Saturday, January 15, 2011
She Cried for Clean Hands
She heard him sigh and felt him inch closer. The room was dark, the raspberry blanket clung to their skin. He inhaled with a rhythmic and consistent predictability and exhaled with dominance, like usual. His breath was a protective embrace. His sleeping next to her was all that reminded her she was not an abused and tortured damsel, as she often was in her uncontrollable and syncopated dreams.
She was lost in sleep next to him. She was lost most of the time. The inside of her eyelids fettered her to a world that was too cruel for her to see when she was awake. She was not controlled, she was not content, she was not conscious of her actions and she was inconsistent. She was asleep, and the walls she built to protect her fragile skin and soul had deteriorated. She was shaking, her breathing was clustered and heavy, her makeup was on her hands and pillowcase as she twisted out of control. Se cried when she was alone, and when she was helpless, and being asleep made her both of those things. For even with him beside her, a rare delight, she was still sleeping alone.
He woke up to the reverberations from her frantic motion and the muffled alarm of her crying. He knew he was next to her, he could feel her damp body heat against his side of the blanket. She then felt his hand beneath the fabric of her college sweatshirt, a memoir of a time he belonged to no one and occasionally walked the nineteen steps to hold her at night. His hands felt cold, his fragile fingers always kept a chill. His clean hands belongs on piano keys, they were for rinsing conditioner, and turning the pages of The Times.
She shivered and whimpered at him. Half in response to his touch, and half because the guilt set in, and she fathomed his obligation to wake up and tame the wild within her was as aggravating and unromantic as a parent feeding a baby at four a.m. She curled in on her side to hide her make-up smeared eyes and hands, to protect him from having to cater to that as well. She was uncomfortable, she was already selfish and impotent. So she stretched and sprawled and begged him with unspoken neediness to control her. She was waiting for him to back up so she could fall back asleep with a clear conscience and dirtied hands. he needed to go back to his side of the bed, and release her into the isolating depths of her dreams.
He whispered, “you’re okay” and his hand warmed on her back. The two words, barely audible, brought her to life. She was no longer alone, she was no longer asleep, she was no longer in a nightmare. He, in initiating some contact, had given her control. Her walls were ready to rise between them again, she prepared to turn away from him to the horrors of her sleep. Part of her wanted him to fall back into rhythmic breathing, and find the peace her sobs and motions had slaughtered. Part of her was selfish and scared, and wanted his clean hands to soak the stains of a million bad dreams from her memory.
She screamed for him, like she had a million times in her nightmares. Her lips didn’t move, his name wasn’t echoed, but she screamed. She prayed he would hold onto her, as she told herself not to be needy. She was alone in that, like in a dream, she was distant and thus incapable of articulating the needs she deemed masochistic victims of suppression.
He took his hand from her back and lingered his structure bluntly against her. Refusing her walls reconstruction, and forcing her to be vulnerable. He sighed, his breath was warm and felt almost like compassion against her skin, but she couldn’t be sure because it had been so long since she’d been blessed with such a feeling.
He huffed in adjustment and his flat, broad shoulders collided with her coiled and helpless body. She extended next to him, to echo his aura of composure. She again whimpered, this time in fear of rejection, but she kept her back straight. He faded back to what she perceived as unaffected sleep. She unwillingly, but obligatorily, began to inch away from him, to remover herself from the safety and sanity of his presence. He shifted and whimpered in response to the distance between them. He plunged his hands beneath the blanket that concealed them, and took her hand in his. He bent his arm back up, and used her new found composure to pull himself closer to her. She again, listened to him sigh and felt him move closer.
With her fingers intertwined in his, she breathed more steadily she closed her eyes to fall back into a slumberous hell. The only difference being she couldn’t toss and turn or coil, or cry out to someone to far away to hear. Because he was right there, stabilizing her, and even in the worst of nightmares- and the darkest of depths, she felt like he did every night he spent at home with his wife. Having him next to her meant reality was not an isolated hell her thoughts provoked when the screaming of fluorescent lights and day jobs couldn’t quiet their nonsense. Her stable position allowed her to apperceive a reality that wasn’t sleeping with nightmares, that was waking up to consistent breath and clean hands.
Do you remember
How my knuckles felt
Stretched and flat beneath your fingertips,
The first time we bent the form
Of a palm to palm entwinement
To an embrace more intimate than planned?
