“Genius is not a lazy angel contemplating itself and things. It is insatiable for expression. Thought must take the stupendous step of passing realization. A master can formulate his thought.”
[Saturday night, late summer. Basement of house furnished with two couches around coffee table; desk with laptop and chair to one side, kitchenette area, small fridge, counter littered with glasses, bottles of soda and alcohol on the other. Mirror on side wall. Front door, door to bedroom, door to upstairs. Knocking on front door. Jack, early-to-mid twenties, wearing dark jeans and collared shirt, enters, looks around tentatively.]
JACK: Dave? Dave? HEY DAVE! You here, man?
[A moment passes as Jack wanders the stage searchingly until Dave, early twenties, wearing a white undershirt and black shorts, enters through bedroom door. Jack has his back to him. He turns around, slightly startled, looks Dave up and down.]
JACK (cont’d): There you are.
[Dave looks at him woozily, takes a moment to register his words.]
DAVE (flatly): Hey Jack. What’s up? You just get here?
JACK: Yeah. The door was open so I just…You told me drop in any time, ‘member?
DAVE: Yeah, yeah. I remember.
JACK (chuckles to himself): Say, didn’t happen to catch you at a moment of self-pleasure did I?
DAVE: Say what?
JACK: You know. (Gesturing with hand.) Tuggin’ one out.
DAVE (coming around): No, man. No.
JACK: Sure. OK. Just, you had that look about you like you were in the middle of something, is all.
DAVE: No, was only sleeping. (Rubs his eyes and stretches.) Crashed out couple hours ago.
JACK: Still recovering, eh? From last night.
DAVE (with a sigh): Still recovering… (Gestures to couch.) Have a seat.
[Dave flops down with a weary grunt on couch nearest him. Jack takes seat on other couch across from Dave.]
DAVE (cont’d): Give me a couple minutes. Then I’ll make us up some drinks.
JACK: Yeah. Sounds good…Little hair of the dog.
DAVE: Huh? Hair of the what now?
JACK: You know…Go out for a night on the town and throw back a few too many. Wake up feeling it the next day. What’s the best cure, best way to get over it? Little hair of the dog…
DAVE (yawning): Oh God. That about describes my whole summer.
JACK: You and me both, pal. (Sighs.) Shit. Gonna have to do something about that. Here we are. Summer’s over. Semester starting up. Time to buckle down and focus. Hit them books. Four months. Nothing but words, words, words. Jesus, I need a drink just thinking about it.
DAVE: What about tonight? How you feeling about that?
JACK: At least two. Three. To start. I don’t know. Honestly, something doesn’t feel right.
DAVE: What? What doesn’t feel right?
JACK: I don’t know exactly. It’s just a feeling I have. I can’t describe it.
Like I’m Conrad’s Marlow. Setting sail on a journey he knows from the start is doomed.
JACK: But he goes in anyway. Thinking somewhere along the way he’ll get things figured out. That if he just throws himself into it, all will be made clear. That it’ll make sense. Somehow.
But no. What happens? His illusions get shattered. Worst fears, confirmed.
DAVE: Worst fears about what?
JACK: About everything. The whole goddamn human enterprise. Shit man. It’s all fucked.
DAVE: Jeez. And I thought I was freaking out about my date with Lana.
JACK: I’m not freaking out.
OK, I’m freaking out. But this is different. Lana you had known a while. Hung out with her at work.
Me, I’m going in cold. I don’t know where I stand. Hadn’t seen or heard from Christy until the other day, up in the library. Till then, I didn’t know if I’d ever hear from her again.
DAVE: How long’d it been?
JACK: About two weeks, at least. Back when she still was going to be my roommate.
DAVE: So it’s not that different. You started off with a professional relationship and it developed from there. Into something, you know, more personal.
JACK: Professional…yeah, I guess you could say that. She came over, checked out the place. Agreed to move. Right there on the spot. Seemed excited. “Seemed” being the operative word.
DAVE: This was all before the camping trip?
JACK: Yeah. Obviously. I don’t know. I guess afterwards she had a change of heart. Found a place with some friends instead.
DAVE: She flaked.
JACK: …Yeah. Basically.
DAVE: Well, least it was a chance to get to know her better.
JACK: It was. And I did. But then, nothing. Silence. Had no way to reach her. No number or nothin’.
DAVE: Not even an email?
JACK: Nope. Nada.
DAVE: She had yours though? Your number I mean…
JACK: That she did.
DAVE: Hmm…Well, now, so it’s all for the best. Professional put aside. Work on the personal. All for the best.
JACK: Yeah. I guess. (Retreating) Whatever that means…
DAVE: Oh, come on. You know what that means.
JACK: Sure, sure. But in this particular situation, I mean.
