The lights come up on five women in isolated areas. Each one has a chair, and is intense] preoccupied with preparing herself for a "date." They are visibly nervous. Each woman reveals this particular kind of nervousness in her own idiosyncratic way. When the women first speak, they stare directly out into the audience as if they are looking into a mirror. Throughout the play, the stage directions that indicate "the mirror" denote those moments when actors are speaking directly to the audience.
(They try to "fix" their hair. Pause. Then we hear a heavy sigh.)
Woman #1: Good lord!! I should know better than this....Sylvia said it was a bad idea to get a haircut for tonight.
(The others continue to "fix" their hair.)
Woman #2: I look like ... I should have just kept my mouth shut.
Woman #3: (Pause.) I just couldn't help it.
Woman #4: There he was with my life in his hands.
Woman #5: I said, "Just take a little off the top and trim the sides and back."
Woman #1: Famous last fucking words.
(They each find scarves and attempt to use them as potential head dressings.)
Woman #3: I just had to go and talk about that poor girl.
Woman #2: I was only trying to make conversation.
Woman #4: I wasn't in the mood to talk about my non-existent personal life, or current sporting events or politics. I tried to tell him about this amazing art exhibit I'd been to the day before ... but he really wasn't interested.
Woman #5: I let him trim my hair in silence.
Woman #3: When I looked over and saw the headline ...
Woman #2: CO-ED STABS LOVER THEN ACCUSES HIM OF RAPE!!!
Woman #1: Umm, umm, umm.
Woman #4: I said ...
Woman #5: He pauses for a second to switch scissors.
Woman #1: (Clearing her throat) "It's a damn shame what women have to go through in this place,"
Woman #2: I said.
Woman #3: He says, "Ha?"
Woman #4: "Have you read the newspaper today?"
Woman #5: He says,
Woman #3: "Yup."
Woman #5: He was really into cutting hair, boy.
Woman #2: Every snip was made with precision accuracy.
Woman #1: I was bored.
Woman #4: I just felt like having a little conversation.
Woman #3: "Did you read the article about the girl who had to stab her boyfriend to keep him from raping her?"
Woman #4: (Imitating the barber's voice) "Yup."
Woman #2: That should have clued me in right away, but I didn't stop to think.
Woman #5: I just felt like talking.
Woman #1: "Well, I just think that it's a damn shame."
Woman #3: Then he says,
Woman #4: "Well, what do you expect from these girls runnin' round here with these short skirts practically showin' it off to the world. They need to keep they legs closed and act like ladies then nobody'd be up and tryin' to rape they little fast behinds."
Woman #2: Aww, shit.
Woman #4: I'm in trouble now.
(They all pause, look into "the mirror" with disgust, toss their scarves to the ground, ands tare blankly out into the audience. After a pause ...)
Woman #1: I should have realized this man's power over me and just kept my mouth shut. But no ... I had to keep talking.
Woman #5: (Feigning timidity toward the barber) "Excuse me. Are you saying that any woman who wears a short skirt is asking to be raped?"
Woman #3: Right! (To the audience) I couldn't believe the shit either.
Woman #5: The motherfucker says,
Woman #4: "Yup."
Woman #1: "Wait.... Hold up.... Are you saying that when it comes to women men have no self-control?"
Woman #4: (Mimicking him completely) "Not when she out there pushing it up in his face."
Woman #1: (Clearing her throat) "Ah ha.... Well, I'm sorry but I disagree."
Woman #3: If a woman wants to wear a short skirt--in fact, if she wants to wander the street butt-naked--then she should be able to do it without fear of getting raped.
Woman #5: (With a sex demeanor) I mean, women like to feel sexy, even look sexy.
Woman #3: But it doesn't mean they want to get raped.
Woman #4: In fact some women just like to wear short skirts because it makes them feel good.
Women #3: Some women wear short skirts without even thinking about whether some man is going to be impressed or aroused by it.
Woman #2: And what if he is ... AROUSED.... Aren't we supposedly civilized human beings?
Woman #1: I mean ... shit.... He made me mad.
(Finally giving up on their hair)
Woman #4: I should have kept my mouth shut. (Carefully applies lipstick.)
Woman #5: (With the shock of this discovery) When I looked into the mirror and saw what was happening ... (she reenvisions the moment) it was too late.
