ... I think I'll just ... I'll ...(She doesn't finish the sentence but just nods to herself. She goes to the kitchen and begins to cut into the fleshy white cheese and then stops as the tears come. She puts her head down, but her shoulders betray her. After a moment, she calms herself and looks over at BEN, who hasn't moved but is looking at her.)That was a test, by the way ... to see if you have a decent fucking bone in your body. / Which you failed.
BENI just ... / I'm sorry, Abby, but ...
ABBYWhat? You what ... ? Tell me.
BENI just can't right now.
ABBY"Can't?"
BENNo ... not at the moment.
ABBY"Can't" what? Be human?!
BENNo. I can't, no. / Not at this time.
ABBYJesus; you're amazing ... / Seriously, you are.
BENI'm just telling you how it is ...
ABBYOh great. Thanks, Ben, thanks abunch.
 
ABBYtakes a piece of cheese and shoves it in her mouth. Chews.BENsits up a bit, brushes off his legs. He turns on the phone and looks at it. It rings.
 
BENShould I ...?
ABBYAnswer it or keep it off. It's up to you.
BENMaybe I should ... I mean ...
ABBYYeah, maybe you really, really should. Go ahead.
BEN ...just say I'm doing all right or ... / You know ...
ABBYGo ahead. / Do it.
BENYeah ... I probably should.
ABBYAnswer!(Just then the phone stops ringing. Dead quiet. Maybe the sound of sirens way off.)Too late. You're too late, Ben. As always.
BENI see that.
ABBYOnce again, your ability to be completely off the mark is uncanny.
BENThanks, honey.
ABBYFuck. You.
BENThanks again.
ABBYWelcome.(They look at each other and almost smile. Almost.BENfiddles with his cell phone a bit whileABBYnibbles at a cracker.)It's been nearly a day ...
BENI know.
ABBYAlmost an entire day since it happened.
BENI know that.
ABBYI mean, the world has gone absolutelynutsout there; it really, really has ... No idea what's happening, no one does, the army patrolling around--there are people incamouflageon the Brooklyn Bridge--and you're, I don't know, just ... I don't know where you are.
BENAbby, I'm right here.
ABBYWhy is that not comforting when you say it?
BENI ... I'm just saying that I know what's happening. I do. I'm aware of the situation here. / And out there ...
ABBYYou are? / Really?
BENYeah, really. Yes ...
ABBYHuh.(Beat.)And all that knowledge of yours ... it doesn't make you wanna do something? I mean, not even just a little bit?
BENOf course ... yeah, of course it does. But ...
ABBYAhh, "but." There's always a "but" when you talk to Ben Harcourt.
BENAbby, that's not ...
ABBY"I'd love to, but ..." "This Friday would be great, but ..."
BENStop.
ABBY"Sure, you can suck my dick, but ..."
BENAbby, STOP IT!
ABBYWhy don't you just change your name? It's only two letters and you're there. "B-U-T" instead of "B-E-N." / It's not a bad little nickname ...
BENAbby, I said ... / Why are you doing this?
ABBYBecause it makes me curious, that's all.(Beat.)When I was out there, walking around, staring at people ... I suddenly wondered how you feel about it. I mean,reallyfeel about what's happened.
BENI feel like everybody else does. / I do!
ABBYI don't think that's true. / No, uh-uh.(Beat.)'Cause after the shock of it, okay, after the obvious sort of shock that anyone goes through ... your first thought was that this is an opportunity ...
BENYeah, but I meant ... for us. / Just as apossibilityforus...
ABBYWho does that?! / Who in their right mind is going to see ...this... as having "unlimited potential"?
BENI didn't mean it like ... / No, I just meant that ...
ABBYIt's a meal ticket, that's exactly what you said! / "Our meal ticket" to a banquet that, lately, you haven't seemed all that eager to attend ... / Meaning, "me."
BENAbby, that's not ... / No, that is not the ...
ABBYAnd so that's why I'm wondering, I just wanna know ... how does Mr. Ben Harcourt feel inside about all this? Hmm?
BENI feel ... you know ... / I'm very ... I mean ...
ABBYNo, Ben, I don't know. That's why I'm asking you. / How doyoufeel? Hmm?
BENNot good.
ABBY"Not good." Well, that's succinct, anyway.
BENI do! I feel ... It's awful. I mean, my God. I can't even ...
ABBYSure, you can. Go on.
BENWhat do you want me to say, Abby? Jesus.(Beat.)It's horrific. A complete and, and, and utter ...
ABBYFill in the blank.
BEN... tragedy. It's beyond belief. Biblical.
ABBYJesus, you sound likeDan Rather.
BENHey, I'm a little ... / Oh yeah, it's so goddamn easy to ...
ABBYYou left out "calamity" and "moral abyss." / Tell me how it makes youfeel!
BENShitty, okay?! I feel shitty about it!!
ABBYAnd why's that?
BENYou know why ... / Come off it ...
ABBYNo, I don't, no ... not really. / No, we talked about "thank God you weren't in there" and other survivor guilt--type shit, but we haven't really discussed how you ...
BENJesus, Abby, this is ... what do you want? I can't believe it!I'm in shock. I feel like I'm gonna throw up, okay, like I might just heave my guts out here on your ... faux-Persian rug or something. How's that? I-feel-shitty! Is that enough?
ABBYIt's a start.(Beat.)The rug's real, by the way.
BENI don't know what to say.
ABBYWell, that's nothing new.(Beat.)So ... how shitty?
BENAbby!
ABBYNo, I just mean "shitty" enough to walk out and do something about it? To go pitch in down at a hospital, or hand out food ... On a shitty scale of 1 to 10, how shitty is your shitty feeling?
BENYou're just trying to provoke something here.
ABBYNo, I'm not at all. I'm really interested. I am.(Beat.)I was thinking about this last night, woke up next to you on the couch there and I started thinking. I mean, I know how / feel, I know that, and I just wanted to be clear about where you and I stand on this thing. As a couple, I mean.
BENWhat "thing"?
ABBYJust this whole ... "morality" thing. You know.
BENI mean ... shit, it's obvious that it's a catastrophe, right? That's ... Why even mention that? It's beyond. I can't really find words that're even ...
ABBYOf course you can.
BENNo, I can't! They all sound ... lame. / No. It's impossible.
 
ABBYcomes out into the living area now, provokingBEN.He stirs.
 
