By: Dylan Schifrin
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Alex – 25 years old, recently suffered from a devastating breakup. Wants to absorb himself in his work and avoid all human relationships, but ultimately falls for Gwendolyn.
Gwendolyn – A cactus brought to life in Alex’s mind. Very sweet and simple at first, wants to be with Alex and comfort him. Progressively becomes manipulative and cruel to Alex.
Louie – Alex’s friend, got Alex his job at Scratchopolis. Affable yet over the top at times, wants to help Alex move on from his breakup. 26 years old.
Honoria – Robotic, logical, somewhat arrogant. Dislikes human interaction, but secretly craves a level of intimacy. 30 years old.
Alex’s office at Scratchopolis, a company that manufactures and distributes backscratchers.
SETTING:Alex’s new office at Scratchopolis, a backscratcher company. There is an office chair and a desk with a phone and a computer on it. On the wall there is a poster depicting a backscratcher with the slogan “Scratchopolis: Ditch Your Itch!”
AT RISE: We hear a phone ring, and lights come up on ALEX, sitting in the office chair. He answers the phone.
ALEX: Thank you for calling Scratchopolis, home of all your backscratcher related needs. How may I assist you?
I’m sorry you’re not satisfied with the Itch eradicator It’s our top of the line model. May I ask what difficulties you’ve encountered, sir?
It burst into flames?
Look, how about I just send you a new one?
I’m glad we were able to work this out. Thank you for calling.
(ALEX hangs up and looks around nervously before quickly picking up the phone again and dialing a number. He waits a bit and then begins nervously leaving a message)
Hi, Katie? Hi. I guess you’re not home now. I know we aren’t supposed to, you know, talk. But just ‘cause we broke up, there’s nothing wrong with checking in, right?
(he gets a call on the other line)
(he switches to the other line)
Thank you for calling Scratchopolis. How may I assist you?
I’m sorry to hear you lost your backscratcher, ma’am.
No, I don’t know where it is.
Ma’am, please, calm down. Watch your language–oh, you found it. Ok. You’re welcome. Bye.
(he hangs up, then quickly redials Katie’s number)
Hi Katie. I forgot to say…this is Alex. So, uh, anyway, call me back, if you want.
(he hangs up, but immediately redials Katie’s number)
It’s me again. You’re probably wondering how I’m doing. I’m doing great. I bought an ottoman.
(pause, ALEX picks up a little object shaped like a hand from his desk and begins to manipulate it)
Anyway, I’ll see you soon. Wait, I guess I won’t. But I’ll talk to you, maybe. You know, probably. So…bye. I guess. I mean…it’s Alex.
(ALEX hangs up)
(HONORIA enters stage right)
HONORIA: You’re new here.
HONORIA: I don’t care for change, Alex.
ALEX: Oh, you know my name.
HONORIA: Your deductive skills are commendable. Now let us proceed to the topic at hand. I wish to present you with a proposal.
ALEX: (uncomfortable, lamely) A proposal? You’ll have to buy me dinner first…(he laughs nervously, HONORIA stares at him expressionless)
You were saying?
HONORIA: Every workday at precisely 10:14 I depart from my office for a brief 3.75 minute break where I consume five-eighths of a banana and some nonfat ice milk. The shortest route to the kitchen from my workspace is through this office. I feel you must know this lest you become startled by my daily commute.
ALEX: So, you’re going to come through my office every day?
HONORIA: I’m afraid you have no choice, Alex. Cutting through your office shaves roughly ten steps off my commute both ways. Assuming one step takes approximately 0.5 seconds, that’s five seconds saved per day, translating to 1300 seconds, or 21.7 minutes, saved per year. Now, to the second topic at hand.
ALEX: There’s a second topic?
HONORIA: Mr. Delafontaine has requested I improve my relations with my coworkers. He feels I am unable to connect to others on a personal level and am inept at understanding various social cues.
