By: Isaac Gomez
The back room of a large building that looks like it once could have been a Walmart but very much isn’t anymore.
Aracely holds a clipboard in her hand.
Bianca is distracted by something.
They are both drenched in sweat.
ARACELY: I hope that all made sense.
BIANCA: It did.
ARACELY: Okay. Great.
BIANCA: It’s hot.
ARACELY: It’s always hot.
BIANCA: Yeah but what they say, 107 today?
ARACELY: Something like that. It’s humid.
BIANCA: My sweat burns my eyes, are your eyes burning?
BIANCA: Why are my eyes burning?
ARACELY: Headbands help.
BIANCA: Headbands don’t work for me. Thick hair.
ARACELY: Sure, sure.
BIANCA: Why don’t y’all turn on the AC in here?
ARACELY: It’s broken.
ARACELY: Yeah. This place hasn’t been used in . . . I’m not really sure how long it’s been.
BIANCA: But what about the, uh. . .
ARACELY: There are box fans.
BIANCA: Enough for everyone?
ARACELY: Just enough.
It’s hotter in the back room than it is inside.
BIANCA: Oh. Okay.
ARACELY: Yeah. They’re fine. I promise.
ARACELY (CONT’D): Is there anything else I can help you with? Or . . .
BIANCA: Huh? Oh, no. I’m good. Thank you.
ARACELY: Sorry can I just—
ARACELY: You just keep looking at me like—
BIANCA: What? Like what?
ARACELY: Like you have more questions.
BIANCA: Oh. Sorry. Sometimes when I’m thinking about, well, nothing really, it looks like I’m curious or something when I’m actually not, like I’m not actively thinking about anything I’m just—
BIANCA: Yeah. Just thinking.
ARACELY: Great. Well in that case, you can go now, bathrooms are /over there—
BIANCA: Did this place used to be a Walmart?
ARACELY: So you did have more questions—
BIANCA: I’m only asking ’cause it looks like a Walmart. /Like the colors of the walls and the size—it’s huge in here—I guess it makes sense that you’d put them in here, it’s just like Walmart . . . really?
ARACELY: Really? You think so? I think it looks more like a Target, or a Sears. Remember Montgomery Ward? Yeah, it’s definitely more of a Montgomery Ward. (beat) I didn’t put them in here.
ARACELY: You said it makes sense why I’d put them in here but I didn’t put them in here. Why would I do that, do I look like someone who would do that?
BIANCA: I don’t know.
ARACELY: Really? You don’t think so?
BIANCA: I don’t . . . I—
ARACELY: Okay then.
Aracely hands over her clipboard to Bianca.
BIANCA: What’s this?
ARACELY: Your new assignment.
Bianca flips through several hundred pages.
BIANCA: So many names.
ARACELY: Fifteen hundred. There are fifteen hundred names on that list.
ARACELY (CONT’D): You’ll start at the top. Every kid gets a check mark for every meal. One tray per kid. They’ll come back for more, but there’s only enough for one tray per kid, so.
BIANCA: What do you say if they ask for more?
BIANCA: I say no?
BIANCA: But what if they’re still hungry? They’re /kids.
ARACELY: They’re not kids. They’re young people. We prefer that language here.
BIANCA: Okay. . .
ARACELY: And you still say no.
ARACELY: That’s right. No. It’s the same in every language—at least the ones spoken here—except that weird native thing. If that ever happens to you, just have the Guatemalans translate, they’re usually pretty good at that stuff. Any more questions?
Bianca flips through the pages.
BIANCA: It’s all boys’ names, are there only boys here?
BIANCA: But what about the girls, where’d they put the girls?
ARACELY: I don’t know. Not here.
ARACELY (CONT’D): Lunch is about to start, so you should probably make your way back inside.
BIANCA: (tender; gentle) I can’t just say no. . .
ARACELY: Listen. I get it. It’s hard. You want to help, that’s why you’re here, it’s awesome. #MeToo. But we just gotta do what they say, okay? Follow the list, check off your boxes, and you get to go home at the end of the day knowing you made a difference in somebody’s life.
BIANCA: It doesn’t feel that way.
ARACELY: They’re scared. But it helps them feel safe when the first person they see when they eat is someone who looks like us. Someone who looks like them.
BIANCA: Us? Looks like us?
ARACELY: Mm-hmm. Hispanic.
