CC’S PARENTS’ MARRIAGE
A play in 2 Acts Simon Sobo
CAST OF CHARACTERS
19 year old CC is extraordinarily beautiful with long straight dirty blonde hair with streaks bleached by the sun. She is a student in Jeremy’s class
26 year old teaching assistant, with only his completed thesis remaining before he gets his PhD. Caught up in 60’s remake the world beliefs.
In his late 50’s. Sweet, but somewhat downtrodden
CC’s MOTHER (Evelyn) Still in her 50’s beautiful
CAROL (Jeremy’s wife) Attractive, 25 intelligent,
caring to a fault.
CAROL’S MOTHER Matronly, approaching 60
ACT I SCENE 1
Setting: 1968 Buffalo, New York
Total Darkness in the theatre and stage. The sound of a man and woman reaching an orgasm (miked loudly). Heavy breathing as they slowly recover.
Bright lights flip on... Stage left Jeremy and CC are in Jeremy’s bed. The bedroom leads through a hall to his kitchen. A room on the right (CC’s parents bedroom in Great Neck) remains unlit
CC, is naked Jeremy, watches her as she puts on Jeremy’s wife’s robe.
You’re Carol’s size.
CC Would you rather I not wear it? JEREMY. No it’s fine.
When is she getting out of the hospital?
JEREMY Could be a week. Could be three weeks. Lupus is funny that way.
CC Are you worried
JEREMY Not really. This happens every once in awhile. Then she is
good as new.
CC I still don’t get what we have.
Told you. I love Carol.
JEREMY (speaking more forcefully)
She’s the best friend I’ve ever had... My soulmate. CC listens quietly
JEREMY We’ve been through a lot together. We will always be
CC So how can you say you love me?
JEREMY Because I do. The moment I saw you. You’re drop dead beautiful. I’ve wanted to be with someone like you all my life... You and Carol are two different things. CC
JEREMY What choice do we have? I tried. We both tried. Last semester. The way we looked at each other in the classroom. When our eyes met... It was fire.
JEREMY (CONT'D) We both had to look away. You blushed. Several times. I couldn’t think about anything else the entire day.
CC A couple of students teased me about the way you looked at me.
JEREMY Sometimes there are forces in nature. No matter what your intentions are.
CC is silent, eagerly absorbing every word
JEREMY These last few days. It’s like I’m alive again. When I read something I’ve read a thousand times, I find passages I never noticed. New insights. Everywhere I look. The trees, the sky... Eating Cheerios. I can taste them.
I was walking through my life asleep. It’s like I’ve finally woke up.
CC So why are you saying you love Carol?
JEREMY Because I do. We’re married. We have our son. I can’t imagine my life without her.
CC bites at a cuticle on her pinky.
JEREMY Maybe we should just not talk about Carol.
CC I still don’t understand how you can say you love me? And me being beautiful? There are dozens of students on campus prettier.
JEREMY Not true. I can’t believe you’re saying that. Do you ever look in the mirror?
She holds up her handbag and a sandal.
CC This is half of why you love me. Fred Braun. JEREMY
CC Please what? First day of class I saw you noticing my
sandals. My sandals and this bag.
JEREMY Okay. I noticed your sandals and your bag.
CC Exactly. That’s the point. You know about Fred Braun?
When I lived in the Village, I used to pass the store all the time. Sometimes I’d walk a block out of my way. I liked the things in the window. Soft, hand made leather. The color it was dyed, dark woody like walnut. It was a neat place. Thee place in the Village.
CC Exactly. A lot of very cool people shopped there, right JEREMY
CC Fashionable bohemian women–admit it.
JEREMY Admit what. I noticed your bag and your sandals. I know where they are from. I like that about you. Your look.
CC I have this very nice herring bone skirt. I like it but I
never wore it to class. My brother Mark bought that stuff for me. I never heard of Fred Braun until he brought me there. Maybe you and Mark should get together?
CC It was once painful. This thing Mark has for girls with long straight hair. He wouldn’t let me cut it. JEREMY
He wouldn’t let you?
CC I wouldn’t dare. My mother showed me a lot of cute styles
in magazines. This year she is a Mia Farrow look alike. No way Mark was going to give in on this one.
JEREMY He’s right. Your hair is wonderful.
But it’s an image. A look. The villagy look, jeans, long straight hair. Fred Braun sandals. Mark’s version of me. He took me to the store and insisted on the pocketbook and sandals .It meant a lot to him. I thought they were nice but… It was part of his statement against the way Great Neck girls dress.
CC Looking bohemian is no different than any other look. It’s still Great Neck.
How is it Great Neck?
CC The importance of a cool image. That’s Great Neck. Paying incredible attention to that.
JEREMY Look. Everything you’re saying is more important to you than me. I don’t care about any of it. It’s you that attracts me.
You hardly know me.
JEREMY But I want to. To know everything. The last two days we’ve
spent hours talking about your family. Mark and Jay– your brothers, your parents, your grandmother. I’m beginning to know them. And what you were telling met yesterday, how upset you are about whether your parents still love each other.
You seemed annoyed.
JEREMY I’m not crazy about the way you want to look at it, like whose fault it is, but other than that–
CC It’s the only way I can think about it. Going over the evidence–do they or don’t they love each other?
But whose fault it is? What’s that going to decide?
She doesn’t answer. In his underwear, he goes to the kitchen. Opens the fridge. Stares at the contents.
JEREMY Can I get you something?
She doesn’t answer. He Isn’t tempted by anything.
When he returns to the bedroom one look and her vulnerability is clear to him.
This means a lot to you?
Not just that. Why did I get the impression it means a lot to you?
JEREMY It does. My father was married three times–probably had 10 girlfriends. Your parents interest me. All those years together. What’s that like. But this “whose fault it is.”
CC For you it’s simple. To me it’s complicated. I can’t stop thinking about it that way. It’s not just me. Many of the girls in the dorm talk about the same thing, trying to make sense of their parents’ marriage. Who to blame. Maybe what I’m doing is what everyone does at my age–try to figure out what’s been going on as I’m ready to leave.
JEREMY Shrinks are making a good living off of that.
CC Sorting out who’s right and who’s wrong is not supposed to
be the main focus of therapy, but it’s what everyone does, try to get their therapist to side with them.
He waits for where she is going to go.
CC (reflective) What they have is just a marriage like a million other marriages. It will continue with or without my verdict.
JEREMY So leave it at that.
She now goes to the kitchen. He follows her there.
CC doesn’t answer. She looks at him appreciatively before speaking.
She opens a cabinet. Closes it and moves on to the next cabinet. She finds a glass. Turns on the cold water. Sticks her finger under the stream, waiting for it to get colder. Satisfied, she fills up her glass and takes a sip. Then a another sip. All the while her ideas play like an endless loop in her mind.
CC (suddenly worried)
I just can’t make sense of it, whether anything remains... Growing up, knowing they love each other was at the core of who I was. Everything else was added to that. Maybe it’s less important now but–
JEREMY You’re not 3. It shouldn’t matter so much.
CC ignores him. She is intensely working over her cuticle.
I know they love each other. JEREMY
CC (thinking further)
Maybe I’m lying to myself. I wonder if my parents ask that question.
She looks at him, wondering if he is losing patience.
CC I know this is hard to listen to, but it helps me. In therapy when I hear my thoughts spoken out loud I can evaluate them more clearly. Also once I get going, I go further than when I think about them to myself.
JEREMY That will be $25 dollars an hour.
I’m sorry, but–
JEREMY It’s fine. It’s fine. I told you. I want to know if they love each other. CC looks at him skeptically
JEREMY No. I really do.
CC speaks forcefully, as if a judge has demanded silence with his gavel.
CC When my mother looks smashing you can see it in my father’s
eyes. And hers. They are wildly in love. Both of them.
JEREMY Beauty trumps everything else. Which is what love is.
CC Your version of love, Jeremy. Your version. There are
other ways to love.
JEREMY Not for me. Beauty goes straight from my eyes to my heart.
There is nothing more certain than what I feel when I look at you. Everything else disappears. You’re saying exactly that about your parents.
Jeremy’s voice becomes professorial.
JEREMY “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.
The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”
Who said that?
His lecturing continues
JEREMY Love’s there when it’s there. It’s not when it’s not.
Period. A moral yardstick is irrelevant. You’re bringing that into the picture, but it’s a lot simpler than that.
CC Well love’s there. When they are going out. It’s there.
True love, as you are defining it. She’s gorgeous. But it only happens when they’re going out. It’s when they’re staying home. Their day to day life–she’s a different person. So is he. She can be a bitch. She’s mean... Really mean.
JEREMY What does your father do with that?
CC He hates it. (smiling ironically) My mother tells him it’s
a compliment. She says she can act that way because she loves him. He’s the only person with whom she can totally be herself.
JEREMY Is that what’s been going on with us?
What do you mean?
JEREMY You’ve got a nasty side.
CC You haven’t seen nothing yet.
JEREMY So that means you don’t love me enough?
I’m getting there.
