Love Story Girl meets boy at party, stores his number on mate’s phone. Another boy sees mate on bus, falls in love with her, steals her phone. Boy’s mate encourages her to answer the phone when it rings, and then, due to a case of mistaken identity, things start to get complicated.
Meanwhile, it turns out three members of the audience are also part of the play, and when their increasingly obnoxious disruptions finally bring about the pausing of the play, things turn a little surreal.
This is an out and out comedy, that works best if the audience have no inkling that the three people in the audience are part of the play. It’s a high energy, good fun play, and although on first read it’s easy to lose track of who’s who, on stage it’s much easier to follow.
Love Story A transverse stage. At one end is a park bench. Above this on the black curtain are projected the appropriate chapter headings. A LOVE STORY IN FIVE CHAPTERS.
PROLOGUE: IN WHICH THE GIRLS MEET SIMON, AND ALL THE TROUBLE BEGINS.
A party. Music up. Initially they have to shout to be heard. Simon is looking smooth, bottle in his hand. Carrie listens as he talks, captivated. Simon So the thing is, sorry, I didn’t quite catch your name before.
Carrie Carrie. It’s Carrie.
Simon Right, I thought you said Marry, the first time. I almost ran away.
Carrie Why? Oh, I see, a joke.
Simon I hoped.
Carrie Sorry, I can’t always tell, when people are joking, not when I first meet them. I’m not stupid, I’m quite astute actually, I use words like astute, see, I just...Do you mind if we go back to you doing the talking and I just listen?
Simon Carrie. Is that short for something?
Carrie No. I don’t think so. Should it be, do you think? Yes, I think you’re right. It’s not much of name, all by itself is it?
Simon So how are you enjoying the party?
Carrie No, no questions. Then I talk, and you think I’m stupid, and then..
Simon What, why does it matter if I think you’re stupid?
Carrie What’s your favourite colour?
Simon I don’t know, something ultraviolet. Humans can’t see it, but bees can. We have no idea just how beautiful flowers really are. Isn’t that wonderful?
Carrie I like flowers.
Simon You’d like them a lot more if you were a bee.
Carrie Yes, I suppose I would. Oh this is hard.
Simon What is?
Carrie Small talk. Other people don’t seem to have the same trouble. Other people think of a brilliant question, and that’s all that’s needed, the conversation just grows on itself. But all I can think to ask is what your favourite colour is, and you make a joke about bees, and then it just dies doesn’t it? They should teach this, at school. How to build your own conversation.
Simon You’re not doing too badly.
Carrie Thank you.
Simon It’s cheating a little, a conversation about conversations, but at least you’ve let me know I’m worth the effort.
Carrie I don’t know if I’d go that far.
Simon So I’m not?
Jess walks by. Carrie grabs her by the arm and draws her in to the conversation. Carrie Jess, this is Simon. Simon Jess.
Jess Mouthed silently Do you need rescuing?
Carrie Also silent What?
Jess I said...
Simon She wants to know if you need rescuing. Is that why you grabbed her?
Carrie No, no of course it isn’t. I just wanted you to meet my friend Jess. She does good conversations. Ask him a question.
Jess Um, alright. If you could redesign the human body, what would you change and why?
Carrie See? That’s so much better than what’s your favourite colour?
Jess You asked him that?
Carrie It’s the pressure. I’m a choker.
Simon The human body? It’s a good question. I think I’d want an eye in the back of my head.
Carrie That’s creepy.
Simon But useful. I wonder why we don’t have that.
Jess There’d be too much information. You’d be overwhelmed.
Simon It’s what the brain’s best at, filtering information. Listen right now, at all the different sounds, but amongst them all, you’re able to focus only on the sounds I’m making.
Jess You hope.
Carrie That’s so funny.
Simon What is?
Carrie Ally just told Malcolm if you swallow a live fly it’ll come back out when you burp, and he did, but it didn’t.
Simon Really? Which one’s Malcolm?
Carrie None of them. I just made that up. It was meant to be a joke.
Simon The funny sort?
Carrie You said I was able to focus on the noise you were making, so I pretended I was listening to someone else, but you didn’t get it, and it would’ve been funny, if you did, but comedy’s like sex, it doesn’t work if you analyse it, and now I’ve mentioned sex and we’re all feeling awkward...Could you just give me your phone number please?
Simon Sure. You got a pen?
Carrie Jess, give me your cell phone. I’ll store it on that.
Simon Okay it’s...
Carrie Wait a minute, I’m still putting the name in. S.I.M.O.N
Simon 462 0305
Carrie Thank you. I’ll call you then.
Simon I’d like that.
CHAPTER ONE: IN WHICH WE MEET DAMIEN, OUR LOVESTRUCK HERO, AND JOSH TRIES TO BE HELPFUL.
Damien sits alone on the park bench, staring at his cellphone as if the screen displays the secret of life. It begins to ring. He does not answer it. The ringing stops. Josh enters, running hard and breathless. He sees Damien, screams to a halt and sits down beside him. Damien Josh.
Damien Why were you running?
Damien Just then.
Josh No reason.
Josh You expecting a call?
Josh Thinking of making a call?
Damien It wouldn’t be appropriate.
Josh Fair enough.
There is a prolonged silence. Josh What are you doing?
Damien I came here to think.
Josh What about?
Josh Right. Well yell out if I can help at all.
Damien Thanks. Probably I won’t.