DAVE: What? What about this situation?
JACK: I don’t know. Just the way it’s played out so far.
DAVE: How ya figure?
JACK: It’s just hard to read…What may or may not be going on.
DAVE: What do you think’s going on?
JACK: I don’t know. I don’t know what to think. One thing minding my own business, slogging through some readings for class. Next thing, there comes a tap on my shoulder and I look up and, surprise, surprise…
DAVE: It’s her.
JACK: It’s Christy. Re-emerged! All smiling and showered, her hair done up nice. Last time I’d seen her, remember, we’d been camping three, four days, neither of us having showered or anything, sand everywhere, in everything…total back to nature, call of the wild.
So we’re there. Middle of the afternoon. Sun shining through those big windows hitting her at just a certain angle. That moment, I swear ta ya, man, she looked perfect. I mean, fucking flawless.
DAVE (incredulous): Right.
JACK: Should have seen her. Cute as can be.
[Dave swings his head back in an exaggerated rolling of the eyes gesture.]
JACK (cont’d): I know. I know. I’m romanticizing the hell out of it. A blatant sentimentalist. But what can I say, it’s truth. Through and through. Scouts honour.
Any ill sort of feelings I might have been harbouring about how things ended off before just seemed to fall away. Disappear. Start anew.
DAVE: So then what?
JACK: So we talk a few minutes. Catch up. She tells me all about her new place, how her friends from the trip are doing, and eventually I ask her out for coffee.
DAVE: Good. That’s good. Coffee is good.
Then she tells me her and her friends are going to be downtown on the weekend — probably, most likely, Saturday — and maybe we could meet up. Then when I tell her I actually had plans to go downtown Friday, she says, “Well, hey, no problem. I’ll talk to my friends. See about changing it to Friday.”
DAVE: Well OK. Sounds promising so far.
JACK: But then, course, that fell through.
DAVE: That fell through.
JACK: But, anyway, point is: she was all ready to change her plans for me. Or so that’s how she made it sound…you know, for what it’s worth. And then, and then…as she’s leaving, I get the quick shoulder rub.
DAVE: That so…
JACK: Leans in and everything. For emphasis…or something.
What does that mean? The shoulder rub. How many guys get the shoulder rub? What subtle, unspoken meaning is being passed on at that moment of delicate splendour when hand meets shoulder? Tell me…tell me now, I need to know.
DAVE: It’s true. Scientists and researchers the world over have for centuries now been trying to understand the exact nature of the shoulder rub.
JACK: Seriously. Dave: Have you ever gotten the shoulder rub?
DAVE: Not many. Not that I can recall anyway. And of all the girls I know or have known, I don’t know of too many of them given to passing out shoulder rubs willy-nilly to every other guy looking for the time of day…if you know what I mean. It’s a good sign.
JACK: Yeah. You think?
DAVE: Yeah. Definitely.
JACK (incredulous): Hmm. Shit. I really hate this part. This grey middle area. This purgatorial space where you think you’ve experienced something but you’re not sure. Not sure because you’re too caught up in it. To close to the thing. It’s too…subjective. You need it laid out for you. Both sides. See the whole playing field. To know, right, to know there was something there. You’re riding the same wave. You felt it, she felt it.
Only then—then and only then—does it become—for want of a better word—real.
DAVE: Uh huh.
JACK: Otherwise, well, that’s it. Roll credits. The big No-ender.
DAVE: Yeah, there’s always that. But who knows, right?
Take the time I asked out Lana. We were both of us outside on our break. She was standing a ways over from me. I was having a smoke. And then, just all of a sudden, I go over to her, say, “So how about a movie, me and you, this week.” Right away she was like, “Yeah. OK. Sure.” Doesn’t have to think about it. There. Done. Just like that. Just went up, did it. Pure gut instinct. Register. React.
DAVE: Thinking about it kills it. Or at least blurs it. All that working it over in the mind. Inventing scenarios. Setting up mental booby traps. These are the dangers.
JACK: Sure, sure. I believe you. But I just don’t have that.
DAVE: Have what?
JACK: I don’t know. Whatever you call it.
JACK: That assurance…
JACK: That skill…
DAVE: Uh huh.
JACK: That…Ah, forget it.
DAVE: You mean confidence?
JACK: But more than that: The ability to put all mental shit aside, empty the mind of all excess baggage, and just focus on the task at hand. At that moment.
JACK: Yeah. No. Maybe.
DAVE: Confidence, my friend. That’s all it takes. Be assertive. It’s sexy. I’m telling you, it automatically bumps you up at least three notches on the physical attraction meter. Fives instantly transform into eights. Even the most homely gain a modicum of sex appeal just by carrying themselves like an eight or a nine.
