Category: Film

Baggage Claim

By: Margie Semilof

CAST OF CHARACTERS
Andy
– male, super nerdy software programmer, any race, age.
Tam – attractive transgender female, any race, age.

SETTING
At the airport baggage carousel.

SYNOPSIS
Andy and Tam connect while waiting for their bags to come off of a flight.

ANDY enters and faces the audience. He checks his phone impatiently.

TAM enters, looks up and then at Andy.

TAM: Excuse me. Did you come in on Flight 105?

ANDY: (nodding and points) Yup. Bag carousel number three.

TAM: Great. Thanks.

ANDY: At least that’s what the board says. Sometimes it’s wrong.

TAM: Just another reason to hate flying.

ANDY: I know, right?

They’re both impatient. Shifting their feet, looking at phones.

ANDY: And why does it take so long to bring the bags out? You know they’re pawing through our stuff.

TAM: You can’t trust anybody.

ANDY: Well, SOME people you can trust.

TAM: I’m just talking about air travel. What doesn’t suck about flying? Security? Sucks. The food? Sucks. Airplane seats? They suck most of all.

ANDY: Oh! And then you get off the plane and have to deal with – this!
___(points to carousel)

TAM: Why does everyone have to block the carousel? They’ve got their whole damn family up there looking for the bags. No one else can see!

ANDY: They should send just one person to get the bags.

TAM: I also hate when they let their kids play with the carts. They use ‘em to smash into your ankles.

ANDY: See, that’s the kind of shit that happens. No one pays attention to anything anymore.

TAM: I totally agree. We live in a rude and uncaring society.

Awkward pause.

ANDY: Live here or just visiting?

TAM: I moved here last month.

ANDY: New job or something?

TAM: Just making some big changes in my life.

ANDY: I get it. Turning the page.

TAM: Sort of.

She checks her phone. Another awkward pause.

TAM: What about you? You back from a vacation?

ANDY: Just visited the family for a weekend. That’s enough for me.

TAM: So you don’t get along with your family either?

ANDY: Everybody’s into sports except me. My dad wanted me to be a star athlete, because, you know, he was.

TAM: People need to be who they are.

ANDY: Amen!

TAM: In my case, I have to defend everything. Every lock of hair, the way I walk, even the shoes I put on my feet.

ANDY: Well, I’m glad I live here. This is a very broad-minded city.

TAM: I hope that’s true.

ANDY: It IS true! There is so much going on. More diversity. I mean, look at all the different kinds of restaurants.

TAM: If ethnic food is your idea of diversity….

ANDY: Well, it’s just one example.

TAM: I think people are lying when they say they like diversity. They’re saying what they think other people want to hear.

ANDY: I don’t think that’s true.

TAM: It IS true. You know that expression about birds of a feather flocking together?

ANDY: I guess I hit a nerve.

TAM: I’m sick of phonies!

Awkward pause, they look around and check their phones.

TAM: What sort of work do you do?

ANDY: I’m a programmer.

TAM: Ah, you guys are like rock stars, getting all kinds of free stuff. Food, dry cleaning, people even walk your dog.

ANDY: I wish. I just baby sit an old mainframe. I make sure it doesn’t crash.

TAM: Ah. Well.
___(pause)
Speaking of diversity, aren’t most programmers white guys? What’s up with that?

ANDY: We’ve hired some women. But they never fit in.

TAM: Why not?

ANDY: Who knows? Maybe it’s a culture thing.
___(pause)
But what about you? What do you do?

TAM: I’m between gigs. I’ve got a restaurant job to pay the bills.

ANDY: Yeah? Which restaurant?

TAM: Well it’s a bar, really. Downtown. Near the city hospital.

ANDY: Wow, I know that part of town. You’ve got to be careful. I hope someone walks you to your car or the bus or something.

TAM: I look out for myself.

ANDY: Still, it can get pretty rough when the bars get out. Especially for women walking alone. Attractive women.

TAM: Well, I’m not always alone.

ANDY: Of course. Your husband walks you home, I guess.

TAM: I’m not married.

ANDY: You’re not? Me neither.

The two look at the carousel.

TAM: Are you sure this is the right carousel?

ANDY: The screen says carousel three.
___(pause)
Are you in a rush?

TAM: I thought I’d watch the rest of the game.

ANDY: Say, I have an idea. When the bags come, we can go to one of the restaurants here in the airport. One with a TV.

TAM: I thought you hated sports?

ANDY: I’ll make an exception.
___(pause)
My name’s Andy.

He reaches his hand out to shake Tam’s. She reaches back.

TAM: I’m Tam.

ANDY: Tam. Is that short for Tammy? Tamara?

TAM: Nope. Just Tam.

ANDY: We can watch the game together. There’s a sushi place upstairs. Good beer list, too.

TAM: Thank you. Not today.

ANDY: You’ve got plans. I get it. I just thought I’d ask.

TAM: Well. No. It’s just that…

ANDY: I’m so bad at this. Everything is so, you know, swipe left or swipe right. Hey, look.
___(hands her his phone)
Find yourself on Insta and I’ll add you.

Tam declines the phone. Andy, embarrassed, puts it away.