Remember how it felt to first hold your hand?
Do you remember
How my skin felt
When I held my breath-
Conscious of your shaky attempt at precision
As you pinned a white flower
To the low neck of my dress?
The blossom bit my bosom with a pin-prick
Though pinched I insisted I remain entranced
And the prodding pressure was worth it,
Because you asked me to dance.
Do you remember
How cold my naked arms felt
When you handed me your sweatshirt,
The one that always smells like exhaustion and yogurt?
I said I hadn’t planned to need you
That I was scared and slow to embrace honesty.
So you clung close, and called me a necessity.
Do you remember
How my hair fel
tOn the worn fabric of your lap?
Remember how my eyeliner soaked your denim
and how dark and sanguine, it streaked your knee?
I waited to find someone who cared enough to hear
Then I told you all my sins and secrets,
I explained every scar and every lie.
You drank my bloodstained past like wine,
And then you told me not to cry.
Do you remember
How you felt the first time
You said you loved me?
Those three words
The ones-like petals- you bestowed
Are all that this pin-pricked chest,
This blushing belle in her bloodstained best
This stream of eyeliner on a fair-toned face
With these scars and these secrets,
With these knuckles and these fingertips
Has ever needed.
Cast: Marissa, Daisy, Jack, Edward, Well Dressed Woman, Cody, Chelsea,
(Cody, Daisy, Jack all stand at a long table center stage in matching any colored polo shirts, black aprons, and hats. Table is set with industrial sized pots and pans and a scrub brush, four oranges, Styrofoam cups, silverware. A phone sits in front of Jack. A large purse sits beneath Daisy. The table has spots for four. Behind them to the left is Marissa at a small table with a coffee pot and carafes. Atop the machine sits two oven mitts.
MARISSA: Ouch! I burned myself.
(Daisy, Jack and Cody are all working. Daisy is cutting an orange into sections, Jack is sorting silverware and Cody is pouring juice.)
DAISY: (She stands in the middle of the table with Jack on her right and Cody on her left. She looks around anxiously and can’t see a clock.)
What time is it Jack?
JACK: (looks at watch.)
Half past eleven. We can go clock in for the start of our shift in… eight minutes.
DAISY: (Smiles. Slices an orange.)
Perfect. How was your night Jack? Any fun? How bout you Cody?
CODY: (Growls when spoken to. Throws his arms up, and lets them slam into the table making a loud noise).
DO NOT talk to me. I am way too sick for your nonsense.
DAISY: (Speaking to Cody, holding the knife she was slicing the fruit with in the air).
I could have cut myself!
CODY: Too bad you didn’t. I might try again later.
JACK: (Takes knife and orange from Daisy attracting her attention, and finishes slicing the fruit.)
My night was alright Daisy. Boring. I tried to sneak out to meet some boys again, but a 94 Chevy howls when you ask her to start, and she woke up my folks.
Women, they’re always yelling at me. Cars, mothers, bosses, everyone…
DAISY: (Takes the slices of orange off the table as Jack cuts them and places them in an industrial pan in front of him).
I don’t yell at you. You should have called me, I would have picked you up.
MARISSA: (Drops a carafe of coffee, the top comes off and the liquid spills on the floor. No one turns to look at her.)
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
DAISY: Where is Eddie?
CODY: Maybe he will bring me some cigarettes.
DAISY: You really shouldn’t smoke it is so bad for you and you’re such an attractive man when you don’t-
CODY: What did I say flower girl? I hate this place, I hate you, shut it.
(Two people enter stage right together talking. The three at the center table turn to look at them- lean their torso’s over the table to see the new characters clearly in unison and Jack cuffs his ear to enable better eavesdropping).
EDWARD: (Standing a foot or so in front of a girl with an apron loose around her waist and her hair down.)
You’re late again. That is the third time this week.
CHELSEA: (She waves at the three at the table cordially as Edward addresses her. Then she Whines at him, and plays with her hair.)
Muffin, I like hit a pole on my way here- and I had to go all the way home and tell my mommy. You know she’s like the boss of this whole place right? She has a degree, she is a nutrient-est. Like, you know where being mean to me will get you right? Across the street- in the like trashy kitchen with the not so fast food and absolutely no fruit. Plus, anyways, then I had to walk like all the way here, cause my car’s like broken now.