ALEX: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. You know, I had a cousin who-
HONORIA: (abruptly cutting him off) During every morning trip to my break I shall say, “Good morning, Alex,” and you shall respond, “Good morning, Honoria.” Upon my return trip through your office, I shall bring up a common topic of conversation. We shall discuss it briefly, and then I shall exit. Is this clear to you?
ALEX: Sort of.
HONORIA: My break is starting. Good morning, Alex.
ALEX: Enjoy your break.
(HONORIA stares at him)
Is something wrong?
HONORIA: (annoyed) I must insist you stick to the prearranged agreement. Say “Good morning, Honoria.”
ALEX: Oh, right. “Good morning, Honoria.”
(HONORIA stares at him for a bit, then exits stage left)
(ALEX continues to look at the magnet, when suddenly LOUIE enters stage right)
LOUIE: Hey, Alex! Welcome to Scratchopolis, buddy!
ALEX: (startled) Oh! Hey Louie.
LOUIE: What’s wrong?
ALEX: I just met someone named Honoria.
LOUIE: We like to play a little game around the office called “If Honoria Sees You, Run Like Hell.” Remind me to teach you the rules sometime. Anyway, tell me, how’s your first day as Executive in Charge of Quality Control?
ALEX: I’m still settling in. I can’t believe I already have an executive position.
LOUIE: Yeah, we use the term “executive” pretty loosely here. Steve, the unpaid intern, is Executive in Charge of caffeine retrieval.
ALEX: Well, thanks, Louie, for recommending me for the job.
LOUIE: No problem, pal. You needed a fresh start. And nothing can give you a fresh start like the nation’s third most successful backscratcher company. Hey, I almost forgot your office-warming present!
(LOUIE runs off stage right)
ALEX: Present? Louie, you didn’t have to-
(LOUIE returns with a sad-looking cactus)
ALEX: (CONT’D) Oh. You got me a cactus.
LOUIE: Last night it hit me that I hadn’t gotten you anything for your new office! So, I wrote “buy Alex gift” on my hand so I wouldn’t forget. But it must have washed off in the shower or something, because in the morning, the only letters I could make out spelled “Blift.” “What the hell does Blift mean!?” I thought. It was the scribblings of a madman! But then, when I was cutting through the alley on the way to work, I remembered! Blift! Buy Alex gift! And–just my luck–I saw this beauty, sitting all alone in the alley next to a urine-soaked mattress. It was fate.
(LOUIE plops the cactus down on ALEX’s desk)
LOUIE: It’s just that you both could use a little love.
ALEX: It looks like it could use a little sun, too.
(ALEX takes the cactus and places it on the window sill)
LOUIE: (catching sight of the hand magnet) Oh, no. Alex, don’t tell me you still have this!
ALEX: (uneasy) Louie, please don’t touch that.
LOUIE: I thought you were trying to get over Katie. Keeping her gifts won’t help that!
ALEX: It’s the only thing I have left of her.
LOUIE: Whatever. But tonight, I want you to come out with me and some people from the office.
ALEX: I don’t know, I mean I have to go home and, you know, throw out some expired yogurts–
LOUIE: Come on. It’s been forever since you’ve felt any kind of joie de vivre.
ALEX: Sorry, Louie.
LOUIE: Fine. But at least promise me you’ll forget about Katie.
ALEX: I can’t promise that.
(he clutches the hand magnet)
LOUIE: Oh God, you didn’t leave her another message, did you?
(Suddenly HONORIA bursts in stage left)
HONORIA: Chinchillas are the softest rodents and have been hunted nearly to extinction. What are your thoughts on this matter?
LOUIE: (annoyed) Hello, Honoria.
HONORIA: (to LOUIE, not looking at him) Don’t try to engage me. I haven’t the time for multiple discourses.
LOUIE: Looks like it’s my lucky day.
