Collaborative play writing/Time to Burn
The sound of water dripping into buckets here and there.
We are moving very slowly in darkness through a vast, dead, peeling, rusting, leaking, disintegrating factory building.
In the darkness we can barely make out huge, useless, abandoned 19th century machines--big incomprehensible things no longer capable of giving employment to anyone.
Lightbulbs--not now lit--inside conical green glass shades, hang down from wires that go up three stories to the ceiling where there are just a half-dozen small windows.
In the center of this vast room are two rows of cutting tables-- steel frame tables with wood work surfaces worn smooth-- on which workers once produced things.
Now we see, as we move very slowly through the darkness, that a dozen or so people are sleeping on these tables.
As we move along the aisles separating the two rows of tables, we see things on the floor next to the tables-- a neatly placed pair of terribly worn boots, a stack of beautiful, leather-bound books, a pile of junk from the streets.
As we continue to move, we see, in white type dropped out of the darkness, the title:
Time to Burn
We hear a door opening and look up to see, on a landing at the top of a double flight of stairs at one end of the factory, a man, quietly, carefully close a door behind himself, wait a moment, and then come down the stairs.
The dawn light is beginning to come through the windows high up in the wall.
The man, Billy, makes his way noiselessly through the room, past the sleeping people to a cluster of four wooden wine crates, makeshift shelves, near an empty sleeping space.
He takes out of his pockets, and puts into these shelves, some small tools, a cluster of keys, and a handful of jewelry.
We hear nothing, but, with Billy, we turn to look and see an elderly black woman, Jessie, is awake and looking with intent curiosity at Billy.
JESSIE What have you got?
JESSIE I see youÃ‡ve got something.
What is it?
I've got jewelry, you know, if that's what you want.
[she starts to rummage through the bags of stuff around her]
A watch you know, or a tortoiseshell comb barometer You see it? a barometer a precious old thing
[We see one of the others, a young woman just next to her named Kadira, has awakened and turns only her head to look at Jessie, sleepily, and without saying anything, as she goes on.]
BILLY [agreeably] Where did you get that?
JESSIE [with indifference] I found it. [then, interested again] An Alamanac sea shells A tweezer case eyebrow brush
Here they are: a pair of silk garters You like these?
JAROSLAW Ssshhhh!!! Quiet.
BILLY [whispering] No, thank you.
JESSIE I have a snuff box.
JESSIE Do you like snuff?
BILLY Snuff? I don't use snuff.
JESSIE Don't use snuff.
BILLY No. Where did you get this stuff?
JAROSLAW Will you be quiet!
JESSIE I thought gentlemen used snuff.
BILLY [still agreeable, friendly toward Jessie] Well, it may have been true of gentlemen in the twenties, or something I don't know, but IÃ‡ve never used it.
JESSIE Well, I have a bell pull... [she holds it up]
BILLY Oh, well, that's handy.
JESSIE I have a bell to go with it. Somewhere here.
[She rummages around, somewhat lost in it all; she comes upon her bottle, takes a moment to have a drink.
JESSIE Curling irons [looking up] for the hair you know.
JESSIE [shakes her head, a little bit put out with how many keys she has Jessie is lost in a world of objects, of commodities, yes-- each one precious to her-- but more than that, lost in objects of the past, of a former life, of history she holds one up]
BILLY Very handsome.
JESSIE cork screws, of course bits of brass That's from another time.
[Our gaze travels to Jaroslaw just as he starts to speak.]
JAROSLAW Do you know there are people here who are still trying to sleep!
JESSIE Then you have your usual utensils pans a stuffed bird [this stops her; she gazes at it for a while before plumping it back down unceremoniously] opera glasses--very hard to find--you wouldn't think it--people don't throw them away--I don't know what they do with them [to Billy] but, well, this is the stuff of life on earth
BILLY Is it?
JESSIE One time I had a desk that had belonged to my mother and father and before that to my mother's mother and after they were gone I could put my hand out flat in the center of the desk where my father's hand had been and feel that close to him. And now the desk is gone, too.
JAROSLAW Inconsiderate bastards....
JESSIE Well, would you like a snuff box anyway?
BILLY I don't think so, thank you.
Look-- now-- these are beautiful things, but I don't have any place to keep them.
Oh, of course.
[with sudden distaste]
These things are not in fashion.
BILLY No, that's not...
JESSIE They're just trash, you know.
BILLY No, no, I didn't mean....
JESSIE [not mollified] Think nothing of it.
JAROSLAW What is it about you people? You think you're the only people in the world? You don't give a damn if other people are trying to get some rest?
[We look around the factory. Others are just waking up now, or trying not to wake up, pulling on their clothes.
One sits for a long while on the edge of the table, his head down, collecting himself; another holds his head in his hands, Jessie moves on to wrapping her swollen ankles tightly with ace bandages, A man is scratching himself, another man is putting ear drops into his ear.
With all the disabilities and ailments, this looks like a wounded army camped here.
Anna, still in bed, coughs deeply and for a long while.]
BILLY [to JAROSLAW] She needs a doctor.
JAROSLAW She needs a blanket.
BILLY You should take her to a doctor.
JAROSLAW Mind your own business. She's my wife.
[The door bangs open. On the landing is RAUL struggling to get something through the door. His cursing is heavily accented-- a foreigner who learned all the swear words first. He is Mexican--and has several disabilities: an odd manner that suggests a neurological deficit of some sort; and he might also be a dwarf, or have one leg much shorter than the other.
RAUL God damn this fucking son of a bitch, you fucking cocksucker.
BILLY You need help?
RAUL What do you think this fucking cocksucker goddammit.
Billy starts for the stairs when Raul pulls the thing suddenly through the door, it hits the landing rail and pieces of it fly over the rail down into the factory
RAUL Hey, you fuck....
JAROSLAW Look out!
KADIRA [frightened] Hey! Fuck! Fuck!
[The people below scatter.
JAROSLAW People are still sleeping here goddammit!
RAUL Goddam you cocksucker!
[RAUL kicks the thing, tears pieces off it and throws them over the rail and kicks the remainder of it down the stairs
There, you son of a bitch you goddam fucker you fuck with me I'll tear your fucking lungs out
BILLY What is this?
RAUL It's a barbecue. I found it on the street. I thought we could cook dinner.
JESSIE Cook dinner?
RAUL Have a party.
[Everyone comes forward now with interest to examine the pieces.
KADIRA [yelling at RAUL} Then why the fuck did you ruin it?
RAUL [yelling] I didn't fucking ruin it. The fucking thing wouldn't fit through the fucking door.
KADIRA [yelling] It fits through the door if you'd use your fucking head.
RAUL [yelling] You're so fucking smart. You use your fucking head then and put it back together.
BILLY We can put it back together.
[He begins to pick up the pieces, others come to help him.
At the top of a second set of stairs, at the end of the factory opposite to the stairs we have seen used till now, VINNIE PAZZI the landlord suddenly appears. He wears yellow rubber gloves (at all times), polyester satin alligator-patterned trousers, and a black, see-through polyamide tank top, and sunglasses.
VINNIE PAZZI [angrily] What's this goddam noise?
ALEJANDRO Raul dropped something.
VINNIE PAZZI Did he? Or did you think you'd wreck the place?
[he starts down the stairs, talking all the way
You think it can't get worse? You think I can't get other tenants who would appreciate a warm place to sleep? You people. A few bucks a month and you think you're being gouged. I could have a waiting list if I wanted to. And what's this all over the floor? Didn't you people sweep this morning? You think the rats and cockroaches won't come around no matter what sort of filth you live in? Spreading their diseases right up the stairs into my home? What is this?
RAUL A barbecue.
VINNIE PAZZI A what?
RAUL A barbecue.
JESSIE For a party.
VINNIE PAZZI You mean you think you'll have a fire down here?
BILLY It's all contained-- just charcoal, you know, for cooking dinner
VINNIE PAZZI What is the matter with you people you won't be happy till you burn my house down Do you think the fire department would allow you to cook down here? Here's your problem in a nutshell. You can't think. No wonder. Your minds don't let you conceive more than one step ahead. Now pick this junk up and get it out of here.
BILLY Wait a minute.
The barbecue stays.
VINNIE PAZZI And who do you think you are?
