About the Play
Moving by Sean Michael McCord is the 2018 winner of SETC’s Charles M. Getchell New Play Contest.
Can love survive romance?
SYNOPSIS: Over the span of thirty years in one apartment in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, lovers come together, fall apart, and move on through life’s choices.
PAUL – Male, 29 in 1985, character ages over twenty years. A screenwriter.
LAURA – Female, 25 in 1985, character ages over thirty years. A teacher.
SAM – Female, 18 in 2005. Paul and Laura’s daughter.
TERRY – Female, 29 in 2015. An architectural engineer.
ROBIN – Female, 25 in 2015. A student.
BIOGRAPHY: Sean Michael McCord is a writer living in Charlottesville, Virginia. He studied film at UCLA and spent his twenties as a struggling screenwriter in Los Angeles before moving first to New York and then crossing south of the Mason-Dixon line. Sean has had plays produced in Virginia, Kentucky, Colorado, California, and Stuttgart, Germany, which makes him now an internationally unknown playwright. Sean is currently pursuing his MFA in playwriting as a member of the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University.
CONTACT FOR PRODUCTION:
Sean M. McCord
721 Shamrock Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Sean Michael McCord © 2018
Act I: The First Story
Setting: Los Angeles, August 1985
Paul’s apartment. It should have art deco flourishes, such as arched doorways and round windows. There are doors leading off to the bedrooms and kitchen, as well as the front door that leads outside. The room is filled with moving boxes and no furniture, a lone typewriter, and a 1980s telephone. One or two framed pictures are still visible.
PAUL McCOY is drinking from a beer bottle in one hand and talking on the phone with the other. He’s been packing all day and looks a little worn in his old jeans and t-shirt, certainly not dressed to meet a cute girl.
PAUL: Thanks for checking on me, Barry. I’ll be out of here soon. Penny took all the furniture with her, so most of what I have are LPs, books, my typewriter. She picked most of that stuff anyway, it was her style. I’ve just got an apartment full of boxes now, and several large German guys on their way back to move the last of it. I’m putting my stuff in storage and staying with a friend until I can find a small place in Hollywood somewhere. I just gotta get out of here. (pause) I don’t know. Penny says I wasn’t “mature” enough, that I wasn’t ready to commit. So yeah, she shows how committed she is by taking all her crap and moving out. I’m all alone now, so I’m just going to curl up in a ball and cry my guts out. (pause) No, you dick, I’m kidding. When have you ever known me to cry? I’ll be fine.
There is a knock at the front door.
PAUL: Oh good, the movers are back.
Paul gets up and goes to open the door, but the phone cord isn’t long enough and there’s no good place to put his beer down. With his back to the door, he calls out.
PAUL: Come on in, it’s not locked!
The door opens and LAURA PALMETTO enters. In her mid twenties, she is well dressed but not formal, wearing a light, button-down sweater, even though it’s August. She looks nice. Laura steps into the apartment and glances around curiously, not sure what to do next. Paul still hasn’t actually looked at her.
PAUL: (over his shoulder) Start with the boxes along the back wall. I just have a few more things to pack up. Did you bring any tape?
LAURA: (startled) No.
PAUL: (still with his back to her) That’s all right, I guess. I probably have enough. (into phone) Where was I? Oh yeah, I’m not mature enough. Hey, wanna hear a joke? Did you hear about the blond actress who was so dumb that she slept with the screenwriter? (laughing) Seriously, I’ll be okay. Plenty of cows in the pasture. Thanks, Barry. I’ll call you when I get my new number.
Laura has listened to the whole conversation and is clearly mortified. Paul hangs up the phone, turns, and finally sees her.
PAUL: You’re not a large German man.
PAUL: Who the hell are you?
LAURA: I’m here to look at the apartment. Are you Stan?
PAUL: I’m Paul. Stan is my landlord.
LAURA: Stan said I should come by and look at it. I didn’t know you were still moving.
PAUL: (a little annoyed) Why did you just walk in?
LAURA: You told me to.
PAUL: I don’t even know you.
LAURA: You said “come on in, the door’s not locked”.
PAUL: I thought you were the movers.
LAURA: This really isn’t my fault.
PAUL: Yeah, okay.
LAURA: Maybe I should come back later.
PAUL: No, it’s okay. Sorry if I was a little short. Can I offer you something to, uh…
He trails off as they both look around the room and see nothing but boxes.
PAUL: Can I offer you a box?
She smiles for the first time.
LAURA: I’m good.
PAUL: My name is Paul.
LAURA: I know.
PAUL: How do you know that?
LAURA: You told me. You’re Paul. Stan is your landlord.
PAUL: Who are you?
LAURA: (a little puzzled) I’m the woman who’s here to look at your apartment? Are you okay? Do you have memory problems, or…?
PAUL: No! What’s your name?
LAURA: Oh … I’m Laura.
PAUL: Pleased to meet you. My name is Paul.
Laura looks at him for a moment, now not sure if he’s kidding. He is.
PAUL: My memory is fine. Your name is Laura, my name is Paul, Stan is my landlord, and you’re here to look at the apartment.
LAURA: Do you like playing mind games with strangers?
PAUL: I really do.
Laura hesitates, then decides she is up for this
LAURA: This was your apartment? How long did you live here?
PAUL: Three years.
LAURA: Why are you moving?
PAUL: It’s a long story. What brings you to Silver Lake?
LAURA: Where’s that?
PAUL: Silverlake. That’s this neighborhood.
LAURA: Oh. I thought it was all Los Angeles.
PAUL: You’re not from L.A.
LAURA: How can you tell?
PAUL: You called it Los Angeles. Where you from?
PAUL: Philly! Cheese steaks, soft pretzels, the Liberty Bell…
She looks at him quizzically.
PAUL: Yeah, I’ve never been there.
Laura has been looking around while he’s talking. She picks up a framed photo.
LAURA: Is this a picture of you and that guy from Saturday Night Live? Hold on, are you an actor?
PAUL: Actor? Good god, no. Actors are insecure, preening little turd pellets who spend their day sucking in their stomachs and smiling at you with expensive teeth until you turn away so they can stab you in the back with a guild award. No, I’m a writer. How about you?
LAURA: I’m an actor.
PAUL: Oh, crap. Listen, I …
Paul is stuck for words, then he sees that Laura can barely contain not laughing.
PAUL: You’re not an actor.
LAURA: Maybe. I had you going for a second.
PAUL: Do you like playing mind games with strangers?
LAURA: I’m starting to. What do you have against actors?
PAUL: My ex is an actor. I mean was. I mean, she’s still an actor, but now she’s my ex, so she’s past tense. How does that work?
LAURA: So you get paid to write?
PAUL: I write for the movies; I don’t need to command the English language. So what do you do?
LAURA: I’m an English teacher.
Paul is skeptical
LAURA: No, I mean it this time. Anyway, I will be soon. I’ve got a job teaching English in a high school out here. Los Angeles … I mean, “L.A.” is recruiting graduates from other cities. If I stay here and teach for two years, I get full certification. I’m sorry about your ex-wife.
PAUL: No, no, not ex-wife! Just ex-girlfriend. I can be a little crazy sometimes … not move-to-L.A.-and-teach-in-a-public-school crazy … but not insane enough to get married.
LAURA: Ok, I’m going to ignore the part where you just called me crazy and ask: what’s wrong with marriage?
PAUL: Look, I know marriage has its place in society. It is a brutal yet effective way to keep the masses contained and to impose social order. Like prison. I just think people who get married are fooling themselves. Our whole culture tells us that we are destined to find “the one”, our perfect match, our soul mate who will complete us and fulfill our destiny. It’s complete nonsense! All that really happens is, you get to a point in your life where you don’t want to be alone anymore, you’re tired of the whole dating scene, you just want to be comfortable with someone and have regular sex, so you look around and say: “You. You’ll do. We get along. I’m tired. Let’s get married.”
LAURA: Gee, why did your girlfriend ever leave you?
PAUL: I don’t know, something about not being willing to commit.
LAURA: And there’s plenty of other cows in the pasture.
PAUL: (painfully) You heard that?
LAURA: Good grief, what do you write? Obituaries? Divorce notices?
PAUL: Romantic comedies.