Woman #2: This fool was in control.
Woman #1: He knew he had all the power.
Woman #3: I was vulnerable.
(Looking out into the audience with great despair, which erupts into anger. After a long pause ...)
Woman #4: Instead of dealing with my words, he just decided to exercise his power over me in the moment.
Woman #2: That he-ge-mon-ic motherfucker took revenge on my hair!
(Mimicking him as he cuts, using her forefinger and middle finger to indicate the scissors cutting, she moves across the stage as if dueling with a head of hair. Each woman lunges toward the center on their respective lines that follow.)
Woman #5: The gentle snips turned into a faster more determined chop, chop ... chop, chop, chop, chop.
Woman #3: Huge clumps of hair went falling listlessly to the ground.
Woman #1: Some fell into my lap.
Woman #5: I couldn't speak.
Woman #4: It was all there in his face.
Woman #4: Take that, and this, and that... you ...
Woman #3: BITCH!
Woman #2: WHORE!
Woman #1: DYKE!!
(Moving toward the center, they duel with each other.)
Woman #5: I looked over at the newspaper headline. Below there was a picture of the accused with her hands cuffed behind her back. Her head down, being taken away by campus police.
Woman #1: (Moving away from center) I wanted to cry. (Pause.)
Woman #3: (To the group) Then the son of a bitch had the nerve to charge me ten bucks when a trim is usually eight.
Woman #2: He says,
Woman #4: (With arrogance and disdain) "How do you like it?"
(Pausing to check their hair in "the mirror," they all move through varying states of despair, anger, and outrage. After yet another short pause ...)
Woman #1: (Suddenly feigning confidence) I just cut my eye, dropped the ten spot on the counter and walked out!
(Checking themselves in "the mirror" for what may be the last time before they are ready to walk out the door, they adjust their clothing, drape their scarves around their necks, and smack their lips together to assure the even spread of lipstick. Finally each puts on a black leather jacket. Now they are ready for the evening!)
Woman #2: (Finally into "the mirror") Well ... if I really am a ballbuster ...
Woman #5: I may as well look the part!
(They start to exit, smiling and looking very confident. Then ...)
Together: Shit.... I hope he likes my outfit!
As the lights come up, we see chaser lights, followed by loud rock music (Pearl Jam's Animal would be appropriate here). The women are frantically running around looking for something as the music plays. When they have found what they are looking for (respectively, diaphragms, spermacidal cream, condoms, etc.), the lights restore to general illumination, and we are back in the apartment. Returning to "the mirror"...
Woman #2: Woman, what are you doing?
Woman #5: Shit! It's too late now.
Woman #1: I mean, shit ...
Woman #4: He's in there already.
Woman #3: I can't believe this shit!
(Referring to their respective contraceptive devices ...)
Woman #2: Yes!
Woman #1: All right? Okay. All right!
Woman #4: Shit!
Woman #5: (Pause.) Well? (Looks off-stage to bedroom.)
Woman #3: (To the others) Better than that Druid guy at least.
(They all respond in agreement.)
Woman #2: I couldn't believe that guy. The Druid. I didn't even remember meeting the boy.
Woman #1: (Vaguely recalling the details of their first encounter) One of these serious East Village guys.
Woman #3: Tall.
Woman #2: Groovy hair cut. Long on top, short in the back.
Woman #3: (Romantically) Glasses ...
Woman #1: I have a thing for guys with black wireframe specs. Cool. Definitely. Very.
(The others look at her with embarrassment. As if to say, "Girl, you are really strange." The tension of the earlier moment subsides in to conversation and memory. They collectively forget about the man that is patiently waiting in the other room.)
Woman #4: Yeah, right. I got to the club around 11:30. He works there.
Woman #3: Tres, tres cool!
(They collectively perform the story.)
Woman #1: It's this really funky artiste-type hang out. Dark. Very intellectual and shit. I was impressed.
Woman #5: Well, sort of. I mean, who wouldn't be?
Woman #2: He didn't look as cute as I'd remembered.
Woman #1: For one thing he'd cut off all of his hair. I thought ...
Woman #3: Shit, man, you look like a skinhead.
