by C H A R L E S L . M E E
Lights come up on Edward's bed,
set in front of an abandoned gas station.
Surrounded wall to wall by red clay stained with oil and gas.
A bright orange and yellow gas pump,
surreally supremely beautiful.
Nearby, a motel, the "Mo el Aph it ".
A kids' inflatable plastic swimming pool is to one side.
To one side, an abandoned Lincoln Town Car
that just broke down and was left there,
its hood up, its wheels off, splattered with dried mud.
An electric guitar with amp.
A set of drums.
A microphone on a stand.
Elsewhere, a dog house.
A chain, with a dog no longer there.
We hear a love song on the radio.
Edward, age 13 or 14—or the youngest possible legal age
for the youngest-possible-looking actor to play this role—
is roller blading around his bed,
lost in the music and the pleasure of movement,
luxuriating in his cool moves,
naked from the waist up.
He is a handsome WASP adolescent
with the coolest rollerblades and the best athletic clothes.
Polly, age 34, enters—as though with a purpose,
but then stops, and, standing silently, watches him.
She wears Armani, with some rips and stains.
Edward doesn't notice her;
and they don't speak.
She watches him.
She doesn't move.
This opening moment of the piece—
first Edward alone on stage,
then Polly watching him,
is meant to establish the two principals of the piece,
and their relationship,
so that this relationship—and plotline—
is stated clearly enough at the top of the piece
that we have noted it, attached our attention to it,
and can track it through the confusion that follows.
The song ends.
He sits on the bed to adjust his rollerblades.
RADIO TALK SHOW HOST
That was SINGER, with NAME OF SONG.
And we were talking about love
with our guest Bobby Beausoleil.
What is love, Bobby?
BOBBY ON THE RADIO
That's what I'd like to know, Tim.
[they both laugh]
But I mean, basically,
I guess you'd have to say
that the Greeks, pretty much anticipated everything
western folks have thought and felt for 25 centuries.
Well, I'd have to agree with that.
[JIM enters, looks at Edward, looks at Polly,
looks back at Edward,
lifts the hood of the Lincoln Town Car,
and goes to work on it.]
You'd be talking here,
about love as friendship,
which the Greeks called philia,
benevolence towards guests
which would be senike,
the mutual attraction of friends,
and then sensual love of course,
Let's talk about that.
what the Greeks thought
was that love is not just a sentiment
but is actually the physical principle of the universe itself
the very stuff that unifies the universe
you know, binds the universe together.
[PHIL enters, carrying a wrench and a rag,
looks at Polly, at Edward,
back at Polly,
drags a garbage bag full of something to the edge of the stage,
throws the garbage bag off the edge of the stage
and then joins Jim at work on the Lincoln.]
Bonnie, a nasty, slatternly girl, enters,
looks at Edward, at Polly,
back at Edward,
takes a lunch box, hands it to Phil,
takes out a magazine and reads.]
2ND TALK SHOW GUEST
You know, I have to say, as an Italian,
I grew up in a family where people just hugged each other all the time.
All the time.
If you were Italian you'd know what I mean.
I know what you mean.
I know what you mean.
2ND TALK SHOW GUEST
I don't think you do.
Of course you do.
But I don't think you do.
I mean, the other night I went to this cocktail party,
and someone handed me this glass of gorgeous ruby red wine.
And I'm, you know, something of a wine freak.
I don't mind a glass of wine myself.
2ND TALK SHOW GUEST
And just as I put out my hand to take the glass,
someone came up behind me and shouted
and grabbed me.
[Shirley, a librarian, enters,
checks out the others present,
People do that all the time.
2ND TALK SHOW GUEST
Right. And the wine flew into the air.
2ND TALK SHOW GUEST
And everyone screamed,
even though, in fact, the wine landed only on me.
And I said what the Italians always say when you spill wine.
What does this have to do with love?
2ND TALK SHOW GUEST
You want to know what I said?
2ND TALK SHOW GUEST
I said: Allegria!
2ND TALK SHOW GUEST
[Edward rises to test his rollerblades,
sits to fix them again.]
Because what I saw,
which I have to say I don't think any of the others really saw;
was that the wine added color to my evening!
2ND TALK SHOW GUEST
And this is how it is to be human.
2ND TALK SHOW GUEST
I mean you have to bump into walls.
Don't I know it?
2ND TALK SHOW GUEST
You have to celebrate your craziness and your hummanness.
That is so true.
[Red Dicks enters;
she is a transvestite, accordion-playing hairdresser.
S/he goes straight to Bonnie,
and begins to fix her hair
using Coke cans as rollers.
Shirley still looks confused,
finally sits on a crate.
They are all motionless,
listening to the radio.
Ideally, Phil, Jim, and Jim all play musical instruments
and have formed a garage band.
And/or Shirley and/or Bonnie might fill in or play with the band
depending on their musical talents.
Red Dicks will play the accordion.
Polly will sing.
The garage band will have a number of opportunities to play
at various points during the piece—either the entire band
or a single instrumentalist with a singer.
Shirley takes out her cell phone and dials.]
Because, the fact is,
we're dying of loneliness,
all of us.
Just dying of it.
Well, now. we have a caller here on line one.
Hello, there, you're on the air.
Hello, you're on the air.
What's your name?
Shirley. My name is Shirley.
OK! Well, it's your nickel, Shirley!
What'd you want to say?
Well, what I wanted to say is
what I think is—what love is:
Love is how you relate to people
or, if your love is channeled in some other way
it is how you are cold or indifferent or hurtful
to another person.
And so love is who you are
and how you are
what kind of person you are
it's the most factual thing about how you are.
You can't talk your way around it,
make it come out some other way.
It remains the deepest fact about you.
I mean, you can say,
oh, I'm really a nice sensitive person
I treat people with dignity.
But the only way you really know how you relate to other human beings
is in the most secret, secret place
where you are most vulnerable
most open to your private self
when you are making love
you don't even know what you're doing
until you're doing it
and then you see what sort of person you are
whether you are making love with someone else
or you are the president of the united states passing a welfare bill
then you've done it
it's not talk any more
you've acted out your most private deepest self
and lodged it in the flesh of another human being
so that another person feels pain or pleaure
and then you know:
this is who I am.
This is what I do.
And who I am
what I want to do
what feels hot to me
the person or the behavior I can't keep myself from
is so strange
is so odd
so that usually I repress it
if I find myself drawn irresistibly to a man
with bushy eyebrows
or a comforting voice
or something even stranger
or hair on his chest
or a certain weakness
so that I sense I can hurt him in a certain way
and then take him to me like a wounded animal
and comfort him
if these are the things that make me weak and shaky with desire
I know this is my truest self
what makes me break out in a sweat.
the kind of thing that makes me a little sick to my stomach
it feels so incredible to me
and of course, I feel embarrassed by it
because people will think I am a sick person
and I am a sick person
and you think: I don't even know where this comes from.
You think back through your childhood:
could it have been this or that?
But the thing that makes you crazy with desire
is too exact and too
to have come from anything you can remember.
You have touched the real mystery of human beings
the thing beyond any knowing
the thing that comes from so deep down
no one can tell you where it comes from
This has nothing to do with sex.
Of course, I am talking about sex
about having sex with another person
but it has nothing to do with sex
it has to do with who I am
at such a deep and secret place
no one could explain it.
And this is why people don't want to talk about sex
or think about it
because if they do
they see so deep down into themselves
they see such a strange creature
such a hungry animal
they don't want to hear about it.
And so they repress the thing that is deepest in them
and most unique
I, for instance,
I might become a person who thinks
I am attracted to nice, gentlemanly men
or men who are well-groomed and considerate
I try to forget who I really am
by loving some approximation of what I hope for
or, even worse, by loving someone who has nothing of what I want.
Because I want to think I am a good person.
what is it to be really, freely who I am
would that be just to follow my urges
and not repress them
or is that just to become enslaved to my urge
and not be free at all
Am I free only when I repress what I freely feel?
And then I think:
well, finally, none of us is free.
We all repress what is most deeply true about us
otherwise we can't go on.
No one could disagree with that.
2ND TALK SHOW GUEST
I don't know.
Frankly I think I could disagree with it.
I mean, when you're talking about
[Edward turns off the radio
and roller blades on out.
Polly, riveted by him, watches him go,
looks after him for a few moments.
Shirley, confused, turns off her cell phone
and puts it away.