JACK: Sure. Fine. That’s all well and good…But, OK: for one thing, right there you’re inferring a level a ‘bliviousness that I’m just not capable of.
And besides, I’m thinking beyond that…You’re talkin’ about the physical…I’m thinkin’ more like…
What I’m talking about, it’s more like - mind over body.
DAVE: Oh yeah.
See the thing is…
The thing about…
JACK: What I’m trying to say…
DAVE: Go on…
[Jack stands up, starts pacing.]
JACK: Howda put this?
DAVE: Just come out with it already.
DAVE: My breath’s been sufficiently bated over here.
See. Lot a times when I meet someone — I mean someone I’m really into, right off the bat — I swear, it’s like, within minutes I’ve already experienced the entire relationship. Had it all play out in my head. The awkwardness of those first few dates. Learning her sense of humour, if any…What her interests are, turn-ons, turn-offs…on and on. All that compatibility stuff.
Things go well, they start to pick up. Action intensifies. That lasts however long, few months tops. Then things slow down. Conversation lags. You become like two overly familiar strangers…without even realizing it. Or maybe you’re just in denial about it. Instead treat everything business as usual. But it’s not like it was. The spark’s no longer there.
But then things come in to fill the gap, right. First move in together. What could bring you closer, right? Literally if nothing else. But that only means more hours to fill. To entertain this phantom relationship you’ve fostered. So then what? What do you try? Go down the list. Rings, vows, mortgages, careers, kids born, raised, out of the house, grey hair, wrinkles…before you know it you’re counting down the days in some bleached-out, meticulously maintained condo somewhere in the Florida Keys with a little pet…
DAVE: Whoa. Whoa. Slow down, Speed Racer. One step at a time.
JACK: See? There you go. What I mean…
DAVE: Rewind it there. At least get through the first conversation before sounding wedding bells.
JACK: But by then it’s too late. She already walkin’. And it ain’t down no aisle, let me tell you. Or if I’m really honest, it’s me who is. Either way, so much for first impressions.
DAVE: Come on. You’re two attractive people. You like her. She’s obviously into you…
DAVE: So: just ride it out. See where things go. Who knows? Good things may come…
JACK: …to those that wait? Right…
DAVE: Won’t be long now. You won’t have to wait much longer.
What time did you say you’d meet them?
JACK: No set time. Whenever we get down there.
Guess we probably should soon.
[Jack sits back down. A short buzzing sound, not unlike a doorbell but not, rings out twice. Dave gestures with his arm in the air, his index finger raised.]
DAVE: Hold that thought. One sec.
[Dave reaches out to coffee table, picks up cell phone. He plays with buttons, eyes transfixed on screen. Jack looks around. Head still down looking at cell phone Dave lets out a short burst of laughter. Jack looks at Dave expectantly, waiting for an explanation.]
DAVE (cont’d): Lana just sent me a text saying she can’t wait till the next solar eclipse.
JACK: Wow, that’s random.
You tell her not to hold her breath.
DAVE: It’s weird. She’s always sending random things like that. Like, “This is so important I need to message Dave right away.” And when we’re hanging out she’s always throwing out these random thoughts and ideas that come to her. Bits of weird information. Totally random. Her mind is always going. It’s all over the place.
JACK: Sounds very…spontaneous.
DAVE: I really can’t believe I found this girl.
She crochets. She dances. She’s tried acid, mushrooms. Took philosophy for a year at university. Now works at a deli. She’s a hippie chick who listens to punk and hardcore bands. Really outgoing and talkative in public, around lots of people…she’ll start up conversations with anybody, strangers, whoever. But then when it’s just the two of us she’ll sometimes get really shy, almost insecure.
JACK: She’s a riddle, a contradiction. An explanation wrapped in a question wrapped in endless digression.
Yep. A real conundrum, I tells ya.
DAVE: Man. She’s like the female me.
JACK (chuckling): Really. You don’t say.
DAVE: My buddy Dennis, who met her when we were at the Cambie—all of us playing pool—was afterwards like, “Whoa, Dave…She’s you with a tight bod and nice rack.”
JACK (picturing it): That’s kind of a disturbing image…but I get what you’re saying.
DAVE: We get along so well, it’s like I’m hanging out with you or Steve or Mitch. Just one of the guys. She laughs at all my jokes. I can be a complete goofball. Her too. Funny and sweet. She’s almost too perfect in a way.
JACK: Sounds like it.
DAVE: Though to be honest, I think I’m less attracted to her now than when we first met. When I first saw her I was completely floored. Like, I need to know this girl. Nothing could stop me. I was possessed. Locked in. Tunnel vision. Forget about it.
JACK: But that’s just what I’m saying. Maybe that’s how it was meant to work out — to just be good friends. Things settle out. The initial flush passes. It happens more often than not. And better to realize it sooner than later.
