No Thank You

CHARACTERS:

BETH & LESLIE are women in their 30s.

BETH is dressed comfortably but conservatively. Her hair & makeup are put together. LESLIE has a bolder look. She has a few tasteful piercings & edgy accessories.

SETTING:

A coffee shop. Today.

AT RISE:

Beth sits at a table with two to-go cups of coffee. There’s an empty seat across from her.

BETH fidgets in her seat, her gaze slightly down. Then:

LESLIE enters. Beth stands to greet her.

BETH

Hi Leslie.

LESLIE

Yeah, hi.

After a moment of hesitation, they shake hands and sit.

BETH

How are you?

LESLIE

(ignoring) I only have a couple minutes.

BETH

Of course.

LESLIE

I have work in an hour, and I need to grab breakfast beforehand –

BETH

They have food here. Bagels and… I got you a coffee, if you’d like –

LESLIE

No thank you.

BETH

Okay.

(after a moment)

I’m incredibly grateful you agreed to meet me, even for just a moment.

LESLIE

Just to get to the point –

BETH

Right –

LESLIE

Why did you ask to meet with me?

 

BETH

All I want is to offer you a long overdue apology.

LESLIE

Okay.

BETH

I don’t deserve your forgiveness, and I promise not to ask for it. But even so, you deserve to hear from me face-to-face.

All I can say is that… I was indoctrinated from a young age with terrible lies about all types of people… but especially gay people. I know now the evil things I’ve done in the name of God, and I am trying my best to make things right –

LESLIE

Is this like an AA thing?

BETH

…What?

LESLIE

In AA, they tell you to go around and apologize to everyone you wronged –

BETH

It’s… the only thing I can think of to do.

LESLIE

So you’re apologizing to… everyone? How many protests did you do?

BETH

…Hundreds.

LESLIE

And… how many of those were at funerals?

BETH

  1. Maybe more.

LESLIE

Well, you’ve apologized. There you go. You can cross me off your list.

BETH

(before Leslie gets up)

If there’s anything you want to say or… ask perhaps.

LESLIE

No thank you.

BETH

I understand if you’re angry.

LESLIE

Do I seem angry?

BETH

All I mean is that I would understand if you were. I did the worst thing imaginable.

LESLIE

No. The worst thing would have been to kill my brother. You just celebrated the guy who did.

BETH

I’m sorry my actions have caused you so much pain.

LESLIE

You’re giving yourself too much credit. I didn’t know you back then, and I still don’t.

And whether or not your congregation picketed his funeral, Jeff would still be gone, so… I’m not angry. It’s not worth it, it never was. And as you said, you were indoctrinated, so…

I do have a question.

BETH

Anything.

LESLIE

What do you think this does?

BETH

I don’t know what you mean –

LESLIE

What are you trying to accomplish by apologizing to every single person face-to-face?

BETH

Just the right, best thing.

LESLIE

Does it make you feel better?

BETH

Not really.

LESLIE

Less guilty?

BETH

…No.

LESLIE

Well, it’s not helping me either, to remember that a whole church of supposed Jesus people literally celebrated the death of my brother, which only reminds me that plenty of others were celebrating as well, all over, silently and out of sight. So why do you do it?

BETH

I’m sorry if this seems selfish.

LESLIE

It’s just not helping me. And you said it’s not helping you –

BETH

I’m trying my best to –

LESLIE

It’s too late. You know that, right?

BETH

Yes.

LESLIE

You preyed on people at their weakest, and you enabled others to do the same. How could you possibly fix this?

BETH

I can’t fix it. I know that –

LESLIE

Should I congratulate you on changing from vile to decent?

BETH

No.

LESLIE

Then why do all of this?

BETH

I… just want to do the right thing.

LESLIE

Yes, you keep saying that. But did you ever consider – after everything you’ve done – that maybe the right thing is for you to just fucking kill yourself?

A beat.

BETH

I –

LESLIE

I’m sorry. Clearly, I am angry.

BETH

It’s okay.

LESLIE

Fuck. I don’t have much room for forgiveness these days.

BETH

I completely deserve it –

LESLIE

No, you don’t. Even you don’t.

BETH

Honestly, this is like the AA thing. I’m trying to make amends.

LESLIE

It’s… I guess that’s good.

I shouldn’t have said that.

BETH

Please, it’s forgotten. The least I can do.

LESLIE

Even after all this time, it’s still just below the surface… a generalized anger. Are the others… are they usually like me?

BETH

Yes. Many have been incredibly generous as well, which –

LESLIE

Oh God –

BETH

– I’m thankful for.

LESLIE

So I’m one of the not-so-generous ones…?

BETH

No, I didn’t mean to –

LESLIE

I read the profile they did about you in the Times – after you renounced your church. It was very sympathetic.

BETH

Sympathy I don’t deserve.

LESLIE

Your family won’t speak to you? That was mentioned in the article.

BETH

I don’t know if they won’t ever… but they haven’t since.

LESLIE

…That’s shitty. I’m sorry.

BETH

Thank you.

LESLIE

…So what is the best thing to do?

BETH

Maybe you were right. Maybe I’m doing more harm than good.

LESLIE

Right, but I meant, what’s the best thing for me to do now?

BETH

I’m not sure…

I guess I should forgive you. That’s the mature thing, right?

BETH

I don’t know.

LESLIE

But what do you think? If you weren’t you, what would you tell me to do?

BETH

I… I don’t think it’s my place –

LESLIE

That’s the least you could do.

BETH

(after a moment)

…I don’t think there’s a downside to forgiving others.

LESLIE

Sure there is. If forgiveness is so easily given, people will think it’s just as easily earned.

BETH

I meant for you.

A beat.

LESLIE

After it all came out, you know, why he was killed… My mom said, “Why did Jeff have to be so public about the gay thing?”

She wasn’t saying my brother deserved it…  And I know why she said it, so… I let it go.

But it’s years later now, and she still thinks that.

I’m just sick of waiting for people to see the light. Even if I keep hoping that they do.

BETH

I’m trying my best to –

LESLIE

I know.

(a moment)

I… do need to go to work –

BETH

Of course –

I promise it’s not just an excuse.

BETH

Even if it was…

Leslie stands. Beth sits forward.

BETH

If you… I know you need to go, but my flight out isn’t until tomorrow morning. If you wanted to talk or vent or… I promise only to listen.

Leslie considers it.

LESLIE

No. I don’t think so.

BETH

Okay.

LESLIE

(after a moment, pointing to the coffee cup) Is there cream in that?

BETH

No, but they have some at the counter –

LESLIE

I like it black.

BETH

Oh good.

Leslie picks it up and stands there, between the door and the table, stuck.

LESLIE

Thank you.

BETH

You too.

Leslie takes a sip of the coffee.

BLACKOUT.


Jesse Cramer is a writer and director living in Los Angeles. After receiving his English BA from Penn State University, he moved to Atlanta to pursue writing and theater. While there, his play The Strange Attractor received its world premiere at Act3 Productions and was subsequently nominated for a Suzi Bass Award for playwriting. Additionally, he has worked on a number of film and television productions, including Sundance premiere A.C.O.D. as well as showsExtant, Battle Creek, and Maron. Most recently, his short film Circles – featuring characters and actors on the Autism Spectrum – received its world premiere at the AS Film Festival in Rome, Italy.

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