Something different...?




LISTEN TO ME

Two young people, MAX and JANIE, sit slightly apart on a grassy hill at night. There is a stream nearby. Max wears a long-sleeved shirt.

JANIE
And that's it. I'm fired. No warning whatsoever, just—"See ya."

MAX
I'm so sorry. That's awful.

JANIE
I just didn't need this, y'know? I didn't need one more thing
to make me—feel like I'm not good enough.

(long pause)

MAX
You are good enough for anything. Everything.

(pause)

JANIE
I want to be better than good enough.

MAX
You are. Without a doubt you are.
(beat)
You're amazing.

They sit in silence for a few moments longer.

JANIE
Wish I could feel that.

She turns away just as Max reaches to put his arms around her. He withdraws.

MAX (quietly)
Maybe someday...

JANIE
What?

MAX
Maybe someday you'll look at yourself, and you'll
see what everyone else sees.

JANIE
Which is?...

MAX
Smart, beautiful, capable, incredible.
(beat)
Wonderful.

JANIE (ironically)
Too many "ulls" in that.

MAX
Don't do that.

JANIE
What?

MAX
That thing you do where you use sarcasm to push
people away—avoid talking about your emotions or
things that might—

JANIE (talking over him)
I don't know what you're—

MAX (finishing)
—hurt you.

(beat)

Listen to me.

After a moment's hesitation, Janie turns to face him.

MAX
You may not feel it, but you are one of the strongest,
most talented people I know. What's that quote—the one
Mammy says about Scarlett after Bonnie dies—"What that
chile got to stand, the good Lord give her strength to stand."

(beat)

That's you.

(pause)

JANIE
You realize I'm an atheist, right?

MAX
Why do I ever try to do anything. I give up.

(pause)

JANIE
I'm sorry.

MAX
Oh really.

JANIE
Yes, really. I promise I'm trying.

(beat)

I want to be better than this.

MAX
I didn't mean to sound like I was giving up on you.

JANIE
Hah. Remember that greeting card we found at that
truck stop—the one that said "I'm Not Giving Up On Us?"

MAX (joining her laughter)
Jesus, I'd forgotten.

JANIE
So fucking desperate. Who would send a card like that?

(long pause)

JANIE
So what were you doing down at the stream when I found you?

MAX (uncomfortably)
I...just thinking. Clearing my head. You know—trying to get
to that—balanced state of being we always talk about.

He pulls his shirt sleeves down over his hands, which clench into fists under the fabric.

JANIE (carefully)
And that's going...?

(pause)

MAX
It's going.

(long pause)

JANIE
Is the moon full tonight?

MAX
I think so, yeah.

JANIE
Too bad we can't see it from here. That tree's pretty much
blocking it.

MAX
Looks like there's a little window in the leaves—maybe we'll
get to see it through there after it rises more.

Max looks at Janie, who is gazing offstage somewhere, lost in thought. Tense, he slowly reaches over and takes her hand.

MAX (after a pause)
Is this okay?

JANIE
Of course it is. Why wouldn't it be?

MAX
I'm just never sure, I guess. Always want to be sure
I'm not overstepping, or—misreading.

(pause)

JANIE
I know.

(pause)

So my mom's definitely selling the house. While I was
home this weekend she took me around to see the
places she's thinking of moving to.

MAX
I'm sorry to hear that—I know how much you love that house.

JANIE
It's not important—it's just a house.

(beat)

I mean, you know—I grew up there and all. But it's more
important that she's happy.

(pause)

MAX
Are you okay?

JANIE
It's—it's nothing, just—I guess—being home this weekend—
seeing her—it...you know, normally she's so healthy and strong,
and it's just sometimes she gets these muscle spasms—it's the chemo,
like how her hair hasn't grown back—but her muscles cramp up
and the pain is so bad, sometimes she just collapses.

(pause)

She's—the strongest person I'll ever know. I can't stand seeing her
like that.

MAX (stroking her hand)
I feel terrible that I can't remember, but—is she still
getting treatment?

JANIE
Only like every three or six weeks or something.

(pause)

It's just so—fucking—hard—when she's so healthy, but I
know I can't expect anything—like, she probably won't ever
see her grandchildren and she might not even—when I graduate
from college—

Max holds her as she sobs.

JANIE (when she has finished crying)
I'm sorry.

MAX
Why would you say that.

JANIE (continuing her thought)
It's been such a long time since I cried about—that.

MAX
Everyone needs to cry sometimes.

JANIE
I don't think I've cried about that specifically since she
was first diagnosed.

MAX
She's been sick for...

JANIE
Five years now. Well, five and a half—it was five this spring.

