This was a typical Saturday for me in highschool...
“I can see from my mind’s eye, I’m making scenarios in my head, I can see from my mind’s eye the things I did, they were fucked up and I wish I were dead.”
-Mind’s Eye, Goldfinger
“Mental toughness through physical pain.”
(The curtain rises on a basement with a computer, a television, a weight bench, and other random pieces of furniture that have no seeming logic or pattern. Enter TOM, a 18-year-old boy soon to be entering his senior year of high school. He enters with his pajamas on, reading the sports page. As he enters, he gets a nasty paper cut. The basement has cracked walls from water damage and the roughhousing of youth. It is lit by persistent, annoying flourescent lights. A voice, his mother, calls from upstairs.)
Don’t forget to make sure that everything is in order for school tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s the first day, mom, I won’t forget. (TOM shakes his head and paces around. He picks up a football and takes a three-step drop. He starts looking around for a receiver. He tosses it up, runs under it and catches it.) Touchdown! The Dolphins win, the Dolphins win. (TOM drops the ball and resumes pacing. Pause.) Yeah well, we’ve got a very young cross-country team this year. You know, with only me and Daly having any varsity experience we need those JV guys from last year to step up. . . . Definitely, the potential is there, we’ve all just got to step up. There is a big freshman class joining up this year and those guys look pretty good, could certainly help out the team . . . I’m really looking forward to our first race, Scotch Plains, a top twenty teams in the state, that’ll be a good measuring stick to see just how much work we really need to do . . . If some of those guys can drop their times, get them around 18 flat and me and Daly get down to the mid-17's then it’s right there for us . . . The possibilities are endless. A county title maybe, a sectional title maybe, who knows? ... I’m just hopping we have a fun season, everything else will follow. That’s really what cross-country is all about, chilling with the team and having fun. Yeah.
(Pause. TOM picks up a pillow and gives it a big hug.)
Tom sweetie, I’m going to have to go out to the curling club for my game tonight in about ten minuets, so if you need anything from me for school tomorrow ask now or forever hold your peace.
I’m good mom, don’t worry, I’m going to be a senior, I can drive, I’ll figure everything out.
(Whimper.) My little baby is all grown up.
Right mom. (TOM shakes his head and paces some more, then in a whisper.) Hey, it’s Wagner, he is the funniest kid. (Back in his normal voice.) Come on, don’t say that. We all know it’s true so you don’t have to say it. (Whisper.) Remember when Wagner mooned the girls’ team? Dude, that was crazy. (Normal voice.) The girls looked like they could use some joy in their lives and, I mean c’mon, what brings girls more joy than my ass, right? I was surprised by how little response I got from the girls for my lovely ass. None of them have even talked to me since them, still nothing. (Whisper.) They’re just in awe of your ass. (Normal voice.) Yeah right, in awe of my hairy, pimply ass. (Whisper.) I’m personally in awe of your ass. (Normal voice.) Thanks, jackass. (Pause.) Not a damn word. Never a single word. (Pause.) Do you know what I hate? I hate when you walk into the cafeteria and everyone is exactly the same. I wonder why people have faces, it seems to me one big stamp would be more efficient for God considering they all have the same personality. How many times have I sat in a class, heard someone say something horrible simplistic about something and have about 500 people scramble over themselves to verbally agree just because they know it’s right. It’s the same way society works. It’s safe. Someone sets a safe standard, and everyone follows it. It’s disgusting and simple. Everyone is weak. Everyone is the same. There’s no thought, there’s no discussion, there are only intellectual, spiritual, and physical lemmings. And it’s not right, and it’s not supposed to be that way. Where is the tolerance? Where is the bravery? Where did our self-reliance go? Who has the guts to leave themselves exposed? You have preps, jocks, geeks, punks, slackers, pot heads. You have bullshit. You have nothing but the same. They’re all the same, too afraid to think for themselves, to have a personality other than the one prescribed