One of the mechanics riffs on his electric guitar,
taking off on the love song we heard at the top of the piece,
through the following dialogue.]
[She moves slowly downstage,
in a reverie.]
[She pulls a chair up next to the kids' plastic swimming pool,
puts her feet into it.
Red Dicks eventually comes over and gives her a pedicure
while she sits with her feet in the pool.]
He's at loose ends, I think.
He's just a boy.
At his age, a boy needs his father.
I don't say he doesn't need his mother.
Or his step-mother.
Or his step-mother, right, sure.
It's true, you can talk all you want about mother love,
but for a boy, really, he needs his father.
[with some rancor]
And maybe not, by the way, a man who just takes off
when the car breaks down,
leaves his wife and son wherever they happen to be
because he has business.
POLLY [in a reverie still]
He'll be back
when he's finished.
Isn't that just what he would say?
what kind of man would just leave his wife wherever his car broke down?
And no mechanic for 50 miles.
A woman like you
stranded in the boondocks.
And what he really had in mind probably was to cat around with some woman in Utica!
Doesn't he love his son?
Men should ask themselves:
What about all these images of fathers and sons
and other men and boys as pals and buddies?
Why are they so popular in books and movies?
Why are they encouraged in Boy Scouts and Big Brothers.
Maybe boys and men need this.
Especially during puberty.
When a boy is entering the grown-up world,
maybe a boy needs a sense of apprenticeship,
or just going fishing,
and a lot more gentle touching from a father figure.
Or you might ask yourself:
is it dangerous for men to have a role in the socialization of boys?
Will men just teach boys to be pigs?
But women can't do this all by themselves.
Boys have testicles and ejaculation and beards and erections,
and women can't be expected to understand these things as well as men!
We need to recognize there's nothing wrong with this.
What the women should be doing
is directing their efforts toward advocating
within the existing man/boy and woman/girl relationship model,
while continuing to encourage cross-sex interactions as well.
Because love is not just a thing
that has to do with men
or men and women.
Love is a whole weltanshaung.
And you can't leave all this to boy scout leaders.
Because what you have now are jerks.
The way it is now:
dogs are better than men.
At least dogs miss you when you're gone.
Dogs look at your eyes.
And they feel guilty when they've done something wrong.
You can force a dog to take a bath.
Dogs mean it when they kiss you.
Dogs understand if some of their friends can't come inside.
Dogs are already in touch with their inner puppies.
How can you tell a man's sexually excited?
What should you give a man who has everything?
A woman to show him how to work it.
What do men have in common with floor tiles?
If you lay them right the first time,
you can walk all over them forever.
What is a man, really?
A man is a vibrator with a wallet.
A man is an unresponsive lump of flesh
obsessed with screwing,
incapable of empathy,
a half-dead isolated unit that will swim a river of snot,
wade nostril-deep through a mile of vomit
if he thinks there'll be a friendly cunt waiting for him at the other end.
is a creature who will fuck mud if he can.
And then these women wonder why
a man would prefer masturbation to marriage.
I know some guys who like electronic masturbation.
You know, you take some electrodes
and some low-power, carefully controlled electric current,
run that through your genitals
and you'll get some very interesting tingling and
And why do you want to do that
when you can masturbate with your hand?
You ask that because you've never done it.
You'll get something very different with electronic stimulation.
You get yourself a stereo audio amplifier,
with 1 to 5 watts per channel of output power.
A tone generator of some sort.
An electronic music synthesizer like Casio or Yamaha.
You don't want to use an electric guitar,
which could put a current through your whole torso.
You set the amp control to MINIMUM.
Set your tone source to produce a continuous tone of about 440 Hz:
that's the "A" above "middle C" on a musical keyboard.
Insert the small loop electrode just inside your urethra.
SLOWLY turn up the amplifier's volume control.
Then you can play the "A above middle C" on the left channel,
and play the "A" an octave lower on the right channel.
Or play "C" on one channel
and the adjacent "C sharp" on the other channel.
Play a steady
tone on the left channel
and do a downward "glissando" on the right channel.
You know: fool around.
It's just like any other kind of sex:
it's not always the same.
[A big macho explosion of a performance piece:
one of the mechanics does a heavy macho drum solo
while the others strut and preen
and behave like guys—
in a performance piece that goes on for several minutes at least
before the guys calm down
with just a few little aftershocks of dirt kicking and bicep inspecting.]
What do you think caused your heterosexuality?
What do you think caused it?
I mean, for example,
when did you decide you were a heterosexual?
I don't know.
Or do you think your heterosexuality is just a phase
that you'll grow out of.
I hadn't thought about it.
Well, think about it.
Do your parents know you're straight?
What do men and women do in bed together?
they talk sex
always nothing but sex.
And I am looking for love.
I am looking for a relationship
So am I!
It's not easy!
I miss my husband.
I miss having him hold me when we sleep at night
his arms around me
his stomach pressed against my back
his face nestled in my hair
and when I turn in my sleep
I turn within his embrace
his arms around me still
my head on his shoulder
his leg between my legs
For him, making love is the most important thing,
for me, being held.
A mature man—
not a boy,
not a randy young man
who doesn't know yet who he is
or who you are
or how to be together with another person—
holding you in the palm of his hand
keeping you safe
knowing when he holds you
this is where your home is.
A lot of men you think are bad
insensitive or cold
are really just suffering from touch deprivation.
You know, touching
is just as important for human beings as eating.
Babies, sometimes, will wither and die if they're not touched.
You've seen these stories on television.
But men, now,
men are raised to be tough and independent
and taught to avoid touching.
And for many men,
the only time they're touched at all
is when they make love with their wives.
And so they develop a craving to be touched,
that's why it is a man might even touch a child in the wrong way
but if he does
he can't be blamed for it.
Or he can be blamed
but I understand
just how he feels.
It's like they say
you hear people talking on the radio:
Sometimes a woman will see someone, she'll think:
I could imagine myself being attracted to him.
You stop yourself
because you think:
this is what it is to be a civilized person.
Not just a creature subject to any kind of urge
but that, as a married woman,
you have made a different choice
of your own free will.
you could say, the thing about incest is,
the reason incest is the only thing forbidden in every society everywhere—
is that the incest prohibition is the step
by which human beings make the transition
from nature to culture.
Because this is what it is to be human,
to make this transition:
Because the human being
is the animal that became human.
And how was that?
By denying its animal needs.
The human being is the only animal
who obliterates the very traces of nature as we leave it.
Because we are sorry we came from life,
from a whole warm, bloody mess.
We are ashamed of the nature that we come from.
for instance, no one would say that excrement
is a substance like any other.
although for animals that is exactly what it is;
and some of these animals will just eat excrement
because they just don't care; they just don't think it is any big deal
or different from any other natural element;
and those animals that don't positively eat excrement
nonetheless, they show no particular revulsion for it.
But the shame people feel for the excremental orifices
testify to the separation between human beings and nature
and it is clear, too,
that nothing will prevent this shame
from rubbing off
on the nearby genitals.
This is human nature.
We don't want to hear about it.
We like things to be nice.
We like these things to be full of warm human compassion,
we don't want to talk about excrement
unless we can put it in some human,
so that it's not just pornography!
And nothing could be more horrifying to a woman
than the love she may feel for someone
she can't resist—
because then she knows
suddenly she's become the unwilling subject
of the uncontrollable,
indiscriminate excitement of just pure animal sex.
And so of course we seek out marriage
where we are able to have sex
and at the same time
we can have the denial of sex
—with those other than our husbands
and sometimes, even, with our husbands, too--
nothing is more common
than the innocent love a woman has
for a man she is entitled to love,
the infinite sense of peace and wellbeing
that can come of that
the sense of civility
so that at last she may settle down,
and not keep living in the daily fear of the beast
that is settled deeply in her heart.
And so I e-mailed my husband today,
and I said:
[Polly goes to the microphone
and speaks into it.]
Autumn has finally come here.
Less than ten days ago,
it was close to 100 degrees in the afternoon.
Now the house is cold when I wake up in the morning.
I had on my pale pink thermal leggings
and a matching long-sleeved shirt,
with tiny buttons up the front.
And when I woke up I was
rubbing myself with one hand without thinking about it.
I don't think I'll ever get enough of you.
And I began to think
about you loaning your latest tape of me to a couple of friends,
and I could see them watching it, enjoying it,
and finally having to take their cocks in their hands
while they watched me come.
I thought: well,
I love watching your hands—
moving up and down your cock so slowly.