BILLY I am the guy who gave you a Bolex watch with an alligator band five days ago and you owe me my share of what you sold it for. That's who I am. Who do you think you are?
[silence; Vinnie Pazzi looks around at all the witnesses]
VINNIE PAZZI This is no conversation to have in front of all these people.
BILLY I didn't start it.
VINNIE PAZZI Come upstairs.
BILLY I'm busy here as you can see.
VINNIE PAZZI I see.
All right then. We'll settle our business later.
BILLY Meanwhile, the barbecue stays.
VINNIE PAZZI Oh, it does.
VINNIE PAZZI Unh-hunh.
BILLY So long as you do whatever you want we will do whatever we want.
VINNIE PAZZI I see.
BILLY And you need to learn to speak to us with some respect.
VINNIE PAZZI I see.
[Silence. Vinnie Pazzi looks around.]
And you, Mister Kacewicz, I speak to you with all respect, what is this around your bunk?
VINNIE PAZZI All this shit.
JAROSLAW All this is my work. I manufacture computer components.
VINNIE PAZZI Here? On my premises?
JAROSLAW Well, yes. It's like a--home factory. I put my faith in capitalism, you know. This is the new age. The information age. People can work from their own homes.
VINNIE PAZZI Oh, good. If you're taking up such space for a commercial enterprise, I guess I'll have to raise your rent. Say another ten dollars a month.
JAROSLAW Ten dollars a month?
VINNIE PAZZI Or twenty.
JAROSLAW Twenty dollars a month?
VINNIE PAZZI It's not enough?
JAROSLAW Why don't you just shoot me?
VINNIE PAZZI Shoot you, you dumb fuck, what good would that do me?
BILLY [speaking confidentially] You know, he doesn't make any money at it.
VINNIE PAZZI Well, that's none of my business, is it? How well you do, what profit comes your way. That's up to you, isn't it? Work all you want. I wish you well. As they say: a rising tide lifts all boats, eh? But I'll have to have my commercial rent, won't I? And I don't buy luxuries either, any more than you do. I'll use it to buy a statue of St. Jude. You'll share the credit for it.
VINNIE PAZZI Credit in the next world, my friend. Every deed, every word every sacrifice is entered into a man's account there.
You shouldn't abandon your religion, you know. That's what's wrong these days.
In the next world, we'll all be equal.
That's heaven, you know.
[he continues speaking very quietly]
But, meanwhile, here on earth, there is the matter of sweeping up. This is, in a certain sense, beyond my control. I have the health department to answer to, haven't I?
[He turns to go back upstairs, turns back.
Do you understand? They shut places down for violations. Throw everyone out and shut them down. Do I make myself perfectly clear?
[They watch in silence as he goes up the stairs and out.]
JAROSLAW Where am I going to get twenty dollars a month? You prick.
BILLY Don't worry, we'll all chip in.
JAROSLAW How do you mean chip in?
BILLY Chip in. No reason you should pay the whole barbecue tax yourself.
RAUL Really, there are no better people in the world than thieves.
JAROSLAW Sure. Money comes easy to them--they don't have to work.
JESSIE Money comes easy to plenty of people, but it doesn't come so easy to let it go.
ALEJANDRO As for work, now, if you make it pleasant for me, I'll be delighted to work.
JAROSLAW Make it pleasant for you. Right. That's all you people want is to have something handed to you.
ALEJANDRO [drily] No doubt it's cultural.
RAUL [continuing the mockery] Cultural, yes. Or genetic.
JAROSLAW Yes, let's be honest. You're used to living on the dole, you Third World people well, it's a different world now, you know. You'll have to pull your own weight now, you know.
RAUL I think my people have pulled their weight.
JAROSLAW You do? I don't see it, anywhere I go. People looking for a handout. IÃ‡'ve worked for everything I ever got in life and what will become of me? I own nothing.
RAUL Well, the point is you had a job all these years! I haven't even got a job!
JAROSLAW Who asked you to come here? Go home. Go home.
KADIRA You go home! Where do you think you are?
ALEJANDRO Joy makes you open and light. Joy counteracts the pull of gravity. Joy banishes the consciousness of self. Joy is more than contentment, more than happiness. Joy has something of the sacred in it, something we should all have every day.
[A door opens at the top of the double stairway that Billy descended earlier. Tertius steps out onto the landing and stands motionlessly there.
A vision of Boston Brahmin elegance and grace, fine clothes and manners, enters this world of filth and rags like a dream. The inhabitants of the factory all turn one by one and look up at Tertius in silence, and even awe. He descends the stairs slowly, unable to shed a bearing of natural dignity-- and slight physical awkwardness, as though he were not quite accustomed to having to walk about the earth on foot-- and with a certain care of his self, as though he might be breakable, as though his pockets were filled with uncooked eggs-- and they remain silent all the while he descends the stairs.
TERTIUS Good morning.
BILLY Good morning.
TERTIUS I was told one of you might direct me to my accomodations.
ALEJANDRO Your accomodations?
BILLY [amicably] A place to sleep?
TERTIUS Yes. Indeed.
BILLY [gesturing] Over here there's room....
TERTIUS Thank you.
[he moves through the crowd: Billy, an amiable midwesterner Raul, from Mexico Kadira, a young Eastern European woman Jessie, an elderly African American woman Jaroslaw and his wife, both Poles Alejandro, a Brazilian transvestite]
Tertius Hodgson. Pleased to make your acquaintance.
[Tertius greets each one with "How do you do?"]
JAROSLAW Jaroslaw Kacewicz
My wife, Anna....
BILLY [as Tertius stops before an empty space on a table] We're not as-- handsomely equipped as you might be used to....
TERTIUS Thank you. This looks quite comfortable to me.
JESSIE You're a gentleman. Well, I should say, probably, an aristocrat.
[Tertius shrugs amiably.]
[JESSIE to the others] You know, as they say, aristocracy is like the smallpox. A man may get well, but the pock marks remain. [silence; she recognizes her faux pas] Actually, what I meant to say...
TERTIUS [waving it off with complete good humor and equanimity] No, no, no. I think you're probably quite right. Pock marks indeed.
BILLY What brings you here?
TERTIUS Well, a love of cards, I should say, primarily. A love of anything that moves really-- on which a man may place a bet and lose large sums of money-- the stock market, pork bellies, horses
BILLY The sport of kings. You know--because if you believe in horse racing then you believe that ancestry counts.
RAUL Proving once again: the main thing is luck.
BILLY Luck? Breeding I'd have said.
TERTIUS Well. Nurture maybe.
ALEJANDRO I don't think anyone believes in that any more.
JESSIE Hard work. Character.
[Shocked silence, then laughter from all sides. The laughter goes on and on and on. They laugh until they cry.]
ANNA, coming out of the laughter, coughs horribly and for a long, long time while they all look at her, waiting for her to stop; awkward silence]
BILLY We were going to have breakfast. Will you join us?
TERTIUS Thank you.
[Billy pours a cup of coffee for Tertius. Others gather around the coffee pot, pour cups of coffee, and break off pieces of stale bread from a couple of loaves.]
JESSIE Of course, this is not a typical day for us.
Normally we wake up quite late in the morning stretch out a hand to reach for some chocolate, which we eat, customarily, lying in bed; and then we get up for breakfast at eight when we have porridge, plum cake, eggs benedict, a little halibut or some other fish, hot biscuits and butter, with raspberry jam and cafe au lait.
[we look around the room slowly, going from face to face as she gives this loving recital]
And then, really, our day begins.
TERTIUS I should feel quite at home.
JESSIE And just recently we have acquired a barbecue.
RAUL We thought we might have a party.
ALEJANDRO A garden party.
TERTIUS A garden party.
BILLY So. Alejandro, would you help me sweep up?
ALEJANDRO It's not my turn to sweep today. It's Jaroslaw's turn.
JAROSLAW IÃ‡ve no time to clean up, I have work to do.
ALEJANDRO That's not my business. It's your turn to sweep. I'm not going to do other people's work.
JAROSLAW This is your problem, you won't lift a finger, let the whole world sink into rot. I am working.
ALEJANDRO Who is he talking to?
JAROSLAW I'm talking to you, you slut.
ALEJANDRO Who are you calling a slut, you asshole?
TERTIUS Never mind. I'll help. It will be a novelty for me, you know.
