Burn

by
Alex DeFazio

8/29/11

© 2010-2011 Alex DeFazio
alex@elixirproductions.org
CHARACTERS

Paul Nullman Late 30s, a professor.

Manny 19; a student.

Maureen Late 30s, a professor.

Sarah 19; a student.

SETTING

Paul's office and apartment. The side of a freeway.

Scene changes should be quick and continuous unless otherwise
noted.
TOP OF PLAY

A young man, MANNY, 19, stumbles onto
the stage. His shirt is torn; he has a
few bloody scratches on his arms and
face. He breathes heavily, adrenaline
rushing.

He takes out a cell phone and texts,
then smashes the phone on the floor,
opening his mouth and releasing
something between a WAIL and an
EXHILARATED CRY. He spots a nearby wall
and bashes his head into it. Lights go
blinding, then snap out.
2.

SCENE 1

A faculty office at a liberal arts
college. Generic. Sparse.

PAUL, late 30s, stares into the screen
of his laptop. He types a few
sentences, stares some more, then hits
“delete.” The door to his office is
ajar.

Manny appears, hovering uncertainly in
the doorway. Unlike the previous scene,
his face is clean, his shirt all in one
piece. He peers in at Paul, watching
him.

Paul feels Manny’s eyes on him. He
turns around.

PAUL
Manny.

MANNY
Professor.

PAUL
(checking his watch)
You’re late.

Manny looks at him.

PAUL (CONT’D)
You were supposed to be here at three.

MANNY
You said 3:30.

PAUL
Three.

MANNY
In your message, you said 3:30.

PAUL
(checking his calendar)
You’re right, I’m sorry.

MANNY
You were working.

PAUL
I apologize. Come in.
3.

MANNY
Should I come back tomorrow?

PAUL
No, it’s my fault. I could have sworn I said three.

MANNY
I could come back.

PAUL
I checked my calendar this morning. No, come in. Sit down.

Manny doesn’t move.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Do you want me to talk to you from here?

Manny enters hesitantly. Paul gets up;
Manny stops. Paul smiles, reaches
around Manny, and shuts the door.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Have a seat.

Manny sits.

PAUL (CONT’D)
You’ve met with Professor Young.

MANNY
Yes.

PAUL
Several times, she’s tells me.

MANNY
I know I’m not doing well.

PAUL
She told me that, too.

MANNY
(looks around)
You aren’t new here, are you?

PAUL
Here? To the college?

MANNY
This. Your office. I’ve seen you here before.

PAUL
It’s my office.
4.

MANNY
It’s so... empty. You don’t have any pictures.

PAUL
Pictures?

MANNY
Art. People. Most teachers, their walls are covered. They
have pictures on their desks.

PAUL
I prefer simplicity.

MANNY
At least one.

PAUL
I have my books, my computer, my files. It’s easier that way.

MANNY
How?

PAUL
I’m here to meet with students and do work, not to nest. Back
to you, though.

MANNY
I read your book.

PAUL
Oh?

MANNY
I think... I think I’d like to take a class with you, if
that’s okay.

PAUL
You’d need to do the work.

MANNY
I do.

PAUL
You can’t take a theory unless you pass poetry.

MANNY
What does poetry have to do with theory? Why do I even have
to take poetry?

PAUL
Because you’re an English major and poetry is a requirement.
First year: Composition, Research Writing, Introduction to
Literature, Poetry I, three cores, an elective --
5.

MANNY
I did fine in all the others.

PAUL
(consulting his computer)
You got a “C” in comp, a “C+” in Literature, an “F” in Math
for Non-Majors --

MANNY
I hate math.

PAUL
These aren’t winning endorsements of your seriousness as a
student.

MANNY
I’m doing better this semester.

PAUL
Not if you fail poetry.

MANNY
She can’t fail me. I do all the work. I never missed a class.

PAUL
Professor Young is fully within her right to fail you if you
aren’t fulfilling the requirements of her course.

MANNY
She has us do these exercises. She uses the word “truth,” but
there is no truth - not one, objective, emotional truth. You
say that in your book. Derrida says it. Foucault says it.

PAUL
You’ve read Derrida and Foucault?

MANNY
I’ve looked at them.

PAUL
But you haven’t actually read them.

MANNY
Some.

PAUL
Still, that’s impressive for a freshman.