ABBYTry. / Okay, no words, then. Action. That's what I'm saying. Do you feel "not good" enough--your words, not mine--to go out and take some action, back this feeling up with a little ... I dunno ... some kind of ...
BENYou want me to, what, go down on the street ...?
ABBYOnly if you feel like it.
BENOf course I do. Of course, Abby ...but... I can't.
ABBYThank you! Iknewit was coming.
BENYou know I can't. / You already know that!
ABBYYeah, yeah, I know. / I just wanted to hear that you wished you could.
BENI do. Obviously I do.
ABBYI don't believe you.
BENWell ... whatever. That's not my problem.
ABBYYeah.(Beat.)On my way back down here, from the store, I followed someone. I mean, I saw this woman wandering along, putting up Xeroxes of this guy. A young man. Probably not her husband, looked too young for her, but then, hey ...(Points to herself andBEN.)I don't think so, though. But she's just shuffling along in the dark withsunglasseson and this stack of pages, some masking tape, doing it at random. Light poles, the sides of buildings, even on a car or two. Seriously. Didn't put the thing under the wiper but taped it right to the window. A picture of this smiling young man. In a tuxedo. "Have You Seen Him?" and a phone number.(Beat.)I must've trailed her for, like, ten blocks or so before I realized I'd missed my street.
BENWow. / Huh ...
ABBYYeah, "wow." / This whole city's covered in copies ...
BENUh-huh. They said that on the news.
ABBYSomebody at Kinko's corporate is probably laughing his ass off right now.
BENYep.(A thin smile.)... So, did you help her?
ABBYWhat?
BENI'm saying, did you help her out at all? Taping the signs up or anything?
ABBYNo, I didn't. / I had the ... groceries and everything ... but umm ... / I was just trying to ...
BENOh, okay ... / ... ahh, "but." / ... I see.
ABBYI get where you're going ... / I get it, Ben.
BENFine. / Good.(Beat.)Look, it's sad, Abby, we already know that. It is. But my standing around and giving outTwix barsor shit like that is not gonna mean a damn thing ... it isn't.
ABBYIknow. It'd just be nice if you were that kind of guy ...
BENWell, sorry.
ABBY ...that's all.
BENYou know why I can't, anyway. / We've discussed it.
ABBYYeah, I know. / Iknow...
BENWhy I'm not answering the phone, or ... I mean, come on.
ABBYThe "meal ticket," I know.
BENSo all right, then.(Beat.)Doesn't mean I'm not torn up about this, that it doesn't, you know, cover my soul.
ABBY"Cover my soul"? Jesus, Ben, please ...
BENIt "moves" me, of course it does! But we've gotta look at the implications here. What it means tous, our future. I don't wanna sound crass here or unfeeling or ...
ABBYNo, that couldneverhappen.
BENListen to me! I don't ... but do you honestly think we're not gonna rebound from this? And I don't just mean you and me, I'm saying the country as a whole. Of course we will. We'll do what it takes, go after whomever we need to, call out thetanksand shit, but we're gonna have the World Series, and Christmas, and all the other crap that you can count on in life. We do it, every year, no matter what's happened or is going on, we still go to the movies and buy gifts and take a twoweek vacation, because that's-the-way-it-is.(Beat.)I'm not making light of anything, either, when I say that, or making excuses for what we've decided ... you know ... this is not about that. I'm saying the American way is to overcome, to conquer, to come out on top. And we do it by spending and eating and screwing our women harder than anyone else. That's all I'm saying.
ABBYThat's really moving ... / It's like seeing a Norman Rock well for the first time.
BENIt is, though! That's what we do. It's what we're good at ... / Come on, gimme a break ...
ABBYIt's just ... I mean, it's sooo, what,outlandish, you saying that! I don't even know where to ...
BENI'm not saying it's "great," I'm saying it's a fact! This is a national disaster, yes ...untilthe next time the Yankees win the pennant, then we'll all move on from there. Sorry, but it's true.(Beat.)And I do understand the "big picture" here. The larger context, I mean. I do.
ABBYYeah? You've been keeping track on CNN, or ...
BENNo.
ABBY... somebody send by an interoffice memo?
BENNo, not exactly. I just ... sort of ...know.You know?
ABBYYou "know." Oh.(Beat.)You mean, like Kreskin or something? Like that?
BEN... You're being facetious now, right? / You didn't win the argument, so now you're gonna ...
ABBYVery good. / See ... you're not that much in shock, are you?
BENGuess not.(Beat.)Actually, I don't know who Kreskin is, I just figured you were being mean-spirited and went with it.
ABBYTouché.(Beat.)You don't remember who the Amazing Kreskin was? Seriously?
BENNo.
ABBYCome on!
BENI don't ... I'm sure it's one of those "you wouldn't understand" things. I probably wasn't old enough ...
ABBYWell, at least you're still sweet.
BENI don't mean that you're ... I'm just saying ... whatever.
ABBYYep, that's us. "Whatever." Pretty much sums it up.(Beat.)Kreskin was a mystic. Well, not a mystic, really, not that, but just this guy on TV who would--looked a little like Austin Powers, in a way--he was a psychic, I guess that's what you'd call him. Psychic. He'd walk around the studio, he had this show on television, Sundays, and he'd wander through the place telling people stuff about their lives. Reading their minds. Calling out the name of their dead dog, their mother's birth date, crap like that. Figuring out where they lost their keys or their way in life, that kind of thing. Evencard tricks. Sort of. That's who Kreskin was ... around the time ofWild KingdomandDisneyand all those shows. Every Sunday night. When I was a teenager.(Beat.)Just forget it.
BENNo, but, I mean ... what was the point of that?
ABBYI don't know. I really don't.
BENOh. Okay.
ABBYYeah. Let's stop right there ... at those frightening generational gaps that rage between us.
BENYou're not that much older, Abby, really. I mean, a bit.
ABBYBen ...
BENWell, a dozen years, but ...
ABBYJust leave it.(BENnods and stops there. The cell phone begins to ring again. They look at each other as he switches it off.)Audie Murphy would be so proud.
BENWho's that?
ABBYNo one.(She chuckles.)Don't worry about it.
BENAnother member of the ol' Sunday-night lineup or something?
ABBYYou're such a shit.
BENYeah, and don't forget I'm in shock. Imagine what I can do when I'm really firing on all cylinders.
ABBYOh, I'm well aware, believe me. Believe you me ...
BENNo, come on, go ahead ... who is this Murphy person?
ABBYGeez, you're just, like, a complete cultural moron.
BENYep. Pretty much, yeah, and you know why?
ABBYYes ... because it doesn't get you anything. There's norewardfor knowing any of it. Trivia. / It's frivolous to you.
BENExactly! / That'sexactlymy point.
ABBYYou ever hear that "knowledge is its own reward"?
BENKnowledge is shit, okay? "Knowledge for Knowledge's Sake" is purebullshit.(Beat.)All learning ever does is remind you of what you haven't got. Teaches you about new stuff you'll never be or have. Because unless you can apply that knowledge anddosomething with it, it's useless. It's crap. Worthless shit. An MBA is one thing, butJeopardy!is for assholes ...
ABBYWell, well ... Goliath awakes.
BENI'm just saying ...
ABBYI heard you.
BENI'm just saying it, that's all.
ABBYAnd it's been noted.(Beat.)Duly noted.
BENDon't.
ABBYWhat?
BENYou know what. Just don't, okay?
ABBYI don't know what you're talking about.
BENYes, you do. Of course you do. I've told you not to ...
ABBYAnd don't say "just don't" to me, Ben.
BENI'm saying "don't say that," that's what I'm saying. You know what I'm saying, we've had this argument a hundred times since we've been ... / Yes, we have, we're always ...
ABBYNo, we haven't. / We nevergetto the argument because any time you've ever told me "just don't," I tell you to NEVER say that to me!
BENYeah, well, just don't ... I mean it.
ABBYOooooooh. You're so sexy when you're being a prick.
BENAbby, just ... don't.
ABBYStop it! / Don't say that!!
BENYou stop! / I said "don't" first!!
ABBYSTOP THAT!!
BENYou!!
ABBYWhat did I say?!What?
BENYou know what you said, what you always say!
ABBYWhat?!!
BEN"It's been noted! Duly noted!!" You know you said that, you say it all the time.
ABBYOh.(Beat.)I said that again?
BENYes, you did.
ABBYI didn't even realize it, I'm sorry.
BENFine, then.
ABBYFine.
BENI just don't want that. / I won't take it. Seriously.
ABBYWhat? / What, Ben ... what won't you "take"?
BENYou know. /That.Being treated like one of your ... underlings.
ABBYNo. / ... You are, though, Ben.
BENI am not! And I won't be treated like it.
ABBYWell, I'm not trying to start something, I'm not ... I promise, but ...
BENI don't work under you.
ABBYNo?
BENNo, I do not. I hold a position that supports yours.
ABBYYes, you do.
BEN... is subordinate to yours, maybe.
ABBYTrue.
BENI get paid less.
ABBYQuite a bit less.
BENSomewhatless. Right. That's all true ...
ABBYBut ...?
BENButI'm not "under" you. You do not tower over me in some literal or figurative way.
ABBYThis may be drifting toward semantics ...
BENNo, it's not. I have a point and it's not.(Beat.)I am your colleague. Your co-worker. Your partner.
ABBYOkay, Ben, I get it.
BENNo, I just want to point out that ...
ABBYGeez, I wish you were this specific when you tell me to do that one thing with my tongue that you like ...
BENThat's not funny.
ABBYYeah, it is.
BENNo, it isn't. At all.
ABBYIt's pretty funny.
BENNo, it's not. It's not at all funny ... not when I'm trying to say something. Something about us.
ABBYYou've said it, Ben. I-get-it. I do. And I'm sorry if what I say sometimes hurts you.
BENWell, it does. Sometimes. When you do.
ABBYWas that a sentence?
BENI'm serious!
ABBYFine.
BENYou belittle me. You make me feel small.
ABBYAnd yet, somehow, I don't tower over you ...
BENAbby, stop it!!
ABBYOkay, okay. I was kidding. Please.
BENWhatever.
ABBYI was. Fair enough? Can we stop?
BENYes.(Beat.)And I'm sorry I said the other thing. The "just don't" thing.
ABBYAll right.
BENI wasn't saying it at you, anyway, I was ...
ABBYI know, but ...
BENI just meant don't say the "duly noted" thing, like I'm some ...Egyptian slave,or whatever. / Anyway ...
ABBYI accept your apology. / Yes, anyway ...
BENOkay.(Beat.)And if I am "under" you, I mean, if people would say that about me, behind my back, some Old World phrase like that ... it's because you have never, in your infinite wisdom, seen fit topromoteme. (A pause in whichBENsuddenly stands and dusts himself off a bit. Moves the pillows around. Sits back down and ponders his cell phone.ABBYwatches.)Who the hell is Audrey Murphy, anyway?
ABBYIt's "Audie." He's a guy.
BENOh. Audie is a guy's name?
ABBYYes. And anyway, it's no big thing.
BENNo, come on, you said it, you might as well ...
ABBYIt was just a ...
BENHe must be somebody important. Somebody who does something better than me or you wouldn't have brought him up.
ABBYBen, honestly, it's not a big deal.
BENI wanna know! I do.
ABBYOh, for God's ...(Beat.)Did you ever seeTo Hell and Back?
BENUh-uh. What is that, on the TV?
ABBYNo. It's a movie. Well, he wrote the book first, and then ...
BENSo he's an author. Big deal.
ABBYHe acted in it as well. The movie.
BENHe did?
ABBYYes.
BENOh. Now he's an actor, too.
ABBYUh-huh.
BENDid he play himself?
ABBYUmm ... yes, he did. I guess so, but ...
BENWell, that's not really acting, then, is it?
ABBYHe was ... Yes, of course it is! It's still acting.
BENNo, it's not ... not technically.
ABBYBen, yes, it is ... He was re-creating what happened to him during the war. World War II. But I'm sure they did many takes of each scene, over and over, like they do. Re-enactingit. So I'd call that acting, wouldn't you?
BENI guess. Playing himself, though. That's kinda weak.
ABBYHe was very good. And he did that other movie ... called, ahh, you know, the ... /Red Badge of Courage.
BENNo ... / The Civil War one?
ABBYYes! See, you're not an absolute moron.
BENNo, even I was forced to take a lit class or two.(Beat.)That was Stephen Crane. He died young, / twenty-nine or something.
ABBYWell, he played the lead part in that as well ... / Huh.
BENAnother war part. It's the same thing.
ABBYWhat do you mean?
BENI'm saying the guy was no Brando, that's what I'm saying. And yes, I know who Brando is.(Beat.)He did a couple war pictures ... What is thepointhere?
ABBYNo point. Sorry I brought it up.
BENNo, uh-uh, I turned off my phone. I didn't answer it and turned it off and you said your "Andy Murphy" crack, so tell me why he's so ...
ABBY"Audie." His name was "Audie Murphy." Jesus ...
BENWhy'd you say that to me?
ABBYI was being ironic.
BENOh God ... no, not that, please.
ABBYI was.
BENNot Abby Prescott's famous fallback position ... Irony!
ABBYI was and I'm sorry.
BENAnd so ... just where was the irony? Huh?
ABBYBen, I don't want to get into ...(Beat.)Look at the news.
BENFuck the news! I don't give a shit about the news!! (He reaches down and scoops up the remote, savagely pushing the off button.)I want to know what the hell is soironicabout some Audie Murphy in reference to me!!
 
