BY JOHN PATRICK BRAY
Roberta – late 20s/early 30s
Jake – late 20s/early 30s
Just outside of a house where there’s a New Year’s Party/Almost 2017
In the DARK, a song plays, such as Prince’s “1999.” The music fades and becomes muffled, as if blasting inside of a house. LIGHTS UP.
JAKE sits out in the snow, bundled up. He is wearing a winter coat and a sparkling tophat that has “2017” on it. He holds a perfect sliver of ice. He places the ice under his nose. Pauses. He works it up into his nose. Works it around. He reacts to the pain. Blood flows down the ice and onto his hand. YELLOW LIGHT from a door opening spills onto JAKE. We hear the song a little louder. The light and music fade as ROBERTA, who is not wearing a winter coat, approaches JAKE.
ROBERTA. He’s gone. They kicked him out. More like…strongly suggested he’d leave. So. He did. (Beat.) You okay? (JAKE turns away, trying to wipe off his mouth/nose.) So….I don’t know. I didn’t know he was going to be here. (Pause.) He, uh…he gets it. He gets what you’re doing. We all do. Okay? (She looks around.) This patch of snow taken? (She sits.)
JAKE. How long?
ROBERTA. Until what? He comes back?
JAKE. How long has it been…for you?
ROBERTA. Over eighteen months. (Beat.) I know you have me beat. I know….you’re a role model…I mean…. (Pause.) Jake?
JAKE. I haven’t been….I haven’t been honest all the way. I’ve…I’ve tried. (Beat.) It’s only been six months.
JAKE. Six weeks.
ROBERTA. Everyone falls off. Right? I mean, my shrink tells me that…um…most people fall off in some way between five and seven times a year. Can you believe that? And they’ll still wave around their chips like they’re at some kind of, you know…poker game. Like a big poker game or something. And see? See how well I do? It’s like they tell you…you won’t do so well. You won’t. You will fail, but I won’t fail. I have the chips. You know? (Beat. JAKE is still not looking at her.) Yeah. My ass is getting cold.
JAKE. Want me to warm it?
ROBERTA. (Looking back toward the party) I don’t think Jeanette would like that.
JAKE. I don’t care.
ROBERTA. Yeah, you do.
JAKE. No, Roberta. I don’t. You know what the problem is right now…right now…the problem right now is…I feel great!
JAKE. I mean…I feel…fantastic! Like I could…I don’t know…like everyone’s afraid of the incoming president…but maybe he’s not such a bad guy, and if I could sit here and come up with like a letter, which is awesomer than a tweet, I could like practice it in my mind so I don’t forget, then I could go in and like write it down on paper… (He finally turns. ROBERTA simultaneously sees some of the blood on his face. He’s high.)
ROBERTA. Oh, Jake..
JAKE. …and he could read it, and understand that we all have the same fears, the same issues, the same…consider abortion.
ROBERTA. I’ve considered it.
JAKE. No one wants it. We all think it’s a terrible choice—
JAKE. Hear me out! But, it’s like…how do we prevent people from having to make that terrible decision? On our side we have sex ed, condoms—
ROBERTA. —which some of us never use.
JAKE. And, you know, reproductive health, information, knowledge, compassion…on that side, there’s fear…fear of…everything…so they live in fear…abstinence, clothing regulations on girls from a young age, like hide…hide the private parts…I don’t just mean like the private-private parts, I mean the chemistry, the parts where we’re all feeling, thinking, loving beings, that experiencing an orgasm with another person can be the most magical and the most heartbreaking thing you can ever put yourself through, plus it like feels amazing, almost as amazing as… (Beat. He looks at her. She looks at him, somewhere between sympathetic and reproachful.) In twenty-four hours I’ll have a day.
ROBERTA. Yeah. (Pause.)
JAKE. Does Jeanette know?
ROBERTA. Nope. And she’s not going to know.
JAKE. (Beat.) I just…I can’t believe he showed up here.
ROBERTA. It’s a small town.
