By: Remi Recchia
Cast of Characters:
REMI #1, 22, male, an alcoholic writer. REMI #1 should not be wearing shoes.
REMI #2, 22, male, an alcoholic writer. REMI #2 should wear a ridiculously large black beret.
REMI #3, 22, male, an alcoholic writer. REMI #3 should carry an outrageously pretentious pipe and an enormous lighter.
REMI #4, 22, male, an alcoholic writer. REMI #4 should not exist.
All four characters should wear matching nametags without numbers throughout the play. All four characters should also be holding amber bottles.
Time and Place: Nowhere in no place. Never in the present.
At rise: REMI #1 is standing upstage left. REMI #2 is standing downstage left. REMI #3 is standing downstage right. REMI #4 is standing upstage right. Individual yellow spotlights shine on all four of them.
REMI #1: I am standing here alone, and I am sad. I will drink this bottle of amber butterflies now.
REMI #2: I am standing here with you, and I am sad. I will drink this bottle of amber butterflies with you now.
REMI #3: I am standing here with both of you, and we are all sad. We will drink this bottle of amber butterflies now together.
(REMI #4 raises a bottle of amber butterflies to his lips. He drinks. REMI #1, #2, and #3 all raise individual bottles to their lips. They all drink.)
REMI #1 : The world is ugly sometimes, and that makes me cringe, which makes me ugly, and so I am ugly because the world is ugly.
REMI #2: (Putting on his hat:) I am being illogical.
REMI #3: (Taking out his pipe:) I am too much flesh.
(REMI #3 lights his pipe and starts smoking it. REMI #4 says nothing and sits down.)
REMI #1: I am standing here alone, and I am drinking this bottle of amber butterflies, and I am overwhelmed with—
REMI #2 and #3: Empathy.
(REMI #1 and #2 both drink from their bottles.)
REMI #3: And I am overwhelmed with empathy— (He takes a drag of his pipe.) And with sorrow— (He exhales.) And with cold. (There is a beat while REMI #3 inhales and exhales again.) My mouth is frost.
REMI #1: Feet are negligible.
REMI #2: I wear this ridiculously large black beret because my head is cold, and also because I do not wish to be seen.
REMI #3: I smoke this outrageously pretentious pipe because I am trying to kill myself in any possible socially acceptable way. Cancer is, indeed, passive.
REMI #1: And so I will not die of frostbite.
(REMI #4 covers his ears. His hands should remain on his ears until he is directed to do otherwise.)
REMI #1: My bottle of amber butterflies keeps my hands warm and my ink fluid.
REMI #2: You are wrong. A butterfly’s beating brings the net closer.
REMI #3: This is another kind of cancer.
(REMI #1, #2, and #3 all drink from their bottles of amber butterflies. REMI #4 covers his mouth with both hands. His hands should remain on his mouth until he is otherwise directed.)
REMI #1: I wrote a sonnet once, and it was not believable.
REMI #2 and #3: Believable.
(REMI #2 and #3 walk to center stage toward each other. They begin to waltz. Either one may take the lead. REMI #1 moves to downstage left. A bright blue spotlight shines on him. A softer light shines on REMI #2, #3, and #4.)
REMI #1: I wake up with the shakes each morning and drink before my lover wakes. My palms feel warm and greasy and futile. I cannot hold a pen until my lungs have stopped their cramping. I can sleep just about anywhere. My cough is jagged and my breath is sharp. Sometimes at night, I look up the definition of alcoholism. I burn my findings in the morning.
(REMI #2 and #3 pick up the pace of their waltz.)
Every poem I try to write about the beehive in my mind, the rush in my throbbing, sweated-out palms, my heart shudders to a stop and slams down the window. The bluebird cannot know the extent of comparison of my own warbles against his glory. I won’t answer the phone after dinner. I have previously overestimated the smoothness of a slur.
(REMI #2 and #3 waltz even faster.)
I was sober once for six days.
(REMI #1 lifts his bottle of amber butterflies and drinks from it).