Woman #2: I, on the other hand, show up looking fierce. Of course. Dudes were clocking left and right. Know what I mean. (She winks.) Right. At least ten guys said hello to me on the way in. (She points to her rear end as if she were testing the heat on an iron) Pumping!
(The group has mixed responses to this behavior.)
Woman #3: First thing he says is ... (in a goofy voice) "Great scarf." Great scarf. Can you believe that shit? I'm slamming from head to toe and all he says is, "Great scarf."
Woman #3: Awright. Then he says, "Listen, I have to run up to my apartment for a minute." I'm thinking ... Awright, what's the deal? But I figure. Okay "D" be cool awright. Right.
Woman #1: Then he's like... "Do you mind coming with me? It's just around the corner." (She imitates herself considering the question) I smile and say, "Sure."
Woman #5: We dip. Walk down Sixth Street to his place. Sure enough, it's around the corner.
Woman #2: We go up these old rickety stairs in a real dark building.
Woman #3: It looked like one of those buildings people squat in.
Woman #1: So I'm like ... Wait. Hold up. "Do you ... `live' here?"
Woman #4: He's like ... "Yeah." Fronting like he all suave and shit.
Woman #2: I'm thinking ... Oh, shit. Is this guy some kind of crack head or something? Aww, shit.
Woman #3: He was real polite though. I mean he did hold the door open for me to walk in first. Which was pretty nice. You know.
Woman #5: Soon as we get in the door he offers me some tea. I say, "Sure." He takes my coat (she gives him a nod of approval, then walks across the floor to an imaginary stove) and goes over to the stove to make some tea. (She looks around the room.)
Woman #3: The place is really dark and shit. He says he doesn't pay for any electricity because he runs everything on solar power. "In the city! Wow! That's ... interesting."
Woman #1: He goes into this very technical speech about how he did it all.
Woman #5: Meantime, I'm watching him. He's getting very comfortable. Walking around the apartment showing me this and that.
Woman #4: When the tea is ready, he brings it over. We sit and talk some more. I notice that he's not exactly in a hurry to leave his apartment. So I ask,
Woman #2: (Casually but suspiciously) "Umm, are you going back to work tonight?"
Woman #3: He gets real nervous like and says, "Ahh, hmm. Yeah!" (She gives a visual response that reads to the audience like... "Yeah, right.") "Oh. Well then, ahh, umm, aren't they going to be worried about you hanging out so long?"
Woman #1: He jumps up real abrupt and shit. Walks over to the bookshelf and pulls out this book.
Woman #5: He's holding it all up in my face.
Woman #4: (Reading the title) "The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Do you know this book?" he says with this really weird Mr. Spock-sounding voice.
Woman #3: Awright, what's up with this shit?
Woman #1: He comes over, sits down right next to me, opens the book, and starts talking about the "mysteries" that exist between men and women and that ... get this shit ... he's in fact a Druid.
Woman #2: I pull away from him a little, look straight into his eyes, and say, "No shit, man? Are you really some kind of Celtic wizard?"
(She imitates him pulling back from her startled and somewhat nervous and defensive. The rest of them are laughing hysterically.)
Woman #5: (Through her laughter) He says, "Yeah."
(Even more guffaws from the group.)
Woman #1: I could not believe this guy's game. So I figured I'd just fuck with him a little. I say,
Woman #2: "Wowww! That's really amazing. I thought they were all dead."
Woman #3: He gets really serious now and says, "Yes. Well, it's a very old religion. I've been practicing it for some time now."
Woman #5: Uh ha!?
Woman #4: All of a sudden, I feel his hand on my thigh.
Woman #1: He's moving up the hem of my skirt very quickly.
Woman #3: I pull the chair back.
Woman #2: He pulls his closer ...
Woman #5: and just keeps on talking about this Celtic wizard shit!
Woman #1: I stand up and tell him that... "I was really looking forward to going out dancing." And that ... "Perhaps it's time we got going."
Woman #3: He says something about not finishing my tea, and I admit that I don't really like tea anyway and, you know, it's time to get back to the club.
Woman #4: He says okay, But first ... he wants to show me something.
Woman #2: I think, "Oh God, this is it."
Woman #1: I've got to get the fuck out of this apartment, but it's cold out and I don't want to leave without my jacket.
