Characters in a Play

“Know what might be fun for a change? And please don’t laugh at me, Bill, like you always do, but let’s pretend we’re characters in a play.”

“Characters in a play? I’m not quite sure I-”

“Come on, Bill. Be a sport. You know how play dialogue can seem sorta forced-but sorta natural at the same time? Like when we saw Burn This that time. The revival at that place over by Union Square. It would be like that. We’d be talking to each other like that.”

” Burn This was sorta good but it sorta stunk.”

“Or we could act like they were in that other thing we saw …. “

“The Ovid thing that was supposed to be so amazing? With the nudity? It was supposed to heal our 9/11 wounds or something, but it didn’t? Is that the one you mean?”

“No, the other.”

“The Shakespeare in the Park thing? With the guy from L.A. Law?”

“No, silly, I mean the-can’t think of it right now. Anyway, doesn’t matter. Thing is, I just thought it would be a hoot if we-”

“Hang on. A ‘hoot’? Is this you talking, or are you already doing the character-in-a-play thing?”

“I … I don’t know, Bill. Don’t laugh! At me! Seriously. It may sound stupid, but I don’t know if I really use the word ‘hoot’ or not. I just can’t tell. I swear. I swear to you.”

“Come on, Stace, this isn’t something to get upset about.”

“Upset? I’m not upset.”

“What are you, then?”

“I’m disconcerted.”

“What is this, Neil Simon now?”

“It’s disconcerting, not knowing if you really use the word ‘hoot.’ Not knowing your own vocabulary. Can you understand that, Bill? Can you?”

“Maybe I can … or maybe I just don’t give a hoot.”

“Oh, you’re a riot, Bill! A real riot. Or should I say, ‘You’re a hoot’? Seriously, though, it’s not a very good feeling.”

“Sorry, but I’m havin’ a little trouble joinin’ you in this specific pity party.”

“Oh, I forgot. Forgot I was talking to Mr. I’m-So-Sure-of-Myself. Forgot I was talking to Mr. Oh-She-Wants-to-Pretend-We’re-Characters-in-a-Play-But-I’ll-Be-All-Cool-While-She-Makes-a-Fool-of-Herself-and-I’ll-Just-Criticize-Everything-She-Says. So typical, Bill. It’s just so effing typical of you, to hang back and criticize. To make remarks.”

“Remarks?”

“Remarks!”

“Stace-I wasn’t-I thought this whole thing was just-”

“Just what, Bill? Just what?”

“You want to know what I think? What I actually, seriously think? Why are you drinking from an empty coffee cup?”

“More sugar, please.”

“What I think is, you’re just talking like this to get some kind of reaction out of me. To push my buttons. Well, push away, baby. Actually, Stace-and I’m being dead serious now-actually, I don’t know what it is you’re doing. Sometimes I feel I don’t even know you. Not really. Not in any real way.”

“You know me. Come on, Bill. Don’t say that! Please. You know me. If you don’t know me … after everything we’ve … then I might as well just …. hate it when you say that. Just hate it.”

“You hate it when I say something I’ve never even said before? Because I’ve never said I don’t know you. Not once. Are we in some crazy land?”

“You’ve said it before. Maybe not in so many words, Bill. But you’ve said it. And, yeah, it hurts. For your information it hurts pretty fucking bad, Bill. Oh, by the way, excuse me for engaging in what you would call psychobabble, but what I would call stating my feelings the best way I know how. So, yeah, it hurts me, Bill, when you say that. Like you’re going for my weakness. Like a knife, Bill. Like a knife.”

“Bravo, Stace. Very nice. Now let’s please-can we please get back to normal now?”

“You think this isn’t real? Is that what you think? This is very real, Bill. It’s all too real. I wish it weren’t. I wish these walls were scrims. I do, Bill, I do. And I wish this weren’t some crappy Manhattan apartment that’s one room too small but a stage set-with floorboards, and lights, and a real live audience coughing and crinkling their Playbills at our feet. But no. No, Bill. No. ‘Fraid this is … life. It’s life, m’friend. Life.”

“I just-Stace, come on. I think that we’ve reached-”

“Say it. Let me hear you talk for a change. Your true thoughts.”

“I don’t know-but maybe … maybe this is a sign or something.”

“Sign of what?”

“I don’t know. Just a sign.”

“Nothing can be ‘just a sign.’ It has to be a sign of something. You know that, Bill. And I know you know that.”

“Maybe it’s a sign we don’t go together. Maybe I’ve been forcing it, and you have, too.”

“Do you-Bill-do you really think that? Is that what you-”

“I don’t know, Stace. I don’t always know my own mind. I may seem like I do, but, truly, I’m not like you say I am. Not really. I’m not sure of myself at all. I say one thing, and two minutes later it’s the opposite.”

“That’s good, Bill. So good. We can stop now. We can stop this play-acting.”

“So we were just pretending? But I thought-”

“And you did it just right. You were fine, Bill. And it was fun, wasn’t it?”

“Fun little game, Stace. You know, they have places for people like you. They’re called insane asylums.”

“Sounds delightful, darling. When can I go?”

“Not quite yet. I’ve never made it with a crazy broad before.”

“This is something you’d like to try, this ‘making it with a crazy broad?’”

“Seriously, Stace, I’m getting a little freaked now. Can we stop? That is, if we’re actually still doing the play thing?”

“Stop? Oh, Bill. Can’t you see? It’s going to be like this from now on. And it’s going to be very dramatic and very exciting. I’m going to use your name a lot, and you’ll love me, and I’ll love you, too, and we won’t give a damn about any of it! Now let’s go out to a play. I’ll wear too much lipstick and you, Bill-sweet, silly, confused Bill-you can be your grumpy old self, in your khakis and your dumb ol’ Mets cap.”

“Why are you putting your finger to my lips?”

“Hush. Go out to the curb, dear, and hail a cab. The van kind would be best. And I’ll be with you in a moment.”

The BYOB Note

Attention people of New York City: Please stop writing “BYOB” or “bring something you’d like to drink” in party invitations. It’s needless and sounds a little pathetic. We’re all adults. If we think we should bring something, we’ll bring something. Besides, don’t be such a cheapskate. You can get a really nice case of wine for less than $150. You’re having the party. Not us. Thank you.