By E.M Slocum
Where I am (Location):
In a theater, seated in fifth row. Before me, a theater stage.
What I see/hear (Setting):
An empty park bench at the center of the stage. A full trash can standing next to it. I turn on my IPod. Music begins to play and continues to do so throughout the scenes until the end.
A woman and her child walk on stage. The mother is talking, explaining something to her boy. The child is in amazement, his eyes and his mouth stand ajar. He listens, then responds. Their conversation is muted. Although I don’t know what they are saying, I remember exactly how it feels.
An elderly couple walk on, arm in arm. The wife carries a filled grocery bag. The husband is visibly out of breath. The wife leads her husband to the bench but he snubs the bench, gestures for them to move on. They proceed to walk, rather slowly towards the right stage side.
A Frisbee is thrown onto stage from the left and a teenage boy comes running after it to fetch it. He yells “Got it!” towards the OFFSTAGE area. His call is muted. The boy jolts back his head and laughs out loud. I can not hear the laugh but I’m infected by it. He jogs towards the left stage side and throws the Frisbee. His friend remains offstage but they keep throwing the Frisbee back and forth.
A homeless person shuffles on and navigates himself and his shopping cart towards the bench. He rummages through his filled cart and produces two blankets and a vest. He spreads one blanket on top of the bench, scrunches up the vest to use as a pillow, lays down and covers himself with the second blanket. He sleeps.
A young ballerina dances across the stage, around the bench, past the elderly couple and the mother and her child. She uses the entire stage, she doesn’t seem to mind the others. She is focused and totally bound to the rhythm and her movements.
A drunk man wobbles from left to center stage, stops and looks around. He sees the ballerina, the elderly couple, the mother with her child. He looks around and watches the teenager who is playing and the sleeping man on the bench. He slumps to the ground and starts to weep. I can not hear him cry.
LIGHTS FADE TO DARK. THE MUSIC CONTINUES TO PLAY. THE STAGE IS DARK AND EMPTY. AFER 1 MINUTE THE STAGE IS RELIT.
The mother runs fearfully across the stage, looking for her son. She stops at center stage, looks around in distress, forcefully calling out to her son. She yells in silence.
The elderly wife walks alone across the stage, with the emptied grocery bag folded neatly in her hand. She moves slowly, until she’s closer to the center stage. She unfolds the grocery bag, stares at it, lays her hand gently onto the fabric. I see her pain in the memory.
The teenage boy walks across the stage. He has become a young man, dressed in an army uniform. One arm of the uniform is hemmed halfway up his left upper arm. He walks to center stage, takes a cigarette out of his chest pocket, lights it and smokes. He closes his eyes and inhales deeply, then cracks a faint smile. I can see his thought. His smile ceases moments later. He resumes smoking, eyebrows tensed, lips tightened.
The homeless person is sleeping restlessly; his arms are crossed and clenched to his chest. I fear his dream.
The ballerina dances to center stage, where she stops and starts twirling beautiful pirouettes and executing eclectic movements. Her feet and ankles are bandaged, one can see the hint of blood emerging from underneath the bandages. She abruptly stops, breathing heavily. Her expression is laced with sternness and eagerness. “Stop whining! Stop whining! Come on! More! More!”, she commands herself, as if screaming at her reflection in the mirror. Her voice is muted.
She resumes her dance, twirling pirouettes, creating beautiful movement. She doesn’t stop. I know why. I know her.
The drunk is still weeping, tears running down his face. He starts to speak through his sobbing. He is overwhelmed, can’t believe nor process what he is seeing. He seems to say: “All this beauty. All this life. All this pain.”
The music suddenly stops. The battery of my IPod is dead. The characters freeze in the moment; the ballerina stops dancing, the boy turns around, the elderly wife presses the grocery bag to her chest, the drunk stops weeping, the mother stops crying out to her missing son. There is total silence. They look up simultaneously, straight at their audience, straight at me. They stare wide-eyed. I am aware of them, as they are of me. No one says a word.
LIGHTS FADE TO DARK.