Damien I think I might be.
Damien In love.
Josh Why would you tell me that?
Damien Why not?
Josh I’m going to mock you now. I have to.
Damien I know. Away you go then.
Josh I’ll need more details. Who is it?
Damien I can’t tell you.
Josh Why not?
Damien You’d mock me.
Josh When did it happen?
Damien Yesterday. Last night.
Josh Night? So you mean you...
Josh Does she know?
Josh How you feel about her.
Damien Course not.
Damien I haven’t even spoken to her, not properly.
Josh What does she look like?
Damien Alright I suppose. Sort of average.
Josh And you’re in love with her?
Damien I think so.
Josh It isn’t love. Can’t be.
Damien Why not?
Josh You haven’t even talked to you.
Damien There’s love at first sight.
Josh She looks sort of average.
Damien Someone has to fall in love with average. It wouldn’t work out very well, if we all wanted the beautiful ones.
Josh It doesn’t work out very well, have you not noticed? There’s winners and losers. It’s not nice, it’s not how it should be, but you know...You don’t love her.
Damien I think I do.
Silence. Thinking time. Josh How do you feel? Tell me how it feels.
Damien You’ll mock me.
Josh I’m already going to.
Damien You can’t tell anyone.
Josh I’m going to tell everyone.
Damien It’s hard to explain. I was at a bus stop.
Damien Waiting for a bus.
Damien Yeah, got that.
Damien And this old guy came along, and last night was really cold, so he was dressed up in all his warmest clothes. Scarf, hat, jacket, and he wasn’t poor exactly, the clothes weren’t ragged or anything.
Josh And what, he has a daughter?
Josh So how’s he relevant?
Damien He’s not. He’s background. Texture.
Josh Right. Excellent. His clothes were not ragged. Continue.
Damien Not ragged, but awful. Ugly. The sort of clothes you don’t wear until you’ve stopped caring completely. Until you reach that point where you don’t check your reflection anymore. Where you see a person looking at you, and you don’t wonder what it is that person sees. I stared at him, at his clothes and his stomach, the dandruff, the broken veins and the nostril hair, and he didn’t even notice. Oblivious, single, growing old alone, waiting for a bus in the cold, past caring.
Josh That’s sort of sad.
Damien Yeah, it was. That’s exactly what it was.
Silence Josh And then...
Damien Yeah, and then.
Josh And then what?
Damien And then she came along, with a friend. They were talking. Arguing actually, about what matters most to men, looks or personality.
Josh It’s neither.
Damien Yeah, I don’t think they know that.
Josh They’re weird, girls. I remember this time I went out with one, we were going to a movie, and we stopped at one of those shopping mall, foodcourt, vomitorium things; every major international cuisine represented by a different food colouring. We chose sweet and sour red, tried not to break our complimentary plastic forks on the gristle, and that’s when I noticed. She had this awkwardness about her, sort of a social clumsiness I suppose, you know, it’s the little things isn’t it? The timing of a laugh, the volume of it, a little too much enthusiasm, a little too strong on the eye contact, and I remember the strange thing is, when it hit me, I didn’t think, oh my God, I find this really painful, I thought, oh my God, other people will find this painful, and they’ll associate it with me, and wonder what the hell I’m doing with her. So I just stood up. She looked me in the eye, she knew what was happening. She wanted to say something, plead her case, but her mouth was full and I took my chance. Turned and I ran. Fled the scene.... Anyway, the bus stop.
Damien Well they were talking, and I don’t know, I suppose they were like the exact opposite of the old man.
Josh Obsessed with their appearance, no nostril hair. There’s good and bad in that.
Damien They were still caring. Living. There was an energy about them. The way they talked, the way they laughed. You know how sometimes you catch a glimpse of a stranger living exactly the sort of life you want to be living? They were confident, they said clever things. They knew people were watching, and they didn’t care. There was, what? A vitality. The way she laughs, the way she can make words do whatever she wants them to do, her smell, just everything. I can’t get her out of my head. I sat behind her the whole trip, just taking it in, feeling sort of drunk. And then, just before she got off, I stole her cell phone.
Josh You stole her cell phone.
Damien It’s been ringing, on and off all day. I haven’t answered. Her name’s Jess.
Josh This was your best idea?
Damien I had to think quickly.
Josh You stole her phone?
Damien Out of her bag, when she wasn’t looking.
Josh And that’s it there?
Damien Nice isn’t it?
Josh You have a plan right? This isn’t your idea of a consolation prize, missed the girl, got the phone?
Damien No. That’s why I’m here. I’m thinking.
Damien You’ll mock me.
Josh I will.
Damien I’m going to text one of her friends, and get her address, so I can return the phone. Then I’m going to leave it on her doorstep... with flowers... and a note...telling her how she makes me feel.
Josh Telling her how she makes you feel.
Damien I thought.
Josh How does she make you feel Damien? Why don’t you run it past me? I’ll look away. Here look, I’ve found the phone, excellent, I thought I’d lost you, and the flowers, oh, you shouldn’t have, they’re lovely, they really are, and now I’m picking up the note, I open the paper up, slightly weirded out, but a little bit excited too, and it reads...