ABBYlooks squarely atBENand then picks up some cheese. Pops it in her mouth. Finishes it.
 
ABBYHe was a hero.
BENA what?
ABBYHa!(She laughs.)You don't even recognize the word.
BENWhat do you mean, "hero"? What kind of hero?
ABBYA war hero. A hero in the World War. That's what he was, and that's why I said it.
BENOh.(Beat.)A hero, huh?
ABBYApparently so. Medal of Honor and all that.
BENAnd so ... the irony is ...
ABBYWhen juxtaposed with you ...
BENGot it. I get it. "Duly noted." (ABBYglances sharply over atBEN, which makes him smile.) Ha-ha-ha. How ironic. How utter fuckingly ironic.
ABBYJust forget it.
BENWow, that was a good one! / Jesus, you oughta be onLeno.
ABBYBen ... / Knock it off.
BENNo, I'm serious, you should've ended up in that one lesbian chick's video thing, you're so goddamn clever.
ABBYWho?
BENThat one long-haired chick, hates guys. The lesbian one. / You know, you've got the CD!
ABBYI don't know who you're ... / No ...
BENWith the name ... / The big-time name ... from Canada.
ABBYWho? / ... Alanis Morissette?
BENThat's her! You should've been in that car with her and her four otherselves,driving around, you're so wonderfully ironic.(Beat.)Bitch, call me "ironic."
ABBYShe's not a lesbian. / I'm just telling you ...
BENSo what? / What do I care?
ABBYI know you don't care. Because it's trivia.
BENNo, trivial, that's what it is.Trivial. And she looks like one, anyway, so that's enough.
ABBYGod, you frighten me sometimes. You really do.
BENI don't exactly sleep like a baby next to you, either, honey.
ABBYNo, I mean it. You do.(Beat.)And how the hell did you remember she'sCanadianif you don't like trivia?
BENBecause VH1, as usual, played the shit out of it when it first came out.
ABBYYeah, but why would you ... ?
BENI watch VH1.
ABBYWhat? When do you ever sit down and watch ... ?
BENI do, and it was always on ... with the pop-up things ...
ABBYYes, but that's still pretty ...
BENMy daughter liked it! There, how's that? How's that for a reality check, huh? Becausemydaughter liked the song ...
ABBYOkay.
BENBecause my twelve-year-old, who is probably sobbing her eyes out right now, wondering where herdaddyis, likes the same fucking song that you just used to tease me with! That's how I know!!(Beat.)Better?
ABBYAll right, Ben, I'm sorry. / I am ...
BENGreat, you're sorry. / That's really terrific.(Beat.)Yep.
ABBYDon't.
BENWhat?
ABBYStop it.
BENStop what?
ABBYJuststopit ... Don't make this about you.
BENWhat do you mean?
ABBYI'm saying, don't make this thing that's happened, this whole ... unbelievable thing that is going on out there right now ... just about you. Because it's not. It isn't.
BENOh, it's not, huh?
ABBYNo. It-is-not.
BEN... (He is about to say something else, but thinks better of it, bites his tongue. He crosses over to one of the windows and looks out.) Jesus.
ABBYIndeed.
BENI mean ...
ABBYI was just out there, remember?
BENYes.
ABBYGetting you your cheese. I went out there to ...
BENI know you did.
ABBYYou know howhardit is to find Havarti at four in the morning? / The shelves are empty. People are snapping up shit like it was ...
BENNo, but ... / I'm sure they are.
ABBYWell, they are. Since yesterday.(Beat.)Do you want some?
BENNo, it's okay. Thank you, though.(He moves to another window.)Look at the ... un-fucking-believable.
ABBYUh-huh.
BENYou know? I mean, I know that's inadequate, but ... shit. Look at it out there! It's ... I mean, those buildings are just, like, gone.
ABBYYes.(Beat.)The cheese is very good. You should eat something.
BENNo thanks.
ABBYAll right. I'll put it in the fridge. Put it away.
BENOkay.
ABBYFor later.
BENUh-huh.(Beat.)How many?
ABBYWhat?
BENPeople missing. Do they ...?
ABBYI thought you were following the ...
BENI am, but ... / CNN keeps upping the ... tally thing.
ABBYThousands, I guess. / Something like that.
BENDead, or missing?
ABBYSame thing. I mean ... looks like, anyway.
BENI suppose.
ABBYThey're saying close to five. Around there.
BENGod.
ABBYAll those people ... just ...(She snaps her fingers.)
BENYeah.
ABBYIncluding you.
BENMmm-hmm.
ABBYYou've been lost, Ben. Just like that. Up in smoke. (BENnods thoughtfully at this, moves to yet another window. Tries to look down the street.ABBYsteps out toward him.) I wouldn't do that too much. People do know you around here. Well, they don't "know" you, but ... you know.
BENRight. That's true.
ABBYI mean, I'm not sure anyone could ever reallyknowBen Harcourt, but you see what I'm saying.
BENUh-huh. I get it.
ABBYThey know the face. That wonderful face of yours ... / At the mailbox. Coming up the stairs. You are "known."
BENGreat. / Well, I'll be careful, then.
 
BENsteps away, wandering the room a bit. Stops in front of the TV and turns it on.
 
ABBYGood. I mean, you wouldn't wanna blow your cover just yet, right, sweetie?
BENYou know, Abby, that's ...
ABBYI just calls 'em like I sees 'em.
 
BENjust waves her off, too tired of this to engage anymore.ABBYwatches. Suddenly,ABBY'S home phone rings three times.BENandABBYstare at each other. It stops ringing.
 
BENLooks like it might be higher. / Maybe six ...
ABBYHuh. / That's horrible.
BENShit ... six thousand people. Fuck.
ABBYUnless they're all hiding out at their girlfriends' houses.
BENJesus, that's cynical.
ABBYI thought that was one of the rules of disaster ... to keep it light.
BENNotthatlight.
ABBYSorry.
BENForget it.(Beat.)It's like February. You know? If I just woke up, from maybe a long sleep or something, and went to the window, I'd think it was the middle of winter.
ABBYWell, it doesn't feel like winter. Not out there. / Not at all.
BENI didn't say that ... / I'm saying what it looks like, okay? It's not a definitive weather forecast, for chrissakes. I'm just saying how itlooks... / Like the last place on Earth.
ABBYOh. / If it was snow, we could go down and enjoy it.
BENMmm-hmm.
ABBYMake angels and go skiing, and all that shit we used to do.
BENYep.
ABBYExcept you can't go outside, right? Don't wanna bespotted.
BENWhy do you have to keep saying ... ?
ABBYJust pointing out the "irony." Sorry.
BENWhatever.
ABBYBut if it was, snow, I mean, and none of this ... stuff ... had ever happened, then we could. We could go play.
BENYeah.
ABBYLike when we first met.
BENSure.
ABBYRemember?
BEN'Course. Vermont ...
ABBYYeah ... You sliced your hand open on the binding.(She smiles.)The edge of your ski binding.
BENRight! Had to get a stitch or two, didn't I?
ABBYExactly. Three, I think ...
BENStupid thing ... the corner was all exposed.(Beat.)Still, it was a great trip.
ABBYYep. Back when we liked each other.
 
BENlooks over atABBY,uncertain.ABBYglances at him, but returns to putting away the cheese and the rest of the groceries.
 
