“Running away will never make you free.”
(Editor’s note: see part one here for character information, and look for parts 3 through 5 soon!)
Time/Place: Tuesday, November 8, 2016—NYC.
Note about the Set: Less is always more. Don’t you think?
Act One, Scene II.
A superintendent’s basement apartment in Washington Heights. There is a row of security cameras that show the lobby, elevator, and hallways. Charleston, 25, transgender, sits on his couch watching television. His fiancé, Valerie, attempts to roll a joint on her LSAT textbook.
Charleston: Did you see that? Did you see that? Yo, Chapman just like fucked the shit out of Ruby Rose. Oh shit. They’re taking her to max, shit. Babe. You’re missing this.
Valerie: I’m trying to roll this joint so I can study.
Charleston: Do you want me to roll it?
Valerie: No I need to learn how to roll them myself.
Charleston: Let me just roll this one. You can roll the next one.
Charo, Valerie’s mother, 69, who suffers from dementia, enters in her nightgown.
Charo: They’re they’re coming, hija they’re coming for us. They’re coming to take us back. We’ve got to go, go get your grandfather from the shed; we have to go we have to go now.
Valerie: Mommy, mommy, nobody is coming for you.
Charleston: Want some tea, Charo?
Charo: Tea? We don’t have time for tea boy we have to take the boat and cross the border into Morocco. Yes we will go to Morocco. Quick. Pack up. Take only what you can carry on your back.
Charleston: Should we give her the pill?
Valerie: No, no the nurse said to just go along with it as long as she stays calm. Mommy, let’s get you back to bed. I’ll read us a story. From the Reader’s digest. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?
Charo: We can read one story. But in the morning, hija, we have to leave. We have to leave before it’s too late, oh, my hija, I’m sorry that I brought you into this world. I’m so sorry.
Valerie escorts Charo offstage.
Charleston sits on the couch and rolls the joint.
Valerie: (Offstage) Mommy, get into bed, you have to relax. You have to relax.
Charo: (Offstage) I’m sorry hija, but there is no revelation at hand.
Valerie: (Offstage) Shhh…
Charo: (Offstage) There is no second coming.
Valerie: (Offstage) Shhh…
Charo: (Offstage) Hija, we are all damned.
There is a knock at the door.
Charleston: Just a second.
He hides the joint.
Charleston opens the door to Eric and Steve.
Charleston: My man! Can’t believe you’re alive after last night.
Eric: I am, still somewhat, old friend. This is Steve.
Charleston: ‘Sup Steve?
Charleston: To what do I owe this pleasure?
Eric: Didn’t you get my text?
Charleston: No, I lost my phone last night. Remember?
Eric clearly doesn’t remember.
Charleston: That’s right you were too much into the baseball last night. Your friend is crazy Steve. Crazy.
Steve: Baseball? Like the sport?
Eric: I am in need of more baseball, old friend, I promised Elise. Additionally we are in need of a key cutter for this fellow here. My Air B&B guest.
Charleston: Oh my God. That’s right. Oh my God. Oh shit. We did post your shitty ass hostel on Air B&B didn’t we? Oh God. I’m sorry, Pete.
Charleston: We were, well we were just celebrating a bit too hard. We’re just really excited. She’s going to do some good ass things. Did you guys vote yet?
Eric: Not yet / Steve: I did absentee a while back.
Charleston: Well shit man, the line for the polls on 181 took us like—
Charleston: Babe, how long were we in line at the church at 181 this morning?
Valerie: Forty-five minutes.
Charleston: Forty-five minutes. Everyone up there is excited. Fuck my cousins are excited too, my tenants here, everyone is excited. It’s exciting.
Valerie: Who’s your friend, Eric?
Steve: I’m Steve.
Eric: He’s my Air B&B guest.
Valerie: Eric you know that this loco here dropped his phone in the Hudson last night with Carlos when they were copping more bud?
Charleston: It could happen to anyone.
Eric: You left so early, Valerie, we missed you.
Valerie: Dude I have a mother with dementia, an LSAT class to study for, a shift at the restaurant tonight, and we had to vote. I couldn’t exactly stay with y’all and do baseball. I’m not seventeen anymore.