RAUL Although, let's face it, you are a slut. [to the others] I mean, I don't approve of his behavior either.
KADIRA Oh, no, you'd fuck him up the ass, you just wouldn't approve of his behavior.
RAUL Fuck him? You think I fuck men?
ALEJANDRO You know, there are certain things a man knows. For instance: have you heard of Inviting the Nectar?
RAUL Inviting the Nectar?
ALEJANDRO When a man lets another man's penis slide completely into his mouth
JAROSLAW This is disgusting.
ALEJANDRO and presses the shaft firmly between his lips, holding a moment before pulling away this is called Inviting the Nectar.
JAROSLAW This is what's wrong if you ask me.
ALEJANDRO Or a man can take your penis deep into his mouth, pulling on it and sucking as though he were stripping clean a mango-stone: this is what we call Sucking a Mango.
ALEJANDRO You shouldn't be listening to this.
JAROSLAW You talk here in front of everyone.
ALEJANDRO Where should I go to talk? Don't I live here?
KADIRA Come with me shopping. We'll get things for the picnic.
RAUL Why do you think I fuck men?
TERTIUS While you're out, you might pick up some champagne.
KADIRA So you don't fuck men.
ALEJANDRO [to Raul] Sometimes, you know, before you make love you can massage your penis with honey mixed with powdered black pepper, and you'll find you can go on and on. Women like this.
[Raul looks at him uncomprehendingly]
Just a suggestion.
TERTIUS I say, while you're out, you might pick up some champagne.
RAUL Sure. What do you like?
TERTIUS Whatever is closest to the door.
RAUL Right. Sure.
[Raul leaves with Kadira. Billy and Tertius sweep. Nikos emerges from the shadows and approaches Tertius, talking to him, in Greek. The English translation is not delivered; it's given here just for the actorsÃ‡ convenience.]
NIKOS Leepon, eenu chris mos apop sila-stall menos y anna cani ola ta pragh mata ee bua hoha. [So it is the oracle from high, sent to make all things amenable.]
TERTIUS Ah. Aeschylus.
NIKOS Kalo-so-ree-sa-te. To on-o-ma mou ee-ne Nikos. [Welcome, my name is Nikos.]
TERTIUS Ah. [turning to NIKOS] He-ro-me poe-lee. See-gno-mee alla te elee-nee-ka-mou then ee-ne ke to-so k-la e(x)ho na ta mee-lee-so ar-ke-to ke-ro. [I'm glad to meet you. Forgive me, but my Greek is a little rusty. I haven't spoken it in a while.]
[they shake hands]
BILLY You speak Greek?
TERTIUS Yes, I suppose I do.
NIKOS See-gno-mee e an ee-me lee-go af-thor-mee-tos, alla ee-me ka-lo-tech-nees, ee-tho-pee-os ya teen ak-ree-veea, ke e-(x)hi pe-ra-see lee-gos ke-ros. [Excuse me if I seem a bit forward, but I'm an artist, an actor really, and it has been quite some time.]
BILLY What does he say?
TERTIUS He is an actor.
BILLY Yes. Well, of course he's between engagements.
I mean: he speaks Greek.
NIKOS lexo pros humas tond Athenaias megan thesman delcayos mandi-son duf sef-soni [I will speak justly before you, Athena's great tribunal-- since I am a prophet, I cannot lie.]
TERTIUS [applauding] Bravo. Bravo.
The Eumenides. One of my favorite plays in fact.
to men dikaion touth hoson sthenei mathein [Learn how strong this plea of justice is; and I tell you to obey the will of my father]
NIKOS [once again, with great truth and power as an actor] boulei piphausko d umm epispesthai patros: horkos gar outi Zenos ischuei pleon [for an oath is not more powerful]
TERTIUS Zeus, hos legeis su, tonde chresmon opase [Zeus, as you say, gave you this oracular command]
BILLY You know it, too.
TERTIUS Well, a few lines. He knows the whole thing. He's performed it a dozen times, he says.
BILLY [looking at NIKOS with a new respect] Really. A dozen times.
[Billy and NIKOS exchange silent acknowledgement. NIKOS turns away, goes to his bunk. Tertius and Billy sweep.]
BILLY I often thought I should have been an actor.
BILLY But then, it's no way to make a living.
BILLY You must have some money left, though.
TERTIUS How do you mean?
BILLY It's hard to believe you don't have any money left.
TERTIUS [good naturedly] It's hard for me to believe.
BILLY But probably you still have some connections. I mean, if you had an idea for a business. You know, I have some ideas for businesses.
TERTIUS Really? What sort of businesses?
BILLY Well, it would depend on what sort of resources someone had to bring to it, you know.
TERTIUS Really, I'm afraid I burned all my bridges.
BILLY Really. No one, you know, we might have lunch with.
TERTIUS [smiling] No, I'm afraid not.
BILLY Well. No hard feelings that I....
TERTIUS No. No. Certainly not. Certainly not.
[This is a long, long quiet time.
We watch JAROSLAW work at his computer parts He is trying to force a small piece into another. He grows angrier and angrier, and finally explodes in anger.
JAROSLAW Da mu eba maikata! Pochti uspyah... [Fuck. Fuck. I almost got it ]
Izvinyavai. Molya te, Anna, prosti mi. [I'm sorry. Please forgive me.]
ANNA Zanam, zanam. [I know, I know.]
JAROSLAW Opitvam se da izkaram pari, da te premestya v bolnitsa. [I'm trying to make some money to put you in a hospital.]
ANNA Ne iskam da umra v bolnitsa. [I don't want to die in a hospital.]
JAROSLAW Koi govori za umirane be chovek.... [Who's talking about dying....]
ANNA Ostavi me na mira. [Leave me.]
JAROSLAW Zashto mislish nai-loshoto? [Why do you think the worst?]
ANNA Taka e po-dobre! [It's better that way!]
[He shakes his head from side to side finally letting it fall to his chest probably in tears.
We look at ANNA. She goes on coughing. Finally subsides, exhausted, closes her eyes.]
JESSIE Of all human qualities, the greatest is sympathy.
ALESSANDRA Or compassion.
JESSIE Or compassion. Sometimes I think: There are things on my horizon that go beyond me. There are feelings that rise and rush over me as if they were written on the walls of my soul-chamber in some unknown language. And I am helpless before them.
[Again: a long, long quiet time. Our gaze moves along to Billy who is taking a radio from a cardboard box. He plugs it in, turns it on.
Gershwin. Everyone listens. A beautiful love song from another world.
Billy looks away from the radio, listening. Our gaze moves along to Nikos, who is preparing heroin to inject. We watch him do it. He lies back and listens to Gershwin.
Our gaze moves along to Jessie, rummaging in her shopping cart full of junk. She is drinking out of a bottle. One of her feet is thickly bandaged, so that she cannot wear a shoe on it.
Our gaze moves along to Kadira, who is absently shooting craps by herself and listening to Gershwin. She begins to sing along quietly, mumblingly, with the radio.
After a moment or two, Alejandro joins in more overtly. After another moment, Jessie joins in. Then Billy.
Finally they are all singing this beautiful sentimental song with great feeling, each of them caught up in a private world of memory and longing.
After the song, there is a long silence, and then:
[The door to the landlord's house opens. NGUYEN, a Thailandese woman, enters with the old man SHLOMO, giving him some support as they start down the stairs. NGUYEN speaks with a pronounced Thailandese accent.
NGUYEN Will someone give me a hand?
BILLY I will.
[He goes quickly up the stairs to help with SHLOMO.
NGUYEN This is a new guy.
BILLY Hello. My name is Billy.
SHLOMO How do you do? I'm Shlomo. Really I can manage alone.
BILLY Of course. But these are difficult stairs.
SHLOMO Well, you're an honest man.
BILLY I'm sorry?
SHLOMO I say, you are an honest man.
[Billy and Nguyen exchange a look.]
BILLY Ah. Yes. About the stairs.
SHLOMO And if you are dishonest about everything else, what do I care? You jump up to help an old man. You're a good human being.
BILLY [Another look to Nguyen.] Thank you. It's kind of you to say so.
[They are down the stairs now.]
SHLOMO Where shall I settle down?
BILLY Just over here.