It’s Laura’s turn to be skeptical.
PAUL: No, now I’m being serious. Did you ever see “Foul Play” with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn?
LAURA: You wrote that?
PAUL: I wrote the sequel: “Foul Play 2: Even Fouler”.
LAURA: Who was in that?
PAUL: No one. It was never made.
LAURA: So you write scripts for movies that never get made?
PAUL: I’ve written some of the greatest films that you will never see.
LAURA: And you’re okay with that?
PAUL: It’s a living.
LAURA: I really can’t tell if you’re still fooling around with me.
PAUL: I am disarmingly honest. It’s one of my few charms.
LAURA: I can see that.
Paul is taken aback. He isn’t sure whether she is flirting with him, or just cut him down to size. Possibly both. He is startled when the phone rings. They both stare at it.
LAURA: Are you going to get that?
PAUL: I guess I should. It’s probably for me.
Paul answers the phone.
PAUL: Hello? This is Paul. Oh, yeah, sure.
He pulls the phone away, a little puzzled, and then offers it to Laura.
PAUL: It’s for you.
She, too, is puzzled, but takes the phone.
LAURA: Hello? Oh, hi Stan.
Laura mouths “It’s Stan” to Paul. He mouths “I know!” back.
LAURA: You’re still an hour away? Well, I can look around for a little while. I’ll just go get some coffee and come back. Yeah, he’s still here. (glancing at Paul) Just don’t be too long.
Laura hands the phone back to Paul who places the receiver back in the cradle. She sounds tired.
LAURA: Is there someplace nearby I can wait?
PAUL: There’s a bodega down the street. They make great tacos and just terrible coffee.
LAURA: I should go then.
Paul doesn’t suggest otherwise, so Laura heads toward the front door, then pauses.
PAUL: Are you okay?
LAURA: I’m sorry, I’m just … I’m exhausted. I’ve been looking at apartments all day. I don’t even know what neighborhood I’m in. This is the first nice place I’ve seen. If I don’t find something soon, I may just pack it all in and head back to Philadelphia.
PAUL: Look, I’m waiting for my movers to get back. I’m sure they’ll be here soon. You can just stay here if you like. I could show you around a little bit.
LAURA: You don’t mind?
PAUL: Sure. The kitchen is over there, bathroom, bedroom and an office. Well, technically, two bedrooms, but I use one to write.
Paul’s idea of “showing around” is to stand more or less in one spot and point. Laura is curious and opens a door.
LAURA: Where do these stairs go? Is there an upstairs?
PAUL: There used to be. This whole thing used to be a house. It’s actually an interesting story. Did you notice when you came in that there’s another building across the yard that is a mirror to this one? They were built for twin sisters fifty years ago. When the one sister got married, they couldn’t bear to be separated, so her husband built these two identical houses. The married couple lived in that one, and the single sister lived in this one. They assumed she’d get married one day too, and then she and her husband would live here.
LAURA: What happened?
PAUL: She never got married. In time, the married sister moved away, but the single sister couldn’t bear to leave. About twenty years ago they cut the house up into apartments and she still lives upstairs.
LAURA: That’s sweet.
PAUL: Really? Not sad?
LAURA: A little, maybe, but also romantic. The two sisters didn’t want to be apart, but one of them found love and the other never did. Maybe you could write a movie about it.
PAUL: Another movie no one would see.
LAURA: I’d go.
Was she just nice to him again? Paul has run out of things to say and he has finished his beer.
PAUL: Are you cold?
PAUL: You’re still wearing your sweater. It’s August. In “Los Angeles”. If you’re going to stay, I thought you might want to take your sweater off.
LAURA: Oh. Thank you.
Laura takes off her sweater and places it down. Paul looks at her, really looks at her, and something inside him softens. He smiles.
LAURA: What is it?
PAUL: Nothing, I … I’m sorry I suggested you were crazy earlier. What you’re doing, coming to a strange town like this, teaching children, it’s actually kind of admirable. I’m not saying it’s not crazy, but … you’re pretty bold.
LAURA: It’s one of my many charms.
PAUL: No, no, no, no, no. I can’t do this.
LAURA: Can’t do what?
PAUL: I just got out of a relationship. I mean, look around, I literally haven’t moved on yet. You seem very nice … great, actually, and I love that you’re not an actress, but I can’t do this now.
LAURA: What? Did you think I was hitting on you?
PAUL: No. I was hitting on you.
LAURA: Oh. You were?
PAUL: Was it that bad? I must really be out of practice.
LAURA: No, you were doing fine. Wait, what am I saying? Listen, I think I should stay outside, or come back later.
Laura starts to leave
PAUL: Laura, wait! I…
PAUL: “Laura”. That’s a really nice name.
LAURA: You’re the most confusing man I’ve ever met.
PAUL: That’s because you only just moved here. Trust me, L.A. is full of confusing people.
LAURA: You don’t believe in romance, but you write romantic comedies. You claim to be honest, but you play mind games with people. You say you’re not interested in me, but you kind of seem interested. Should I go on?
PAUL: Laura, I’m moving out because my girlfriend left me after three years. I’m leaving this apartment because it was Penny’s apartment. I was happy with her, but I’m afraid that if I stay here, I’ll be happy without her. The last thing I expected was for a cute girl who wears sweaters in August to walk through my front door and just floor me. I don’t know what your story is, but I have to imagine that you didn’t come out to L.A. just for a job, that there’s something that you’re running away from too. I wish we could have met at another time. Yeah, I like you. I think I could like you a lot. But right now, I kind of hate myself.
LAURA: You think I’m cute?
PAUL: Really? Is that the only word you picked out of that whole speech?
LAURA: I heard you. And you’re not wrong about me. I am running away from something, and I didn’t expect to walk through that door and find a …
PAUL: Dishy? Dreamy? Staggeringly handsome gentlemen?
LAURA: I was going for “addled”.
PAUL: Right, English teacher. Look, I’ve made this all kinds of awkward. This is a really nice apartment. It suits you. I think it was yours the moment you stepped in here, and now I feel like I’m in the way. You should look around while I go down to the bodega to get a taco.
Paul opens the front door
LAURA: Wait, you’re just going to leave me here? What about your stuff?
PAUL: I think I have a Thomas Brothers around here. You could probably use it.
LAURA: You’re offering me an English muffin?
PAUL: No, it’s a map book of L.A. Look, if you see anything else you like, keep it. I don’t know who’s going to be here first, my movers or Stan, but I just need to get out of here.
LAURA: Are you coming back?
Paul leaves and closes the door behind him. Laura is left standing alone in the apartment, dazed. She glances around the room, pensive at first, then starts to relax. She finds the framed photograph from earlier and puts it into an open box. She moves to the center of the apartment, looks around, then nods and smiles. She’s starting to see herself in this place. There is a knock at the door. She walks over and opens it. It is Paul.
PAUL: Hi. My name is Paul. I see you’re new to the neighborhood so I thought I’d stop by and welcome you. Would you like to go down to the bodega and get some terrible coffee?
LAURA: Sure. Let me just get my sweater.
Laura retrieves her sweater, then exits out the front door with Paul.
END OF ACT I
Act II: The Second Story
The same space, twenty years later. Now it has furniture, but none of it new, and is filled with memories. Near the front door is a stack of moving boxes, almost as if they had always been there.
Through that front door enters PAUL , now in his late forties. He is tired from moving boxes. He looks at the pile near the door, sighs in resignation, heaves a heavy box up and carries it out the front door.
Enter SAMANTHA, Laura and Paul’s 18-year-old daughter, talking on her vintage 2005 clamshell phone.
SAM: (on the phone) My dad’s almost finished packing up the car. I know, it’s so exciting! How did your orientation go? Oh, mine was a little boring, but our guide was cute. Did you decide on a foreign language? No, I took that in high school, now I’m thinking of taking German. I dunno, I guess because, in the movies, whenever someone speaks German, everyone else stops to listen. It sounds very authoritarian.
Paul re-enters and picks up one last, large box. There is now just a small pile left by the door. He gets his daughter’s attention and indicates the last pile with a nod. Sam holds up one finger but keeps talking. Paul just shakes his head and exits again, bearing his load.