Eric: It might have helped you complete your “to-do,” list.
Valerie: Eric, you’re crazy. I don’t know how Elise puts up with you.
Eric: She doesn’t.
Steve: Sounds like you guys had one hell of a party.
Charleston: Can y’all chill for a bit? Let’s smoke this.
They all gather around the couch.
Valerie: Just a little bit for me.
Eric: So. Charleston. Does your cousin still have baseball?
Charleston: Which cousin?
Eric: The hot one.
Eric: The hot chiropractor cousin.
Charleston: Dude Angela moved to LA like six years ago.
Charleston: Sammy might though.
Eric: Whose Sammy?
Charleston: You’ve met her, she’s really cool, teaches biology in Queens.
Valerie: Doesn’t she teach in the Bronx?
Charleston: No, you’re thinking of Sam. Not Sammy.
Valerie: No, Sam Diaz teaches in Queens and Sammy Huang teaches in the Bronx.
Charleston: No, Sam Diaz teaches in White Plains and Sammy Huang—
Eric: So Sammy has baseball?
Charleston: Yeah. She should. Let me text her.
Charleston: Can I borrow someone’s phone?
Eric hands him his.
Charleston: Dude what happened to your screen?
Eric: A woman with labor pains smashed it in the ER.
Charleston: (On the phone) Yo, Sammy, it’s Charleston.
Steve: Eric, the key?
Eric: Oh, yes. Valerie do you know anyone who can cut keys?
Valerie: Just go down the street to the bodega on 168.
Steve/Eric: It’s closed.
Charleston: (On the phone) We did, we did, waited in line for like forty-five minutes. Listen, you got any baseball?
Valerie: The one on 181st definitely isn’t closed we got chocolate milk there after we voted—
Charo: Hija, hija.
Valerie: Mama, please. Go back to bed mama.
Charo: They’re coming for us. We have to take the boat to Morocco and cross the border.
Valerie: Nobody is coming for us. Everything is okay.
Charo: Everything is not okay, my poor hija.
Valerie: Let’s read you another story, okay?
Steve: (To Eric) Is she okay?
Eric: Yes, old friend, she will be okay. She’s just, well, you know. Not entirely here.
Valerie takes Charo offstage by the hand.
Charleston: (On the phone) Perfect. Be by in a bit. I’ll text you.
Charleston: We’re good.
Valerie: Let’s light up that joint babe.
Charleston: Word. Steve, you cool?
Steve: Yeah. I’m cool. I mean fuck it. Why not? I’m on vacation.
Eric: Perfect, old friend, then will go get your key.
Charleston: Man I’m telling you the energy in the line today. It’s a good day for us.
Valerie: Is she gonna make my law school free? No. Is she gonna help me pay for a nurse to come take care of my mom with dementia who thinks she’s in Franco era Spain? No. Is she going to help my cousins get over here from Cuba? No. All I’m saying is, it might as well be him.
Eric/Charleston: Bite your tongue / That ain’t it babe. That ain’t it at all.
Steve: I get what you’re saying. Back home at my job in Richmond all us personal trainers are about to unionize so that we can get better hourly wages and better benefits. She can’t do that for us, that’s only something that your community can do for you, you know?
Eric: Or the Bern.
Valerie: I didn’t trust him either.
Charleston: Want a hit, Steve?
Steve: I think we all have just gotten lazy. As a community. And we’re expecting too much from—
Eric: From our fucking president? No! That’s their job. That’s in their job description. Improve the lives of the American people.
Valerie: It is so not in their job description, trust me. This country is fucking whack and y’all are too hopped up on green-card citizen-status pride to realize it. Don’t you think, Steve?
The below conversations can inter-lap:
Valerie: See Steve I want me and Charleston to get married back in Spain.
Eric: You sure Sam’s good for it, old friend?
Charleston: Sammy: and yes. Chill dude. We’ll have more.
Eric: Thanks, just Elise, you know, I promised her.
Steve: You and Charleston are—
Valerie: Oh yeah for like six years.