And seeing you come makes me so greedy for you
I feel like screaming.
I imagined you picking up the phone at your office,
and hearing my voice:
"Hi, Richard, are you having a nice day?
Are you busy right now?"
"I'm in bed right now,
and very very naked
and I've been thinking all about you.
Just the sound of my voice
would make your cock start to swell.
Then would you
—without even realizing it—
move your hand down to feel your hardness?
You would hear my breath growing ragged,
as I tried to keep talking to you
my other hand pressing deep inside me,
to come again for you.
Is it okay for me to talk to you like this, Richard?
I like it.
I love you so much.
You make me so crazy,
I hope you never stop.
Enjoy the rest of your day, my love,
my one true, and only love,
you know I'll be thinking about you.
[Edward enters again.]
You've come back.
Didn't you just
I didn't know you were coming right back.
I came to play with you.
Play with me?
At a loss.
Without his father.
EDWARD [distracted first by Shirley then by Bonnie]
He needs someone to play with him
the way boys play.
I know some games for boys.
Smugglers and Spies.
Smugglers and Spies?
That's a Cub Scout game.
Is that bad?
He calls her "mother."
You're too old for a Cub Scout game.
What would you like to play?
I don't know.
Some games we play in school.
What do you play in school?
I don't know.
one person is the car
and the other person is the car wash.
And the car goes through the car wash.
Goes through the car wash?
I'll show you.
You be the car wash.
I'll be the car wash.
And I'll be the car
and I'll go through the car wash.
[Edward gets down on his hands and knees
and moves forward.]
And you wash me and you know
you be the rollers and the stuff in the car wash.
Don't forget to roll up your windows.
And put it in neutral.
[Edward moves up to Polly,
who begins to lightly pat and rub his back.]
Not much of a car wash if you ask me.
But you really have to get into this game,
you've really got to wash me
if you really want to play the game.
This is a school game?
Not when I was in school.
They don't play: spelling contest, or something?
This is a pathetic game.
[Polly works more vigorously.]
But hey, hey, but no tickling!
Tickling is allowed.
Tickling is always allowed.
Especially in this—
[his hands in the air, fingers flailing]
this is the—you know—
that part of the—
where you have all the little, uh—
[She goes for him with hands and arms flying,
to his hair, his ribs, his butt.]
Hey, what are you doing?
I don't know.
[She puts a hand between his legs—
everyone else is silent and motionless—
and she massages him with pleasure.
Suddenly, she stops.
She stands up.
He stands up uncertainly, slowly—
having enjoyed it.
Then, not knowing what to do about it,
he turns and runs out.
Polly looks stunned.
One of the mechanics plays a low, easy saxophone or keyboard solo.
Shirley stands, turns, walks to the margin, facing away from the others.
Bonnie, too, turns away, looks off.
Red Dicks works out with free weights
made of a car axle and spare parts.
Phil puts a tire in the kids' plastic swimming pool
and checks it for leaks.
We hear the hissing sounds of the hydraulic hoist,
the thumping, banging sound of the tire machine.
Jim gets a cellophane bag of peanuts, opens it,
pours it into a Dr. Pepper,
and drinks the Dr. Pepper and eats the peanuts at the same time one-handed,
leaving the other hand free to scratch.
More awkward silence.]
Sometimes you see a man doing something
thinking about nothing else except what he's doing
he's completely unconscious really
maybe he's chopping wood in the backyard
and it just stops you from breathing
and it brings tears to your eyes
he's so beautiful
so much himself
you find him irresistable.
You love him, that's all.
Right. We see how you look at him.
Just now, you mean?
Well. For a while.
For a while.
Did I look at him like this before?
It's not my fault.
Nobody's like, blaming you, you know.
he's your son.
So it begins:
the lying to yourself,
putting a good face on it.
Isn't that just always the way?
This is a boy.
You're talking about a boy
who loves you
and counts on you
to take care of him
whatever your relationship might be
you're the grownup
I know that.
I need an older man
because I don't know
because I need a man I can count on
I remember when I met my husband
he asked me on a date
and we went out to shoot pool at Mickey's
and when he walked me home
I asked him if he wanted to come in.
So he did, and we had a drink
and then we went to bed
I don't remember how
in those days it was not such a big thing
and I don't remember anything about it
except in the middle I suddenly felt very sick
and I yelled at him to stop
he thought, probably, I was going to say something like
this is just our first date or something like that
but instead I said, I think I have to throw up,
and he just started laughing
and I thought: oh, he's okay,
he's got a sense of humor
and the rest of the night he just took care of me
which is, you know, a lot more than most people would do on a first date
so I married him
and I don't think I was wrong
we had a good marriage
and I miss him still
he was good in bed in every way.
Not all men are bad.
I just needed to be tied up until I learned my place
and this guy I lived with knew that.
Not all men know that.
I just need to be bent to the will
of an insatiable man.
I need shackles, ropes,
stuff to keep me submissive and obedient.
I need leather,
I need it, that's all
and I need to be flogged, pretty hard and pretty often.
some people like to be dominated.
Sometimes you would be better off asking a person:
how is it for you?
Because sometimes a person will tell you:
much better than the life of vanilla sex I used to have!
My husband and I
we just don't do any of that vanilla sex any more.
I need to be alternately fondled and beaten.
And then I need to be cuffed and forced to masturbate
until I'm completely humiliated by my own nastiness and
I need my master to comment on what a nasty, slutty bitch I am.
And then I need relief from my pent-up desires.
That's how it is for me.
I need a man who will hold me and comfort me
and then rub me, and lick me, and finger me
and fuck me to as many orgasms as each of us can have.
I need to be taken to a state of complete exhaustion.
I'm not saying this is for everyone.
I'm just saying this is how I am.
Some people like feet
this is simply how they are
They like to touch them and feel them and kiss them
they can't be blamed
some people like to suck on someone else's toes,
but they can't just go around doing it all the time.
I don't understand it.
I can understand it.
Like sometimes I like to rub my buttocks on someone else's buttocks.
I like to strip search a guy,
like make him face the wall with his hands in the air,
pat him down with my hands on the outside of his clothes,
make him take everything out of his pockets
and put it on the table,
then take off all his clothes.
I look at everything for drugs,
microfilm, bugging devices, weapons, or sex toys.
He has to stand there all the time,
with his hands behind his head.
And then I search his body,
I search every opening, very thoroughly,
and then, if he's clean, I release him.
I just release him.
To me: that's sex;
that's all there is,
that's how it is for me.
I'd say, a lot of what passes for my sexuality goes on invisibly
inside my head,
and I think it would be safe to put me
in the addicted slut category.
Sometimes when you're with a man,
you can cut a hole in a paper plate
and put it over his genitals,
put some lukewarm spaghetti and meatballs on the plate,
and then, when you eat the spaghetti,
you wrap each strand around his penis
and suck it up into your mouth.
I knew someone,
that was the only way she could have sex.
There was this guy I heard of once
who shaved the hair from the heads of Barbie dolls
and swallowed their heads to get excited,
and one time he felt sick and went into the hospital,
and the x-rays showed he had six Barbie heads stuck in his intestines.
I like to have people put pies in my face.
You know, and smear them around.
In restaurants or parties, wherever.
I'll see some guy I kind of like and I'll go up to him
and ask him to pie me, and, you know,
most men will.
You get all these feelings of anticipation,
the fear of rejection,
the thrill of acceptance, humiliation...
the wish that a partner will say
or do something you don't expect...
sharing an intimacy with someone
who might not otherwise even notice me,
doing something that sexual and unacceptable
right out in public.
I guess maybe I've been pied as many as
150 times a month when I've really been,
unable to stop.
And sometimes I'll say to a man, you know,
I'd really like it if you'd do it to my crotch.
Sometimes they're scared,
but usually they'll do it.
I like to sleep with someone with all my clothes on.
It can be like the olden days,
with a board in between us,
or even with my legs tied together so penetration isn't possible.
Or we can sleep together naked,
just looking at each other for hours at a time,
letting our eyes go up and down each other
for three or four hours,
taking each other in,
but I can't, you know,
make love any other way.
Mostly I just like to be held and touched and cared for,
We should all embrace love, because
this is a good thing.
we need to be touched
we need to be felt
we need nurturing
we need some sort of manifestation of love
because life is a process of becoming
and once you are involved in that
but what a fantastic journey!
Every day is new.
Every flower is new.
Everything in the world!
Every morning of your life!