[SHLOMO has a tea kettle on a rope over his shoulder and a backpack Billy takes SHLOMO's backpack from him.]
Here, let me help.
[Billy puts the backpack on the old man's bunk.]
I see youÃ‡ve brought your own tea kettle. Would you like a cup of tea?
SHLOMO Yes, I would, thank you.
BILLY [taking the kettle from the pack] I'll do it.
JAROSLAW What a fascinating old man youÃ‡ve brought to us, Nguyen. I wonder where he's from.
NGUYEN [gently, not harshly] You should save all your fascination for your wife, Jaroslaw. She needs you.
JAROSLAW Everyone lectures me.
NGUYEN You ought to treat her more kindly. It won't be long now--
JAROSLAW Don't I know?
NGUYEN [still gently] It's not enough to know. You need to understand. It's a frightening thing to die.
JAROSLAW [to the others] Here I have a child telling me about death. And meanwhile what about life?
NGUYEN What am I doing here? I should get a job as a waitress.
JAROSLAW You couldn't get a job in a Chinese noodle shop.
NGUYEN [to Billy] He still thinks I'm Chinese.
JAROSLAW You should get out in the world. What do you know about anything? You have such a sheltered life. You come here with your sister, she marries this rich man
JAROSLAW A man of property! More than I have! I pay him the rent, he just sits around lets these Orientals do his work for him. [to NGUYEN again] You're a kept woman really, what's the difference.
BILLY I thought you owned the place.
NGUYEN My sister and I.
BILLY Your sister and you. So really the landlord, he's a kept man.
JAROSLAW How do you end up owning this place? Who did you fuck to do that?
[Raul and Kadira return with arms full of groceries to this moment of silence.]
NGUYEN No problem. I'll be out of here pretty soon.
NGUYEN IÃ‡ve had enough. I'll be gone before much longer.
BILLY When are you leaving?
NGUYEN I don't know.
But the big idea: getting out of here-- I'm clear on that.
BILLY Oh, I'm clear on that, too.
NGUYEN You're going?
BILLY I thought I'd go with you.
[She looks taken aback.]
BILLY It takes courage just to pick up and go.
SHLOMO Does it?
BILLY You don't think it does?
SHLOMO I wouldn't know. IÃ‡ve done it so many times, ich fargessen. I don't remember.
KADIRA You get to know the lay of the land someplace You think: better not go somewhere you know nothing.
RAUL Unless there's no hope at all then you have to take your chances
ALEJANDRO Be a risk taker.
ALEJANDRO Lead the way.
ALEJANDRO I sometimes think: this is what I'm doing: showing the world which way it's going. This is how it will be for everyone in another ten years.
NGUYEN It's not so easy for me. They have my papers. They say if I leave they'll have me arrested.
SHLOMO Your brother-in-law has your papers?
NGUYEN That's how he keeps me here.
[She turns and goes. They all watch her.]
SHLOMO [sings] Maybe something like:]
When somebody loves you it's no good unless he loves you all the way.
Happy to be near you when you need someone to cheer you all the way.
Taller than the tallest tree is that's how it's got to feel
BILLY What's that?
SHLOMO I'm singing.
Deeper than the deep blue sea is that's how deep it goes if it's real
BILLY Well, you can stop now.
SHLOMO You don't like singing?
BILLY I like it when it's good.
SHLOMO I don't sing well?
SHLOMO Imagine that! And I thought I did. It's always like that. A man thinks to himself: I'm doing a good job. Then, bang--everyone is displeased.
BILLY You sing fine. I just need fresh air.
[He turns and goes up the stairs to the outdoors.
SHLOMO People's feelings are so mysterious, are they not? Now here is a woman [gesturing to ALEJANDRO] reading a book and crying. Not real life! A book!
RAUL [handing SHLOMO a cup of tea] She's not a woman.
SHLOMO This young woman?
RAUL No, she's a transvestite.
SHLOMO Oh. Well, then, a transvestite reading a book-- and crying! These human beings are strange creatures.
[Trang, another Thailandese woman, appears at the top of the stairs. She wears a very expensive, brightly flowered silk robe. Her hair is done up in a wild top knot with a silk scarf. When she enters, Shlomo goes about keeping a low profile by taking out a project of his own and working on it--hand-binding a book.]
TRANG [coming down the stairs] Raul, you bastard, who do you think you are saying whatever you please about me?
RAUL What? I said nothing about you.
TRANG People tell me what you say. You know, you can be evicted. If I told my husband what you say he'd have you out of here in an instant. [to Alejandro] Why do you let him talk like this?
ALEJANDRO Who am I, his keeper?
TRANG I don't care who you are, you're living here on charity, remember that. How much do you owe me?
ALEJANDRO Who's counting?
RAUL What did I say?
TRANG You know what you said. These rumors about me and Billy.
RAUL These are not rumors.
TRANG And if you keep talking like that, you'll be out of here.
Who are you? Who are you?
SHLOMO Just an old man passing through. Don't touch.
TRANG Who brought you in here?
ALEJANDRO Your sister.
TRANG Oh, she did. No one told me. How long do you plan to stay?
SHLOMO That depends.
TRANG On what?
SHLOMO On how welcome I am.
RAUL He's gone out.
TRANG Did I ask?
RAUL I see you looking everywhere.
TRANG I'm looking to see that everything is in order, and why hasn't the floor been swept? How many times have I told you the floor must be swept?
ALEJANDRO We just swept it.
TRANG How could I tell?
ALEJANDRO Well, if you'd been here before it was swept you could tell. I can tell.
TRANG Was my sister just here?
ALEJANDRO She just brought in the old man.
RAUL Billy went out. He went out alone.
TRANG Did I ask?
[She turns, goes back up the stairs. They watch her go. Anna has a paroxysm of coughing. Shlomo puts aside his bookbinding.]
SHLOMO Here. Have some tea with me.
ANNA What good will that do?
SHLOMO It won't do any good, but I think you'll like it. It can't hurt. What's your name?
SHLOMO Anna. A beautiful name. My name is Shlomo.
ANNA As I look at you, you remind me of my father, just as kind, and soft.
SHLOMO [laughs] IÃ‡ve been through the wringer, that's why I'm soft.
ANNA I don't remember a time in my life when I didn't feel hungry. I counted every piece of bread. All my life IÃ‡ve worried I might eat more than my share. All my life IÃ‡ve been wearing rags.
SHLOMO Poor woman. You're worn out, that's all.
ANNA I keep thinking, O God, am I to be punished in the next world too?
SHLOMO [stroking her forehead] No. You'll have a good rest up there. You just need to bear up a little longer, then you'll have your rest.
How is your pulse? Let me feel.
[holding her wrist, gently]
A woman's pulse, you know, can be sharp as a hook or fine as a hair. What do you think is normal? How is your heart beating? A pulse can be like a string of pearls like water dripping through the roof like leaves scattering like visiting strangers like spring water welling up like a smooth pill like glory.
Your pulse is strong and as smooth as a river.
ANNA We really ought to be better people, you know. We're all the descendants of washerwomen. This should have nurtured in us some desire to bring light to the lives of our fellow beings who have known nothing but hardship or hard work all their lives. Some of us were sent us on ahead, we were supposed to have the intelligence to find a road to a better life. And weÃ‡ve lost our way.
SHLOMO There. YouÃ‡ve done all you could do.
ANNA I'll go to hell for it.
ANNA Yes, I will.
SHLOMO We each do what we have within us to do This is all we can do
[while Shlomo talks, he returns to binding his book, his practiced hands moving efficiently at the task; we are transfixed on his hands; the room is absolutely quiet; we watch him for a long while in silence]
You might say what IÃ‡ve done with my life has been pointless it might be true
[silence as he works]
Possibly I should have done something else [looks up, with a big smile] something that's not just another of the pleasures for the few [silence]
But I gave what I had I couldn't give what I didn't have so that now at the end I might have to conclude well: it's been entirely meaningless entirely meaningless and I'm too old now to start again
Sometimes I cry myself to sleep. And I'm a man.
[silence as we watch him work]
ALEJANDRO Let's play cards, shall we? Tertius, will you play?
TERTIUS Of course.
RAUL I don't think you'll like our small stakes.
TERTIUS It's not the stakes that matter.
