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Going and going – June 2015

Going and going
Michele Lee
(c) 2015

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Going and going – June 2015

Going and going

Characters
Jo, 23 – female, Australian & Dylan, 24 – male, Australian (these characters could be
Caucasian but don’t have to be cast as such)
Laila, 21 – female, Afghan & Wajid – 23 male, Afghan (born and raised in Australia)

Setting
In a taxi.

Time
Now, 2015.

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Going and going – June 2015

Going and going

A taxi coming to a halt in a quiet street in the inner north of Melbourne. The radio is
on, something commercial. The taxi driver humming along.

The door of the taxi opens.
JO: The girl leans into the taxi. ‘Fancy meeting you here,’ she quips to the taxi driver.
DYLAN: The boyfriend, Dylan, narrows his eyes as if to say, ‘Oh my God. Why does Jo
think that an Indian taxi driver will benefit from her inane jokes?’
JO: The taxi driver grins.
DYLAN: ‘International today?’ he says, looking at the backpacks.
JO: Their matching Kathmandu backpacks stuffed full.
DYLAN: They nod simultaneously because, yes, international terminal, here they come.
JO: Five thousand bucks. Two-year working holiday.
DYLAN: The taxi driver says, ‘I’ll pop the boot.’

Backpacks going into the boot.
JO: The girl braces for the boy’s jibe.
DYLAN: The boy holds it back.
JO: Silently, she gets into the taxi with him.
DYLAN: Things will be ok.
JO: Life is just a series of choices, according to psychiatrists. The choice to be happy. So the
girl clicks twice for happy. Come on, universe. Click click. Make this work, she thinks.
You sent me to this boy. Sent her to the gourmet American restaurant on Smith Street,
where he was also waiting booths, also serving $25 hamburgers. The yelly female
executive chef. Cutthroat pace. A spontaneous staff camping trip. In the tent, buzzing
from speed, the girl and the boy stayed up all night. Dissecting restaurant politics.
Planning an escape from Melbourne. Together? Maybe? Yes. Yes! For a month? A
year? No. Two years! Click click. Why not? And after the comedown, they’d done
something insanely practical. A joint bank account to fund this trip away.

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Going and going – June 2015

The taxi moving, settling onto the road.

JO: Brunswick Road.
DYLAN: Citylink entry.
JO: Cars race past. The girl attempts affection.
DYLAN: Pats the boy’s belly.
JO: He doesn’t flinch.
DYLAN: A smile?
JO: Another joke?
DYLAN: Nope. Flinches now. Removes her hand. He’s not over it. Her stupid stunt last
night. His stupid response.

Beat.
JO: ‘Good day for a holiday then?’ the taxi driver jokes.
DYLAN: ‘Want to swap places?’ the boy jokes back.
JO: He laughs. The taxi driver laughs. She frowns. Last night, during the farewell dinner with
friends and housemates where she, yes, might have yelled a bit and the boy, most
definitely yes, yelled a bit, she was trying to figure out what it was that she hated. Him.
His haughty never-wrongness. Some mornings she’d roll over on her. See the boy.
Once a co-worker, now her boyfriend. New-ish boyfriend of one, four, six months, a
year. ‘I don’t want you, Dylan.’ She’d say, ‘Can I get a refund, Dylan?’ She’d laugh.
DYLAN: The taxi driver says, ‘You’re lucky. You have a funny girlfriend.’
JO: The girl beams. Glares at the boy.
DYLAN: He glares back. Says, ‘She’s not always funny.’
JO: The girl gives him the finger.
DYLAN: ‘Sometimes Jo is so hilarious. She’s beyond funny.’
JO: ‘Can I get a refund, Dylan?’
DYLAN: ‘Please. Please do.’
JO: Too fucking late.
DYLAN: The Tullamarine.
JO: Doorstep of the international terminal fast approaching.
DYLAN: Passports in pockets.