EDWARD: We depend on you. If you’re going to have some tragedy everyday, start leaving earlier.
(phone next to Jack rings.)
CHELSEA: One, Two Three, not it!
(All except Marissa press index fingertips to their nose and the phone goes unanswered).
MARISSA: (Drops coffee filters.)
OOOOuch!! It hurts so baaaaad!
JACK: Okay, let’s go clock in.
(all follow him except Daisy and Edward. Marissa lags behind and holds her hands up to inspect burns all the way off stage. Daisy hesitates, reaches in the bag beneath her and withdraws a manila envelope with a white label across the front that reads “Notice”)
EDWARD: (Walks to table and stands next to her where Jack was).
No good morning today Princess?
(he takes the envelope from her playfully, his smile fades quickly).
What is this?
DAISY: (sadly speaks.)
Well… my two weeks notice.
(Looks at him for response, receives none).
I need to go clock in. Eddie- please don’t say anything just yet. Okay?
EDWARD: (Throws envelope in front of her, shakes head unbelievingly, and sighs heavily).
Wow. Have you found somewhere else? I hope it isn’t that place across the street…. It really is trashy.
DAISY: (looks down sadly. Back up at him.)
(Voice shakes like she could cry).
It’s just, Jack has had four raises, and I haven’t had a single one. And, Cody hates me- and Chelsea drives me crazy- and you don’t need me. You have Marissa now anyway. You don’t even notice when I’m here! Remember when I went to New York for six days and when I got back you hadn’t remembered I had gone at all? Remember when Cody threw the glass at me and corporate didn’t do anything? I don’t deserve this Eddie.
EDWARD: (Desperation and aggression line his voice)
So, it is just hitting you now? How ridiculous this place is? Three years, and you’re tired now Daisy?
(waits for response, does not receive one. Almost yells).
And I stayed late and picked glass shards out of your hair Daisy. And I didn’t need to notice you bein‘ gone on your trip, because I knew you were coming back here to me.
DAISY: (Shrugs, looks down. Lets out a little cry. Snatches up envelope and stomps her feet. She turns to leave. )
Please don’t do this now. I am going to clock in fir my shift.
EDWARD: (Yells to Daisy as she saunters off stage Left as her co-workers did).
Can I trust you to come back?
DAISY: (stops, faces him)
You don’t need me to. There are a million other people in this town who can slice an orange.
(Edward is left alone on Stage, takes an orange slice from the industrial pan and bites into it.)
EDWARD: I don’t know anyone in this town- who can make an orange taste as sweet though Daisy.
MARISSA: (Runs over to Edward when she returns with Cody and Chelsea. Jack lags behind, with a well dressed woman in toe. Marissa is practically shaking. Cody and Chelsea resume their place at the table resume activities.)
Edward! I, I, I, I, I burned my, my, myself and it hurts real bad! Aaaand, I, I, I, got paper cuts from the coffee filters!
EDWARD: Pour your coffee. Clean up the floor.
(Edward walks by her dismissively and she moans and returns to her table. He pauses behind the well dressed woman scolding Jack and cuffs his ear to listen better, holding the peel of the orange in the other hand).
WELL DRESSED WOMAN: Excuse me, young man
(Jack turns to face woman and sighs heavily.)
I have had three calls to the state office about this location this week. And you answer the phone correct? That is what we pay you to do?
(she thumps his chest- he thrusts backwards and moans, afraid).
Is that too much for you? Can you not be respectful? Do you have any manners? Answer me!
JACK: (looks around frantically)
WELL DRESSED WOMAN: You think you can just call your supervisor and be out of all of this? Well think again bucko!
(Woman stomps loudly on thin heels. Jack blocks his face as woman tosses her hands about frantically. Daisy enters slowly without envelope and smiles at Jack. Woman groans and turns to leave.)
Get to work!
DAISY: (Rushes to her place at the table past the woman)
Hello Ma’am. I like your-
WELL DRESSED WOMAN: Hush, Rodent!
(Notices Chelsea and smiles.)
Chelsea Dear, do tell your mother I said hello.
DAISY: (to audience and self)
I need to get out of this place.
(returns to table and begins to cut a new orange).
