SYNOPSIS: A married couple: at once happy and filled with love for each other and the world; however, the sight of their stillborn baby causes them to spiral in isolation from one another. Their confrontation leaves them lonely and burdened with resentment toward themselves.
SETTING: Set in the 1960s Ohio: in a beaten-up trailer home miles away from the city.
MAN: 24. He thinks with his heart. He is in pain from the death of his baby; mentally and physically. His way of coping is through taking morphine to alleviate pain. He is distant and always itching for more. Throughout present scenes, he must be played going through symptoms of withdrawal. Though he is troubled, he remains sweet.
WOMAN: 22. She is more rational of a thinker. She is in pain from the loss of her child. She has spiraled in her own depression as the MAN does not support her.
SCENE 1: THE IN BETWEEN
‘God Only Knows’ by The Beach Boys play. Lights dim. Full cyc.
MAN: It’s hard to see the city from here. The horizon seems empty. It’s peaceful. Maybe that’s why we parked our trailer home all the way out here.
WOMAN: Or maybe you were just ashamed.
They look at each other. They both look at MAN’s forearm and he scratches.
MAN: I was just in pain.
WOMAN: I was getting exhausted.
BOTH: But in love, we find out who we want to be.
SCENE 2: PRESENT
Lights remain dim – meeting the MAN, who appears sick, lighting a cigarette with a match. The matches are always kept on the table beside him; along with a bent, burned spoon and an empty syringe. He is old fashioned in that way – he doesn’t trust lighters.
WOMAN enters in silence; although rushing for work in the morning. She carries an unlit kerosene lamp. MAN doesn’t acknowledge her right away. It is too early for light out, but she must always bike four miles to the reach the family she works for on time, just before breakfast. WOMAN notices MAN, and with the slightest moment of a pause, grief, sadness, and pain expressed on her face. She looks away and continues to get ready. She sighs. MAN reaches the butt of his cigarette, twitching.
WOMAN grabs the matches beside the man to light the lamp. Lights up.
MAN: (carefully, but avoiding eye contact, ashamed) Sweetheart? Darling?
WOMAN ignores MAN and continues to prepare.
MAN: Sweetheart? Darling? I need some money.
WOMAN ignores MAN.
WOMAN: (Stern.) I heard you the first time.
MAN: Honey, you know I’m sick. I need help. (He should stutter. He seems like he’s hurting.) I need medication. You won’t take care of me anymore. (He stands close to his wife as she continues preparing and ignores his presence.)
WOMAN: (Faces him.) It’s not medication if you abuse it.
MAN grabs her hand and takes her to the table with his matches; bent, burnt spoon; and matches.
MAN: Honey, I’ve been empty for days now. Please help me. I’m in pain.
WOMAN gets uncomfortable seeing her husband in this state. She lets go of his hand and places her palm on his chest to feel his rapid heartbeat – a symptom of withdrawals.
WOMAN: God, your heart is running a mile a minute. Where are you? It feels like I’ve lost you.
SCENE 3: MEMORY
Lighting shifts. Play ambient instrumental ‘God Only Knows’ by The Beach Boys. WOMAN’s hand remains on MAN’s chest and they begin to slow dance. This scene displays their youth before anything real happened in their lives – to be played with an air of flirtatiousness.
WOMAN: Your heart is beating so fast. Are you nervous?
MAN: Absolutely not! I’m just … excited.
WOMAN: Excited for what?
MAN: Our future. After we graduate, I’m gonna make you marry me. I’m gonna work so hard, pay all the bills, you won’t need to move a finger! We’re gonna live in a big, beautiful house and have so many kids, it’ll be hard to keep track.
MAN: (Singing.) If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on, believe me
The world could show nothing to me
WOMAN laughs and sings along.
BOTH: (Singing.) So what good would living do me
God only knows what I’d be without you
WOMAN laughs. He twirls her away ending up on opposite sides of the stage.
