Drama by Alissa Dean

SURVIVORS
A Play in One Act
 

INT. NYC DIVE BAR - LATE NIGHT

A fun rock song blares as CHARLIE, mid-late 30s and RILEY, mid-late 20s, sit at a back booth in a nearly empty bar. He’s in a sports coat. She’s in a sundress and army boots. A dying neon bar sign hangs above a few dart boards. On one side of the stage are the restrooms, on the other side, a glass door marked “exit”.

It’s late. Charlie has a water and Riley is halfway through a beer and is a tad tipsy. Glasses and napkins litter the table and the mood is flirtatious and fun. They are playing “slaps”. Ya know, that game where you pull your hands away before the other person slaps them? That game.

RILEY
“True friends stab you in the front.”

CHARLIE
Oscar Wilde.

RILEY
Yes!

CHARLIE
Okay, “I cannot be awake for nothing looks to me as it did before, or else I am awake for the first time, and all before has been a mean sleep.”

RILEY
Ugh. Sounds like Walt Whitman.

CHARLIE
The man, the myth, the mall on Long Island himself.

RILEY
Okay, um... ”We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

CHARLIE
Anias Nin. “Seduction of the Minotaur”, also greeting cards. Too easy. Go again.

RILEY
Jeez, okay. (she thinks) “One can be absolutely truthful and sincere even though admittedly the most outrageous liar. Fiction and invention are...” Shit. I don’t remember..

CHARLIE
“The very fabric of life.” Henry Miller.

RILEY
This is fun. Lit major off. I like it.

CHARLIE
Do you want to have kids?

RILEY
With you? No.

CHARLIE
No, just like, in general.

RILEY
Ummmm... I don’t know. I don’t know if I could do that to myself. Love something that hard. I think it’d end up killing me.

CHARLIE (scoffs)
Or you can put a negative spin on it.

A beat goes by. Charlie’s hands are out, she slaps them.

RILEY
Gotcha!

The game continues.

CHARLIE
So, you were arrested by border police? You never finished that story.

RILEY
Ah, okay. So, I wasn’t arrested, exactly. They put me in a little jail cell with a toilet for a few hours.

CHARLIE
So, arrested.

RILEY
Okay, technically. My camp counselors bailed me out.

CHARLIE
You were how old?

RILEY
Fourteen.

CHARLIE
You might be--scratch that-- you are for sure the only person I’ve ever met who was arrested--

RILEY
Detained.

CHARLIE
Arrested for attempting to smuggle a baby turtle over the Canadian border.

RILEY
I got kicked out of Apollo Teen Tours for life.

CHARLIE
Were you scared?

RILEY
I was so fucking scared. Those Canadian border patrol people are no joke.

CHARLIE
I’m sure. Canadians are terrifying.

RILEY
Right?

CHARLIE
Sure. Dan Ackroyd, Pam Anderson, The cast of “You Can’t Do that on Television”.

RILEY (faux offended)
Ya know... I open up to you--

CHARLIE
I’m sorry--

RILEY
--about the trials and tribulations of my teenage years and my attempt to free my Canadian turtle friend Wayne--

CHARLIE
Wait. His name was Wayne?

RILEY
And you get all snarky and smartassy--

CHARLIE
Hey! 

RILEY
No. I’m done.

CHARLIE
C’mon. Don’t leave me hanging here! What happened? To Wayne?

RILEY
Nope. You are cut off from all of my charming anecdotes.

Riley takes a sip of her beer.

RILEY (CONT’D)
So, what’s with that kayaking photo?

CHARLIE
My friend Miranda told me to use it as my OK Cupid profile picture.

RILEY
Well, cheers to Miranda cause it’s exactly why I messaged you.

CHARLIE
Ha.

RILEY
Well, that and the whole “world traveler, I started a company that’s gonna save the planet by making water safer blah blah blah”...

CHARLIE
That’s actually our slogan.

RILEY
Your friend Miranda’s a smart lady. Who is she? Should I become her new best friend then kill her in her sleep?

CHARLIE
She’s married to a woman, if that helps.

RILEY
Oh my god! I was convinced I was a lesbian my entire 7th grade year.

Charlie lights up.

CHARLIE
Please tell me more about this new and fascinating piece of information.

RILEY
I was obsessed with it. I like, convinced myself and my mom too, poor thing, that I was totally just gay. It was the year after my sister died so I was for sure just using it as a diversion etc. etc. etc.

CHARLIE
I’m sorry.

RILEY
Don’t be. It’s not your fault. It was actually really funny. I got really into softball that year and met some of my best friends, so...

She rises. 

RILEY (CONT’D)
I’m gonna go break the seal. From this moment forward all bets are off... as far as the amount of peeing I’m gonna do.

She turns to exit, turns back, looks at him.

RILEY (CONT’D)
“Come. Let us make love deathless”

Long beat.

CHARLIE
Herbert Trench?

RILEY
Thank god you knew that one.

She grabs his hand.

RILEY (CONT’D)
You’re so familiar to me.