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JO: Why did she choose him? Because he didn’t compliment her? Idiot. Giving top points to
the asshole who didn’t ogle her. Top points to this generic hipster boyfriend because he
swapped cruel jokes with her. Teased her haircut, her long limbs. Called her a giraffe.
DYLAN: He was the wry guy with comebacks. Savvy references. Generically acerbic.
Boringly self-deprecating.
JO: She’s the tragic. She stood completely still in the psych ward at St Vinnies.
DYLAN: A fixer upper.
JO: Puzzle to be pieced together. Her confession: last year she had week-long bender, it
ended with psychosis. A deep hole. Motionless in her hospital bed. Psychiatrists telling
her that she’d gone through so much. Her parents had drifted into divorce, wordlessly
and without a fight. Her big sister had become distant and religious. Christmas had
been ghostly. Her un-specific university degree had left her floating. Psychiatrists
anchored her. Drugs, the boring kind. When they let her out, she’d met the boy.
DYLAN: Such a showy fraud. Three months, four months in, whenever it was she had spilled
her guts, he’d boasted that he’d be her rock. Then he’d piked. Avoided her. Texted her
pathetic advice about how to cope with drugs. Then stopped talking about it all.
Focussed on their big amazing trip. He was into plans, ideas, chats with brown taxi
drivers, and not so into the dreary up-close details of another human being.

The traffic swallowing them up.

JO: Things will be ok. Austria might be coming, if they can stretch their dollars.
DYLAN: If they can stretch their dollars, there are fjords in Norway. Five thousand bucks for
eight weeks in China, India, Turkey, Hungary and Germany. An international
whirlwind before landing in the UK, at a friend of a friend’s seven-person flat in
Brixton. Before setting up for two years. But Norway, if they can stretch it, go there,
Norway has him pining for the gaping silence of the fjords.
JO: Just a few sneaky days into Austria. In Austria there’ll be singing. The Sound of Music. A
global convention. She’s pining for madness. Oddities. Anecdotes.
DYLAN: Deafening silence. Sudden spiritual transformation. He’s pining to go where nature
overwhelms him. Become some version of a man he’s not quite yet. The most
compassionate of human beings even though he often hates other people. He’s a fat
fuck. As if he can afford Norway. Last night, after the yelling, he lost two thousand
bucks through the Poker Stars site. He was up 100%. Then he split his cards. Lost it all.
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Now there’s only three thousand left to get them through the world, and she’s got no
idea yet. Why would she? He sucks at confessions. Hearing them, giving them.
JO: People with certainty are the dullest people, according to psychiatrists.
DYLAN: The boy looks at her.
JO: The girl looks at him.

Beat.
DYLAN: ‘Whereabouts in India are you from?’ the boy asks the taxi driver.
JO: ‘Nowhere in India,’ he replies. ‘I’m from Pakistan.’
DYLAN: The boy feels stupid. ‘We’re going to India,’ he explains. He adds, ‘We won’t go to
Pakistan. Government says it’s not safe.’
JO: ‘It’s not safe,’ the taxi driver agrees.
DYLAN: ‘We’ll be near the border though. Dharamasala.’
JO: ‘You’ll like it there. Safe. Beautiful.’

Beat.
DYLAN: The boy is dumb. Can’t bet. Can’t win. Can’t tell a Pakistani from an Indian.
JO: The girl is dumb. She didn’t know Dharamasala was on the border.
DYLAN: Will things be ok? He is, really, just a hick from a rural town in Queensland.
JO: She is, really, just a baby. Grew up in a comfortable suburban home with alienated
parents that never sat around yelling politics at each other the way the boy’s family did.
DYLAN: The boy feels sick. Overseas is much too vast.
JO: Overseas is much too soon. The girl feels nervous.
DYLAN: The boy is 24. He’s a kid.
JO: She’s 23. Silly. Everyone must have fun. The girl put a stick of marijuana in the front
flap of the boy’s backpack, tied on with a red ribbon. He was meant to find it and laugh.
He didn’t find it, she’d forgotten about it. He could have been in airport security with
pot. Ha ha ha ha ha. Arty had been smirking. Last night, their friend the smirking Arty
had emerged from the living room where the backpacks were. Joint stuck between his
lips. Ribbon around his neck. ‘Jo, Dylan, planning to smoke this on the plane then?’
DYLAN: Why did the boy yell so much?
JO: Why did she refuse to say sorry?
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DYALN: Fucking tool. Scolded her in front of their friends for having ‘drug problems’.
Stormed off. Nursed his phone. Logged in – again – and bet their money. Thinking he
could beat an algorithm. Always wanting to prove a point.
JO: Under a ripe fig tree, after everyone had gone, smoking the joint, the girl hugged Arty.
The boy was missing. ‘Why don’t we have sex, Arty, tonight, before I go?’ She
laughed. Arty didn’t join in.
DYLAN: Later, the boy crawled into the sofa bed, shaking. He’d changed the password to the
shared account. He kissed her, panicked. ‘Things will be ok.’