JEREMY (thinking it over, speaks
light heartedly) Maybe you got your meanness from your mother. She taught
CC It’s just such a contrast. In public she’ll grab his head,
plant a lot of kisses, like the love she has for him is bursting out of her. It’s cute. Convincing. My dad pretends that she is just being silly, but he’s thrilled. I mean the prettiest woman around is showing all this love for him. And my mother means it. It’s so strange. She means it...It’s confusing. Do they have to be on stage for it to take place? Something’s not right about how they are the rest of the time.
JEREMY CC JEREMY
CC Small things, but they add up.
Like what. Give me a for instance.
CC It’s about nonsense Fights when she puts his things away.
He puts his pruner exactly where he wants it, so he can find it easily. She moves it to where she thinks it belongs. That’s important to her. So he can’t find it.
JEREMY That’s diddily shit. Every relationship has that. I mean,
if you live together–
CC But it happens again and again. (Imitating her parents)
“Honey”... “Dear”. They used to talk like that.
Like what? A thousand things. Give me a for instance.
Now it escalates very quickly. Yes it’s about diddily shit, but when they get going, they spit venom in every syllable.
CC (speaking sharply,
imitating first her father
than her mother) I put it there for a reason.
Where I told you not to put it. Where I can find it.
It’s not funny.
Jeremy chuckles CC
His smile is wiped off his face. He salutes her like a private with a drill sergeant. She ignores his theatrics.
CC (her voice is calm)
Sometimes I think my parents hate each other. JEREMY
CC Hate! I can hear it in their voices.
That’s part of love.
CC That is so glib. I’m talking about hate! There’s a
wellspring of hatred between my parents, decades of hate. And it keeps growing and growing. Every year a little bit more. It doesn’t matter what the issue is. One day it’s going to pop.
JEREMY Come on, You’re being too dramatic.
Sometimes I hear on the news that a woman has killed her husband. Or vice-versa. The neighbors are shocked. Everyone thought they were a happy couple.
CC (low key but firm)
I understand that. Hate builds up. The murderer snapped. For just that second. Something like that. If my dad had a gun... Or mom... No I don’t think they could do it. But–
JEREMY You know the opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s
CC That is such therapist bullshit. My therapist told me that
four times. Four times! Each time he forgot he told me it before. Four times! The same brilliant insight. What book did you get that from?
JEREMY My therapist....You know, the more you tell me, the more it
sounds like– did you read Games People Play?
CC Except it’s not a game. She is not playing with him. My
mother is hurt. Really hurt And so is my father. Yeah, everyone quibbles.”...
CC takes a breath, comes back emphatically.
CC Not with their vehemence!
JEREMY Who’s in charge. It’s about that. Every close relationship.
Not just between people in love.
CC Wrong! It’s not that important in friendships. I mean it’s
there but no one gets that hurt...
JEREMY Right, which is my point. There’s got to be love for them
to be able to hurt each other like that...
CC It gets pretty nasty. When my father takes her on, she
sees that as proof that he doesn’t love her, which gets her even more upset. One time, when he was holding his ground, she cursed him for his cold eyes. It wasn’t an act. She was crying, heartbroken as she looked at him.
He didn’t care.
She stops for a moment, considers that, then continues.
JEREMY Your mother told you that?
CC I was there. It’s true. His eyes were cold but I thought he
was doing what he needed to do.
JEREMY They’ve always fought in front of you?
CC Not when we were kids. After Mark left for school. No-
after he started attacking my father. Their fights escalated.
JEREMY So, it’s all Mark’s fault?
Probably is. Boy, speaking of the blame game.
CC But it’s true. Mark’s brought a lot of this on...What really
bothers me is a lot of times I don’t think they are talking to each other. They are trying to score points with me. Get me to side with them.
JEREMY I guess that explains it.
JEREMY The reason you need to talk about this.
CC Maybe. I can’t stand when my parents do that. It puts me
right in the middle. What’s worse I take sides. As much as I tell myself to stay out of it, I can’t help it.
JEREMY So then why do you do it?
CC How can I not do it? People say I should be a lawyer
because I can make a good argument, but Im being trained to be a judge... Lawyers can argue for either side. Depends who hires them. They just have to do it well. That is not what is going on here. I want to decide who is really right. And who’s wrong. That matters a lot to me.
JEREMY I can see that. Is it that important?
CC It is. If I can settle that I wont have to think about it
JEREMY But maybe you don’t have to think about it at all. Just
CC (Laughing to herself)
Between my mother and father? I wish it were that simple.
She’s quiet again, thinking some more.
CC If it were only their fights. But it isn’t. What goes on
every day... He’s no angel. Its not like he brings flowers and chocolates for her on a whim, because he is thinking about her. He doesn’t forget Valentines Day or her birthday. Ill say that for him. But caring about her, thinking about what’s happening with her. He isn’t that interested in how her day has gone. Occasionally he asks, but it is pro forma. And when she is upset. If she starts going over a story over and over, he stops listening. Falls a sleep when they are in bed. She’s repeating it because it matters a lot. She’s told me about how he falls asleep.
Its proof he really doesn’t care...I can see it. He’s stopped hugging her, which he used to do. Years ago, he used to just go over to her and give her a hug. Sometimes several times in a day. Thats gone. And there is practically nothing like that from her. Never was. She gets irritated by him very easily. Is always correcting him. She’s gone a lot, out with her girlfriends having lunch or shopping. That’s because she doesn’t want to hang out with him. Most of the time she would rather be with someone else. I hear her on the phone, joking with her friends, talking nice and easy, relaxed. I never see that with my father.
JEREMY So I guess she doesn’t love him.
CC She never thinks to buy what he likes at the supermarket.
Well maybe for his birthday. But otherwise what he likes doesn’t mean anything to her. He likes ginger snaps. She never remembers to buy them. So he has to make a separate trip for them. Other things too... this kind of bacon that he likes. Canadian bacon. No he loves. A lot of things. Funny. I remember what he likes. I get his stuff if Im at Waldbaums. He really appreciates it. How come she doesn’t?
CC (Weighing what she is
saying) It goes beyond not being thoughtful, not remembering what
Its more complicated, because she remembers that stuff for me, and Jay. And Mark! Sometimes I think its a way of telling my father that she won’t be his servant. Ive heard her say something like that when he asked about the bacon, like he is a slave master.
CC No more than anyone else in a relationship. That’s big in
the magazines now. Men as oppressors. It’s the opposite with my parents. She expects him to be her servant, thoughtful about what she wants 100% of the time.
JEREMY That’s what most women want. It’s my way or the highway.
CC So why does everyone say thats what men are like.
They’re the dictators, not men.
JEREMY Thats the bullshit in the magazines. Have you noticed how
many magazines now have women editors?
CC But I think it is true. Men do control most marriages.
JEREMY Im talking about a Jewish marriage. Im sure you’ve heard
the putdowns of JAPs, Jewish American Princesses?
CC Its true. My grandparents raised my mother to be a
princess. People at school are amazed by how different Jewish girls are, especially from Long Island. Well my mother is what happens when they get married. I don’t think my grandparents realized the consequences. Like nothing else mattered other than what my mother wants.
My father reaped the benefit.
JEREMY Its the opposite with Jewish men. They make the best
husbands. I’ve heard that.
CC Whoever told you that, I guarantee they weren’t talking
Jeremy absorbs that putdown without much reaction.
After hesitating CC continues
CC I don’t get it. To me its simple. My mother has the
time. He’s got to work 50-60 hours a week. Sometimes 70. Why shouldn’t she remember his ginger snaps at Waldbaum’s. Anyway that says it all.
JEREMY Im lucky with Carol. She enjoys taking care of me. When
she shops for me it makes her day. I don’t have to ask for anything. She knows what I like... sometimes before I do. She feels great giving to me. It excites her. It thrills her. Seeing my enthusiasm when she brings home the groceries when I help her bring the bags in, I am dying to see whats in them. When I get to take things out of the bag she says I’m like a kid on Christmas morning attacking the presents. When Ive gotten exactly what I wanted, the look on my face–that gives her a big smile. (Half to himself he murmurs) Although she slaps my hand if I stick my finger in the chicken salad she’s bought home.
Even if I am not enthusiastic. She knows she’s getting something I need or that Im going to want. She gives me a lot of thought. She’s usually right. She really knows me. She loves doing all of that. She loves loving.
CC She’s that way with everyone?
JEREMY Not really. Just Alyosha and me.
CC’s mood turns morose. She goes to a display shelf, picks up one of several primitive PreColumbian figurines. Rubs her finger on it.
JEREMY We got those in Mexico. They’re not the real thing. Cost
six bucks. Carol likes them He notices her mood shift.
JEREMY What’s wrong?...Carol?... We agreed to not talk about
Carol. Continue about your mother
CC My mother is nothing like Carol. The opposite. When my
father comes home from work, I can see if he’s had a bad day. I mean sometimes my heart aches for him. To start with he’s not crazy about being a lawyer. He’s like me. He likes to debate but he doesn’t have that edge, the pleasure his colleagues take when they’ve trounced their adversary. They’re at it constantly. Not just their adversaries. They do it to each other. In the office. Every chance they get. My fathers not like that. He’s gentle. It upsets him when he loses his temper.