TAM: I don’t want to mislead you.

ANDY: What are you in some witness protection program or something? I thought we kind of connected. I’m sorry.

TAM: Don’t be sorry.
___(pause)
I wish those bags would show up.

ANDY: I hope I didn’t offend you.

TAM: Of course not! You seem like a really nice person.

ANDY: I find it hard to make new friends. And you are so open. I thought maybe just this once…

TAM: Here’s how it is.

ANDY: I hate Tinder. The old way—to find a connection like this
___(motions between them both)
is so much better.

TAM: Listen. Andy.

ANDY: It’s because I’m a dork. And I’ve gained some weight since college. But how would you know that? You just met me.

TAM: It’s nothing to do with you. It’s me!

ANDY: That’s so lame. It’s not you. It’s me. Just say I’m not your type.

TAM: I don’t have a type.

ANDY: Girls always reject me. I mean, look at me. It’s easy to say no to someone like me.

TAM: Andy! Stop! You’re fine.

ANDY: We were having such a good conversation.

TAM: Andy. I don’t think you realize this. I’m trans.

ANDY: Trans? What?

Andy searches Tam’s face. Suddenly it dawns on him what she’s talking about and his color drains.

ANDY: What? Oh. Oh wow. I get it. So yeah. Yeah.
___(pauses to look at Tam)
Are you sure?

TAM: (laughing) I’m sure.

ANDY: I feel so stupid.

TAM: What for?

Flustered and uncomfortable, Andy looks at the mouth of the carousel.

ANDY: What are they doing back there?

TAM: Now, would you still have asked me to dinner?

ANDY: (still fixating) You look good. I mean, you really can’t tell. You’re very attractive.

TAM: Umm. Okay.

ANDY: Did I say a bad thing? Commenting about how you look?

TAM: I don’t think so. It’s actually nice to hear compared with some of the other things people have said to me.

ANDY: Well, like what?

TAM: I don’t really want to talk about it.

ANDY: At least people talk to you. I get ignored. Tell me what’s worse? People who know you exist and abuse you, or people who look right through you like you’re not there.

TAM: Well, you’re not invisible.

ANDY: My dad bought football tickets last weekend. I hate football. He knows it.

TAM: Maybe there is something else you can do together?

ANDY: Everything is planned around sports. It’s like I don’t exist. They think I’m a freak.

TAM: I get that too. Some of my best friends from high school never seem to be home when I drop by.

ANDY: Well, maybe you shocked them.

TAM: Hardly.

ANDY: People have an idea in their head. It’s hard to change.

TAM: Screw them. I’m creating friends and family right here.

Tam takes out a pen and writes on Andy’s hand before Andy can react.

TAM: Here’s my contact. I don’t do social media. It’s too depressing. But maybe we can get together and, you know, talk sometime?

ANDY: Yeah, uh, sure.

The carousel begins to hum.

TAM: Looks like something’s happening back there.

ANDY: Yep.

TAM: I’m sick of trying to teach people how to be without them thinking I’m some kind of freak.

ANDY: (uncomfortable and growing more distant) Yeah, okay. Sure.

TAM: I’m glad you get it. You know what, Andy? You’re all right.

ANDY: Here come the bags. Mine is the first one off.

TAM: And mine is right there too. You know, Andy, I changed my mind. I really am hungry. Does the offer still stand?

ANDY: Uh, maybe some other time. It’s getting late. I suppose I should head home.

TAM: Huh?

ANDY: And I’ve got morning deadlines.

TAM: Here we go. I knew this would happen.

ANDY: So, maybe see you around?

Andy puts his hand out to shake Tam’s. She ignores it.

TAM: I just spent an entire weekend with people just like you. Why did I think that you might be different?

Andy takes his bag and starts to walk away.

ANDY: Look I’m just not sure about this. (motions between them)

TAM: (interrupts) It was just sushi and a beer!

Tam takes her bag and heads in the other direction. She turns and yells to him.

TAM: The baggage always shows up sooner or later, doesn’t it, Andy?

She exits. Andy stops. He looks at his hand (keeps it open) and thinks, then turns back to Tam, who is gone.

ANDY: Hey Tam. I don’t know. Look, I…

He continues looking after Tam, as he grows angry at himself.

ANDY: (anguished) Ugh. I did it again.

Andy closes his hand. Gives it a little shake like he’s holding onto something he’s afraid he might lose, and walks off.

END OF PLAY


Margie Semilof is a Boston-based playwright. Her short plays have been produced in numerous regional and national festivals, such as The Group Rep, in LA, Theatre East, in New York, Firehouse Center for the Arts, Newburyport, Mass., at Greenbrier Valley Theatre New Voices, Lewisburg, WV., and the Weathervane 8×10 in Akron, Ohio, to name a few. She has recently completed an old-style, full-length comedy, Queen of the Coast. She is vice president of Playwrights Platform, a playwright cooperative in Boston.

9 / 10

by: Richard Willett

CAST OF CHARACTERS
SCOTT, 35-year-old gay man from Idaho; one of those guys who came to New York because he’s gay and now doesn’t quite know what he’s supposed to be doing there.
SAHAR, 27-year-old Muslim woman from Morocco.