SAM: (making sure that her dad has left) My parents are being weird. I can’t wait to get out of here! Oh, I’ll miss you too, but you’re going to do great at Davis. Sure, call me back if you can get away, and we’ll go get some iced coffee.
LAURA enters from a back room, also twenty years older, bringing in a new box which she sets carefully by the front door. She pauses and gives her daughter a it’s-time-to-get-off-the-phone look. Samantha hastens to finish her call.
SAM: I better go. Call me. Bye!
Sam closes and pockets her phone.
LAURA: Was that Marta?
LAURA: Is she excited about going to UC Davis?
SAM: I guess.
LAURA: But a little nervous, too. Right?
SAM: Mostly excited.
LAURA: I’m sure her parents are going to miss her, though.
SAM: Are we still talking about Marta, Mom?
LAURA: Maybe not.
As they talk, Paul re-enters, confident that he has now put everything in the car until he spies the box that Laura has brought out. Paul gives Laura a look of exasperation. She just glares back, so he takes the box and heads back outside.
LAURA: I just can’t believe my little baby is going off to college already.
SAM: Is this what your mom was like when you moved out?
LAURA: Not exactly. I was the third of seven, so it just made more room at the house. I think your Aunt Cindy finally got to move upstairs from the basement.
SAM: See, now you guys will have more room. Maybe you and Dad can finally have another baby!
LAURA: Oh Sam, don’t even…
Laura is fighting back her emotions.
SAM: Mom, you promised you wouldn’t cry until I left.
LAURA: (recovering) I did. I’m sorry.
SAM: I know, tell me what it was like your first day of college.
LAURA: That was a bit of a mess. I wanted to go to Penn like your Aunt Donna, but my parents wanted me to go to Holy Family.
SAM: But you went to Penn?
LAURA: I don’t think your grandmother ever forgave me for that. The look on her face when Papa and I drove away. Thank goodness Donna was there at the campus to greet me and show me around. She took good care of me that first year.
SAM: I don’t have a sister at UCLA, Mom, but I have friends there. I’ll be fine.
LAURA: You just don’t know, Samantha. Today is a really big day.
SAM: If Dad ever finishes loading the car.
Laura is struggling with what to say, or not to say, to her daughter. Sam sees that her Mother is upset.
SAM: Penn was where you majored in English?
LAURA: Penn was my undergraduate degree in English. Then I started at Duquesne for my Masters in World History.
SAM: And then you came out to L.A. to teach?
LAURA: There was a little bit of life lived here and there, but that’s more or less the order.
SAM: I don’t plan to find a career so quickly. I want to travel around the world.
LAURA: That was sort of my plan, too. I was going to join the state department and teach all over the globe.
SAM: What happened?
LAURA: (after a thoughtful pause) I met your father.
But let’s talk about you. Tomorrow will be the most exciting day of your life, Samantha. So far. And the day after that will then become the most exciting. And then again the day after that. Every day is going to be filled with something new and interesting, new friends and new adventures, and new things to learn. Every day. You’re going to love it.
SAM: I can’t wait.
LAURA: I know. But can I give you one piece of advice?
SAM: What’s that?
LAURA: Don’t look back.
PAUL: Is that everything? I hope.
SAM: It’s all in the car?
PAUL: Sure. There’s no room for you and me, but your stuff is in there.
SAM: (jokingly) I’ll come back for the rest at Thanksgiving.
Paul puts his arm around his daughter. He is sad for reasons she will not understand for years.
SAM: You gonna miss me?
PAUL: What was your name again?
SAM: What are you going to do with this big, glorious empty house now that I’m leaving?
Laura and Paul can only glance uncomfortably at each other. Laura changes the subject.
LAURA: Hey, did you pack sunscreen? I know you’ll be spending all your time outdoors.
SAM: Mom, I grew up in L.A. I know how not to get a sunburn. Besides, I’m pretty sure Westwood has a Longs. How about it, Dad? You went to school there. Can I get sunscreen at UCLA?
PAUL: Hmm? Well, that was a long time ago. We didn’t know about such things back then. Oh, and the world was still …
SAM: …black and white. I know.
LAURA: (to Sam, tenderly) Just … take care of yourself.
SAM: Mom, I’m moving twelve miles away.
LAURA: I know. But it’s the other side of the 101.
Laura and Samantha hug. Paul moves to get in on the action but changes his mind.
Sam’s cell phone rings and she forgets all about her parents, who are left not looking at each other while she talks on the phone.
SAM: (into phone) Hiiii!… Yeah, I’ve got my stuff packed up. Now I’m just standing here awkwardly with my parents. How about you? Great. Let me check.
Sam pulls the phone away and looks at Paul plaintively.
SAM: Can I meet Marta? I’ll be real quick.
Paul looks at his watch, mouths “five minutes”, and nods.
SAM: (into phone)I’ll be right there.
Closing her phone, Sam grabs her purse and heads out.
SAM: We’re just meeting at the Starbucks down the street. Five minutes!
Samantha is gone. Laura and Paul are now alone with each other. It is disquieting.
LAURA: You know exactly where she’s supposed to go?
LAURA: And you will talk to her on the way there?
PAUL: I said I would.
PAUL: But doesn’t it seem like a lot all at once? She’s just starting her first week at college. Maybe we can break it to her later.
LAURA: (takes a calming breath) We agreed this was the best way.
PAUL: You agreed.
LAURA: Are you going to tell her or not?
PAUL: Sure, that’s going to be a great conversation. “By the way, sweetie, while I’m taking you to school, Mom is packing up all my things and kicking me out of the house. Have a great first day!”
LAURA: You’re the writer. I’m sure you’ll find some glib way to put it.
PAUL: That was glib.
LAURA: And while you’re at it, are you going to tell her that you slept with an old girlfriend?
PAUL: I didn’t sleep with her! I told you, we made out a little bit. It’s not the same thing.
LAURA: Why should I believe you?
PAUL: Because I’m telling the truth! Because I wouldn’t do that!
LAURA: You’d make out with her but you wouldn’t sleep her?
PAUL: Yes. No. I mean yes, I wouldn’t.
LAURA: Just get out of the house.
PAUL: You don’t believe me?
LAURA: I don’t care!
PAUL: You don’t care if I slept with her? Which I didn’t.
LAURA: This isn’t the only thing. You think I don’t see you? You spend all your time with actresses. They get younger and prettier every day. I’ve seen how you look at them. And how they look at you.
PAUL: “Did you hear about the blond actress who was so dumb that she slept with the screenwriter?”
LAURA: Everything is a joke to you.
PAUL: But that’s my point! I’m just a writer. I’m at the very bottom of the totem pole. Nobody’s interested in me for my body.
LAURA: You’re not even a writer. You’re a re-writer.
PAUL: Ouch! What does that mean?
LAURA: You haven’t written anything original in years. Now you just take other people’s work and you polish it up. Sometimes I think you’re afraid of success.
PAUL: It’s just the opposite. My name will never be attached to a failure, either. In this town, that counts as success.
LAURA: I will never understand your business.
PAUL: Welcome to Hollywood! Do you really think that this is the career I wanted? When you and I started out, we had nothing. The day I met you, I didn’t even have a place to live. Do you remember that? You walked in that very door and I thought you were just about the prettiest thing I had ever seen.
LAURA: You thought I was a German mover.
PAUL: Some of those German movers can be very attractive.
LAURA: (not amused) Still making jokes.
PAUL: Sorry, yes. The point is, from that day on, everything I did, I did for us. First for you, then for you and Sam. I turned down lots of opportunities…
LAURA: I’ll bet.
PAUL: …work opportunities! Get your mind out of the gutter. Remember Barry wanted me to go to Toronto to write for that series? But the old lady upstairs passed away, this house went on the market, and you were expecting Sam. I turned the Toronto job down so I could get steady work right here in town and so we could afford the house. You sure didn’t want to move to Canada.
LAURA: You didn’t want to move to Canada.
PAUL: I knew one of us didn’t.
LAURA: So if your family is so damn important to you, why did you sleep with her?
PAUL: I didn’t sleep with Penny.
LAURA: Don’t you dare say her name in my house!
PAUL: This used to be her apartment! Literally, we used to sleep together right here! But then she moved away and I met you.
There is a long pause. Paul is stunned by the look of hurt on Laura’s face.
