A Noble Disaster: A Play in One Act by Nicholas Sauer

A Noble Disaster: A Play in One Act by Nicholas Sauer

Drama, Vol. 8.3, Sept. 2014

Cast of Characters

ERIC DELUCA, high school teacher by profession, is in his mid-to-late twenties. Ideally, he should be on the lanky side; his pale skin contrasts with his dark hair. His clothes are neat but casual, perhaps a button-down, checkered shirt (untucked) and jeans. His shoes might be a pair of bright Converse; if so, the brand is probably his only concession to “capitalist excess.” He may wear an old windbreaker that acts as a kind of security blanket. ERIC is of a mellow and philosophic disposition. Self-deprecation is his defense mechanism.

SARAH ZIMBALIST, medical student in her final semester, is also in her mid-to-late twenties. She is bespectacled (the glasses are a part of her identity), her wardrobe hip and fashionable. She is physically much shorter than ERIC and full of coiled energy. SARAH dresses and lives with intelligence and daring. For her, impatience is a virtue.

SARAH’S MOTHER, an articulate and youthful psychotherapist, is in her late middle age. In her scene with SARAH, she might be wearing a chic outfit similar to her daughter’s (or maybe she goes super-casual, sporting the hoodie and sweatpants of her prestigious alma mater). Of course, the production does not have to go with either of the above suggestions. Whatever the MOTHER wears, she wears it with grace (it also doesn’t hurt that she is well-aware that she’s a beautiful woman). More description of SARAH’S MOTHER can be found at the beginning of Scene III in the play.

A SERVER at a café.

Two LOVERS who can’t keep their hands off of each other.

Two PROTESTORS, one holding a sign and a megaphone, the other armed with a clipboard; neither is in possession of a pen.

SCENE I

At a cafe. In a city that is not New York. Throughout the play, there are a few references suggesting that the setting is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; these may be altered if wished. ERIC DELUCA and SARAH ZIMBALIST enter from opposite ends of the stage, meet at center stage. ERIC and SARAH are friends, the kind of friends who have opted to observe one another over the years rather than to engage too deeply. They greet each other cordially and speak in the tone of pleasant small talk. Here at the beginning of Scene I, the audience is hearing ERIC and SARAH verbalize the subtext of their niceties, as if the two characters are translating themselves for each other. The starker their admissions about themselves, the cheerier the tone.

ERIC: Hi, I’m an ineffectual dreamer. It’s so good to see you Sarah! Wow!

SARAH: Hey, Eric! Yeah, I’m highly ambitious. And I don’t trust anyone.
(The two hug and seat themselves at a nearby table. They quickly order from a SERVER in pantomime.)

ERIC: Neither do I.

SARAH: We’ve always had so much in common, haven’t we?
(Tongue in cheek)

ERIC: I know, right?

SARAH: Look. I’m really smart. Like girl-of-destiny smart. Like, fuck…

ERIC: Gotcha.

SARAH: And I’m afraid people don’t see it.

ERIC: I can tell.

(The food arrives)

SARAH: Sure, you can.

ERIC: What’s that supposed to mean?

(Interrupting himself)

Want to try some of my cilantro-garnished guacamole?

(With this first self-interruption and the ones that follow soon after, the tone of pleasant small talk—ERIC and SARAH’s facade of diplomacy—begins to evaporate. It is gradually replaced by a tone of great frankness, as ERIC and SARAH start to reveal their personal vulnerabilities and their fascination with one another.)

SARAH: (Answering ERIC’s second question brightly)

Definitely.

(In response to the first)

It means you do know something about fear. My God, you still live with your parents.

ERIC: It’s the economy.

SARAH: Your economy-sized…will.

ERIC: I thought you were going to say something else.

SARAH: See, you think the worst of me.

ERIC: I don’t know what I think of you.

SARAH: (Breaking from the back-and-forth banter)

This organic chili is fantastic.

ERIC: It looks fantastic.

(Returning to their verbal sparring)

Except that you admitted you’re afraid.

SARAH: That’s why I party so much. I want to feel shit. Do things. It’s why I’ll be a doctor in two months.

ERIC: Fighting against humanity’s planned obsolescence.

SARAH: Better than wallowing in eternal adolescence.

ERIC: Yep. Like me.