MANNY
I read you.

PAUL
Indeed.
6.

MANNY
And what you say -- isn’t it what you’re saying? -- that even
something like “love,” this word everyone uses. Even
something as ingrained in us as love, it isn’t a natural
feeling. It’s language. We construct the world through
language, and that includes how we feel about people and how
they feel about us. How am I supposed to write authentically
about “my truth” if I don’t have one?

PAUL
(beat - distracted)
I didn’t write that.

MANNY
What?

PAUL
The part about love, in the book. It was from the first
chapter, a survey of the scholarship. It wasn’t my idea.

MANNY
I know.
(beat)
Do you teach poetry?

PAUL
Nooo.

MANNY
Do you even like it?

PAUL
Reading it, yes. Writing it, no.

MANNY
Because you know it’s fake.

PAUL
Because I’d rather be writing about other things.

MANNY
Are you working on anything now?

PAUL
(beat - deciding to answer)
Yes.

MANNY
A new book?

PAUL
Hopefully at some point it will become that, yes.
7.

MANNY
What is it about?

PAUL
(another beat - this time
considering more carefully
whether to respond)
Disease.

MANNY
Disease?

PAUL
The configuration of love as disease, specifically as it’s
radicalized in the late nineteenth century with the
development of new discourses of illness, medicine, and pain.

MANNY
(taking a moment to process
this)
You mean, how people say they love you so much it hurts?

PAUL
Yes.

MANNY
They burn for you?

PAUL
That’s an early incarnation of it, yes. Desire as fever,
burning. We see that as far back as the plague. It’s cliche
by the seventeenth century, but periodically it becomes acute
again. In the 1700s, with the outbreak of smallpox. Again in
the 1980s.

MANNY
Why the 1980s?

PAUL
AIDS.

MANNY
I heard this song on the radio - an older song, from the
1980s, I think. This woman was singing about how she loved
somebody so much she was on fire. “I’m burning up for you,
I’m on fire.”

PAUL
(arches an eyebrow, amused)
Madonna?

MANNY
Madonna?
8.

Paul looks at him.

MANNY (CONT’D)
(feeling put on the spot)
It sorta went like,
(talk-singing, very hesitant)
I’m burning up, burning up for you...

He claps three times, in time to the
electronic clapping in the song.

MANNY (CONT’D)
I’m burning up, burning up / for you

PAUL
(joining in, correcting him)
For your love.

They both clap three times. Manny
giggles.

MANNY
That was Madonna? How old is that song?

PAUL
(exaggerating)
Oh, it must be ancient. Almost as old as I am.

MANNY
How old are you?

PAUL
Let’s put it this way. When that song came out I was old
enough to buy it on a 45. That’s a record.

MANNY
I know.

Paul chuckles. He looks at Manny; their
catch each other’s. Paul smiles - a
hint of discomfort - then turns back to
his computer to consult the screen.

PAUL
So, Manny --

MANNY
(cuts him off)
How come you wouldn’t see me?

PAUL
See you?
9.

MANNY
Last semester I tried to see you. I wrote my name on your
door - for advising.

PAUL
I’m not you’re advisor.

MANNY
Do you need to be my advisor for me to see you?

PAUL
I don’t remember you.

MANNY
I looked different then.

PAUL
Last semester?

MANNY
I had long hair - down to here. I wore a hat over my eyes.

PAUL
You must have found it hard to see where you were going.

MANNY
(pleasant)
Not all the way over my eyes.

PAUL
No, I suppose not.

MANNY
I didn’t shave either. And I smelled.

PAUL
That’s quite a transformation.

MANNY
I met someone.

PAUL
Someone who didn’t like how you smelled?

MANNY
I saw you in town a few times. At the diner. With a guy.
Brown hair, skinny, shorter than you. I recognized you from
campus, so I came to see you. Maybe you smelled me and
thought I was homeless or something. You were walking with a
group of students.
(pause)
I was standing out there, and you looked at me. I pulled up
my hat a little and was about to move toward you, but you
kept walking. I scratched my name off the door and went home.
10.

PAUL
I probably didn’t know you were here to see me.

MANNY
I had an appointment.

PAUL
I meet with over a hundred students each semester during
advising week. That’s a lot of traffic, which is why I hold
office hours in one of the conference rooms. If you’d read
the sign-up sheet, you would have known that.