He sounds nice.
CC The reason he goes on being a lawyer is my mother. And
us. He’s our servant. Sometimes the office politics really tear him up. They’re barracudas. I mean an office full of lawyers? He’ll defend himself if he has to, but being surrounded by it! And then there are the times when they gang up on one of their esteemed colleagues. Really go at it. Certain mornings I can see how reluctant he is to go in. Like he might face the firing squad....Didn’t matter. He’d grab that coffee cup, stand up, and hold his hand with the cup straight out before taking a last ceremonial sip. It was his version of “charge!”
She seems pleased by that last thought
CC Most of the time, I’m unaware of what’s going on around
me. I guess like everyone else. Like my father’s last sip of coffee. It’s part of his morning rituals and it doesn’t really register. But it turns out it was registering.
CC gently looks into Jeremy’s eyes. She takes his hand.
CC I felt this wave of love for my father as I pictured him
taking that final sip of coffee.
JEREMY (speaking definitively,
like he has solved the mystery of human suffering, now and forever.)
CC Capitalism? For you, everything reduces to politics.
Capitalism? You really believe that don’t you?
JEREMY It certainly would help. You don’t think you can change
He’s surrounded by lawyers. Capitalism? You’re a one trick pony. For a smart person you are so stupid... You don’t know what its like to be among lawyers do you?. They cant stop themselves. Some people squash beetles. They save it for humans. At least that’s what my father tells me.
JEREMY And your father is not like that?
CC Told you– he isn’t. If anything he’s usually on the
receiving end...Ill say this. My fathers never missed a day of work. Im sure there were days when he did face the firing squad. And they fired off a round. He gets over it. He hangs in there, no matter what.
That means a lot.
CC Being able to withstand it. When people pop off. This ugly
side comes out. Some people think. Oh thats their true feelings when it comes out like that. And it is. But a five second burst means nothing. Its like a fart. So what. Yeah there is bad stuff inside of everyone, smelly rot. It passes. What’s important is how you take it, how you are day after day. How you hold up.
Jeremy is smiling. CC
What’s so funny? Your fart metaphor. I learned it from the master.
JEREMY CC JEREMY
As long as you give credit when it’s due.
CC When my fathers upset its obvious. When I don’t know whats
bothering him I ask. And, the last few years, he talks to me about it.
My mother notices nothing! Actually, its worse when she does. When he’s insecure she hates him for showing it. She makes a whole production out of it. Just so he knows that she’s noticed. And what she’s thinking is pretty obvious. Like how did she ever get stuck with a person like him?
JEREMY All of that goes on in front of you?
CC I think they view me as old enough to take it.
CC (smiling ironically)
Proof they love me. No secrets.
JEREMY (sounding like a little
boy) Look what I missed. I got none of that kind of love after
my parents split up. Compared to your parents they seem like angels.
CC Whats pathetic is they cant help it. They’re not happy
being that way. It makes them miserable. But they cant control it. Since Mark stirred things up, its a hundred times worse. Maybe it never would have gotten started, if Mark hadn’t been Mark. He’s where he belongs. In Berkeley. I mean, no one ever got too emotional in my family before he started his attacks. After, all this animosity appeared. My father would get pissed at Mark and she’d go ape shit. Like he should be above losing it with Mark.
Like he stops being a father if he descends to Mark’s level. She loves magazine advice.
JEREMY Your family is really fucked up.
CC (ignoring Jeremy)
My father has to put on an act for my mother. Be this very steady cheerful “father”. Not that it does any good. She sees right through it. She complains that his moods are difficult to live with. Meanwhile the moods she’s complaining about, are not really observable to anyone else. She totally dismisses the no sweat attitude he’s trying so hard to convey.
JEREMY Your mother is something. They both are.
CC If my father describes an incident with someone at work,
she’s invariably on the other persons side. He must have done this to set the other guy off. He must have done that. Or... Why did you let him get away with saying that?
JEREMY So he never gets it right?
CC No he does. Most of the time. Im exaggerating. If he
didn’t get it right, he’d be out on disability from my mothers attacks. But when it happens, when he’s stumbling, whether he caused it or not Theres no mercy.Imagine Alexander the Great returning home after he’s lost a battle. Yes he will have to face intrigue at court- perhaps a coup. But what he really fears is facing his wife.
CC (imitating a Jewish woman
from the Bronx calling her husband to task)
Suddenly feeling self-conscious and exposed CC moves close to Jeremy, leans against him. Jeremy strokes CCs hair. He goes to tickle her. She shoves him playfully. Laughing, they grab each other in a mini wrestle. He takes off her robe. They stop and stare at each other with a smile, with lust once again coming alive.
She sees a towel on the floor and tries to cover herself, but he grabs if off of her.
Smiling devilishly like a clown, ecstatically, he drops to the ground before her. He kisses her toes, then the ground surrounding them with the foolishness that is becoming his M.O. with CC.
What are you doing? What do you think I’m doing?
Kissing the ground?
Not in the least embarrassed. He continues to kiss the ground. She grabs his shoulder and lifts his head.
CC (Amused, emphatic,
CC rolls her eyes
JEREMY You really don’t understand what I am looking at. Do you?
CC Oy God. I can’t believe this.
No. Not enough! You are one of the seven wonders of the world. Anyone seeing what I am looking at right now, would be blown away. It’s not just me. Anyone!
She tries to pull up the towel to cover herself, but he won’t allow it.
JEREMY You’re astonishing. A perfect flower. There’s nothing in
the Albright Knox, hell the Met that compares to you. No artist is genius enough to create pure beauty? But what I want to know is why they don’t they paint pure beauty? Why aren’t museums bursting with it? It’s ephemeral. So why not try to paint it again and again?
Thinking over the question he is raising.
JEREMY People would make fun of them? Call them garish? They’re
wrong.. It’s half the reason we are alive. To find it.
CC Are manic depressives sex crazy?
JEREMY They’ve been known to want sex continuously. Why?
CC I’ve spoken to Mark about you. He thinks you are manic
That’s what you think?
CC The thought keeps crossing my mind.
Why can’t you hear it, accept it. It’s not me and my thoughts! I’ll bet that 100 guys, if they were looking at you right now, a thousand, if they were seeing you like this, they would act just like me. You don’t understand how rare you are. Beauty just doesn’t come along like this.
CC (trying to be blasé)
Even if it were true, what you keep saying is true. It’s fleeting. My father’s dahlias last a day or two, maybe three. They are extraordinary, then caput. The flower is gone forever.
JEREMY You have years and years that you are going to look like
this...Years and years.
CC And then I can get a facelift. Right?
My mother got one.
She watches his reaction, how quickly disgusted he is.
JEREMY That is so Great Neck. Rich Jews, wives with face-lifts? I
hate that. Fine. But...
Are you kidding?
CC (Smiling in disbelief)
They are both quiet as they think things over
The degree of his disgust disturbs her. She raises her voice.
CC Why? There’s all kinds of people in the world doing
terrible things. Why Jews in Great Neck? You’re not laughing at their silliness. You’re disgusted. Jewish self hatred. I’m not Great Neck. I’m me. In 30 years if I get a face lift I’ll still be me.
She shakes her head, saddened by the intensity of his emotion.
CC Great Neck is not such a bad place.
Right. What is good about Great Neck?
CC How about that Great Neck made me? It was my home. It is
JEREMY You’re not one of them.
CC Hate’s poisonous Jeremy...You’re so proud of your mind.
Hate wipes it away.
JEREMY Okay I hate some things, but it’s not like I’m a mean
CC I’m not so sure about that. I wonder if you were in charge
of the Pearly Gates and the fate of a man whose wife had plastic surgery came before you. Would you send him and her to hell?
CC (raising her voice)
She watches his reaction, which is no reaction.
CC My Great Neck guy that’s facing you at the Gates! What if
he was very nice, very kind? What if he gave more than he could afford to Jerry’s Kids, and the American Cancer Society, the Red Cross, trees for Israel, one charity after another? What if he were a Big Brother to some kid from the ghetto? And a great Dad.
Jeremy’s face doesn’t soften.
CC You would send them to hell, wouldn’t you? Because all you
would see is rich Jew, plastic surgery.
Naked, without self- consciousness, naked, she walks over to the front of the full length mirror in the bedroom. She looks herself over.
JEREMY (Still enthralled)
I can’t help it. You’re so beautiful.
CC You’re like a broken record.
She coldly studies herself.
CC I don’t know. I could have longer legs and a bigger toosh.
But I guess I’m lucky. In locker rooms I’ve seen other women’s bodies. Most of them look deformed
She examines her teeth for stains. He is soon behind her. His arms drape over her shoulders. The way he’s looking at CC in the mirror captivates her.
JEREMY I really can’t help it. You’re beautiful.
JEREMY Ive never seen anyone like you. No one. Which counts for
something. I still look around.