Woman #5: It's so danmed dark in there (moving about with arms directly in front of her, as if she were blind) I can't see where the fuck he put it.
Woman #3: He gets up and walks over to a stepladder that goes up to a loft space and says, "Do you like this?"
Woman #2: "Sure," (placatingly) "it's ... great!"
Woman #3: "I built it myself," he says.
Woman #2: I say, "Oh, that's nice."
Woman #1: Meantime, I still can't find my jacket. I'm not even listening to him anymore. I'm thinking... Jacket, Jacket, Jacket! Charavari, fifteen hundred bucks. No way am I leaving that shit in here with this psycho!
Woman #4: Then I see him standing by the ladder going up to the loft, holding my jacket. He's holding it for me as if he is going to help me put it on.
Woman #5: (Moves across the room feigning casualness) I go over, turn my back to him to get my arms in the sleeves ...
Woman #1: He grabs me (with disgust) and starts kissing my neck and shit.
Woman #2: Tells me that he's been "dreaming of me for months."
Woman #3: I'm frozen ...
Woman #4: Just thinking about how to get his cheesy lips off of me.
Woman #5: I turn around slowly as if I'm going to return the kiss. He had to let me go a little.
Woman #4: Suddenly, I'm pumping.
Woman #3: I pull back my arm and smash him upside the head. He falls into the loft ladder.
Woman #2: I hear him hit the ground.
Woman #1: I jet. I ran out that building, and didn't stop until I got up around my way.
(We hear a mellow jazz tune.)
Woman #3: That's where I met Cisco. (Points toward the bedroom.)
Woman #2: (Smiling to herself) He's a foreign exchange student from Mexico. Very cute. A linguist. Very nerdy but ... manageable. Know what I mean? (She winks.)
(Gathering their respective contraceptives ...)
Woman #4: Anyway, it's my house ...
Woman #5: My bed.
Woman #1: At least I know my sheets are clean.
(They each repeat the following line in an echo of the other as the exit toward the bedroom with a gait reminiscent of John Wayne.)
All the Women: I know what I'm doing.
In an early morning light, we hear Aretha Franklin's "Natural Woman." As the lights go up, we discover the women strewn about the apartment, presumably in afterglow. One or two of them smoke, another plays with her hair, another caresses her own face and arms, etc. The mood is uncertain. After a while, they focus in on "the mirror."
Woman #3: I was amazing. Incredible. Practically an acrobat.
Woman #5: He was very impressed.
Woman #1: Sheeet! I ... was very impressed.
Woman #4: Four hours of non-stop ... (she isn't sure what label would be appropriate) love making.
Woman #2: (After a pause) Sex ... we had great SEX. (She lights another cigarette, slowly and methodically. She is thinking.)
Woman #3: He had great sex.
Woman #4: I wasn't there. I had nothing to do with it.
(Returning to "the mirror" abruptly.
Woman #5: You did. (Covers her face with her hands in shame.)
Woman #2: He told me that he loved me. Several times. Too many times. It was pretty romantic though. He sang to me in Spanish and told me that he 'd love to take me to his country and make love in (with a thick Spanish accent) the Desert!
Woman #1: The Desert?
Woman #2: The Desert can be romantic ... making love among the yucca plants and rattlesnakes. Yeah. Romantic. Very. (Pause.) He said that I was beautiful and smart and very sophisticated.
Woman #4: I liked that. No one ever called me smart before.
Woman #5: I wish I could have felt something.
Woman #3: I wish I could feel something now. What was I thinking?
Woman #2: I was hoping that he'd like my hair cut, but ... he never mentioned it.
Woman #1: He was cool though. I mean none of that missionary position shit. I called all the shots. (Crossing to a chair, she places one leg up on it and cracks an imaginary bullwhip.) I was definitely in C-O-N-T-R-O-L (which she spells out with the cracks of the whip). CONTROL.... So who gives a shit if he left without giving me his phone number or telling me his last name. (Plops down into the chair.)
Woman #2: I said, "Hey, dude, you know you've got to wear a condom and shit." I'm down with that safe sex all the way.
Woman #3: (With uncertainty) Safe sex.
Woman #4: I didn't know him, I didn't care about him, and ... I didn't want to.