MANNY
(pause)
I thought you’d have a picture of him. That guy from the
diner?

Paul looks at Manny.

MANNY (CONT’D)
What’s wrong?

A look of discomfort has come into
Paul’s face. He closes his eyes. Manny
stands.

MANNY (CONT’D)
Professor -- ?

Paul holds up a hand, covering his
mouth with the other as though about to
cough.

PAUL
It’s okay. I’m fine.
(opening his eyes)
I’ve been feeling nauseous. It’ll pass.

MANNY
Should I get someone?

PAUL
That’s okay, thank you.

Manny stays standing uncertainly for a
moment. Just as he is about to sit:

PAUL (CONT’D)
I have other things to take care of.

MANNY
(pause)
Oh.
11.

He remains standing. Paul looks at him.

MANNY (CONT’D)
(feeling on the spot)
I didn’t mean to... I’m / sorry.

PAUL
(overlapping)
Why don’t you come out with me?
(Manny looks at him)
For dinner. To the diner. I’ll tell you more about my new
book, and you could tell me more about the impossibility of
poetry in the absence of authentic truth.

MANNY
You’ll let me take your course?

PAUL
Not unless you pass poetry.

MANNY
I want to learn as much as I can from you. I want to write
like you.

PAUL
Brittle, academic, emotionless.

MANNY
I want you to teach me.

PAUL
I could teach you next semester, in my class.

MANNY
I want you to teach me more than you can fit into one class.

PAUL
Why?

MANNY
To get power.

PAUL
Over?

MANNY
Language. Truth. Everything.

Paul studies him, smiling.

PAUL
I wasn’t as confident at your age. 18?
12.

MANNY
19.

PAUL
You look like you’re still in high school.

MANNY
I get that a lot.

PAUL
When I was your age, if a teacher had asked me what I wanted
and why I wanted it, I wouldn’t have had the courage to say
what you just said.
(beat)
Be prepared to be disappointed.

MANNY
In what?

PAUL
Some things are beyond our control. Always will be.

Pause; he looks at Manny.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Now it’s you who looks nauseous.

MANNY
(forces a smile)
No.

PAUL
(beat -- deliberately cheerful)
Ready for your first assignment?

MANNY
Yeah.

PAUL
Friday, 8:30, the diner. Bring ideas for something you’d like
to write about and two or three sources you might use. Sound
good?

MANNY
Awesome.

They look at each other for a moment,
then Manny turns to go.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Manny?

Manny stops, turns around.
13.

PAUL (CONT’D)
You haven’t been complaining to the dean about your grades in
Professor Young’s class, have you?

MANNY
(looks at him, then:)
No.
(beat)
What about that guy I always saw you with? What if he wants
to see you Friday night?

PAUL
(pause -- softly)
Don’t ask me about him. Ever.

A chilly pause. Manny turns to go.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Are you going to wear your hat?

MANNY
(again, stops)
Why?

PAUL
Global warming. It’s cold out.

Manny smiles, exits.
14.

SCENE 2

Paul turns to his computer, pulls up a
new screen. He stares at it for a few
moments, then closes his eyes.

The lights change. It is now evening.

A KNOCK. Paul doesn’t stir.

MAUREEN enters carrying a briefcase and
a sheaf of papers. She sees Paul
sleeping, shuts the door behind her,
and sets the papers on a table.

She bends in close to wake him, then
notices the document on the computer
screen. She reads softly, twisting her
face with confusion, with a hint of
disdain.

MAUREEN
...unpacking historical transformations of the body as mortal
subject...the implications of lover and beloved as mutually
annihilating and paradoxically substantiating loci of
meaning...

Paul stirs. Maureen stands and crosses
to the chair where Manny was sitting in
the previous scene.

PAUL
(stretching)
What time is it?

MAUREEN
Nine.

PAUL
What time is it?

MAUREEN
Almost nine.

Paul looks around, slowly reorienting
himself to the waking world.

PAUL
I was having a dream.

MAUREEN
Oh yeah?
15.

PAUL
We were on Fire Island, walking along the beach. David kept
stopping to pick for stones. He found that blue one,
remember? At least it looked blue -- away from the lights of
the hotels and the houses. When we got back to our room, we
studied it under the lamplight. I can’t remember what color
it was. I wonder if I still have it...

MAUREEN
It was blue.