(LOUIE exits stage right)
HONORIA: (as soon as LOUIE is gone, to ALEX) Your thoughts, please.
HONORIA: Your thoughts. On the chinchilla matter. I’m trying to have a conversation, Alex. Remember our agreement.
ALEX: Well, I guess that’s pretty sad, that they’re hunted and all.
(HONORIA exits stage left)
(ALEX types something on his laptop, then stands up and gets a cup of water from the water cooler. He drinks half of the cup and pours the rest on the cactus. ALEX then exits stage right.)
(While Alex is gone, the cactus on the windowsill transforms into GWENDOLYN, a young woman in a green dress. She sits on the windowsill, where the cactus was, with her feet in a large cactus pot. No one can see or hear her but ALEX.)
(ALEX enters stage right and sits at his desk.)
GWENDOLYN: Psst. Hey! Alex!
ALEX: …Who said that?
GWENDOLYN: I did. Over here.
(ALEX turns to GWENDOLYN and looks at her in disbelief)
GWENDOLYN: (CONT’D) Hi there.
ALEX: (after a pause, calmly) Oh, look. The cactus is talking to me. Hm, either I’m dreaming, or this is what a mental breakdown looks like.
GWENDOLYN: You’re not having a breakdown.
ALEX: Oh, ok. I’m dreaming, then.
GWENDOLYN: No, you’re not dreaming.
ALEX: What? How is this even possible?
GWENDOLYN: My name is Gwendolyn.
ALEX: Cactuses have names?
GWENDOLYN: It’s “cacti.”
ALEX: I thought it was “Gwendolyn.”
GWENDOLYN: No, I mean the plural of cactus.
ALEX: What’s the plural of cactus?
ALEX: Oh. Definitely a mental breakdown.
(he rubs his temples)
GWENDOLYN: Sorry. I should have realized this might be confusing for you.
ALEX: You think?!
GWENDOLYN: I apologize if I scared you.
ALEX: (warily) So…have you always been able to talk?
GWENDOLYN: I’m not sure. I’ve never tried before.
ALEX: Then why am I the lucky guinea pig?
GWENDOLYN: I guess I haven’t really had anyone to talk to before. People tend to keep their distance from you when you’re a cactus. It’s all the spines, probably.(pause)
I liked it when you watered me. It made me feel good.
ALEX: Well, uh…you’re welcome. You looked a little thirsty.
GWENDOLYN: I was.
Can I trust you?
ALEX: What, you mean not tell anyone what a talking cactus says? It’s a pretty safe bet I’m gonna keep this to myself.
GWENDOLYN: Thanks. No one’s cared for me before. That’s what you’re doing, right? Taking care of me?
ALEX: I guess. It’s no big deal.
GWENDOLYN: Well, that’s a start.
ALEX: Start to what?
GWENDOLYN: Our relationship.
ALEX: What do you mean?
GWENDOLYN: Don’t you want to be friends?
GWENDOLYN: (smiling) Thanks. I’ve never had a friend before.
I’m sorry about Katie.
ALEX: (defensive) How do you know about Katie?
GWENDOLYN: I heard you and Louie talking. I’m sorry she broke your heart. Do you want to talk about it?
ALEX: No. Especially not to a plant.
GWENDOLYN: Alex, we’re friends now, remember? You can trust me too. What happened?
ALEX: (stares at GWENDOLYN for a moment, then gives in:) What the hell. Katie and I had been dating for a year, and everything was going great. Then, one day while we were playing miniature golf, she turned to me and said that I just wasn’t enough for her anymore. Who does that during miniature golf?!
GWENDOLYN: I’m sorry, Alex. I’d hug you, but, you know, spines.
ALEX: I gave her everything. I was kind, I listened to her, I made her soup when she was sick, I drove her to the DMV, I drove her mother to the DMV, and when her cat ran away, who do you think scoured the neighborhood all night in the rain, only to come back and find Peaches asleep on her face? I did everything I could to make her happy. And it still wasn’t enough.