Beat.
JO: ‘My wife’s still in Karachi,’ the taxi driver says. ‘Parveen’s her name. She is a scientist,
much more clever than me.’
DYLAN: The boy says, ‘You must miss her.’
JO: The music from the radio is loud and tinny.
DYLAN: Dylan feels like crying.
JO: Jo whispers, ‘I’m so nervous.’
DYLAN: Dylan whispers, ‘Me too.’
JO: ‘We don’t really know each other.’
DYLAN: ‘We might hurt each other.’
JO: ‘We might already have.’
DYLAN: ‘We will forgive each other?’
JO: ‘I hope so.’

Beat.
DYLAN: The radio’s singing. Number one pop song.
JO: Tempo’s fast. Like the din of Islamabad.
DYLAN: Taxi driver pulls into the airport. Departures.
JO: Nudges his car into the bay in the front of the international terminal.
DYLAN: Parveen smells of markets and musk.
JO: Taxi driver pops the boot. The terminal doors slide open, shut.
DYLAN: Parveen has big dark eyes. A throaty laugh.

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JO: The girl gets out. Planes are landing. There’s yelling. Security staff watching over the
drop-off lane. Someone’s dawdling.
DYLAN: Planes are leaving. The boy retrieves the matching backpacks. Someone’s crying.
Goodbyes. Boy says to the girl, ‘Hope you don’t mind, tipped the driver twenty.’
JO: ‘No, that was a nice thing to do.’

The airport, a bustle of traffic. In the taxi, the dance music. The taxi driver humming
along. Outside, security guards telling people ‘Two minutes standing only’. People
saying bye. The terminal doors opening, shutting, emitting fragments of flight
announcements. And planes launch off, ploughing up into the sky. The music dies down.

The taxi slowing down.

LAILA: Arrivals. The taxi driver creeps into the taxi rank. Waits to be waved into a bay.
WAJID: Taps his fingers on the steering wheel. Plots questions for Parveen.
LAILA: What did she eat for lunch?
WAJID: What is the meaning of true independence in Pakistan?
LAILA: Does absence make our hearts grow fonder?
WAJID: How does the Heisenberg uncertainty principle apply to love?
LAILA: The girl, Laila, standing in Bay 9, has two large suitcases.
WAJID: And the boy beside her, Wajid, carries nothing. He’s just come from the gym.
LAILA: The girl leans into the taxi. ‘Hello there. Can we please go to Thomastown?’ She’d
sat so long in the toilet on the Malaysia to Melbourne leg of the flight practising
English phrases that someone had knocked on the door to see if she was ok. She’d
emerged, hijab back on her head. Some phrases had sunk in.
WAJID: The girl has no idea where Thomastown is.
LAILA: She has some idea. Gleaned through their pre-wedding Skype conversations.
WAJID: They were Skyping frequently then.
LAILA: The girl is 21.
WAJID: The boy is 23.
LAILA: A new wife.
WAJID: The taxi driver says, ‘I’ll pop the boot.’

Suitcases going into the boot.
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LAILA: In the back seat, silently, the girl looks out at the queue of taxis behind her.
WAJID: The boy sits, silently, looking at his quads.
LAILA: The girl brushes shoulders with him.
WAJID: He pulls away.
LAILA: The taxi driver says, ‘Everything ok back there?’
WAJID: The boy says, ‘Yeah, we’re all good.’ Perks up for public display.
LAILA: At what point will this be easy?
WAJID: At what point?
LAILIA: The taxi leaves the bay.
WAJID: Switches into the right lane. Glides past the Maccas. Catches a green light. Speeds
onto the Tullamarine.