CHARLIE
Happy Birthday, ya big lesbo.

He kisses her hand. He watches her exit, then-- 

He quickly gathers his stuff and stands. He puts some money on the table and pulls a letter out of his pocket, places it on top of her drink. He’s in a bit of a panic.

Finally, he exits.

 A long moment later, he’s walks back in and grabs the letter, pockets it, turns to the door. Stops, stares out the door. Riley enters and sees him standing, his back to her.

RILEY
Hey.

Charlie jumps a little.

RILEY (CONT’D)
Woah. Sorry. You okay?

CHARLIE
Yes. Hah. Sorry. What time is it?

As she grabs her phone from her purse, Charlie slyly pockets the money he left on the table.

RILEY
How is it already 1:47AM?

CHARLIE
That’s...

RILEY
Kinda crazy.

Charlie still stands there.

RILEY (CONT’D)
Were you gonna go or...?

CHARLIE
No.

RILEY
Good. Then stay.

She sits. He follows suit.

CHARLIE
Listen, Riley--

RILEY
“All before has been a mean sleep”?

CHARLIE
Yeah?

RILEY
Why’d you quote that one?

CHARLIE
It just came to me.

RILEY
My sister, her A.P. English final. She--God, I hate Walt Whitman--she wrote this essay. I found it after she died. It was comparing Whitman to Henry David Thoreau. Total snoozefest.

A pause. Riley shifts gears.

RILEY (CONT’D)
So, Mr. “I’m from your home town,” you left in ‘95, yes?

CHARLIE
Yes.

RILEY
So, you wouldn’t have been much older than my--

CHARLIE
I left after high school, went away for a long time, college, dropped out. I never really came back. Well, til now.

RILEY
I was only there a year anyway. At JFK. We moved to my grandparents house in Arizona. Cottonwood. There’s nothing there. My prom was at an Hostess factory outlet.

Charlie chuckles softly.

RILEY (CONT’D)
I’m not kidding.

CHARLIE
I didn’t know you moved.

RILEY
Why would you?

Charlie grabs her face and kisses her. She kisses him back. After a beat, she looks at him, smiles. He has tears in his eye.

RILEY (CONT’D)
Are you okay?

CHARLIE
What else do you want to know?

RILEY
Hey. Are you okay?

CHARLIE
Yeah. Ask me another question.

Riley presses forward.

RILEY
Um, what was your grandmother’s name?

CHARLIE
Maternal and paternal- both named Shirley.

RILEY
Hah. Awesome. What’s your mom’s name?

Beat.

CHARLIE
Corbett.

RILEY
That’s an interesting name. Your last name’s Thomas? Charlie Thomas?

CHARLIE
Look, Riley. Hi. Could you just stick with me for a second here? Because I don’t have much more time with you and I, um, have a letter I wrote you.

He takes the letter out and places it in front of her.

CHARLIE (CONT’D)
But maybe, at this point, if you could just hear me out before you--

RILEY
There was a woman I knew once named Corbett... Martin.

Charlie shifts in his chair.

CHARLIE
Riley, listen--

RILEY
My sister dated her son. But that’s not, I mean, he’s not you. You don’t look like him.

Charlie is silent.

RILEY (CONT’D)
I’m not crazy here. His name was Scott Martin. He lived on Windsor Hill Road. You’re not him. Cause... (barely audible) You’re not, right? Sorry. I just. You’re not...

CHARLIE
I wanted to tell you when you first messaged me.

Riley goes cold. Examines his face.

RILEY
Your face is different. You changed your name?

CHARLIE
I changed everything.

RILEY
Was anything you said true?

CHARLIE
It all was.

RILEY
No.

CHARLIE
I’m sorry.

RILEY
Don’t be him.

CHARLIE
I’m sorry.

RILEY
Please don’t be him.

She looks at him, as if seeing him for the first time.

RILEY (CONT’D)
What the fuck is this? What the fuck are you trying to--

CHARLIE
Listen, at first, I thought it was you trying to reach out to me. Maybe you figured out who I was and you needed closure--

RILEY
I needed closure?

CHARLIE
But obviously that wasn’t what you were doing. And I was going to cut it off but then, I got addicted to your emails, to your voice, to your overuse of emoticons and our banter. It was just... It was like this daily ray of sunshine I’d get zapped with and I didn’t want to stop. I tried. Remember there were those two days? But it was kind of excruciating. So, I kept it going.

RILEY
Wow.

CHARLIE
I liked being someone who you liked. Someone who didn’t hurt you. And, and this is going to sound weird and I’m sorry but I’d like to be honest with you. I miss her.

 RILEY
There it is.

Riley takes a deep breathe. 

RILEY
You miss her? You miss her?

CHARLIE
I’m sorry. You look exactly like her.

RILEY
So you wanted to maybe, I dunno, dupe me into thinking you are this amazing guy who didn’t kill my sister? Maybe I’d jerk you off in the cab on the way up to your apartment?

CHARLIE
I didn’t kill her. I was a dumb kid who made a mistake.

RILEY
You weren’t a kid. She was a kid. You were an adult.