SETTING
The play takes place in the World Trade Center on the evening of September 10, 2001, but this is only gradually revealed to the audience.

Lights up on an office space, a mid-level financial institution with a battered, used look to it. It’s got an impressive skyscraper address, but the company has never quite lived up to it. Two desks face out, each with a computer. SCOTT, 35, sits at the stage right desk talking on the phone and playing around with something on his computer at the same time.

SCOTT: (into phone) I’m fine. I’m fine. Look, it’s not as if I didn’t see it coming . . . No, my mom called me here herself, just a couple minutes ago. She was all obsessed because she wasn’t there, you know, at his side for the final moment and all that. Personally, I think the way she’s been hovering over him the past four years, he was probably praying she’d leave the room so he could make his exit . . . I have a flight out tomorrow night . . . I would but I have to be here in the morning. . So hang up and go online. We can IM each other . . . The usual. That’s what I do here. I stay late to get extra work done and then I look at porn all night . . .
___(Change of subject.)
I should never have gone on match.com . . . I know he e-mailed me back. He e-mailed me back immediately . . . I don’t want to meet anybody right now, Jeremy . . . I find it exhausting.

(In the background, unseen by Scott, SAHAR enters and begins to move to the other desk but stops when SHE hears what Scott is saying. She is a 27-year-old Muslim woman from Morocco. She is angular but attractive, and dressed in a high-necked, long-sleeved top, slacks, and a pretty scarf around her head. She speaks with an Arabic accent.)

SCOTT: (continuing into phone) Okay, but hurry, because I may have to shut it down, I’ve got company tonight . . . Oh, this crazy Muslim woman Deborah hired. She’s temping here graveyard, but it’s this whole thing because if she’s working at night and I’m the only one here, I have to let her know ahead of time because she’s not really even supposed to be alone with me and she has to be sure she has her hair covered– . . . Because I’m a man, dummkopf . . . Very funny, Miss Minnelli . . . Just go online, all right? . . . See ya.

(HE hangs up and turns to his computer. HE’s admiring an image when HE sees Sahar’s reflection in the screen and jumps to get his computer shifted over to something work-related.)

SAHAR: (moving to the other desk) Is all right, you know. Just crazy Muslim woman. Just crazy girl from Morocco make your life difficult.
___(Beat, then she’s over it and laughing.)
Oh-mygod, Scott, I took the wrong elevator.

SCOTT: Huh?

SAHAR: Just now. I got off the elevator and there was a man from the back he look just like you. And I start walking and oh-mygod I look out the window and I think “I am not high enough up,” and then — oh-mygod — I notice that the furniture is all quite different. I went to the wrong lobby. Oh-mygod. Is so funny.

SCOTT: It’s a good thing you didn’t sit down and start working.

SAHAR: I know. Right?
___(SHE’s now at her desk and begins getting organized. Taking in her evening’s
___workload.)
Shit.
___(SCOTT looks at her askance. By way of explanation:)
Deborah. She left me much work to do.
___(SCOTT nods and begins getting organized to try to do some work himself.)
Sorry. I know. I talk too much.
___(Making little talking mouths with her hands.)
In Morocco, we talk how you say, morning, noon, and night — the house it is full of talk. Here, in this place you come from, in this Idaho, I think no talk.

SCOTT: We’re tight-lipped out there.

SAHAR: Tight lipped? Scott, you teach me more strange American expressions than anyone else.

SCOTT: (forcing his lips together) Tight lipped. See? (SAHAR nods.)

SAHAR: Well, I will not bother you tonight, because you see I have workload. Fucking Deborah.

SCOTT: Um . . . Sahar?

SAHAR: Yes?

SCOTT: Do you know what that word means?

SAHAR: What word?

SCOTT: That word you just called Deborah.

SAHAR: You mean fucking Deborah?

SCOTT: Yeah, the first part of that.

SAHAR: Americans say all the time. Fucking. I like it.

SCOTT: Yeah, but you’re a Muslim woman, you’re not supposed to–

SAHAR: (almost excited) Is bad word? Oh-mygod.

SCOTT: Yup.

SAHAR: Shit. I didn’t know.

(SCOTT is about to say something further, but lets it go. HE looks forlornly at his now work-oriented computer screen. HE begins to input data. Across the room, SAHAR does the same. Then SHE stops.)

SAHAR: Is not true, you know, I cannot be here with you.

SCOTT: Huh?

SAHAR: Because (SHE gestures off.) Michele she is down the hall. For another hour.

SCOTT: (continuing to work) Oh.

SAHAR: I check, you see, so everything is on the up and down.

SCOTT: The up and up, Sahar.

SAHAR: The up and up. Everything is copacabana.

SCOTT: That was a joke, Sahar. The actual word is copacetic.

SAHAR: Well, whatever. Is important, yes? For crazy Moroccan girl.

SCOTT: I’m sorry you heard that. I was just joking around.

SAHAR: Is odd, your sense of humor.

SCOTT: I guess.

SAHAR: Is like yesterday my cousin and I we watch Elvis marathon on AMC. Is my favorite channel that one.