PAUL: I’m an idiot. I shouldn’t have said that.
LAURA: (abject) This is all my fault.
PAUL: What? No. We’ve had our problems, but I know it works both ways…
LAURA: I never should have moved in here.
PAUL: Hold on, that’s going too far. Are you saying you’re sorry we ever met?
LAURA: No, I’m saying I never should have moved in here with you. This was her apartment. I was just filling a Penny-sized hole in your life.
LAURA: The entire time we lived here, even when we bought the upstairs and turned this back into a house, you never forgot that she lived here first.
PAUL: It doesn’t matter. This was just her place. I never really lived here until you moved in, and we made this house a home.
LAURA: I’m so stupid.
PAUL: That’s not true. You’re way smarter than me.
LAURA: So? You’re an idiot.
Paul can’t really argue that point.
PAUL: Laura, I strayed. I regret that, but I chose you, and you chose me, and we’ve made it work for twenty years. That has to count for something.
LAURA: I need to leave.
PAUL: What do you mean, leave?
LAURA: I need to move out.
PAUL: I thought I was moving out?
LAURA: I don’t care what you do. I can’t stay here.
PAUL: This is our home, Laura. We raised Samantha here. Everything we did was here.
LAURA: And that’s the problem. This place is haunted. By your past and our future.
PAUL: Do we have a future?
LAURA: I don’t honestly know. But it can’t be here.
PAUL: What are you saying?
LAURA: I’ll drive Sam to UCLA.
PAUL: You get lost west of Griffith Park.
LAURA: I’ve got my Thomas Brothers, I’ll figure it out.
PAUL: What will you tell Sam? You wanted me to have that hard conversation.
LAURA: Oh, you’re still having that conversation.
PAUL: But why now? If you’re determined to move out, that’s one thing. But why do you need me to tell Sam. And why today? Is this another way that you’re punishing me?
LAURA: Because I don’t trust yet that you’re telling me the truth, but I believe that you won’t lie to your daughter.
PAUL: “Yet”? So there’s hope?
LAURA: When she gets back, just tell her what’s going on. I’ll go look at the map and find out how to get there.
PAUL: How can I tell her what’s going on? I haven’t figured out what’s going on!
Samantha walks in the front door, Starbucks cup in hand.
SAM: What’s going on?
LAURA: I’m driving you to UCLA. Your father will explain.
SAM: You’ve never been west of Normandie.
LAURA: I HAVE A MAP, I’LL FIGURE IT OUT!
Laura storms out the front door. Sam slurps her drink loudly and stares at her dad.
PAUL: Your, uh …. your mother and I had a talk.
SAM: I leave you two alone for five minutes…
Paul smiles wistfully at his daughter
PAUL: You know, you’re standing in the very spot where I first met your mom.
SAM: Oh good, did I get here just in time for one of your stories?
PAUL: Have I ever told you the tale of this house?
SAM: About the twin sisters, one who never got married and who still lived here when you guys first moved in?
PAUL: That’s one story.
SAM: Then after she passed away, you bought the upstairs and converted this back into a house.
PAUL: Upstairs is the second story.
Sam raises her hand up and Paul high-fives her.
PAUL: For a teenage girl, you’re still my best straight man.
SAM: We live in Silver Lake. There aren’t many straight men in a five-mile radius.
PAUL: I don’t know if I’ve told you much about my life before I met your mom.
SAM: I know the world was black and white.
PAUL: You know what, Sam? In many ways, it was. Life was simpler then. I certainly was. Meeting your mom kind of shook things up for me, but that was nothing compared to what happened when you came along.
SAM: Is this going to take long? I had hoped to start college this year.
PAUL: I am so proud of you, Sam. You don’t know. But nobody gives you a roadmap for raising a whole other human being. We’ve tried to protect you from so many things, but at the same time, prepare you for everything we can think of. Give you strength, but also inoculate you from harm.
SAM: Oh, wow. This is, like, a serious talk. I better sit down.
PAUL: What you may not realize is that you met me at the most boring time of my life. The things that have become important to us — paying mortgages, financing cars, finding a dentist — those are daily struggles that parents everywhere have to figure out, whether they live in L.A. or in … Toronto.
Your mom made me a better man, and you made me the best person I could be. But there’s still a part of me inside that’s a reckless guy in his twenties who doesn’t always think about the consequences of his actions.
SAM: This is that talk.
PAUL: What talk?
SAM: The sex talk.
PAUL: What? No! I mean … kind of.
SAM: It’s okay, Dad. I understand where babies come from, so I know that you and Mom had sex once.
PAUL: Good grief, is this what’s it like trying to have a serious conversation with me?
SAM: And I know that you and Mom weren’t married when you guys moved in to the apartment here.
PAUL: Oh? Oh.
SAM: I’m pretty good at math.
PAUL: Ok, so you’ve probably figured out that before I met your mother, I had other … relationships.
SAM: Eww…! I mean … do go on.
PAUL: The thing is, when you get … intimate with someone, everything becomes more complicated. Even if you don’t mean for it to happen, you get wrapped up with another person and those connections become a part of your life.
SAM: You mean, like, emotions and stuff.
PAUL: Exactly! Emotions and stuff. So, say you go off to college…
SAM: Is that still the plan? I was starting to wonder.
PAUL: …and you meet some guy. And you…
SAM: Hook up?
PAUL: I think that phrase means something different to your generation then it does to mine. You become involved, and then you run into some other guy that you use to date in high school.
SAM: Oh, like Fabrizio?
SAM: Fabrizio? Leather jacket, lots of hair, tattoos up to his neck?
PAUL: You dated a guy named Fabrizio?
SAM: He came here for dinner. Twice. You called him Febreze.
PAUL: Oh, sure. Febreze. Like the air freshener, which he could have used. You guys were dating?
SAM: For, like, a minute.
PAUL: What happened to Elliot?
PAUL: The kid with the manners who took you to prom.
SAM: Junior prom or Senior prom?
PAUL: The one where you got all dressed up.
SAM: You’re thinking of Everly.
SAM: “Elliot”. Junior prom.
PAUL: Right, what ever happened to him?
SAM: We weren’t really dating.
PAUL: That’s too bad, I liked Elliot.
SAM: Are we done here?
PAUL: What? No, I was trying to tell you something.
SAM: That when you’re dating someone, and it becomes “intimate”, things get complicated, feelings get involved, and those feelings never completely go away.
PAUL: Oh. Yeah, actually, that’s just what I was saying.
SAM: And when you’re young, it’s easy to be casual about these things, but you have to be careful too, because those feelings can come back later when you see someone that you used to be involved with. So maybe it’s best not get too serious until you’re a little older and can handle all the emotions and stuff.
PAUL: You are a very wise young woman, Samantha McCoy. I’m pretty sure you understand exactly what I’ve been trying to tell you. You think maybe you could explain all that to your mother?
SAM: Good talk, Dad. And you didn’t burst into tears once.
PAUL: Was I supposed to?
SAM: No, you never do. I have all that to look forward to from Mom.
PAUL: Oh, yeah. Sorry about that.
Abruptly, Sam bolts over to her dad and gives him a long hug.
PAUL: Oh! This is nice. (pause) Wait, are you crying?
SAM: I’m still half Italian Catholic girl from Philadelphia, too. I’m allowed to cry a little.
They just hold each other for a long moment, saying nothing. Laura appears in the doorway, staring. Paul gives her a wan smile. When Sam notices her mom, she pushes Paul away playfully.
SAM: Stop crying on my shoulder, old man. You’ll get my shirt wet.
PAUL: (to Laura) I wasn’t…
SAM: (to Laura) We ready?
LAURA: (sheepishly) I can’t find the Thomas Brothers map.
PAUL: Oh, I think it might be in the back. I’ll go get it. (as he passes Laura) I wasn’t crying.
Paul exits to one of the back rooms. Sam picks up the rest of her stuff and starts to head out the front door.
LAURA: Did you two have a good talk?
SAM: It was a little uncomfortable. Dad thinks I’m still a virgin.
Sam exits out the front door.
LAURA: Oh! (pause) Oh…
Paul returns with the Thomas Brothers map book and hands it to Laura.
PAUL: Did Sam go outside already? I wanted to say goodbye.