I watched my cocoon hatch from withdrawn to overdrawn. I cannot keep up with my impatience.
(REMI #4 covers both eyes with his hands. His hands should remain over his eyes until he is directed otherwise.)
I always lose my pens right before they run out. It doesn’t seem fair—I write and I write, the ink slows to a close, I lose the cap right around the corner, and then the moon intercedes, watchful. Awful. (Beat.) I tremble at the sight of her and at the sight of everyone. Each associative free verse is a sign of the devil. I used to think I wrote out of habit, but I think now I’m a slave to compulsion.
(REMI #1 takes a drink from his bottle of amber butterflies. REMI #2 and #3 suddenly stop dancing and give each other a drink of their own bottles of amber butterflies. They start dancing again immediately.)
My wrist is chained to an invisible tattoo. I am doomed to write forever. When I can’t write, I drink, and when I can write, I also drink, and when I should write, I drink still. When I am put to rest, may I finally be left to drink in peace.
(REMI #2 and #3 waltz offstage, exiting stage right. REMI #1 staggers sideways but does not fall down.)
My lighter is empty, but I cannot afford the fluid seeping from my ears. My doctor bills are too high, and I am not high enough for this shit.
(REMI #4 removes his hands from his eyes but keeps them shut. He rises to join REMI #1 downstage left. REMI #1 raises his bottle of amber butterflies to drink from it again. REMI #4 intercepts the action.)
REMI #4: But is this out of necessity, or of want?
REMI #1: I drink because I am alone.
REMI #4: Is this not your own doing, you grave-digging, Indian-giving, self-fulfilling prophet?
REMI #1: I drink because I am sad.
REMI #4: But the stars! So many beautiful things to be seen, if you set your insolent self-pity aside for a second of your time.
REMI #1: I drink because I am ugly.
REMI #4: Even your eyes, narrow and black, can use a mirror, can they not?
REMI #1: I drink because I am overwhelmed.
REMI #4: Agh! Please desist, kind sir, from this diatribe. We are all ugly in a faded glass, we are all sad from the drudges of this life. You sit on your velvet upholstery, you clean a shotgun in your mind without purchase, you bemoan your state and the world’s state and everything you haven’t seen, now or forever. Do you not tire of begrudging your mother your birth?
My fellow, you are a flawed man, and we are all flawed men, and nothing can save us from that downfall. But the best of us have a kindness too great to bury, and our cross is stiff with sweat instead of the layered dust of indifference. Be overwhelmed. Lie in the shadow of your own mess if you must, but stop extending your hand to others only when it has fallen off. Stay tired. Do you forget yourself so much to assume that others are always wakeful? Empathy is an obligation.
REMI #1: I have never met a man as exhausted as myself.
REMI #4: You have not been meeting the right men.
REMI #1: (Taking a sip of his bottle of amber butterflies:) The cock does not crow on my side of town. (Beat.) The church pews empty when I walk in.
REMI #4: (Reaching unsuccessfully to take away REMI #1’s bottle of amber butterflies:) You do this to yourself. (REMI #1 does not answer and continues to drink.) You do this to yourself, and to your mother, and to your sister. Your father is a silent observer. He wants to see you rise on your hand. The son must exceed the father in all occasions. You are not an exception to this rule.
REMI #1: I follow rules only when they’re logical.
REMI #4: There’s your problem: you treat others like they’re nothing, like their opinions don’t matter, like their beliefs are whims incomparable to your own.
REMI #1: They try to structure my life—
REMI #4: No.
REMI #1: They try to make me behave—
REMI #4: No.
REMI #1: They tell me “no” always—
REMI #4: No.
REMI #1: Aha! You see?
REMI #4: A caution to slow down is not cause for resistance. Standard manners do not warrant a war. No man is out to get you but yourself. (REMI #1 does not answer. He raises his bottle of amber butterflies to his lips again. This time, REMI #4 does not try to stop him.) Do you intend on dying tonight, Mr. Recchia?
REMI #1: I intend to live forever.