SCOTT: You watched an Elvis marathon, Sahar?

SAHAR: Well, we only saw four of the films. But the jokes I do not always understand.

SCOTT: I don’t think I’ve seen that many Elvis movies in my entire life. Are you sure we aren’t corrupting you over here, Sahar, with all this American culture?

SAHAR: American culture fascinates me. But I am not threatened by it.

(THEY go back to work for a bit. Then SAHAR stops again.)

SAHAR: Who is your god anyway, Scott? Hmn? I was thinking this the other day. Who is Scott’s god?

SCOTT: My god?

SAHAR: Who is your god out there in Idaho?

(This stops SCOTT for a brief moment where he seems almost lost.)

SAHAR: Hmn? Who is the god of Idaho?

(HE snaps out of it.)

SCOTT: Mr. Potato Head.

SAHAR: Mr . . . ?

SCOTT: He’s a great big potato, with stuff stuck in him to make a face.

SAHAR: You have, how you say, lost me. Me, I am lost.

SCOTT: I’m joking.

SAHAR: This kind of joking of yours, I do not understand. You should not joke about god. Now, do you know god?

SCOTT: I thought we had agreed not to discuss this sort of thing.

SAHAR: I do not remember this agreement.

SCOTT: Certain subjects just seem not worth trying to discuss between you and me.

SAHAR: That was when you wanted to talk about the Palestinians.

SCOTT: I never wanted to talk about–

SAHAR: You must understand that if a boy, or a girl for that matter, in a good family decides to be suicide bomber, and the family see this as a source of pride, then this suicide bomber must be very motivated, yes? Must have good reason, yes? Is not just crazy.

SCOTT: I’m sorry, Sahar, but you told me your religion would never condone the murder of innocent people.

SAHAR: It does not.

SCOTT: Well then . . .

SAHAR: Is not right in that way. I only mean it is understandable. Is not just crazy madmen. Is perhaps right in a political sense even if it is not moral.

SCOTT: How can it be right in any sense?

SAHAR: Maybe, Scott, if America give Palestinians same weapons and money, they fight real war, but for now what else can they do?

SCOTT: It’s horrible when people die in war, Sahar, but it’s not the same thing as strapping a bomb to yourself and going into a crowded restaurant and deliberately murdering innocent civilians.

SAHAR: Oh-mygod, Scott.

SCOTT: What?

SAHAR: You are not so tight-lipped now.

SCOTT: Okay, whatever. I don’t want to argue.

SAHAR: Is good to argue, right? I like it!

SCOTT: Yeah, well, whatever. I just want to get my work done.

SAHAR: I do not think you were working when I got here.

SCOTT: Cute.

SAHAR: You work all day, Scott. Then you go home and turn around and you are back here in the morning.

SCOTT: You’re a temp, Sahar. I’m a lifer.

SAHAR: Is too much this work I think. You must love it.

SCOTT: I hate it.

SAHAR: Then why you spend so much time doing it?

SCOTT: It just seems to fill it. The time.

SAHAR: Well, okay then. Whatever. We work.

(THEY both go back to work for a while. Then SAHAR stops again.)

SAHAR: You know, is funny.

SCOTT: What?

SAHAR: With you, I feel sometimes more like with girlfriend. Is funny thing. Because you are man.

SCOTT: Ostensibly.

SAHAR: Os-ten-si-bly?

SCOTT: (perfunctory) I’ll put it on your list.

(HE holds his hand out, and SAHAR pulls a yellow legal pad from the pile of stuff on her desk and gives it to him. At the top it says “WORDS FOR SAHAR.” A few pages have been filled. HE begins writing on it.)

SAHAR: Ordinarily, in Morocco is not so much I would not be here with you, but that we would not be speaking like this. Is impolite, you see, between man and woman.

SCOTT: What about when you get married? It sounds to me like marriage is a kind of obsession over there.

SAHAR: Is different between a man and his wife, or in a family. But otherwise no, men and women no talk. But men with men, and women with women, in friendship, there is something called in Arabic anawiak. It means in English “just you and me.” And in this we talk, talk, talk, talk, talk . . . A little like I do with you.

SCOTT: So am I supposed to complimented by this?

SAHAR: What is this complimented?

SCOTT: You know what complimented means.

SAHAR: You want maybe cup of coffee?

SCOTT: Huh? No. Thanks.

SAHAR: You sure?

SCOTT: Yes.

SAHAR: Maybe you should go get cup of coffee.

SCOTT: Why?

SAHAR: Help you concentrate, yes? My grandmother, she like you, every morning she has to have her dark, dark coffee. You go get cup of coffee, Scott, you can bring me my snack. Is in refrigerator. You put in microwave two minutes.

SCOTT: You eat a lot, Sahar. But I’ll bet you never gain weight.

SAHAR: I know. Right? Is time for couscous, I think.

SCOTT: You and that couscous. Do you eat nothing else?

SAHAR: You have something against couscous?

SCOTT: Not particularly, no.

SAHAR: I have, how you say, leftovers.

SCOTT: (standing) I’ll get it for you. I could use a walk.