(he picks up the ceramic hand magnet)
Before it happened, she made me this little ceramic hand. She made one for herself too, and she put magnets in them, so that when they were finished, we could stick them together. Our two hands, forever touching.
GWENDOLYN: (moved) That’s so sweet.
ALEX: We worked together, but being around her was too painful, so I had to quit my job. Luckily, Louie was able to set me up here.
Wow, it’s getting late. I better get home.
GWENDOLYN: (disappointed) Really? Oh. Well, I’ll be here, I guess.
ALEX: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but…thanks for listening.
(ALEX starts to exit)
GWENDOLYN: I like listening to you. Oh, and Alex–
(ALEX turns back and looks at her)
–thank you for the water.
SETTING: Alex’s office at Scratchopolis.
AT RISE: ALEX enters stage right, hangs up his jacket, and turns on the light. All of a sudden:
GWENDOLYN: Good morning, Alex!
GWENDOLYN: I hope you didn’t forget about me.
ALEX: I tried to by taking lots of medicine.
GWENDOLYN: Remember how we talked about Katie, and how we’re friends now, and that you can trust me?
ALEX: Oh. Right. We’re friends now.
(ALEX sits at his desk and begins inspecting a backscratcher)
GWENDOLYN: You don’t want to be more than friends?
GWENDOLYN: Well, if you don’t want to…
ALEX: Like a relationship?
GWENDOLYN: We have a relationship. But I was thinking of something more.
ALEX: You mean a romantic relationship?
GWENDOLYN: If you want.
ALEX: I’m sorry, Gwendolyn. This is really weird.
GWENDOLYN: Oh. I should’ve known.
(GWENDOLYN is sad, ALEX sees her and is moved)
ALEX: Look, I don’t know if I’m ready to be with another woman.
GWENDOLYN: I’m not a woman. I’m a cactus.
ALEX: That doesn’t make it less weird.
GWENDOLYN: All I want is to be with you so we can take care of each other.
ALEX: (pause, touched) I just can’t handle being hurt again.
GWENDOLYN: (re: her spines) I won’t hurt you. Unless you touch me.
(GWENDOLYN reaches out to ALEX, ALEX impulsively reaches out to touch her but then, seeing her spines, he grabs a backscratcher and touches her hand with it. They have a moment together)
(Suddenly LOUIE enters stage right)
LOUIE: Alex! Where were you!?
ALEX: (startled, drops his backscratcher) Here, why?
LOUIE: You missed the meeting!
ALEX: Wha-what meeting?
LOUIE: The entire company was there to hear your report, and you were a no-show!
ALEX: Oh my god! No one ever told me!
LOUIE: This is a complete disaster! Boy, is Mr. Delafontaine furious with you! And now I look like an idiot for recommending you!
ALEX: I’m so sorry! This job means everything to me! What am I gonna do?
(LOUIE starts laughing)
ALEX: Why are you laughing?!
LOUIE: Oh man, I really got you!
(he sees the look of pure terror on ALEX’s face)
Alex, I’m just kidding!
ALEX: I thought I was going to lose my job! Why would you do that to me?
LOUIE: Now breaking up with Katie doesn’t seem so bad, does it? You’re welcome!
(HONORIA enters stage right)
HONORIA: (not looking at either of them) Good morning, Alex.
ALEX: Good morning, Honoria.
LOUIE: Good morning, “Gonorrhea”.
HONORIA: You misspoke. My name is Honoria.
LOUIE: Oh, so the “G” is silent.
HONORIA: (to LOUIE): If in past encounters I have conveyed the impression that I enjoy your company, said impressions were fraudulent.
(HONORIA exits stage left)
LOUIE: Hey, I wanted to show you something.