PAUL
Really?

MAUREEN
How are you holding up?

Paul looks around as though in a fog
that suddenly lifts. His face sinks.

PAUL
Oh...

MAUREEN
David’s a wreck, if that makes you feel any better. I can’t
imagine this lasting more than a couple of days.

PAUL
This time it’s permanent.

MAUREEN
You said that last time.

PAUL
He emptied his closet.

MAUREEN
Maybe he had to do laundry.

PAUL
He took himself off our cell phone plan, our car insurance,
our health insurance, our lease.

MAUREEN
He wants you to think he’s serious.

PAUL
He said that?

MAUREEN
Not in those words exactly.
(beat)
When are you going to call him?
16.

PAUL
I’m not.

MAUREEN
Just give me a ballpark so I can get him to ease off a
little.

Paul looks at her. Pause.

MAUREEN (CONT’D)
(with a tossed-off, matter-of-
factness that is her style)
Look, I’m sorry, but you can’t seriously tell me after
thirteen years that neither of you is going to make a move to
fix this.

PAUL
A lot can break in thirteen years.

MAUREEN
A lot was broken the last time but you still managed to get
back together and stay together until a few days ago.

PAUL
(getting angry)
And I should thank you for helping with that?

MAUREEN
(deliberately)
Some people might.

PAUL
I should -- ?

He stops himself, choking back a yell.
He grabs a trash bin and vomits into
it. Long pause as his breathing slowly
returns from breathless gasps to
normal.

MAUREEN (CONT’D)
You need to call him.

PAUL
I’m on new meds. My body needs to adjust.

MAUREEN
You were like this the last time.

PAUL
I was like this the last time because I’d just started taking
my old meds.
17.

Maureen sets her jaw, looks away, and
begins pacing slowly.

MAUREEN
Liz wants to see you.

PAUL
(getting to his feet)
When?

MAUREEN
I’d just as soon leave you here, but she’d be pissed if I
didn’t remind you about my birthday dinner.

Paul fumbles with the trash bin.
Maureen extends an arm, gesturing for
him to give it to her. He does. She
catches a whiff and makes a face. Paul
slumps wearily into his desk chair.

During the ensuing dialogue, Maureen
knots the trash bag and sets bag and
bin in the hallway.

MAUREEN (CONT’D)
You don’t have to eat anything.

PAUL
I can’t.

MAUREEN
It would do you good to get out, see a friendly face.

PAUL
Isn’t that why you’re here?

MAUREEN
(with a smile)
I was talking about Liz.

Paul smiles back. The mood between them
lightens.

PAUL
I spoke with Manny today.

MAUREEN
(feigning casualness)
Oh?

PAUL
He said he hasn’t been complaining about you.
18.

MAUREEN
You asked him?

PAUL
Isn’t that why you wanted us to meet?

MAUREEN
Was he telling the truth? Did you ask him that?

PAUL
Either way, I said you are fully within your rights to fail
him.

MAUREEN
We both know I can’t do that.

PAUL
If he earns an F, you give him an F.

MAUREEN
And my tenure committee rakes me over the coals for being the
only faculty in the English Department to fail a student.

PAUL
Students fail all the time.

MAUREEN
C-minuses are not the same as Fs. I’ve seen plenty of C-
minuses. Fs are four-leaf clovers. Fs land you in front of
Dean Shithead, who -- in her passive aggressive, pencil-
pushing way -- expects you to defend the demands of your
course while ignoring the 19 other students who passed it.

PAUL
When did this happen?

MAUREEN
I saw her doing it to an adjunct, this poor little man
hemorrhaging IQ points under her torture-ray of talk.

PAUL
You’re not an adjunct.

MAUREEN
I’m junior faculty.

PAUL
If Margot hassles you for giving him an F, you know I’d
support you.
19.

MAUREEN
You’re my mentor, they’d expect that. Plus you’re gay. Not
loud-and-proud gay -- I carry that torch -- but just gay
enough that the college would think we were plotting a queer
takeover.

PAUL
Where do you get this stuff?

MAUREEN
From my e-mail subscription to Queers in Trouble, the Liberal-
Arts-College-in-Conservative-Small-Town-America Edition. I
get “this stuff” from looking around me. I got it from three
and a half years of student complaints about there being such
a thing as lesbian poetry. I got it from my brain-dead Dean
suggesting I wear skirts.