SARAH: We can’t lie to each other.

ERIC: But it doesn’t mean I have to believe you.

SARAH: Believe what you want.

ERIC: I will, thank you. It’s my personal philosophy.

SARAH: In ten years…

ERIC: You’ll be a great professor of psychiatry at NYU.

SARAH: Ah-hem. Johns Hopkins. And you’ll be…

ERIC: Still teaching high-schoolers who like to call each other “fag” and throw pencils into the air to see if they’ll stick in the ceiling. Maybe one of them will leave a condom hanging on the door knob for me one morning…

SARAH: You said it, not me.

ERIC: Remember when Ron Pinski ran across the gym at assembly in a homemade penis suit?

SARAH: Scarred for life.

ERIC: But, really, I’d be happy…

SARAH: Ha!

ERIC: …whether I was a high school teacher or a PhD in comparative history.

SARAH: What are you, like a Zen master?

ERIC: No… Just lazy and I think too much.

SARAH: You can never trust someone who thinks too much. I should know. I’m the shady med
student. This side salad needs a sprinkle of Percocet, don’t you think?

ERIC: Got anything stronger? And you know we could always be shady together.

SARAH: Ah, yes, the combined forces of our shadiness would be unstoppable.

ERIC: I’ll trade you Youngstown for Brighton Beach.

SARAH: Black-market caviar for knock-off Rolexes.

ERIC: In bulk? Consider it done.

SARAH: We could play each other in the movies. The Godfather.

ERIC: Once Upon a Time in America.

SARAH: You could pass.

ERIC: Why, thank you. As could you.

SARAH: We’re fellow travelers, Cylons, rootless cosmopolitans.

ERIC: We can’t be trusted. If you provide the brains and beauty, I’ll provide the brawn.

(He makes a muscle with his scrawny biceps)

SARAH: Momma’s Boy.

ERIC: JAP.

SARAH: Speaking of momalas…

ERIC: A manicurist. A she-wolf. But in a good way, of course. Would Rome have been built if the brothers were nursed by a mere human?

SARAH: A therapist. What psychiatrists—at least this one (points to herself)—are calling batshit crazy. But also in the “good” way. Trained me well…mental gymnastics.

ERIC: They only want what’s best for us.

SARAH: Can you blame them, our Jewish—

ERIC: —and Calabrese mothers?

SARAH: Cala what?

ERIC: Oh, if Sarah Palin were from Calabria she’d say, “I can see Libya from my house.”

SARAH: No, I guess we can’t blame them.

(SARAH is lost in thought for a few moments)

ERIC: (Puts his palm up against SARAH’s palm)

Whoa… I’ve got Nosferatu fingers.

SARAH: Mine are little, stubby ones.

ERIC: Nosferatu. He was one of the first big vampires. From the silent films.

SARAH: (Intrigued) I see.

ERIC: An ugly one. No Twilight sparkles.

SARAH: I don’t mind ugly. And I don’t care for sparkles unless they’re being cast from champagne or diamonds.

(Both ERIC and SARAH chuckle)

ERIC: You’re courageous, you know. Taking on the collective mental health of New York City.

SARAH: Well, when you become a famous writer and the inevitable alcoholism and depression set in, you’ll know where to have your breakdown.

ERIC: If they don’t let me have you—as my doctor, that is—I’ll threaten to slash my throat with a spork. Only after I’ve had my raspberry apple sauce, of course.

SARAH: That’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

ERIC: So you’re the kind that goes weak-kneed for someone who says he’ll kill himself.

SARAH: Hell, yeah. The definition of romantic.

ERIC: Must remember. Being suicidal equals hot with two “t”s (bends down and scribbles). Ah, I can do math!

SARAH: (She quietly considers her counterpart as he writes on the napkin)

You look like a yeshiva boy.

ERIC: Um…translation, please?

SARAH: So bright and earnest.

ERIC: But not good enough.

SARAH: I didn’t say that.

ERIC: You know I’d convert for you.

SARAH: I don’t like your train of thought: suicide to conversion. And, anyway, you’re being cruel.

ERIC: No, just honest. I’d go all Ruth on you. Your people will be my people…all that jazz. I will go where you go…

SARAH: Restraining order, my Moabite.

ERIC: I’m being serious.