LAURA: So what did you two talk about again?
PAUL: Umm, you might have to fill in a few details.
LAURA: I knew it. You will just never take responsibility for your own actions.
PAUL: That’s not true. She really is the best of both of us, Laura. She understands her parents better than we understand each other sometimes. I think we could both learn from her.
For a long, pensive moment, Laura says nothing. Then she collapses on the couch, spent. Paul hesitates, then goes to her.
PAUL: “Why” what?
LAURA: Just … why, Paul?
PAUL: Oh. That. Well, maybe you’re right. Maybe when Penny just left, I should have dealt with my, you know, emotions and stuff. But then you came in to my life and I put decades of good moments on top of all that. I seriously hadn’t thought about her in years, but when she showed up on the set that day…
PAUL: No, I tell you, at first I thought: I can handle this. We’re just old friends. But it turns out that her life hadn’t gone the way she had planned. It’s tough being an actress over forty in this town.
LAURA: Am I supposed to feel sorry for her now?
PAUL: No, but I did. I even felt a little responsible. She never got married, never had a family. She left me back then because she thought that I would never be capable of those things. And when she learned about you and Sam…
LAURA: I could murder you right now.
PAUL: I know. And I’m not trying to excuse what happened. But for just a moment, I forgot who I was, forgot the man that you helped me become. But it was just a moment. I came back. I always come back.
LAURA: “Always”? So this has happened before?
LAURA: What did you mean “it works both ways”?
LAURA: Earlier, when Sam was at the Starbucks. You said we’ve had our problems, but it works both ways.
PAUL: I mean, I’m not entirely to blame.
LAURA: How dare you! I didn’t sleep with an ex-girlfriend.
PAUL: Neither did I. Wait, you have ex-girlfriends…?
LAURA: What did I do to deserve this?
PAUL: Nothing. You did nothing. That’s the problem.
When was the last time you got really excited when I walked into the room? When was the last time you called me in the middle of the day just because you wanted to hear my voice, and not just to have me pick up something on the way home? When … when was the last time we had really good sex?
LAURA: Is that how this works? When was the last time you brought me flowers or a bottle of wine, or a CD of romantic music? When was the last time you made out with me without wanting sex? You want really good sex? When was the last time you cleaned out the sink?
PAUL: Is that a metaphor, or…?
LAURA: No, I mean the actual kitchen sink.
PAUL: I cleaned out the toilet last week!
LAURA: You mean after Taco Tuesday? You recreated the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in that thing. Damn right you cleaned it out!
PAUL: You don’t bring me things I like anymore, either.
LAURA: Have you looked in the refrigerator? I buy the groceries every week.
PAUL: When was the last time you bought Frosted Flakes?
LAURA: When Samantha turned twelve. Why?
PAUL: It’s my favorite cereal.
LAURA: Are you kidding me? That stuff is terrible. It could kill you.
PAUL: Perfect. You want to murder me anyway.
LAURA: Are you a child? You can buy your own damn Frosted Flakes.
PAUL: I actually keep a box in my office.
LAURA: I’m sure that makes a big impression on everybody. Do you serve it with milk or just rough it with raw fistfuls?
PAUL: My point is that we stopped doing things for each other. At some point in our marriage we stopped being a couple and we became just parents. Now that Samantha is moving out, maybe we can get to know each other again.
LAURA: Oh, I’m getting to know you right now. You’re a forty-nine-year-old man-child who mainlines kid’s cereal in his office while making out with his girlfriend.
PAUL: So you admit that we just made out. That’s progress.
LAURA: What difference does it make?
PAUL: Are you being serious right now? It sounds like your mind is made up no matter what I say.
LAURA: And you think that you can talk your way out of anything!
PAUL: It doesn’t have to be this way. While you take Sam to school, I’ll get some flowers and a bottle of wine. When you get back, we’ll put on some romantic music and, if you play your cards right, I’ll “clean your sink”.
LAURA: First, eww. Second, I just need to be away from you right now. I already called my friend Blanca in Venice. She said I could stay with her for a while. That will keep me closer to Sam if she needs me.
PAUL: You hate the beach.
LAURA: I don’t hate the beach. I just don’t like sand.
PAUL: You just described ninety-nine percent of Venice. It’s all sand and pheromones.
LAURA: You can stay here. You never actually lived alone in this place.
PAUL: I did for a minute. Then this cute Catholic girl walked in my door.
LAURA: It’s not going to work, Paul.
PAUL: Then what will?
LAURA: You have to ask? How about “I’m sorry”.
PAUL: I am sorry.
LAURA: But see, you actually had to ask! That should have been the first thing you said.
PAUL: I thought it was implied.
LAURA: And that’s your problem. You leave everything unsaid now. When we first got married, we used to talk, and I could see what you were struggling with by reading your scripts. But you don’t even do that anymore.
PAUL: Do you even hear yourself? Now it’s my turn to ask why? Why are you leaving like this? It’s not just because of Penny. There’s something else going on.
LAURA: You know, you aren’t the first man to ask me to marry him.
LAURA: Yeah, a yinzer boy, my grad school boyfriend at Duquesne. He asked me to marry him and I told him maybe.
PAUL: You never told me about this.
LAURA: He cheated on me, Paul. With an ex-girlfriend, by the way. So I left Pennsylvania and I moved to Los Angeles. And you know the stupid thing, even after all that, I still believed in romance. I still allowed myself to be swept off my feet.
PAUL: And you floored me.
LAURA: Now I wonder if we didn’t ask enough questions at the time.
PAUL: Like what?
LAURA: Why did you come back?
LAURA: Twenty years ago, when you walked out that door and left me alone in your apartment. Why did you come back?
PAUL: I came back for you.
LAURA: I was just some stranger.
PAUL: I liked the way you smelled.
LAURA: But you made a choice. You could have kept on going, but you decided to come back and ask me out.
PAUL: You had a choice, too.
LAURA: Did I? You were the first man I met in L.A. Hell, you were practically the first person I met out here. I walked in that door and I never left.
PAUL: You chose to stay.
LAURA: I’m not sure I did. Everything happened so quickly. It was just like one of the scripts you used to write, Goldie Hawn meets Chevy Chase and they get into an adventure and they end up together in the end. Except, did Goldie ever really have any say in the matter, or was she just moved around from place to place by the writer?
PAUL: But everything we did, we did together.
LAURA: Is that true, or is this your life that we’ve been living? I didn’t even plan to stay out here. I was going to become a teacher and then move back east, maybe finish school.
PAUL: There’s still time. You can go back to school now. That still doesn’t explain why you’re leaving.
LAURA: This was supposed to be my place, my new life, and you just moved back in. After what happened with … that other woman … I just wanted you to get out. But now I think it is I that needs my own space. I need to make a choice. This is my choice.
PAUL: I didn’t know you felt that way.
LAURA: You weren’t paying enough attention. People look at us and think you’re the smart one and I’m the emotional one.
PAUL: I already said that you’re way smarter than me.
LAURA: I am. But you’re also a lot more emotionally intelligent than you let on. This time, listen to your heart, not your head. Your heart is smarter.
A car horn honks offstage. Laura gets up.
LAURA: That’s Sam. She’s ready to go.
PAUL: Do you have the map?
LAURA: I have the map.
PAUL: Are you coming back?
LAURA: Sometime … is what I’m supposed to say, right? I recognize this moment. But I can’t say that, not yet. I don’t know.
PAUL: What am I supposed to do?
LAURA: Just write. It’s what you’ve always done best. Think about what’s really important to you, and write about that.
Laura starts to exit out the front door.
PAUL: Laura, wait! I…
LAURA: No! You don’t get the last word. “Laura”, what…? “I’m sorry”? You don’t get to say that now.
PAUL: No, Laura. I…
LAURA: “I love you”. Is that what you were going to say? And I’m supposed to just throw myself back into your arms.
LAURA: No? Then what? I had a really good exit going. What do you have to say now that’s so important?
Paul grabs Laura and kisses her, too sudden for her to respond.
PAUL: “Laura”. That’s a really nice name.
LAURA: Dammi la forza! (“give me strength”) You really are the most confusing man I ever met.
PAUL: I know.
LAURA: Goodbye, Paul.