Damien ...Dear Jess. You don’t know me, but I sat behind you on the bus the other night, and as you were getting up, your cellphone fell to the floor, but I didn’t notice, until you’d already got off. I got your address off one of the friends you had listed in on your phone, and so here it is, plus flowers, because, this will sound strange, but you’re beautiful. I don’t normally do this, I never do this, you’d have to be nuts to do this right, but that’s how I felt, when I saw you, a little nuts, and I’d rather make a dick of myself now than spend the rest of my life regretting letting you slip by without ever knowing. So here’s my number, if you call it that’s cool, and if you don’t, well why would you? That’s cool too. No pressure, of course. I just wanted you to know what it feels like, to be sitting on a bus, and see a girl like you....Damien
Josh Yeah, that’ll work.
Damien You think?
Damien Why not?
Josh You sound like a freak. A desperate, internet-dating, little stalker. The only person you’re going to meet this way will be wearing a police uniform.
Damien It’s a romantic gesture.
Damien Girls like romantic gestures.
Josh No they don’t. They just think they do. It’s like McDonalds salads. People say they want healthy food, they like the concept of healthy food, but when they arrive at the counter, they buy the fries. The salad is left to wilt in the fridge.
Damien So what do you think I should do?
Josh Getting a girl is like buying a car. Confidence is your savings, self-respect your line of credit. Don’t blow either on first impressions, and never ever let the seller know you’re keen.
The phone rings again. Josh grabs it off Damien. Josh Hello.
Carrie emerges at the other end of the stage, talking on a landline. Jess is at her shoulder. Carrie Oh, hello. (Someone’s answered.) Who’s this?
Josh Damien. My name’s Damien.
The characters freeze. Projector up. CHAPTER TWO: IN WHICH THE GIRLS SET A TRAP.
Back to the action. Carrie Hello Damien. What are you doing with my phone?
Josh It’s mine now. I bought it, this morning, at a garage sale.
Carrie You bought a cellphone at a garage sale?
Josh Yeah, along with a couple of Reggae albums and some underwear.
Carrie You didn’t think it might be stolen?
Josh The guy who sold it to me said he found it on a bus, stuck under on a seat with chewing gum. He thought it was a bomb, at first. It’s not the sort of story you just make up. So you say it’s yours?
Carrie Yeah, I left it on a bus.
Josh Well you would say that now.
Carrie Why else would I be ringing this number?
Josh I don’t now. I just know I paid thirty dollars for this phone and as far as I’m concerned that makes it mine.
Carrie Okay, look, the phone’s not so important. The thing is it’s got all my contact numbers on it. There’s someone very important I met last night, and his number is saved on the phone.
Josh So if I give you the number we’ll call it quits?
Josh Fair enough. Nice talking to you. Goodbye Jess.
Carrie No, no don’t hang up. I’ll give you the thirty dollars you paid for it... plus another twenty...Come on, don’t be an arsehole. That’s fair....How did you know my name?
Carrie No, of course I didn’t... I just met...how’s this any of your business?
Josh It’s not. Just interested.
Carrie I’ll call the police. They can trace these you know.
Josh Only to the nearest transmitter, and they’ve got better things to do with their time.
Carrie Just... when am I going to get my phone back?
Josh What do you look like? Are you pretty?
Damien grabs the phone back. Damien Hello? Hello? Are you still there? Sorry about that. Ignore him. He’s lying. He didn’t buy the phone. I’ll bring it back. Where do you live?
Carrie Who are you?
Damien My name’s Damien....Oh fuck, she hung up. You’re an arsehole.
Josh Actually, if you calm down for a moment, I think you’ll find I helped you.
Damien She hung up!
Damien storms off. Josh follows. Josh Yeah, but you’ve got her curious now. The balance of power has shifted. She’ll call back.
Jess and Carrie are now left alone on stage. Jess is looking at her phone, stunned. Jess So? What was that all about?
Carrie I have no idea.
Jess But they’re giving my phone back right?
Carrie Since when did your phone become the issue?
Jess How many messages did I miss? Did they say?
Carrie I didn’t ask.
Jess You’re useless.
Carrie It’s your phone Jess. Why didn’t you ring?
Jess You’re better at this stuff than I am.
Carrie Yet useless.
Jess It’s not a contradiction. Oh I miss my phone.
Carrie So get a new one.
Jess It won’t be the same.
Carrie I’ve lost more than you have. Getting a new phone’s easy. Anybody can buy a phone. But how many people do you know who end up with a man they’re truly happy with?
Jess I’ve never been really happy with a phone. I’ve liked some, they’ve been good at first, but I’ve never had one that was so good I didn’t still find myself looking at other people’s phones, or sneaking a look at the ads, to see what’s on special. This is the best one I’ve had though. I liked the way it felt, in my hand. That’s what so sad about this.
Carrie It wasn’t just me. He was nice wasn’t he? You liked him too.
Jess I liked the ring tone it came with, which is unusual. It’s the first time I haven’t downloaded a new ring tone. You’ve said it yourself, how that suited me.
Carrie Smiles are important. I liked his smile.
Jess I think design is the key thing. It needs to be interesting, without trying too hard. Almost no one gets that right.
Carrie When he looks at you, he really looks at you, like you’re the only person in the room.
Jess You couldn’t fault it for stamina. When you needed it, it was ready, no questions asked, and it recharged quickly. I like that. I need that.
Carrie I think he liked me. I watched him with other people, and it wasn’t the same. Maybe I’m kidding myself, but...
Jess I don’t think they make them any more. I think the model’s been discontinued.
Carrie He said he was single, but he won’t stay that way for long.
Jess We have to get that phone back Carrie.