CC You do? You searching for someone better?
JEREMY (Smiling happily)
None of them compare. Not even close. When I look at them I think of you.
CC You’re not big on loyalty are you?
JEREMY I’ve no choice. Its instinctual. Beauty grabs my eyes,
like it does with every other guy.
CC That’s bull. My brother Jay. I never see him look at
anyone other than his wife.
JEREMY She must pussy whip him into submission. Carols father is
like that, scared of her mother.
CC Thats not Jay, but yes, he’s actually ruled by what’s
allowed and not allowed. So his eyes don’t roam. Why do you keep looking?
JEREMY I’m discovering new things.
JEREMY The cellulite under your ass.
JEREMY The mirrors right here. Take a look.
I don’t see it.
JEREMY Don’t know how to say it?
Ill bet you do. Your breasts.
His better half is warning him to tone it down before leaping, but he can’t contain himself. He touches her nipples.
She looks over her shoulder examining herself closely.
He laughs, enjoying his ability to tease her. He runs his hand over her ass and down her leg. There are stars in his eyes yet again.
JEREMY Your nipples are perfect. Small and tight. They’re exactly
like I hoped they’d be before I ever met you.
CC Really? You imagined my nipples? Compared to what?
JEREMY Playboy, Penthouse. I must have looked at the breasts of a
hundred women. Only one of them had nipples that drove me wild. Like yours. I just had this idea of a perfect woman.
CC (Sounding superior)
Yeah. Formed from pictures in Playboy?
JEREMY One picture in particular. I was 15 or 16. I saw this
woman’s nipples and I whacked off to them. Maybe five or six times.
She looks at him skeptically. JEREMY
Okay 10 times.
CC Do you still have that picture?
JEREMY Carol found my stash. She threw away all my Playboys and
Penthouses. The woman in that picture wasn’t that pretty.
Well... pretty, but her looks didn’t do anything to me. Her nipples... I cant believe you have the same nipples, how lucky I am. Im telling you. We were foreordained.
He sucks on her nipple. Then moves his lips to her lips. Very soon, her body is crying for him.
CC Lights go out
Lying next to him in the bedroom, she watches Jeremy sleep peacefully, but then her agitation returns.
She’s not finished. When she gets going about her parents she is never finished. His eyes soon open. He’s only half awake but it is enough for CC. She continues as if he is wide awake.
CC Its so strange. I guess its the contrast. In public my
father’s like a trophy husband. She’s been lucky. He reflects well on her. He makes a nice living. He is soft spoken and polite. Their marriage is a reward for how hard they have both worked...
Its just privately.
Jeremy stops her before she can begin a new round.
JEREMY (in a groggy voice)
Are you going to repeat all of it?
CC If I had my druthers I would tell you the same stories,
make the same point 10 times and continue to the 11th hoping that this telling might shed new light.
JEREMY So why does he put up with it?
CC I don’t know. In his mind I don’t think there is a choice.
Whats he going to do? Get divorced and hang out at bars trying to pick someone up? Or go on a love cruise to find that someone? Besides he has a friend who’s told him the same thing is going on in his marriage. Another friend the same thing. He’s sort of decided, that after enough years, this is just the way marriage is.
He told you that?
CC Basically. They’ve even discussed it with each other, my
mom and him, several times. They agreed. That’s how they make up. Agreeing there is no real problem. That every marriage is like that. But I don’t think they are convinced. I don’t know if it’s true. I really don’t know why they stick together.
JEREMY Maybe he loves the way she moans when he’s inside her. I
love that about Carol. CC
JEREMY But its true. I love it. I mean love it. Em. Hm. Its the
sweetest sound. It erases everything disappointing in the marriage. That sound.
CC (smiling uncomfortably)
Your stupid male ego.
JEREMY Those groans don’t get put in love poems. But that sound
is real. Powerful. It should be the crescendo of every poem. Of every symphony. It should be part of the introduction. Its why Alexander was willing to go off to battle. For that sweet sound.
He’s smiling away joyfully, like Lenny Bruce after he has once again shocked his audience.
Jeremy hesitates before going on, but then plunges forward.
JEREMY The way you moaned... I could get off on it right this
Disgusted, CC gets dressed, begins to gather her things. Jeremy tries to grab her stuff away.
JEREMY Wait. Wait... Look I’m sorry. I can get carried away.
CC It’s not just that. It’s the whole thing.
What whole thing?
CC The way you look down on me. I still am processing that
John Cage concert.
That really got to you didn’t it?
CC Me. The problem was me? I still can recall every detail...
Lukas Foss, the conductor entered to rapturous applause. He tapped his baton several times. He points to the first violinist who stood up to polite applause. Foss looked to the left, then to the right, making eye contact with several members of the orchestra. He raised his baton preparing them to launch. Then he didn’t move it. He put it on the stand and quietly took off his watch. Put it over his baton. There was complete silence. The silence continued and continued. I didn’t know how to react. There was even less coughing than usual at a concert. People, many from Buffalo faculty, quietly sat looking like they were in the know. Including you! I looked around bewildered. People started to laugh in this superior way. Identifying that I was uncomfortable, the person in the next seat looked at me like I was a bimbo.
You raised your eyebrows to me like that was a comforting gesture. You pointed to the program. 4’33. The conductor looks at his watch. Exactly at the end of 4 minutes and 33 seconds he raised his baton and faced the audience. They applauded.
So cool, you whispered to me.
I just remember the smile on peoples’ face as they clapped. You looked at me like we were lucky to be there, lucky to be a part of a momentous event. The look on the face of many in the audience when Lukas Foss returned to the stage with John Cage, the excitement. They were thrilled to be in the same room with John Cage. And afterwards during the intermission. You had the stupidest look on your face You kept looking at me, like you were one in the know. You couldn’t wait to explain You still get that look. Like you are going to rescue me from my ignorance. I should have known, when I heard how excited Mark was that I was going to a John Cage concert. And then when I started going on about the concert, when some of the faculty wanted to get away from me, you acted like I wasn’t with you.
Then when we returned to the Museum I pointed at a Rothko, a black blob with a slightly darker blob surrounding it. When I told you that paining fits the music. It showed nothing. The way you answered( imitating Jeremy) “Some people consider it a masterpiece.” You weren’t talking to me. You were aiming it at a professor nearby.
It isn’t just me. It’s all of us. JEREMY
CC Me and people from Long Island. No, not just Long Island,
all of us. Who is us?
CC Us is my family, most of the students, everyone that’s a
regular person. Come on.
CC It isn’t just you. All the professors. Like here on
campus you’re royalty. You walk on a cloud of ideas. You got Socrates, Aristotle. Archimedes, Einstein, Hemingway, on your team. Oh and Wittgenstein. I got Carol Burnett, Ed Sullivan. My family? My parents read two or three books a year. Best sellers, page turners like a good TV program.
JEREMY That’s not how I think about you. I’ve read some of your
CC That was me trying to get an A. Look. It’s not just you.
From the first day I got here. The Dean’s welcoming speech. (imitating the Dean) Welcome to U. B. Blah blah blah. Let us be your guide to the wonders of Western Civilization.CC
CC Meaning books... Books.
CC (continuing to imiate the
Dean) Books can liberate your minds. Reading can answer the
mysteries of the universe. Books, books, books.
JEREMY We’re not looking down. We’re just trying to get you to
see the light.
CC Listen Mr. Culture Critic. Maybe you got it all wrong.
Maybe what professors do is weird. I had a cousin that went
Most of my family considered him a little strange, like he was a dropout from the real world. He had all these quirks, his stamp collection, his butterfly collection. More to the point, they thought that he lacked ambition. He was lazy.
JEREMY (Stung, trying not to let
her see she’s gotten to
him) That how you saw him?
CC (gaining momentum)
You kidnap all these people when they come here. Force them to love the life of the mind. It doesn’t take long after students graduate, and no longer are forced by your stupid exams to think your way, no time at all for their true preference to come out. It isn’t the life of the mind they want. It’s shopping.
Jeremy has a superior look on his face
CC You just don’t get it. I remember this time at the club.
My mother was the queen there, the best looking most stylish. We were all proud of her. We shared her glory. You don’t know what that’s like. But at the Fresh Meadow Country Club it’s everything....
But occasionally... this one time. She couldn’t tell by the way people looked at her or didn’t look at her. She kept going over it. Asked me. Asked my father. What was wrong with her outfit? Didn’t it fit? Was it too tight around her hips. At home she put it on again. Studied herself in her mirror. She couldn’t pinpoint the problem. But she never wore anything by that designer again.
And sometimes she’d put on weight. After a Bar Mitzvah when she may have pigged out. Ate the baked potato instead of skipping it. Had two spoonfuls of dessert. Maybe three. She wouldn’t eat for days.
JEREMY You don’t think that is nuts?
CC What are you doing that’s so different from other people?
Reading books? My mother would say you’re wasting your life.
You mean I could be shopping at Loehmanns?