SAHAR: And also, Scott, my tea.

(HE gives her a look, then leaves. SAHAR waits patiently until he is out of sight, then immediately begins fiddling with her computer to get online and check her e-mail. She is excited to see a particular message and clicks to read it. A man’s voice is heard, with an Arabic accent.)

MAN’S VOICE: 9/10/01, 9:00 p.m. Dear Sahar. It was wonderful to hear from you again. I am glad we are becoming what the Americans call pen pals. You seem like a very nice girl and from a good family. I am very excited to meet you. And I thank you for the picture you sent me. I think you are a lovely girl. And I also enjoyed our talk last night about Islam. I, too, come from a relatively liberal family, but like you I found myself moving more and more toward the orthodox as I grew up. It seems to me that many young people these days are leading aimless lives. I think religion anchors you. It connects you to a deeper truth. You asked to see a picture of me, so I’m sending the attached. I hope you can open it. The more I think about–

(The voice is cut off as SAHAR stops reading and zeros in on the photo attachment. SHE holds her hand ready to click and open it, then stops, bows her head, and says a short prayer. Then, barely opening her eyes, SHE clicks and watches the picture download. As it comes down on the screen, her facial expression goes from hopeful, to hesitant, to downright disappointed with her pen pal’s looks. As SCOTT returns with a plastic tray on which is a plate for Sahar and two cups, light begins to come up very slowly in the background on the familiar pinstripe windows of the World Trade Center.)

SCOTT: Here’s your– Oops.
___(Quieter.)
Sorry. Are you praying?

(SAHAR hears him and jumps frantically to try to get the picture off her screen.)

SAHAR: (frantic) Praying? Why would I be praying? Praying? No, no, not praying.

SCOTT: Well, you do pray, Sahar.

SAHAR: Yes, yes, but in empty office I go.

SCOTT: I know. I’ve seen you. Five times a day.

(Giving up on the computer, SAHAR stands in front to hide the screen and grabs the plate from SCOTT.)

SAHAR: Uh . . . couscous. Oh-mygod, that crazy Sahar and her couscous!
___(Inhaling the scent from the plate; a bit nutty.)
Is good, right? Yum-yum.

SCOTT: Have you slipped a cog, Sahar?

SAHAR: Right? Oh-mygod, that’s me, slipped a cog. Yup. (Beat.) Whatever the fuck that means.

(SHE turns and sees that the picture is gone from her computer screen. SHE sits and forlornly takes a fork from her desk drawer. SCOTT sits.)

SAHAR: (a short prayer first) Bi-smillah.

(Then SHE begins to eat her couscous. SHE opens a drawer in the desk and takes out a People magazine, which she pages through.)

SAHAR: In America, Scott, twenty-seven is not so old, right?

SCOTT: No, not really.

SAHAR: I mean, to be still . . . single.

SCOTT: A lot of people in America never get married.

SAHAR: Is insane I think. But what about . . . In Morocco, is very important a girl be . . . you know . . .

SCOTT: A virgin?

SAHAR: . . . when she marry. So . . .

SCOTT: A twenty-seven-year-old virgin in America would be something of a find. Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. Just isn’t common. But aren’t you supposed to be going back to Morocco any day now?

SAHAR: I am, how you say, on the sheep.

SCOTT: On the lam, Sahar. Yes, you told me, the scholarship people want you home.

SAHAR: Is rule. I had year at school and now I’m supposed to spend year at home. Not be working cemetery here in famous TWC.

SCOTT: WTC, Sahar. World Trade Center.

SAHAR: But if I got married, everybody happy then. Me because I stay here. And my family because they do not have so much the hsuma.

SCOTT: Hsuma?

(SHE reaches her hand out, and SCOTT gives her a similar pad from his desk: “WORDS FOR SCOTT.”)

SAHAR: That one is on your list. We talk already about that one. But I will underline it because it is so much important word in Morocco. Means “shame,” that word.

SCOTT: Your family is ashamed of you? You’re the first to go to college, Sahar. You said your father’s a maintenance man.

SAHAR: “Poor thing” they call me. Poor thing. No man will have her.

SCOTT: At twenty-seven?

SAHAR: Over the hump.

SCOTT: Wow. I sure wasn’t married at twenty-seven. And, Sahar, by the time I was seventeen I was so anxious to get rid of my virginity I could barely think about doing anything else.

SAHAR: Do you think is bad to not want to marry someone because you don’t like the way they look?

SCOTT: No.

SAHAR: I do not think this is such a good thing to judge people by their appearance. But two people in marriage should be happy, yes? Is part of plan, yes?

SCOTT: I almost wish I’d been made to marry someone along the way. Instead of always, I don’t know, trying to find the cuter one around the next corner, the one who’s more exciting, or more . . . whatever.

SAHAR: (laughing) Oh-mygod, Scott. I have idea. You and me — maybe we trade places.
___(SCOTT smiles.)
You go back to Morocco. I stay here.

SCOTT: I think we’d be found out.

SAHAR: I could grow my mustache back.

SCOTT: (laughing) Sahar — stop.

SAHAR: (referring to her upper lip) You did not even notice. I use that product you told me.