Laura exits. Paul stares at the space she left behind for a long moment, as if this may be the last time he ever sees her…
PAUL: Goodbye, Laura.
Paul looks around the now quiet apartment. Alone. He finds his old typewriter in a corner, wheels it out, and sits behind it. He inserts some paper and methodically types a line. He stops, hits the carriage return, then types out one more line. He stares at the paper in the typewriter.
Paul chuckles lightly, to himself. He types a few more words, then laughs outright. Then he tilts his head back and has a good, long laugh.
The laugh changes to a cough. Now Paul is sobbing, doubled over, gulping in lungfuls of air and just bawling his heart out. This goes on for an uncomfortably long time. The howling turns to sobbing turns to weeping. Then he laughs again, wiping a tear from his eye.
Paul turns back to the typewriter again in earnest and begins writing, line after line after line. As the lights slowly fade, he continues to type, the friendly “ding” of the carriage return marking his progress.
END OF ACT II
Act III: The Ground Floor
The same space, ten years later. The downstairs has now been converted back to an apartment. Scattered furniture is present, but the place is not lived in yet. The front door is open and a new couple is moving in. As expected, there are moving boxes.
Enter TERRY GLAUDÉ through the front door, a strong woman in her mid to later 20s, dressed in the kind of worn our clothes one would wear when moving boxes. She carries in a large load and, with a grunt, sets it down and heads back out for another.
Right after her comes ROBIN MOONEY, a prim woman in her mid-20s, talking on her modern cell phone. Robin is prone to wearing sweaters in August. She is a USC graduate student excited about moving into her first real apartment.
Robin: Yes mommy, you should see the place. Silver Lake, I told you. It’s a very nice neighborhood. There’s a community center right up the street and every morning I can go for a run around the reservoir. School is less than an hour away by bus, and on most days I can get there even faster on my bike.
As Robin talks on the phone, Terry continues to bring in loads, shooting her roommate sidelong looks.
ROBIN: Terry found the apartment. Yes, we’re still “friends”. She’s a manager at Gelson’s now. You know, the big grocery store not far from here. No, it works out great. She’s always bringing me lots of produce.
As Terry brings in another load and glares at her roommate, Robin points to where it should go, oblivious to the fact that Terry is doing all the work.
ROBIN: It’s going to be a good year. Just ten more credits and then my thesis. No, that would be difficult, but maybe we could have Thanksgiving at my new place this year! (pause) Are you sure? But you just said…
Terry drops her load into the middle of the floor, and flops down into an easy chair. Robin hastens to finish her phone call.
ROBIN: Mommy, I should go. Yes, well, just think about. Ok. Uh-huh. Ok. Ok. Oooookayyyy… Ok. Ok. Ok. Bye… Ok. Bye. Ok. Ok. Bye.
Robin finally gets off the phone with her mother and turns to see Terry sprawled out in the chair.
ROBIN: Are we stopping?
TERRY: Just for a moment. You keep going if you’ve got the energy.
ROBIN: We have the truck only for the day.
TERRY: I know.
Robin considers responding, then thinks better of it and exits out the front door, returning a moment later with a tiny box.
TERRY: Is there any beer in the fridge?
ROBIN: No, sweetie. We just brought the refrigerator in a little while ago. It’s empty.
TERRY: It didn’t feel empty when I moved it.
ROBIN: Maybe we can take a few minutes.
Robin attempts to rest. The two women are silent for a moment.
TERRY: How’s your mother?
ROBIN: Oh, very well, thank you. She’s excited about my new apartment.
TERRY: Our new apartment.
ROBIN: Yes, of course. I just meant … well, you’ve had an apartment before. I’ve lived mostly in student housing. So Mommy’s excited that I’m finally going out on my own and getting an apartment.
TERRY: “Going out on your own” … with me.
ROBIN: Of course.
TERRY: Does your mother know that we’re moving into this place together?
ROBIN: Yes, of course she knows.
Terry pulls Robin down into her lap. Robin squeals with joy but also pulls away a little.
TERRY: Does she know we make kissy shmooshy faces together?
ROBIN: (a little tense) She tries not to think about that. We have an understanding. I don’t parade my love life in front of her and she pretends that I don’t have one.
ROBIN: That’s her word.
TERRY: So, don’t ask, don’t tell?
ROBIN: Something like that.
TERRY: And when she comes over here, am I supposed to hide in the closet? Oh wait, you’ll already be in there.
ROBIN: Terry, I’m here, okay. Yes, you’ve had to hold my hand through this whole journey, but please don’t let go now.
TERRY: I guess I just want to know that you’re not ashamed of me. Of either of us.
ROBIN: I’m not ashamed of anything, I don’t think. I’m just a little nervous.
They embrace, for just a moment, then Robin jumps up.
ROBIN: But look at this place! I love the arched doorways and the curved windows. What do you call this style?
TERRY: A combination of Art Deco and Modernist, with a strong Richard Neutra influence. That’s why I like the neighborhood.
ROBIN: Are these the kind of buildings that you want to design?
TERRY: Wouldn’t it be great if this style came back?
ROBIN: You should make it come back. I believe in you.
TERRY: I heard that this used to be a house but the woman who owns it had the downstairs turned into an apartment and that she still lives upstairs.
ROBIN: The owner lives upstairs? Have you met her?
TERRY: Nah, I worked with the property manager. This building has been around since the nineteen thirties so the owner must be pretty old.
ROBIN: Do you think that she’ll mind if we hang things on the walls? Because I’d love to put some of my framed posters over there between the two windows. That’s such a big blank space and it could use some color.
TERRY: Framed posters?
ROBIN: Yes, you know the ones.
TERRY: From your dorm room?
ROBIN: It was graduate student housing.
TERRY: Your framed posters of Alanis Morissette and Jennifer Lopez?
ROBIN: You don’t think they’d look good there? Where do you think they should be?
TERRY: Left in your dorm room?
ROBIN: What do you mean? I spent a lot of money to get those nicely framed.
TERRY: I think my little brother had those same posters ten years ago. Couldn’t you at least get some nice queer singers like Brandi Carlile or Brandy Clark? One of the Brandies?
ROBIN: You don’t like my taste in music?
TERRY: I can live with your music, but framed posters are a little…
ROBIN: A little what?
TERRY: I don’t know … collegey.
ROBIN: I’m in college!
TERRY: I know. But now we’re moving into an apartment, I thought we’d get some nicer things.
ROBIN: Like your architectural posters? Is that what you want to hang there?
TERRY: They’re lithographs. And maybe, yeah.
ROBIN: I don’t believe this. We haven’t even moved all of our stuff in and already we can’t agree about where things should go!
TERRY: You’re right, Robin. I’m sorry. I keep reminding you that this is our place, then I try to take over the design. It’s the builder in me.
ROBIN: That’s alright, I do understand. And I do trust your sense of design. Your posters — I mean, lithographs — would look good there.
TERRY: And I’m sure we could find a suitable place for your 1995 pop star posters. Maybe in the bathroom.
ROBIN: The bathroom!
TERRY: Sure, I wouldn’t mind seeing J. Lo when I come out of the shower.
ROBIN: Now you’re just making fun of me!
TERRY: I don’t mean to.
ROBIN: You may be a fine architectural engineer, but you have no sense of personal style. Look at how you’re dressed.
TERRY: These are my moving clothes. We’re moving furniture.
ROBIN: You wore the same outfit on our fourth date.
TERRY: You remember what I wore on our fourth date?
ROBIN: I’m just saying that you could use a little more color in your life. Although I’m sure your architectural engineer degree comes in very handy when you’re stacking vegetables at Gelson’s.
TERRY: Where did that come from?
ROBIN: I’m so sorry. I don’t know why I’m being like this. I think I’m just a little hyper right now. I know you’re working at the store to make money so we can live. And I know that you’re going to carry on and be a great architect some day.
TERRY: And I’m happy to support you while you finish up grad school. I know that when you graduate, you’ll be a great … whatever it is that sociology majors do.
ROBIN: You know what we should do right now? Let’s find the box with the glasses and have a toast.
TERRY: I don’t think we packed any champagne.
ROBIN: You always have something around to drink.
Robin opens a box and pulls out a cute toaster.
ROBIN: This must be a kitchen box. I found the toaster.