In Japan, even the running of the water is a ceremony!
You have to ask yourself:
when was the last time you listened to the water?
People take showers and run water in their sinks every day of their lives
and they never hear it!
You should go home tonight
and turn on the faucet
and listen to the water!
And how many people these days are intimidated when someone says:
I want to touch you.
Everybody has got to be loved!
Sometimes I have to throw oranges at young people
just to get them to pay attention and listen!
I was talking with a little boy once,
and I said: what can you do, David.
And he said: lots of things.
And I said: like what?
And he said: I can spit.
Yes! He could spit! Can you top that?
I said: what else can you do, David?
And he said: I can put my finger up my nose.
And I said: you bet you can!
Isn't it some sort of miracle
that you can raise your hand whenever you want to
and want to put your finger in your nose
and it gets there!
We should celebrate our wonder!
You've got to have people who are interested in your tree!
And not the lollipop tree!
And you've got to be interested in their tree!
You've got to say:
show me your tree, Johnny.
Show me your tree,
and then we'll know where we can begin!
You can't blame people for how they are.
I could agree with that.
I could agree with that.
What's the argument here?
[JIM suddenly begins to sing a song made famous by the castrato Farinelli,
perhaps Handel's "Pena tiranna" from Amadigi.
The others listen to the heartbreaking song.
At the end of the song, there is silence for a moment.
So, you remember when
this teacher stuck the fork in your hiney?
you were saying about when she stuck the fork in your hiney?
What do you mean who?
You told me, when you were in third grade. Or Second grade.
When did she stick a fork in your hiney?
I don't remember.
What did she do to your hiney?
What did she do to your hiney?
Did she ever make you kiss her vagina?
Did you have to kiss her on the butt?
What did you have to do with the knife?
Okay, okay, right.
Put the peanut butter on her.
And the jelly?
And the jelly on her mouth and on her eyes.
You put jelly on her eyes and her vagina and her mouth.
On her back, on her socks.
This was in second grade?
And how did everybody take the peanut butter and jelly off?
We ate her and licked her all off.
You had to lick her off?
And eat her all up.
Was that scary?
It was fun. I thought it was funny.
Of course, you get into an area like this
it's hard to judge.
[A very quiet, gentle conversation follows.]
your daughter was, how old,
How do you mean?
When you had incest with your daughter.
She was three?
From the time she was three
until she was ten.
From the time she was three?
Is this true?
Did I know this?
Did everyone know this?
And, well, it started when she was three.
I was in the bedroom and I was standing in my shorts and a T-shirt,
and she walked up to me and she pulled the edge of my
and I just had this overwhelming desire to have sex with her.
And this is your daughter.
She is three years old.
but wouldn't your first instinct be to just move away and say,
But it, it, I, I guess my, my instincts to,
to move against this, to—to guard against that,
to not do that
were just not strong enough.
I had a determination not to
How did you feel?
Like a piece of garbage.
when did you do it again?
It was probably a few weeks later.
And this kept going on when she was four?
And did she ever tell her mom?
Well, yes, she did.
When she was nine.
When she was nine.
And what did your wife say?
She, uh, she confronted me on it.
And—;and I made promises that—
Had you thought about
how that moment would be before it happened?
I'd, you know, had visions of the police pulling up
and hauling me off.
Did you love your daughter?
I love her now.
You love her now?
Of course, yes,
if I answered your question in the negative,
then I would be in denial,
and I would be in a more dangerous place than I am by saying,
"Yes, I am."
And, in being aware of that
and having the tools that I have gained in therapy
there are strategies I have for now—
for dealing with that that I did not have before.
There's learning strategies to deal with that.
Sometimes a moment will come in a child's life
when you will realize:
oh, this child loves me;
she's beginning to know me,
to recognize me,
to smile every time I come near her;
when I sing songs to her in my terrible voice
she loves to listen to them;
she doesn't cry or pucker up her face when I kiss her;
she stopped crying when I picked her up.
If anything were to threaten her
I would trade my life for hers.
Sometimes you think,
But then you think:
well, I mean: women's lives, too.
But when you think about men
I think part of it is
that men don't like their jobs.
I mean, if you'd ask them,
probably 90% of men would tell you
they are feeling this incredible sense of bitterness
and frustration about their wives and families.
I think this is true.
They don't feel appreciated.
This is so true.
It makes a man angry the way everyone just
takes for granted the things his earnings buy for them
and sort of come to expect it as their due.
And then his kids put him down
for being this materialistic middle class jerk—
and he'd like to tell them,
why don't you just get someone else to support you!
But he holds himself back
he thinks: that's what it is to be a man.
Phil gets an axe and demolishes a wooden crate.
Polly wanders offstage, distracted.
And then JIM begins to throw himself, loose-limbed, to the ground,
over and over again,
collapsing to the ground like a sack of loose bones,
his head lolling over and thumping on the ground,
then rolling over, as though convulsively, several times,
his elbows and knees and head thumping on the ground.
Then he gets up and repeats the action,
gets up and repeats the action.
PHIL joins JIM, synchronously, in the same set of repeated actions.
So, it is a dance for two men.
Then RED DICKS joins the other two,
so the three of them are going through the same repeated actions,
and adding some additional synchronized choreography
with break dancing moves on the ground,
and a sort of ground slam dancing
with spins and twirls and twirling headstands,
and finally a recording of a loudly barking dog joins in
until everyone hears the barking dog, and gradually stops dancing.
Polly wanders back in
with a chicken on a leash;
she is in her bathrobe;
she sits at a table and smokes a cigarette,
drinks a cup of coffee,
and does her nails.]
I should leave town.
I should just leave town.
I should go,
I mean, where no one could find me—
if I were lucky,
I'd forget how to find my way back.
I'd get lost.
[she picks up a dry bagel,
picks it into pieces as she talks,
and, as she talks, tries to choke down the occasional dry piece.
She picks up the newspaper and reads:]
"Wanted: gas station attendant with five to ten years experience to clean pool in exchange for swimming privileges. Must have own snowplow."
I could do that.
"Wanted: Dark room manager with experience in stripping. Professional wrestling background preferred."
I could do that.
"Wanted: Chiropractic assistant for night shift. Must play the flute."
I could do that.
You know, they say the reason the Lord's Prayer goes
"lead us not into temptation"
is because human beings can't resist temptation.
The prayer is not:
"lead us not into sin."
Just into temptation—that's enough for it to be too late.
That's how bad human beings are.
And then, if you fall in love,
what can you do?
Polly picks up the chicken,
takes the chicken by the feet and swings it around violently in circles,
apparently killing it (though really only knocking it unconscious),
and putting the apparently dead chicken quietly on the ground.
The garage band pick up their instruments and launch in to a big love song—
and Red Dicks goes to the trunk of the Lincoln Town Car
and gets his accordion out of the trunk and joins in with vocals and accordion
—and Polly steps up to the microphone
At the end of the song,
She is 11 years old—or the youngest possible legal age
for the youngest-possible-looking person to play this role.
Edward enters at the same moment.
They both stop short,
on opposite sides of the stage.
The grownups all watch.]
I didn't know you would be here.
[They both move toward his bed at center.]
I know you
just think of me as
I think you're pretty grown up for your age.
Probably you're embarassed to be seen with me.
No. Not at all.
Do you think it's wrong of me?
I mean, do you think I'm bad?
To be in love with you?
Oh, I don't think you're really....
Yes, I am.
I think it's wrong.
Probably you think I should be spanked.
No, not at all.
[she starts almost to weep]
Sometimes I think I'm so evil,
the things I think
[she starts to bite her wrist]
Hey, what are you doing?
What are you...
are you biting yourself?
Don't do that.
Don't do that.
[he takes hold of her, tries to wrest her forearm out of her mouth]
Cut it out.
[he pulls her down on the bed on top of himself,
across his lap,
and spanks her;
she stops biting herself.]
That's kind of crazy
you know that?
I feel better now.
I don't think I do.
Did you like spanking me?
Well, did you?
I don't know.
I've got to go.
[With longing, she watches him go.]
I guess you have to wonder sometimes
what catches a guy's eye.
I think a guy likes a pretty face.
That's the first thing I always notice.
And great hair.
Great hair, that's true.
I don't like a woman with messy hair.
Or too much spray.
If it looks too stiff, that's not good.
Do you like wavy hair?
I'd have to say, probably that's my favorite.
Most guys will like a natural look
not too much makeup
a great smile.