CHELSEA: Let me just tell you- My mommy gets me almost as much as a reputation as all them boys I date do. Edward tries to sass me? I was like, no you did not. I am beast. No you do not talk to me like that. Right girl?
(Backhands Daisy’s shoulder for support, which shakes her arm holding a knife)
DAISY: (To audience)
I really am going to get myself cut up into bits working with these people.
(nods sarcastically at Chelsea.)
MARISSA: Ouch! I cant be doing this right! Ouch! I keep burning my skiiin!
JACK: Why does everyone here hate me? Did you see that Woman yell at me? Women… I tried to tell you…
DAISY: I love you. Just the high-ups hate you.
JACK: that’s not super reassuring.
(phone rings. Jack breathes heavily like he is terrified. Answers the phone slowly and weakly).
He-He-Hello? Fru-Fruit and Fast Food , ho-how can I help you?
VOICE OF WELL DRESSED WOMAN: Rodent! You say ‘May I help you on the phone’
JACK: Thank you.
(sarcasm. Then he hangs up the phone).
I am pretty sure there are laws against name calling and terrorizing like that.
DAISY: I am pretty sure there are laws against everything that goes on in this place. Just makes you want to get out? Doesn’t it…
(She looks at Edward who is entering the room from stage right).
EDWARD: (walks through in front of table singing )
I’m ganna make you feel- like you’re the only girl in the world
(points at Daisy, leaves stage left)
DAISY: Like I’m the only girl that you’ll ever love
(points at Jack then returns to focusing on the oranges)
JACK: Like I’m the only that is in command (points at Chelsea)
CHELSEA: (not singing, )
Cause I am the only one who understands- how to make you feel like a man.
(Winks suggestively at Jack, who responds by rolling his eyes. She . Points at Cody)
CODY: Turn on the radio. Your voice makes me sick.
CHELSEA: (Shrugs, smiles and looks at fingernails, Cody hits table. The noise scares Marissa and she drops something)
CODY: I really hate you.
CHELSEA: You must be mistaken. Boys do not hate me. I am the beautifulest, baddest, broad in this kitchen.
(Edward enters sweeping behind the long center table)
CHELSEA: Hey cutie.
(Waves at Edward. Edward nods at her apathetically.)
He is just trying to be professional..
(Chelsea looks around quickly seeking someone to pay attention to her, stops at Cody.- She makes a pouty face and reaches up to pat his head. He pounds the table fuming in response).
Cody Cuddle Cake. Who needs Edward when I have you? You will love me soon enough honey, all boys do.
CODY: I hate you. So Much, Chelsea.
(glares quickly at Daisy).
Give me that knife flower girl, I have some damage to do.
DAISY: That really, that is really not a very good or safe idea. I really am just looking out for you and your safety and job reputatio-
CODY: (Stops pouring juice.)
I will pour all of this on you till it blinds you Daisy! Do not get in my way!
CHELSEA: Let him cut me! That’s like the most romantic ever! Like, lovers always die in like literature and whatever! Please!
CODY: (puts down work, looks up at her. Screams.)
(he takes a single cigarette out of the pack in his apron pocket, looks quickly at Chelsea, takes four or five more cigarettes. He walks to leave stage.)
CHELSEA: Can I come?
(she follows him without response. Bouncing joyfully behind him. As she rounds the other side of the table, she looks at Daisy)
He loves me.
(Daisy raises eyebrows to audience. Audience sees Chelsea try to hold Cody’s hand as she skips beside him).
CODY: (looks at Chelsea, moans)
I will break your fingers. You make me need coffee.
(he walks to the coffee table, interrupts Marissa and pours a cup of coffee for himself.) This has grinds in it.
(He spit’s the coffee in his mouth at Melissa, and pours the remains of the carafe on the floor).
MARISSA: (Sobs, throws up her hands in defeat).
Ouch! Please help me.
JACK: (sighs heavily, and stops helping Daisy with fruit cutting)
Is there coffee in her eyes? I think we have to report that or something. She is crying soooo loud.
(Turns to face Marissa)
Can you see?
MARISSA: Yes! Please come help me! Please! Yes!
(Jumps up and down with excitement, but slides in coffee spill and fall back down, reverts to sobbing).
(Jack begin to scrub oversized pans. Cody and Chelsea return from Stage right, She is on her cell phone).