DAVE: Oh, believe me. The flush is still there. Big time.
JACK: So what are saying then? It’s easy to get complacent. Take what you have for granted. I’m not following…
DAVE: It’s like…You’ve seen Bonnie and Clyde, right?
JACK: Yeah, sure. Saw it this summer. The miracle of downloading. The soft, milky skin of an impossibly young Faye Dunaway. Pour me a glass of that, wouldya.
DAVE: Yeah. And you have Warren Beatty as like your classic example of the Ah, shucks good-old boy. All raw masculinity. Tame and unassuming yet set to explode any minute.
There’s that one scene where they’re on the run from the authorities, holed up in some cheap motel. Him and Bonnie are on the bed getting into it when suddenly he pushes her off and rolls over and…
JACK: Yeah, I remember that. And he says something like…Shoot, what does he say?
DAVE: They’re lying on the bed, on either side, apart, all awkward. She’s all “What the fuck was that.” And he says, (affecting mild Kentucky accent) “You gotta know somethin’ about me. I ain’t like all the others. The thing about me is: I ain’t no lover boy.”
(Beat as he comes out of character.)
“I ain’t no lover boy,” he says.
JACK: Right. He’s got her right there. She’s giving herself over to him. Here ya go: Happy birthday, time to unwrap your present. And he’s not interested one bit. Like it’s too easy or something.
DAVE: Yeah. Too easy. The Paradox of Desire.
JACK: The paradox of…Sorry, you lost me there.
DAVE: No, that’s it. That’s what we want, see? Desire itself. The real drug. The desire for desire. Once it gets fulfilled, consummated—then: Poof! (Gestures with his hands.) It’s gone. No more. What’s that leave you with?
JACK: A relationship, that’s what.
(Beat. A few chuckles.)
JACK (cont’d): OK. Listen, I think I get your drift—all that “the chase is better than the catch,” I get that—but listen: You and Lana, what you got is fine. It’s ideal really. Just don’t let — don’t let it coast along for too too long before you know good and well where things are headed. Because, believe you-me, once you become “Just Friends,” brother, that’s it. Ain’t no changin’ that.
DAVE: I’m not worried about that. Things are good. It’s important to have a little tension. There’ve been relationships in the past where I couldn’t get into it at all. It was my fault, I admit. I laid back. Got too relaxed. Too comfortable. Just look at with Heather.
JACK: Yeah, what happened there?
DAVE: Well talk about being complacent. I didn’t know what I wanted. Sat back, watched as she drifted off. Dissipated. Dispersed. Right there in front of me.
It’s like when you’re fishing, right. What do they teach you? One of the most important things. You gotta keep the reel taut.
[Dave makes gesture like he’s holding a fishing pole, pulls back.]
DAVE (cont’d): Keep that reel taut. Gotta keep that reel taut.
Relationships, it’s like: same thing. Don’t keep up that tension, things start to flounder. They kick loose and swim away. And it’s bye-bye, fishy.
JACK: Yeah. Or more like they’ll get loose, jump up, and take a chunk out of your cheek. Go right for the jugular, they will.
DAVE: I suppose you gotta watch out for the occasional dogfish…
JACK: Believe that. I know only too well…
Not that I’m bitter or anything.
DAVE (refocusing): OK, that’s it.
[Dave starts to shift on couch, getting up the energy. Pats hands on knees.]
DAVE (cont’d): Drinks. We need drinks.
[With a bit of effort, Dave gets up, walks over to counter, mixes couple drinks. Jack gets up, walks over to desk, sits down, fiddles with mouse, observing computer screen.]
JACK: While you do that I’m gonna get some tunes going.
(Calling out.) Anything new?
DAVE (over his shoulder): Not really. Same old shit. Floyd, Zeppelin, Stones, Beatles, Dylan…Just don’t put on Exile on Main Street. I’ve been listening to that way too much lately.
JACK: Exile it is.
JACK (singing in a raspy croon): “And his coooat is tooorn and frayed,
it’s seeeen much beeetter days. Just as looong as the gitar plaaays, it’ll steeeal your heaaart ahway.”
DAVE: Fuck off.
[Dave approaches Jack with two tumbler glasses.]
DAVE (cont’d): Here. Wait till you try this. This is the oldest drink there is.
[Dave holds out drink, Jack stands to take it.]
DAVE (cont’d): This is what Hemingway and the boys were drinking over there in Paris back in the day.
JACK: You mean absinthe?
DAVE: No. Better. I got the mix just right. Enjoy.
[Jack holds his drink up for a toast, Dave does same.]
JACK: Here’s to it, man. To…
To our impending doom.
[They clink glasses, drink.]