[we see ALEJANDRO at a rigged up table, shuffling a deck of cards Tertius joins him, and Raul, and Kadira. We see Billy come back in from outdoors.]
BILLY Deal me in.
ALEJANDRO The game is seven card stud. Ante ten cents.
[everyone puts in some coins]
KADIRA I thought this was a friendly game.
ALEJANDRO It is a friendly game.
KADIRA Ante ten cents?
BILLY I'll loan it to you.
KADIRA That's all right.
BILLY You can pay me back.
KADIRA No. Thank you.
BILLY Here. Take it.
[the cards are dealt]
ALEJANDRO This is the new capitalism the thieves loaning money to the poor innocents of Eastern Europe.
RAUL [while he looks at his cards] I don't understand it. I invest my whole life in a job, and I get just enough to get me to the next day to do another day's work. Why does someone think I don't have as much invested as the owner?
BILLY No. You don't understand it.
TERTIUS [idly, as he arranges his cards] Money is magic. If you have money you can move your factories to Mexico, and then, when you take your profits you can leave the polluted air behind you in Mexico, and return to the clean air of Paris or London. In this way, you can take a man's water, a man's fresh air. a man's suntan, take years from his life and add them to your own. This is the true beauty of money.
ALEJANDRO The stories people tell about business. no one is ever interested. But stories about love, these are stories anyone can understand.
One night I remember my lover came to me to the arbor,
[Raul sneezes into his hand and says "bullshit," which stops Alejandro only momentarily.]
as we had arranged I was already there waiting for him trembling with grief and fear He, too, was trembling his face as white as chalk a revolver in his hand and he said to me in a deathly voice: oh my dearest, my precious love, my parents refuse to give their consent
RAUL His parents!
ALEJANDRO And if we marry they would disown me
RAUL What do his parents have to do with it?
SHLOMO Sha. Quiet.
ALEJANDRO And so I have no choice, he said, but to take my life I pleaded with him: Oh, Marcel, I said...
RAUL Marcel! Last time it was Robert.
ALEJANDRO What is the matter with you? I'm telling you a love story. Is it that you can't bear to hear it?
RAUL I'm only saying: last time it was Robert. So he's changed his name. Or he had two names.
ALEJANDRO I'm pouring my heart out to you, I'm telling you about my life, and what do you do? youÃ‡ve become literary critics! What do you know about love?
RAUL We're just trying to understand what you say.... Maybe youÃ‡ve had many young men commit suicide for you.
SHLOMO Okay, enough, let her tell her story.
ALEJANDRO Forget it.
SHLOMO Go ahead.
ALEJANDRO I can't tell the truth to these jerks they don't want to hear they're too afraid of emotions I think these men, you know how they are, they'd rather talk business and politics. What has business to do with you, you idiots? Forget it!
RAUL Go ahead. Just try to keep your story straight.
RAUL It's a good story just very complicated.
SHLOMO Let her tell it any way she wants! It doesn't matter. It's her story. His story. This is how she feels.
JESSIE Even if she read it from a book.
SHLOMO Go on.
ALEJANDRO [near tears now] No, really. Never mind. It doesn't matter. I couldn't tell anything now. I'm too upset.
ALEJANDRO The magic word.
So I said to him: oh, please, no. My bright star.
[ALEJANDRO is crying now, tears rolling down her cheeks]
You musn't destroy your young life. Forget me. Forget me. I'm not fit for anything. But you have a life in front of you. Leave me behind. You go on, and live. And know I will always love you as long as my heart beats in my breast.
BILLY I recognize this; it's from the book Fatal Love.
ALEJANDRO It's from my life you faggot.
BILLY OK, it's from your life. It just sounded to me like Fatal Love. But IÃ‡ve only read the jacket copy.
KADIRA I think IÃ‡ve seen it on television.
ALEJANDRO You don't have a television!
SHLOMO [putting an arm around ALEJANDRO] Come along, dear. Don't mind them. I believe you.
ALEJANDRO He was a Chilean boy, a student.
SHLOMO I believe it. Come.
[they go off to sit by ALEJANDRO's bunk]
TERTIUS When I was a young man I was in love with a woman. I saw her in the summer at a picnic. She was a married woman. She had on a light summer dress and as she walked toward me the sun was behind her her dress was translucent she was wearing nothing underneath it Her eyes were sky blue Sky blue I don't understand it people's passions are so unaccountable I fell in love with her so fragile she seemed. I said to her: we should have a summer love affair. She didn't say no, she said: you're outrageous. I said: no, it's you who are outrageous. We met the next day-- her husband stayed in the city all week to work, and we made love every day the whole summer every day.
And still I think of her all the time. Every day of my life.
KADIRA I was once in love with a man I loved him so much I would just put my arms around him and then he would hold me he would hold me as gently as he could and I would quiver and come again and again. and I would curl up inside his arms. Whenever we made love, this is how we would always begin. And every time after we made love I would sob for a long time with his arms around me. Because, I thought: we might have lived our whole lives and died without ever knowing each other.
[The door to the landlord's apartment opens, and Trang steps out onto the landing.]
TRANG Would you speak to me for a minute?
BILLY Yes. Sure. [to his companions] I'm out. [He puts his cards down and goes to the stairs and up them.]
RAUL I win.
[Billy is now with Trang on the landing. They speak very quietly together.]
TRANG I thought you would want to see me.
BILLY Want to see you?
TRANG To say good morning.
TRANG I speak to you from my heart and fifteen minutes later you can't remember when it was you last saw me.
BILLY That's not true.
TRANG It's true you don't care for me.
BILLY Don't care for you....
TRANG You know, you could just tell me. YouÃ‡ve fallen in love with someone else.
BILLY Someone else?
TRANG Look, you think I know nothing. I can tell when you have no connection to me. It's okay.
BILLY It's true I might have some conflicting feelings. Maybe I shouldn't have, I mean if I somehow let you believe that I...
TRANG I counted on you to take me out of here with you.
BILLY You did? Did I know that?
TRANG You don't want to leave?
BILLY Well, yes, but....
TRANG Anyhow, now I suppose that's not possible.
Now you love my sister.
BILLY [laughs] How do you know this? IÃ‡ve hardly said two words to your sister.
TRANG I could even help you, you know.
BILLY How is that?
TRANG I could give you money.
BILLY What are you talking about?
TRANG To go somewhere with her.
My husband is an old man, I mean, for his age he hasn't taken care of himself. If he were to fall if something were to happen to him, he is so delicate I think it would kill him.
And then we'd be free of him, and I could help you.
BILLY I don't understand.
TRANG Of course you do. WeÃ‡ve got a complication with him as long as he's alive.
BILLY You mean that I should kill your husband?
This is not the kind of person I am.
TRANG How do you know? Maybe you don't know what sort of person you are.
[She turns and leaves. He remains on the landing turns slowly and walks down the stairs.
Nikos reels, falls against one of the bunks and starts collapsing to the floor. Several of the others lunge to catch him from falling.]
TERTIUS Oh, steady on, IÃ‡ve got you.
ALEJANDRO Here, I have him, too.
TERTIUS Whoa, youÃ‡ve done a job of it this time.
SHLOMO What's the matter with him?
SHLOMO Oh, no. [talking now to Nikos, who is stretched out on his bunk] This is not a life for you. You're a young man. My God, this is no age to give up. IÃ‡ve known men whoÃ‡ve had some trouble with drink or drugs theyÃ‡ve gotten help you can get help yourself. All you need is a few weeks in a hospital you know
TERTIUS He doesn't understand a word you're saying. He's Greek.
[silence; SHLOMO looks at Nikos, who gazes back at him]
SHLOMO I think he does.
TERTIUS No. Not a word.
[Nikos slowly lies back in bed. And, in the background, an argument erupts between Kadira and Jaroslaw. Everyone turns in silence to take this in. It is a completely incomprehensible argument to those of us who listen to it.]
JAROSLAW You say Turkic but what do you know how it feels to be a Turk?
KADIRA Let's say a person knows how it feels to be conquered and forced to behave in a certain way.
JAROSLAW So you feel bad but this is not to feel Turkic! You know, the Turks also formed empires.
KADIRA I am talking about the Turkish military.
JAROSLAW So am I.
KADIRA [EXPLODING suddenly in uncontrolled and uncontrollable rage; yelling--frightening] attacking its own citizens.