(LOUIE rolls out a blueprint revealing a detailed drawing of a backscratcher)
I drew up blueprints for a new backscratcher model. It has a reinforced carbon fiber arm, a solar-powered scratching mechanism, and, through my addition of an extra finger, its productivity is increased by 20%. This is going to revolutionize the entire industry. Can you feel your heart pounding with anticipation?
ALEX: Yes, because you almost gave me a heart attack earlier. What did Mr. Delafontaine think of it?
LOUIE: I haven’t told him yet. But when I show it to him, I’ll finally be promoted out of the sales department and into–
(his eyes aglow)
–mid-level management. This is my big break.
Hey, you missed a fun time last night. We got kicked out of three different bars.
(ALEX grabs the hand magnet and starts squeezing it)
ALEX: Sorry I wasn’t there.
LOUIE: You really need a good time like that. You gotta put yourself out there. What are you doing tonight?
ALEX: I’m busy.
LOUIE: Calling Katie?
ALEX: (defensive) No. I have a date.
LOUIE: (incredulous) Oh, yeah. Right. You have a date. What’s her name?
LOUIE: Gwendolyn? You couldn’t have come up with something more believable?
(GWENDOLYN looks at LOUIE angrily)
ALEX: It’s true! Her name is Gwendolyn. And it just happened.
LOUIE: Wow. Well, that’s great! You gotta introduce me to her.
(GWENDOLYN begins frantically miming “no way” to ALEX)
ALEX: I don’t know…she’s kind of, uh, shy…
(ALEX’s phone rings)
LOUIE: Well, if Gwendolyn does exist, I’m happy for you, pal. You should bring her when we all go out and celebrate my promotion!
(LOUIE exits stage right. ALEX answers the phone)
ALEX: Thank you for calling Scratchopolis, home of all your back scratcher related needs. How may I assist you?
No, ma’am. Our backscratchers are unable to treat crippling depression. You must’ve misread the label.
(he hangs up)
GWENDOLYN: Did you really mean it, Alex? Are we dating?
ALEX: I just said that to get Louie off my back.
GWENDOLYN: (disappointed) Oh…
Well…do you want to?
ALEX: I don’t know. Do you?
GWENDOLYN: I do if you do.
ALEX: This is crazy. I mean, we’re two different species.
GWENDOLYN: So? Lots of mixed couples are very happy.
(pause, ALEX looks at her)
I won’t leave you like Katie did. You can feel safe with me.
(referring to her pot)
I’m not going anywhere.
ALEX: That sounds nice.
GWENDOLYN: Now that we’re dating, would you mind putting Katie’s magnet away?
ALEX: (picking up the hand magnet) Um…
GWENDOLYN: Please? It would mean a lot to me.
ALEX: (he thinks about it) Okay.
(he drops the hand magnet in a drawer and closes it)
GWENDOLYN: That’s better.
I don’t like how Louie treats you. That joke about the meeting he played on you was mean. You don’t need people like that in your life.
ALEX: I guess he did go a little too far. But he was just trying to help me.
GWENDOLYN: Don’t you wish there was some way you could get back at him?
ALEX: Get back at him? What do you mean?
GWENDOLYN: I know what you should do, Alex.
GWENDOLYN: Steal Louie’s backscratcher model.
(HONORIA suddenly enters stage left)
HONORIA: Genetically modified organisms are a much-debated subject in today’s modern society. What are your thoughts on this matter?
ALEX: Honoria, this really isn’t a good time.
(HONORIA stares at him)
Fine. I think more research should be done on genetically modified crops. Happy?
HONORIA: Joy is an illusion. Just stick to our arrangement.
(HONORIA exits stage right)
ALEX: (CONT’D) (to GWENDOLYN, aghast) You want me to steal Louie’s model?!
GWENDOLYN: Well, don’t think of it as “stealing”. Think of it as “liberating” it from someone not as worthy. Show it to Mr. Delafontaine and say it’s your idea. Then you’ll get a raise and a promotion!
ALEX: I can’t do that to Louie!