SCENE 4: THE IN BETWEEN
Lighting dims. Cyc remains up.
WOMAN: He’s always been a little old fashioned. He refuses to use lighters. Always those matches.
MAN: I don’t trust lighters. It’s dark. Will you let me light the lamp?
WOMAN gives lamp to MAN to light. Stage lights up.
BOTH: This light could end it all.
MAN: I always promised I would take care of her.
WOMAN: I thought that I would do anything for him.
MAN: I thought that we would be happy.
WOMAN: (He gives her a sad smile. WOMAN approaches MAN and places her hand on his chest) Have I lost you yet?
MAN: You won’t lose me. I promise.
WOMAN: Promises are hard to keep, sweetheart. Come back to me.
BOTH: In war, we find out who we are.
SCENE 5: PRESENT
Lighting shifts to present.
MAN: It’s just for the pain, sweetheart. We’ve been through too much these past few years.
WOMAN: I know, but you can’t keep putting me in this position. (Firmly.) I work too hard for this. leaving everyday before sunrise, just to make it to a perfect family’s house to make them breakfast, help their kids get ready for school, and clean up their messes. That’s why they’re so perfect, you know? Because they will always have someone to clean up the mess they’ve made. And look at us-
MAN: (Frustrated.) What about us?
WOMAN: Look around; look at our house; look at us. Everything is falling apart. For God’s sake, our lights have gone out. We use a kerosene lamp that’s gonna burn us down one day. (Beat.) We’re stuck in the mess we’ve made. And no one’s gonna clean it up.
SCENE 6: MEMORY
Lighting shifts to dim memory. Play ‘God Only Knows’ by The Beach Boys. This scene is set as if they’re sneaking around at night. MAN lights the lamp to illuminate the path. Lights up.
MAN: I have some great news!
WOMAN: What is it?
MAN: All right. So, you know how I’ve been taking extra shifts at the factory? Well, I was able to save up a little money for us and my friend, Greg, told me about an old motorhome for sale. It’s not much, but it’s enough to start for now. (MAN begins to ramble.) But of course we’ll live there when your father allows us to marry and we’ll need to find a bigger place when we have kids, but we’re just starting now-
WOMAN: (laughs) Shhhhh. That’s okay. That’s perfect, sweetheart. I’m so excited. And you did this all yourself! Let me help you. Please, my mom knows a family that needs a new maid. I can get my her to call them up-
MAN: You’re not moving a finger, remember?
WOMAN: But I want to feel like I’m helping you out – that we’re building our future together.
MAN: You won’t need to, baby.
SCENE 7: PRESENT
Lighting shifts to present.
MAN: (Withdrawal symptoms worsen. He grows hostile.) You love me, don’t you? Help me.
WOMAN: I bear your pain everyday. Even though I have to carry it with me, I still feel empty.
MAN: You’re always so distant – morning to evening, you work with that perfect family. Help me.
WOMAN: I’m left to clean up the mess you’ve made. But look at you. You are so far from perfect.
MAN: I’d like to think my own wife has enough money to spare for her husband. Help me.
WOMAN: (she basically blows the heck UP) I’m exhausted. I can’t keep taking care of you. I feel so smothered. Trapped in my own home. I can’t even breathe. I can’t keep harbouring this guilt and uncertainty in me that maybe the reason you can barely look at me anymore is because you blame me for the death of our daughter. (MAN drops to his knees. They are now in the Stanley-Stella position, but apart.) I just miss being held, I miss feeling safe. I always feel alone. It’s frightening how I can look at you and still feel so alone.
MAN: (MAN grabs WOMAN’s hand to hold his cheek. He screams into her stomach. Only morphine is on his mind.) I still need you. You love me, don’t you? I’m hurting, sweetheart. Help me. Just this once. (She tries pushing him off her, but he holds on.)
WOMAN: Where are you? It feels like I’ve lost you.