DAVE (cont’d): And cheer up, wouldya. Buck the fuck up. Tonight’s gonna go fine. Trust me.
JACK: Yeah. I guess. I don’t know. I’m all worst case scenarios. More so than usual.
Hey, this is pretty good. What’s in it?
DAVE: Just whiskey and bitters. And a little sugar.
[Jack takes another drink, examines glass.]
JACK: Yeah, this is really good. Not like most bar drinks where they sugar the shit out of it. Like it benefits them having their patrons getting all sick in the bathrooms and back alleys. Fu-u-ck.
[Jack and Dave take periodic nips from their drinks.]
DAVE: Better not be how I end up tonight. I need to take it easy this time.
JACK: That bad, huh?
[Dave leans against couch.]
DAVE: Actually, no. Not really. Just not much sleep. I was exhausted all day. Other than that feel pretty good.
JACK: Dude, you’re a champ. What’d you guys end up doing? Was there a party or something?
[Jack sits back down in chair.]
DAVE: Yeah. Over in Cedar. Some guy’s parents were away. Big place. Lots of people. Should have come.
JACK: Was Lana there?
DAVE: She was there, Steve was there. Mitch. Ben came by for awhile. It was a good time.
DAVE: I was hangin’ with my friends. Lana was off with hers. I’d catch an occasional glance of her across the room. She’d look back. Sometimes I’d catch her talking with another guy or group of guys. You know me: I got a real jealous streak.
JACK: Uh huh.
DAVE: But then—this is great, I love this—she’d point over to me. Talking about me, I could tell. “Oh yeah, that’s him—the guy I came with,” whatever. Then every so often I’d pass her by or we’d meet in the kitchen to get a drink and just say hey or something. Then go our separate ways again. Hang out. Meet up later. All night it was like that.
JACK: I love that. The safety net thing. At parties or wherever. That’s the only way I can stand going out. It’s like reassurance or something. Back-up.
DAVE: That’s an interesting way of looking at it.
JACK: When Sarah was staying out here we went to this party in Parksville. Outside Parksville, actually. In the woods somewhere, near some swamp…I don’t know. Barry invited us. I was nervous as soon as we got there. Kind of awkward…I didn’t really know anyone else. It was his crowd. Even he didn’t seem that friendly with them.
JACK: Yeah. Anyway, I medicated on a few beers, and that combined with the nervousness, got ta rambling on absently about who knows what as I am wont to do.
Most times no one pays attention…But Sarah, she was right there with me, knocking back everything I said. Like we were speaking our own private language.
DAVE: Was that the same night you’d talked mentioned before?
JACK: The night we ended up lost in front of some biker bar in Coombs? Yeah.
DAVE: That’d be pretty far out there.
JACK: The fuckin’ boonies, man. We’d been driving around about an hour. Trying to find our way back into town. Back to Barry’s. It was late. Dark out. I took one wrong turn somewhere and then another and then…Yeah.
But there was this weird energy in the car. Like a blind anxiousness. Indefinable. Lacking target or direction. You know that feeling you have, when you’re lost somewhere and with every movement forward there’s the sensation that you’re about to go off a cliff? The dizzying rush…on the brink. Between blackness and security. Everything is a reflection of a place you remember being but can’t quite place. The whole world becomes just a little off. Tilted to one side. Skewed angles and whatnot. Ya know?
DAVE: Bizarre-o world.
JACK: Yeah, sure. Exactly. But, so anyway: There we were, driving around, completely aimless…no idea how to get back. Neither of us was saying much. Maybe silently blaming the other for getting us lost. My bad driving. Her bad directions. It was a tense hour, for sure.
JACK: Finally we see some lights and pull in at the bar. I used the payphone outside to call Barry to get directions while Sarah went inside to take a powder.
JACK: So: Talked to Barry. Got laughed at by Barry. Got directions. Got back in the car. Sarah came out, got back in. And…Ah…
(Beat as he hesitates.)
DAVE: Yes, and…
JACK: And…ah, I don’t know what I’m saying. Forget it. Just forget it.
DAVE: No, go on.
JACK: No. Never mind. I’m off the rails.
DAVE: No, what? You found your way. Drove back into town. Happy ending.
JACK: Well, yeah. But before that. In the car, there was still that tension. We were both pretty exhausted and a little exhilarated. Like we’d been on a long journey. Like we’d made it through something, survived…The two of us. At that moment, I felt either really close to her or really far away. Like I was outside myself observing us and yet fighting to stay inside, present.
Nobody’s saying anything, we’re just staring at each other. A standoff. But something’s happening. The molecules in the air are changing around us. We go from here to there in zero steps, nary a movement. It was like: for that moment we had broke through the continuum and stepped right out of time.
DAVE: So what happened?