GWENDOLYN: Then do it for me.
ALEX: I don’t know…
GWENDOLYN: You have no ambition, Alex. Don’t you want a promotion?
ALEX: I’m already an executive!
GWENDOLYN: So is Steve the intern! Besides, all you do is inspect backscratchers and converse with the insane!
ALEX: Come on. This is a criminal act!
GWENDOLYN: I thought you cared about me, Alex.
ALEX: I do care about you. But this is morally wrong. I can’t betray a friend. He gave me this job. He gave me you!
GWENDOLYN: He found me in an alley! Besides, I’m your more-than-friend. What matters more to you: him or me?
(ALEX is silent)
You have to do this. You deserve that promotion more than Louie does. And deep down, I think he knows it. I believe in you.
ALEX: You do?
(pause as ALEX contemplates his course of action)
Oh, and Alex? Maybe you can use the raise to buy me a new pot? A nice, Italian one? With a polka-dot pattern?
ALEX: Sure, Gwendolyn.
Whatever makes you happy.
(ALEX exits stage left)
SETTING: Alex’s office at Scratchopolis.
AT RISE: ALEX is sitting at his desk, perhaps with a new jacket to indicate his promotion. GWENDOLYN sits happily with her feet in a new polka-dot pot. LOUIE enters stage left and looks resentfully at ALEX.
ALEX: (nervously) Oh, hi, Louie.
(LOUIE just stares at him)
(LOUIE doesn’t answer)
Louie, let me explain–
LOUIE: I know exactly what your deal is: you’re a back-stabbing double agent from our competitor Scratch-Co, sent here to uncover Scratchopolis’s darkest secrets for your own nefarious purposes!
ALEX: What? If I was from Scratch-Co, why would I have shown your model to the head of Scratchopolis?
LOUIE: Enough with your mind games, Alex, if that is your real name. I don’t have to stand for this! I have dignity!
(LOUIE stomps his foot and a large amount of backscratchers falls out of his jacket)
LOUIE: (CONT’D) I was going to assault you with those, but now I’ve lost the element of surprise.
ALEX: I know what I did was terrible, Louie. But please–
LOUIE: We were friends, Alex! I trusted you. And if that doesn’t mean anything–
ALEX: It does!
LOUIE: I never want to see you again! You’re scum!
(HONORIA enters stage right. LOUIE starts to exit stage right and encounters her. They both freeze)
LOUIE: (CONT’D) (disdainfully, to HONORIA) You!
(LOUIE exits stage right)
HONORIA: Good morning, Alex.
ALEX: Good morning, Honoria.
(HONORIA exits stage left)
ALEX: (CONT’D) (to GWENDOLYN) What was that? You said deep down Louie would think I deserved it!
GWENDOLYN: Please. You wanted to believe me. Besides, you still got away with it, didn’t you? What’s the problem?
ALEX: I’ll tell you what the problem is! Louie thinks I’m scum!
GWENDOLYN: Well, maybe you are.
GWENDOLYN: I don’t like how you keep inviting Honoria in here.
ALEX: Inviting? She invites herself! It’s part of her “social interaction proposal”.
GWENDOLYN: I think you’re spending too much time with her, Alex. This is supposed to be our space! Our sanctuary!
ALEX: Don’t tell me you’re jealous of Honoria!
GWENDOLYN: Do you think she’s prettier than me?
ALEX: Of course not!
GWENDOLYN: Flattery won’t save you this time, Alex. You need to assert yourself! When she returns you have to stand up to her and tell her never to come back here again.
ALEX: Why would I do that? Sure, she’s annoying, but she’s not hurting anyone.
GWENDOLYN: She’s hurting me. I thought we promised to take care of each other. But if you don’t want to anymore…
ALEX: No! I do!
GWENDOLYN: If you really loved me, you’d get rid of that thing you call Honoria. I’m the only woman in your life.