You know, I think these are the basics.
How can you tell when he's your boyfriend?
I mean, say you've been together, you know,
maybe hanging out a lot,
when do you say to your friends, like, "we're together."
Does he call you "kiddo?"
I don't know.
I guess he might.
That's not a good sign really.
Or, if you're going somewhere together,
do you break into a sweat trying to keep up with him?
We haven't exactly gone anywhere together.
You know, there are things you can do to get a guy's attention.
Like, say you're having a conversation with a guy:
while you're talking to him, you could
put your hand on his knee
You could unbutton a button on your sweater
I don't know.
These are things that might be a little scary to a guy.
You could listen to him when he talks.
You could move a little closer to him.
I don't think you should unbutton any buttons.
Say you are walking down the street
and you see a cute guy walking a dog.
pet the dog and smile at the dog
pet the dog and smile at the guy
touch the guy on the arm and wink at the dog?
Pet the dog and smile at the guy.
What has this got to do with it?
He doesn't even have a dog.
What's his favorite color?
I don't know.
It's worth knowing. You can tell a lot from that.
Well, a guy who likes grey
is going to be your indecisive kind of guy.
Yellow, he's kind of passive,
maybe gay, you know,
I'm not saying necessarily,
just could be.
Your pink man is a philanderer
and a flirt.
a guy who likes red is going to be easily aroused
he likes sex every way you can imagine
he's going to be a tiger in the sack.
This is maybe not what we're talking about here
a tiger in the sack
this is a girl you're talking to.
I'd like a tiger in the sack.
Have you ever taken the purity test?
I don't think so.
Have you ever:
held hands with someone?
photocopied parts of your body, such as your face, hands or feet
[At some point in here, the chicken will come "back to life;"
one of the grownups can put the chicken in the car
and close the door.]
been on a date?
been on a date past one a.m.?
[as the test goes on,
she responds more slowly or hesitantly
or with difficulty or embarassment
at the increasing intimacy of the questions]
worn a strapless gown?
hot tubbed in mixed company?
in the nude?
had someone put suntan lotion, cocoa butter, or baby oil on you?
[more hesitantly now]
played Naked Twister?
been picked up?
been picked up?
picked someone up?
had a one night stand?
I think she's ready.
If you don't mind my saying,
I think you could use a little help with your makeup.
I think if you want to go for this dewy look
you're going to need some powdery, shimmery products
instead of these creamy moisturizing ones.
You're going to want to give your T-zone some extra blotting power
with a sweep of loose powder.
Go for the glitter on the eyes.
Loose sparkle eye powders, blush powders.
Forget the frosts on the lips,
go for clear gloss. Clear gloss.
Or else you could use
or "Tea Rose"
or "Oyster Pink"
Or "Baby Kiss"
Or "Sweet Nothing"
Or "Balla Balla"
"La vie en Rose"
"Belle de Jour"
the others look at Phil]
Well, you have a lot of choices.
I can't stop thinking about
on my arms and legs, you know,
not killing myself
and then I guess I'd wear
because I know that
but I can't seem to stop
thinking about it.
[she turns and runs out at full speed;
Polly gets into the back seat of the Lincoln Town Car
and shuts the door.
Shirley takes up the brushes next to the drums
and does a quiet, contemplative solo with them.
JIM takes off his shirt,
lights the outdoor barbecue grill with lighter fluid,
then puts a trail of lighter fluid along the ground
and suspends himself horizontally above the flames
on two saw horses
and roasts himself like a hog on a spit.
or else he has picked up the lighter fluid
and managed to get it on his hands,
and lit his hands on fire;
he turns front with both hands burning,
looking awkwardly, but calmly, from side to side,
looking for something to put out the fire.
Finally, he goes over to the kids' swimming pool,
and extinguishes his hands.
PHIL, meanwhile, has been standing in the kids' pool,
fiddling with a radio, which explodes, giving him an enormous electrical shock,
and then something else also explodes with a huge ball of fire and smoke
as JIM climbs down from his rotisserie and puts his shirt back on.]
A lot of people think
that they're entitled to happiness.
I never thought that.
I always wished for happiness
but I never thought I had a right to it.
I thought happiness was something I had to make for myself,
not something like manna that fell from on high.
I have some friends who get indignant at the least obstacle to their happiness
as though it were an outrage.
I always thought you had to win your happiness,
under conditions some of which were burdensome
When I first met Walter
he would talk and talk about the most boring things
on and on
not quite "how to get up in the morning," but almost.
He would burst into tears on my shoulder.
He was—well, obviously, he was afraid of his father.
The house he grew up in
it was just draped in black.
He never remembered any nursery rhymes from his childhood
or songs he learned.
And then, when I had to put him in Manhattan State Hospital
underneath the Triborough Bridge,
and I called his mother and begged her to help
his father got on the phone and said
"stop it, you're upsetting Walter's mother,"
and he hung up on me.
And they never came to visit him.
The last time I saw him
when I was leaving after a visit
I told him I loved him, and he cried.
He was so fat from the drugs they were giving him.
He walked like a fat man.
And his hair was turning gray.
And they had him at work there
making those ugly, clumsy ashtrays.
And he had been such a beautiful boy.
[The garage band plays
A COUNTRY LOVE SONG
while all those on stage sing along
and Polly opens the window of the Town Car
and sings vocals from the front seat under a spotlight.
As the song comes to an end, Edward enters, sits on the edge of his bed,
takes off his rollerblades.]
A guy like you
you're growing up.
I guess I am.
Do you have a girlfriend?
How come you ask?
Guys your age, usually they do.
I like girls okay.
But for me, I don't know,
my idea of a good time is listening to the radio
playing a little air guitar
if I had my choice finding out a little more about women
or doing something else
I think I'd rather
learn the secret of cartooning
how to identify different kinds of airplanes
the fundamentals of Greco Roman wrestling
how to build a business
the secrets of Jiu Jitsu
how to train a dog.
And frankly, if you want to know what I think
I'm getting a little sick of seeing sex dragged through the dirt,
misrepresented in every way, shape, and form
I read through postings I find on the Internet
these so-called personal experiences that are so outrageous and far out that only a fool would believe what he is reading.
Or on the television set
all these bikini clad women parading across the screen
holding Brand X Beer or breakfast cereal.
What kind of message does this send out?
Everyone else feels fat and ugly by comparison
everyone is insecure and angry
so all the men go out and rape someone
And is sex all that big a deal in the first place?
I'm not so sure.
I myself vowed a long time ago
to wait for someone very special,
to share that part of myself
with the one woman I fell in love with
and spent the rest of my life with.
And now, after almost 14 years of waiting,
masturbating to hold myself together sexually,
what do I find?
That adults are trying to get me involved in
Don't you people realize
that sex is a distraction from the real world,
that what the politicians want is for you to think about sex all the time
and if that's all you think about
everyone will soon be reduced to poverty
without any health care or social security or pensions
because you haven't even been paying attention?
It happens that I did break my vow
and I did have sex with someone
I went with this girl for two months,
both of us getting very serious about the relationship
and expressing our wishes to remain virgins until our wedding
and then it started with a touch here,
a stroke there,
and then one night,
we talked for almost three hours
about whether or not we should make love.
and so we did
and pretty soon I was moving my penis towards her vagina,
and in a half a second,
I had an orgasm.
All the buildup
all the excitement of finally having sex—
it all rushed out as fast as it could,
and I spent the next hour feeling horrible
about ruining her first time with such a poor performance.
and all my years of hard work down the tube.
And it wasn't even that wonderful
what I did feel was nothing more than masturbating without my hands.
The oral sex we'd been having for months
had been far more satisfying.
Suddenly I understood
how so many guys out there
wanted to have sex with as many women as possible.
Maybe they all felt as cheated as I did
Now I knew sex for what it was.
And now I have no interest in sex.
[He lies down and falls instantly asleep,
like a narcoleptic.
A very quiet conversation follows
with Phil and Jim sitting on opposite sides of the bed,
talking over Edward.]
You forget how it is to be a kid.
Sometimes I look back at the family photograph album,
and it comes back with such a rush.
You remember these moments exactly the way they were
as though it was yesterday.
Do you ever do that?
But not as though you like to.
Did your father ever take pictures of you nude?
Did you father take pictures of you nude?
I mean, I guess when I was a baby
in the bathtub,
Did your father take pictures of you nude?
In the bedroom mostly.
What was he doing in the bedroom?