JEREMY It’s not the books, it’s thinking about your life that
makes it meaningful. An unexamined life—
CC Is what? I’m telling you. You don’t get away enough. You
think the university is the world. Ideas are what counts. They aren’t. How we looked, how my father looked, my mother, every one of us. That was far more important than what we thought. Back then when I pictured someone who does a lot of thinking, it was some twerp with pimples, a bookworm. The people I grew up with aren’t like you. They don’t have your curiosity. They only care about what they see in front of them.
CC Yes how you look. What have you been saying to me? Over and
over. Looks, looks, looks.
This one dress my mother tried on. I can still remember it from ten years ago.–Red with navy stitching. The image lights up in my memory.I can still seemy mother coming out from the curtains at the store and modeling that dress. It wasn’t just the dress that was stunning. The look of triumph on my mother’s face. I can recall it so clearly. That dress is more important than any thought in your head. By far!
JEREMY Fine. But why are you telling me this?
CC Because to you my family is nonsense. But–
I haven’t said that.
CC Oh no...That one dress...I’ll never forget how she looked.
I can’t remember half of what’s been said to me. Most of what you’ve told me. But I can see that dress like it was yesterday.
Jeremy face remains defiant.
CC You think shopping your life away is a mediocre form of
existence. Immigrants come from all over the world... They have waited for years to get here. You know what excites them? What is amazing to them?... After the Statue of Liberty?
CC Our stores! They enter our supermarkets and it’s like they
have come upon a miracle. They are astounded. Our department stores. Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, hell, Alexander’s. They look in every direction. Everywhere. Things, they can buy. Things they can afford. As far as their eyes can see. Like when Europeans first discovered America. Unoccupied land going on and on. As far as their eyes could see. There for the taking. That’s what is in our stores.
Jeremy doesn’t have the will to interrupt
CC They are wide eyed at the cosmetic counters, beautiful
ladies doing a beauty makeover on them. For free! No matter how nonchalant they try to project themselves as they walk the aisles, as they examine the merchandise, Can you imagine someone from Madagascar in Macy’s?
I hear they are beginning to copy our supermarkets in Europe, in Hong Kong, in the French suburbs. Never mind the New York Philharmonic bringing American culture all over the world. It’s our stores, our shopping that is mind boggling. Not just that. They love our TV programs!.. What we think is ordinary is actually astounding to every one else. You should have seen my mother in that red dress.
With navy stitching.
Jeremy is looking at her erotically. He reaches for her. She ignores him.
Jeremy smiles indulgently.
CC You won’t grant that some of it is nonsense?
“All of it is nonsense. In university land-shopping for ideas is stupid. Everything is stupid when you stop and think about it. But you can’t treat beauty like it doesn’t matter to you. I know what it means to you. Mr. Slater. I know.
It’s not the same.
CC Who are you trying to kid? It’s not how you imagine
priorities? This is how it plays out in the real world.
She watches his reaction, which is no reaction.
JEREMY Did you see A Star is Born?
CC Yes. You think that’s what’s going on with us?
JEREMY No. I was thinking. Your parents sound like them.
CC That movie upset me. After I saw it I made a resolution to
be less aggressive. It hasn’t worked. Judy Garland made chopped liver out of James Mason
Her mood drops rapidly. CC eyes water a bit.
JEREMY Your father?... James Mason?
CC It’s not that bad. He puts up a brave front.
JEREMY Since your mother’s menopause?
CC I didn’t think of that.
JEREMY It occurred to me when you were talking about them.
CC I thought it was this feminist thing she was picking up
on. She’s become so full of vim and vigor.
She’s a feminist? Card carrying. Seriously?
JEREMY (laughing )
CC JEREMY CC
She would never wear the uniform, but she’s been going to war long before it became trendy. All of her friends are giving their husbands a hard time. It may be the feminist thing catching on. But I read women get like that when they get older.
CC looks out the window, staring at a Japanese maple.
CC That split leaf maple is nice in the snow.
JEREMY Carol insisted we buy that tree. I agree it’s nice.
Do you garden a lot?
JEREMY Not really. We haven’t planted that much. When we do,
Carol points and I dig.
CC That’s what my mom and dad do....Or use to...
CC (continuing to look out the
window) Does my father love my mother? I’m sure he believes one
marriage is all you get...So he better love her... That’s how Jay would see it...My father... There’s a good chance he loves her. (With further thought) I know he loves her. It’s not his love... Or their love. It’s their hatred.
She wipes a tear.
JEREMY There’s a tissue box over there.
She takes one. The tears don’t stop.
CC He’s disappointed... Not just her. In all of us.
CC Less so. I think I am his favorite person, but certainly
Mark. My mom? It’s like the promise she gave to him when they got married, has been revoked.
CC She used to always talk about how great love and marriage
is. She hasn’t given that speech in years.
The tears are now coming out freely. Jeremy puts his arms around her. She’s momentarily comforted by his gesture, but only momentarily. She steps away.
CC The doctor told him he had a silent heart attack. Some time
in the past. It scares me. I can’t imagine not having him.
CC (smiling sadly)
My father, when he was on top of his game. He was something.
JEREMY Your mother’s that tough on him?
It’s not only her. Mark with his anti-war shit. It isn’t just the war. He’s slammed everything my father holds dear. My father thinks America is the greatest place on earth. He’s lucky to have been born here, and grow up here. He’s proud that he enlisted to fight Hitler. The whole thing...It’s at the core of who he is. Losing that belief is like losing an arm. Mark’s taken away half his arm and is going for the rest of it. Can’t be fun that my mom is always on Mark’s side. Especially, since she’s become so competitive with him. She wasn’t always like that. Not with him.
Is that your mother?
Jeremy goes over to the bureau, lifts an age black and white picture of a young woman, studies it.
JEREMY She died when I was 13, breast cancer. Was sick for three
He returns the picture to the bureau
JEREMY You know what?... I think you should call your father.
CC Now? It’s 9:30. He could be asleep?
Call him. It’ll show up on your telephone bill. Don’t worry. I’ll get it first. Call him.
END OF SCENE 2
Dad? Is something wrong? No I just wanted to call.
CC CC’S FATHER CC
THE PHONE RINGS AND THE LIGHT GOES ON IN CC’S PARENTS’ BEDROOM, STAGE RIGHT
Aren’t you the rich one? Are you spending enough money for food?
CC I just wanted to talk.
CC’S FATHER Wait I’ll get your mother.
CC I wanted to talk to you.
CC’S FATHER Now I know something’s wrong...Have you been crying?
A little. About what? Nothing. Well I was worrying about your health.
CC’S FATHER CC CC’S FATHER
And that made you cry? Listen. I was at the doctor last week. He said I am doing great. My heart has practically returned to normal.
CC I wanted to tell you I love you.
CC’S FATHER You didn’t have to call to tell me that. I know you do.
CC I wanted to tell you again.
CC’S FATHER Do you know something I don’t know? Do I have 30 days to
Are you all right? I’m fine.
Evelyn gets on the extension. CC’S MOTHER (EVELYN)
CC (smiling sadly)
CC’S FATHER You’re sure you’re all right? Listen I’ll put on your
CC’S MOTHER Listen I was going to call you anyway. Call Dora. There’s
something going on with the baby. CC
CC’S MOTHER I don’t think anything serious, but call her.
CC’S MOTHER (said in a tone she usually uses before getting off.)
What else is going on?
But she doesn’t get off the phone. Like Ira, Evelyn also doesn’t like the way CC is sounding.
CC Nothing. I’m with Jeremy. I told you about him.
They are both silent, moving cautiously ahead.
Evelyn refuses to beat around the bush.
CC’S MOTHER You don’t want to break up a family.
CC I’m not. He loves his wife and would never leave her.
CC’S MOTHER So what are you? An afternoon delight?
For a tense moment they are both silent.
CC’S MOTHER You deserve better than that.
CC Not just afternoon. Morning and night delight.
CC I don’t think you can understand.
CC’S MOTHER You think what you’re doing is so unusual. Men do that all
the time. Italian men... French. Take off the leash and men go wild. His wife is in the hospital?... And–
CC This isn’t like that.
CC’S MOTHER Fine. You know what you are doing. Everything is hunky-
dory. All I ask is one thing.... You’re old enough... Smart enough. Try using your brain a little, instead of your—
CC Mom, I love him for his brain.
I mean your brain.
Love ya. It’s your funeral. Love ya.
Anything wrong? No.
CC (in her goodbye voice)
CC’S MOTHER CC
CC hangs up but keeps her hand on the phone as she digests the conversation.
I didn’t know you told your parents about me. You sound like you are connected to your Mom.
CC She says what’s on her mind.
I could tell.
CC That’s not the problem. Understanding? No way she gets
where I’m at. Her loss.
Ten minutes after CC’s phone call Ira and Evelyn are both in bed. Ira is watching the Knicks on TV.
EVELYN What do you make of her phone call?
What is it?
He is not paying attention. The Knicks are ahead 98-92 in the 4th quarter. Evelyn takes the remote control out of his hand and turns off the TV.
IRA (Irritated by the
EVELYN You don’t care, do you?