ALEX: Woman?! You live in a pot!
GWENDOLYN: And you live in the past! I thought you wanted to move forward. I thought you wanted to make me happy.
ALEX: I can’t keep pushing people away!
GWENDOLYN: The only thing Honoria cares about is herself. You’re just a means she uses to improve her hopelessly awkward social skills.
(A pause as ALEX absorbs what GWENDOLYN is saying)
ALEX: Fine. I’ll do it.
GWENDOLYN: Good. I knew you’d see things my way.
(HONORIA enters stage left)
HONORIA: The sensation of touch results from the repulsion of the electrons between two surfaces. Therefore, true contact with anything is technically impossible. What are your thoughts on this matter?
ALEX: Honoria…can I talk to you?
HONORIA: Yes. That is our agreement.
ALEX: No, I meant talk to you about something other than electrons.
HONORIA: To deviate from the selected topic?
HONORIA: I don’t know what you did to Louie, but his broken emotional state filled me with a satisfying schadenfreude. Therefore, I shall allow you to deviate temporarily.
ALEX: Honoria, I hate to do this, but I don’t think you should pass through my office anymore. The truth is, I lose work time due to our conversations.
HONORIA: Interesting. So, in my attempts to maximize my social productivity, I have caused you to sacrifice your work productivity.
ALEX: Exactly. I hope you understand.
HONORIA: I understand. I respect your opinion and furthermore withhold my disappointment that our conversations have not been a pleasure for you as well. Goodbye.
(HONORIA begins to exit stage right, but ALEX stops her)
ALEX: Wait, are you saying you’ve enjoyed talking to me?
HONORIA: Yes. Mr. Delafontaine was right about social interaction. It can be an enjoyable experience.
(pause, then somewhat sorrowfully)
Upon my next visit I was to ask you, “What makes you happy,” and you were to reply, “Truly it would be a crime not to hear your magnificent answer first, Honoria.” I was then to respond, “Human interaction has proven an enjoyable experience,” and you were to finally reply, “never have my ears been tickled with a grander response. Brava, Honoria.”
But I won’t detract from your productivity any longer. Goodbye.
(HONORIA begins to exit stage right, then turns back)
Oh, I almost forgot. I overheard Louie saying something about getting you fired.
(ALEX’s phone rings)
I suspect that phone call pertains to the situation. Goodbye.
(HONORIA exits stage right)
ALEX: (answering the phone) Hello? Yes, Mr. Delafontaine?
I understand. Thank you for everything.
(he hangs up)
Well, Gwendolyn, I hope you’re happy.
GWENDOLYN: Happy? How could I possibly be happy?! How will you provide for us now?
ALEX: This isn’t my fault! Stealing Louie’s model was your idea.
GWENDOLYN: It wasn’t my idea for you to get fired!
ALEX: And Honoria did care about me. So did Louie. But now I’ve lost both of them.
GWENDOLYN: So? You don’t need them. I’m the only one you need.
ALEX: You?! You’re just a cactus!
(GWENDOLYN pauses for a second, then retaliates viciously)
GWENDOLYN: What are you going to do now, Alex? Who’s going to hire someone who would willingly steal a fellow employee’s work?
ALEX: You manipulated me!
GWENDOLYN: You could have stood up for yourself! What are you, jobless and weak?
ALEX: Gwendolyn, stop!
GWENDOLYN: (bitterly) Maybe you could ask Louie for another job–oh that’s right, Louie hates you. Well, maybe you could try Honoria–oh wait, she hates you too. Hey-maybe you could ask Katie to help you out! Oh, wait, she’s hated you from the start.
ALEX: Gwendolyn! Please!
GWENDOLYN: I can’t believe you didn’t foresee any of this. You must be jobless and weak and stupid!
ALEX: GWENDOLYN! SHUT UP!
GWENDOLYN: I know exactly what Katie meant, Alex. You’re just not enough. And you never will be.