SCOTT: (looking) Oh yeah. Nice job.

SAHAR: Now I am pretty American girl like you say. I am Natalie.

SCOTT: Wood. Natalie Wood.

SAHAR: I am Natalie Wood.
___(SHE laughs.)
Oh-mygod, Scott. You could keep your head covered. Right? We send you back to Morocco. Oh-mygod. You get off plane and say: “Make me marry a man! Even if I do not want to. Make me!” They will never know, you keep your head covered. Right?

SCOTT: I think they’d figure it out eventually.

(Beat.)

SAHAR: (stopping laughing and going back to her couscous) Is crazy world, you know, Scott.

SCOTT: Hmn.

SAHAR: Is important to keep your head covered.

SCOTT: (his best attempt at Bogart) It’s a crazy world, Sahar, and I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill o’ beans in it.

SAHAR: Oh-mygod. Is Casablanca yes?

SCOTT: Do you know that movie?

SAHAR: Oh-mygod, yes. I saw many years ago. Is a beautiful movie.
___(Beat.)
It has absolutely nothing to do with Morocco, but it is a beautiful movie.

(Beat. A moment where BOTH OF THEM eye each other cautiously to be sure they are not being too closely observed, then click to bring up something on their computers and type. As they type, we hear the voices of what is on their screens. The light continues to clarify the World Trade Center background.)

SCOTT: (voice-over as HE composes) 9/10/01, 9:42 p.m. Dear Terence. Got your e-mail and the photo. You look nice.
___(HE stops typing, thinks “No,” then deletes. Then types.)
You look very sexy, Terence.
___(HE stops, thinks “No!”, deletes. Then types.)
You look like a very nice guy.
___(HE stops — “No!” — deletes, and types.)
You look hungry and desperate and very much alone, Terence, and I can relate to all three.
___(HE stops, sighs, deletes, then just sits a moment.)

SAHAR: (voice-over as SHE composes) So, like you, Tahsheen, I also am going out or at least meeting with other people. I have a friend, Rashid, who e- mails me frequently from a place called Delaware. Rashid is very nice, but honestly, Tahsheen, I like you better.
___(SHE stops typing, thinks a moment, then deletes. Then types.)
. . . but honestly, Tahsheen, I would like for us to meet face to face because . . .
___(SHE stops typing, thinks a moment, then deletes. Then in a flurry of typing:)
But honestly, Tahsheen, Rashid is a great big bore with a belly and every time I look at your picture I stop breathing.
___(SHE giggles, then catches herself, looks at SCOTT, who looks back briefly.
___ Then Sahar deletes this last. And types.)

And also, Tahsheen, I do not like this talk of your ex-wife.
___(SHE stops, sits back, then looks over at Scott.)

SAHAR: (live now) Boy, we are working hard tonight, right?

SCOTT: (pulled out of a revery) Do you miss your family, Sahar?

SAHAR: Oh, I miss them terribly, Scott.

SCOTT: That’s good.

SAHAR: Is no good. Is painful.

SCOTT: But you don’t want to go home?

SAHAR: Is nothing for me there. I have degree now. I stay here, maybe I can teach.

SCOTT: You can’t do that back home?

SAHAR: Is not so likely. Especially for woman.
___(Beat.)
Do you miss Idaho?

SCOTT: Never before. Tonight.

SAHAR: What is so different tonight?

SCOTT: Hmn? Oh, nothing. What do you miss most about Morocco?

SAHAR: I miss . . . You know what I miss most? In Morocco, we have what is like two different ways to be: there is who you are when you are out on the street and meeting with strangers. Is quite formal. Proper, right? But at home is whole other world, you are more yourself. Because you are with your family, right? That feeling I miss. Being home.

SCOTT: I have two different ways to be, too, but it’s the other way around. I’m myself away from my family.

SAHAR: This I do not, how you say, get, Scott.

SCOTT: Hsuma. It’s hsuma, Sahar.
___(Beat.)
So why don’t you just go back for the year the foundation wants you to and then you can come back here if you like.

SAHAR: Still hard for me to stay here if I don’t marry American.

SCOTT: So are you husband hunting?

SAHAR: (evasive) No.

(Her computer beeps and says “You’ve got mail.” SHE jumps to deal with it, then stops.)

SCOTT: What are you working on over there, Sahar?

SAHAR: (moving to cover the screen) Nothing. Is nothing.

SCOTT: You’re working on a little e-mail over there, I think.

(Beat.)

SAHAR: (dejected) Is what you say.

SCOTT: Huh?

SAHAR: I am hunting. My cousin. In Delaware. He tell me about this man Rashid.
___(Forlorn.)
I think he is in love with me.

SCOTT: What’s so bad about that?

(Beat, then SAHAR fiddles around on her computer, typing and clicking.)

SAHAR: (to SCOTT) You’ve got mail.

SCOTT: (looking at his computer) What? Oh.
___(HE clicks to bring up his inbox, then opens a new e-mail. HE’s watching a
___ picture download.)

SAHAR: That’s Rashid.

SCOTT: (understanding) Oh.
___(Beat.)
What’s all the equipment?