REMI #4: The logic, then, does not add up. You wish to never die, is that so? (REMI #1 nods in confirmation.) Your liver and lungs will die before you. Such delicate organs, they are. Both will shrivel and wilt like purple cabbage, once full and sticky—almost abrasive!—but now grayed and yellowed around the edges. The heart of your cabbage is already black.
(There is a loud thumping sound offstage, then REMI #2 and #3 enter from stage right. They are juggling three cabbages each. The cabbages are not allowed to fall. They might fall.)
Ah, your insides. Lovely and round! Will you shake hands?
REMI #1: (Backing away from REMI #2 and #3:) I . . . no.
REMI #4: I’m sorry?
REMI #1: No, I do not wish to greet them.
REMI #4: Yourself.
REMI #1: Myself. (Beat.) I do not wish to greet myself.
(REMI #1 and #4 both turn to stare directly at REMI #2 and #3 as they continue to juggle the rotting cabbages. They stand perfectly still as they are doused in a soft light, and REMI #2 and #3 are caught in a bright blue light again. The intricacy of REMI #2 and #3’s juggling is gradually elevated however the actors see fit. This might include playing some sort of game of catch with all six cabbages. Then, music, as if from a music box, begins to play. REMI #2 and #3 straighten and stop their juggling when they hear the music. They place the cabbages on the floor. REMI #1 and #4 are released from their spotlight. They stand close together, and then walk toward REMI #2 and #3. All REMIs are now center stage. REMI is carrying four bottles of amber butterflies.)
I drink because I am alone.
(REMI #1 passes around the bottles of amber butterflies to the other REMIs. They each take one. All REMIs should take a drink after each chorus.)
REMI #2, #3, and #4 (CHORUS): I write because I am alone.
REMI #1: I drink because I am sad.
CHORUS: I write because I am sad.
REMI #1: I drink because the world is ugly.
CHORUS: I write because the world is ugly.
REMI #1: I drink because I am ugly.
CHORUS: I write because I am ugly.
REMI #1 and CHORUS: We are overwhelmed.
REMI #2: Wait—are we individuals or are we one?
(There is a beat while all REMIs ponder this.)
REMI #3: Surely we are one cohesive being.
REMI #4: Oh, do not involve me with this stuttering foolishness. (Pointing at REMI #1:) I hear you cry at night at small things, like the death of an old balloon and faucets imitating burglars, and I will not stand for it. If you believe that mushrooms are fairy castles and do not wish them to be uprooted by the lawnmower, don’t run the lawnmower over their spotted kingdom. If you feel used and browbeaten and weary, stop drinking, and do something about it. But do not involve me. I have tried to warn you, and you will not listen.
(A white spotlight hovers over REMI #4 for an instant, accompanied by a clap of thunder, then the stage goes black. At lights-up, REMI #4 has disappeared. Three remain.)
REMI #3: (Taking out his pipe:) Surely we are one cohesive being.
REMI #2: Well . . . we don’t really need another instance of substance abuse.
(A white spotlight hovers over REMI #3 for an instant, accompanied by a clap of thunder, then the stage goes black. At lights-up, REMI #3 has disappeared. Two remain. REMI #1 and REMI #2 both take a swig from their bottle of amber butterflies to avoid discussing the issue.)
REMI #1: I don’t need a hat to disappear.
(A white spotlight hovers over REMI #2 for an instant, accompanied by a clap of thunder, then the stage goes black. At lights-up, REMI #2 has disappeared. One remains.)
(To the audience:) I am sad.
(REMI raises both arms above his head. As his arms rise, pens, bunched-up paper, bottle labels, shards of glass, etc. fall from his body to the floor. He opens his mouth and a stream of beautiful butterflies comes out.)
End of play.
Remi Recchia is a Ph.D. candidate in English-Creative Writing at Oklahoma State University. His work has appeared in Barzakh Magazine, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Front Porch, Gravel, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Haverthorn Press, among others. He holds an MFA in Poetry from Bowling Green State University. Twitter: https://twitter.com/steambbcrywolf?lang=en