SCENE 8: MEMORY
Lighting shifts to memory. WOMAN is pregnant. Both hum ‘God Only Knows’ by The Beach Boys for the baby.
MAN: I feel it kicking! (He puts his ear on her stomach)
WOMAN laughs and strokes MAN’s hair. Midway through a stroke, her face changes and she grabs his hair. She begins to breathe heavy – she’s experiencing contractions.
MAN acts quickly and prepares the area to give birth. At-home birth because American hospitals are EXPENSIVE! WOMAN lays down, remaining tense. Wheezing turns to screaming.
MAN: Sweetheart, breathe with me.
WOMAN tries to match her breath to that of her husband’s.
MAN: We’re almost there, baby.
She gives birth on stage. Relief washes over her. She lies down to rest. Her breath returns to normal.
Beat. Followed by silence.
MAN notices that the baby is a stillborn. WOMAN screams in grief and terror.
WOMAN: (Repeatedly screaming. Fades to quiet.) Come back to me.
SCENE 9: PRESENT
Lighting shifts to present. Withdrawal symptoms worsen. MAN is almost delusional.
MAN: Please. I love you.
WOMAN: (She looks at him coldy.) I’m late. (She turns and walks away.)
MAN: Do you think this is the life I wanted for us? Do you think I’m proud of myself? Day and night I’m alone. Left to my vices and the light of this lamp. I don’t want to hurt anymore.
WOMAN remains silent. She stares at MAN.
MAN: Leave if you don’t love me anymore.
WOMAN: I’m late.
MAN: It’s your fault she’s dead, you know.
SCENE 10: THE BURNING
WOMAN is traveling to work. MAN remains in the trailer home. Lines said quickly with rhythm.
BOTH: I told her/ him things I didn’t mean.
WOMAN: It’s still dark out.
MAN: In love, we find out who we want to be.
WOMAN: We were supposed to be happy.
MAN: She must be miles away from me.
WOMAN: In war, we find out who we are.
MAN: What have I done?
WOMAN: If I turn back now, all I’ll see will be darkness.
MAN: Come back to me.
MAN: (Singing.) If you should ever leave me.
WOMAN: I stay the night at the family’s house.
MAN: (Singing.) Though life would still go one, believe me.
BOTH: I’m finding it hard to sleep tonight.
WOMAN: (Singing.) The world could show nothing to me.
MAN: (Observes the lamp.) I wait for her. (Nears hand to flame.)
WOMAN: He’s waiting for me.
MAN: (Singing.) So what good would living do me?
BOTH: (Singing.) God only knows what I’d be without you.
MAN: This light could end it all.
WOMAN: No, please-
MAN: I can hear my own heart beating in my ears. (MAN grabs the kerosene lamp, about to spill it.)
WOMAN: You don’t deserve this.
MAN: This way, I won’t be able to hurt you.
WOMAN: Come back to me.
MAN: This light could end it all.
MAN spills over the kerosene lamp, lighting a match and dropping it in the kerosene, causing the flame to grow. The motorhome burns.
WOMAN: I wake up that morning to the phone ring. It’s still dark out. Too early for light. (Confused.) The police station… (Reacts to the news being told to her. Actor may ad lib here.) I make my way back to the motorhome where my husband should be waiting for me. (Beat.) From miles away, I see the smoke and all the people from the fire station and I try to look away. But when I get there, I can’t help but push my way through the crowds and tell them that I need to see that my husband is all right and is just waiting for me to come home and tell him that I love him and that I will take care of him- Until I see his body.
She gives a painful scream coming from the pit of her stomach. She holds him, putting his head on her lap. Swaying back and forth.
WOMAN: (Repeatedly. Actor may ad lib.) No. Please. I’m sorry…
She gently traces her hands along the burns on his body. She grabs his hand and places it on her cheek for comfort.
WOMAN: Those damn matches.
She puts her other hand on his chest to check his heartbeat.
WOMAN: Where are you? It feels like I’ve lost you. Come back to me.