Carrie We do. We absolutely do.
Jess Okay, well look, we’re two intelligent, resourceful young women. We can do this right? Let’s just take a moment to pose the problem as clearly as possible.
Carrie We’ve lost the phone.
Jess My phone.
Carrie That’s not important.
Jess It might be. Every detail might be important. Now, where did we lose the phone?
Carrie You. You lost the phone. You left it on the bus.
Jess Ah, but did I?
Carrie Yes, yes you did. He said so.
Jess Who said so?
Carrie Damien. Well one of the Damien’s. The first Damien.
Jess There’s two Damiens?
Carrie There’s two Damiens.
Jess Alright, that confuses things. Keep going. What do we know about the Damiens?
Carrie Damien One claims to have bought the phone this morning at a garage sale, for $30.
Jess And we believe this?
Carrie No, we think it’s a lie.
Jess Yes, we do. What else do we know about Damien?
Carrie He was on the bus!
Jess If he’s lying... he was on the bus! Well done.
Carrie Okay, think, who was on that bus? Who sat near us on that bus?
Jess The old guy.
Carrie The old guy. I liked the old guy. He had a sense of style about him.
Jess He did.
Carrie I want to be like that, when I’m old.
Jess So do I. Did Damien sound old?
Jess Who else was on the bus?
Carrie No one I noticed. No one memorable.
Jess I definitely had it on the bus. I checked it was on. I hadn’t had any messages for over half an hour, so I checked it was on. And then, remember, I said goodbye, and you asked for the number, and that’s when... you should get a phone of your own. Then this wouldn’t happen.
Carrie You should get a man.
Jess I should. One thing at a time though. Let’s stay focussed on the phone.
Carrie Okay, what else do we know?
Jess What about the second Damien?
Carrie The second Damien came on the phone at the end, and promised to return it. He wanted to know where you live.
Jess But you didn’t tell him?
Carrie No, I didn’t. I hung up.
Jess Why did you hang up?
Carrie I was taken by surprise. The second Damien was a surprise.
Jess Okay, that’s reasonable. Disappointing, but reasonable. I’m not going to blame you for that.
Carrie So what now?
Jess We ring him back. We ring the second Damien back.
Carrie Yes, and we ask him to return the phone.
Jess That’s good, I think. But it seems too easy. What are we missing?
Carrie I don’t think we’re missing anything.
Jess What about Damien One? What if Damien One answers?
Carrie He was after money.
Jess I bet you he’s done this before. I bet he steals phones all the time.
Carrie We should teach him a lesson.
Jess Yes, let’s do that.
There is knocking on the outside door of the theatre. It is ignored. Carrie Let’s set a trap. If Damien Two answers we’ll set a trap.
Jess What sort of a trap?
Carrie What are our options?
Jess We’re women.
Carrie Yes, you’re right. We’ll set a womanly trap.
Lights down. A cellphone sounds an incoming text in the audience. Clare, sitting in the front row and saving a seat, answers it. She leaves the theatre. CHAPTER THREE: IN WHICH HOPES ARE RAISED, AND DASHED AGAIN.
Damien on stage, staring at the phone. It rings. He doesn’t answer. The ringing stops. Clare returns to the theatre, with Mike in tow. They take up their seats. Damien’s phone rings again. Damien Hello.
Carrie walks on to the other end of the stage. Jess is behind her, listening in. Carrie Hello. Who’s this?
Carrie One or two?
Carrie Last time I called, did I speak to you?
Damien I don’t know. Who are you?
Carrie My name is Carrie.
Damien No, I don’t think so.
Carrie And you say your name’s Damien?
Jess (What’s going on?)
Carrie (There’s another Damien.)
Carrie Sorry about that. Look, I won’t beat about the bush, I need my phone back.
Damien It’s Jess’ phone.
Carrie Alright. Jess’ phone. I want Jess’ phone back.
Carrie It has a very important number stored on it.
Damien I could just give you the number.
At this point Leon and Elizabeth, sitting at the back corner of the audience, become increasingly interested one another, cutesy playful stuff at first, and culminating in a bout of kissing later in the scene. Carrie Then you’d still have Jess’ phone.
Damien You’re Jess aren’t you? You’re just pretending, so you don’t hurt my feelings.
Carrie How would me being Jess hurt your feelings?
Damien Who is he? Who’s this man you’re so desperate to see again?
Carrie Um, just someone I met.
Damien So what’s he like?
Carrie Why does it matter?
Damien Tell me about him. If you want the phone back, you have to tell me about him.
Jess (What’s happening?)
Carrie Wait a sec. (He wants me to tell him all about Simon. He wants me to tell him why I’m attracted to him. Then he’ll give the phone back.)
Jess (It can’t be...Oh my God. I see what’s happening. Tell him you’ll ring him back. We need to talk. Tell him!)
Carrie Ah, can you hold on a sec? Don’t go away. I’m going to hang up now, but I’ll ring you back in five minutes. You have to promise you’ll answer though. Do you promise?
Damien You promise you’ll ring back?
Carrie Sure, promise.
Damien Okay, I promise too.
Carrie Talk to you soon.
Damien I’ll be waiting.
Both hang up. At this point Mike notices Leon and Elizabeth kissing and lets out a quiet ‘what the...?’ Mike and Leon disengage and there is an ‘oh God, snapped’ moment. The actors ignore this. At the boys’ end, Josh enters. Josh Let it go man. She isn’t going ring you.
