love (lower case)

CHARACTERS:
GINA: protagonist, early twenties
PAUL: ex-boyfriend of GINA, also early twenties
MOTHER: of GINA
MARGOT: best friend to GINA; we only hear her voice
MIDDLE-AGED MAN: balding, with a paunch

I.

Lights up on a mostly empty stage. Center stage is a bed. GINA sits on the bed beside PAUL, who lies facedown, turned away from her.

GINA (to audience): Scrolling back through the worst moments of your life, this is at the top. Up there between the rejection from Brown and your dog Sammie being hit by a car in fifth grade. Sitting here in your bra, pressing a smushed bloody tissue against your nostrils—you always get a bloody nose when you’re nervous—while your boyfriend—er, ex-boyfriend—lies face-down on the bed beside you, clutching a pillow and sobbing into the twisted sheets. (Looks over at PAUL.) You didn’t think he would take it this hard. Oh, this is worse than Brown saying no. Worse than Sammie dying. This is the worst.

(GINA looks at PAUL for a few silent moments, pain evident on her face.)

GINA (to PAUL): I really hope we can still be friends.

II.

(PAUL has stopped crying and is now trying to change GINA’S mind, convince her they should stay together.)
PAUL: Why? I just don’t understand why.

GINA (to audience): You don’t know what to say. There’s not an easy reason why. Is there ever an easy reason why?

PAUL: I mean, we were so happy.

GINA (to audience): It’s true. You were happy. Most of the time. As happy as most people are.

PAUL (earnest): You’re The One for me, Gina.

GINA (to audience): There. That’s the reason. He’s so certain the two of you are Meant To Be. He’s been talking about A Future Together. There was a time when you thought about A Future Together, too. A time when you were giddy with Future thoughts. The two of you, old and gray. Wedding anniversaries and mortgages and diapers and wallpaper and vacuum cleaners and joint checking accounts.

PAUL (grabbing GINA’S hand): I can’t imagine being with anyone else.

GINA (to audience): The real problem—the palms-sweating, stomach-clenching, claustrophobic insomniac problem—isn’t really the Future. It’s the Future with him and only him. It’s the two of you together always. What a cliché, but you can’t help it. At some point, your relationship stalled, then rolled backwards, like a car parked on a steep hill without a parking brake, out of Love and back down into love. Lower case. (Slips her hand out of PAUL’S hand.)

PAUL (angry/frustrated): Why? Just give me a reason why. GINA (finally addresses PAUL): I don’t know. I’m sorry.

III.

(GINA’S MOTHER enters, holding a crock pot and sheets. As the scene progresses, she spreads the sheets on the bed and dishes out some chili into a bowl for GINA.)

GINA: Your mother comes over with turkey chili and freshly laundered sheets.

MOTHER: You did the right thing. At some point you’ve got to either stop fishing or cut bait and move on.
GINA (to audience): You don’t say anything. You pick at a scab on your knee from when you cut yourself shaving.

MOTHER: This isn’t a dress rehearsal. This is your life.

GINA (to audience): You don’t say anything. You grip a hangnail between your teeth and pull.

MOTHER: Never settle. It’s not fair to you, or to him. (Hands bowl of chili to GINA.)

GINA (to audience): You don’t say anything. You spear a clump of turkey and onion with your fork. You worry no one will ever love you as much as he did.

IV.

GINA: All day long, you make lists:
• Things You Would Tell Him About If You Were Still On Speaking Terms.
• Things That Make You Think Of Him. (You Can’t Help It.)
• Inside Jokes That Are No Longer Relevant, Which is Unfortunate Because They Were Pretty Damn Funny.

V.

GINA: You do not call him. You call Margot instead.

(GINA picks up the phone and dials.)

GINA (into phone, to MARGOT): Will I ever be able to call him?

MARGOT’S VOICE: Just wait a few more days.

GINA: But I said I’d call him in a couple days, not a few days. And it’s already been a couple days. MARGOT’S VOICE: Just wait a few more. Till you’re ready.

GINA: Will I ever be ready?

MARGOT’S VOICE: Just wait till tomorrow. (Beat.) You’re not ready yet. I can tell.

VI.

(At the grocery store. GINA pushes a shopping cart.)

GINA: Instead of calling him, you go to the grocery store. It is a place with lights and people. Things to buy. You’re not out of milk, but you can pretend to be. And bananas. You should try to be healthier. You should start putting sliced bananas on your cereal. You pick the greenest bunch in the pile because you like bananas with a bit of green at the tips. Not this green, but they’ll ripen. Your boyfriend—ex-boyfriend—likes bananas yellow and spotty. (Beat.) All of a sudden you’re thinking about his banana and how at one time you had thought his was the only banana for you, the only one you would ever really know, ever really need. You put the green bananas back on the shelf. Try to think about his bellybutton, the way it was always lined with belly-button lint.

VII.

(PAUL enters and lies under the sheet on the bed. GINA lies down beside him but still addresses the audience.)

GINA (to audience): The last time the two of you did it, your roommate knocked on the door halfway through.

ROOMMATE’S VOICE: I have to come in and get something. Right now. It’s an emergency!

GINA (to audience): So your ex-boyfriend, who was still your boyfriend then, pulled his banana out of you and the two of you hurried to dress.

(GINA climbs out of bed and walks towards front of the stage, talking to the audience. PAUL follows her, clutching the sheet around him.)

GINA: I mean, what else could you do? After your roommate grabbed her iPod and gym key off her desk and left, you and your ex-boyfriend watched Arrested Development on DVD, because neither of you was in the mood anymore.

GINA (to PAUL, who is standing beside her): I wish we had done it once more after that. It makes me sad to think that was our last time together. Unfinished.

(PAUL exits, leaving GINA onstage alone.)

VIII.

(GINA pushes her cart up and down the grocery aisles. MIDDLE-AGED MAN enters, holding a shopping basket.)

GINA: Up ahead of you in the grocery aisle is a middle-aged man, paunch like a bowling ball beneath his white T-shirt, considering Frosted Flakes versus Lucky Charms. He is balding and carries a basket instead of pushing around a cart. His basket contains chocolate ice cream—two cartons—and a box of macaroni and cheese. Tears prick your eyes at the sight of him. So many lonely people in this world. You leave your cart in the middle of the cereal aisle and make a beeline for your car to beat the tears.

(GINA abandons cart and crosses stage, walking quickly.)

IX.

(GINA struggles with the key, finally opens the car door, sits down in the driver’s seat and slams the car door closed. GINA collapses into tears for a few moments before sitting up, wiping her eyes, and addressing the audience.)

GINA: There’s something about crying all alone in your car in a half-empty strip-mall parking lot at night. If you were a character in a movie, this would be the Low Point. Which means that in the next scene something would change. Things would only get better from here. (Beat.) You slide the key into the ignition and blast the heater.

(GINA slides her key into the ignition.) GINA: “Eleanor Rigby” comes on the radio. (“Eleanor Rigby” starts to play, softly.)

X.

(LIGHTS FADE to a single spotlight on GINA.)

GINA: Driving home, it starts to snow. Darkness hugs the car close. It would be easy to get lost here. You turn your high beams on and hope you’re headed in the right direction.

(SPOTLIGHT FADES TO BLACK.)

 


Dallas Woodburn, a former Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing, has published fiction and nonfiction in Zyzzyva, Prism Review, North Dakota Quarterly, and The Los Angeles Times, among many others. Her plays have been produced in Los Angeles, South Lake Tahoe, and New York City. Visit her online at www.writeonbooks.org.

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