to them by others. (Pause.) Greg Graffin, “The Punk Manifesto,” you can either be a slave to the limbic system of the brain and be afraid of the social repercussions of failure and speaking out, or overcome it. Right now you might as well call the limbic system, the “Colonel Sanders” of the mind. (Pause. Whisper.) Damn straight Wagner, right on. (Normal voice.) Yeah, damn straight. (TOM takes the pillow and hugs it again. While stroking the pillow.) Shh... shh... shh... (TOM throws the pillow across the room. TOM looks at it. He picks it up like a groom carrying his bride across the threshold.) You’re so beautiful tonight. The way the moon reflects in your eyes, it’s like they’re search beams for my heart. They’re so piercing, it’s like they can see right through to my soul. (A slight pause. TOM speaks in a slight falsetto as the pillow.) Ohhh. That’s so sweet. (Pause. TOM smiles at what the pillow has said back. Still as the pillow.) You’re always so sweet, that’s why you’re my guy. (Back as self.) God, I’m so lucky to have you. You’re too good for me. (Back as pillow.) Yeah, I know. (TOM laughs.) Seriously, you’re funny, smart, and kind. You’re good enough for any girl in the world. (Back as self.) Thanks. (Pause.) I know you’re lying, but thanks. (Back as pillow.) Me? Lie to you? Never. (Back as self.) Yeah, right. (TOM leans in close to the pillow and gives it a big kiss. TOM wretches at the taste.) Why does it always taste so awful? (TOM walks over to a chair and places the pillow gently down into it. TOM gives it a satisfactory nod.) I’ve got the prom this year. The prom. It’s really short for promenade. (Imitating Julia Child.) The promenade. It, like everything else French, save Camus, will suck. There is no way in hell I’m going to (Julia Child voice.) the promenade. Tuxedos and sequins, stink. I hate evening gowns on girls, it’s like they’re designed to make girls not look hot. And by hot, I mean slutty. Even the dirtiest whore looks respectable in an evening gown. It’s disgusting. Everyone gets all dressed up and plays nice in the sandbox. Everyone is so happy to see one another. And everyone is so excited about graduating. And everyone hugs and shakes hands. And everyone forms their little groups and their little thoughts based around their little minds. And I get marginilized again. Screw that, I don’t need that. I don’t need to waste fifty bucks on a ticket plus tux rental to go and get secluded. I can stay at home and feel sorry for myself for free. Let’s just examine the obstacles in the way of my attendance at (Julia Child voice.) the promenade. First, I’ll have to drive myself because you know nobody is going to want me in their limo. So after entering (Julia Child voice.) the promenade as the only tool who drove himself, I would get to see everyone taking their (Julia Child voice.) promenade pictures. Aw how precious, the last picture of them before they go on a fucking weekend long drinking bender. All the pictures will be full of painted on smiles, like they came out of a wax museum. After about two seconds of the picture line, I’ll vomit and move on to the dance floor, or as I like to call it, the area designated for dry humping. It amazes me that five minutes on the dance floor undoes a hundred of the women’s liberation movement. They get out there and grind like strippers working for greasy dollar bills. They might as well start giving handies on the dance floor, or maybe a nice little bukkake scene in the middle of it. Disgusting and vile, those are the actions of today’s kids. They think they’re old enough to handle anything. Half of them can’t handle making their own dinner, which brings us to seating arrangements at (Julia Child voice.) the promenade. You get assigned a table to sit at, which just always creates so much hilarity. Generally, all the tables get along nicely with small talk and shit, but not my table, no. You see, I have this superpower, I can suppress any conversation with my mere presence. I call myself (In a booming voice.) the Silencer. More awkward than a lefty trying to use a manual can opener, more uncomfortable to have around than road kill. Yes, the Silencer, boldly making all the popular kids shut up about their phony lives with his mal-adjustedness and fights for the American way. I’m a goddamn superhero, the Silencer. Or a barrel attachment to a gun. (Slight pause.) Yeah or a barrel attachment to a gun, whatever. The point is that whatever sorry