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The Wrong Questions…

31 Aug

Excerpt from a play I’m writing, which is about a woman who has abruptly left her husband of 8 years with no explanation other than she no longer wants to be married. In this scene, SARA is having dinner with her and her husband’s college friends CHARLIE AND GINA MERRICK. Thanks to Jenny Rouse for the working title.

GINA

You know what they say: “When a friend experiences a tragedy, even a self-inflicted one, her friends rally around her. That’s the power of sisterhood.”

SARA

Who said that?

GINA

Ladies’ Home Journal.  The latest issue’s on the coffee table if you’d like to read it.

CHARLIE

Sorry, honey, I think the girls used that for their collage project.

GINA

Strange. They were supposed to use the stack I set aside with the old Esquires and Sports Illustrateds. Am I wrong to view that as a hostile act? I don’t think so. The girls have been very rebellious lately. I hope drugs aren’t next.

CHARLIE

So, is everyone ready for dessert?

SARA

No, I’m fine.

GINA

Just nibble at the edges, like I do. No one eats a whole dessert.

SARA

That would be wasteful.

GINA

Charlie’s second-grade teacher – Mrs. Martin, wasn’t it? – used to not let him leave the cafeteria until he finished every bite of his lunch. Hard to believe there was ever a time when he didn’t clean his plate. But his big appetite is what makes him so big and strong!

CHARLIE

My penance will be an extra half hour on the treadmill tonight.

GINA

He doesn’t nibble around the edges.

SARA

I don’t think my refusing dessert is similar to what Charlie’s teacher did. She reinforced gluttony in children who were already prone to gluttony as a result of their American heritage.

CHARLIE

She was also huge – not even just by second-grade standards. I think she died a few years later. Sara, you’re going to kill yourself if you don’t try this dessert. It’s absolutely dynamite.

SARA

I don’t think my reaction will be that severe. What is it?

CHARLIE

“Cin-fully Apple Decadence.”

SARA

An apple pie?

CHARLIE

No, it’s from Bonnie’s Bakery across town. A little out of the way but totally worth it. Handpicked Braeburn apples baked in cinnamon with a homemade lattice-top crust.

SARA

So, to be clear: An apple pie?

GINA

No, dear, “an apple pie comes from your grocer’s freezer; only Bonnie Smith can make Cin-fully Apple Decadence.”

CHARLIE

Gina’s company came up with that slogan.

GINA

We like to help small businesses where we can. We charge them a premium for all the hand-holding but when you consider how some people don’t get involved in charities at all, what we do is actually quite heroic.

CHARLIE

(to SARA)

Sure you won’t join us?

SARA

Yes, I’m fine.

GINA

Awkward! See, you nibble around the edges so you don’t make your hosts look like Porky and Babe. Teasing. You’re family. You can watch us eat. It’s not weird at all.

CHARLIE

And I know you don’t drink, Sara, so I won’t offer you this wonderful dessert wine Gina and I got in San Francisco last month.

GINA

Remember Amy from down the hall? She finally got married. She’s Jewish, which is perfectly fine, of course. We’re all Democrats here. I only mention it because the wedding was on a Sunday, which actually turned out well for us because we left late-ish Friday and flew back on Tuesday. Also, childless wedding! Ca-ching! So, we aren’t the bad guys for not bringing the girls.

CHARLIE

But they get better at traveling every day. I think it’s only a matter of time before the Merricks hit Disney World.

GINA

Yay.(to SARA) Europe is the dear friend you club to death with a blunt object once you have kids. But you make other friends.

SARA

Your children might appreciate Europe. There are significant educational opportunities for them there.

CHARLIE

But Disney World’s the happiest place on earth!

SARA

That is their advertising slogan, yes.

GINA

(to CHARLIE)

Honey, do you want to clean up and I’ll take our lovely friend and this even lovelier Elysium over to the
sofa for some girl time.

CHARLIE

Sure thing.

(CHARLIE begins to pick up dishes and take them off-stage to the kitchen, as GINA leads SARA to
the living room sofa.)

GINA

Was dinner all right? Charlie doesn’t like butternut squash as an entrée. He thinks it’s more of a side dish. But I couldn’t resist the recipe.

SARA

It was fine. Very filling.

GINA

Oh, good. And I can certainly empathize with you shying away from dessert, dear, what with you starting all over again… at your age.

SARA

I don’t think you can empathize.

GINA

Because my life’s perfect, right? Guilty as charged. But I’m very empathetic. Just the other day, I covered for a colleague — at great personal cost to me — so she could go to a funeral.

SARA

No, to be clear, I meant the plural “you.” I don’t think empathy is possible, as it implies a degree of personal identification and understanding that would border on mind reading.