SARAH: You came here to say goodbye. You waited for years to actually talk in complete sentences to me. If all your life decisions hadn’t been so nobly disastrous until this point I’d say you were a gold digger, an opportunist.

ERIC: But you see that I’m worse…an idealist.

SARAH: Yes.

ERIC: And a fuck-up (quietly, wistfully). Unless they’re synonyms.

SARAH: But you’re gentle and kind. And I am not.

ERIC: Yeah, if you were, you’d be pretty damn boring.

SARAH: I’ll take that as a compliment.

ERIC: Naturally. It may be the most sincere one you’ll hear for a while.

SARAH: What?

ERIC: (Imitating well-wishers)

Oh, mazel. A doctor of psychiatry. Well, she always knew what she wanted, didn’t she? Our little conqueror. Yes, yes.

SARAH: Fuck you.

ERIC: But that’s what it will sound like. Can you deny it? Everyone coming out of the woodwork to take credit for nurturing your towering genius.

SARAH: Woodwork. You’ve had a good view of them then since that’s where you’ve been since high school. Gag me with a spoon.

ERIC: Here.

(He hands her his spoon; she takes it and not-quite slams it on the table)

SARAH: Smartass.

ERIC: But not as smart as you.

SARAH: You’re unbelievable. Yeshiva boy (quoting herself). I’m so naive.

ERIC: Well, I’m as horny as one at least.

SARAH: So many years sitting on the sofa at Christmas parties. Remember when I did this right in front of your face?

(She flings her hair over one lens of her glasses)

You’d just sit there, saying nothing. Oh, yeah, except when you made fun of me for forgetting the words to the Hanukkah blessing.

ERIC: I was a little tipsy. Evidently, so were you.

SARAH: Shut up.

ERIC: (Obliges her, his eyes lighting up mischievously as he “zippers” his lips)

“If you don’t say anything, you won’t be called on to repeat it.” Calvin Coolidge.

(Fumbles around, but subtly, popping a breath mint)

SARAH: Spake the history teacher. How’s the fellowship treating you? Any research grants?

ERIC: Damn.

(His magnificent disdain evaporates. There is real silence now.)

SARAH: God, I’m sorry.

(SARAH is surprised to find what wounds ERIC the most. She waves him to sit back down as he starts to rise from his chair; reluctantly, he does sit.)

I didn’t mean that.

ERIC: What did you mean, then?

SARAH: Look. I haven’t…frittered away the last decade of my life. Remember the “friends” who abandoned you because you chose to shun the bright lights? Huh? Well somehow, I’m still here.

(She leans in—tender or aggressive?—and puts her hand on his)

I’m still in your life. Do you understand that? Do you even see me? You’d be happy being a high school teacher or PhD, you said. I can respect that, even if I don’t—will never—understand you. But as for me, I wouldn’t be happy. You’ve got balls to say something like that to me in the first place. I’ve spent eight years in school. I’m $300,000 in debt. And I know things you can’t possibly imagine. Your fucking brain chemistry! And now I see that you lie through your teeth. Because you aren’t happy being a teacher at all. There’s a big difference between noble disaster and quiet desperation. I pegged you all wrong. You’re living the latter. You’re a coward! This man is a fucking coward, ladies and gentlemen!

ERIC: Frittered. So, that’s what I’ve been doing? Here I thought I was working with students no one else wanted to. Sacrificing my time and energy.

SARAH: Oh, so not a coward then? Something even more ridiculous: a martyr.

ERIC: A glutton for punishment.

SARAH: And, oh, you know what else infuriates me? You’d convert for me? What kind of line is that? Like you’re changing your socks.

ERIC: It wasn’t a line. It’s the truth.

SARAH: (Imitating ERIC)

“Oh, yeah, you’re leaving for New York City—the center of the world—and you’re scared shitless and deliriously happy all at once…and, yeah, I’ll convert for you. I’ll forsake my family and friends and everything I know, so I can spend the rest of my life with you.” Do you know what you sound like? How could you do something like this to me?

ERIC: I couldn’t be sure how you would respond.

SARAH: Well, I’m “responding” now, if you failed to notice. There are a lot of women who meet someone and then can’t bring themselves to go after whatever it was that they had planned for themselves.

ERIC: Are you one of those women?