JAROSLAW In Armenia the army is not used against its citizens.
KADIRA [still yelling] I didn't say it was.
JAROSLAW [the words rolling out rapid fire] No. Exactly. In Armenia a plane fires a rocket that lands next to a woman holding the hand of her little daughter, and the woman just disappears, and the daughter's hand also disappears, and she is crying "Mama, mama, mama" with blood pouring from her arm, running and running.
KADIRA [still in a rage] Yes. Yes. Or they rounded up two hundred women took them to an empty slaughterhouse made them strip naked and get down on all fours like cattle they drove them forward to a ramp where they were
where the soldiers lashed out at them with knives and axes forcing them to
keep crawling until they could crawl no more their torsos their arms and legs hacked off their headless torsos left to fall into the pit below
JAROSLAW What is your point?
KADIRA I am telling to you the truth!
JAROSLAW For your information, the millitary is fighting the PKK, a terrorist organization that even the Kurds despise.
KADIRA Never mind. I'm not talking to you.
JAROSLAW I'm talking to you.
KADIRA No. You are talking to yourself.
JAROSLAW Nishto ne znaesh!
JAROSLAW Ti se lebi!
[At the end, no one has understood this any better than we have; everyone is staring at Jaroslaw and Kadira in uncomprehending silence.]
BILLY What was that?
ALEJANDRO Don't ask me.
BILLY No, really, what was that all about?
RAUL How the fuck should I know?
NGUYEN There's water.
[we see Nguyen standing on the landing, calling down]
Vinnie went out. I'm going to turn on the water!
[Everyone starts hurriedly taking off their clothes, down to their underclothes and hurrying to one corner of the factory where there is a thin partition behind which is an overhead pipe and a drain in the floor.]
Okay. Two minutes.
[The residents of the factory strip-- one or two of them keep on their clothes-- and step under the stream of water from the pipe.
And they each take a shower in what must be reminiscent of a prison scene.
Our gaze lingers on each one, stripped naked; there is no prurient interest here, just an interest in human individuality, and in sagging, out-of-shape human flesh. There should be something of sadness about this.
Those standing in line are patient for a few moments as they wait for each person who steps into the shower, and then they begin to say things like "Hurry up...move along...that's all...don't use up all the water....etc. in a constant chatter.
Billy, meanwhile, walks up the stairs to follow Nguyen back into the landlord's house.
Just as he reaches the top of the stairs, he looks back down, and we see the water has just run out before the last two people in line could have a shower--and they are complaining.]
JAROSLAW Come on. Come on. How can you be so slow? Do you think everyone doesn't want a turn?
NGUYEN [to Billy] What are you doing?
BILLY I'm going to get something for you.
BILLY Your papers, from Vinnie's safe.
NGUYEN You're going to steal them?
So that I belong to you?
BILLY I hadn't thought of that.
BILLY No. Well, maybe for a moment. But IÃ‡ve dropped it.
[He gives the papers to her.]
NGUYEN You're just going to give them to me?
NGUYEN For nothing?
BILLY Yeah. For nothing.
[She takes his face in her hands and kisses him.
He hesitates, then kisses her back.
She kisses him back.
They kiss each other passionately.]
BILLY Only one thing: when Vinnie discovers your papers are gone from the safe he's going to guess you have them.
NGUYEN Sure, I know.
BILLY So there is a time limit, how much longer you can stay.
NGUYEN I wish I could be with you all the time.
BILLY So do I.
NGUYEN Will you leave with me?
[He goes with her into the house to crack Vinnie's safe. Meanwhile the showering continues, and then the party preparations continue, and then Billy returns to the group.]
TERTIUS Here, Billy, you can give me a hand.
BILLY Are these the glasses for champagne?
[Each with a dish towel, they meticulously clean an assortment of glasses, mugs, cans, jelly jars, etc. to use as glasses. We watch them clean every speck off each container, while, in the background, the others set out food.
Meanwhile we see the bottles of champagne chilling in the pots and buckets used to catch dripping water.
BILLY I'll be getting out of here soon, you know.
TERTIUS I didn't know.
BILLY Every night as I go to sleep I nearly choke.
TERTIUS I think there are things that everyone feels at least once every fifteen minutes for no reason at all: a flood of grief, or dread, or hatred, a tinge of regret, an unreasoning rage. These are all things that come over me, and I find I am powerless to resist them. So I try just to accept whatever sensations life sends my way.
[they finish with the glasses, and Tertius opens a bottle of champagne]
Ladies and gentlemen, let me give you some champagne,
JAROSLAW Is this champagne stolen?
TERTIUS Stolen first from the bosom of the earth and then from the capitalist bastards who stole it.
JAROSLAW I have a problem drinking stolen champagne.
TERTIUS Ah, well, de gustibus non disputandem est. Jessie?
JESSIE I don't have a problem. I put my faith in capitalism. [she offers a glass to Tertius for him to pour her a drink]
TERTIUS Good. Every experience of life is an experience of being alive. [pouring a glass for her]
RAUL Goddam you, you fucking cocksucker
[we see him banging his shoe repeatedly, violently on the floor]
goddam you to fucking hell goddammit
BILLY What is it, Raul?
RAUL [close to tears] This goddam fucking shoe won't go on my fucking foot.
BILLY It's okay.
KADIRA I'll help you.
[she takes the shoe from him and starts to put it on his foot]
TERTIUS Have some champagne.
[he gives a glass to Raul]
This is not, I think, an entirely despicable vintage.
[as he pours glasses and hands them to each of the guest, he speaks]
and, to be sure, whatever its provenance and pedigree whatever unique qualities it possesses champagne is an event-- one of the finest achievements of our civilization, an exquisite product of human intelligence of forethought and patience, of the accumulated knowledge of cultivation and care, the subtle, intricate cooperation between nature and human beings of the qualities of the earth itself, of the soil, the air, the sun-- so that we drink not only with champagne but also, at the same time: to it, and to the complexity and beauty of life itself and, finally, to all those things we love best.
ALEJANDRO Well, then, I drink to T-shirts from Liquid Sky a how-to course for walking in stilettos Dom Casual's pink, terry panties with a silk crotch And lemon body mist.
SHLOMO To a wool cardigan sweater not a new cardigan, but an old cardigan of dark green wool to a first edition of Diderot's encyclopedia signed if possible a small house in Normandy with a little kitchen garden a set of copper pots and pans an old woman one, if possible, to whom I have been married for thirty years three children no longer living at home to some geese and a dog.
JAROSLAW To an afternoon nap
ANNA to sheets and pillowcases white cotton or muslin
TERTIUS To moss
ALEJANDRO Yes. Indeed. Or a fresh pomegranate
TERTIUS A pear tree.
ANNA The earth itself.
SEVERAL To dirt. Dirt.
ANNA The sunlight you see in water as you pour it from a pitcher into a bowl.
I would like to live in a large, beautiful house. My family would stay with me, and in one of the wings I would have a friend, a woman friend. And whenever we wished, we would meet to discuss recent poems and other things of interest. When my friend received a letter, we would read it together and write our answer. If someone came to pay my friend a visit, I would receive him in one of our beautifully decorated rooms, and if he were prevented from leaving by a rain-storm or something of the sort, I would invite him to stay.
ALEJANDRO But why do you think it is that boys like fresh lemon body mist? And why do they always want you to make love in a public place? Or want you to wear a rubber dress that makes a squeaky sound when you put it on?
JESSIE This is how men are.
ALEJANDRO There are men who simply won't look twice unless you're wearing rubber stockings or rubber pants rubber gloves or some body jewelry a leather bracelet, or a collar or something that has a battery attached to it a little bit of piercing somewhere
JAROSLAW Of course, you all want these things given to you These are things other people work for
RAUL Or take from someone else.
JAROSLAW Oh, yes, these poor bastards always having everything taken from them It's a lie! You don't have anything to take!
RAUL We don't?
RAUL We don't?
JAROSLAW Nothing anyone wants.
RAUL Not oil?
JAROSLAW This is not yours! This is in the ground! You don't get it out! The Americans get it out! They come in with their know-how and they get it out! You don't lift a goddam finger, and yet you get paid for it. You get paid for it.