TERRY: Maybe we could use that for our toast!
Robin gives her roommate an “I am not amused” look, but she is a little.
TERRY: Right, I’ll keep looking.
Terry finds a small box by the front door, the same spot where Laura first entered some thirty years before. She opens the box and pulls out some bound papers.
TERRY: Robin, do you recognize this? This doesn’t look like our box.
ROBIN: Let me see. These look like … scripts! A movie or a play or something. Where did this box come from?
TERRY: I don’t know. It was here by the door.
ROBIN: How strange. It’s funny, you know. This place has been here, how long did you say? Since the nineteen thirties? How many people have moved in like we are today, or moved out years later? How many people lived here, grew up here, even died here? How many ghosts haunt this spot?
TERRY: I don’t know about ghosts, but that’s one of the reasons I like older buildings. I like finding all the marks that people have made over the years.
ROBIN: You don’t believe in ghosts?
TERRY: I believe in structures. Maybe I have an edifice complex.
ROBIN: What about the afterlife? Where do you think our souls go?
TERRY: We’ve talked about this. You know I’m not really comfortable with all that stuff.
TERRY: Your church stuff.
ROBIN: I know you don’t go to church regularly, but you’ve gone to Mass with me.
TERRY: That’s when we were dating. I wanted to impress you.
ROBIN: What else have you not told me?
TERRY: Why are we talking about this right now?
ROBIN: Why didn’t we talk about this before?
TERRY: Ok, sit down. (Terry maneuvers Robin into the easy chair) We’ll talk now. What’s going on?
ROBIN: What do you mean?
TERRY: I mean you’ve been acting a little weird since you got off the phone with your mother. Did she get into your head?
TERRY: So are you having second thoughts about moving in together? Because I can start packing up again right now.
ROBIN: What? No, don’t do that. I’m just a little wobbly.
TERRY: Huh, that does sound like your mother.
ROBIN: Let’s talk about something nice.
TERRY: Ice cream?
ROBIN: Yes! Once we’re all moved in, let’s get some ice cream.
TERRY: I saw a bistro down the street. Maybe they have some.
ROBIN: You must think me very ordinary.
TERRY: Honey, you are far from ordinary. I’ve never met anyone like you.
ROBIN: I feel the same way about you!
TERRY: So what do you want to talk about?
ROBIN: I just want to be sure that we’re doing the right thing. This is a really big step. I don’t even remember exactly how it happened.
TERRY: What do you mean?
ROBIN: I mean, I was deciding whether to renew my student housing, you said something about your place being too small, and suddenly we’re moving in together. When did we decide that?
TERRY: I asked you and you said yes.
ROBIN: I don’t remember that.
TERRY: We might have had a little bit to drink.
ROBIN: What else did I say?
TERRY: That you always wanted to get a cat.
ROBIN: I remember now! Can we get a cat?
TERRY: I already said yes.
ROBIN: (gasping) Oh my…
ROBIN: You want to get a cat!
ROBIN: That’s a really big step.
ROBIN: I mean, one of has to come home and feed the cat every day. If we go on any trips, we have to arrange for someone to take care of the cat. Oh, what if we break up?
TERRY: We’re breaking up already?
ROBIN: Who’ll get the cat?
TERRY: You can have the cat.
ROBIN: You don’t want our cat?
TERRY: We’re not breaking up.
ROBIN: You mean that?
TERRY: We haven’t even moved in yet.
ROBIN: Thank you.
TERRY: You’re welcome.
ROBIN: If we have kids some day, can they be baptized?
TERRY: Whoa, what?
ROBIN: It’s important to me
TERRY: How did we go from cats to kids?
ROBIN: Don’t you want children?
TERRY: Maybe. Someday. I don’t know. We’re moving in together, not getting married.
ROBIN: Oh. (a hurt pause) I see.
TERRY: I just mean … let’s take it one step at a time. Let’s start with the cat and see where that goes.
ROBIN: You don’t like my art, you don’t like my music, you don’t believe in the afterlife.
TERRY: This again.
ROBIN: What happens if we stay together? Do we just live our lives, have a cat, maybe have children, and then we die?
TERRY: I think that’s how that works, yeah.
ROBIN: But don’t you ever wonder about where we go when we die?
TERRY: No more than I think about where children come from before they’re born.
ROBIN: We’re so different.
TERRY: I mean, if we were both the same, it’d be boring.
Terry embraces Robin tenderly. Robin is unsettled.
ROBIN: I don’t know if I can do this, Terry.
Terry steps away, disappointed.
TERRY: All right.
Terry starts picking things up and packing them into boxes.
ROBIN: What are you doing?
TERRY: I guess we’re not moving in together, so I better start packing things up.
ROBIN: Don’t be like that.
TERRY: How am I supposed to be? You just said that you can’t do this.
ROBIN: I think we should talk about it.
TERRY: I thought we just did.
ROBIN: I’ve never seen this side of you before.
TERRY: This is who I am. I just make up my mind and then I do something about it. What do you want to do?
ROBIN: I don’t know. Not this. Things are just moving too fast for me.
Terry resumes packing. Robin is frozen like a deer until there is a knock at the door. They both turn to look. Robin is grateful for the interruption and goes to answer it. It is LAURA: , now in her fifties and still wearing sweaters in August.
Hi, I saw you moving in and thought I’d come down to say hello.
ROBIN: Oh hi, I’m Robin. Yes, we were just (recovering) moving in.
LAURA: I’m Laura. Do you have everything you need? Do you need help with anything?
ROBIN: I think we’re doing okay.
Robin turns to Terry, who is vigorously shaking her head no, do not invite this woman in. Robin turns back to Laura.
ROBIN: Would you like to come in?
Laura enters, carrying a basket.
LAURA: I brought a little basket of goodies. Cheeses, pretzels, that sort of thing. In case you need a snack.
ROBIN: That’s so sweet of you. Do you live nearby?
LAURA: I live upstairs. This is my building.
ROBIN: Oh, you’re the old … I mean, you’re the landlord. I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize.
LAURA: Well, I prefer to do all the business work through the property management office. But once my tenants move in, I like to meet you personally.
Laura notices Terry.
ROBIN: Oh, excuse me. This is my partner, Terry.
TERRY: Hi, how ya’ doin’?
LAURA: I’m well, thank you. So you two are roommates. I didn’t realize. I mean, they told me a couple, and…
Terry quietly glides over to Robin and puts her arm around her. Laura gets it.
LAURA: Oh, I see.
ROBIN: (changing the subject) So, Terry tells me that this used to be a house back in the nineteen thirties. Have you always lived here?
LAURA: How old do you think…? No, don’t answer that. Actually, the first time I saw the place, it was just this apartment. I moved in here with my husband and we later bought the whole building and turned it back into a house. This is where we raised our daughter. Then a few years ago, I moved back in upstairs and decided to make this an apartment again. I like having young people down here.
ROBIN: Moved back in?
LAURA: It’s a long story. Some other time. So which bedroom are you moving into?
ROBIN: That will be our bedroom, and that other one will be Terry’s office. Her big drafting table will go in there.
LAURA: I see. My husband used that as his office when he first lived here, too. It had a nice view of the park before they put that big house up next door.
ROBIN: What does your husband do now?
LAURA: He … passed away a few years ago. He was a writer.
ROBIN: I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.
LAURA: It’s ok. That’s all part of the long story I alluded to earlier.
Laura notices that Terry has avoided saying much, so she tries to break the ice.
LAURA: Drafting table? Are you an illustrator?
TERRY: I work at Gelson’s.
ROBIN: Terry’s going to be a famous architectural engineer someday and build houses as beautiful as this one.
LAURA: (insincerely) Oh. Good. More houses. (to Robin: ) And you?
ROBIN: I’m in graduate school at USC.
LAURA: You’re in school, that’s nice. My daughter graduated UCLA a couple of years ago. She’s probably just a few years older than you.
Laura senses the tension in the air and searches for a way to break it. In each other, Robin and Laura start to recognize kindred spirits.
LAURA: (to Robin) Nice sweater.
TERRY: We appreciate the basket of goodies and all, but this is kind of a bad time.
LAURA: I should go then. I didn’t mean to intrude.