PAUL
Margot’s harmless.

MAUREEN
No, Paul. She’s too stupid to be harmless. You mark my words.
The level of stupidity you encounter here on all fronts is
downright dangerous.

A CELL PHONE RINGS, playing the Indigo
Girls’ “CLOSER TO FINE.” Paul chuckles
as Maureen fishes her phone out of her
pocket.

MAUREEN (CONT’D)
(to Paul)
Shut up.
(slapping him playfully)
Shut. Up!
(clears her throat, answers)
Hey Liz. No, I’m...
(checks her watch)
Shit. No, I’m with Paul. Yeah. He loves that new ringtone you
put on my phone, by the way. Take him for me, would you?

She gives the phone to Paul, then jogs
a few paces to his desk, steals a pen
and notepad, and writes a note.

Paul speaks to Liz over the phone. He’s
reluctant at first but quickly warms
up.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Hey Liz. I know. She reminded me. I’m just not in the mood.
No, I’m okay, really. It’s Maureen you should be worried
about. She’s letting her fifth-year nerves get the best of
her. Another time, definitely. Okay, my time’s up.
20.

He hands the phone to Maureen.

MAUREEN
(on phone)
I’m leaving in five minutes, okay? Four minutes. Four minutes
and I do eighty from here to the restaurant. Love you.

Enough of a pause for an unheard “I
love you too” on the other end of the
line, then Maureen hangs up. She turns
to Paul, who has been reading her note.

MAUREEN (CONT’D)
That’s the latest.

PAUL
I’ll look at it tonight.

Maureen is checking inside her
briefcase, feeling around in her
pockets.

MAUREEN
Look at it, don’t look at it. My advisor’ll give me another
round of comments in a couple of weeks. I stickied the
revisions and wrote questions for you on the front.

PAUL
(reading her note)
Do these suck? Will my crap committee give me tenure if
they’re published?

MAUREEN
You know this is just a formality.

PAUL
Just because I don’t enjoy writing poems doesn’t mean I don’t
like reading them.

MAUREEN
Poetry confuses you.

PAUL
I wrote two chapters about Whitman in my dissertation.

MAUREEN
(has located her keys)
Your kind of writing.
(gestures toward his computer)
I don’t care what you say, you can’t write about poetry like
that. I could stick my hand in a drawer full of dull kitchen
knives and draw more blood. Those words don’t cut.
21.

PAUL
They cut enough that somebody published them.

MAUREEN
(beat, leveling her eyes at
him)
Once. That somebody published them once.

Paul quietly takes this in as she turns
to go. She stops, addressing him again.

MAUREEN (CONT’D)
This is your chance to really feel something. Don’t call him.
I think it’s a mistake. I think the least you owe yourself is
to talk to him. For God’s sake, feel something. Burn for
something. Otherwise those dull metal objects you call words
are all you’ve got.

She exits.
22.

SCENE 3

The main room of Paul’s apartment. It
consists mostly of the same furniture
as his office, rearranged to create a
new space: a desk, chairs, a bookshelf.
There is also a sofa (or chairs pushed
together to create one). What few props
and dressings there are should be
arranged as to appear extremely tidy.

On the desk: a small, blue-grey sea-
stone.

Paul remains on stage during the
transition, helping to move the
furniture. When the transition is over,
he stands in the middle of his
apartment, looking isolated and
displaced, lost in memory.

Manny enters through the doorway behind
him and hovers. He carries a bookbag
and wears a brown, skater-style hat.
Paul seems oblivious to him. A few
beats of silence, then:

MANNY
(awkwardly, with a smile)
It’s nice.

PAUL
What?

MANNY
Your place. I like it. It’s quieter than the diner, anyway.

Manny picks up the blue stone. Paul
turns to Manny, surfacing.

PAUL
Don’t touch that.

Manny puts it down.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Did you want something to drink? More coffee, or...?

MANNY
Something stronger?

PAUL
(short pause)
Black coffee?
23.

MANNY
Something clear, maybe?

PAUL
(beat -- fully in the present
now)
I’m not giving you alcohol.

MANNY
Because I’m not 21?

PAUL
Because I’m not the guy at 7-11 you and your friends pay to
buy you beers.

MANNY
I don’t have friends.