RAUL It belongs to us, you fucking nutcase. And we get it out. This is our labor you pay for.
JAROSLAW Your labor! You lazy bastards you lie about all day and then complain about your wages! It's not fair, you say, it's not fair, it's not fair. I tell you: I put my faith in capitalism!
RAUL You'll be surprised when someone puts a fucking suitcase bomb in your subway.
KADIRA His subway? This Polack?
JAROSLAW Now you think I should be afraid of a war with you-- you people don't know how to get a plane off the ground
KADIRA You think I am an Iraqi? You think I am an Iraqi? You don't even know who I am! You people sit there have the Russians and the Germans run back and forth back and forth back and forth up and down your backsides and you tell me I don't know how to fight?
So OK. OK. Never mind. In fact, one day soon this evil system will defeat itself.
JAROSLAW This is garbage.
KADIRA What is?
JAROSLAW What you say, everything you say.
KADIRA This is my religion.
JAROSLAW Your religion is garbage.
KADIRA [sudden uncontrolled rage; yelling] You know, I could cut your fucking throat.
JAROSLAW [contemptuously] With what?
KADIRA [taking a butcher knife from the table] With this, you asshole!
[Jessie and Billy step forward instantly, with the instincts of people who have often been in the midst of sudden violence, holding both Jaroslaw and Kadira back.]
TERTIUS [stepping between them] Ah, ah, ah, ah, I'll be needing that to cut the cake.
KADIRA [still yelling] You should be nice to me. I haven't done you any wrong.
JAROSLAW If you knew how to do anything it would be wrong.
KADIRA What do you mean, you sonofabitch?
[Kadira breaks free and shoves Jaroslaw violently; Jaroslaw falls backward, crashing through Jessie's cart full of stuff, scattering it, landing heavily on the floor
SHLOMO [quietly, sadly] Oh, no.
BILLY Here. That's enough.
[Billy and several others help Jaroslaw to his feet while Jessie and others restrain Kadira.]
BILLY [helping Jaroslaw] Are you all right?
JAROSLAW [to Raul] I'll rip your goddam arms off!
SHLOMO Here. Settle down now.
JAROSLAW Let go of me.
KADIRA I'll rip your fucking arms off.
[The fight subsides.]
ALEJANDRO Do you wear rubber?
ALEJANDRO You know, rubber, like rubber skirts, or, in the summer, rubber shorts or rubber stockings, or even--you know, rubber underwear.
ALEJANDRO I thought you might. [Silence] Most people, you know, try to repair their rubber with superglue, which is fatal, because it destroys the material.
KADIRA No, I didn't know.
ALEJANDRO I use Copydex for temporary repairs, but then I always take it into a professional.
KADIRA What are you telling me?
ALEJANDRO I just thought you might like to know. You never can tell when it might be useful.
You know, to get leather or rubber on, you have to make sure you're dry from head to toe, and then talc yourself....
SHLOMO Life is more complicated now than it used to be.
TERTIUS Of course there used to be rules.
JAROSLAW There are now.
ALEJANDRO Oh, sure. But now everyone knows they're just made up. Like the rules for the Honey Bee or the Cart Wheel or the Lovely Lady in Control or the Coitus of the Gods.
JESSIE The Coitus of the Gods?
JAROSLAW Now we have to listen to more filth.
JESSIE I'd like to hear.
ALEJANDRO You hold each other's hands, sprawled like two starfish making love, her thighs stretched out along yours, and you hold each other for a long, long time: that's all.
[Silence as everyone thinks about this.]
TERTIUS Ah, but I'd almost forgotten: there is entertainment this evening. I have arranged for one of the great classical actors of our time to render for us some passages from the immortal comic genius of antiquity the playwright Aristophanes. Here, from AristophanesÃ‡ great work: The Birds
[Nikos nods, takes a moment to prepare, and then launches into his performance-- complete with bird impersonations, flapping and leaping up and down like a bird, and so forth. Once again, only the Greek is delivered; the English translation here is just for the convenience of the actor.]
NIKOS hos dÃ‡ ouchi theori toninun erchon ton anthropon to palaion, allÃ‡ ornithes, kabasileuon, pollÃ‡esti tekmeria touton. Aiguptou dÃ‡ au kai Phoinikes pases kokkux basileus en: chopothÃ‡ ho kokkuk eipoi "kokkuÃ‡ tot" an hoi Phoinikes hapantes tous purous an kai tas krithas en tois pediois etherizon. erchon dÃ‡ houto sphodra ten archen, host ei tis kai basileuoi en tais polesin ton Hellenon Agamemnon e Menelaos, epi ton skeptron ekathet ornis metechon ho ti dorokokoie. ho de deinotaton g estin hapanton, ho Zeus gar ho nun basileuon aieton ornin hesteken echon epi tes kephales basileus on, he dÃ‡ au thugater glauchÃ‡, ho dÃ‡ Apollon hosper therapon hieraka.
[It was not the gods, but the birds, who were formerly the masters and kings over men; of this I have a thousand proofs. The cuckoo was the king of Egypt and of the whole of Phoenicia. When he called out "cuckoo," all the Phoenicians hurried to the fields to reap their wheat and their barley. So powerful were the birds that the kings of Grecian cities, Agammemnon, Menelaus, for instance, carried a bird on the tip of their scepters, who had his share of all presents. But the strongest proof of all is that Zeus, who now reigns, is represented as standing with an eagle on his head as a symbol of his royalty; his daughter has an owl, and Phoebus, as his servant, has a hawk.]
[Tertius applauds shouts bravo-- speaks a few words of Greek to encourage Nikos to take repeated bows. Everyone else remains completely unmoved and silent. Billy, out of embarassment and compassion for Nikos applauds a few times. Then there is awkward silence.]
SHLOMO [to save embarassment] If this is the proper moment, then, I'd like to sing a song that we used to sing in my home when I was a child
SHLOMO Luz mir alle inanem inanem (name of person) makable punim zein Luz mir alle inanem inanem (name of person) makable punim zein Luz mir alle namem Luz mir alle namem Trinken ah glazelah v-i-n-e.
Luz mir alle namem Luz mir alle namem Trinken ah glazelah v-i-n-e.
[The song repeats, adding othersÃ‡ names in as it goes along.
Alejandro joins in dancing with him; this moment is prolonged; Shlomo and Alejandro enjoy dancing with each other; then Kadira, then others join in.
On the end of Shlomo's song, Jaroslaw begins his own song and dance that the others also join in as they get the hang of it.] JAROSLAW Ya kazhi mi, oblache le, byalo of gde idesh, gde si mi letyalo Ne vidya li bashtini mi dvori I ne chu li maika da govori. Shto li pravi moito chedo milo, s chuzhdi hora, chuzhdi hlyab delilo, Ti kazhi I, olbache le, byalo, zhiv I zdrav, che tuk si me vidyalo. I nosi of mene mnogo zdrave, mnogo mina, munichko ostana. Nablizhava v selo da se vurna da se vurna, maika da pregurna
[Tell me, little white cloud, Where are you coming from, where have you flown. Did you see my fatherÃŒs home and did you hear my mother talk How is my precious child doing, sharing foreign bread with foreign people You tell her, little white cloud, that you saw me here, strong and healthy And send my love to her, a lot of time has passed, and not much is left ItÃŒs fine for me to go back, to go back and give my mother a hug.]
VINNIE PAZZI [from the top of the landing as he starts to rush down the stairs] What are you doing, you bastards, burning down the house?
Smoke is pouring up the stairs and you're dancing!
What's the matter with you?
You didn't hear what I said?
Put this out! Put this out!
[he grabs a bucket of water, sending a champagne bottle smashing on the floor, and dumps it onto the barbecue grill; he kicks the grill over onto the floor, gets another bucket and dumps the water onto the scattered food and hot charcoal]
Cooking over an open fire: this is for barbarians!
BILLY [taking a firm hold on Vinnie Pazzi, speaking quietly] Stop.
VINNIE PAZZI Don't touch me, you prick.
BILLY You'll be lucky if I don't break your neck.
VINNIE PAZZI Are you threatening me? Do you hear this? He threatens me in my own house. I could throw you out of here any moment I want.
BILLY You throw me out, I'll have you put in jail.
VINNIE PAZZI For what?
BILLY For receiving stolen goods! For selling stolen goods!