ass table gets assigned to me will descend into a moody silence and I get to feel worthless. I’m not wasting what I’m sure will be a fine Friday night of televison just to go to (Julia Child voice.) the promenade. (TOM has a hurt, sullen look on his face. He is working himself up to a tirade. Anger begins to creep into his face.) You do realize that you’re not better than us, right, Charlie? That we’re all equal and that all of our opinions are equal, right, Charlie? I’ve had enough of your heavy-handed, intellectual superior bullshit. (Changes speech to speaking as Charlie. His voice should deepen and give a sense of arrogance.) I’m so not like that. I give everyone their chance, I give everyone their say. I’m very fair. (Back as self.) You can’t admit to being an asshole same as you can’t admit to ever being wrong. (As Charlie.) I’m not always right. I can admit fallacy. (As self.) Like all those times you have interrupted people who disagreed with you and flat out told them they were idiots? That was really just passing the torch, right? Maybe you should listen to other people and what they have to say. Maybe you should take notice of others’ feelings. Why don’t you grow up? (As Charlie.) You know what? I don’t have to take this from you. It’s laughable, you telling me to grow up. You, the kid that sits in the corner of class and says nothing want me to grow up. (Lets go of a derisive laugh.) You, Tom Wagner, he who is quiet that everyone jokes about how you’re going to shoot up the school, want me to grow up. (As self.) Yeah, Charlie, I do want you to grow up. This has nothing to do with me and everything to do with what an asshole you are. People like you are a cancer in our school, Charlie. You show nobody but yourself respect and you walk over whomever you can for your own benefit. You have no sense of community, no belief in helping the common man. How can other people struggle to help? How can other people sacrifice for the benefit of all if you’re just going to fuck it all up with your selfishness? (As Charlie.) I’m selfish? I’m selfish? You’re always so sullen, you’re always looking for everyone to show you pity. You’re as selfish as any of us with your bruised, injured soul bullshit. (As self, right up in Charlie’s face.) I’m as selfish as you? The king tyrant of English class. I’m as selfish as you? The kid who throws pens at people for disagreeing with him. I’m as selfish as you? The- (TOM acts as if he’s been smacked violently by Charlie.) Right, that’s it, bully me to back down, Charlie. (Gets smacked again.) I’m not going to back down, Charlie. I’m not going to let you win, to let you dominate me with your overbearing attitude. (Gets smacked again. When getting back into Charlie’s face, TOM spits to the side.) Ha, ha, you can’t do it Charlie. You can’t beat me. (Gets smacked and ends up sprawled out on the floor. Pause. Laughing.) Dude, it would be so awesome to stand up to that kid. He’s such a prick, God I hate him. (Pause.) Oh well, you have to let people live their lives however they see fit, even if they are assholes, what right do I have to change him? (Pause.)
Um... sweetie? Who are you talking to?
Nobody, mom. That’s just the TV. Forget about it.
Ok, darling. I’m going to have to go out now. You know the rules. Make sure to eat something for lunch.
Don’t worry mom, bye. (Resumes his pacing. His ears perk up. He hears something that the rest of us can’t. He sits down on the weight bench and softly places his arm around an invisible someone.) Julie, what’s wrong? (The arm gets violently shoved off by Julie. TOM begins to rub Julie’s back.) Hey, Julie, hey. It’s ok. If you want to talk about anything, just come and find me, ok? (Sits there, rubbing Julie’s back for a few moments. Then, speaking as Julie.) It’s just that Andrew broke up with me, and I’m so ugly, and nobody really loves me. (TOM’ hand stops, he brings it to her chin and softly guides her big, brown eyes into his. As self.) That is such a lie. You’re such a pretty girl. (As he fingers her lips.) You have soft, silky lips, big, beautiful, eyes and the brightest, happiest, freest, smile I’ve ever seen. Julie, please don’t cry, because there is nothing more saddening in the world than a pretty girl crying and the world has enough sadness in it. (A long pause as TOM resumes rubbing Julie’s back. Suddenly Julie gives him a big hug.) Shh... shh... come on... let it all out Julie. Just keep crying until it stops hurting.