Damien She just did.
Josh Told you she would.
Damien She’s ringing back, in five minutes.
Josh What did you do? You haven’t done anything stupid have you? You didn’t tell her how you feel?
Damien No, I just asked her about Simon. I told her she has to tell me why she likes Simon so much, if she wants the phone back.
Josh And what did she say?
Damien She hung up. But she’s calling me back.
Josh No she’s not.
To the girls. Carrie So what? What’s happening?
Jess I think it’s him. It’s Simon.
Jess Now that I think about it, I’m not at all sure I did have the phone on the bus. But I definitely had it at the party. He was there, right, when I saved in his number, and he saw me put it back in my bag, and what say, when we weren’t looking, he stole it.
Carrie Why would he do that? He’d just given us his number. You think he regretted it? You think he was trying to get the number back? It’s possible isn’t it? How was I? Did I make an absolute fool of myself? Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you stop me?
Jess No, think about this. If he was trying to stop you contacting him, he wouldn’t have answered the phone would he, when I called?
Carrie So what are you saying?
Jess He stole it as a way of making sure he could talk to us again. God, how romantic is that?
Carrie It doesn’t sound like him.
Jess Of course it does. Are you sure?
Carrie Well no, not sure.
Jess It explains all the different Damiens. They’re all him. And now he knows how desperate you are to talk to him again. Because you told him. And he’s asking why you’re so desperate. This is just like a movie. You’ll end up marrying him. Something that starts this well, it’s got to mean something right? Imagine the stories you’ll be able to tell your children.
Carrie What should I do?
Jess Don’t let on you know. Ring back. Tell him exactly how you feel.
Carrie You don’t think I should play a little hard to get?
Jess No, definitely not. Men are frightened by a challenge.
Carrie goes to redial, then remembers something. Carrie Oh.
Carrie There’s just one little problem, with your theory.
Jess And that is?
Carrie He thinks I’m you. That’s what he said.
Jess What? No, you must have misheard him.
Carrie He definitely did. And the other time he called me Jess as well. He thinks I’m you. He was just using me, getting to know the friend to get to the one he wants. This always happens. This is why I shouldn’t be your friend.
Jess I didn’t do anything. You were there. You saw.
Carrie Oh no, you didn’t do anything. You never do anything. You don’t have to do anything.
Jess Carrie, no, don’t let this happen. Don’t let this come between us. Tell me what I can do. Tell me how I can make it up to you.
Carrie You have to ring him. You have to ring, explain who you are, tell him you know he stole the phone, and that you’re not interested, but I am. Will you do that for me?
Jess Of course I’ll do that for you.
Carrie Right now?
Back to the boys. Meanwhile Leon and Elizabeth are holding a whispered conference, and Mike is becoming increasingly agitated. Josh So, still think she’s going to call back?
Josh It’s been, ah, more than five minutes.
Damien Five minutes is a figure of speech. It means ‘shortly.’
Josh It’s been ten.
Damien Five minutes can mean ten minutes.
Josh Welcome to Damien world. You should start a theme park.
Damien What should I do, if she doesn’t call back?
Josh You can’t teach instinct. You shouldn’t have answered when I wasn’t there. That was your biggest mistake. Look, I tell you what I’ll do, as a friend. If it rings again, I’ll pretend to be you. I’ll answer it.
Damien Nah, forget it.
Josh Why not?
Damien I don’t need your help.
Josh You do.
Damien Okay, but I don’t want to need your help. I want to do something for myself.
Josh But you also want the girl.
Damien Why can’t I have both?
Josh Don’t make me answer that.
Damien But what if you stuff up?
Josh I won’t stuff up. I’ll set you up with a date. That’s my guarantee to you. You let me answer and I’ll get you a date with Jess.
Damien If it rings.
Josh If it rings.
CHAPTER FOUR: IN WHICH THE PHONE RINGS, AND A DATE IS ORGANISED.
During the lights down between scenes all hell breaks loose in the audience. Mike You little fucken slut.
Mike You think sorry’s enough do you?
Elizabeth It’s not my fault.
Mike How’s it not your fault?
Elizabeth I don’t know you were going to be here.
Mike Swap places. Get your arse down here. Clare, you go up there. Sorry about this everyone.
Leon She doesn’t have to swap.
Mike You’re holding a show up. Just move.
Clare’s phone rings. Clare Hello? Hi. Look, I can’t talk. No, I’m in play. No, in the audience. I’m watching. Yes, by myself. I forgot to turn it off didn’t I? It’s between scenes. No, I can’t. I’ll call you later. Yes, as soon as it’s over.
The swapping of seats clumsily takes place. Leon and Clare are now sitting together on the far side, Mike and Elizabeth are uncomfortably close at the front. Lights up. The actors appear visibly off their rhythm, but soldier on. The two boys at one end, the two girls at the other. Jess picks up her phone and dials. The cellphone begins to ring. Josh waits, one ring, two, three, then answers. Josh Hello.
Jess Hello. Who’s this?
Jess Haven’t we spoken before?
Josh I don’t know. Who are you?
Jess Jess. I feel like I recognise your voice. I feel like we’ve met before.
Josh We haven’t. I’ve seen you, I’ll admit that much, but we haven’t met. Not yet.
Jess Look ‘Damien’, I know what’s happening. I know you’re not who you say you are.
Josh I don’t know what you mean.
