Close – Pierson High School (2010)
by Gabriel Burford
Pierson High School (Retreat Program)
The curtain opens to a room with cracked walls. Broken glass and black liquid covers one side of the stage, a large table has been toppled over. On the other side of the room is a bronze wire cage, which has been split apart. Splitting the two sides is a wall which has broken through the ceiling. It is unstable, and is in the process of sliding down to the floor, effectively splitting the room in two. One the first side of the room is a young man in a white shirt and a tie, standing in the foreground. On the opposite side a woman of similar age is prone on the ground (either from being pinned by debris or being struck)
James: (to the audience) Ink on my hands; ink spilling off the shelves, dark and deep and rich.
I had just finished up for the day; I was hanging up my apron and slipping off my gloves. I was thinking about my life; how it was crumbling around me. I was thinking that everyone was wilting quietly away from me, when the room exploded. The walls buckled in sync with my knees.
Ink on my hands – dark and deep and rich.
A beam hit me – here – on the back of the head. It knocked me down; I threw my palms down on the floor and splattered everyone’s unborn ideas.
I would never reach anyone, I had tried but my hands simply slipped through them, I had tried to reach but only found myself grasping in circles.
But there she was, confused and screaming for help; she must have fallen through the ceiling.
Ink on my hands, dark and deep and rich.
She used to live on the floor above me, in a white room with long windows so old that they warped the light that shone through on her, shone down on her in her white dress.
We must have been lying there for hours, both of us broken and screaming for help. When none came, we fell down below our fear and stared at the wall about to split us in two.
Anna: Did you see the doves?
J: The doves?
A: Did the dove from the Arc actually find land?
J: It returned with a branch… I’m not a religious man.
A: There are no religious men, only people trying to find something to give worth to their hope.
J: Did Noah’s dove find land?
A: I’m not a religious woman, but I think it didn’t. The dove left with a branch already in its care.
Noah never knew there was land – as far as he could see, the world was a flood. When the dove returned, he was giving hope the only way it can be given.
J: Hope isn’t worth treasuring within a flooded world.
A: Why are you speaking to me now? Why are you using the last- (James cuts her off)
J: Do you realize what is happening?
Both actors look intently up at the descending wall.
A: Is it relevant? (looks back at him)
J: I saw you on the morning your brothers left. It was cold, sharp, clear, but you stood, barefoot, in front of them.
A: And I saw you on the night the woman with the smooth hair left you. She was walking backwards with her hands over her eyes, and you were whispering: “I can’t see you. I can’t feel you. Oh god, I can’t see you.”
J: Don’t –
A: (growing louder) and there was ink on your hands, and under your eyes –
J: What do you know of hope? After they left you went up to your room and hung your head, your hair, your hands over the windowsill… You didn’t move for three hours; I stood.
A: The night before they left me, my brothers carried an old bronze cage and a wicker basket up the stairs. As they were closing the windows, I opened the basket. I couldn’t see the three birds, but I knew they were pure and white – one to tell me of their departure, one to whisper in my ear not to forget.
J: What of the third?
A: In the dark, I couldn’t see the doves, only hear the air they flew through, and every other instant my skin felt feathers.
J: What of the third dove?
A: Why, come morning, the third lead the others into the cage, of course.
A pause, the wall lowers. Both look up at the divide.
A: Do you realize what is happening?
A: Do you think it matters?
I remember the morning of the day; the day she left. I awoke before and walked to the window, rippled… Out in the street, out in the light, I saw myself on the ground, holding my knees, rocking.
The she awoke and said from the bed, “Can you feel me evaporating?”
And out on the street I was groping at the cobblestones, and in the rippled window she was dragging her hands across the glass.
(this is still James’s line) “Can you feel me evaporating?”
Can’t you see I’m holding my knees? No, I couldn’t feel her; I wanted to scream, no, you’re slipping bluntly through me.
Can’t you see I’m holding my knees?
He holds his hands out to Anna.
A: You have ink all over your palms.
J: ( looks at his hands) I know.
A: No, listen to me: there is ink, dark and deep and rich –
J: Thank you.
The wall has begun to shudder violently, and is now steadily descending. Both actors keep their gaze intently on the wall.
A: Did you see the broken cage, the doves flying as I fell?
J: Yes, it was beautiful.
A: I can see you. Can you see me?
J: I can feel you.
The wall hits the floor, and the moment they are separated, the lights go out.