(SARAH takes an overly large bite of food so she can’t answer. Her movements are over-exaggerated. She grimaces because the food is now cold and disgusting.)

SARAH: Listen.

ERIC: I won’t.

(He leans over and gives her a single kiss, passionately, on the lips.)

I think I know the answer already.

SARAH: A mind-reader!

(The sarcasm barely conceals her wooziness.)

What number am I thinking of? Between one and a billion.

ERIC: Stop it. This is what I don’t understand. I couldn’t possibly care less about the other jet-setters from our class. I remember you saying how this one’s a physicist, this one’s betrothed (“betrothed,” the word is almost vomited) to a graduate student at Harvard. Blah-blah-blah. Why do I care about you?

SARAH: You make me feel so special. I attract the attentions of a mediocrity. Glad to know I’m good enough for someone.

ERIC: Why?

SARAH: Could it be that I put up with you? Could it be that all the “successful” people in the world aren’t necessarily royal assholes? Could it be that I bust every one of your convenient excuses for not following your dreams? That I force you out of that head of yours? Could it be that maybe I… (hesitating) Let me put it to you this way: I’m really good at what I do. I’m wild and meticulous. Mercurial, even. In my experience, men like that. And by “like,” I mean “hate exquisitely.” But I’m not the evil mastermind you imagine me to be.

ERIC: I love you.

SARAH: I know.

ERIC: Such modesty.

SARAH: It turns you on.

(SARAH kisses ERIC once, putting her hands through his hair. Pause.)

ERIC: I have to go.

(He puts enough cash on the table to pay for both meals and the tip. SARAH frowns as she sifts the pile, realizes what ERIC’s done.)

SARAH: I won’t let you pay for me. You know that.

ERIC: Whatever.

SARAH: And instead of sulking, you could at least be happy for me.

ERIC: I wish you success in your new life and a tenure track position at one of the best medical schools in the world. Mount Sinai, or would that be slumming it?

SARAH: I’m sorry you never tried to be what you wanted to be in your life. Although, you’ve never convinced me of what that is, exactly.

ERIC: I don’t know, myself. I’m sorry for the cheap shot. I guess I just go around collecting sadness. What did Leonard Cohen sing once? “He wants to write a love song, a manual for living with defeat.” That’s it.

SARAH: Oh, please.

(If he hadn’t sounded so morose, she’d have rolled her eyes)

You still have your classroom of little bastards to keep you company.

ERIC: And bastards they are. Thanks (sincerely).

(ERIC gets up and moves for the door.)

SARAH: Wait. I’m supposed to leave you!

ERIC: (ERIC looks back, shrugging his shoulders)

That’s right. You have to parry me through the heart. Can’t let me resign of my own choice.

(He smiles. This is one of the things that he finds attractive about SARAH.)

SARAH: Although, we’re not a couple or anything, not technically speaking. Stop.

(She catches up with him)

“No man’s important enough to put aside your own goals for,” you know?

(She grabs his hand)

At least we could abandon each other…more slowly? Um, a protracted…excision?

ERIC: Of each other from our lives?

SARAH: Yes. It’s a medical term.

(She looks up at him)

ERIC: Sure. Like I could walk you to the next place you’re going? Up Fifth Avenue, I mean.

SARAH: Yeah.

(SARAH and ERIC exit the stage silently, uneasily, hand-in-hand)

(Fade-out)

SCENE II

ERIC is walking along a city street after parting with SARAH. His cell phone rings; it’s his parents. His tone is mostly sincere, familiar, even warm at times. He could be passing the baroque facade of a museum, a lonely statue, some kind of urban background, if desired. A park bench sits two-thirds of the way from stage right. ERIC’s voice must convey a slightly uncomfortable note, suggesting that he feels there is dwindling common ground between him and his parents. Yet, breaching decorum with his parents is something he tries to avoid at all costs.

ERIC: Ma, hi…
Yeah, I went to see a girl…
Dad told you? Uh-huh…
Friend from school…
Sarah Zimbalist…
You know, round head, glasses, smart, smallish…

(Beeping, rumble of a bus. City sounds, the ruffle of pigeons. Whatever is convenient for the production.)