VINNIE PAZZI You can't prove a thing.
BILLY I have people who will testify against you.
VINNIE PAZZI Oh, do you? Who is that? Who?
TERTIUS [with Raul helping him pull Billy and Vinnie Pazzi apart.] That's enough now. Come.
BILLY People from your own house.
VINNIE PAZZI From my house!
TERTIUS That's all.
JAROSLAW [shouting] Have you no respect for the dead?
[silence as all turn to Jaroslaw who is in complete anguish and despair, tears pouring down his face, holding Anna in his arms]
JAROSLAW Can't you see that my wife has died? [holding her] Oh, Anna. Anna. Anna.
[Shlomo puts his arm around Jaroslaw.
SHLOMO There, there, she's at peace now.
VINNIE PAZZI She's died here in my house? Goddammit, now what do you think what kind of bullshit am I going to have now with the county health department? Goddammit, no one told me she was that sick, and you let her stay here when she could die on my premises? You bastards!
[he starts for the stairway]
I'll phone the coroner's office. You get her out of here into the alley, I'm not having any trouble over this.
[shouting ahead as he goes up the stairs]
Trang! Nguyen! Call the coroner's office. Someone's died goddammit.
SHLOMO Come. Bring a sheet for her. Here, Jaroslaw, just let go for a moment now, sit just here close to her but let me cover her
[Jaroslaw, still crying, slowly surrenders her body to Shlomo. Others come with a sheet and help to wrap Anna in it. Still others come to Jaroslaw and hug him.
NGUYEN [from atop the landing] IÃ‡ve called an undertaker and the police.
BILLY The police?
SHLOMO Why the police?
NGUYEN I shouldn't have called the police?
BILLY It's nothing to do with the police. That's all right, it doesn't matter.
TERTIUS Here, give me a hand.
[All the men are picking up Anna to carry her upstairs. She is shrouded in a sheet. They all carry her, with Jaroslaw following behind, and then the others behind him. Talk of "okay," "here, I have her" etc as they go upstairs On the landing there is now a huge crowd and a lot of maneuvering to get through the door into the landlord's house. Just inside the door, Vinnie Pazzi meets them.
VINNIE PAZZI [enraged] What are you doing bringing her in here?
RAUL You said to take her outside.
VINNIE PAZZI To the alley, you schmuck, not through my house, what are you doing bringing a dead body into my house?
BILLY Just have some compassion for...
VINNIE PAZZI Just get this corpse out of my house, goddammit, you let them in here?
VINNIE PAZZI You opened the door to this mob?
[Vinnie Pazzi slaps her.
VINNIE PAZZI You stupid bitch!
BILLY What happened?
TERTIUS That was uncalled for, I think.
VINNIE PAZZI What do you know?
[He snatches up a tea pot and throws it at Nguyen who shrieks in pain.
BILLY That's all.
[There is now an explosion of frightening violence.
Billy shoves his way through the crowd toward Vinnie Pazzi. The others are all struggling to get to him, too. The class war begins. Someone shoves Vinnie Pazzi, Vinnie Pazzi spins around off balance into the crowd of pallbearers, and now Billy grabs him by the shoulders and propels him back out through the door onto the landing where he gives him a tremendous shove --and, as Billy then turns to run to Nguyen, we hear Vinnie Pazzi scream out, and then, as Billy pulls Nguyen into his arms, we hear another scream from one of the women then more shouting and finally Tertius, who happens to be near Billy speaks
TERTIUS He has fallen over the railing.
TERTIUS Your landlord has fallen over the railing into the factory.
The crowd is ashen-faced at the instant realization of what they have done.
BILLY gets up moves through the crowd of his companions to look over the railing. Already some of the others are running down the stairs. Billy runs after them. They part to let him to Vinnie Pazzi's side. Billy looks at him, reaches out to touch him, pulls back an eyelid, puts his head to Vinnie Pazzi's chest to listen for a heartbeat. Billy is stunned.
BILLY [under his breath] IÃ‡ve killed him.
RAUL The police are here.
[BILLY looks up to see the police coming down the stairs.]
POLICEMAN Well, what have we here? Is he hurt?
BILLY He's dead.
[the policeman kneels down to examine Vinnie Pazzi, confirms he is dead
Was he a friend of yours?
POLICEMAN How did it happen?
TRANG He pushed him.
TRANG That man, he pushed my husband over the railing and killed him.
POLICEMAN Did you?
[Silence. Kadira steps forward.]
KADIRA I'm the one who pushed him. He pushed me. So I pushed him back.
RAUL Oh, well, I pushed him.
ALEJANDRO Well, really, I think I'm the one who pushed him.
RAUL I think we were all pushing each other.
TERTIUS Excuse me, officer. Tertius Hodgson.
TERTIUS If I can be of any assistance. I saw the entire incident.
TERTIUS It was an accident. A woman died here today, and these gentlemen were carrying the body of this poor man's wife up through the house to take her for burial there was so little room on the staircase and such a crowd of people I think everyone was jostling don't you know and under such stress in any case. This unfortunate fellow lost his balance I think he had been a bit confused for some years in any case, if you know what I mean. And, in any event, he fell over the railing. It's a tragedy. I don't think anyone's to be blamed.
POLICEMAN That's your story.
[silence as he looks around from one person to another]
That's your story.
TERTIUS If there are further inquiries you can ask for me here.
POLICEMAN Thank you.
If I could speak to you for a moment upstairs.
POLICEMAN [to Billy] And you, don't leave. There may be further questions for you.
[The policeman starts out upstairs; Tertius gently takes Trang's arm
TERTIUS I hope you don't mind my speaking up to the officer, you know, in this country, the courts can be so difficult sorting out any questions of inheritance if there is some question of foul play. I thought you would want to be spared all that. If you're to be our landlady now, you'll have enough on your mind without that sort of trouble.
[She turns to follow the policeman upstairs.]
TERTIUS [to Nguyen] Will you have some champagne? Life is such a mixed bag hardly ever all good or all bad.
[he gives her a glass of champagne and has one himself; it is dark now in the factory; the light bulbs in the green conical shades are lit]
Where is Shlomo?
RAUL He's disappeared.
ALEJANDRO He got his things and left the moment Nguyen said she had called the police.
KADIRA What did he have to hide?
RAUL I'd go myself if there were someplace to go.
TERTIUS If you have no connections to hold you here, why not?
JESSIE If it weren't for my feet, I'd hit the road myself.
RAUL I'd go, but I just got here. I meant to go somewhere. I mean: I thought I did go somewhere, but as it turned out I just came here.
KADIRA I'd like to go.
BILLY If it hadn't been for the cop telling me to stay, we'd have been leaving.
BILLY Nguyen and I.
RAUL Leaving here?
TERTIUS Do you mean now?
NGUYEN Well, you can come upstairs with me and stay there until we leave.
NGUYEN It's as much mine as my sister's.
[All turn to look at Billy, their new landlord.]
KADIRA Well, this is how it is: every man for himself, eh? we live in a world where the thieves rise to the top.
ALEJANDRO Or you could say: where love is still possible.
KADIRA Yes, well, I put my faith in capitalism for sure.
[She turns and walks away. Silence.
[Tertius steps forward, embraces Billy.]
TERTIUS I wish you well. You made me feel at home here when I first arrived. I wish you both the very best.
[silence again; finally Raul steps forward
JESSIE I say good luck to both of you.
[everyone gathers to shake hands, hug Nguyen, say goodbye-- only Kadira standing aloof.]
RAUL I for one, I'd be in your place if I could be.
ALEJANDRO Well, you must have us to dinner when youÃ‡ve settled in your new home.
[After a moment, Billy and Nguyen turn away and go to Billy's shelves, take stuff from the shelves and toss them in a duffle bag. Awkward silence.]
TERTIUS It is so hard for me to understand the customs here. Two people have died, and no one mourns. Is this how it is?
[In response to this remark, Jessie sings a soulful, melancholy solo that turns in the end into a positive song.
JESSIE [singing] The valley may be dark, the shadows deep, my heavenly father guards his lonely sheep.
And surely he remembers me my heavenly father watches over me.
I trust in God I know he cares for me upon the land or on the stormy sea.
The billows roll He keeps my soul my heavenly father watches over me.