BENWhat's that supposed to mean?
ABBYNothing.
BENNo, seriously.
ABBYNothing, Ben. Not anything.
BENI still like you ... What do you mean?
ABBYI'm saying those first days were lovely. Really special. That's all I'm saying.
BENI do, too! I mean, feel that way.(Beat.)Listen, God, Abby, you gotta know, I mean, I know that you know ... This is not me. Like me, that is. This whole thing. Idea. I'm not normally like that. I just ... But when I looked at it, for even a second, all I could see is, yeah, it's sad, it's just unbelievablyhorridand all that shit, but ... this is it. This is the moment.Ourmoment. Everything comes down to what we decide right here. Today. I use my Discover card or get picked up on amini-martvideo camera, it's over. Finished. The whole thing's lost. And so that's why I'm ... you know ... Fuck. I dunno.
ABBYThen good.(Beat.)I just wish, whatever happens, it could always be like that. Like Vermont.
BENIt can. Abby, that's what all this ...(Beat.)Christ, that's what this is about! It can be like that now. Always. That's why we're ... doing it.
ABBYI guess so ...
BENRight? I mean, Jesus ... you think I was born this way, like some cutthroatpirateof the high seas? Huh? Hell, I'm just trying to muddle through, that's all, just muddle my fucking way through to middle age, see if I can make it that far. You like trivia so goddamn much, well, here's a little tidbit for ya ... I'mfakingit. Okay? Totally getting by on fumes. I put mygameface on and go out there and I'm scared shitless.(Beat.)You know what? I take that back ... Thisisme. I'vescrewed up every step of my life, Abby, I'm not afraid to admit it. Happy to, actually, I am happy to sing it out there for anybody who wants to hear. I always take the easy route, do it faster, simpler, you know, whatever it takes to get it done, be liked, get by. That's me. Cheated in school, screwed over my friends, took whatever I could get from whomever I could take it from. My marriage, there's a goddamn fiasco, of which you're intimately aware. The kids ... I barely register as a dad, I'm sure, but compared to the other shit in my life, I'm Doctor-fucking-Spock.No matter what I do or have done, they adore the hell out of me, and I'm totally knocked out by that. What kids are like. Yeah. (Beat.) And you, let's not forget you.Us.Okay, yes, I haven't done all that I've promised, said I'd do, I fuck up along the way. All right. But I'm trying, this time out--with you, I mean--I have been trying. Don't know what it looks like, feels to you, but I have made a real go of us, and that is not a lie. It isn't. And so then, yesterday ... through all the smoke and fear and just, I dunno,apocalypticshit ... I see a way for us to go for it, to totally erase the past--and I don't think it makes me Lucifer or a criminal or some bad man because I noticed it. I really don't. We've been given something here. A chance to ... I don't know what, to wash away a lot of the, just, rotten crap we've done. More than anything else, that's what this is. A chance. I know it is.
ABBYYeah, but it's tainted ... / ... it's a fluke.
BENWhat? / No, it's not that, no, it's ...
ABBYWe got lucky. Or, more specifically ...youdid. But you didn't earn it.
BENWhat're you talking about?
ABBYI'm just saying that it was a happy coincidence that you managed to be over here at my place yesterday morning, getting your proverbial cock sucked, when it happened ... that's all.(Beat.)Right?
BENI guess. Yes.
ABBYThe one day out of the year you're supposed to be down there for us and you decide to skip out, come over, get some head ... that's not bad.
BENSo?
ABBYSo ... there's probably a lot of spouses out there right now who wish their dearly departed would've stopped to pick up a nice Frappuccino or dropped off that roll of film they were carrying around in their pocket ... hell, maybe paid for ablow job,even. Whatever it takes to stay alive.(Beat.)I'm saying you really dodged a bullet there.
BENPlane. I dodged a plane.
ABBYOoooohhh. Careful with the humor thing, remember?
BENYeah ... (Beat.) That's a shitty thing to say.
ABBYEven if it's true?
BENYes. Even then.
ABBYSorry. I'm an honest person ...(She laughs.)Mostly.
BENYeah, make sure you slip that one in. "Mostly."
ABBYI believe you just may be pointing a finger at me, Mr. Harcourt.
BENI just may be, Ms. Prescott.
ABBYAhh. And what, in your mind, have I been dishonest about?
BENNothing ... I mean, other than, oh ... your entire life.(He sits back down on this, pulls out the cell phone again. He turns it on and sets it on one knee.)
ABBYI'm being dishonest?
BENJust a little.
ABBYAbout what?
BENCome on ...
ABBYNo, seriously, what're you ... ?
BENWhich category ... work, rest, or play?
ABBYYou tell me.
BENWell, umm ... me. There's that topic.
ABBYYou?
BENYes. I think so, yes. / For three years ...
ABBYHow? / What, that we're anitem?
BENYeah. That.
ABBYOh, come on.
BENWhat?
ABBYPeople know that. Jesus, I mean ... lots of people! Well, not your wife, maybe, but that's about it.
BENThat's not true.
ABBYShe knows?
BENNo, Jesus ... I mean people. People don't know.
ABBYBen, come on. I'm sure they do.
BENI'm serious. We've been cautious.
ABBYWe have? / When?
BENYes! / What're youtalkingabout? I'm always careful to ...
ABBYWhat, call on your cell phone? / Keep my keys hidden in the ficus tree at the office?
BENYeah. / And other stuff.
ABBYShit, Ben,please...
BENI'm not kidding!
ABBYNeither am I!
BENHey, I've never told anybody about us. No one. Ever.
ABBYI know that.
BENI've been a steel trap this whole time.
ABBYOf course you have.
BENI have!
ABBYI know, Ben. I'magreeingwith you.
BENSo then, what?
ABBYI have been.
BENWhat?
ABBYIndiscreet.
BENYou have ... what? Told someone?
ABBYYes.
BENShit. I mean ... why the fuck would you do that? Huh?
ABBYBecause I used to be proud of the fact.
BENOh.
ABBYBack whenever. Don't worry, I'm not a complete kamikaze ... It was family, not at the office.
BENI didn't mean ... you know ...
ABBYAnyway, it was a long time ago.Yearsago. I'm sure people've forgotten ... / I know I have.
BENI wasn't being ... / Come on, you know what I'm saying.
ABBYOf course I do. I've always known.
BENOkay, then.
ABBYYou like fucking the boss, but you don't want it getting around.
BENAbby ...
ABBYGet it. I got it.(Beat.)But maybe you should ask the boss sometime if she likes fucking you.
 
BENlooks over at this.ABBYwanders to the window and looks out. Comes slowly back into the room asBENfollows her with his eyes. After a moment,ABBY's phone rings, then stops after three rings. Silence as they look at each other.
 
BENAnd what's that supposed to mean?
ABBYJust a suggestion.
BENAsk you if ... what?
ABBYHow I feel about the two of us.
BENI know how you feel about us.
ABBYYou do?
BENOf course, I ... yes, sure. I do.
ABBYOh.
BENDon't I?
ABBYSure you do.
BENI mean ...
ABBYI'm sure youthinkyou do, anyway.
BENAll right, this is ... I know what you're doing.
ABBYWhat?
BENI see what ... I know this trick.
ABBYI'm not tricking you.
BENYes, uh-huh, yes, you are. This is the "make Ben feel insecure" thing. / I know this game.
ABBYDon't be insecure. / It's not a game ...
BENListen, you don't like having sex with me, you wouldn't have it. It's that simple. / You're that kind of woman.
ABBYNothing's that simple ... / You think so?
BENIknowso.(Beat.)You don't like some assistant at work, they're outta there in twenty minutes. You don't fancy a saltshakerin the cafeteria, it's changed. If you didn't want us coming over here, or sneaking off at conferences and me banging the shit outta you, we wouldn't be doing it.
ABBYReally?
BENYeah, really. I mean, you're the fucking "guy" in this relationship, let's not kid ourselves ...
ABBYOkay, Ben ...
BENMs. Prescott sports the Haggar slacks around here.
ABBYWell,somebody'sgot to!
BENYeah, but somebody doesn't have to be an overdominating cunt about it ...(Beat.)Sorry, shit, I didn't mean ... you know ...
ABBYOh, I'm sure you meant that in the best possible way.
BENNo, I just ...
ABBYAs you always say, Ben ... whatever.
 
ABBYheads back to the safety of the kitchen.BENlooks at the phone and shakes it, listens.
 
BENI don't have any sexual problems.
ABBYI wasn't saying you did. Or implying it.
BENFine.
ABBYBut somehow, as usual, you were able to turn something about me into a thing about you.
BENWhat? When ... ?
ABBYI said you should ask me if I like doing it with you. Not that you had a problem ... per se.
BENWhy wouldn't you like doing it with me?
ABBYThat's not what I ...
BENWe're great together, why wouldn't you ... ? I do not get you! What the hell are we even ...
ABBYDon't worry, Ben, I likescrewingyou just fine.
BENOh.
ABBYSee, no worries ...
BENI didn't think so. That there was a problem, I mean.
ABBYI didn't say there wasn't a problem.
BENWell ... then, I ... What don't you like?
ABBYThe rest.
BENWhat "rest"? There is no other.(Beat.)You mean, like, oral?
ABBYNo! God, you're like a twelve-year-old.
BENWell, I'm missing something.
ABBYI know. Me too.
BENNo, I mean, you're just going in loops here, and I'm ...
ABBYBen, come on, you're a goddamn grown-up! Stop it.(Beat.)I don't like what we've been doing.
BENOh. You mean the, you know, secrecy and all that. The not telling people about us.
ABBYNo, not even that. I mean, I don't love it, not at all, but I'm whatever about it ... I'm talking about the rest. Other stuff.
BENAbby,what? Shit, I don't ...
ABBYBen, God, you can be thick. It's sexual harassment, you know that.
BEN... No, it's not.
ABBYYes, it is. Yes. Very much so.
BENThat's not, no, it's consensual, what we've got, it's ...
ABBYDoesn't matter, Ben, it doesn't. How many times have you gone to those seminars and shit?! I mean ... a million.
BENI don'tlistenat those things, do you?
ABBYAs a matter of fact, yeah, I do. I'm usually the onegivingthem, remember?
BENThat's true.
ABBYAnd when I'm standing up there, going on about an "empowered workspace," and all the while I'm fucking one of my employees, how do you think I feel? Huh?
BENI don't know ... clever?
ABBYNo, Ben, not clever ... I feel like shit. Like a fucking Judas, and just plain awful. All right? That's how.(Beat.)You don't think I've fretted over promoting you, or not promoting you, or whatever the hell I see fit ... ?(Beat.)Every second of every day since we've been together I've worried about this. Us. Worried myself sick if we're talking in the hall too long or we kiss at a restaurant or I lean over and grab your knee under some conference table inSan Diego--I may like it, usually feels great while we're doing it, but something inside me, up inside me somewhere, is screaming, "You fucking idiot! You stupid needy bitch ..." After everything I've worked for, the pounds of shit I've eaten to get where I am ... to blow it all on a piece of ass.
BENI'm a piece of ass?
ABBYSometimes, yeah, Ben ... you are.
BENOh.
ABBYI'm sorry, but ...
BENNo, I mean, that's how you think of this?
ABBYOn occasion.(Beat.)At first, maybe, yes, I did.
 