ALEX: I AM ENOUGH!
(He pushes GWENDOLYN out of the window; she screams, and we hear a crash. The lights immediately come down)
HONORIA (O.S.): Alex? Alex?
(Lights come up to reveal ALEX slumped over at his desk)
(HONORIA enters stage right)
HONORIA: Are you dead? Because that wasn’t part of our arrangement.
ALEX: Honoria…you came back. I could really use a friend.
HONORIA: Well that’s unfortunate. I’ve been assigned the task of escorting you out of the building. Now please gather your belongings.
(ALEX continues to lie pathetically on the floor)
Are you quite certain you’re not dead?
ALEX: Fairly certain.
HONORIA: Good. Now please hand in your Executive in Charge of Quality Control ID badge and follow me.
(she starts to leave)
ALEX: Ironic, isn’t it? That I was Executive in Charge of Quality Control, when I’m such a mess.
(HONORIA turns back)
I’m defective. I should be thrown in the reject pile with those deformed backscratchers that look like they’re giving you the finger. I feel terrible about what I did to Louie. I lost control. I thought working here would help me get over Katie. I thought it would help me move on with my life. But I guess I couldn’t outrun my demons.
(he looks out the window that he pushed GWENDOLYN through)
HONORIA: You’re babbling.
ALEX: I’m sorry, Honoria, for what I said. If I still had an office, I would let you pass through it whenever you wanted to.
HONORIA: No, Alex. It is I who is sorry.
ALEX: (sitting up) What?
HONORIA: When you requested that I not pass through your office anymore, I started to contemplate my interactions with others. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my social skills are not what you might call “normal” or “even remotely appropriate.” Faces move so quickly. I think someone looks happy, so I say something, but then all of a sudden, they’re mad, or annoyed, or sad. People push me away all the time and I don’t know why.
ALEX: It’s not your fault. Your social challenges aren’t something you ask for. They’re something you’re born with, like…like spines on a cactus.
(he stands up)
HONORIA: You know…spines are often utilized in nature for protection.
ALEX: You shouldn’t have to protect yourself. If people can’t accept you for who you are, then it’s their problem. Not yours.
HONORIA: I had hoped that my experiment with social interaction would have allowed me to become close to you.
ALEX: Really? You still could.
HONORIA: I better stay on task of escorting you out of the building before your inevitable tazing by security.
(ALEX begins gathering his things)
HONORIA: (CONT’D) You never answered my discussion question.
ALEX: What was it, again?
HONORIA: I asked you, “The sensation of touch results from the repulsion of elections. Therefore, true contact with anything is technically impossible. What are your thoughts on this matter?”
If touch is fundamentally just repulsion, then why even bother trying to connect with people? What good is intimacy if the conceit of it is false?
ALEX: (holding and manipulating the hand magnet) We all want intimacy to some degree, and the thought that it might not be real is scary. But believe me: there is something real there. Maybe the individual atoms themselves don’t touch, but there must be something in the space between them. Maybe it’s love–you can’t quantify that. But you have to be open to it by embracing the people who accept you for you, and letting go of those who don’t.
(ALEX places the hand magnet on his desk)
HONORIA: …Thank you, Alex. I was going to ask you a question about tapeworms, but I think I made the right choice.
ALEX: (finishing gathering his things) Ok, I’m ready to go.
HONORIA: You forgot something on your desk.
(she starts to retrieve the hand magnet)
ALEX: Leave it.
(He takes her hand; a spark of light flickers between their hands)
END OF PLAY
Dylan Schifrin is a playwright and musical theater writer from Los Angeles. He is currently a senior at Yale University. His work has been distinguished by the Blank Theatre Company, the California Young Playwrights Contest, the Foundation for New American Musicals, and the National YoungArts Foundation as a 2016 Finalist in playwriting. Check out more of his writing at www.youthplays.com or at his website, https://dylanschifrin.com