Character: SEAN, early 30’s
In black, office sounds are heard—photo copier, typing, a phone ringing. The sounds slowly fade. Lights rise on a bare stage, other than a scrim hanging upstage where images are projected, revealing SEAN standing center.
It’s late at night and SEAN is surrounded only by memories. He is dressed casually—jeans, graphics t-shirt, boots, an Irish cap.
I smashed my computer yesterday.
I shit you not.
It’s a long story—the step-by-step of what led up to it—but allow me to say that the day was shit, just like the one before and the one before that.
(Image of Jane Street, West Village, New York City is projected on scrim.)
Office is on Jane Street. West Village. Quaint little quiet street leading to the river.
And me at my desk, second floor, next to the window, handling purchase orders while looking down at the action—ten hours a day, five days a week for seven years.
Locals wandering by, never in any hurry. Sycamore trees lining the street, leaves changing with the seasons. A breeze coming off the Hudson, calm and appropriate until winter, but that only means you gotta pull your collar up.
Seems borderline fucking perfect, no?
The thing is… A man can only be on the wrong side of the glass for so long.
I guess it was time.
The actual event was in response to an old man, which I found amusing. Always thought it would be some beautiful, dark-eyed woman that would push me over the edge.
But it was just this old guy, walking down Jane, probably seventy-five years or so. He carried a cane, though it didn’t look like he relied on it, and he took his time—slow and steady—a contented smile on his face.
I watched until he strolled out of view.
Maybe it was because I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to be as content as that old guy unless I made a change. Or maybe it was a child’s temper tantrum.
I stood up from my ass-numbing chair, ripped the computer monitor from my desk and threw it at the nearest wall.
I forgot about the cord that connects the monitor to the computer tower.
Goddamn monitor flew beautifully—five feet across the room—before it jerked back and blasted against my fucking shin.
Got a colossal purple welt there now. It’s shit.
Anyway, I yelled like an asshole, and the intern ran in to get a firsthand account of the purchase order guy’s breakdown, gaping at me like I’d gone mad, a dumbfounded look on her face.
So, with a loyal audience of one, I climbed onto my desk, jumped into the air and landed on that monitor with all my weight. The fucking thing… I climbed and I jumped until there was nothing left but a scattered pile of colorful wires, broken glass and bent metal.
(A shocked INTERN with a row of cubicles behind her is projected on scrim.)
And the intern stood there the entire time, like she loved watching me fuck that thing up or something.
Then I told her, real composed-like, “I’m going for a walk.”
That was that.
Pushed the door open, got punched in the face by the daylight. Fucking freedom. Been wondering what it would feel like for quite some time. I gotta say—goddamn glorious.
I was gonna head after that old man, if only to walk alongside him and keep him company—or vice versa.
But I didn’t get very far.
The sight of the sycamore trees tossed me a memory that stopped me in my tracks.
I’d been avoiding these memories for years, but this one… I decided to accept it.
I suppose it was time.
So I stood there, not thirty feet from the job I’d just left, and I remembered something my dad had taught me.
He used to take me for walks through a forest that ran behind our house. Back outside Buffalo, where I grew up.
I was fourteen and it was autumn. I remember because it was the last walk we took—before he died.
(An image of FATHER in woods silhouetted by sun is projected on scrim.)
We were in the forest and my father was identifying the different plants, trees, and fungi as we walked past. That was kind of his thing. It made him happy.
He pointed to a Platanus occidentalis—a sycamore tree, specifically—to the small wood-like balls that hung from the branches of the tree.
He told me that the balls are the fruit of the sycamore tree, and when winter comes each ball will break into hundreds of seeds. And attached to each seed will be these little hairs.
Then the winter winds will blow the seeds, carrying them by the hairs as far as they can, and drop them into a new land with hope the seed will grow there.
By this point, the entire office staff had their fat fucking faces smashed against the windows above me, and I could feel them staring down at me.