Okay, I guess that does sound like every girl I knew growing up…
Maybe you never heard of her ’cause I was too busy being nervous around her. That could be it. You know how it takes me a decade or so to warm up to people…
Graduating med school… Pediatrician?

(laughs)

Head-shrinker…
Zimbalist, Mom. Her name’s Zimbalist…
A cimbalom. Like those dulcimers you like at the craft shows…
Yeah…you were saying how you always wanted to learn how to play one. Except it’s more Jewish…er, at least Romanian…
Hello… Dad? Well, um…
Equally-yoked? No, I’m not on that dating site…
Oh, you mean the actual scripture (flat). Dad! We’re not getting married or anything…

(Taking a seat on the park bench)

Not that I’d tell you? Mom, I try very hard to have a good relationship with you guys. I’m sorry I never brought any WASP girls home…
Yeah, that does sound like a movie, Dad. Attack of the WASP Girls. 1953. Staring Lee Van Cleef… Probably watched that one with you when I was ten…

(Two LOVERS slide onto the bench. They kiss, lightly touching and sweet-talking. Almost as if he’s being repelled by a magnet, ERIC slides to the far edge of the bench.)

But don’t forget, you two had me baptized as a Catholic once upon a time. No matter how many TV evangelists you watch, you’re not going to morph into White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Okay? Mom, you’ll never be an ice queen or a “Praise Jeee-zus!” hand-clapper. Do you want to be those things?
I mean, you still cross yourself and kneel when we go to that Presbyterian church!

(Serious, speaking with delicacy)

Look, remember when you asked me why people think Italians are greasy?
Well, we’re one step away from being gypsies as far as they can tell…

(The LOVERS’ giggling, smooching, and sweet talk finally becomes intolerable to ERIC. He gets up in a huff and walks a few steps away.)

The women in your Bible-study group probably think we kidnap blond babies and sell them on Craigslist…
I’m notmaking a joke.

(The LOVERS move on, excitedly exiting the stage. ERIC is still unnerved by them.)

Mom…
We’re back on that subject now? I’d break your heart if I married an unbeliever or turned out to be gay. Ay-ay-ay.
Uh-huh, uh-huh. (More understanding) I don’t want to argue, either…

(Enter two PROTESTERS, one holding a sign and megaphone, the other a clipboard. They ask ERIC to sign some kind of social justice petition.)

Yes, we had a nice time…

(The PROTESTERS don’t have a pen. ERIC fumbles for his, balancing the phone between ear and shoulder, and donates his pen to the cause. ERIC can be delivering his next lines as this action is occurring. PROTESTERS exit once ERIC gives them his pen.)

She’s beautiful and wild and meticulous. Even if I were a hot-shot trial lawyer and looked like Matthew McConaughey…

(Rolls eyes)

I don’t want to know that you like the way he wears jeans… Anyway, as I was saying, even if I were a hot-shot trial lawyer, nay, an astrophysicist, I wouldn’t be good enough… Not that that was what I was going for or anything…

(Thinking)

She’s so unattainable, it’s liberating… I get to be myself. Maybe a little too much myself…
Yes, Ma… You’re missing O’Reilly?
Yeah, I’ll be in later…
Can you save me some of the rigatoni? I’ll heat it up in the microwave when I get home…
Yes, I know how to work the microwave…
Thanks…

(ERIC is caught in the familial politeness loop)

I love you too…
Yes, I love you. I love you too…
Yes, I know. I do too…
Of course. I love you…
I love you too. Bye.

(ERIC hangs up and sighs, glances out into the audience, slowly exits.)

(Fade-out)

SCENE III

SARAH and HER MOTHER discuss life over drinks in the MOTHER’s suburban kitchen. She is aristocratic, refined and brilliant, something of a libertine. SARAH takes after her, of course. They are consummate game-players but there is a warmth and rapport between them. SARAH trusts HER MOTHER with many of her deeper struggles. They are very close and can anticipate many of each other’s moves and vulnerabilities. SARAH and HER MOTHER have freedom of motion in this scene. However, by the end of the scene they end up seated next to each other at a dinner table or island, center stage.

MOTHER: So, what’s on your mind, Sarah? Tell me about your mother.

SARAH: Nothing in particular. Just a quiz today and some research on post-partum depression. Pretty straightforward.

MOTHER: Hm. You’re sure your life’s a quiet idyll at the moment?