BENthinks about this a moment, considering the thought. He nods.
 
BENWell, I'm fine with that.
ABBYYou are?
BENAbsolutely. Not that I only think of you in that way, but a lot of the time, yeah ... you're basically a nice lay. True, a lay that I respect and work for and enjoy taking out for aConey dog& fries ...
ABBYCharming ...
BENIt's true. I mean, I like being with you, want to spend our lives together, but sure, I've said that to myself a number of times: "She may be the boss, but ol' Abby's simply one hell of a sweet fuck."
ABBYSee?
BENWhat?
ABBY... You just did the same thing.
BENWhat thing? / ... no ...
ABBYThe "boss" thing. You relate to us in terms of who we are at work, our positions ... / You just did!
BEN"Listen, sister, the only position I relate to you in is when you're facedown on this rug, faux or not ..." / No ... I'm playing!
ABBYOh really? / You sure it's not a control issue?
BENYes!(Beat.)I don't care if you're my project director or a waitress at the corner deli ... I like you for you.
ABBYThen why do we always do it from behind?
BENWe don't.
ABBYAlways.From the first day since. All fours, facedown, never looking me in the eye.
BENI'm ... That's not fair. No.
ABBYYou go down on me occasionally, that's true ... because you think you're good at it. / You're not, by the way, for the record. Good. You're okay, not terrible, but by no means outstanding.
BENNo, I enjoy ... / Wow, let 'er rip while we're ...
ABBYAnd you'll let me give you head. Which I'm free to do any which way I like ... standing, sitting, on a train, in a plane ...
BENWe've never ...
ABBYOn a boat, with a goat ... It's like I'm fuckingDr. Seuss!
BENAbby ... this is so out of whack that I can't even ...
ABBYBut you never even glance at me, Ben, when we're making love. Not ever.(Beat.)Why is that?
BENSo, is this something ...what, you've just been lying in wait for the right ... ?
ABBYYeah, maybe.
BENOkay. Well ... umm ... let's see ...
ABBYYou don't think it's just a little bit of "I'm gonna let the ol' gal have it for getting that promotion over me"? Not just atouchof that?
BENNo. I don't.
ABBYSure? I mean, you barely used to acknowledge me when you first started at our office ... not even a smile in the morning, we're on the elevator together. / We had that whole competitive thing going right off the bat, don't say we didn't.
BENI was new, that's no big ... / Maybe, yeah, maybe so, but ...
ABBYBut then I get a boost, right, I snag the position we've both been gunning for, andbang, like, a month later, you'resuddenly jockeying for private dinners out and discussions after work.
BENYou're my boss! What the hell ...
ABBYI'm just saying, your timing, like yesterday, is impeccable.
BENHey, we started working together ... I fell for you, it's not a crime.
ABBYAhh, actually, in some states it is ... you're married.
BENYeah, well ...
ABBYAnd then we got together--on that retreat the first time, remember? Up in Connecticut--and that was pretty much the last moment you looked me fully in the face. Three years ago ...
BENThis is crazy.
ABBYI know. I know it is.
BENI want to be with you ... together, with you, for the rest of my life. Now, if that's ...
ABBYI'm not talking about that, I'm ...
BENIf you wanna find some way toruinthis, that's fine. Go ahead.
 
ABBYstops for a moment and studiesBEN.Watches to see if his body betrays him at all. It doesn't.
 
ABBYIt just ... makes a girl wonder.
BENFine. If you wanna ... fine. Missionary it is ... fuck.(Beat.)Anyway, it's probably just guilt or whatever. The "doggie-style" thing ...
ABBYGuilt? / Not Oedipal, I hope.
BENYeah, you know ... / NO! I mean about cheating and stuff ... Maybe it's just hard to look you in the face or, God, I dunno.
ABBYHell, Ben, I feel guilty. Every moment. But I still wouldn't mind making eye contact once a week.
BENIt just hurts sometimes. That's all.
ABBYThen don't do it. It's a pretty simple equation.
BENAbby ...
ABBYSeriously.
BENWhy're we even ... ?
ABBYI mean it. If you feel so "not good," then stop putting your thing in me and go the hell away ... / Or at least switch your phone on and take your wife's call.
BENThat's not what I'm ... / Awww, screw this.
ABBYLet 'em know you're alive, do that much! / Quit hiding out in my loft and do therightthing, I mean, shit!!
BENI don't want that! / I want you!!
ABBYOh.
BENIwantyou, Abby ... that's what I want.
 
They both come to a stop and stare at each other, having let out far more than they expected to. Silence. The sound of sirens out there somewhere.
 
ABBYThen why don't you say that every few days, just so I'm in on it. Okay?
BENYeah, sorry, I should.(Beat.)I do want you, though ... I do.
ABBYI'm glad.
BENAnd I don't expect anything for it or care who knows it or willeveruse it against you ... I just-want-you. That's all.(Beat.)By the way, I enjoy having sex from behind. It feels nice and, like, intimate. I love being with you like that. I do.
ABBYThank you, Ben. That's very ... thanks.(Beat.)It's funny, I probably shouldn't even go there, but--it's comical, almost ... almost comical the things you can imagine while you're making love that way. Facedown. Turned away from a person. It is to me, anyway. The ideas, or images, or, you know, juststuff ...that goes through your head if you do it that way for too long. Ha! Wow, it's ... I don't know. Just funny.
BENWhat do you mean? Like ... like what?
ABBYOh, just things. Things that you'd never expect, or be prepared for, or anything; visions that will just suddenly appear as you're kneeling there. Doing it. Having it done to you. 'Cause that's what it's like when you have sex that way all the time, like it's being done to you. That it really doesn't matter to the person back there who "it" is. Just that it--meaning, a backside--is there and available and willing. And so a lot of the time when you're going at it, my mind has just drifted off and I'll think such crazy thoughts ... sometimes fantasies, like it's somebody else, a lover I've taken, or that I'm being attacked, jumped in an alleyway by some person ... or I'll just make lists, "to do" lists for work or shopping or whatnot. I can remember figuring out all my Christmas ideas one night in Orlando at the Hyatt there, during one of our little ... on the carpet, as I recall ... do you remember that night? We had those adjoining suites ... that was a nice conference.In fact, that might've been where I first noticed your particular bent for ... well, you know. Myback porch.
BENAbby ... why don't we just ...
ABBYBut most of the time I just imagine that it's your wife. Lately that's the thought that I can't seem to get out of my head. That it's your sweet little Mrs. from the suburbs behind me with one of those, umm, things--those, like,strappythings that you buy at sex shops--and she's just going to town on me. Banging away for hours because of what I've done to her life, and you know what? I let her. I let her do it, because somewhere inside I feel like I probably deserve it, it's true ... and when I think about it, when I stop and really take it in for a moment, it doesn't actually feel that much different than when we do it. Honestly. I mean, in some ways, who better? She knows what you do it like, the speed, rhythm, all that. Unless you do it with her all pretty and tender and who knows what. Do you? No, probably not ... she's probably read the ol'mattress tagmore times than even me, God bless 'er. (Beat.) I dunno. Maybe that's what Hell is, in the end. All of your wrongful shit played out there in front of you while you're being pumped from behind by someone you've hurt. That you've screwed over in life. Or worse, worse still ... some person who doesn't really love you anymore. No one to ever look at again, make contact with. Just you being fucked as your life splashes out across this big headboard in the Devil's bedroom. Maybe. Even if that's not it, even if Hell is all fire and sulfur and that sort of thing, it couldn't be much worse than that.
BENNo, I s'ppose not.
 
Sirens in the distance.ABBYgoes to a window.
 