But I was too busy studying the sycamore tree and thinking of my father.
And then I got it.
I understood what he had meant that day.
And, anyway, it seemed like it was time.
It didn’t take long to pack. A few days worth of layers.
Caught a cab to JFK and bought a one-way ticket at the counter for the six-thirty.
Aer Lingus to Shannon, Ireland.
Figured I could catch a bus north from there. Hell, I’d walk if I had to.
Four hours to burn in the terminal, wandered into a pub.
A couple pints, waiting for time to pass, wondering whether I was making a brilliant decision or completely fucking up my life and guess who sauntered in the goddamn door.
The old man from Jane Street—cane, contented smile and all.
Swear to Christ.
He sat directly to my right and ordered well whiskey, neat.
(Projected on scrim are three pictures—the OLD MAN sitting, turning, drinking.)
I was doing my best to play it cool, but I desperately wanted to beg him to teach me something about this life. Maybe I’d explain how I’d smashed my computer and, by default, my career, because of him.
Checked my watch—boarding in twenty—no time to waste.
“Excuse me, sir.”
His head turned. Slowly. Just like his walk.
He looked me directly in the eyes, and I knew instantly I didn’t have anything to ask him. I’d learned enough with a brief ocular contact.
“I’m sorry to disturb you,” I said, tossing some cash on the bar, picking up my bags and rushing to the gate.
On the plane, watching the clouds float like snow-covered mountains out my window, I was haunted by his gaze.
The smile was one of content, that I was certain of. A man who is happy to walk down Jane Street. Happy to sit at an airport pub and watch the people pass by.
But the eyes… They were strained and tired from a lifetime of work, of love and love lost, of sorrow.
Seventy-five years of life wearing on those eyes, and he was still grinning.
(Sound of rain falling softly onto cobblestone streets. On scrim, a projection of two hands counting out Euro coins.)
I called my mother from a pay phone in Galway the following evening.
It was drizzling, but I didn’t mind. Like the winter wind off the Hudson, it felt appropriate.
My mom said I sounded far away.
I told her I was.
I tried to explain the goddamn computer and the Platanus occidentalis and the wind carrying the hairs of its seeds, but I simply started to cry.
She understood. It had been a long time coming. Then she did that thing that mothers do so well, when they see right through to your goddamn soul.
“Your father would be proud of you,” she said, “Even if you did smash your computer.”
(The sounds of rain fades slowly.)
I told her I appreciated that, and that I’d call her again soon.
(On scrim, an image of the moon over Galway Bay.)
I hung up the phone feeling empty but content and walked over to Galway Bay. The rain had let up and the moon was opening shop for the night.
The jagged rocks, the geese landing on the water, I must’ve stared at it for an hour. Fucking beautiful.
Once the moon was in full swing, I walked up to the pub. Sat down, ordered a pint, asked myself, “Why Galway?”
I had no idea.
But I was there—on the west coast of Ireland, with a rented room at a bed and breakfast and a few bones in the bank from the P.O. days—because I’d accepted one of the memories I’d been denying since I was fourteen.
It’d been time.
(On scrim, an image of SEAN sitting, unmoving on a barstool. Other PATRONS are blurred as they hurry around him, enjoying their night.)
So I ordered another pint, added on a short of whiskey, and wondered what in hell I was supposed to do next.
Unsure, I mean truly not knowing, I figured I’d wait for the answer to arrive.
(“Feeling the Pull” by Swell Season plays, as the stage fades to black.)
copyright © 2010 Kyle Bradstreet. All rights reserved. ___________________________________________
Kyle Bradstreet is the author of the plays From Prague (2010), Alcohol (2008), A Story From Abeyance (2007) and The Café (2007). As a screenwriter, Kyle has written for The Philanthropist (NBC), The Borgias (Canal+/Lagardère), and Manhunt (HBO). His fiction has been published in the literary magazine Blood Lotus.