EDWARD: (Calls from offstage)
Get off the phone and get to work Chelsea.
CHELSEA: It’s mommy. I do what I want anyways Edward. She’s the boss of this whole place, she says me and Cody will get married once he realizes he is in love with me.
CHELSEA: Mommy says you can have a raise if you marry me.
DAISY: (To audience, aggravated).
Of course she does. Everyone who isn’t me. Everyone who gets noticed….
CODY: Sure! We can get married- at the top of a very dangerous cliff Chelsea.
(Puts his arm around her and moves his hand in front of them both as if he is displaying a pleasant image- then makes a fist and shakes it aggressively in front of her. She quivers.)
You will stand in front in case you fall!
CHELSEA: I won’t fall!
CODY: I may have to give you a little push then.
(Silence. Cody releases her. Jack suppresses laughter. Daisy raises eyebrows. Chelsea doesn’t understand).
MARISSA: Ouch! Ouch! Danggit!
(Cries, noise of attempts to stand, noise of failure).
DAISY: (organizes orange slices in the large pan)
That is all our oranges… And you have no more pots. When can we get out of this crazy bake Jack?
JACK: We can leave in….eight minutes. Do you need a ride?
DAISY: I will probably stay and “clean up” some for a while after. But thanks.
JACK: What? Why?
(Daisy mouthes Edward to Jack. He does not understand, raises his arms to indicate so. She tries the same motions again, and when they fail Daisy makes a heart with his hands and points at stage right where Edward most recently exited.)
(speaks very smugly).
I got you girl. I’ma get these crazies gone for ya. Let us out of here!
(Cody, Chelsea, and jack leave. Edward enters to see them out.)
EDWARD: Bye guys. Thanks. Have fun, drive safe.
(A moment passes, he addresses Daisy)
Did I miss anything while I was out back?
(He walks to stand behind her at the table, puts his hands on her shoulders).
MARISSA: Ouch! I can’ t take this heat! that’s my fifth burn today.
EDWARD: There is something I want to tell you Daisy, before I don’t have the opportunity anymore. (he sighs, and slowly moves beside her.)
Never mind, this isn’t appropriate.
DAISY: What is it? I am pretty sure Cody killed appropriate a while back anyways. Stabbed it with a fruit knife. We’re immune.
EDWARD: You’re the only person who gets to call me Eddie. And I hate this place too, you know.
DAISY: Then why are you still here?
JACK: I forgot my coat
(enters. looks directly at Edward and Daisy).
DAISY: You most certainly did not. Get out snoop!
JACK: (To audience, in a loud whisper)
Not a chance.
(Daisy throws her hands on her hips hearing Jack and glares at him briefly before returning to look at Edward).
EDWARD: (To Daisy, completely unaffected by Jack’s presence)
I appreciate you Daisy. And the way you slice oranges evenly, and the way it doesn’t take you a whole shift to pour the coffee for in the morning like some people.
DAISY: I appreciate you saying that.
EDWARD: I appreciate that you aren’t arguing, for a change.
DAISY: (She puts one of her hands atop his)
I would appreciate a raise, I’d appreciate a day off now and then, I’d appreciate some silence when Chelsea is here. I’d appreciate some commitment.
EDWARD: I would appreciate it if you stayed.
EDWARD: Remember when I had the flu, and you came in early and made me breakfast? I appreciated that.
DAISY: Remember when I didn’t go to prom and you stayed late and danced with me? I appreciated that.
(They smile at each other).
EDWARD: Remember when today, you said I didn’t need you?
Well, I didn’t appreciate that- because I do Daisy, I do.
(Daisy Looks at Jack- drops her jaw in a silent “aww” as if Edward can not see her. Jack nods at her. Edward does not break his gaze at her but with the hand she isn’t holding he gives the audience a thumbs up.)
DAISY: That sounds like a commitment to me.
EDWARD: So you’ll stay?
DAISY: For as long as you’ll notice me Eddie! For as long you need me.
(They hug and kiss).
JACK: Well Ima plan on us all being here for a while.
DAISY: It does appear we both have some issues leaving Jack….
JACK: But none getting noticed girl, no issues getting noticed.
(He walks center stage and puts his arm around Daisy so the three stand front and center linked.)
MARISSA: (drops coffee on her foot)
EDWARD: Except her, she really should quit.
(The three exit together).