ABBYSo ... what do you think they'll say about you?
BENHuh?
ABBYYou know, at the wake or ... whatever it is that your people do. I mean, between the potato salad and cold meats, what kind of speeches do you think your loved ones're gonna make?
BENAbout me?
ABBYYes.
BENI dunno.
ABBYOh come on ...
BENSeriously, no, I don't wanna do that.
ABBYWe're just imagining ...
BENYeah, but it's creepy. That is spooky shit, and I don't wanna think about it ...
ABBYWhat do you care, you're dead.(She smiles.)I bet they get you a nice big stone. With the metal plaque and whatnot. You said your wife's good at that kind of thing.
BENNo, I didn't.
ABBYYes, you said ... / ... still ...
BENI said decorating. / Matching up towels and wallpaper and shit, not funerals.
ABBYSame idea, just ... permanent.
BENWhatever.
ABBYHell, maybe the company'll pay for it. Least they can do.
BENRight.
ABBYAfter losing one so young and gifted ...
BENOkay, okay ...
ABBYProbably get you one of those kinds with an angel perched up on it ... maybe a little flame thing, even. That'd be cute ... It's probably a tax write-off, too.
BENYou know, Abby, you're ...
ABBYWhat'll it say?--hmm?--your little marker--do you think?
BENWhat do you mean?
ABBYYour epitaph. I mean, if you could write it. I'm sure it'll have the "loving husband, father, brother" bullshit, no doubt; but if it was you out there with the chisel, what would you put?
 
BENstarts to say something, then stops. Considers. Then:
 
BEN"He was okay." / Yeah ...
ABBY"Okay"?/ Why on earth would you ... ?
BENBecause "okay" is not such a bad thing. It's pretty fucking underrated, actually.
ABBYYour big chance to sound good and you go with "okay." Wow.
BENLet me tell you something, there's a shitload of people out there, right now, who would like to be just "okay." Would love it. It's ... I'm sick of the ups and downs, you know, greatest guy on earth when the going's good and a son-of-a-bitch when I run through a yellow light. You grab the last thing of orange juice in Waldbaum's and somebody hates you for the next six hours ... The wife wonders how the fuck she ever got mixed up with a prick like you when, in college, you were the guy whose smile used to make her cry herself to sleep. Just yousmilingat her could do that, she wanted you so badly. So, you know, fuck it. "He was okay" sounds pretty damn good to me.
ABBYWell, Ben, if it's any consolation ... you're "okay" by me. I mean that. / More than okay.
BENThanks. / I appreciate that.(He reaches over and kissesABBYlightly on the cheek. A look between them, something almost soft, for a moment.)Thanks.(Beat.)That's not what I meant before, anyway.
ABBYAbout what? / No ...
BENYou know ... / The "steel trap" thing.
ABBYOh. Then what were you saying?
BENI'm saying that ... I don't know. I don't know what I'm saying exactly, but ... not that.
ABBYOkay, good, just so long as it's clear as mud.
BENI was never saying don't tell anyone. You know I wouldn't tell you that. I just ... we had to be adult about this.
ABBY"Adult"?
BENYou know, grown-up. I mean ...
ABBYI'm in my forties. I think that qualifies ...
BENI don't mean ... Christ, you pounce on every word!
ABBYWell ...
BENI didn't not tell people because I was embarrassed or trying to lead two lives or whatnot ... I was thinking of us. The overall situation.
ABBYOkay. If that's what it was, then okay.
BENIt was. We had to take it easy before, that's all.
ABBYI get it. All right.
BENBut now it's ...
ABBY... fine. Right? Because you're passed on.
BENExactly ...(Almost a smile.)I am.
ABBYYou and the six thousand other ... heroes.
BENCome on.
ABBYWell, I'm sure a few of them are, anyway.
BENDon't bring that up again, okay, not the ...
ABBYWhat?
BENThe "hero" thing. I feel shitty enough.
ABBYYeah? Really?(Beat.)I'm not sure you do. Not as shitty as they feel, anyway.
BENWho?
ABBYWhoever. The victims. Their families. No, I think you're down the list a bit, Ben ...waythe heck down there.
BENAbby, please, I mean ... they're missing.
ABBYDead.
BENWhatever.
ABBYExactly. Whatever.(Beat.)That's the position this puts me in ... six thousand people are dead,killed, some of themourassociates, and my entire response is "Oh well, whatever ... at least now we can sneak off to theBahamas."(Harsh laugh.)That's not very nice.
BENI'm not ... Who says you can't mourn? Huh?
ABBYBen ...
BENI didn't say a word about that.
ABBYIt's your whole demeanor about the ...
BENGo down and help sift debris if you want to, or keep a candlelight vigil, I don't care ... fuck!(Beat.)How did we even get on this?
ABBYI think I accidentally started to feel something for a moment. Sorry.
BENCome on, that's ... bullshit. That's total ...
ABBYWon't happen again. I promise.
BENFuck, Abby, that's unfair.(Beat.)I know a lot more people that work down there than you do. Tons more.
ABBYAs in "tons" of rubble?
BENSTOP! Will you? God ...(Beat.)I used to work out of that office, if you recall. I did. For years. And so, yeah, I got a bunch of faces in my head right now ... Why the hell do you think I've been sitting here like a fucking pothead on the edge of the loveseat, staring into space for a day? Huh?
ABBYI don't know.
BENWell, that's why.
ABBYOh.
BENAll right? People I've talked to, hadcoffeewith ... I mean, all those guys from maintenance.
ABBYSo ... all this time you've been thinking about these people that you met down there over the years. Like, in the elevator, or at some little sandwich place ... people like that?
BENOf course!
ABBYOkay.(Beat.)I thought maybe you were thinking about us ...
BENNo. I mean, yeah, I was, yes, but ...
ABBY... and the family you're ditching...maybe all the hope they're probably pinning on the fact that you don't really work in that office anymore. I mean, theprayersthey're sending out for you right now ... I figured you were taking allthatin! Shit, silly me.
BENAbby ... you just asked me how I ...
ABBYMaybe you should've had one of the guys frommaintenancebring you over some fucking cheese.
BENThat is so ...
ABBYI'm serious!
BENThe guys from maintenance are probably alldead!
ABBYOh, I'm sure some of them were cheating on their wives, you just need to call around!!
 
SuddenlyABBY's buzzer rings. She andBENfreeze as it rings again. Before she goes to it,BENgestures to her and she approaches the door. She hesitates, but goes out.BENwaits until she returns.
 
ABBYIt was my neighbor ...
BENOh.
ABBYOne floor down, actually.
BENOkay.
ABBYShe needs milk. For her kids.
BENUmmm.
ABBYThe stores are out. That's what she says.
BENAll right, so, we could, ahh ...
ABBYWould you mind running up to the D'Agostinos?(BENlooks at her, unsure how to take this.)Kidding. I have the rest of that half gallon.
 
ABBYgrabs the milk out of the fridge and heads back to the door. Opens it and disappears for a moment.BENstays hidden.
 
ABBYHer husband works down there.
BENHe does?
ABBYYes. I think so. I mean, I don't knowrightdown there, but somewhere in the area.
BENOh.(Beat.)Did she say if ... ?
ABBYNo. And I didn't ask. She wanted milk and I gave it to her.(Beat.)Is that okay?
BENOf course.
ABBYGood.
BENI don't even like 2 percent ...
 
ABBYsmirks at this and goes to the bathroom. Shuts the door. Water runs.BENgoes to a chair and sits. Plays with his phone. Turns it on. It rings almost immediately. He shuts it off and waits.ABBYreenters.
 