JACK: That’s it. What I told ya.
DAVE: That’s it?
JACK: That’s it.
DAVE: Nothing else?
JACK: Nope. Nothin’.
DAVE: You kiss her at least? Make-out a little?
JACK (hesitating): Yeah. We kissed.
JACK: And that’s it.
DAVE: That’s it?
JACK: We might have smoked a joint…before we left. Before heading back.
[Jack catches Dave raising an eyebrow while giving him a knowing look.]
JACK (cont’d): What?
DAVE: Nothing. I’m not saying anything.
JACK (pointing): I know what you’re thinking. And no, nothing happened. It was out of the question. I mean, what could I do? I knew the stakes. Boyfriend back home…Out of the question. I wasn’t going to be that guy. I’ve already been that guy…I never want to be that guy again. No thank you.
DAVE: Maybe that’s what she wanted. For you to be that guy.
DAVE: You know, come in and upset the established order. Run the old guard out of town. Maybe that was the whole point of her little visit.
JACK: No. No, that’s crazy. That don’t make any sense.
JACK: None whatsoever.
Listen: How ‘bout make me another one of these? Then we can get out of here and get on with things. Take this sideshow on the road, yo.
[Jack hold up his empty glass, shakes it.]
DAVE: Yeah. OK. Sure.
[Dave takes Jack’s glass.]
JACK: Thanks. I’ll get you back at the bar.
DAVE: Of course. No worries.
[Dave goes over to counter, mixes couple more drinks.]
DAVE (cont’d): (Over his shoulder) But hear me out, OK. It’s not so crazy.
[Dave comes over with drinks, Jack stands to take his. Sips it.]
DAVE (cont’d): I mean, for one thing she sure wasn’t acting like she had a boyfriend. She seemed pretty free and breezy when I saw her.
JACK: But she’s always like that, relationship or not. Besides, I would have caught something. There would have been more signals. If that was the case, surely she would have made her intentions more clear.
DAVE: Would she? What if that was the point. The challenge was yours to take up. To be assertive. Do the whole knight in
shining thing and sweep her off her feet. Did you do that? Did you try at least?
JACK: I…well…no, I guess not…but…
JACK: Well, like I said, it wasn’t my position to…hmm…
DAVE: Listen. You think about it. Ponder the possibilities. I’m gonna run upstairs and see if the Old Man wants a drink. Right back.
[Dave exits through door to stairs. Jack puts his drink down, paces stage anxiously, in deep thought. He comes to mirror, stands in front running a hand through his hair, then smoothes it out. Continues to pace. Dave re-enters through same door.]
DAVE (cont’d): Well…So what’s the verdict?
JACK: Jury’s still out. How’s your pops doin’?
DAVE: He’s fine. He’s up there in his den watching some action movie.
JACK: Same my dad no doubt. Right about now he’s switched over from his after-work scotch to wine and plopped himself down in his leather Lazy—forced as he is to cope with the thirty-six hours still to go before next work day. Flipping back-and-forth between a dish full of ‘80s action movies. Pretty good chance at least one of them is starring either Mel Gibson or Bruce Willis. Or the Governator himself.
DAVE: Those are actually really good date movies. You know, something fun. Light. Not too obvious.
JACK: I guess it’s better than a Werner Herzog art flick, say.
DAVE: There are girls into that as well.
JACK: Shit, you need to introduce me. Not many people out there—girls especially—interested in feature length angst fests trading in madness, guilt, doubt, and the nature of reality.
DAVE: You’d be surprised.
[Ringing sound from earlier. Dave walks over to coffee table, picks up cell phone, looks at it, then back to Jack.]
DAVE (cont’d): Well, well. Looks like we’ll be seeing Lana down there after all.
DAVE: Just got the update. Seems her and some friends are on their way out. As of right now she’s four tequila shots in.
JACK: At least someone’s gonna have some fun tonight.
DAVE: Maybe the four of us can break off later on. Maybe go get some pizza.
[Jack walks over to couches, closer to Dave.]
JACK: Yeah, maybe.
Listen. Dave. Did I ever tell you about Sarah’s fiancé?
DAVE: Fiancé? She’s engaged? When this happen?
JACK: Yeah. No. She was. Few years back. We when we were right out of high school.
DAVE: Oh. OK. That makes a little more sense.
No, you didn’t.
JACK: I kinda knew him. Had gone to school with him for years. Really nice guy. Chill. Laidback to the point of being laconic, really. Not sure how he landed her in the first place to be honest. Anyway, it ended up falling apart…whatever the reason. Never did really talk about it with her at the time. Just one of those things.
DAVE: I can see how that would be kind of weird.