IRA I do. I can tell she’s upset, and that bothers me, but not
that much. She’s not a kid any more. She’s got her life. EVELYN
I know that.
IRA She’s going to do what she’s going to do.
EVELYN She’s sleeping with her teacher. And he’s married. With a
IRA She’s young. We were both just like her when we were her
age. That’s what you do. You love. You live. You don’t think about where it’s going.
EVELYN We never did anything like that.
IRA Still, did you know what you were doing at that age? I just
knew I had to hustle to support you and me, and the family we were going to have. At least Jay’s got his head on straight.
EVELYN I never even thought of a married man.
IRA We met when you were 16. You didn’t have time to fool
“You really think if I wasn’t with you I could do what she’s doing?
You. Never. Seriously.
IRA I learned something interesting in the Sunday’s men group.
In the Lithuanian shtetl girls used to marry at 14 or 15. They worried that any longer and she would get in trouble.
IRA The boys too. A lot of times they married and lived with
the girl’s family. They didn’t have ideas like we have about adolescence, where you’re supposed to explore, find out who you are. They thought “finding out” meant sure trouble.
EVELYN It certainly applies to your sister. Becky was like a teen-
ager throughout her 20’s. Thought it was all about adventure. She had a lot of friends like that. In their 20’s! They met at bars. One night stands.
IRA I wouldn’t call it that. You really have this thing with
my sister. At least she eventually settled down. She’s got a good marriage.
EVELYN And one son without a father.
IRA Seth has been like a father to Billy.
EVELYN Maybe. I just hope we don’t have a daughter that’s going to
repeat all that.
IRA It seems to be what’s happening on campuses.
EVELYN Everything’s so different now. Jay and Dora got engaged in
college. They couldn’t wait to get their life started. It wasn’t that many years ago, but it’s like they are from a different generation. Turns out, your sister was ahead of the times. Now women want to look around, go around the block a couple of times before getting tied down. Just like Becky. Except now they’re not having babies until their thirties.
Your twenties are when you are supposed to live. So later you have no regrets that you didn’t have a life. It’s like adolescence has been extended into the twenties.
EVELYN Soon it will be the thirties. Being responsible is almost
He takes back the remote control. He puts the Knicks back on. That bugs Evelyn.
EVELYN You really don’t care. Do you? All that matters is if the
Knicks are winning?
I care but it’s the way things are now. Nothing we can do to change it.
EVELYN It’s all about the Knicks isn’t it?
IRA There are 3 minutes left in the game. The Knicks have to
win this one.
So that’s what matters, The Knicks?
Carol is home. The hospitalization lasted over a month. In her own clothes, and usual hair style her puffiness from the steroids is noticeable, but otherwise she seems reasonably okay. Except she is weak. She sits at the kitchen counter. Jeremy is making pancakes.
JEREMY It’s almost unreal. You just sitting there. You’ve been
gone for a month.
CAROL They wanted to keep me another 3 weeks but I promised I
would take my medicine religiously. JEREMY
Three or four for you? CAROL
One. You have no appetite?
No. I hate your pancakes.”
They both smile. But Jeremy doesn’t buy it. He is visibly worried about her lack of appetite.
He also takes only one pancake. He puts a pile on Alyosha’s plate. Pours maple syrup over them.
CAROL How come you are only taking one? Trying to lose weight?
JEREMY CAROL JEREMY
CAROL I’m not stupid you know. The first time you mentioned CC.
I could tell the way you said her name.
JEREMY I don’t have a girlfriend. Nothing is going on with CC.
CAROL Jeremy, the quality I love most about you is your
directness. You always tell it like it is. So why this? If you have feelings for CC I can deal with it. Look I know you do. It gives us a place to start. Maybe we can figure out what’s wrong and fix it.
She studies his face. Not very successfully he tries to seem natural as he puts the frying pan in the sink.
CAROL Or is it worse than that? Are we finished?
It wouldn’t hurt. For your girlfriend? There is no girlfriend.
JEREMY That’ll never happen. There’s nothing wrong between us. We
made a vow..You’re stuck with me.
CAROL Too bad you can’t make a vow about being in love.”
He doesn’t answer. His face is unreadable. She keeps studying him closely for a slip–up.
CAROL You think you are so clever. That’s how I know. Your face
is blank. That’s not you. Your secrets are written all over your face.
The phone rings. Carol goes to the next room. We can hear her.
CAROL I’m good. Mom you don’t have to worry.”
Silence as she listens
CAROL Dr. Weinstein said what??..I asked him not to tell you.
It’s not definite. It’s a possibility.
Jeremy has been listening to Carol. She returns to the room.
JEREMY What was that all about?
CAROL Not to worry. I’m taking care of it myself.”
She looks into his eyes as convincingly as she can:
Everything okay with your Mom?
CAROL She said to send you her love...You were telling me last
night about Gurjeif. You had a new thought from him.
JEREMY Yes. There is a cosmic law which says that every
satisfaction must be paid for with a dissatisfaction. I think–
As the stage darkens Spot on Jeremy’s face. He’s very upset about what he overheard.
Jeremy is ladling out soup from a pot on the stove for Carol. Carol is seated at the table with a blanket over her shoulders. He brings the soup bowl to her.
JEREMY Jesus it’s April 14th and its 23 degrees out there. I don’t
like that you’re still feeling sick. How cold are you?
CAROL A little. I like your idea, chicken soup for breakfast.
JEREMY Nice and hot. The weather is crazy. I’ve had enough of this
winter. I hate Buffalo.”
He feeds a spoonful of soup to Carol. Then a second. She takes the spoon from him and feeds herself.
CAROL It’s good. I think it will help.
JEREMY It was in the freezer. I made it while you were gone.
CAROL You’re very resourceful.
He brings his own soup bowl to the table.
JEREMY (His voice is gentle)
I did it like you like it. Mashed the vegetables and added it back into the soup.
CAROL That’s how your mother taught you to make it?
JEREMY Right?...After she got sick and was stuck in bed, I made
soup for my mother practically every day. She was always cold. It made her feel so much better. That and tea.
You have a headache? A little one.
Are you scared?
Lupus isn’t cancer.
Carol puts down the soup spoon. She puts her thumb and index finger on each side of her nose pressing in on her eyelids.
They are both quiet for a moment.
Tenderly he moves his hand down her cheek.
CAROL I know. Really. I’m feeling stronger. Much better than
JEREMY C’mon, have the soup...
Don’t you like it
She is reluctant. JEREMY
Carol sees a tear. She reaches for it on his face. She takes his hand.
CAROL I like that you made it for me.”
JEREMY I like to cook. I don’t know
about vacuuming, but cooking—
CAROL “You don’t have to vacuum.
His tears continue
JEREMY I promise I will. This afternoon when I come back.”
6 weeks later. Carol’s in bed. She’s meeting with CC in her bedroom.
CAROL I’m sure you were surprised to hear from me, but I had to
talk to you.
They are both feeling awkward.
CAROL I’ll come right out with it. Jeremy hasn’t been the same
since he stopped seeing you. He’s very down. All month long. He’s walking around like his life is over.
CC takes a deep breath.
CAROL He still loves you. I can’t change that. He can’t either.
He’s tried. The reason I called is my doctor’s told me my medicine has stopped working. He’s said I’m going to die if they can’t come up with something.”
I don’t want you to tell Jeremy. He suspects something, but he doesn’t know.
CC You don’t want to tell him.
CAROL I don’t. First of all, I might pull through. I have in the
past. But if I die I want you to know you have my blessing. The son of a bitch doesn’t deserve it. I want my mother to raise Alyosha, but you and Jeremy...
CC begins to sob. Carol takes her hand. She waits until CC is in better control.
CAROL Please. Say nothing now. He’s got his thesis to finish.
He’s down to the wire. So don’t call him, but later, if I’m not here you can tell him I gave my blessing. Not that I am not cursing the two of you, but... You know about his mother right?
CAROL Watching your mother die does strange things to you? I’m
glad Alyosha is so young.
CC tears up
CC I’d like to call Jeremy.
CAROL No. Please don’t. I know him. He’ll do the same thing he
did when I was in the hospital. CC
You know about that?
CAROL I found your lipstick under the bed. I remember. He was
really whacko. He kept saying crazy things. He was a different person.
I’m sorry, I–
CAROL You don’t have to say anything. I know how convincing
Jeremy can be when he wants something. I wasn’t surprised. Jeremy doesn’t know how to be alone. It frightens him. You don’t know about his dark moods, do you?
CC I’ve seen him act sort of crazy. Silly, but never down.
CAROL It’s all an act. He can get very, very down. Suicidal kind
CC Haven’t seen anything even close to that.
CAROL (choking up)
That’s because you make him happy. I knew something was up when he would visit me in the hospital.
CAROL It would be nice if you could make him happy like that and
it would last. Not just in the beginning. Discovering someone new is so thrilling. I still like romantic movies.
Beginnings are wonderful. He loves them. Who wouldn’t? But he’s addicted. He craves it. He can’t get enough.