ABBYWhat was that?
BENWhat?
ABBYJust now. Did I hear your ...
BENWhat?
ABBY... phone?
BENNo.
ABBYI didn't?
BENUh-uh. I was, you know, fiddling with it, but it didn't ring. / I mean, the message thing went off, but ...
ABBYOh. / And who was it?
BENI don't know. I didn't see ... or check, I mean.
ABBYNot curious?
BENNo, I'll ... I can find out later. / Check 'em at some other ...
ABBYSure. / Yep.(Beat.)Maybe when I go out to get you more cheese or something. When it'ssafe.
BENOh shit.
ABBYThat'd be a good time to do it.
BENOkay, I know that means something. Obviously that means something or you wouldn't have said it ... so, go ahead.
ABBYI'm saying, pretty straightforwardly, that in the three years that we've been together I can't recall you taking a phone call or listening to a message in front of me. I can't. / Not a personal one, anyway.
BENI have, too .../ ... That's not ...
ABBYYes, it is. It's completely true.
BENNo, I've ... no.
ABBYNow, why do you think that is?(Beat.)Huh?
BENBecause I don't ... / ... maybe I didn't wanna hurt you.
ABBYWhat? / Hurt me? How?
BENYou know ...
ABBYNo.
BENMake you listen in on that part of my life. The kids and, you know, the way we talk to each other, and all that kind of thing.
ABBYOh.
BENI've been ... sparing you that.
ABBYPlease ...
BENI have.
ABBYWell, don't, all right? Do me a favor ... / I want the whole "you" or not at all.
BENFine. / What, you wanna hear every little ... ?
ABBYNo, not "every," just once! One time where you stand in front of me so I know what's coming out of your phone now is the same shit you're telling me ten minutes later.
BENOh God ...
ABBYThat'd be a real treat.
BENI mean, you're just ranting here, seriously.
ABBYI am not ranting!
BENFuck, listen to yourself!
ABBYI can do ranting, believe me, I can, but this is not it ...
THIS IS NOT RANTING!
BENAll over a goddamn phone call.
ABBYIt's not the call, Ben. It's not that.
BENThen what?
ABBYIt's trust! And openness! Your wanting to share everything with me ... It's having thedesireto do that! I'd probably listen to five minutes of your family drivel and pass out from boredom, but it's in the asking.
BENI'm sorry ... I didn't know.
ABBYAnd that's bullshit right there, that's what that is. It is because I've said this a thousand times, almost literally a thousand. No Secrets. / You can keep 'em from her but not from me, otherwise I might as wellbeher! Don't you get that?
BENIt's not a secret ... / It's just a private phone call.
ABBY"Private" makes it secret! / I don't care!!
BENWith achild!! / But all I'm doing is ...
ABBYDoesn't matter! It does not matter ... because once you slip into the bathroom or turn on the fan or step back out onto the sidewalk, you might as well be ... I dunno ... Guy Burgess.
BENWho?
ABBYNothing ... shit ... it's not ...
BENThe guy who wroteClockwork Orange? /What thehelldoes he have to do with ... ?
ABBYNo ... / That's Anthony Burgess! Your lit course didn't stick so good, did it?
BENWell, I got the last name right, I just didn't ...
ABBYGuy Burgess was a spy, an English spy who went over to the Soviets ... he and some friends. In the fifties.
BENOkay, I'm lost, but whatever ...
ABBYJesus, Ben, I'm saying itstillapplies if you're just reading to your daughters aboutThe Gingerbread Man! You sneak off and make a call, always keep me out ... the mind's gonna wander.
BENI'm sorry. I thought it was the best thing.
ABBYObviously.
BENI did! I figured you didn't need to be constantly reminded of the situation.
ABBYI've neverknownwhat the situation was, because of the way you live your life!
BENWhy is it some federal thing if I wanna make a call in my ... in the quiet of my own ...
ABBYThat's okay,calling'sokay, but you can't ...
BENI'm a private person, so what?!
ABBYWell then, don't invite somebody in and ask them to hand over their life if you can't do the same fucking thing!
BENGood God! And what "life" am I asking for, huh?
ABBYBen ...
BENNo, I mean it, let's not get completely off the ...
ABBYLook at us!! Look at the current state of things and tell me I don't need to give up my life.
BENFuck, you are really on a tear, aren't you?! You really,reallyare.
ABBYBen, what're weactuallytalking about here? You know, we keep dancing around it, but let's say it, let's just put the thing out there and see what we've got.
BENWhatever. If you need to ... go ahead.
ABBYAll right.(Beat.)This "meal ticket" of ours ... tell me what that is exactly.
BENYou know what it's ...
ABBYJust say it. For me. / Please.
BENThis is stupid ... / Fine. I'll ... fine.(Beat.)I think that we can do it this time. / Be together.
ABBYDo what? / We are together.
BENI mean always ... as a couple.
ABBYYou meanrunaway. Just say that's what ...
BENNotrun! We don't have to ... I mean, we can't even get out of town right now, so it's not exactly running.
ABBYYou know what I mean.
BENYeah.(Beat.)Okay, so, yes, leave. Escape. Get away from this city and be with each other for the rest of our lives.
ABBYOr, as they used to call it ... "run."
BENYeah. We could run.
ABBYGood. You said it. Just so it's been said.
BENDon't you want to?
ABBYMore than anything ... / Since the day I met you.
BENSo do I! / Well, now we can.
ABBYWe could've before. Any day before this, we could have.
BENBut now we can do it clean, you know, without any kind of hassle or ... strings on us.
ABBYWas that the problem? Strings?
BENOf course! Jesus ... my wife, a fuckingmortgage ...All the shit that would've killed us, this thing we have.
ABBYA mortgage would've "killed" us?
BENNo, but ... I just mean that ...
ABBYWe've lied to everyone we know, every minute of our time together for this long ... because of a fuckinghouse payment? Tell me that's not true.
BENShe would've buried me in a divorce, you know that!
ABBYSo what? I would've uncovered you.
BENNo, no ... I don't want that.
ABBYWhat, then, Ben?Whatdo you want?
BENYou. I've told you that.
ABBYJust so long as you don't have to make a scene.
BENNo, but I ... no.
ABBYAs long as it could be done without causing a stink. Without you having tosullyyourself.
BENThat's not what I'm ...
ABBYTell the truth, Ben!
BENMaybe I was thinking about my kids! Okay?! / I'm not using them!
ABBYNo, don't use them to ... / Don't do that!
BENYou don't know what it's like, to see their faces ... To, to imagine themwaitingand ...
ABBYNo, I don't, but ...
BENYou have no fucking IDEA!
ABBYBen, I know I don't, but I still ...
BENMaybe if you'd stop for a second, quit chewing your way up the corporate rungs there like a plague of fuckinglocustsandhaveyourself one ... then, just possibly, you'll know!! / ... Okay, then.
 
ABBYstarts to retort, but just shakes her head, turns away.BENdoesn't pursue her on this, having said more than he wished to.
 
ABBYAll right. / I accept that.(Beat.)'S that true?
BENWhat?
ABBYThat you were protecting them? Is it? Tell me.
 
BENthinks for a moment before he speaks. He catches himself once before saying anything.ABBYstudies him.
 
BENNo. not completely. Or her ... or you or anybody else.
ABBYCareful, Ben, I'm smelling a waft of truth over here.
BENIt's true.(Beat.)I was protecting me ... How's that?
ABBYI like that just fine.
BENYeah?
ABBYIf you're going to come clean, I like it a lot.
BENI wanted this to work out, I did. Foreverybody, yes, but most of all ... for me.(Beat.)There, better? Clean ...
ABBYWe could've worked anything out. At any point.
BENNo, we couldn't ... I don't think we could.
ABBYWhy?
BENBecause I wasn't strong enough.(Beat.)But now I am. / I mean it, now I'm ... ready.
ABBYYeah? / You're sure?
BENSo totally sure ...
ABBY'Kay.(Beat.)I'm glad.
BENMe too.
ABBYAnd what you're asking--I'm just saying it so that there's no question what we're up to here--what you want is for us to hide out in my house until it's safe, right? I mean, till the city gets itself back in gear, and then we would ...
BENJust, like, until the roads are open, you know, until we can drive ourselves out of ...
ABBYRight, right, that's what I mean ... stay here until we can get in the Saab and take off. Drive to another state, an airport somewhere, and slip away ... while everybody else--not just your family, but friends, the company--all the people around you, really, can have this justmajoroutpouring of grief in your honor ... something like that?
BENYeah. That's theReader's Digestversion, but yes.
ABBYOkay, that's what I thought.
BENIt's soooo easy ... really.
ABBYAnd my job--I should just, what? Call in with amigrainefor a few weeks, or ... ?
BENI think so. I mean, otherwise you're giving up a lot of sick days. But if you use those first, then you can ...
ABBYEventually, though, once I do the whole "I'm too devastated to come back to work" thing, then what?
BENYou quit, right? Isn't that what we ... ?
ABBYI quit. Just up and resign.
BENIt's what we already discussed. Last night.
ABBYI know, I guess I just never really heard the whole thing before, not laid out like this.(Beat.)So, I give up my position ...
BENYes. I think a transfer's "iffy," I do ...(Beat.)But you can take a similar position with another company--you were consideringthat place in Flagstaff, like, what, a year ago?--and we set up house. I get myself a license, a credit card or two, the whole deal.(Beat.)Get back intosales, even. Shit, I don't care, whatever it takes.
ABBYLike the Witness Protection Program, or something. Right?
BENSorta. You can even pick out my new name ...
ABBYHuh.(Beat.)And my seniority with work now? My pension plan and all the things I've worked toward, I should just ...
BENI know, Abby, I'm aware of the cost here ... We're both giving up a lot.
ABBYWhat're you giving up again? Just remind me.
BENMy family! Shit, I mean ...
ABBYI thought you wanted to give them up.
BENI do, I do want to, but ... not the girls. Not that. / Because! Jesus, I want to get out of all the other ... you know ...
ABBYThen why do it? / Ahh, yes, the "other" stuff ...
 
BENsits up at this, eager to make his point.ABBYwatches him.
 
BENYou think Ilikethe idea of those little girls growing up without a father? Huh?! Well, I don't ... but it's a hell of a lot better this way, letting 'em think whatever happened, okay, rather than dragging them through court for a year and fighting over who gets whichBarbie, and for how long, and at which designated location!(Beat.)This is better ... as hard and horrible as it's gonna be, it's still better.
ABBYYou'll never be able to see them. You understand that, don't you? Noteveragain.
BENYes.
ABBYNo Disney, no proms, no walking down the aisle ...
BENI GET IT! Fuck ... you think I didn't consider all that? Weigh it in? / Well, I did.
ABBYI'm just saying ... / All right, then. Okay.(Beat.)Plus, you die a hero ... right?
BENShit, Abby, that's not fair! Fuck!!(Beat.)It is the best thing for all of us ... / YES! And it fell right in our laps.
ABBYYou're sure? / I know, but ...
BENIt absolutely is! This way we completely dodge around all the shit that I'd have to wade through ... all the, you know.
ABBYYeah, that messy shit, like ... sitting your wife down and telling her honestly what you want. Shit like that?
BENFuck, fine ... If this is gonna turn into one of your ...
ABBYI'm just asking! Is that what it basically comes down to? I can cash in my life and go on thelamwith you--because this is basically illegal, fyi, it is--I do that for you just so you can miss out on the discomfort of having to break it to your onetimepromqueen that she doesn't turn you on anymore?
BENYes. / I'm asking you to do that.
ABBYOkay. / Just so we've said it.
BENThat's what I'm asking for.
ABBYJust sotruthreared its ugly head here one time today.
BENI am begging you to walk away ... to leave a job that I've heard you bitch and moan about for the three years we've been together. To just pick up and leave thisco-opthat youtell me you hate 'cause it's in the wrong section of town now ... I'm asking you to show me you love me by dumping the lifestyle that I hear you crying about at, like, 2:30 in the morning, when I'm lucky enough to be around you at 2:30 in the morning, which is maybeoncea month! I am asking you to throw this mediocre, less than desirable single life of yours out the fucking window and make a dash for the border with me.(Beat.)Do it, Abby ... we can do this.
ABBYI know we can.(Beat.)And do you love me?
BENAbby ... of course. You know that, I ... yeah.
ABBYThat's really not the same as just saying it.
BENI do! Abby, please ...
ABBYThen say it.
BENShit ... I love you. There.
ABBYWow, that makes me feel all tingly inside ... / ... and I didn't even have to use thebamboo shoots...
BENCome on ... / ... don't make this some ...
ABBYWell, it didn't exactlyflowout of you!
 