Jess I know you stole the phone.
Josh No, not me. I didn’t steal it. Damien stole it.
Jess Okay okay, the mechanics aren’t important. The thing is you’ve got it, and I think I know why you’ve got, and I think you know I know, and it’s very sweet, I am flattered that that’s how you feel about me, but look, it isn’t necessary, all this playing of games. We were going to get in touch with you.
Josh Me, as in Damien me?
Jess Can I just call you Simon? Would that be easier?
Josh Yeah, okay, if you want.
Jess (It’s him!) Right, Simon, the thing is, I don’t know if you noticed, but my friend, Carrie, she was more taken with you than I was. That just happens sometimes, it’s a chemistry thing. And with girls, well chemistry matters, but you, boys I mean, are more flexible creatures aren’t you? So, well, would you be prepared to give Carrie a chance?
Josh Wait a sec. (What did Jess’ friend look like?)
Damien (Um, nice. No, lovely. Yeah, she seemed lovely. I didn’t notice, as much, but yeah, lovely I think.)
Josh Yeah, you there? Look, it’s all a bit strange. But okay, can’t hurt just to meet right? Not me and you. Me and Carrie.
Jess You and Carrie?
Josh Yeah, me and Carrie.
At this point Leon texts Elizabeth a message, which she reads. Jess Okay. Well look, she’s got your number, so she’s going to text you, give you a time and a place. Is that alright?
Jess Thanks Simon. You won’t regret it. She’s wonderful. She really is. Bye.
Both hang up. Damien So what happened?
Josh Okay, the way I see it, that either went really, really well, or really, really badly.
Damien Depending on what?
Josh Oh, a number of things.
Mike grabs Elizabeth and forces her to kiss him. Josh is put off his game. Josh Addressing Mike and Elizabeth. Excuse me! Yes, excuse me. Do you mind?
They disentangle Mike Sorry.
Josh There’s a play on. People paid to watch.
Mike I know.
Josh That’s the third time you’ve interrupted.
Mike I said I was sorry. Anyway, it’s her fault.
Josh So you’re punishing her with a kiss.
Jess Can we just leave this please, and get back to the play? You shouldn’t have done this.
Josh So this is my fault?
Jess Of course not.
Jess But we should just keep going.
Carrie I think it’s his fault.
Carrie Presumably you knew these two were going out?
Carrie So you’re the slut.
Leon She seduced me.
Carrie You poor thing.
Leon Don’t you have a play to put on? I paid for this shit.
Clare Let’s just leave this until the show is over. Leon, give me your phone.
Clare Give me your phone.
Ginny hands it over. There is silence. The lights go down, come back up. Nothing happens. Josh Sorry, forgot where we were.
Damien End of the phone call.
Josh Can we go back a bit? Just to when you hang up.
Jess Sure. Ready? I’ll do ‘okay, well look she’s got your number...’ Okay.
Josh Yeah, thanks. Sorry everyone.
Lights go down. Back up. Jess Okay. Well look, she’s got your number, so she’s going to text you, give you a time and a place. Is that alright?
Jess Thanks Simon. You won’t regret it. She’s wonderful. She really is. Bye.
Both hang up. Damien So what happened?
Josh Okay, the way I see it, that either went really really well, or really really badly.
Damien Depnding on what?
Josh Oh, a number of things.
Damien What things? You better not have screwed up. You promised me a date. You guaranteed it.
Josh And you’ve got it. It’s on. Sorted.
Damien So what’s the problem?
Josh They saw you on the bus. They noticed you.
Josh And they know you took the phone, and they know why.
Damien What? How did they...Did you tell them...?
Josh You were listening. I didn’t tell them anything.
Damien They just worked it out?
Josh They just worked it out.
Josh It’s impressive. How obvious were you?
Damien More than I realised, apparently. You think they always do that? You think they can always tell what we’re thinking?
Damien And still they talk to us. So when’s this date then?
Josh Well, first we need to keep this in its proper perspective. You know how sometimes, before a test match, a key player gets injured, and everyone gets all down and says ‘we’ll never win now’, but then the replacement, comes on and plays the game of his life, and it turns out he should have started all along? So sometimes it takes an accident, to get the best result for everybody.
Damien This isn’t a game of rugby.
Josh No, but you get the idea?
Damien Yeah, I get the idea.
Josh Good. Good.
Damien So, what is it?
Damien The complication. The other thing you have to tell me.
Josh That was it really. Jess doesn’t like you much but Carrie does, so it’s sweet.
Damien What do you mean she doesn’t like me?
Josh She just doesn’t.
Damien Why not?
Damien I haven’t even talked to her.
Josh But still you fell in love with her. And all the little chemicals that bounced around in your brain when you saw her, in her brain, they stayed sleeping. But in Carrie’s brain, nice name Carrie, don’t you think? in Carrie’s brain, same chemicals, same little dance of infatuation, you’re in man.
Damien I love Jess.
Josh No you don’t. You said it yourself. You said it was the conversation that captivated you, and it takes two to have a conversation. Carrie must be just the same. You told me she looked good.
Damien Jess doesn’t like me?
Josh She didn’t say she didn’t like you. She just doesn’t want you.
Damien She’s right you know. I wouldn’t want me either. Why would anyone want me?
Josh Carrie wants you.
Damien Exactly. There must be something wrong with her.