GINA

And who says mind reading’s impossible? (speaks in direction of kitchen) Darling, even just another half a slice of that pie will mean 20 more minutes on the treadmill. (to SARA) See? By the way, you probably hurt Charlie’s feelings a bit by not eating the pie. You sort of called him fat.

SARA

That’s not what I said at all.

GINA

He ate the big heaping piece —  I mean, why even slice it? He could have just eaten it from the tin. You just sat there. Fortunately, I joined him, made a joke, so he wouldn’t feel alone, shared in his shame. Me being empathetic again. See, he’s torn up because he’s gained so much weight in the past few years.

SARA

I hadn’t noticed.

GINA

He tries to hide it with those blousy shirts, but he’s not fooling me. Sad really. Just between you and me, I think he might suffer from body dysmorphia. I read an article about it in Marie Claire. It takes a very strong woman to deal with it, especially when he won’t even admit he has a problem. He just projects — like what he said about
his second-grade teacher. She was probably as rail-thin as you are. (pause as GINA looks SARA up and down). I bet women see you and are so envious of your figure. Then they learn you’ve never had kids. It does make it much easier. I’ve had two, so sure, from a distance, I might appear a smidgeon heavier than you.

SARA

OK.

GINA

You don’t notice Jabba in the kitchen but you… forget it. Rise above, I say. Before the kids, the only exercise I really had to do was dodging Charlie’s constant advances. (laughs). No, honestly, he was quite aggressive. Less so now that he hates how he looks. But that’s normal. You and Matt were together longer than Charlie and me. Can you believe it? Sure, we got married earlier because my family wouldn’t condone our living together otherwise, but those are our values. You and Matt were different. That’s fine, too. Don’t think for a moment that those choices are why you’re here today. Look, every couple goes through it: You’re together a certain amount of time, youth feels lost, eyes begin to wander, mistakes are made, and worse yet, they’re discovered and a reaction occurs that perhaps doesn’t look at the big picture. Understandable. Certainly easy when it’s just the two of you. I guess what I’m saying is, Matt screwed up, forgive him, and move on with your lives.

SARA

Matt never cheated on me.

GINA

Said with such confidence! So, you’ve met someone else. You think you’re in love.

SARA

I haven’t—

GINA

(interrupting)

You don’t have to tell me. You don’t have to tell me. How long have we known each other?

SARA

Twelve years and seven months.

GINA

And all that time, I’ve never kept secrets from you. And why not? Because we’re family. Family doesn’t hold back. That’s why I’ve revealed to you so many personal things about myself tonight. Charlie might be inclined to take sides. Matt’s his best friend and you’ve shattered him. And you were always really more his friend through Matt. But you two were already “Sara and Matt” when I came along. I’m able to be objective. Now, I’m not hurt that you won’t confide in me, but “wounded” might sum it up better.

SARA

We don’t know each other that well.

GINA

What an accusation! But you’re going through so much. You’re bound to lash out at those closest to you.

SARA

It’s not an accusation. It’s reality. We’ve never spent time together without Charlie and Matt.

GINA

And that’s what I’d like to change. Call it the silver lining in all this. You could use a friend, especially now, and I’m nothing if not a friend. I’m always in the bridal party, often the matron of honor. Not for Amy, though. Fine. Had to be a member of the tribe. I understand. Sadly, Monica was not prepared to plan a bachelorette party for anyone over 25. But did I step in and salvage things? Of course. That’s who I am. And you didn’t have any bridesmaids. Your choice. Totally OK. The reception was at our house, which if they had laws about this sort of thing would technically make me your matron of honor, as well. But, really, I don’t do it for the glory or recognition. So, where are you staying? Your parents don’t live in town, so a hotel?

SARA

Motel.

GINA

Excuse me?

SARA

Hotels have lobbies. A motel room door usually opens to a parking lot.

GINA

Ewww.

SARA

It’s fine. It doesn’t cost much and has everything I need.

GINA

I don’t even like to think about places like that, let alone imagine one of my best friends actually living there! Aren’t you afraid some hobo will assault you by the creepy ice machine?

SARA

I’m too old and female for Bob next door. And Ray down the hall made it clear that we’re OK as long as I don’t try to sell drugs out of my room. He’s very particular about his territory.

(CHARLIE enters from the kitchen)

CHARLIE

Dishwasher is filled and running. (to GINA) And I hand-washed the wine glasses and put them away.

GINA

Thank you, sweetie. (to SARA). Isn’t he wonderful? I am literally or figuratively — one of the two at least — the luckiest wife in the world. (to Charlie) Did you remember to put them on the white wine shelf and not mixed in with the red wine glasses? (to SARA) I’m a wine glass segregationist! Lock me away!

CHARLIE

There’s a white wine shelf?

GINA

Darling, I walked you through it the other night. No biggie. I love that you try to pitch in, and I only really bring this up for your sake, as I know how happy it makes you to help and I just want to make you happier by letting you help me better!

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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