SAHAR: He is door-to-door salesman. He sell vacuum cleaners. For Roosevelt.

SCOTT: Hoover, Sahar.

SAHAR: Clinton. Who cares?

SCOTT: So . . . you’re not so thrilled with Rashid’s looks?

SAHAR: Then my cousin here, she take me to party.

SCOTT: Oh.

SAHAR: Yeah.
___(SHE clicks and fiddles on the computer.)
And she introduce me to this.
___(SHE hits send.)
You’ve got more mail.
___(SCOTT goes back to his computer and clicks and fiddles.)

SCOTT: (seeing the photo) Oh.

SAHAR: Tahsheen.

SCOTT: Tahsheen.

SAHAR: Tahsheen. He has, how you say, six-pack.

SCOTT: He certainly does.

SAHAR: And ex-wife.

SCOTT: Oh.

SAHAR: And other girlfriend on the side.

SCOTT: (sarcastic) Great catch, Sahar.

SAHAR: He makes my heart to beat faster.

SCOTT: Are these guys both Muslim?

SAHAR: Oh yes.

SCOTT: Are they devout?

SAHAR: Rashid I am sure is. Tahsheen tells me he takes religion very seriously, but at the party that did not seem to be his main interest in life.

SCOTT: Aren’t there others out there, Sahar? Surely there’s a website. Match dot Muslim or something?

SAHAR: I am running out of time.
___(Beat.)
My cousin she take me to a store once and I see very beautiful, very elegant white suit that I think I would wear for my wedding. Maybe take picture and send to my family. They see Sahar is not just brain maybe. Is hanging in my closet that suit.

(Beat. SCOTT returns to the photo.)

SCOTT: I would think it’s hard, since you . . . haven’t been with any . . . I mean, sometimes I think I’ve been with so many men I’ll never be able to settle for one, but you, maybe you have the opposite problem.

SAHAR: Oh-mygod, Scott, this is not so good conversation for us to have maybe. Maybe we go back to work now.

SCOTT: Was it something I said?

SAHAR: Is just too personal maybe.

SCOTT: Gee, I was kind of enjoying it.

SAHAR: This business of you with all the men, Scott, oh-mygod, I cannot . . . I should not . . . Is not so good for me to know about this.

SCOTT: But that’s my life. You told me about yours.

SAHAR: Yes, but you know, I only talk about marriage. Is good that. Is right.

SCOTT: I can’t get married.

SAHAR: You could marry woman.

SCOTT: But I don’t want to marry a woman.

SAHAR: In Morocco, we do not have people like you.

SCOTT: What did you do with them all? Blow them up?

SAHAR: This I think is not so funny, Scott. I told you Morocco is not hard-line country at all.

SCOTT: (sarcastic) Oh right. Sorry. I forgot.

SAHAR: Boys in Morocco, you know, they do this thing that you do.

SCOTT: They do?

SAHAR: Yes. Is considered . . . normal. But then one day you must become man, yes?

SCOTT: I am . . . a . . . man.

SAHAR: Right? You don’t sound convinced.

SCOTT: (anger) Oh . . . Knock it off, Sahar.

SAHAR: Knock it . . . ?

SCOTT: Look it up.

(HE clicks to return angrily to work on his computer screen. A beat, then SAHAR clicks to receive her latest message from Rashid. The World Trade Center background is almost fully visible now.)

RASHID: (voice-over) 9/10/01, 9:57 p.m. Dear Sahar. Because I am so far away down here in Delaware, it is hard for me to communicate all I feel. Since we have begun our correspondence, I have so much more hope about things. I am wondering if I should come up there to New York and see you? Or would you like to come down here and see Delaware? We are both at the age when thoughts of marriage are inevitable, and for us here in America there are not so many options. And yet if you were to even consider me as a husband, I would think I was the luckiest man in the United States.

(Beat. SAHAR stares at the screen.)

SAHAR: So, Scott, you think I could be happy being married to a vacuum cleaner salesman?

SCOTT: (still angry) I thought you didn’t want to talk to me about stuff like that.

SAHAR: Is not that I don’t want to talk about.

SCOTT: See, this is what I love about you religious people. Your sex is somehow holier than thou, but no one else is allowed to have any.

SAHAR: Okay, now we are way off the bean.

SCOTT: Beam, Sahar. Not bean. If I’m going to teach you these things, why don’t you learn them properly?

SAHAR: Now we are having I think a fight.

SCOTT: I’ve been victimized my whole life, Sahar, by people who believe the Christian religion is the only right and good one, and a lot of them think I’m gonna burn in hell, and some of them seem more than anxious to hurry the process along.

SAHAR: Is not what I said.

SCOTT: What right have you to tell me my sexuality disqualifies me from manhood?

SAHAR: Is just the way it is in Morocco.

SCOTT: It’s the way it is in a lot of backward places, Sahar.

SAHAR: Why are you shouting?

SCOTT: I don’t know! I don’t know why I’m shouting! At least, I don’t know why I’m shouting at you.

SAHAR: Right? Is someone else you’re angry with?

SCOTT: Yes.

SAHAR: Who?