(Does a harp glissando in the air)

SARAH: A veritable coma.

MOTHER: (casually) I’m shocked. You usually have a way of making things more exciting than they should be for people.

SARAH: I don’t think that was a compliment. You’re saying I “take people for a ride”? That I’m like the emotional equivalent of the bus from Speed?

MOTHER: Defensive, are we? You’re not sleeping with Keanu Reeves, are you?

SARAH: No, not with Keanu Reeves.

MOTHER: But there’s a masculine presence in your life?

SARAH: (Pretending to hear incorrectly)

Mescaline? What do you take me for? I may be “shady,” but not that shady.

MOTHER: No, no. You’re clearly so agitated that your hearing is being affected.

SARAH: My hearing is acutely accurate.

MOTHER: (Purposely says something indecipherable under her breath)

SARAH: Stop it. Really, did you just do that?

MOTHER: Eyes going too, Sarah?

SARAH: (Tiring of the games)

You know what? Fine.

MOTHER: You gave up so easily this time. I’m disappointed. I didn’t even bring my A…or B game, for that matter.

SARAH: I came here for a reason.

MOTHER: Other than the free alcohol and scintillating conversation?

SARAH: Momala.

MOTHER: What, honey?

SARAH: There’s a boy.

MOTHER: There’s always a boy.

SARAH: He’s different.

MOTHER: Mm hmm… Do you have fun with him?

SARAH: I guess. He tests my patience.

MOTHER: Men will do that. What does he do for a living?

SARAH: You always ask that.

MOTHER: Yes?

SARAH: He teaches high school.

MOTHER: So, he’s stupid…or foolish.

SARAH: Foolish.

MOTHER: He’d never make you happy.

SARAH: You’re jumping to conclusions. I just had dinner with him. Hardly that. He wanted to see me before I graduate. An old school…friend. We kept in touch without ever meaning to.

MOTHER: So, he asked you on a date?

SARAH: (Thinks for a moment)

I suppose…in a manner of speaking. (Pause) He played me.

MOTHER: So, maybe he isn’t so foolish. Played you how, though? Like a Stradivarius or one of those tissue box banjos you made in kindergarten? (Sighs) Damnable public schools…

SARAH: Well, I played the clarinet in band.

MOTHER: How could I forget? What noise. Oy vey!

SARAH: (Choosing her words)

He played me like a clarinet. Graceful, ungainly. You know, he’s beautiful but shouldn’t be.

MOTHER: Mmm…not good. Not good at all. Is he Jewish?

SARAH: No. Eric DeLuca. Calabrese. Close enough, right?

(She is mock-hopeful)

MOTHER: Um, not Halakhically-speaking, no. So, he’s a swarthy dago?

SARAH: Momala…

MOTHER: I’m just asking…

SARAH: He’s pale with jet-black hair, actually. Like he’s from a folk song.

MOTHER: A folk song. Since when has my club-hopping party girl taken an interest in folk songs? Next you’ll be hiding Klezmatics CDs in your apartment, eh?

SARAH: Oh, stop it. You asked what he looks like. I told him he looks like a yeshiva boy, come to think of it.

MOTHER: Why would you go say something like that? At least you could have found a lawyer or surgeon.

SARAH: Most of the lawyers and surgeons I know just get drunk or like to hear themselves pontificate. I already know the workings of the human body.

MOTHER: Yes, but that gentile girl—what was her name?—got ten more points than you did in AP Anatomy your senior year.

SARAH: I know, Momala—Heather Boyd (peevish). And, after all, the tax code is pretty dull.

MOTHER: Perhaps. But you’ve got expectations. This boy you saw, he was probably just happy to go to college. Any college. No foresight, no vision.

SARAH: Yes, my expectations. Jell-O shots. For duty and humanity (frowns).

MOTHER: Oh, now. You work hard, you play hard. It’s what I did when I was in med school.

SARAH: And one day it will be over. Humanity’s planned obsolescence. I’ll lose my smarts, my wits, and I’ll be in a home out in Rockland County. You said you saw Dr. Schultz, the old general practitioner, at Whole Foods last week. Dementia. Said he was trying to pay his order with his library card.

MOTHER: Yes, I did see him. He didn’t recognize me.