CAROL I couldn’t do anything about it. I can’t give him what he
wants. I can’t reinvent myself every few weeks.
CAROL (New tears)
There is a long silence as she tries to regain control.
I never told him what I really think. I gave him the impression that he’s a meshugenah.
She starts sobbing again and then smiles
CAROL Which he is. And deserves to hear.
CAROL (smiling affectionately)
He is such a jerk. But I think he is, he might be
CAROL (again sobbing)
This brings more sobbing.
CAROL His craving for discovery. I’m hoping he gets there,
people recognize that he’s got it. He’s able to thrill people with it.
CC Everyone who takes his class has been there with him.”
CAROL (crying more sanguinely,
continuing) I know, but he wants more and deserves more. You probably
can’t understand, but I want him to have that. He’s been good to me. I want him to have you... I want him to be happy.
Carol notices that CC has what may be a skeptical expression on her face. It shatters the spell she had assumed with her plan.
Do you still love him?
CC (hesitant, stalling)
I don’t know. When he broke up with me. I was sort of relieved.
I love Jeremy.
Then CC, noticing how Carol is hanging on her answer,, as sincerely as she can muster, lies.
August, Carol’s hospital room, Carol is very weak. She is not completely alert Her kidneys have been shut down for two weeks. There are dark circles around her eyes. Her mother is with her feeding her soup.
CAROL’S MOTHER That’s good. Just one more spoonful.
Carol immediately looks away allowing CC to not have to keep acting.
CAROL I’m not hungry. I’m nauseous.
CAROL’S MOTHER Come on. Wait let me get you a carrot. You like carrots.
Mom. No. No more.
At that moment Jeremy appears.
CAROL Mom, hand me my pocketbook.
Her mother moves the soup away and hands her the pocketbook. Carol finds a mirror and tries to give her hair a bit of style.
JEREMY Don’t do that. You look wonderful.
I’ll be right outside.
If looks could kill? She’s upset.
She gets up from her chair CAROL’S MOTHER
As her mother leaves she can’t help giving Jeremy a nasty look. She closes the door behind her.
JEREMY CAROL JEREMY
I’ve brought you a big box of Raisinets, movie size He hands them to her
JEREMY I remembered how much you like them. How come you stopped
buying them? My weight. Well eat up.
She pours a handful and starts to eat them with relish. She hands him the box. He brings it to his mouth and pours some straight in.
CAROL Whoa, Save some for me.
My hero. Only the best for you.
I’ll do it.
He takes out another box of Raisinets from the bag of goodies he has brought. She smiles when she sees them.
She grimaces. Her calf has tightened into a cramp. She pulls off her blanket and tries to rub it in order to loosen it.
He squeezes and rubs her calf very hard. There is no improvement.
JEREMY You have to stand on it. Push down on your toes.
He puts his arms under her to lift her out of the bed. As he does so he begins to sob.
CAROL Jeremy. Come on. Come on. Lift me. Come on. You’re
shutting down. What else have they told you?
He successfully places her on her feet. She presses down on her toes to straighten them and as quickly as it appeared, the cramp is gone.
She continues standing, holding him, hugging him as he sobs
CAROL Come on. You’re going to make me cry.
I can’t help it.
CAROL You can Jeremy. You will...Help me get back in bed.
He returns her to her bed. She is out of breath.
JEREMY Why are you breathing like that?
CAROL They said I have congestive heart failure. From my kidneys
CAROL I don’t want to talk about me. I want to talk about you.
He reads the look on her face. JEREMY
CAROL You said you’ve been thinking about it. Promise me you will
submit your thesis.
CAROL (begging him)
She starts to cry.
CAROL It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. If you don’t submit it
by next week you’re out of the program. That can’t happen. You’re a great teacher. Do it for your students.
I’ve done it.
CAROL (Her voice sounds a hundred
Her crying continues but with tears of joy, relief.
She pulls him down to her and embraces him.
Then she is quiet, at peace as he straightens up.
She notices that he looks worried.
CAROL Did you hear from them?
CAROL (Continuing before he can
answer) I don’t have to ask. They are going to think it is
He says nothing. From the expression on his face we sense that it has been rejected. But Carol isn’t studying him
She is unaccustomed to the relief she is feeling. For the first time in years the junction between her upper and lower jaw relaxes. That little headache in her forehead, that she has learned to ignore. Now it is gone.
CAROL You are going to be so happy.
Again, he starts to cry. I mean after, in a month or two. Alyosha will be very
proud of you Dr. Slater.
Early September. In his bedroom, CC’s father is in his easy chair under a lamp, reading the paper.
We hear a knock on the door. He puts the paper down
Come in CC. How did you know it was me?
CC moves to the front of the stage modeling for her father
CC’S FATHER You look stunning. I remember when your mother found that
dress. It looked great on her too.
CC I know. I was shopping in her closet. She gave me a whole
bunch of stuff.
CC’S FATHER It took her weeks to find it. She showed me a picture of
it in Vogue and then you know your mother. Nothing can stop her–the British navy, the Amazon jungle–nothing can stop her when she’s out to find something she wants. I wonder what she will come home with today.
CC I remember when she used to drag me along with her. Shop
‘til you drop. And I would drop. Didn’t matter. She was determined. I’d be done 2 hours before we stopped. She’d bribe me with ice cream, then make promises, but she’d find what she was looking for. Always!
CC’S FATHER One more week ‘til you start school. You ready?
CC Are you kidding? ‘Specially with the clothes Mom gave me?
The retro look is in.
CC’S FATHER Have you heard from that guy?
CC (conspicuously unfeeling)
His wife died. He was very upset. He wanted to see me.
CC’S FATHER Are you going to see him? You were pretty gone when it came
CC I’m lucky I’m over him. I was very upset when I heard about
his wife, although I knew it was coming.(becoming sad) She told me.
CC (fighting back tears)
I’ve spent hours talking to Dr. Weiss about it. CC’S FATHER
What does he say?
CC Not that much. We talked about me going up there for the
funeral. He convinced me it was a bad idea. I would probably jump into bed with him all over again.
CC’S FATHER (half amused)
Sounds like you’re doing the right thing.
CC Can I ask you about you and Mom?
CC’S FATHER CC CC’S FATHER
What about us? Do you love her? Absolutely. What are you and mom like when I’m back at school?
Sometimes, not always.
CC’S FATHER CC
He takes her hand CC’S FATHER
CC Do you still love her?
Yes and she loves me.
CC How do you know that?
CC’S FATHER It’s hard for you to understand.
CC (smiling ironically)
I’m trying. Believe me I’m trying.
CC’S FATHER In the early years we were crazy about each other. 100% of
the time. Do you remember that?
CC Those were great years. We were all happy.
CC’S FATHER That was before we knew each other. I mean really knew.
I’m not saying your mother is so bad. Or that I am. But certain qualities...
CC’S FATHER It doesn’t matter. If it hadn’t been one thing it would
have been another. That’s what happens to everyone. You can’t love someone like you loved them in the beginning.
CC’S FATHER (CONT'D)
That kind of love is built on your imagination. No actual person can match that.
CC He closes the newspaper, folds it carefully
CC’S FATHER Let me tell you something. Your mother has capabilities I
never even thought about. I hear your fellow students making fun of homemakers like it takes a bimbo to run a home. You know that stuff about how a man’s home is his castle?
CC’S FATHER She’s made a castle for us to live in, all of us. It’s
beautiful, the ways the colors coordinate, the rugs, the chairs, the sofa. And comfortable! We all take that for granted. Your mother chose everything in the house. She repainted the dining room three times before she was satisfied with the color. And when we started and had no money she did the painting herself. She wouldn’t let me touch a paint brush. (laughing to himself) She didn’t like the quality of my work. And later, when she hired a painter, she made sure he was doing a good job. She’d fire people that weren’t performing to her standards.
CC’S FATHER Your mother knows how to get the best work out of everyone.
Whether it is flirting, or charm, or being a pain in the ass–whatever it is. It gets done right. That’s not a small talent. She is a strong woman, very determined. I’ll bet professors at your school don’t have a clue about how to get good work done on their house.
CC I agree the house is beautiful.
Again he laughs to himself.
And comfortable. And comfortable... well. Well–what?
CC CC’S FATHER CC
That white rug in the hall. She wouldn’t let me come in the front door. I could see my room straight ahead, but I had to use the back door.
CC’S FATHER She lets you walk there now. When you were young you
didn’t wipe your feet. So yeah there is crazy perfect love in the beginning, but eventually the real person spoils that. After maybe 10, 15 years we had that love feeling 40, 50% of the time.
CC No. It was higher than that.
CC’S FATHER That’ how you remember it? Maybe. Maybe it looked that
way. But, by that time, a lot of the time we were faking it. For you kids. And I guess each other. Then we stopped faking it. And the love percentage took a real dive. I don’t think it was a sudden thing. It was a gradual process.
CC Until it goes to zero?
CC’S FATHER That’ll never happen. We have moments. They will always be
there. Moments? That’s all you get at our age. Moments.
CC CC’S FATHER
I don’t understand.
