Character: THE ACTOR, female, age 25-30
(A solo spotlight hits the Actor.)
I have a fantasy. I’ve played it over and over in my mind for weeks now. It’s so detailed. Sordid, really, in its attention to color, place, time, smell. It’s to the point where if this scenario doesn’t play out or happen, then, frankly, when I die, I will likely reemerge as a phantasmal apparition, wishwabbing over the city of New York saying, Why? Why? Why? Why did I not make this scene in my mind a concrete real occurrence?
Ready? Here’s what I got going on up here. Place: Subway. The N,R,W train. The only train you ride. Winter. Late afternoon. It’s dark already, as depressing New York winters tend to be. It’s 6:15 PM.
Players: Me. Dressed casually, but sophisticated. Hair down. No, pulled back into a loose, chic bun. Makeup minimal, except of bright red lipstick. Why the hell not? Red lipstick is only a problem in plays when people are kissing. This fantasy includes no kissing. Player Two: Christopher.
Action: I shove Christopher in the subway. Not into an oncoming N,R,W train. Jesus Christ. Christopher doesn’t deserve that. And if he does, it wouldn’t be my place. Murder is intimate. It should stem from long drawn out complicated spider web types of relationships. My relationship with Christopher is much more short-lived. Anyway. This shove happens on the train. Indulge me while I explain.
Scene: I’m looking fabulous. Sophisticated. Red on the mouth, we’ve established. It’s a crowded subway. Friday night. Everyone’s getting off work and they are cranky nine-to-fivers. Ready to get on with their night. I’m going to see a final dress rehearsal of the new play I wrote that is opening off-Broadway. The buzz has been phenomenal. And the marquee is already up. With my name on it. (She thinks about the logistics.) It’s an off-Broadway house with a marquee. That is also off the N,R,W line… screw it. It’s my Broadway show I’m going to go watch. In midtown. Off the N,R,W line.
So I get on this crowded subway train and who’d of thunk it, but I immediately spot Christopher. He’s holding onto the subway pole in the middle of the train. And he’s doing that horribly irritating thing where he’s not just gripping the pole for support, but he’s leaning, lounging on the entire pole, like a paraplegic stripper—too lazy to stand up on his own. He’s reading She’s Come Undone. No. Addendum. He’s reading Eat Love Pray. And he’s really into it. Like mouthing the words as he reads. God, what an- (She cuts herself off.) And I speak. I say, offhandedly, “Christopher.” He looks up. His face goes white. Even paler than the freckled Irish mug I’m used to seeing. “[Actor’s Name], hey,” he says. He’s trying to compose himself. A million thoughts flicker across his translucent complexion. Is he sheepish? Ambivalent? Nonchalant?
Before he can decide how to handle the situation. I handle it for him. Typical. Did I mention it’s rush hour on this train? It’s rush hour and no one is talking. It’s all solo riders just trying to wait out their horribly long commute home. “Christopher,” I say again. As I meander my way towards him on the subway. It’s a packed train, but people part the waves for me. They’re bored on the way home and eager to listen in on something. Even a banal exchange between two former… (She cuts herself off.)
Before Christopher can muster out a pathetic excuse for conversation—I shove him. Not hard. But also not that light. And, after leaning on that pole for twenty blocks, his balance is off. And I shove him right above the sternum. His right side, just in front of his heart, to keep it poetic and such. And he stumbles backwards. Into a mother and her small child. Now, I’m not an advocate for involving children in my fantasies, I assure you there is no serious damage to the child done. The mother glares at Christopher, protects her toddler. “Why didn’t you call me back?” I ask him. I use just the appropriate combination of cavalier humor and pissed off Athena warrior goddess. He stammers.
The fellow passengers on the train tilt their heads, turn down their iPods to listen, judge him with their eyes. “This confident collected cosmopolitan woman was dissed by this little nitwit? ” They think, “Oh my.”
“I, I, I,” he responds—his scarf is tangled around both his feet and his neck. A tall man with a briefcase is standing on the frayed end of its Banana Republic blandness. “You’re an asshole,” I declare as I watch him struggle to regain his balance.
Side note: This section of the fantasy changes. I’m still debating whether it’s a line that’s actually delivered in the scene or not. On one hand, it brings me down to his level. Name-calling. And in front of small, recently pushed child. On the other hand, calling him an asshole is gonna let him know. I want him to know. And I want everyone on the train to know. You hurt me. And I know you aren’t hurting at all. Hence you are an asshole. So, for now, the line remains in the script.
And then it’s my stop. Christopher is still gaping like a trout. I say, “This is my stop.” Because I’ve always wanted to say that. It’s somehow so 1980’s action movie meets 1950’s film noir. And I get off the train. I leave Christopher on the N,R,W with only the memory of my shove and the cold judging hard stares of the nine-to-five commuters. The mother with her toddler. The other guys our age that look at him like he’s the biggest jerk-off to walk the streets of the city. And that’s kind of where the whole thing ends.
You see, in my fantasy, Christopher, I leave you. Not the other way around. I get to be the one who walks away. Without seeing if you’re all right. Or checking to make sure things are going to be okay after my departure. And that would make me feel so vindicated. The play is written. The scenario is all set.
So now, I guess I have two choices. Stalk the N,R,W line. Wearing red lipstick, a sophisticated bun, and a spritz of vengeance. Or I can start writing that play I want to see on Broadway. So when I do eventually run into you, I don’t care. The answer is obvious, I know. Get writing. Get on with your life. Stop obsessing over a light shove onto a real asshole. And I will. Eventually.
But every time I ride the N,R,W, I keep my eyes open for you, and your overpriced rich kid scarves, and your poor taste in books, and your…
(A pause. She collects herself.) Scene.
copyright © 2010 Erin Austin. All rights reserved. ___________________________________________
Erin Austin is a New York based playwright, actor, and director. Her work has been staged in a variety of NYC settings and uses city life as a living, breathing backdrop—if not an additional character. Erin has a BFA from the University of Miami, is a proud co-founder of the Plastic Flamingo Theatre Company and a member of Actors Equity Association.