Well, taking pictures and
having sex with me.
When you were a boy?
How did he do that?
Was he nice to you?
He was gentle.
Were you thinking it was wrong?
That what was wrong?
That your father was having sex with you.
Well, he wasn't having sex with me at that time.
He was just massaging me.
Oh. I thought you said...
That was later.
But when he massaged you,
did you think that that was wrong?
You never did?
When he massaged me with his mouth,
I thought that was wrong.
But, you know,
I thought I'd get used to it, and I did;
and eventually it made me feel warm.
Did you like it?
Why did he do that?
Did you ask him why he did that?
He told me that it was a way to release the tension
knots in your muscles
when you got worked up from sports and anxiety,
and it was
just a way to relax.
[Phil begins to shiver uncontrollably,
hugging himself to keep from shivering.]
Did you ever massage him?
Did he give you directions?
He just said no.
Meaning if I skipped over his penis, he said no.
So, what did you do?
I started to touch his penis and
massage it in the way he did me.
And then, one time
he took my hair in his hands
and wanted me to massage his penis with my mouth.
How old were you?
I was seven.
Were you afraid of your father?
Yes. When he
gave me swimming lessons,
dunk me under the water and hold me down for 20 or 30 seconds,
and then he
would lift me up; and
I would cry out,
and then he'd
dunk me under again.
Was this, like, playful?
He wanted me to
and he wanted me to
And I was afraid he would
[Polly, emerging from the Lincoln Town Car,
goes to Edward's bed, wakes him up gently.]
I'm sorry things didn't work out with your girl friend.
These things do happen, you know.
So many times, for most people,
the first time is so bad,
and they think they never want to make love again
or that it was wrong
love is the most wonderful thing we have as human beings
this closeness to others
and these feelings of empathy and caring for another
this is the whole basis for society
And if you were ever to get together again
with the girl you cared for
there are things you can do
that will give her happiness
or simply fun
there's nothing wrong with that
pleasure: that you give her as a gift
because you care for her
For instance, you know, talking
you can't do enough talking with a woman
or reading her a book in bed
women like this
or when you're making love
not to carry on a whole discussion
but just to say how much you love her.
And taking off a woman's clothes
you need to treat her with the care
with the care of the person you love most in the world
and very slowly
and in a dim light
because a lot of women are self-conscious about their bodies
and as each new part of her body is revealed
kiss her there softly
touching needs to be gentle
a lot of guys will just grab a woman's breast, you know,
and that hurts
a really gentle caress
just gently brushing over a nipple
or even just holding her breast
this is a real trigger
a woman likes to be touched all over her body
before she makes love because
when she is really excited
her whole body feels like a penis.
Of course, if you're making love with an experienced woman
she will know some things to make you feel more at ease
and some other things you will like
tickling you with her eyelashes
on your cheek and neck and stomach
rubbing her nipples over your chest and stomach
taking you into a bath with her
soaping you all over
up and down
reading an erotic story to you in the bath
taking you to bed and giving you a massage
and then guiding you inside her
so that before you know it
having done nothing yourself
she is holding you gently, tightly inside
kissing your neck, your cheek
her arms around you
you've forgotten entirely where you are
all you feel is
safe and warm
Edward looks around;
no one speaks;
he gets up slowly, uncertainly from the bed,
and leaves, slowly, not running,
looking back and around from time to time in confusion,
and then he is gone.]
Probably I should kill myself.
I mean, I've lost my bearings altogether.
I suppose I could identify a picture of a spoon
or a sailing ship
if I were given a test
I could identify a duck, a mushroom, a horse, a cherry
but I would only think I was fooling
thinking I had my wits together just because
I could tell a bucket from a coffee mill
and repeating sentences:
The dog fears the cat because it has sharp claws
The dog is afraid of the cat but only because of its claws
and that would be wrong
that would count against me
they wouldn't even know what should count against me
and who did this to my fucking hair?
Did you do this?
Look how it is
you did this when I wasn't paying attention?
I didn't touch your hair.
How am I supposed to manage
when I have nothing to wear.
I don't have any top to put on
unless I take some skirt and pull it up around my neck
and then what is it?
Something cream with something brown?
Do you know someone who would put that on?
I go to Saks and say to the saleslady
do you have thongs?
She pushes her eyeglasses up her nose and says
Right, I say, for underwear.
No, she says, we don't have thongs,
we have bikinis.
Well, let me see your bikinis
and she says,
these are 100% cotton
[she is pacing frantically back and forth]
Cotton! I say.
Who would wear a cotton bikini?
What has happened to civilization for god's sake
it's all downhill from here on out.
They come in a package of three, she says.
I don't want a package of one, I yell at her.
And pretty soon, they're calling over the store detective
telling me to pipe down
Pipe down, I say,
I'm a fucking shopper!
The reason you have a job is because I am here
And so the next thing I know
I'm being manhandled,
I find myself back out on Fifth Avenue
and I'm supposed to count myself lucky that I'm not in jail—
that's what happened to me
the last time I tried to shop at Saks!
And now I have this crap to wear!
And nothing to eat but this goddam bagel!
[she throws the bagel across the stage]
Would someone just get me something to eat
a cup of coffee and a cigarette
I'm a frantic person!
I'm just a little bit out of control!
I need a friend here.
Could you help me with this?
What the fuck ever happened to style?
Oh, sure, you say,
why don't they just lock her up
sure, lock her up.
A nice mental hospital in the country.
And then the same crazy people would just come around:
[in a different voice:] did you see Philip Blum.
Philip Blum? Who the fuck is Philip Blum?
[in a different voice:] Did you see him?
No, I did not.
[in a different voice:] Last night or this morning?
Where would I see Philip Blum?
[in a different voice:] Walking around the ward.
I did not. What was he doing, walking around?
[in a different voice:] Just walking through the ward. Did you see him?
Oh, I don't know. Maybe I did.
[in a different voice:] Was he carrying anything?
[One or two of the others
is just pacing back and forth
as a reaction to all the frantic stuff that's going on.]
What would he be carrying?
[in a different voice:] A syringe perhaps.
Yes, he was carrying a syringe.
[in a different voice:] For what purpose?
You're asking me. To give injections I suppose.
[in a different voice:] Did he give an injection to you?
Yes. Yes, he did!
[in a different voice:] And did you fall asleep?
Yes. But not for long.
Not for long.
I begged him: put me to sleep forever.
I'm worn out
and I don't know what I might do next.
I don't think of myself as a bad person
am average person, sure,
not a saint
I'm the first to know it
but not an evil person
who fucks her own children!
having returned, obviously,
because he is interested.]
things move so fast
it makes me dizzy.
What do you wish I would do?
I don't know.
Maybe you should come with me.
Come with me.
I'll take good care of you.
[she takes his hand
and leads him over to the Lincoln Town Car,
opens the back door.]
Let's get in back.
[He gets in,
and closes the door behind her.
Bonnie turns on the radio
and we hear
Bonnie pulls her skirt half way down her butt
and does a dance to the music
that is half-wantonly flirtatious towards the men
and half-hostile and half three or four other things;
Phil and Red Dicks, meanwhile, engage in a "roughhouse" dance,
throwing each other to the floor,
and jumping on each other's stomachs and butts,
one pulling the other upright and then throwing him down to the ground again,
jumping on him,
grabbing his head or hair and hurling him to the ground,
kicking his legs out from under him,
both of them screaming with horror and delight
as the violent dance goes on and on,
neither really hurting the other;
Shirley just walks around during all this
with her shirt pulled up to her neck;
and Jim tops everyone with a wild, licentious striptease,
twirling his shirt round and round before tossing it across the stage,
shimmying with a sock between his legs,
lots of wild stuff
stripping all the way down to a fig leaf.
Then the music comes to an end,
and Jim is the only one who had been dancing till the end;
he is naked and feels instantly embarassed;
in silence, with no one else moving or speaking,
he retrieves the items of clothing he had thrown wildly in the air,
trying to cover himself with the clothes as he picks them up,
finally coming to his cowboy boots,
getting one of them on after a struggle,
getting the other one half on,
when Red Dicks comes at him for a pas de deux,
and Jim partners with Red,
one boot halfway on,
holding Red up in the air,
then dipping Red's head toward the floor,
finally releasing Red and resuming picking up his clothes.
A cellular phone rings.
It rings over and over.
Everyone looks at the cellular phone
that lies in the middle of Edward's bed.
No one moves.