Josh You’re just being fucken unreasonable now. What has happened here is a good thing. You have seen two attractive young women on a bus, who you have absolutely no right to expect to give you so much as the time of day, and one of them, in some sort of hormonal miracle, has noticed you, and thinks you’re alright, and despite knowing that you, desperate little bastard that you are, stole her friend’s cellphone, she has agreed to go on a date with you. But instead of celebrating this unlikely outcome, you choose to bemoan the fact that the other one doesn’t want you too. When exactly did this happen to our species? When exactly did we begin believing we could have anything we wanted, and so sentence ourselves to a lifetime’s dissatisfaction? Listen to this, because it’s the best piece of advice I’m ever going to give you. In this world, if you find you can’t get exactly what you want, exactly when you want it, try her friend.
Lights down. CHAPTER FIVE: IN WHICH DAMIEN MAKES A BIG DECISION.
Mike Well that was worth being quiet for wasn’t it?
Leon You are such a pig.
Mike What did you call me?
Leon You heard.
Mike To Elizabeth What’s so funny?
Elizabeth I’ve never had boys fight over me before. It’s quite exciting..
Mike I’m not fighting over you. I just don’t like him.
Josh storms on. The lights are still down. Josh That’s it. Get out.
Josh Yes you.
Mike I’m the victim here.
Josh You said you wouldn’t talk.
Mike It’s between scenes. The lights are down.
Josh Get out.
Mike I’ll be quiet. I won’t destroy your precious little ending.
Josh What’s that supposed to mean?
Mike Nothing. I’m sorry. Just get on with it.
Josh Have you got a problem with the show now?
Mike No, there’s no problem. Sorry.
Elizabeth Let him stay. It’s not worth the grief, when you piss her off.
Mike Bit late for you to have realised that, darling.
Josh hesitates, uncertain. Josh Okay, but another word...
Josh From any of you.
Silence. Lights up. Carrie alone on stage. Checking her watch. Damien enters, nervously. Damien Hi.
Damien No, I know. I thought you wanted me to pretend.
Carrie So where’s Simon?
Damien I don’t know who Simon is.
Carrie Simon who I met last night. He stole my phone.
Damien Jess’s phone.
Carrie Yeah, okay, Jess’s phone.
Damien He didn’t steal it.
Carrie He told Jess he did.
Damien That wasn’t Simon, that was Josh.
Carrie Josh stole the phone?
Damien No, I did. I stole the phone on the bus.
Damien I just, I mean, I saw, and I just felt, it wasn’t planned, it doesn’t make sense, but I was attracted to....
Elizabeth, forgetting Clare has Leon’s phone, sends through a text message. It beeps. Clare Sorry.
Leon Why didn’t you turn it off?
Clare I am now.
Mike No, pass it here. I want to see what she said.
Damien gets up and leaves the stage. Carrie remains sitting. Leon Now look what you’ve done.
Mike This is part of the play. He didn’t know what to say so he left.
Elizabeth I don’t think it is.
Mike Just shut up and wait. You’ll see.
They wait, the audience for the action to start, Carrie for Damien to come back on. He doesn’t. After a minute of waiting Carrie loses her nerve and leaves the stage. The lights come up. Leon Shot Mike.
Mike Fuck you.
Elizabeth gets up and wanders on to the stage, looking for the exit to the backstage area. Mike stands. They are now both on stage. Mike What are you doing? No, don’t tell me. You find one of them quite attractive and you thought you’d pop out the back and get a phone number, you know, while there’s nothing else happening.
Stage lights back on. The two ‘players’ are now lit up. Elizabeth I’m going to apologise. It’s not fair on everyone else. They shouldn’t have to miss out on the ending.
Mike How very noble of you.
Elizabeth Not really, I want to see how it ends up too.
Mike Don’t you think you’ve better things to be worrying about, you know, in the real world?
Elizabeth That’s why I come to the theatre, to forget about the real world.
Mike That’s not what it looked like earlier sweetheart.
Leon Just let her go and apologise, so we can see the ending.
Mike I think that was the ending.
Leon Really? I thought there should be something more.
Mike Like what?
Leon I don’t know. Doesn’t the boy the girl in the end, usually?
Mike Which one?
Mike There’s three Damiens.
Leon No, one of them’s Simon.
Mike Really? I didn’t really get that.
Elizabeth As if just realising. You’re both stupid.
Mike How are we stupid?
Elizabeth Of course that wasn’t the ending.
Mike So what happens?
Elizabeth It’s obvious. Here, I’ll show you.
Elizabeth sits on the bench, and takes on both characters. So, Simon doesn’t have the phone?
No, I do.
But I wanted Simon. I’m in love with Simon.
And I wanted Jess. I’m in love with Jess.
Oh, this is so terrible.
Comfort me Damien.
Comfort me Carrie.
(At this point the phone rings.)
Hello. It’s Simon, what should I do?
Tell him to go away Damien. Tell him I’m not interested.
(At this point Jess, who has been hiding in the bushes, rushes out.)
No, wait, don’t hang up. I’ll have Simon.
Sorry, too late.
Oh poor Jess, whatever will you do?
(At this point Josh, who has also been hiding in the bushes, rushes out, and they all live happily ever fucken after.)
Leon leaves his seat and walks onto the stage. Leon That was excellent.
Elizabeth Thank you.
Mike Piss off before I hit you.
Leon She’s right, you are an animal.
Mike You said that?
Elizabeth He’s paraphrasing.