Beat.
LAILA: The girl attempts intimacy. Pinches the boy’s gym shorts. Tries to be funny: ‘Do you
always dress up so much when you’re picking up your wife from the airport?’
WAJID: He says, in English to her Dari, ‘Yeah, sorry, came straight from the gym.’
LAILA: ‘Did you have a good session today then?’ she says. Refuses to switch tongues.
WAJID: In English: ‘It was a hard one.’
LAILA: Dari: ‘How are your DOMS?’
WAJID: The girl’s never been in a gym but she’s a hawk-eye listener. She’d parrot back
words like ‘DOMS’. Initially it was nauseating – oh great, she was going to be one of
those obedient wives that never talked back. No. She studied him in order to take the
piss out of him. Marrying her, he decided, wouldn’t be so bad. In between Skyping,
debating, teasing, he’d go to uni, work, the gym, thinking about the girl. His fiancé. In
Kabul, she’d play the obedient niece, accompany Aunty Jamala on her outings.
Research her fiance’s world in spare moments. Wrap her head around things like
‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness’. Study pictures of half-naked men in gyms.
LAILA: The boy’s gym is open 24 hours a day. She’d be up at 5am, cooking morning naan,
and suddenly remember that across the world right now, he might be in the gym.
Hardly clothed. Willingly weighed down by weights. What an idiot, she’d think. He’s
not training for the Olympics, not like Rohullah Nikpai representing Afghanistan.
Wajid just liked to look good in a t-shirt.
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WAJID: ‘Actually, I’m cancelling my gym membership,’ he tells her.
LAILA: Membership. She searches for meaning. Sifts through phrases. ‘I’m fine thank you,
and how are you?’ ‘Which way to the Thomastown Safeway?”
WAJID: ‘So are you visiting Melbourne?’ the taxi driver says. ‘Or returning home?’
LAILA: The girl looks to the boy.
WAJID: ‘Neither,’ the boy said. ‘She’s... – my wife, she’s now going to be living here.’
LAILA: ‘Congratulations. How long have you had to wait to bring her over?’
WAJID: ‘A year.’
LAILA: ‘Well you’re very lucky to have a smart wife beside you. I can tell she’s smart.’
WAJID: The girl’s looking at him. Hawk eyes. ‘What?’ he says.
LAILA: ‘Is the driver speaking about me?’
WAJID: ‘He says you’re smart.’
LAILA: She beams. The boy looks away.
WAJID: His eyes settle on the meter. On another day he’d have his Honda. On another day
he’d hate seeing that running bill with its harsh yellow digits. The gym. Stupid gym.
‘Oh I’m just going to work out before Laila comes,’ he’d said. A lie. Madeline was at
the gym. Taught Cross Fit on Saturdays. He’d done his usual circuit then lifted weights
with her. ‘Should go,’ he’d kept saying. Madeline said ‘Sure, leave’. He stayed, wanted
to press his body weight at three reps max on the bench. Then he’d shower, pick up his
car from the mechanics. The boy lifted 50, 55, 60. Kept pushing. 70: his bodyweight.
Madeline spotted him. By then Laila’s plane had landed. Mechanics had closed.
Madeline had offered him a lift. Said she wanted ‘closure’.
LAILA: The girl says, ‘Wajid, I didn’t know this, taxis are very expensive here.’
WAJID: The boy says in English, ‘Everything’s expensive here.’
LAILA: And she in Dari, ‘You should have driven.’
WAJID: Shouldn’t have accepted the lift. Madeline cried for most of it.
LAILA: Dear Wajid, the girl said in her email last week. I know I made a promise and I have
tried so hard this last year. Maybe I have been angry at you for your silence. Maybe I
wanted to see if I was still any good at it. I stole again. A red lipstick from a pharmacy
in the market. The owner’s daughter caught me. She said she wouldn’t tell her father or
the police because Aunty Jamala is well-respected. The owner’s daughter asked for my
wedding gift instead. All that money you gave me is gone. Maybe I wanted to be caught.
Never make it to Melbourne. What do you think?