SARAH: You were colleagues once.

MOTHER: True. But everyone goes eventually. Existence is a trite SOB, I’m sorry to say. It’s what you do with your moment that counts…however fleeting it might be. Because of how fleeting it might be. Sarah, I hate to see you introspective like this. It’s not like you. As your baba would say, “You’ve got eyes as blue as the sky in springtime and feet just made for dancing.” I’ve raised a wild and fearless woman.

SARAH: I’m moving to New York City.

MOTHER: And I’m very proud of you. You’re a smart and beautiful city girl.

SARAH: But I’m not fearless. I’m petrified.

MOTHER: To be fearless doesn’t mean you’re not scared. Believe me, you’d be crazy if you weren’t scared. I am. A little, at least. For my only daughter.

SARAH: (Smirking; her smirk could win contests)

A little scared or crazy?

MOTHER: Wild and fearless and clever. See?

SARAH: Like mother, like daughter.

MOTHER: Both scared and crazy. I’m scared…and I love New York. And you will too. New York may one day be too small for you, in fact. But to be fearless, that means that you take the things that frighten you most and use them as fuel to explore the world. One life, one blue-green ball, and a finite amount of time.

SARAH: Time…damn (quietly).

MOTHER: Sarah, remember, you’ll have your wits about you for decades to come, which brings us back to the topic of the weaker sex, the male one. Don’t be losing those wits of yours prematurely over a hapless goy. Look, don’t misunderstand me, I’m sure this boy’s got it—smarts, grace, but…

SARAH: Yeah (wistfully).

MOTHER: (nurturing) Oh, daughter of mine. Put him out of your head. I do not say this because I think you’re better than he is. Well, I do. But it isn’t my primary reason. I love you more than anything in the world. Do you think I’ve never feared losing my looks or intellect? If I do lose my mind one day and start to mumble about the green cats sunning on the roof, I hope the sanatorium staff finds me mumbling about my daughter even more loudly: “She’s so much more accomplished than I! She’s one of the world’s great doctors, devoted, selfless!”

SARAH: No pressure. I’ll put my application in for the Nobel Prize for Medicine the week after commencement.

MOTHER: I hope if I ever try to pay for groceries with a library card it is because every part of my mind is mush except the part that’s concerned for your well-being.
SARAH: Wow, this wine really brings out the poet in you. Unless a philosophizing body-snatcher just replaced my mom.

MOTHER: It wouldn’t hurt, Sarah, for you to learn how to detect sincerity when you hear it.

SARAH: I’m sorry. I know you love me. And I love you. Can’t you see us fighting over who loves each other more?

(Being genuinely warm, giggling)

I’ll break all the dishes in the kitchen and be like, “I love you, Mom! Dish one. My whole body trembles—dish two!—with utter devotion! I don’t know what—dish three, dish four—I’d do without your unwavering support—dish five—and ballet lessons in second grade!” And you’d be, “There’s no way in hell you love me more than I love you! You just don’t get it, do you? I gave birth to you! I was never the same after that!”

MOTHER: (Laughing heartily, but feeling more serious than she would like)

We may have had a loose variation of that exchange at some point in our past.

(Pause)

But let me be frank with you, Sarah. I do not want to see you wounded.

(SARAH’s smile fades)

I imagine that there are more than a few men who’d say you’ve hurt them. But if this boy is different, as you say, he’ll leave you in pain one way or another. Are you ready for that?

SARAH: It doesn’t matter now.

MOTHER: You’ve made a self-diagnosis! Is it terminal?

SARAH: Come on, Momala! I told him that we should have a “protracted excision of each other from our lives.”

MOTHER: That’s wonderful! My Sarah hasn’t lost her sense after all. Always the negotiator.

SARAH: (sarcastic) Thanks.

MOTHER: “Protracted excision”—what, did you write out a script for him? Anyway, it sounds like you’ve solved your own problem.

(SARAH’S MOTHER leans in to embrace SARAH)

SARAH: Hardly.

MOTHER: Hardly, huh?

SARAH: I love him.

MOTHER: Sha, child. You’re graduating medical school at the top of your class. Please, be serious.

SARAH: I kinda am, Momala.

MOTHER: “Kinda”?