JACK: Well, for one thing, it forced me to change the way I looked at her, my whole relationship with her. What I was in it for. Yeah, but anyway…so when she was here the topic happened to come up. She told me how…how she looks back on that time, when they were together, like it almost didn’t happen. Barely registered. A blip on the emotional radar, she said. Or something to that effect.
But I mean: they were engaged for like a year. Over a year. I’ve never been with anybody that long. Have you ever been with anyone that long?
DAVE: Close to, but not quite.
JACK: A year. I can’t even fathom that. It’s beyond my comprehension. Seriously. And she was this close to taking the plunge. Yet for her it was like…Like it never happened.
DAVE: So what’s your point?
JACK: My point? Well, so look at the guy she’s with now. They’ve been together off and on the last two years. They’re always fighting. Always some kind of excitement going on. After the first time they broke up, right. The guy, he was so fucking distraught over it he threatened to take a header off the Fourth Ave bridge…such was his undying devotion to her. Absolute fucking proof he couldn’t manage another day in this cold-hearted world without her by his side. The poor bastard.
So my point is your point. Like, you’d think when he starts talking about going for a sidewalk splash, that that would, I don’t know, be a sign that “Hey maybe this guy isn’t the best mate. Maybe he’s just a little too unstable. Maybe it’s time to move on.” Mind you, that’s just me, what do I know.
Yet she doesn’t see it that way. She takes it as this great meaningful romantic gesture that overrides everything else, all the selfish shit he’d put her through to get to this point. It’s like this…this…Shit, I don’t know. I can’t explain it.
[In the following exchange, Jack and Dave talk over each other, their words coming out faster and faster, overlapping at times.]
DAVE: Don’t you see? It was a way to demonstrate, in the biggest way possible, his emotional commitment. That you’re there, present, all of you, completely involved…
JACK: Yeah. Caught up in it…A whole performance…Putting on a show…
DAVE: Committed in all ways, in no uncertain terms: mind, body and soul…
JACK: The bigger the better. Bigger the better. Spectacle. Emotion. Large gestures of whatever for whatever purpose…
DAVE: …a way of showing that you’re prepared to give up everything, lay it all on the line, no matter what…
JACK: Drama. Drama, man. As if you’re playing the role of who you think you’re supposed to be, what you’ve been shown to be. This is how it’s done. Everything larger than life. Cliché of clichés.
DAVE: …like the soldier going into battle. Honour. Sacrifice. All these cherished ideals. This is what today’s movies and magazines have taught us to believe in. When really what it comes down to is…
JACK: But that’s it. The role. The show. The play. That Billy Shakes was onto something. He sure was. The guy had it bang on.
JACK: That’s what I said. William fucking Shakespeare.
DAVE: No. I mean it’s a matter of will.
JACK: Huh? What’s the matter with Will? Besides being over four hundred years old.
DAVE: No, will. As in, you have to will it into being.
JACK: Will it?
DAVE: In whatever way possible. No other way. Nothing just happens.
JACK: But will what?
DAVE: The whole world round. How do you think all this appeared? How do you think you and me got here?
JACK: I’d rather not think about how I got here.
DAVE: There are infinite modes of being, Jack. Philosophy 101.
JACK: I failed first year philosophy.
DAVE: Be that as it may. There are infinite modes. But we’re not always aware of that, being limited by our circumstances and all. Only so many ways of operating at one time, of course. So but whatever form it takes, in order to make it come into being, first it has to get constituted by the will. You follow?
JACK: I think so. Sort of.
DAVE: Freedom or whatever you what to call it is measured by our ability to will. The exercising of it. However much we are able to. Based on what we have—the tools, resources, connections, so on—at our disposal. That’s what it comes down to. What would life be without will? It’s inconceivable.
JACK: Wait. Now I’m confused.
DAVE: OK. Think of it another way. You have a guy who’s really into cars. Driving cars. Working on cars. Knows everything about cars. How to take apart and rebuilt an engine. Day in day out, that’s what he works at, thinks about. That’s his world. Or take a musician. The world of notes and chords, melody and rhythm. And through that he brings all those songs and symphonies into the world. A chef cooks up a filet mignon. A scientist invents a vaccine. Teachers teach. Writers write. Actors act. Each of these things, in their way, is a function of the same thing. Each requires the same basic thing to bring it off. An impetus.
JACK: That being?
DAVE: What do you think?
JACK: Are you for real? What are you getting at here? Seriously.
DAVE: Seriously, man. What?
DAVE: Come on. Simple answer.
DAVE: Lights, camera…
JACK (mumbles): Action.
JACK (louder): Action.
DAVE: You got it. Action, Jackson. Not this sitting around. Pontificating hours on end…to what end? None. All that concocting of speeches. Ways of carrying yourself. Affections. That’s fine. That has merit, sure. But it’s not putting out anything new. You’re not cracking anything open. Only one way to do that is…
JACK: …through action.