PAUL
(short pause, taken by this)
What about the person who cleaned you up?
(off Manny’s questioning look)
The one who made you loose the hat, cut your hair?

MANNY
She’s not a friend.

PAUL
Is she one of the things that interfered with your work last
semester?

Manny shifts uncomfortably. He puts his
hands in his pockets and looks around
again.

MANNY
It must be awesome living by yourself.

PAUL
(looks around)
I don’t know. I’ll get back to you after I’ve had some time
to try it.

MANNY
Someone else lives here?

PAUL
Did. The man from the diner -- the one I told you never to
bring up.

MANNY
You just did.
24.

PAUL
I did, didn’t I?

MANNY
He was your boyfriend?

PAUL
My partner.

MANNY
This one time at the diner, I saw him reach across the table
to get something, and his sleeve dipped in his food. He
didn’t notice, but you did. You smiled at him, and that’s how
he knew, without you saying anything, that he’d gotten
ketchup or something on his sleeve.
(beat)
What happened?

PAUL
He left.

MANNY
When?

PAUL
A few days ago.

MANNY
Why?

PAUL
I don’t have a short answer for that one.

MANNY
(short pause -- then, speaking
with great effort and focus:)
Elaine Scarry [pronounces it with a soft “a”] argues that no
system of signs -- no language -- can adequately or
meaningfully express the condition of the human body in pain.
However, since meaning cannot be constituted without
language, Scarry’s argument suggests an even more radical
idea: not that language fails to express pain, but that, as a
consequence of this failure, pain ceases to exist.

PAUL
(quietly appalled)
I wrote that?

MANNY
Did I get it right?

Beat.
25.

PAUL
Let’s see what you brought for us to look at, shall we?

Paul crosses to the table, looking
through the books Manny set there.

PAUL (CONT’D)
The Body in Pain. [Pronounces it with a hard “a.”] It’s
Scarry, by the way.

MANNY
What is?

PAUL
Elaine Scarry.

MANNY
Oh.

PAUL
(going through the books)
Bakhtin. Butler. Derrida. Foucault. Luhmann?

MANNY
No?

PAUL
It’s extremely difficult.

MANNY
I don’t think I’m getting most of it. Is he saying, that...?
I don’t think I know what he’s saying.

PAUL
You have to understand systems theory.

MANNY
(smiling to cover
embarrassment)
What is that?

PAUL
It’s really more graduate-level work. It’s ambitious, which
is good, but why Luhmann?

MANNY
You talk about him in your book. Will you teach me?

PAUL
I can try.

MANNY
Why “try”?
26.

PAUL
I don’t even teach him in my course, he’s so difficult.

MANNY
I want to learn everything.

PAUL
We can only do so much in a couple of weeks.

MANNY
I want to be ahead of everyone else. When I take your class
next semester, I want to sit in the front row and know the
answers to all your questions.

PAUL
In that case, you need to be focusing on poetry. We could
work through systems theory and read Ulysses cover to cover,
but you can’t take my class unless you pass poetry.

MANNY
I get stuck. She has us start with a word, a phrase --
something that speaks to us about whatever “truth” we’re
going to write about.

PAUL
And there is no “truth.”

MANNY
So I just keep writing whatever it is over and over. I never
get past the first words.

PAUL
Have you talked with her about that?

MANNY
(contemptuous)
She said I’m blocking emotional experiences I don’t know how
to deal with.

PAUL
Have you thought about seeing a psychologist? We have a
counseling center you could go to, you know. It’s
confidential. Free. They help with all sorts of problems.

MANNY
What if I don’t have problems? What if I just don’t think I
should have to write about my feelings for an hour and twenty
minutes each week so I can take the courses I really want to
take?

PAUL
Has she tried to help you?
27.

MANNY
She can’t. If I don’t want to do it -- if I can’t see a
reason for doing it -- how can she help?

PAUL
That’s a good question. You’re putting her in an impossible
situation, aren’t you?

Manny glares at Paul.

MANNY
She told you to do this.

PAUL
(confused)
No.

MANNY
You sound just like her. “Have you thought about seeing a
therapist?” I’ve seen therapists. They’re idiots! You wrote
about Foucault. You know the whole idea of therapy is a
carryover from the Christian confessional. It’s secularized
religious bullshit. It’s meant to control you, weaken you,
and I’m not going to do that! All my life people have been
telling me I’m weak and I’m not going to let them any more.

