Sympathy

This a play I'm building, and I've got a solid plot. I know what I want from each scene, but some of the details are still being worked out.

SCENE 1: AS IT IS

 

Setting: Jocelyn’s apartment, early evening; the apartment has two rooms and a bathroom, all barely furnished. JOCELYN enters SL to a ringing phone; she carries two briefcases and a full garbage bag. As she juggles the items into one arm, the phone ceases to ring.

 

JP: (slumping against the wall) It’s Wednesday! Lucy knows not to keep me late on Wednesdays. There’s only one day a week that I hear from Tanner; he won’t even get a chance to call back. Especially with that chump Johnson on duty. Tanner is not on death row, Mr. Guardsman. You hover over him like he’s ready to attack the phone cord. He is not conspiring against the country with his girlfriend, Johnson. Boy, if Tanner would let me on the phone with that moron... (realizes she is talking to herself) Geez, Jocelyn. If you’re losing it after the first month, what will the next thirteen do to you?

Phone rings

JP: Oh! (stumbling to answer: into receiver) Hello? (with relief) Oh, Tanner! How are you, baby?... Yeah, Lucy had me cataloguing court dates way late... I told her it was Wednesday! Honestly, for a private firm she thinks there’s so much to do... No, she’s probably just exploiting me as an intern... Two more years, baby, that’s all. Then I can be a partner at that firm... Yeah, you’ll still be in school. Hey, do you think that magazine will hire you back once you get out?... They never had a photographer as good as you... They’re only catering to Manhattan. They don’t exactly have a reputation to uphold... Well, you won’t need a job right away once I start on salary... Baby, it’s okay... I miss you, too. Just think, only a little over a year and you’ll be home... (laughing) Like that could ever happen... Come on, Tanner. I’m not going to leave-... You know how much I love you. I could never think of anyone else... See, now?... Yes, baby. As soon as you get back... Oh, tell that ol’ Johnson I’ll shove that phone where the sun don’t shine... Alright, I’ll talk to you next week... I love you too, baby. Mm-hm. Bye now. (hangs up) Mmmm. (sliding down the wall) That’s all I need to have a good day.

Buzz sounds

VB: Jocelyn! Buzz me in, girl!

JP: (using umbrella to push intercom) Alright, Tabby. Don’t pull until it clicks.

VB: (pause) Jocelyn...

JP: Let go of the handle... Now, I’ll try again. (hears footsteps climbing stairs and drops umbrella)

TABBY enters SL

TP: (walking past JP) Jocelyn, there’s some guy sitting on the bottom of the stairs...(looking around) Jocelyn? In the bathroom?

JP: Down here (TP turns) Help me up, will you?

TP: (pulling up JP) If you’d learn to consolidate you wouldn’t have this problem... And the garbage bag is for...

JP: Lucy’s laundry. She gives me cash to take it to the coin wash for her. Ten bucks a load, twice a week.

TP: Man, that woman really wants to bend you over backward. Do you ever get time to study?

JP: Morgan makes sure I have time for my classes. They may be partners, but he started the firm. She used to be his paralegal, but he made her go back to school.

TP: For a lawyer he doesn’t pull in a lot of dough.

JP: When your clientele is limited to single-parent families and Medicare patients, you can’t expect to make out well.

TP: Atticus Finch did.

JP: And maybe for his time and location, he could. This is New York, Tabby. The legal population threatens to surpass that of the pigeons. Now, who’s at the bottom of the stairs?

TP: Oh, just some guy in a raincoat listening to his iPod. I thought he looked interesting.

JP: Don’t get any ideas, Tabby.

TP: So what if I want to find out what he’s like?

JP: The only thing you want to know about him can’t be learned in public.

TP: At least I get out. The only people you hang out with are me and Tanner, who is currently unavailable. Aren’t there, like, fifty thousand people at Columbia?

JP: It isn’t like I ever made friends with any of them. Once I met Tanner, I didn’t need anyone else.

TP: Whoa, Miss Solitary. You know, some of us like having you around. Like Mom, who hasn’t heard from you in weeks.

JP: She could call too. Anyways, why would I want to hear how her little golf cronies feel about her divorce? She’s living off Dad’s entire writing career.

TP: She’s still our mom. If you were nice to her, she might help you keep up the rent.

JP: I’m an interning law clerk with a full ride for graduate school. I can afford a two-room apartment.

TP: For another two years? Couldn’t you stay in a dorm next semester?

JP: And lose this place? Not a chance.

TP: You could come stay with me. My dorm has two beds and no roommate.

JP: And no privacy with my little sister who likes to sneak in her high school boy toys.

TP: True. (glances around room) Hey, you’ve got mail.

JP: What?

TP: Well, voice mail. Your phone is blinking.

JP: Oh! (stepping toward phone) Maybe Tanner left a message before he called back.

VM: (beep) Hey, I’m not sure this is the right number. My name is Greg, I’m Tanner’s brother. My mom finally told me where he’s living and that he has a roommate. I know he’s in prison, but I’d like to get in touch, if I could. I’m using a payphone, so I’ll try calling back later tonight. Just let me know if he wants me out of his life, okay? Thanks.(beep)

Long pause

TP: Oh my god. Did you even know he had a brother?

JP: Yeah, but Tanner hasn’t talked to him or his mom in years. We thought he’d walked away from Tanner too.

TP: Man. Family reunion, And Tanner isn’t even here for it.

JP: Did he call me Tanner’s roommate?

Fade out

 

SCENE 2: ABSENCE SEIZURE

 

Setting: Apartment still up. A blue spot shines on a bench set DSR. TANNER sits on the floor, his head against the bench, with both arms stretched across it.

 

TW: “Once a month, and better it be when the moon is full, ye shall gather in some secret place... and to show that ye really be free, ye shall be naked in all your rights, and ye shall dance and sing and make love, all in my praise.” (laughing) I remember when my brother caught me reading that. He didn’t believe me when I said it was my religion. “What religion tells you to dance around naked?” When he grabbed the book and saw the word ‘Witchcraft’, he yelled to Mom screaming, “Tanner’s got the devil in him!” Yeah, things are funny when they can’t touch you anymore... I wonder what he thinks of me. Neither he nor my mom has talked to me in years. ’Course, Mom likes to lie to us about how bad people are. Greg probably thinks I’m locked up for murder or something. She couldn’t say nothing about Jocelyn, though. Mm, my girl. A twenty-two year old undergraduate law student practically running a firm who somehow loves the starving artist that is me. My mom ain’t got nothing to say about that. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t call anymore-nothing to complain about. What was that thing Jocelyn used to say? “If she ain’t dead, she oughta be.” Na, she can live. I can’t afford to be bitter. Karma sure don’t like me. I’ve gotta work to keep things even, if not tipped in my favor for a while. So far that teeter-totter’s got some feather on the other end. I’m just waiting for some lucky boulder to send me flying off to a lucky cloud. Jocelyn says I have to play dirty if I want my life to turn around. As if nobody got anything without stepping on people’s toes. “But it’s New York,” Jocelyn says. The Big Apple’s got room for improvement, I’ll admit. At least there’s some kindness floating around. I’ve seen it, even in here. I’ve got to stick true to my beliefs, and at least Jocelyn believes in that, too. I’ve seen that girl claim twenty religions on separate occasions, no joke. But she devotes all of herself to it at the time and never really lets go of the highest ideals. We both believe in believing. Maybe that’s what hope is; maybe you can’t have faith unless it means more to have it that to show it. What do you think, man? (pauses, turning OSR) Sorry, man. Bored you stiff, I did. G’night. (looking up) Good night, Jocelyn.

Fade out

The End

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