(pause)

Fucking spring. Why does every bad thing happen in the spring.

A long, dead silence.

JANIE
I didn't mean...

(pause)

That's not what I was talking about.

MAX (hollowly)
It might as well have been.

He lets go of her and turns away, dropping his head in his hands.

JANIE
No—

MAX (talking over her)
It should have been.

JANIE
Stop it. We don't have to go there right now.

MAX
How can I not? You think I spent the summer—

JANIE
Max, stop—

MAX (continuing)
--you don't think I spent it "going there"?

(beat)

You think I haven't been "going there" since—since it
happened? That it doesn't—that what I did doesn't
haunt me at night?

JANIE
Max—

MAX (continuing)
That I don't lie awake thinking about it til it drives me insane—

JANIE grabs his forearms and turns him to face her.

JANIE
Listen to me.

He winces.

JANIE
...Max?

She yanks up his shirtsleeve. He tries to pull away, but not before she sees the fresh cuts across his arm.

JANIE
Oh, Max...

(long pause)

Max, what—what happened, it—it's behind us now. I don't
know what the future holds any better than you
do, but I do know you can't keep letting yourself—letting
the past do—this—to you.

MAX
What else do I deserve?

JANIE
Max, I'm not kidding—

MAX
I'll never understand how you forgave me.

(long pause)

JANIE
It—I know you didn't...mean to.

(pause)

MAX
That doesn't fucking matter.

JANIE (before he finishes)
It matters to me.

(beat)

Let's not talk about it.

Silence. Neither can look at the other now.

JANIE
I think you're right. The moon looks pretty full.

(pause)

You can see it, there—through the branches.

(pause)

Like you said.

MAX
Janie, I...

JANIE
Don't—

MAX
I'm so sorry.

JANIE
We've been through this.

MAX (agitated)
I know—

JANIE
It's behind us—there's no point in bringing it up.

MAX (more frantically)
But I—

JANIE
You—

MAX
I raped you.

Silence. The word has been said. Max buries his head in his hands and curls into a small ball; his body shakes with silent sobs. Janie stares at the moon, blinking back tears.

JANIE
Yes. You did.

(pause)

You did.

More silence. Janie looks from the moon down to Max's crumpled form. Gingerly, as though afraid her touch might break him, she puts an arm around his shoulders and rests her head across his back.

MAX
Don't.

JANIE
But I—

MAX
Please—please don't.

Janie hesitates, then withdraws, quickly dashing a hand across her eyes.

MAX
I think you should go.

(pause)

JANIE
...Go?

MAX
I can't—I'm sorry. I'm just not—not strong enough.

JANIE
But I thought—you said—

MAX
I know what I said. I was wrong. I'm not ready to—be
around you.

He still won't look at her. Her heartbreak reads plainly on her face.

MAX
You should go.

(pause)

JANIE
I...

(pause)

MAX
Please.

(pause)

JANIE
Goodbye, Max.

She stands, brushing grass from her clothing, still fighting tears. With one last glance down at him, she exits. Max continues to sit with his head in his hands until after Janie is gone. He then lifts his head, gazing after her.

MAX (barely above a whisper)
I love you.

He looks up at the moon.

MAX
Moonlight.

He looks around.

MAX
Grass. And trees.

He reaches a fist up to scratch his neck with one finger.

And it's not spring.

His fingers fall open. Moonlight glints across the razor blade clutched there.

Can't be a bad thing.

He rears his arm back to draw the blade across his throat. Blackout.






Words by WildGoose
Read 629 times
Written on 2011-10-19 at 04:41

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Ducks
This is SO powerful.
It may be, perhaps, because I recognize the characters so clearly, but this really hits home. Because of the very clear representations, I did get a little thrown off by the shift in Max's character (based on true occurrences) closer to the end, but the whole thing really flows.
I would like to see it performed actually because I think the pauses make so much sense in conversation, but on paper they are hard to understand completely. I did not see the end coming... like at all... I got the shirt sleeves things as an indicator early on, but I didn't think Max would go that far, if only because he wouldn't want to hurt Janie further.
The only thing I might consider would be saying rape less explicitly. I didn't think he would be able to say it. It seemed like he felt much to guilty to be able to say the words out loud and it came off a little blunt.
Other than that this was really gut wrenching... I really like the last line because it plays so much into the idea of Spring, but it makes me a little nervous to see that logical fallacy in your writing. This was so good--I really don't even know what to say any more other than I hope Janie is okay, especially after she finds out about Max because she doesn't need that right now and it might just destroy her too.
I Love you and miss your writing. Please keep it up and let's actually workshop the next time we meet. :-)
2011-10-19