BIANCA: I’m not Hispanic. I’m Mexican.
ARACELY: Okay, Mexican American, /sheesh sorry.
BIANCA: I didn’t say Mexican American. I said Mexican. I’m Mexican.
ARACELY: You from Mexico?
BIANCA: I’m from here.
ARACELY: Brownsville isn’t /Mexico.
BIANCA: Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
ARACELY: Still not Mexico. That’s the border.
BIANCA: In Mexico.
ARACELY: Just cause it’s on the Mexican side, doesn’t make it Mexico.
BIANCA: Where are you from?
ARACELY: DF. México City. In México.
BIANCA: Of course you are.
ARACELY: Yeah. Of course I am.
“Cuán Lejos Voy” (the Spanish version of
“How Far I’ll Go” from the Disney movie Moana)
can be heard playing in the near distance.
BIANCA: Is that. . .
ARACELY: It’s Moana night.
BIANCA: But it’s in—
ARACELY: Spanish. You are correct.
Then: Bianca slowly takes the papers out of the
clip board and starts to rip them into pieces.
ARACELY (CONT’D): Are you fucking CRAZY?!
Aracely tries to grab the sheets from Bianca,
but Bianca rips faster and faster.
BIANCA: Gimme those!
Then, in a quickness, Bianca takes the strips of
paper and shoves them into her mouth.
She chews them and spits them out onto Aracely.
ARACELY (CONT’D): Oh my god, that’s disgusting! /You’re disgusting, do you know that?!
BIANCA: There! Now you won’t know, now nobody will know! There’s no way of knowing!
ARACELY: You think you’re so fucking smart.
Aracely pulls out a rubber stamp from her back pocket.
ARACELY (CONT’D): Rubber stamp. Permanent marker.
ARACELY: We’ve got backups for everything.
BIANCA: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!
ARACELY: WILL YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP. They’re watching MOANA FUCK!
BIANCA: Who cares about FUCKING MOANA?!
ARACELY: They do, okay?! I do! Just because you don’t give a shit doesn’t mean these kids don’t deserve some normalcy /in their lives—
BIANCA: Normalcy?! You call this normalcy?!
ARACELY: YES! I DO!
BIANCA: Where are the girls.
ARACELY: These fifteen hundred kids? Most of their parents have already been sent back, the likeliness of reunification is slim to none—
BIANCA: Where are the girls?!
ARACELY: The least we can do is give them fucking MOANA in SPANISH so they can forget for a fucking minute where they are and why they’re here—
BIANCA: WHERE ARE THE GIRLS?!
ARACELY: I DON’T KNOW! No one knows where the girls are, okay?! They just sent us here and asked us to be here and there weren’t any girls here and when I asked about them they told me to follow the check boxes and I checked for them myself and they weren’t here, okay, they just weren’t. (beat) I don’t know where the girls are. None of us do.
BIANCA: My mom hopped on a caravan with my little sister back home in this tiny town in Veracruz just outside Córdoba. It’s called La Patrona. There was about fifty or sixty migrants making their way north, escaping El Salvador, Honduras y Guatemala. There aren’t just Mexican kids here, you know. People think that, but it’s not true.
They hopped on the caravan because the trains stopped running in México and they knew that was the only way to get to me . . . Soon as they got here, they took my sister and sent my mom back . . . I’ve been looking for my sister ever since. I’ve been up and down the border and . . . I haven’t seen her or . . . any girls . . . anywhere.
ARACELY: I wish I knew where your sister was. But wherever she is . . . I’m sure she’s just fine.
BIANCA: Try telling my mom that.
BIANCA (CONT’D): What if she’s still hungry? Will they say no to her too?
ARACELY: I don’t know.
A moment. Moana’s “Cuán Lejos Voy” plays
louder and louder until it’s deafening.
End of play.
Isaac Gomez is a Chicago-based playwright originally from El Paso, Texas/Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. His play La Ruta will be receiving its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre Company this fall. He is currently under commission from South Coast Repertory, the Goodman Theatre, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, The Theatre School at DePaul University, Writers Theater, Steep Theatre, and StepUp Chicago Playwrights. He is the recipient of the 2018 Dramatists Guild Lanford Wilson Award, an inaugural 3Arts “Make a Wave” grantee, a Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists, an Artistic Associate with Victory Gardens Theater, among other honors and artistic affiliations.