Woman #5: (To another woman) Wait. Now wait. I set it up like this. I like it like this. No strings, no hassle. (She takes out a pair of stockings, and starts to put them on. She behaves as if she is about to begin the entire ritual preparation once again. She puts on the stockings methodically, then walks over to "the mirror." The other women are consumed by their own thoughts. Then ...)
Woman #2: I hate this. I hate my life. I don't want to be independent. (Crossing to Woman #5, completely falling apart) I don't want to be in control.
Woman #5: (Peeling her hands off of her) Get your shit together, girl.
Woman #1: (To Woman #4) Stop.... Tell the truth for once. You liked the guy. The student. You liked him and you wanted him, and you wanted to believe that he loved you when he said he did.
Woman #3: (Jumping into the fray) You ... (she stops herself) ... I just want to find somebody to ...
Woman #4: No way. I'm an independent, career-minded woman. I don't take any shit from men, and I don't want children. That's who I am and that's who I'm going to be.
Woman #1: (To the group) When?
Woman #5: Holy shit, am I talking to myself?
All Other Women: Yes!
Woman #5: (Startled) Wait. Now wait just one minute. (She stops and looks around the room as if she is looking for someone. She looks into "the mirror" inquisitively.) Today is the first day of the rest of your life, right?
Woman #1: Right. (Woman #5 turns to her.)
Woman #3: Good.
Woman #2: Then we start over.
All the Women: Together. (They all return to "the mirror.")
Woman #4: You and I.
(Together they become the Therapist's Office. We hear the theme music from The Donna Reed Show.)
Woman #5: Lately, I've been having this dream about moving out of the city and living in the country. I'd like to have maybe two kids, and a dog, and ... God forgive me, and please don't tell my mother ... but ... I think ... sometime, not now of course ... but someday .... Well, I think ... I'd like to have ... a husband!
Woman #1: (Abruptly) Oh-My-God! What would my neighbors think?
Woman #3: I'm too cool for all that conventional kids-and-marriage stuff.
Woman #2: I want to be glamorous and sophisticated and ...
Woman #4: The truth. I'm really not so cool.... I know I've let my fellow ball-busters down ...
Woman #5: Truth is, I could live without all this "coolness" in my life. I don't know about all this picket fence shit ...
Woman #3: I just don't want to be alone.
Woman #2: Alone is boring ...
Woman #1: Tedious ...
Woman #4: Scary.
Woman #5: (Shrugging off this whole line of thinking) Fuck it.... And who would I talk to? (They all stop and stare at each other.)
(One by one, they drift away from each other, returning to separate areas and overlapping the line.)
All the Women: No way. Not today.
(When the cross is complete and it appears that they have returned to a physical and mental space of loneliness and isolation, they all find a telephone and tty to make a phone call. Some get the numbers from a book, or memory, or the speed dial, but none of them completes her call. After a pause, each abandons the phone call idea. Then, after another pause, they speak to each other.)
Woman #5: I'm going out.
Woman #1: (With interest that masks an underlying doubt) Where to?
Women #3: A movie?
Woman #2: The museum?
Woman #4: A cafe?
Woman #5: Alone?
(They smile at each other.)
All the Women: (To themselves) Alone.
Woman #1: I'll treat myself. Cafe, museum, and a movie.
All Other Women: Yes!
(They begin to change clothes quickly. As they dress, we see them first choosing and then discarding old habits. One of the women who habitually wears lips tick begins to put it on, then changes her mind, closes it, and tosses it in a small handbag. Another always pinches her cheeks in a small hand mirror; another powders her nose; another wears high heels; etc. Each one has chosen to relinquish one of these behaviors in favor of something else. Just before they are ready to leave, the lights focus in on the black leather jackets somewhere on stage. They all stop mid-action, look out into the audience/"mirror," smile, and say...)
All the Women: Oh well ... (picking up their respective jackets and putting them on) some habits die hard!
(As the women exit, we hear "Listen, listen, listen to my heartbeat" from the section titled "Late Show" in Laurie Anderson's Home of the Brave. The lights Fade to Black.)
Kym Moore is a director, producer, playwright, and educator. She is currently Assistant Professor of Theater at Hampshire College, and serves as Executive Director of Frogs on the Water Theater in Santa Fe, NM.
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|Publication:||African American Review|
|Date:||Dec 22, 1997|
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