Mike Well thank you very much. And when exactly were you going to tell me this is how you felt? Before or after our holiday?
Elizabeth After, I thought, would be best, probably.
Mike You know what, you’re welcome to him.
Mike looks as if he’s about to cry. Elizabeth No, I’m sorry. Look, it’s me. It’s my fault. It’s not you. You’re not an animal at all. You’re lovely. Everything I ever said to you, I meant it all. I’m just not right for you. I’m not good enough for you. Look, I’m disloyal. See. So what are you missing? You’ve won really. You’re free to find someone better. Someone you deserve. You’re too good for me. That’s it. I can’t be with a person I properly respect. It doesn’t work.
Elizabeth Okay, I could have put that better.
Clare stands. Clare Can we leave this til later? Get off the stage, I want to see the last chapter?
Leon And the epilogue.
Leon Five chapters and an epilogue. That’s what it said.
They consider this, and appear to about to move, when Clare’s cellphone goes. She answers. All eyes on her, spotlit. Clare Hello....No, it isn’t over yet....yeah, well it’s going on a bit longer than expected...Trust me, it’d take too long to explain....No, well can you just pick me up like...we can talk then....Why not?....No, Richard...Richard, don’t. Don’t do this...not here. Please Richard, I’m going to hang up...Don’t tell me............Richard there’s people here. They’re all watching.........Why?..............Who is she?..... When?......You’re there now?.....Richard, no don’t go, I want to tell you how I......
Richard obviously has hung up. Clare tries to muster as much dignity as the situation will allow and begins to walk out of the theatre. She starts crying . Elizabeth moves to comfort her. Mike sits down on stage, a broken man. Jess wanders out on to the stage to see what’s going on. Jess What happened?
Leon Love mostly. Hey, um, could we see the ending now? It might cheer them up a bit.
Jess We can’t now.
Leon Why not?
Jess Well Josh has stormed off home, and anyway, her ending was pretty much bang on. Ours was funnier, like it took longer, there were jokes. A couple of good ones actually. I have my favourite line, right at the end of the scene.
Leon What is it?
Jess I say, ‘like a baby elephant in a supermarket.’
Leon Okay. That could be funny, I suppose.
Jess Obviously it’s stronger with a context.
Jess God, they are upset aren’t they?
Leon It’s very sad.
Jess There’s the epilogue. It’s a sort of uplifting speech I do at the end. I could do that maybe. What do you think?
Leon Well yes, I’d certainly like to see some more of you.
Jess Thank you. Okay, we’ll do that.
Lights down. EPILOGUE: A LOVE STORY
Lights back up. Jess stands behind the bench, spotlit. The three mourners sit on the bench, Clare in the middle. Both Jess and Clare speak in time, their stories interweaving. Jess Don’t believe what you they tell you, you know, about happiness. Fate rolls around in circles you see;just as surely as you’re down one moment, you’ve lost your phone, your friendships are satisfying, but not inspiring, one day rolls into the next with not much to distinguish between them save the weather, and that special someone, he hasn’t even appeared over the horizon, well, you’ll be up the next. I know, that sounds trite ands predictable and what the hell am I making such a fuss about, so life has its ups and downs, big deal, but wait until it happens to you. Then you’ll see what I mean. Then you’ll see exactly what I mean. Then you’ll see exactly how wonderful it can be.
Do I believe in love? I suppose I do. I suppose I’m a romantic at heart. Oh, I know what they say, it’s just some chemical reaction, it can’t really last, but sometimes it does you know. And surely those sometimes are worth believing in.
And when it happens, when he’s there, looking into your eyes, and that expression on his face tells you that he’s thinking and feeling all the same things you are, that he’s holding his breath without knowing why, that all the silly little circumstances and misunderstandings that have brought you to this impossible place are making him tingle too, with the impossibility of it all, that’s when you know it’s all for real. How can a feeling like that be anything but real? What sort of a cold-hearted cynic would you have to be not admit a place for that sort of joy in the world?
And you want to remember moments like that. You want to cling to them. Because as good as it all feels, you understand in your heart, that it’s only just beginning.
Clare Don’t believe what you they tell you, you know, about happiness. Fate rolls around in circles you see;just as surely as you’re on top one moment, you’ve found your niche, your friendships are satisfying, life feels inspiring, one day rolls into the next like they’re pleased to see each other, and that special someone, he’s finally made himself known, well, you’ll be crushed the next. I know, that sounds trite and predictable and what the hell am I making such a fuss about, so life has its ups and downs, big deal, but wait until it happens to you. Then you’ll see what I mean. Then you’ll see exactly what I mean. Then you’ll see exactly how bullshit it all can be.
Do I believe in love? Of course I don’t. What sort of romantic retard would I have to be? It’s just some chemical reaction, hitching a ride on the desperate lack of security we call loneliness.
And when it happens, when he’s there, looking into your eyes, and that expression on his face tells you that he’s thinking and feeling all the same things you are, that he’s holding his breath without knowing why, that all the silly little circumstances and misunderstandings that have brought you to this impossible place are making him tingle too, with the impossibility of it all, that’s when you know it’s already dying.
It’s like with fireworks, the bigger the bang the briefer the show. What sort of a soft-headed believer would you have to be not to understand we’re all just the victims of nature’s reproductive imperative?
And you want to remember moments like that. You want to cling to them. Because as good as it all feels, you understand in your heart, that it’s already finished.