JAKE. But…this can’t be like the only party in four square miles. It just…I mean…how do we get through the next year?
ROBERTA. I don’t know. Maybe someone in there called him, you know? Not everyone is recovered. Or recovering or…(Beat.) You know I almost had an abortion, right?
ROBERTA. Sammy was not planned.
ROBERTA. And, um…neither was the wedding. More of a, you know. “Oops. Guess we’re doing this.”
JAKE. Huh. Jesus.
ROBERTA. So, I mean…I get your use of abortion as an example, but….some people don’t like to think about it. At all. Because it doesn’t like exist in the realm of the hypothetical.
JAKE. (Beat.) Shit.
ROBERTA. It’s okay.
JAKE. I mean…just shit.
ROBERTA. Yeah. (Beat.) I might be getting divorced.
JAKE. Oh, God.
ROBERTA. And I really hate Jeanette.
JAKE. She’s just…Long Island…just her way.
ROBERTA. And I really wanna screw you.
ROBERTA. And I really want you to tell me…
JAKE. Tell you what? You’re beautiful.
ROBERTA. Not to do it.
JAKE. Not to screw me?
ROBERTA. Not to do it! (She reaches into her coat and produces a small, tightly packed baggie.)
JAKE. You…you bought, too. (She chuckles. He gets a big grin on his face.) You called him. (Roberta gives no response.)
ROBERTA. I have a problem.
JAKE. (Beat.) Me, too. (Beat.) When you came out here, I was actually just…trying to dig the shit out of my nose with some of the ice that fell of the gutter there. Jesus. Like it wasn’t…too damn late. Like it wasn’t already. You know. In. (He chuckles. She chuckles with him.)
ROBERTA. I can’t do this.
JAKE. Which part?
ROBERTA. Any of it. I just can’t. The average person falls off five to seven times a year. I…I haven’t. But…God, it’s close…every day watching Sammy, I think “how selfish can I be…” You know? “To even consider….” and here we are. (The sounds of the party gets louder as yellow lights spills out on them. ROBERTA waves.) Did she…did Jeanette really tap her watch at you?
JAKE. Wants me to kiss her at midnight. I guess we’re close.
ROBERTA. Yeah. I guess we’re close. (They look at each other. They shake their heads.)
JAKE. Is she still looking?
ROBERTA. (ROBERTA looks.) No. (She turns to him. He gives her a quick peck on the mouth. She chuckles. They kiss once more. Not with tongue. Just simple. They look at each other. She wipes a bit of the blood away. Motions as if to say, “did I get any on me?” He looks at her, and then gestures as if to say “nah, you’re good.”)
JAKE. Happy last minute…of the worst year of our lives.
ROBERTA. Happy last minute. (He stands up and brushes off his butt.)
JAKE. What are you gonna do with that?
ROBERTA. I don’t know. I’m just going to hold it for a minute, I think.
JAKE. Okay. You ready to go in? Give your husband a kiss?
ROBERTA. (Beat.) I don’t know.
JAKE. Yeah. Yeah….
ROBERTA. If you do write that letter to Mr. Trump…tell him….I don’t know.
JAKE. Ah, I got plenty to tell him. I have some great ideas about how-
ROBERTA. I know. I know. (He starts to leave her. He pauses.)
JAKE. Oh, and uh…(a-la a PSA) “Don’t do drugs.” (A moment. He chuckles. She forces a smile. The yellow light spills on them. JAKE nods towards it. He stands up. He offers his hand to ROBERTA as if to ask “you sure you don’t want to come in?”) No. Not yet.(A moment. He exits. She wipes away tears. She holds up the baggie.)
VOICES INSIDE. Ten…nine…eight…seven…six…five….four…three…two—(Blackout. Sound Out.)
End of Play
John Patrick Bray (PhD, MFA) has had plays developed and/or produced with Barter Theatre, The Word at the Road, Lyric Arts Main St. Theatre, Axial Theatre, Rising Sun Performance Co., among others. Bray is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America and teaches at the University of Georgia.