BENis suddenly up and crosses toABBY. He takes her into his arms and holds her. She starts to resist, but he is too strong. She slowly melts into a hug that leads to a hungry, naked kiss. She begins to cry. A long silence between them.
 
BEN ...I do. Love you. Better?
ABBYMuch.
BENGood.
ABBYVery.
BENI agree. And that's what all this is about.
ABBYWhat?
BENMaking things very good. For us. (A smile, finally, between them.BENgivesABBYa last little squeeze and then moves away, dusting his clothes off and heading toward the bathroom door.)I think I'm gonna take a shower, and then we can start to ...
ABBYBen.
BENYeah?
ABBYLet me ask you something.
BENWhat, honey?
ABBYJust a theoretical thing, so don't get all ...
BENNo, go ahead. What?
ABBYYou're asking me to do this ... all these things, for us.
BENYeah.
ABBYI'm just ... Would you do the same for me?
BENWhat do you mean?
ABBYIntheory, would you make the same kind of gesture for me. If I asked you.
BENOf course. Yes.
ABBYEven though you couldn't do it before this.
BENWe've talked about that ... / It's different now.
ABBYI know, but ... / That's what I'm saying. Now you've pulled your, you know,Lazarusthing ... would you do it for me?
BENObviously, yeah ... I'd do anything for you.
ABBYAnything?
BENYes, Abby, I would. (Beat.) Why're you so ... ?
ABBYThen make the call.
 
BENstops with the door half open. Turns slowly to faceABBY.She doesn't waver.
 
BENWhat?
ABBYThe call you were going to make. Yesterday, before all this.
BENHuh?
ABBYI cannot do this. This "ride the rails" thing with you.(Beat.)If we're going to make it, you and me, I mean ... then you need to call your wife and kids and let them know what's going on. Tell them the truth.
BENOh. So ... this was all a ... what, trick? Some kind of ...
ABBYNo, not atrick.I just can't ...
BENGet me to go out on a limb for you and then push me off the fucking branch?!
ABBYI'm just saying I can't do what you're asking me!
BENFine ... fuck, fine, we'll just ...
ABBYI don't wanna carry all that shit around, I'm not willing to do that!!
BENShit, SHIT! Shit on you for doing this.
ABBYI'm not "doing" anything, Ben, I'm asking you to.
BENYou know I can't! I cannot do that!! / No, no, NO!!
ABBYWhy?! / WHY NOT?!!
BENBecause it ruins it. It ruins the ending.
 
ABBYtakes this in, processing.BENfiddles with the door.
 
ABBYThis is not a movie, Ben.
BENI'm not saying that.
ABBYYou can't dictate how life is supposed to ...
BENYeah, I could ... In thisoneinstance, I could've! (Beat.) We had no chance here ... A day ago, we were just another two people fucking each other and pretending that we had something special. Now we've got a chance to actually make it that. Special ...
ABBYIt wasn't special?
BENIt was anaffair,Abby, fuck, can't we just be ... ?
ABBYIt was special to me.
BENOf course it was "special," that's the wrong word. I just mean that it was common, regular. It happens. But this thing ... this disaster ... makes what we're doing ... possible.
ABBYI see ... Now I see.
BENAll we have to do is walk away, Abby! Not run ... just walk. Walk off into the sunset.
ABBYAll right. Okay. Duly noted. (Beat.) But after you make the call.
BENShit ... Abby ... / Don't ask me to ...
ABBYIneedyou to do that for me. / Will you? Ben?
BENI can't .../ ... oh God ...
ABBYPlease ... / Ben, please ... for me ... Please.
BENYes. (Beat.) Okay.
ABBYThank you.
BENI will.(Beat.)You, umm, you want me to ... what, make the call that I was gonna make yesterday, right? The call I said I was going to make before this ... all this ... happened.
ABBYThat's what I want. Yes.
BENAll right, Abby, I'll do that.
 
BENcrosses back to the couch and sits, rubbing his eyes. Pulls his cell phone out of his pocket and switches it on.ABBYstarts across the room.
 
ABBYI'll give you your privacy.
BENNo, you don't have to.
ABBYIt's okay, you should have time to ... / It's fine.
BENI want you to hear this, Abby. / ABBY! (ABBYstops and looks at him.) You need to hear this ... Go ahead, take a seat.
 
ABBYcrosses back toward the kitchen and sits on the edge of a stool near the counter.BENtakes a deep breath, then dials a number and waits. After a moment, Abby's phone begins to ring. She looks up, startled, and mimes toBEN: "What should I do?" She starts to panic, butBENmotions for her to take the call.
 
ABBYHello?
BENHi.
ABBYBen? Why're you ... ?
BENJust listen. Okay? Just ... listen to me. (Beat.) So ... this was the call I was going to make yesterday.
ABBYNo, no, I don't want you topretendwith me, I want you to call them and ...
BENAbby, shut the fuck up and listen! I was going to call you yesterday, not them. I was gonna make this call on my way to work, and then I thought, What the hell, it's only a few blocks over, I'll stop in and talk to her. Tell her face-to-face. Bebrave, like she's always asking me to be ... she deserves that. (Beat.) I wasn't gonna phone home, Abby, I can't do that. You can call my wife, spill your guts if you want to, but I'll never be able to ... can't do that.(Beat.)That's why all ...this... suddenly seemed so logical, like the only thing possible. And I wanted it. God, I did! But now ... Look, I think you're great, and we've had, umm, the most amazing ...
ABBYBen ... don't.
BENNo, I promised you I'd make a call, and this is it. I'm calling to tell you I can't do this anymore, I'm tired of dodging and hiding and all the, just, bad shit I've done so effortlessly since we met. If you'd taken this ... meal ticket ... of ours, then great. I'd've worked in a fuckinglumberyardthe rest of my days to be with you, but if you wanna make me come clean about what I've done, purge all my sins for some unfucking-fathomable reason ... I mean, if I'm publicly forced to choose between those little girls' hearts and your thighs, well then, there's just not much question.(Beat.)Sorry, Abby, I'm really very ... I don't know. Just sorry. G'bye.
 
BENclicks off the call. After a moment, his cell phone begins ringing and continues while they sit staring at each other.ABBYslowly hangs up.BENfinally snaps his phone shut.
 
ABBYGoodbye. (Beat.) So ... you were never going to call your ... ? And my little "pick-me-up," to encourage you, that was ... ? Hmm, what? A last suck for good luck?(She slowly goes over to her things and begins to suit up. Coat, hat, scarf, etc.)
BENWhat're you doing?
ABBYGoing to get some more cheese ... Kidding. I'll go to work, I guess. I'm gonna walk over to our office and find out what's happened up there ... see if I can ... something ... Just tell me the company line before I go. Are you gonna stick with the "hero" thing ... went up in the fire and all that, or are you gonna miraculously wake up in some alley and stagger back to your desk tomorrow? We should get our stories straight.
BENI don't ... know ... I don't know what to ... do.
ABBYYou call your family, or you don't. You run for the hills, or you don't. You come back in and work on the AmTel account with us or not. Your life's in front of you right now, Ben ... but you have to choose.(Beat.)You already made one choice--me--so you can leave the keys on the counter or in your ficus tree or wherever ... and if I see you back at work, that'll be great. It will be. (She moves toward the door, but hesitates.)Look, you can't stay here. Uh-uh. I'm not gonna rat you out, whatever you decide, I won't do that. I'll show you some mercy ... more than you've ever shown me, anyway. But I'm not gonna give you any cash or maps or, you know,waterproofmatches. I'm not Harriet Tubman and I just don't feel like helping. So, you'll have to do whatever--you can't use your ATM card out there or any of that other shit, either, I mean, not if you really wanna disappear--but if you're going to start over, then do it. Right now. Today.(Beat.)Otherwise, wash your face and go home. See your children, tell them you love them. Tell your wife, too. Because you do, you know. Loveher. You must, or you'd already be at that lumberyard in the Bahamas ... with me.
BENAbby, I'm not ... It's only because I'm ... I'm just a little lost right now.
ABBYYeah, me too, Ben. (ABBYpulls her scarf up around her mouth and opens the front door. Rattles her keys.)I am, too.
BENCouldn't we just ... ?
 
ABBYcloses the door behind her, and the lock slides shut, cuttingBENoff in mid-sentence. A kind of quiet falls over the room. After a long moment,BENsits back on the couch and pulls his cell phone out of his pocket, turning it on. It rings almost immediately.BENstares at it, turning it over in his hands. It rings and rings.
 
Silence. Darkness.
Copyright © 2003 by Neil LaBute

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