Steve: Even though he’s uh, I mean she’s—
Charleston: Brother you got to slow down with that shit, though. You’re not made of money; shit’s an expensive fucking habit—
Eric: No, no, no, no it was just for the party tonight, you know, and God you don’t have to tell me I have student debts seeping out of my fucking eyes-sockets.
Valerie: We want to adopt but that shit is so fucking expensive here. That’s why I want us to go back to Spain.
Steve: Unemployment there is pretty bad, I’ve read—
Eric: It’s just for the party tonight. I promised her.
Valerie: Yeah but you can get a baby from Granada for like two thousand there.
Charleston: What you doing in New York, Steve?
Steve: MET, Strand bookstore, I’d love to run across the Brooklyn Bridge tomorrow, if it’s warm enough outside.
Charleston: Well if you’re looking to have fun you have the right Air B&B host.
Eric: Steve’s coming with us to the election party after Elise’s show.
Charleston: Word. Nice man. Here have another hit.
Eric: And never fear, I’ve already reserved us all tickets for her show.
Eric: It’ll be so fun. You’ll love it. It’s about bisexual vampires fighting for equal rights in the middle ages.
Valerie: I have a shift tonight. Sorry.
Eric: I figured you would say that so I did not reserve you a ticket.
Charleston: There’s no way I’m getting out of this, is there?
Eric: It’ll be so fun. You, me, Steve.
Steve: I have to go to this now, too?
Eric: It is part of the Air B&B package. Complimentary coffee, weed and theatre tickets.
Charleston: Dude I’m still recovering from her last show about that slutty detective girl and the mini-mart full of velociraptors—
Eric: It was a metaphor about communism—
Charleston: She played a fucking T-Rex—
Charleston: Or some shit that like was the girlfriend of one of the communist velociraptor—
Eric: Her part is much bigger in tonight’s show.
Valerie: Well I am just devastated that I can’t go.
Charleston: Oy guapa. You’re so smart. Steve, my fiancé is so smart, did she tell you? Did you tell them, babe?
Charleston: She’s been asked to be a teacher’s assistant at Hunter for her next semester.
Valerie: It’ll be good money and I won’t have to waitress anymore.
Eric: That’s fantastic.
Valerie: Hopefully my aunt can watch mom.
Eric: Oh I’ll take her to the ER with me. She’ll fit right in. A toast, old friends.
He raises his joint.
Eric: To new friends and new beginnings. This is our year. 2017 will be our year of equality and liberty.
Steve: Thanks guys, for you know, the weed and stuff.
Eric: This will be a trip to NYC you’ll never forget Steve.
Steve: Thanks Eric. I really needed this.
Charleston: Amen man. Let’s go get that baseball.
Act One, Scene III
A small bodega in Washington Heights.
Eric and Steve enter. Steve is just a wee bit stoned. He picks up a magazine.
Steve: Look at this Eric. This looks just like the cabin I used to stay at with my Aunt and Uncle in the Poconos every summer.
Eric: My Summers were always spent in Berlin with Great Auntie Gerta, legless and blind from diabetes, and her darling husband Ralph, a crooked stock broker, and his lovely mistress Nanda—my babysitter.
Steve: This has to be the same cabin. I have to send this to my Aunt.
He takes a picture of it.
Assieh, 11, enters in a cubbies outfit.
Assieh: You send that picture you buy it.
Steve: I don’t want to buy it, but my Aunt needs to see a picture of this.
Assieh: First you buy it, and then you may send the picture.
Eric: Who are you, an intellectual property law undercover agent?
Assieh: Can I help you with something?
Eric: We need a key cut. Can someone help us with that?
Assieh: I can make you keys.
Eric: Maybe someone—
Steve: Is your Mom or Dad here?
Eric: A little taller—
Assieh: I cut keys since I am six years old. You think I was what, just watching Teletubbies all day? No. I was raised to work. I make the keys for you.
Silence. The men are a bit afraid of her.
Assieh: Would you like a Gatorade while you wait?
Eric/Steve: No thanks.