Robin isn’t ready to go back to the conversation that she and Terry were having before Laura showed up.
ROBIN: No, wait, please stay. I’d like to learn more about this place. How long have you been here? What is it like to live here?
TERRY: Robin: …
ROBIN: (to Terry) No, let’s not be rude. (to Laura) Tell me about your husband. What did he write?
LAURA: He wrote for the movies.
ROBIN: How exciting! Anything I might have seen?
LAURA: He wrote some of the greatest films that you will never see.
ROBIN: What’s that?
LAURA: Nothing. It was one of his old jokes.
ROBIN: Wait, I found something. A box of scripts here.
Robin retrieves the box that Terry had found earlier.
ROBIN: Could this be his? Are these some of your husband’s scripts?
LAURA: I don’t see how they could be. Paul passed away years ago. The previous tenants must have left these behind.
Laura pulls a script out of the box.
LAURA: Santo cielo! (“good heavens”) This is Paul’s. But when did he write this?
TERRY: That’s it, I’m outta here.
ROBIN: Terry, what are you doing?
TERRY: What are you doing? Are we moving in here or not?
ROBIN: I just need a little more time.
TERRY: Fine, but I’m hungry and thirsty. I’m going to that little bistro down the street.
ROBIN: What bistro?
LAURA: Oh, “Miso Crafty”, the ramen and knitting shop.
TERRY: Ramen and knitting?
LAURA: “Noodles and needles”. It’s a thing, apparently. They have some really wonderful soups and just terrible coffee.
TERRY: Sounds perfect. (to Robin: ) You decide where your head is at and let me know. I’m going to get some ramen and (looking at Laura and Robin) maybe crochet myself a sweater.
Terry exits. Robin looks after her, then turns and throws her arms around Laura in a big hug.
LAURA: (startled) Oh, we’re doing this now.
ROBIN: (holding back tears) I’m sorry, you don’t even know me. But Terry and I were having a big fight just before you showed up. I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t burden you with this, but you remind me of my mother.
LAURA: Seriously, how old do you think I … oh, wait a minute, I am old enough to be your mother. Never mind. Why don’t you tell me what happened?
ROBIN: Everything is just moving so quickly. I wasn’t even sure that I liked just girls until I met Terry. But she’s so smart and sexy, and so determined. She swept me off my feet, you know?
LAURA: I’ll be honest, I’m a little out of my depth here with the whole girlfriend thing, but I do know a little of what it’s like to be swept off your feet.
ROBIN: Your husband?
LAURA: I wouldn’t have guessed it when I first met him, but we had something together. A year after we met, we got married. Another year later, we had a baby.
ROBIN: One year? Really? Terry and I have been going out over a year and she asked me to move in with her just a month ago.
LAURA: When it’s right, it’s right.
ROBIN: But how do you know it’s right?
LAURA: I’m probably not the person to ask. As it turns out, I’m terrible at relationships.
ROBIN: Oh. I guess I thought, since you were talking about your husband…
LAURA: When I first met Paul, he had a theory that people get married once they get tired of looking.
ROBIN: That doesn’t sound very romantic.
LAURA: It doesn’t. But he was actually more romantic than I realized. That was one of our problems.
ROBIN: Problems? Were you still married when he…?
LAURA: When he died? We had separated for a while, then before we could figure out our next step, he passed.
ROBIN: Do you mind…? May I ask how he died?
LAURA: It was his heart. He would have found that very amusing. It was the organ he respected the least, yet it was the one that killed him.
ROBIN: I’m so sorry.
LAURA: So there you have the rest of my story. My daughter went off to college, I moved back into the upstairs and rented out the downstairs apartment. If you decide to stay, someday I’ll tell you about the twin house across the courtyard.
ROBIN: What should I do?
LAURA: Do you love her?
ROBIN: Yes, but we’re so different. I didn’t even realize until today. Do you believe in ghosts?
LAURA: I’ve never seen a ghost, but sometimes I think this place is haunted. I believe these four walls test us.
ROBIN: Do you go to church?
LAURA: St. Francis, just a few miles from here.
ROBIN: You’re Catholic? I knew you were like my mother!
LAURA: Can we move past the whole “mother” thing?
ROBIN: Terry doesn’t believe in any of the things I do. She doesn’t even want to go to church with me anymore. She basically lied while we were dating.
LAURA: Is that all?
ROBIN: No, it’s not all. It’s lots of things.
LAURA: You’re scared. (Robin nods in agreement) You should be. Love is scary.
ROBIN: It is, isn’t it?
LAURA: It’s terrifying! And do you think Terry feels any different?
ROBIN: I don’t know. I’m not sure I know her at all.
LAURA: I was married to my husband for twenty years, we raised a daughter together, and in many ways he was still like a stranger to me when he died. I think Samantha probably understood him better than I ever could. Those two were too much alike.
ROBIN: You think Terry is just as scared as I am?
LAURA: If she loves you, then yes.
ROBIN: How can I tell?
LAURA: When she walks into the room, do you still light up?
ROBIN: Yes, I do.
LAURA: Does she call you in the middle of the day just to talk to you?
ROBIN: She sends me texts.
LAURA: Sure, that counts. Does she bring you flowers?
ROBIN: She’s not really the flowers type. But she brings me fresh produce.
LAURA: That sounds like love to me.
ROBIN: But how do you know if someone is “the one”?
LAURA: You remember that I’m terrible at this, right?
ROBIN: (smiling) I’ll take my chances.
LAURA: My husband had a theory about that, too. You don’t find “the one”, you choose her.
ROBIN: Choose her?
LAURA: Mm-hmm. You say to her, “I choose you”, and if she chooses you back, then by god, you make it work.
ROBIN: That sounds too simple.
LAURA: It’s not simple. Relationships are hard work. At the beginning, you wake up every morning and think “do I want to be with this person today?”. But one day you wake up and realize “how could I not be with this person today!”, and that’s when you know.
ROBIN: When did that happen for you and your husband?
LAURA: It happened too late for us. I got scared and confused. I convinced myself that he didn’t want to be with me. And I ran away.
ROBIN: I’m so sorry. My parents got divorced, too. I don’t have a really good model of how people make things work.
LAURA: Try this. Close your eyes and picture the thing that is most important to you right now.
Robin closes her eyes.
ROBIN: Most important?
LAURA: What do you want most in the world right now?
ROBIN: Ice cream.
LAURA: Sure. And with whom do you most want to share that ice cream?
ROBIN: (after a moment) Oh, it’s Terry!
LAURA: There you go. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama, but sometimes you just need to ask yourself: how much do I want to share with that person whom is most important to me?
ROBIN: I want to share everything with her! Thank you, mommy. I mean, Laura. I’m going to call her right now!
LAURA: Don’t call. Go to her. The bistro is just down the street.
ROBIN: Oh, right, she’s just down the street. I’m going there right now and I’m telling her to move in with me!
LAURA: That a girl! How do you feel?
ROBIN: I’m scared shitless!
ROBIN: But wait, I don’t have the keys. I can’t lock up.
LAURA: Just go. I’ll take care of it.
ROBIN: Are you sure?
LAURA: Believe it or not, this won’t be the first time this has happened to me.
ROBIN: Thank you, Laura. I’m going to love living here. We both will.
LAURA: (awkwardly) Go get her, girlfriend!
ROBIN: You’re actually pretty good at this relationship stuff.
LAURA: I’m figuring it out.
Robin dashes out the front door, closing it behind her. Once again, Laura is left alone in the empty apartment. She takes off her sweater and sets it down, then looks around curiously. She spots the script that Robin showed her and starts to read it. She scans through the first few pages and pauses in recognition.
LAURA: (reading the script out loud) “You’re not a large German man.”
Laura reads several pages, then skips to the last page. She reads the ending, then stifles a gasp.
LAURA: Oh, Paul. You stupid, wonderful man.
Laura is moved. There is a knock at the door. Laura answers the door. It is Paul from the end of Act I, still 29 years old.
PAUL: Hi. My name is Paul. I see you’re new to the neighborhood so I thought I’d stop by and welcome you. Would you like to go down to the bodega and get some terrible coffee?
LAURA: Sure. Let me just get my sweater.
Laura retrieves her sweater, then exits out the front door with Paul.