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The taxi swimming on a major road.
WAJID ‘Temperature ok back there?’ the taxi driver says. Points to the temperature gauge on
the dashboard. ‘It’s dropped five degrees outside, just then.’
LAILA: Temperature.
WAJID: The boy says, ‘Bloody hell. Melbourne weather, right?’
LAILA: The taxi driver laughs. ‘Bloody hell, mate,’ he says, jesting with the slang.
WAJID: The boy laughs. Suddenly he’s grateful for the company of men, for mercurial
weather. Men and weather: what else is as simple and solid?
LAILA: The girl doesn’t understand the conversation. But one victory: she does recall the
word temperature. It’s going to get cooler this month. In the winter it will be icy.
WAJID: The taxi driver is talking about global warming.
LAILA: He has a lot to say.
WAJID: Once he’d been a driver for head of the Country Fire Authority.
LAILA: A scientist.
WAJID: Like the taxi driver.
LAILA: They’d driven all over Melbourne together.
WAJID: Talked for a long time about flames. Carbon. Heat.
LAILA: Then the head of the Country Fire Authority had moved overseas for a new job.
Something bigger, hotter. ‘Isn’t that the way,’ the taxi driver muses. ‘Some people run
towards danger?’
WAJID: The boy doesn’t know what to say. Feels stupid when people are asking him for an
opinion. For a lifeline. Actually, he hates conversation with other men, with taxi
drivers. Doesn’t like to talk at all, if he’s honest. Speaking is what leads to danger. Not
fires. Like Madeline, confronting him with her feelings after the wedding, egging him
on to kiss her, touch her. Or Laila, the thief, the unwitting wife, wanting comfort.
LAILA: How did a boy who’d had so much to share become so wordless? Her immodesty,
was that it? He hadn’t cared when he’d come to Afghanistan for the wedding. A big
build-up, a simple but beautiful wedding. Held in her uncle’s home, in Karte Parwan,
near the temples of the local Hindus. Simple gown: golden, light, easy to take off. At
the end of the day, she’d stood before Wajid, her new husband, naked, pretending she
hadn’t done this before. It had only happened once before. A lie. Twice. A curious next
door neighbour. An hour here, there evading chaperones. Laila had gone quiet about the
unblemished sheets. But Wajid understood. He nicked his thumbs. Smeared his blood
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onto the linen. Said, grinning, ‘This will please the relatives.’ She laughed. Better than
what she’d concocted. Under the bed, a bowl of water tinted with blusher she’d stolen.
Idiot. Thought she’d secretly stain the sheets while the boy wasn’t looking? He grew
serious. ‘Stop stealing,’ he’d said. ‘Stay safe.’ She’d agreed.
WAJID: The taxi driver has become quiet. Moves off the Western Ring Road.
LAILA: In wide lanes with colourful cars. Past rows of big brick houses.
WAJID: Tall trees. Large backyards. A year slipped by so fast.
LAILA: A year dragged by.
WAJID: The boy gulps. He’d grown up in Australia. He could live by his own rules. He
could have simply not proceeded with the immigration papers. Left Laila in Kabul.
Shamed his family. Please, Wajid? Madeline had been pining. He’d shut her up, her
and her suggestions, with another kiss. Another fumble. Both naked, panting in his car.
Pretending their mischief could last. The secret sex. Them pressing reps at the gym.
And what if Madeline had said ‘I want you’ three years ago, before Laila had been in
his life? Huh? What then? He’d known from an early age he had another destiny. Help
the family in Afghanistan. Laila: a distant cousin. Pale-skinned, educated.
LAILA: The girl thinks about the dust of Kabul, the brown skyscrapers. The day her parents
died. They travelled out of the dust, on an unlucky bus, up to Peshawar.
WAJID: The boy will cancel his gym membership tonight. Madeline won’t be working.
LAILA: Things are going to get easier.
WAJID: Things will have to get easier.

The quiet traffic outside.
LAILA: In Karte Parwan, she’d steal Bollywood films from Hindus. Last one she saw, the
heroine was a poor girl in love with a son of a rich family. She explains the storyline to
the boy, in Dari. Quick, detailed. Pretends her Aunty Jamala isn’t alone in Kabul.
Pretends Aunty Jamala is sitting in the taxi acting as though she doesn’t enjoy hearing
about Bollywood movies because they’re so sinful but loving every detail.

Beat.
LAILA: ‘I bought everyone gifts, just small things,’ Laila says. ‘I had to borrow money.’
WAJID: ‘Shouldn’t have done that,’ Wajid says. ‘They don’t need gifts.’
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LAILA: ‘I lost the money you gave me.’
WAJID: ‘Really? Didn’t know.’
LAILA: ‘Speak Dari to me if you’re going to lie to me.’
WAJID: ‘Speak English to me if you’re going to tell me off.’
LAILA: ‘Not yet.’
WAJID: ‘We’re nearly there.’
LAILA: Laila nods. ‘I’m nervous.’
WAJID: Wajid tenses. ‘I am too.’
LAILA: ‘We don’t really know each other.’
WAJID: ‘We might hurt each other.
LAILA: ‘We might already have.’
WAJID: ‘We will forgive each other?’
LAILA: ‘I hope so.’

Beat.

WAJID: The taxi driver pulls up at the given address. Catches eyes with the girl. Her new
home. End of a chapter for the boy. Last job for the taxi driver. He pops the boot.
LAILA: The boy pays him. Goodbye. Thank you. Girl gets out of the car, wipes her cheeks.
Clenches her fist for good luck.
WAJID: The street is suddenly so quiet.

Beat.
WAJID: Wajid grabs Laila’s hand. Things will get easier.
LAILA: Laila squeezes Wajid’s fingers.
WAJID: They walk up to the house. Family have gathered out the front.
LAILA: Laila quips, ‘Fancy meeting you here.’ A funny phrase she’s learnt.

THE END

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