Finally, Shirley picks up the phone—
and hands it to Bonnie.
She hands it to Phil
who hands it to Jim.
Jim stands with it uncertainly.
Red Dicks snatches it out of his hand and answers it.
No, she's not here.
They're not here.
[everyone looks at the car as he says this]
You're coming home.
I'm sure they'll be....
I'll tell them.
See you soon.
I think what a man wants most when he comes home
is just a little time to himself
like a dog circling on the rug before he lies down
just a little space to get acclimated
read his mail, check out the game on TV
I don't know.
A man comes home
the first thing he feels is tension.
He's thinking, right:
I remember where I am
Home, this is where the female always makes the rules.
Where the rules are subject to change at any time
without prior notification.
Where no male can possibly know all the rules.
Where, if the female suspects the male knows all the rules,
she must immediately change the rules.
Where the female is never wrong.
Where, if the female is wrong,
it is due to misunderstanding
which was a direct result
of something the male did or said wrong.
Where the female may change her mind at any time.
Where the male must never change his mind
without the express written consent of the female.
Where the female has every right to be angry or upset at any time.
Where the male must remain calm at all times
unless the female wants him to be angry and/or upset.
Where the male is expected to mind-read at all times.
Where if the female has PMS all the rules are null and void.
Where the female is ready when she is ready.
Where the male must be ready at all times.
Where the male who doesn't abide by the rules
can't take the heat, lacks backbone
and is a wimp.
Oh, I think you've just got some differences here
between men and women, and I say,
vive la difference.
I think I see him coming.
I think that must be him.
You recognize that car?
[All look off to one side.]
I think that must be him.
[Phil takes off in the opposite direction.
After a moment, Jim follows him,
then Bonnie, then Shirley, then Jim and Red Dicks.
The stage is empty.
The radio miraculously lights up and comes on
and we hear, at maximum, blasting volume:
Screamin Jay Hawkins sings "I Put a Spell on You"
and after a few moments
Edward and Polly get out of car
and slow dance naked to the music.
He is in his fifties.
He stands, lit by a spot,
and watches them dance.
After a long, long while
Polly sees Richard,
and runs out.
We've entered a state of suspended animation,
as though we have gone into slow motion.]
What are you doing?
I should get dressed.
[He moves towards his bed,
to get a sheet.]
my wife with you
and ask you, like a man, to take care of her,
and all you can think to do is to
is to get naked with her?
Did anyone know you were ever coming back?
This is your explanation?
Is this how it is for you to be my son?
Is that how you think of me?
You never had anything for me but orders.
Do you remember
driving to the country
I was six years old
you got so angry at me
for something I had done I don't remember what
you pulled the car off onto an exit road
and got out and pulled me out of the car by my hair
and took me around to the front of the car
in front of the headlights
and I tried to pull away
and you knocked me to the ground
in front of the car, in the headlights
and I was crying
do you remember anything of this?
This is not what I remember.
and one afternoon in the country
you left me playing with a friend
and you went off for tea with Mrs. Perry
but you didn't come back until after dark
and I was waiting for you beside the road
I saw you driving toward the house
and I waved to you
and you drove right past
because you still had Mrs. Perry in the car with you
and you kept on driving
and then you came back an hour later
I was still waiting for you by the road
If you say it was true, I believe you.
You were always exploding
cursing at the other drivers
calling them sons of bitches
so that I was always afraid of you
Always afraid you would turn on me
I thought you might kill me
push me out of the car
or crush me.
Oh, no. No.
I couldn't have done that.
How did I know?
You were in such a rage
or else silent, thinking,
holding your jaw, covering your mouth with your hand
so sad and discouraged
we all made you feel your life had been worthless.
I'm just a person, too, you know.
I always felt your hatred of me.
I thought, well, okay,
leave him alone,
don't force yourself on him
maybe one day he'll come around
see something in you that he likes
when I explained things to you
it made you squirm
I talked too much
it always turned into a lecture
I couldn't help myself
and I would see your attention drift off
I could see you wanted to get away
I didn't know how to get you back
the best I could do was try to be cheerful
wrap up what I was saying
let you go
and then, playing catch
I could tell,
you'd rather be playing with a friend
tossing a ball back and forth with me
it was nothing but your filial duty
you remember we went on a fishing trip together
one time to Canada.
Yes, one time.
It was fun. I had a good time.
So did I.
I never knew what else to do.
So I've become a cold person, like you.
Usually I don't even know what I feel.
I loved you.
No, you didn't.
I loved you.
I don't think so.
[Edward runs out.
Richard sits on Edward's bed,
his head in his hands.
After a few moments,
Jim enters uncertainly.]
Is there something
I can do?
I can't say
that I've been a perfect person.
I abandoned the mother of my son
and I abandoned my son himself
to pursue another woman.
Other women really.
When I was a boy my son's own age,
I slept once with the mother of a boyhood friend of mine
who lived just down the road,
a woman in her forties
Well, I slept with her more than once.
I slept with her the whole summer long,
going over early every morning
after her son had gone off to his summer job,
a divorced woman
and I was just a boy.
I remember her still,
I think of her still almost every day
I'll just be....
Was I gone so long?
You've always been my one true love.
You didn't know that?
When I first saw you
there couldn't be
a more pure vision
of absolute beauty.
When we first met
you were happy to be with me all the time.
It's my fault?
It's just the way you were.
when we first arrived in St. Remy
the tall ceilings in our hotel room
with blue sky painted there,
we made love,
and lay next to one another,
the summer breeze coming in through the open windows
cooling our bodies,
I felt so dizzy from jet lag
and making love
and the summer breeze coming from the garden,
I thought: I've gone to heaven.
I remember that.
And I thought at the time
I could never leave you.
such sympathy for you.
I thought: I could care for you forever.
I thought: I see deep inside you
your most secret self
and I will always care for you.
I will always wish you well.
I will always hope for your happiness.
To keep things away from you
that bring tears to your eyes
that cause you grief
that make you feel small or hurt
those things in your past
your mother's goodness—but still, as good a person as she was
as much as she loved you,
you always felt her distance
her coolness toward you
I thought: you will never feel that again.
Situations in your life
ordinary things, not knowing where the money would come from
for your rent
I thought: you will never feel that fear again
that sense that things were so hard
and you didn't know where the answer might come from
that sense of vulnerability
I'll hold you in my arms all night
my stomach pressed against your back
my face nestled in your hair
holding you the whole night, every night,
no harm will ever come to you
But then, do you remember when our bedroom ceiling was falling
and you said,
"Polly, that ceiling has been up there for a hundred and forty years
it's not going to fall now."
And I said, "Yes, but it's falling now."
And you didn't believe me until it fell
and you said you would believe me from then on.
Do you remember when I woke up one night
more than four and a half years ago
and I was sitting in the armchair in our bedroom
awake and sobbing
because it had been a year of you not getting divorced...
six months after the time when you promised me it would be over
and it was far, far from being over
and you gave me excuses like
"it doesn't mean anything...our marriage is over..."
and "Divorce will happen, like the sun rises and sets,
the divorce will happen"
nothing made sense to me
I felt horrible to have people ask me
"so, are you and Richard going to get married?"
a question that should have made me happy or coy or blushy
or giggly or secretive
and it made me sick to my stomach and humiliated
and I was faced with the choice to either tell people
that you were married
still with no divorce in sight
or I could lie—
both options made me sick and resentful
I knew you had seen that this was painful to me
you had seen it
and dismissed it as trivial, wrongminded, petty, insignificant
I showed you over and over that it was painful...truly painful
I sat in the chair sobbing, loudly
you woke up and saw me
you looked at me
and said with such contempt in your voice
"Boy, you've really worked yourself up over this haven't you?"
and you rolled over
to go back to sleep
Yes, I remember that.
and I thought
My God, I'm a complete idiot
I'm the little blond bimbo
the great fuck with the hot little dresses and the fun
and it's all so sexy and fun
and we'll travel to the south of France and all around the world
and we'll show eveyone how well we shop
and how in love we are and how romantic it all is
but don't you dare fuck with my family
and what's really important...
don't you dare ask me to rush getting a divorce
from the mother of my children
because this is serious and real
and someone real might get hurt
You showed me over and over again how insignificant my pain was
You told me flat out that you would not get a divorce one day faster because I wanted it
than you would without my insistence...
that it had to be on your schedule and not mine
And I had to decide then...
am I willing to be this person?