JACK: So action.
That’s it, eh.
DAVE: That’s it. More or less.
JACK: Next you’re going to tell me that’s how we’re defined. Character is action, or something of the sort.
DAVE: Or: actions speak louder than words.
JACK: To borrow an oft-used phrase.
DAVE: That’s what my dad always says. That’s his line. “Actions speak louder than words.”
JACK: Yeah. My dad’s line is: “Perception is reality.”
DAVE: My dad read all that Hemingway when he was younger. What makes a man. Keep to the code. Unflinching in the face of impossible odds. Know the reality of the situation, no matter how fraught.
JACK: So action above all, eh. Over insight even.
DAVE: Put it to you this way: Insight over action, no satisfaction. Action over insight, always in the right.
JACK: Right. (Sighs) And a night without drinking leads ta too much thinking.
DAVE: There you go. I’ll drink to that.
[They down the rest of their drinks.]
DAVE (cont’d): OK. One more of these then we be outta here.
[Dave gets up, gives Jack a pat on the shoulder.]
DAVE (cont’d): Get to it, friend. Set the night on fire.
[Goes over to counter, mixes more drinks.]
JACK: I don’t know, man. I just don’t know.
DAVE: Know? What’s to know?
JACK: Maybe what’s the use? Maybe I’m making something out of nothing. Maybe it’s hopeless. Futile. All just fucking futile…
DAVE: Futile? No, no, no…That’s the wrong attitude, Jack. Wrong attitude.
JACK: Torturing myself for nothing. No point. No goddamn point at all.
[Dave comes back over, hands him his drink.]
DAVE: Yeah, yeah, yeah…sure, sure, sure…there’s no point to anything. It’s all absurd. Same old song. Listen: that’s beside the point.
JACK: Whatever I do, she’s already made up her mind…one way or the other. There’s nothing I can do to change it. All this talk of action, taking control, asserting oneself…it’s all been preordained in a way. Set in stone. I can pace and fret all I want, but truth is whole thing’s outta my hands. What does it matter how I feel? What is there to be said? Words are worthless. I’m paralyzed regardless. I mean, all I can do now, really, is just show up and see it through. Whatever happens happens. Anything else, I’m just spinning my wheels. Putting on a fucking show.
DAVE: Ah, what a load, what ah…Fuck. Look: I’m sorry, man…You’re my bud and all…and you know I love ya like a brother…but that, what you just said, is a ten-foot steaming pile of bullshit.
JACK: No. It’s true. It’s absolutely true.
DAVE: No. It isn’t. And I’ll tell ya why it isn’t.
OK, so you say you like this girl?
JACK: Yes. I thought I made that clear.
DAVE: OK, so you’re very much into her. You feel that you’ve experienced something you consider to be unique and special, yes?
JACK: When you put it that way…Yes, very much so.
DAVE: Then listen, man: you gotta hold to that. Nothing else means anything. There is nothing else. If you truly feel this way about her like you’re saying, than it would be a crime nay a tragedy for you not to do everything in your power to convey this to her. Get it across. Travel to the ends of the earth, if need be.
‘Cuz, listen: if you give up on it this easy, if you just let this pass without fighting for it, really digging in and going all out, than there really is no point to anything. And we really are just doomed like you say.
Days are numbered, so make it count. Time for pity has passed, Jack. And if it doesn’t work out — well then: so what? At least you’ll be able to look back and say you gave it a shot. Did all you could. Didn’t wilt and cower at the moment of truth. No fucking regrets.
JACK (detached): Yeah.
DAVE: And if you do all that and she still looks at you with blind eyes, than fuck it. It’s her loss.
JACK: You’re right.
DAVE: OK, good. Look: I’m going to go get changed up. Then after that: we’re outta here, OK.
[Dave exits through bedroom door. Jack continues to sit slumped on couch sipping his drink. Dave enters through same door now dressed in a shirt and jeans. Pats Jack on the shoulder.]
DAVE (cont’d): Just think, Jackie old boy: This could be the start of something beautiful.
[Jack stands up.]
JACK: Let’s just go. Get this over with.
[They walk towards front door, stopping just before they reach it as Jack turns to Dave.]
JACK (cont’d): But imagine, now just imagine…After all this, we get down there…we get down there and low and behold…she’s with another guy.
[Dave chuckles to himself, puts a hand on Jack’s shoulder as they continue walking.]
DAVE: That’s funny. That’s really funny.
You know, Jack, you’re actually a funny guy. Some people miss that about you. But it’s there alright. Hysterical. A funny guy you are, Jack. A real funny guy…
[They exit front door, Dave’s last words abruptly cut off by the sound of door slamming shut.]