Assieh: Five minutes. Mind if I turn this up?
She turns the news up. We hear election day coverage.
Assieh: Very scary day for us all.
Eric: She’s going to win. We just got back from the polls. Line is out the door.
Assieh: Where is your, “I voted,” sticker?
Eric: It’s here.
Assieh: No, not you, him.
Steve: Oh, I did absentee a while back.
Assieh: They don’t give you a sticker when you do absentee?
Steve: They don’t.
Assieh: Key will be ready in five minutes.
Steve: Wonder why that is?
Eric: Is that bacon ranch? Wasn’t this discontinued like ten years ago?
Steve: I mean you’re still voting; you should get a sticker.
Eric: So next we’re going to pick up some baseball. Sound good?
Steve: Sounds like a secret mission.
Eric: Oh Steve old friend, it is a secret mission.
Steve: Can I bring beer, on the secret mission?
Eric: I mean, you probably should.
Steve grabs a six-pack.
Steve: Hey Eric?
Eric: Yes, Steve old friend?
Steve: What’s baseball?
Assieh comes back in.
Eric: It’s like a red bull. For adults.
Steve: Like a yager bomb?
Eric: Excuse me, how did you get this bacon ranch? Wasn’t it discontinued?
Assieh: Let’s just say we know some people who know some people back in Iran.
Eric: So Steve. I’m just curious. Why did you decide on a trip to New York?
Charleston enters with McDonalds.
Charleston: Dudes this party tonight is going to be sick DJ Karem is going to be spinning at midnight. Chicken snack wrap?
Steve: Thanks Charleston. How much?
Charleston: It was on the dollar menu so I think $2.19?
Steve: Okay cool.
Charleston: But don’t worry about it. I’ll just take one of those beers.
Assieh: (To the TV.) Oy.
Charleston: Hey there, you sell papers?
Assieh: We’re out.
Charleston: Just a dutch then.
Steve: I better get some red bulls too I haven’t slept in over twenty-four-hours.
Eric: Just try some baseball, old friend. It helps me through many seventy-two-hour shifts at the ER.
Assieh: Your key is almost ready.
Charleston: Want some fries?
Eric: I have no appetite.
Charleston: Too much baseball man, Elise is right.
Eric: What Elise thinks or doesn’t think doesn’t really matter since she’s not even. Never mind.
Eric: Who am I kidding? She doesn’t want to be exclusive. So what am I really? To her?
Charleston: Dude I told you. I pulled that same shit on Valerie at the beginning. Don’t want to be exclusive, don’t want to be in a relationship right now—
Assieh turns up the volume on the television. We hear CNN election day coverage. Steve goes over and watches with her.
Charleston: But then things, you know.
Assieh: Very scary day for us.
Steve: I think she’s got a good shot.
Steve: Don’t you think?
Assieh: What if she doesn’t?
Steve: Then I guess Canada?
Assieh: Not all of us can do that.
Steve: He’s not going to win.
Assieh: They also said that Cosby wasn’t a rapist.
Eric: We could use kids like that in the ER.
Charleston: Steve, what’s your story?
Steve: Well I guess it’s too late for the MET now, so—
Charleston: Why you really in New York?
Steve: Boring story, really. Fight with my girlfriend. Next thing I know me and my duffle bag are at the bus depot just trying to get somewhere that wasn’t there, you know?
The men nod.
Assieh enters with the key.
Assieh: Anything else, gentlemen?
Eric: What’s your name, old friend?
Eric: Assieh, it has been a pleasure beyond pleasures. You are by far the most extraordinary and efficient bodega clerk these sad eyes have ever seen.
Assieh: You’re still going to pay, right? Because if you don’t, I will call the police.
Sarah Congress graduated in 2013 with a BFA in Dramatic Writing from the Conservatory at SUNY Purchase College. She spent a year working as the Literary Manager of the New Jersey Repertory Company before moving to New York City to pursue her playwriting career. Her plays The Legal Secretary, Master Matthew, and The Death Play…or What is Brad Doing in the Supply Room Closet? have all been published on the indie theatre now website (http://www.indietheaternow.