(SCOTT is suddenly crying. An awkward moment, when SAHAR does not know what to do.)

SCOTT: Sahar?

SAHAR: Scott . . . what . . .

SCOTT: My dad died.

SAHAR: What?

SCOTT: I just heard.

SAHAR: Now?

SCOTT: Tonight.

SAHAR: But you did not say anything.

SCOTT: He’d been sick a long time. I thought that would make it easier, but it doesn’t. I thought it wouldn’t seem sudden. It seems very sudden.

SAHAR: (standing) Can I get you maybe more cup of coffee?

SCOTT: No, thanks.
___(HE wipes his face. Beat.)
It’s funny I . . . We never really got along. He never accepted me . . . because of . . . but the thing is . . . He’s had this dementia from Alzheimer’s for the last six years, and . . . I started going out there more often because he’d . . . he’d forgotten that I was gay. He’d forgotten that we’d ever fought.

SAHAR: Is disease makes you forget things?

SCOTT: Right.

SAHAR: Is maybe blessing sometimes this disease.

SCOTT: My mother never cried the whole six years. She’s a stoic Presbyterian church lady. But just a couple of weeks ago, she lost it. They couldn’t find his teeth, his dentures. He’d put them somewhere, but of course he couldn’t remember where. My mother searched everywhere and was getting worried they’d have to replace them, which would have cost a fortune. And then she opened the freezer to get some ice cream and there they were, grinning out at her from the shelf.

SAHAR: Is a story almost funny that one.

SCOTT: Yeah, but she was crying when she told me about it.
___(Beat.)
Do you think you and I will ever have that kind of connection with another human being, Sahar?

SAHAR: I pray I will.

SCOTT: I pray I can. I pray I know how.

(Beat.)

SAHAR: So with your father, you, how you say, you ate your pride and you did not remind him of this that he had forgotten about you.

SCOTT: Yeah. And it became a lot easier to be with him.

SAHAR: Is good then, right? That you did that.

SCOTT: I guess.

SAHAR: Is like a gift you gave him. (Beat.) You need I think maybe a hug.

SCOTT: Well . . . probably.

SAHAR: But I cannot.

SCOTT: Yes . . .

SAHAR: (making a point) Because . . . you are a man.

(Beat.)

SCOTT: Thank you, Sahar.

(SAHAR sits back down. Beat.)

SCOTT: The thing about the vacuum cleaner salesman, Sahar, is that he might turn out to be really nice. He might be someone you have a lot in common with. And one day, much to your surprise, you’ll look at him across a table with all that genuine regard in his eyes and it will make your “heart to beat faster.”

SAHAR: Oh-mygod. Is what I hope.

SCOTT: It can happen. And think how clean your rugs will be.

SAHAR: This I think is a joke.

SCOTT: That it is.
___(HE starts to pack up.)
Well, I’ve got to be back here in this famous TWC in . . .
___(Looking at his watch.)
About ten hours, so I think I’ll call it a night.

SAHAR: Are you not going to Idaho? To be with your mother and sister?

SCOTT: After work tomorrow.

SAHAR: They will need you now, though.

SCOTT: It was the best I could do.

SAHAR: You know, Scott, in Morocco, we have tradition, right? You do something nice for me, then I do something nice back. For you.

SCOTT: Yes?

SAHAR: So, you help me with this crazy mess with Rashid and Tahsheen.

SCOTT: Tahsheen.

SAHAR: Oy! So I do favor for you to say thank you.

SCOTT: You don’t have to do anything, Sahar.

SAHAR: Is not polite in Morocco to turn this down. I will work for you tomorrow.

SCOTT: Can you?

SAHAR: I work for you half day last week, yes? When you had dentist appointment. Is inputting, yes? Same as I do for Deborah. I’m the temp, remember?

SCOTT: But you’re going to be here five more hours as it is.

SAHAR: Is all right. I can sleep on couch in Deborah’s office.

SCOTT: I can’t ask you to–

SAHAR: Is no computer at my cousin’s place. And I have e-mail to write.

SCOTT: Well, thanks, Sahar. That would actually help me a lot. I’ll leave tonight.

SAHAR: Is good thing, for your family.

SCOTT: (finishing packing up) You sure you’ll be all right here?

SAHAR: I can make quite, how you say, comfy.

SCOTT: Okay.
___(HE stops.)
Does your name come from the desert, Sahar? I just thought of that the other day. Sahara?

SAHAR: Is same root word, right? Sahar, it mean “early morning, dawn.”

SCOTT: Ah.

SAHAR: So comes the dawn, you think of me maybe, huh?

SCOTT: I will. Thanks again. I’ll see ya, Sahar.

(HE heads out. A beat, then SAHAR returns to her e-mail. Slow fade on SAHAR, and then the windows behind her.)

END OF PLAY


9/10 is part of a longer piece that features three other similar stories. Richard Willett is also the author of the plays TRIPTYCH, RANDOM HARVEST, THE FLID SHOW, and TINY BUBBLES, which have been presented off-off-Broadway and at theaters across the country. He is a working screenwriter living in Los Angeles and the co-artistic director of New Directions Theater in New York (www.newdirectionstheater.org).

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