CC’S FATHER I’m grateful to have that. Some people... they lose it
He takes her hand and looks in her eyes
CC’S FATHER We still have it. Not the fake kind. The real thing.
CC I never see it anymore... How often?
CC’S FATHER We’re different when you kids are around. We don’t see you
that often, so when you come home we want the visit to be nice.
CC I know. It’s nice but it is kind of phony, everyone—
CC’S FATHER Mark makes sure it doesn’t get too phony.
I suppose so.
CC (becoming very serious)
How often do you and mom connect? I mean really connect. CC’S FATHER
We have our moments... CC
CC’S FATHER It could be twice in a day, then not for weeks.
And that’s enough?
CC You often seem hurt. Really often.
CC’S FATHER I am but as long as I get–
CC’S FATHER You know, when we’ve had a blow up, we both want to make
up. Sometimes it takes a few hours. Once or twice it was days, but we want to make up. That isn’t fake! It’s coming from our hearts. Sure it’s fear. No one wants to be alone. And that’s a big part of it. Before we met each other we were alone. Part of that great feeling when you fall in love is that your loneliness disappears.
CC says nothing. Her father has never been blunt like this before.
CC’S FATHER Not everyone is miserable being alone, but I am. Back then,
when I didn’t have someone, I’d see other couples with each other. It would tear me up. So if you have been there and experienced that...often. Not feeling that any more... I think it was the same for Mom.
CC I thought you got together in high school.
CC’S FATHER We did but we both remember what that was like. Even back
then. So when we have a fight, for a while, we try harder to be nice. At your age you probably have make up sex.
He smiles, strokes her hair back across her head gently...
CC’S FATHER (smiling)
That’s the best. Now making up means acting nice, very nice to each other for days. And that is not bad at all... It’s very nice. And it isn’t all because we are afraid of being alone. That’s certainly a part of it, maybe a big part of it. But after my anger dies down, I take a good look at your mother, and I like what I see.
CC You mean she looks pretty?
CC’S FATHER No. More than that. Like what I just told you about her
talents as a homemaker. I never thought about that. For better or worse, you take each other for granted, and yeah, both of us can get pretty selfish and oblivious of each other. A lot of times we argue because we are stubborn and both of us don’t want the other one to win, but sometimes when we are pissed and thinking about whether the marriage is worth it, you realize certain things about each other, good things. Your mother has a lot of good qualities.
Enough to love her?
CC’S FATHER Enough to love her and then some. Ten times over.
Ten times over?
CC’S FATHER (Answering with a smile)
Well maybe two or three.
CC’S FATHER Anyway. Talking about love. It’s stupid to think about
it. I can’t love or not love your mother. She’s a part of me, like my hand. I don’t think about whether I love my hand or don’t love it. It’s just me.
That’s a cop out.
It really isn’t. It is. Fine it is. But it isn’t.
CC’S FATHER CC CC’S FATHER
They are both quiet, thinking
CC’S FATHER Sometimes... Well it was actually once. Your mother
apologized. Once? Once.
CC CC’S FATHER CC
CC’S FATHER It doesn’t matter. I knew she meant it. It came from deep
within her. That means everything to me.
CC gives him a hug while he sits there. He looks at her, takes her hand then releases it. Looks again with an expression that usually means, we’re done. She heads for the door, but then she turns around.
CC An apology? That makes up for everything?
CC’S FATHER Yes. It’s plenty. Don’t be too greedy.
What’s that mean?
He takes a deep breath
CC’S FATHER Sometimes I’ve overheard you and Mark talking about other
people, judging them. Your idea of how people are supposed to be! It’s very young. Naive. The standards you expect people to measure up to ... I mean it’s nice when you believe people can be like that. And sure sometimes they are. When it happens everyone relishes it...But eventually, as you get older, after you are disappointed enough, after you carry on like you and Mark carry on about how everyone doesn’t measure up... That begins to get old. You realize people just aren’t like the way you expect them to be. Love isn’t that way and people aren’t. People like that don’t exist. Well they do, here and there. It’s right out of what they teach you in nursery school, love and hugs and lots of kisses. For a while you’re there, but it’s not ongoing. It doesn’t continue. When you’re young you assume great experiences like that are ahead of you. You’ll eventually meet the right people and connect. You’ll learn how to cultivate it. You think you just haven’t had good enough luck so far. Magazines and books are full of that kind of living, describing it again and again. Like it is all around, waiting for you.
CC You’ve never come across it?
CC’S FATHER No I have. Your mom and I have met some lovely people.
Many lovely people. There are times I have been with people and I am aching with envy. Why can’t I have that? What is their secret?
CC’S FATHER Once I get to know them better it isn’t there anymore.
CC But don’t some people have it? They’re lucky. Or they
have figured it out. I have come across that, and it seems very real.
CC’S FATHER Where? In camp?... We’ve had it, a couple of our vacations
in Florida. They were perfect.
CC So the secret is Florida?
CC’S FATHER where the sky meets the sea. Your mother
He shrugs his shoulders.
CC I thought fathers are supposed to keep their kids’ dreams
CC’S FATHER That’s the advice they give fathers in magazines. Sorry to
disappoint you. I think you are wrong.
CC’S FATHER I hope so. I envy your faith. I remember when I was
young. I had your kind of hope, but I also remember how much it hurt to be disappointed so often.
CC Maybe you just have had bad luck with people.
CC’S FATHER Maybe, but I don’t think so. Look. It’s great that you
expect such nice things from people.. I wish I could have some of that back.
CC Do you? You make trust sound silly.
CC’S FATHER Fortunately, I’ve lost it a bit at a time. And in the end
there’s actually something great that happens.
Hawaii Bali Hai, loves that song.
CC’S FATHER (CONT'D)
When those expectations are gone, you can accept people for who they are. Your mom is who she is. So am I. So are you. We’re not going to change.
CC’S FATHER (Waiting for her to catch
up) Do you understand that? You shouldn’t expect too much.
People are just people. What you have seen so far. That’s about it. That’s what people are like. That’s where you should be starting from...Your mom apologized. That means everything. You used to make fun of how Mom saw it as a compliment to me, that she could show her mean side to me. But you know what? She’s right. She can’t stand a lot of qualities I have– let me put it more bluntly, a lot of things about me she simply hates...
She can’t stand a lot of things about herself, as much as, or more than I hate them. She hated this mole she had on her thigh. Hated it. You know what she did?...She had the mole removed.
CC But what about things you can’t change?
CC’S FATHER You keep hating them. That goes for things she doesn’t
like about me, and things she can’t stand about herself. And maybe you learn to shut up about it. Your mother sometimes is able to do that. Most of the time. Sometimes she can’t or won’t. Same as me. Maybe it doesn’t matter because eventually, it all comes out anyway.
CC’S FATHER I know a lot of people who aren’t that vocal, who don’t
talk as much as we do. Grandma always used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say...
CC’S FATHER True. But you don’t think Mark knows what Grandma thought
of him. And she never said anything.
CC Grandma didn’t like Mark?
CC’S FATHER Are you kidding? As much as he didn’t like her.
Ira sees CC’s shock and disappointment. She assumed her grandmother couldn’t have been fond of Mark, but putting it in words, that her grandmother had anything but loving feelings towards any of them...
CC’S FATHER She never gave up. You do that for family. She kept on
hoping that Mark would come around...
CC’S FATHER Your Mom... I still love her. And that includes how
critical she can of me and of herself. I know, we all know, how she can disapprove of us, of herself. But that’s how she gets to be so beautiful, by keeping at it.
CC Your love for her? In my mind, it’s mainly there when she
CC’S FATHER I’m thrilled when she looks beautiful. Thrilled. But that
is not love.
CC The way you look at her. The way she looks at you.
CC’S FATHER Being thrilled isn’t love. It’s like seeing a shooting
star. You’re amazed but it isn’t love.
CC Come on. Isn’t that why you married her?
CC’S FATHER It is. And I am still thrilled by her beauty, but it’s
more like a bonus now. You have to give your mother credit. She works so hard to remain young.
CC Yeah but she was born with it.
CC’S FATHER Like you were. But ninety percent of what you see comes
from her, from her standards, her self criticism, her shopping. Yeah we hate that she finds so many things wrong, how it makes us miserable trying to keep her happy. How much hate there is in her.
CC Yeah of a bad haircut.
CC’S FATHER Okay she hates that. But you can’t have the good without
the bad. Your mother has this grace. Maybe she was born with that, like her heroes Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant. Some people just have it. You can’t put your finger on what it is they do. But everyone knows when it is there. She loves Johnny Carson. So do I. He has it.
CC So which is it? You’re born with these qualities that
everyone loves, or self criticism gets you there.
CC’S FATHER I don’t know. Both. The right amount of each. I just know
I still love your mother. And she loves me. We can’t stand each other half of the time. Sometimes it’s closer to three quarters of the time. But there are moments.
Moments? Your Mom and I still have moments. Not everyone gets that.
Moments? That’s it?
They are quiet as she rolls that over in her mind.