CHARLIE
Technically.

RILEY
I was a kid, too. Do you remember me?

CHARLIE
As a kid. Yes.

RILEY
You gave me a book. This is so fucked up.

CHARLIE
“Watership Down”.

RILEY
Are you gonna fucking quote it to me? The book you gave me the night you took her from me? In what world would this be a good idea?

CHARLIE
I don’t know. I was going to just hand you that letter and then let you yell at me or ask me questions or whatever and then go but then I saw you and it changed.

RILEY
Do you have any idea how selfish that sounds?

CHARLIE
Yes. (then) Look, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t somehow recall it. That I don’t think of her. Her face, her smile, her voice and wish to God that I hadn’t gotten in that car, that I’d called a cab. Nothing changes that. It’s part of who I am. Like. My arm or something.

RILEY
No. Don’t you dare claim her death as part of you. It’s mine. And my mom’s and my dad’s. You don’t get her or her death. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be woken up at 2AM by your mother screaming, seeing her passed out on the floor, asking your dad what happened and being told by a cop that your sister was found dead in a car, in a fucking lake?

CHARLIE
Riley--

RILEY
Imagine you’re thirteen years old and you’re looking forward to spending the summer with your sister before she goes away to college. You guys are gonna go to Great Adventure, Splish Splash. Ya know? Fun stuff.

None of these carefree plans involve picking out your sister’s casket at the funeral home because your parents can’t stand up straight let alone pick out the wood grain that best suits their seventeen year old daughter’s body. So, you lay in every single one to find the one that feels the most “Amy.”

CHARLIE
I’m so sorry. You don’t deserve this. I shouldn’t have done this. 

RILEY (CONT’D)
Ya think?

CHARLIE
I’m sorry. Fuck. I’m so sorry, Riley.

RILEY
You think you’ve changed, I bet. You’re exactly the same. This. This right here. The audacity it took to con me the way you did. Listening to me for hours, flirt with you? Try to charm you. I shaved my legs. I got a bikini wax. That’s how good of a liar you are, “Charlie”.

Charlie gets up to go.

RILEY (CONT’D)
Sit.

After a moment, he does. She studies him.

RILEY (CONT’D)
I told him things. I really really liked him.

CHARLIE
I am him.

RILEY
Man. I was in this one. I thought for the first time in a long time “hey, maybe...” But that guy, the one I bought this dress for? He doesn’t exist.

She starts to leave, but he grabs her hand.

CHARLIE
I’m right here. I am the same exact person I was ten minutes ago. If you felt those things, the same things I feel, then I’m asking you: Please don’t leave. I won’t if you won’t. And we can sit here until they kick us out. And then we can walk around and we can figure this out. Cause, and maybe I’m fucking crazy, but I think this could work.

A beat. She looks into his eyes, then pulls her hand away.

RILEY
No. Shit. No! This is insane. You are an insane person. I should call the fucking cops.

Riley charges to the exit. Looks at him one more time.

RILEY (CONT’D)
Shame on you.

She’s gone. Charlie sits, defeated for a very long beat. He pockets his letter, leaves some cash, gets up.

Then, she re-enters. They lock eyes a beat.

RILEY (CONT’D)
“She was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest, my noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong. The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood. For nothing now can ever come to any good.”

CHARLIE
W. H. Auden.

RILEY
I read “Stop All the Clocks” at her funeral. Changed the pronouns, of course. At the time I just thought it was the poem from “Four Weddings and a Funeral”.

He smiles, sadly.

RILEY (CONT’D)
Are you happy? Just like, in general? You enjoying life, Scott?

CHARLIE
That’s not my name.

RILEY
Does it scare you? I’ll try again. You happy, Scott?

CHARLIE
Why do you want to know?

RILEY
Because. Even though I hate you right now, I’d like for you to be happy. I’d like for one of us to get to be happy.

CHARLIE
I’ve spent most of my life on uncomfortable couches listening to old people in glasses tell me I have to forgive myself. I’ve never not been on some cocktail of drugs to make me feel normal and I changed my identity to run from something that I clearly still need to correct.

RILEY
I don’t feel bad for you.

CHARLIE
I didn’t ask you to. I’m just answering your question.

RILEY
Okay.

CHARLIE
I mean, I have days, whole weeks sometimes where I can dive into work or... but at the end of the day--

RILEY
She’s there. Right?

CHARLIE
Always.

RILEY
Reminding you?

CHARLIE
Guiding me. Making sure I don’t fuck up again.

RILEY
She did that.

CHARLIE
Look, I just want you to know how much I loved her. I know we were young but losing her--

RILEY
Don’t--

CHARLIE
--was the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to accept.

Riley quietly exhales.

RILEY
Well. Then, we have that in common.

BLACK OUT.

 

 

Alissa Dean is a screenwriter and actress from New York who currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two rescue dogs. She is an Academy Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting Semifinalist for her feature screenplay Cricket, which is currently in development with Chartoff Productions and works as a writers' assistant on CW's upcoming series Life Sentence