(SARAH’S MOTHER arches an eyebrow)

(SARAH puts her head on her MOTHER’s lap, crying softly. SARAH’S MOTHER awkwardly tries to find a place to put down her wine glass. At first, she can’t find a spot on the table from where she’s sitting. So she shrugs and downs what remains in the glass and begins to gently stroke SARAH’s hair.)

MOTHER: (Somewhere between being rattled and taking it in stride, SARAH’S MOTHER speaks softly to her daughter, using the pet form of the name “Sarah,” pronounced “SOR-ah-lah”)

Oh Sorele…my Sorele…

(Fade-out)

SCENE IV

A week later. ERIC and SARAH are sitting at the bar at Casa Loca, an “edgy” Tex-Mex restaurant.

SARAH: So, I…um…talked to my mom.

ERIC: Yeah?

SARAH: (embarrassed) She asked if you were a swarthy dago.

ERIC: I suppose with a name like Eric Carlo DeLuca, that’s understandable. Even my fourth grade teacher said it sounded like a mob name.

SARAH: I’m sorry…

ERIC: Nah, you should have told your mom that I showed up complete with fedora and tommy-gun (smiles).

SARAH: Well? Did you talk to the she-wolf?

ERIC: Uh huh.

SARAH: Mention how you’re pining for an exquisite hipster Jewess?

ERIC: (chuckles) I talked to both the Momoltov Cocktail and Dadlestar Galactica.

SARAH: Ha…fire and ice. I got that.

ERIC: You’re a quick one, for a psychiatrist-to-be. Yep, my father fixed AC units and furnaces for thirty-two years, retired, and now he seems to have also retired from speaking. A man of few words.

SARAH: My dad doesn’t talk much either. Not that I see him often. Just had dinner with him though. Once a year and we’re good.

(Gulps her margarita)

ERIC: I see.

SARAH: Cardiologist. Divorced. Five months after my bat mitzvah. It was like he and my mom were holding each other under water until that point and finally let each other come to the surface once they’d gotten me “safely” through my childhood.

ERIC: I’m sure he’s proud of you, your dad.

SARAH: Of course. But, you know, it was expected that I carry on the “family business.” I’m just delivering the goods.

ERIC: My parents wouldn’t let me go to your bat mitzvah. I remember you invited me. You invited half our class. It was on the Gateway Clipper.

SARAH: Ah, they were afraid you’d sprout horns?

ERIC: Sending you a “Best Wishes” card was safest.

SARAH: Well, Mom doesn’t like you and she’s never even met you. Says your prospects are low, that you’re—what was it?—a “hapless goy.” So the feeling’s mutual.

ERIC: Ah, but I don’t see our parents anywhere around here, do you? And, anyway, I think you like me for my low prospects.

SARAH: Ha! (Gulps her margarita again)

ERIC: You’re going to town on that thing. Like you’ve never had one before.

SARAH: I haven’t. Not from here at least.

ERIC: (marveling) Never had a margarita from Casa Loca… I suppose that makes me a suave man of the world, then.

(Slowly sips his margarita)

SARAH: You’re more right than you think. I could see you in New York.

ERIC: Thanks, Sarah.

SARAH: Aren’t you going to deflate that compliment? I don’t know you to trust me like that.

ERIC: I do trust you. We’re seeing each other again. I thought that one time might have been it. Finis.

SARAH: Well, you know my reputation for doing whatever I like, not giving a shit. Maybe this is me giving a shit.

ERIC: And what would I do in New York?

SARAH: Poetry readings. Or, I don’t know, teach “real” at-risk kids. Or go to graduate school. I’d keep you down to earth, of course. We could—

ERIC: “We”? I’ve never seen this side of you.

SARAH: You said you’d convert for me, after all. You made a scene.

ERIC: That I did.

SARAH: By the way, here’s the part where you dissuade me, tell me something like (expansively, quoting Casablanca): “That night, we said a great many things…”

ERIC: (Playfully sly)

I don’t want to…yet.

SARAH: And I probably wouldn’t listen to you anyway.

(SARAH lays her head on ERIC’s shoulder. ERIC gently puts his arm around her waist.)

(Blackout)

FIN

The characters in this work are fictitious. All resemblance to real persons, living and dead, is purely coincidental. But, then again, stories like this have been told since love, religion, and parents were invented.



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