(This goes on for a few moments, then Julie is gone. TOM is suddenly weary. His breath is shortening. He starts kneading his thighs and knees anxiously. As he speaks his voice should be on the verge of cracking into tears.) This year’s team might surprise people. I think their recruits might make some waves. Ricky Shields sounds like he can be a real good small forward and I’ve heard that Jerome Coleman can shoot the lights out. I would have to say that the team could easily go five hundred this year. I figure about 5-6 wins in league and maybe 16 overall will be a solid season, considering all the turmoil of last year. Coach Waters is an old time coach, he preaches character, hard work, love, and a family atmosphere to the kids. That’s the way to do it. That’s the way to build a basketball program. I respect the man so much for all of his power and strength. That man is going to will the team to where it deserves to be. The future is bright. The future is so God fucking bright. (TOM stands up, tears clouding his vision. He paces at a feverish speed. He may even jump a little and throw some punches in the air. He is muttering to himself. Then, suddenly.) Why are you so fucking weak? Huh? Why are you so fucking useless? You could disappear today and no one would care. When you show up at school tomorrow, is anybody going to be happy to see you, is anybody going to even recognize your existence? No, because you’re worthless. (Slight pause. Trying to control himself from breaking down.) Look, ok, I know I have my problems, ok. I know I may be aloof and reserved, but I’m not worthless, ok. I’m not worthless. (TOM catches sight of himself in a mirror that has been on the ground. He walks over to it, picks it up, looks into it.) It might as well be blank, you know that. It might as well be blank. (Puts mirror down.) I might as well be blank. I might as well be fucking blank. I am fucking worthless. Oh wait, I have worth. Remember what Julie would call me last year? The silent killer. They joke about you shooting up the school. They’re fucking scared of you. They’re so fucking scared of you. Nobody will ever talk to you because you scare them. Holly, with her sweet smile, you’ll never have her. You’ll never have anyone. Nobody cares about you, nobody will ever give a shit about you. And it’s your own damn fault. Nobody keeps you cemented here but you. The reason you never left the house this summer is that you never asked to, you never tried. You stagnate down here under these fucking flourescent lights dreaming up a world to live in. You dream all the time. It’s bullshit, it’s bullshit. If you were to move away today, just disappear, who would notice, who would care? Have you affected anyone in eighteen years of living? How many people do you think even know your name? You’re pathetic, everyone else can see it. Everyone else knows what a failure you are. You’re the kid in the back of the room, the kid alone at the table that will never have anyone. Never. You’re destined to forever be invisible. (Quick shift.) Why am I so useless? Why can’t I do it? Why can’t I ever get out of this shadow, fucking find somebody? Why do I get so nervous when I pass Sarah in the hallway and worry that she’ll say hi to me? Why does it feel so bad when she doesn’t? What does she think of me? Why can’t I fucking be useful? Why does it always have to be ‘can’t’? (Slight pause.) You can’t. You know you can’t. Even when you do try to fit in, you fail. Remember Brianne? Remember how you used to talk to her for hours online? Remember how she dropped your ass? Remember how much she now hates you because you suck? Remember how much trouble you caused her, how much pain you caused her? You couldn’t offer her anything. You couldn’t even keep another pathetic soul for a friend. You only ever played on her nerves with your stupid self-pity. God, you’re an embarrassment. She could tell that even online. You couldn’t even make a connection online, let alone with another real human being. I bet even the cat really hates you. He probably just uses you for food. You know that your destiny is this shit filled basement with your computer and masturbation. Look around, this is your life, this is the sum accomplishments of eighteen years. And you don’t even deserve this, your parents paid for all of this. You didn’t even pay for this pathetic existence. It’s fucking laughable to see someone as pathetic as you. Maybe that’s why they’re all laughing at you behind your back. (TOM slowly doubles over in pain. Pause. To his legs.) Stop starring at me! I don’t like it when you stare at me with your ugliness. I fucking hate you, if you don’t stop, I’ll have to punish you again. Don’t make me punish you. You do remember last time, don’t you? Stop it, please, just stop it. (TOM is in seemingly excruciating pain. He begins to crawl across the room toward some undetermined goal. Hidden on the (a) table is a knife with dried blood on it. TOM reaches the table with great struggle and strains for the knife. He gets it and rolls up his pants as far as he can. He slashes at his legs, rending a cut on each of his inner thighs. The pain seems to leave him and he starts laughing, hysterically/manically. He staggers out of the room, almost drunkenly, laughing all the way. Offstage we hear the laughter trail off in the distance. The knife is sitting on the stage, the blood slowly drying. Blackout.)
END OF PLAY