This bimbo, this loved thing, this doted upon object,
on the outside of "real" "important" "significant" stuff—
like potentially upsetting wives and children—
am I willing to be that in exchange for having Richard.
And I said "yes"
And I was wrong
And I came up for air a few more times over the years
I called you from Louisville and I told you
"I cannot do this for another year,
I can't do this for a few more months, I can't, I can't. I can't."
I made that call after sitting in the bathtub
for the fifth night in a row
crying for hours and slamming my head against the tiled wall.
Spurred on by the sad fact of meeting new people
who saw we were in love and asked me the dreaded questions
"will you and Richard get married?"
I made the call to let you know that I had a definite limit.
A time beyond which I could not continue.
I called to tell you that the ceiling was falling
and I guess you thought
"that ceiling has been up there for a hundred and forty years
it's not going to fall now"
The ceiling fell
As I had predicted I would
As I told you I would
As I tried not to as hard as I could
That's what happened to me
So it doesn't matter now
that I am finally really about to be divorced
because I have said this for years
over and over again
and it never happened and the damage has been done
it's too late
Because a person needs to be first in another person's heart
and know it
and know it absolutely
or it is just too corrosive.
It's just poisonous, finally
you never wanted so much to make love with me
You were interested sometimes
and sometimes, I think, took real pleasure in our making love
but you never found me irresistable
the way I found you
you didn't want me more and more and more
the way I wanted you
you could wait to make love with me
or not make love for days and days and not care about it at all
and I often thought
of course, it could be I'm not so appealing
I'm not so hot or so exciting to make love to
but maybe even more than that
it's simply that I'm not the right kind of guy for you at all
not even the category of person who thrills you.
Or maybe you're just not carried away by love of me
the way I am by you.
Which came first, do you think,
the rejection I always felt from you
or the disrespect you felt from me?
Every night you rejected me
and every time you returned from taking a trip out of town you rejected me
so that I came to dread your coming back
because your coming back
meant not that you would return
but that you would say you couldn't return
and I would feel your rejection again in the biggest way
you would come back and savage me
But really after what you've just said now
there's nothing more for me to say
except again and again how sorry I am
for hurting you, the best and only true love of my life
the whole point of living
was to find you and love you
and take care of that love
pay attention to it
and make sure I never lost it
and so I haven't done the one thing in life I should have done
and without you
the whole point of life is over
and I feel my life has ended
and I see that I'm the one who is responsible for that
so I feel a grief beyond anything I've ever felt
for myself and for the pain I've caused you
I'll never ever forget the picture of you in the bath in Louisville
crying and hitting your head on the tiles
and to know I did that
I wish you could see through the pain I've caused you
so that you might still be able to understand something of me
and see that I have loved you completely and still do
and somehow find your way back to me
and, if that turns out not to be possible
at least for you to know
in spite of the terrible mistakes I made
how much you were truly loved
what a precious person I always felt you are
I can't see that.
You thought I thought of you
as a bimbo outside of anything
"real" or "important" or "significant" to me?
Everything I've done and felt and known and lived for these past five years
was about you
was filled with your spirit
and your tastes and your hatreds and your loves
and your humor and your idiosyncracies
and your whims
your sudden turns and your steadiness
your confidence in me
the depth of your feelings
and the ferocity of them
everything I did was about you
and now without you my life is over.
You thought I thought of you as the great fuck
in the hot little dresses
You never were a great fuck
You were the worst fuck I ever had
I loved to make love with you
because I loved you
and I loved who you were
and I cared for you
and I always wanted to be close to you
as close as I could be
You were inhibited and frightened and closed off to adventure
repulsed and I don't know what else
and I always thought it was because you had been sexually abused
as a child
by a grownup
or by the other kids in the woods
that you always used to joke about
and say how tough you were and you didn't care what they did
but I've never known a woman
so averse to just opening up and having a good time sexually
and experimenting and trying things
and seeing where it might take you
only because I loved you so much
did I live with what I always thought was
a frustrating and unsatisfying sex life
for you as well as me, I'm sure,
that I only thought maybe, maybe one day
if you ever came to love me and trust me enough
you might overcome whatever trauma of the past
had made you this way
and if you never did
I loved you so much
that a great fuck was way way down the list of important things
to me about you
the biggest thing was always that I loved you completely and forever
I loved your brains and your sensibility
we were soulmates
we felt and thought the same things in the same ways
all the little subtle things in life felt the same to us
the same things were funny and stupid and heartbreaking
the same things were pretty
the same things were good to eat
we liked the same light in the sky in Provence
we liked the same roads
we liked the sounds of the cicadas
we liked the same room in the hotel
we felt the same about Nostradamus's house
and about the people who ran it
and about the little stone pool back away from the house
we liked the same things when you decorated the living room
we liked the same scenes in the same plays
ten thousand million little things held us together
like no one I've ever known
I wanted to be inside you
inside your love
inside your feelings
inside your thoughts and how you felt the world
I wanted to feel things as you felt them
I wanted to be in your heart
and so often I felt I was
I felt we were together in that way
and in that way
you were the greatest fuck I ever had
but not the great fuck in the hot little dress
the great fuck because of who you were in your heart
and how I loved you more than life itself
when we went to see the Greek play
in the abandoned marble quarry
and I thought:
we are connected to this human life
and to one another
for all eternity.
[They sit looking at one another
while we hear the Handel Sarabande from Suite No. 11 for Harpsichord.]
Then Richard shoots Polly.
She is shot in the head, and astonished.
He shoots her again.
She is open-mouthed with surprise and anguish
and slips slowly to the floor.
He shoots her again.
She jerks involuntarily and lies still.
He puts the pistol into his mouth
and blows his brains out.
Brain and blood splatter behind him.]
RADIO TALK SHOW VOICE
Usually, in life,
we're so busy doing things,
we don't stop to look at each other any more.
That's so true.
TALK SHOW VOICE
But you won't be here forever.
TALK SHOW VOICE
You won't even be the same person tomorrow.
Things go by so fast,
and then they're gone.
Your children grow up
and get married
and you never took the time to look at them.
Like that couple in upstate New York.
TALK SHOW VOICE
[While the radio talk continues,
Phil and Jim come in and pick up Richard and carry him out;
Shirley and Bonnie carry out Polly.
Red Dicks picks up the odd Coke can,
bit of clothing as the radio show continues.]
You heard that:
this man who shot his wife;
she was sleeping with their son,
TALK SHOW VOICE
Oh. Oh. Right.
Well, not their son.
His son. Her stepson.
That's the one.
He shot her
and then he shot himself.
And then it turned out they weren't married after all.
TALK SHOW VOICE
He died. But she lived.
TALK SHOW VOICE
I understood he lived, too.
He lived? I didn't know that.
TALK SHOW VOICE
Yeah, he lived.
I guess, you know, he sort of lobotomized himself
but he was still able to pump gas
so they gave him a job there
and I guess he does okay.
They say that he seems happy.
I didn't know that.
But I did know that she
even though he shot her a couple of times—
once in the head—
and she recovered,
well not completely, I guess—
she had a little trouble with her memory,
but otherwise she was okay.
TALK SHOW VOICE
And she moved into a trailer
with the stepson
In the trailer park off the old Route 32.
And they lived there together
raising pit bulls.
I heard they have thirteen pit bulls
living with them there in the trailer.
And the husband's in the trailer next to theirs.
I guess you could say
they lived happily ever after.
TALK SHOW VOICE
That's a love story.
Yeah. That really is.
TALK SHOW VOICE
here's some more music
a familiar old song.
This is Hank Snow singing "I Don't Hurt Anymore."
I like this song.
TALK SHOW VOICE
I've got to say,
I love this song.
[The garage band picks up the Hank Snow piece
and drowns out the radio
as Red Dicks straightens up,
throwing things into the kiddie pool.
True Love was composed, in collaboration with Tom Damrauer, for Laurie Williams as Polly. It was written with the dramaturgical assistance of Greg Gunter. The piece was inspired by Euripides's Hippolytus, and the works by Seneca and Racine based on the same story, and incorporates texts from those writers as well as from Leo Buscaglia, Kathryn Harrison, the letters of Simone de Beauvoir, Andy Warhol, Valerie Solanas, Wilhelm Reich, the transcript of the trial of the Menendez brothers, Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D., Jean Stein's biography of Edie Sedgwick, and texts posted on the Internet, among others.
Charles Mee's work has been made possible by the support of Richard B. Fisher and Jeanne Donovan Fisher.