Paul stares at Manny in stunned
silence. Manny starts grabbing his
books and stuffing them back into his
bag.

MANNY
Shit.

PAUL
Manny...

Paul tries to touch Manny. Manny drops
the books and crosses to the other side
of the room.

MANNY
(after a beat of deliberation)
Take off your shirt.

PAUL
What?

MANNY
I’m here because you said you would teach me, not lecture me
like I’m an idiot.
28.

PAUL
I’m the idiot for asking you to come out with me in the first
place.

Manny takes off his own shirt,
revealing a bald, swimmer’s torso with
a pale knot of scars on his chest.

MANNY
Now you.

PAUL
What’s on your chest?

MANNY
(very hard)
Take off your shirt!

PAUL
(looking him dead in the eyes)
No.

MANNY
(nervous, practically yelling)
You don’t want me?

PAUL
Stop!

Pause. Manny grabs his shirt, puts it
back on, and crosses to the table,
collecting his books.

PAUL
Manny...

MANNY
You don’t want me.

PAUL
You’re very handsome.

MANNY
You think I’m ugly. My chest.

PAUL
I didn’t say that.

MANNY
You don’t have to.

He touches Manny’s shoulder; Manny
jerks away. He reaches for Manny’s
shoulder again, grabbing it this time.
29.

Manny tries to pull away; Paul firmly
keeps hold of him. Manny looks at Paul.
Paul kisses him. Manny kisses him back.
Things grow heated very quickly until
Paul suddenly stops them.

PAUL (CONT’D)
I’m positive.

MANNY
(smiles)
Good.

PAUL
I’m HIV positive.
(pause)
I have HIV.

He moves away from Manny, facing away
from him.

MANNY
You have AIDS?

PAUL
No.

MANNY
But you just said --

PAUL
HIV causes AIDS. It’s not AIDS.

MANNY
I didn’t think people still got that.

PAUL
They do.

MANNY
Am I going to catch it?

PAUL
No.

MANNY
But we just kissed. I can taste you.

PAUL
Jesus, what the hell are they teaching you these days.

He turns to Manny.
30.

PAUL (CONT’D)
You’re not going to catch it.

MANNY
You’re sure?

PAUL
Not from kissing.

MANNY
What if I want to do more?

PAUL
You learned about condoms?

MANNY
Yeah?

PAUL
That’s why you use them. It’s one good reason, anyway.

MANNY
How did you get it?

PAUL
Stupidity.

MANNY
Did your boyfriend have it too?

PAUL
My partner. Ex-partner. Yes, he does.

MANNY
How did you get it?

PAUL
I understand if you want to leave. It’s probably best that
you do leave. You could be my kid brother.

MANNY
I’m not a kid.

PAUL
You’re a student.

MANNY
Your student.

PAUL
Not my student, but a student, which means you have less
power than I do. I don’t want to take advantage. I don’t want
to hurt you.
31.

MANNY
You really want me to go?

PAUL
No.

MANNY
What do you want me to do, then?

PAUL
Stay.

MANNY
Just because you say so?

PAUL
Because you want to.

Manny kisses him. The kissing becomes
passionate. Blackout.
32.

SCENE 4

The stage is divided into two sections.

Paul’s office occupies the first and
larger of the two. As lights rise he is
sitting at his desk, typing. “FEVER” by
Peggy Lee plays in the background.

As lights rise on the smaller, second
area of the stage, we see Manny sitting
on the floor, typing on a laptop.

At first it should seem like Paul and
Manny are IMing each other. But once
the dialogue begins in Paul’s office,
Manny continues typing and reacting to
an unseen person on the computer.

A KNOCK at Paul’s door.

Paul STOPS THE MUSIC, registering the
knock but ignoring it. He rewinds the
song a few seconds and STARTS IT
PLAYING AGAIN, continuing to type.

More KNOCKING and a few TWISTS OF THE
KNOB (the door is locked).

PAUL
(calling out)
My office hours haven’t started yet.

MAUREEN
(offstage)
Captain Smith. Open up, Pocahontas.

Paul manages a few last keystrokes,
then crosses to the door and opens it
for Maureen. She holds a sheet of paper
and enters quickly, short-tempered
throughout.

MAUREEN (CONT’D)
I have to show you something.

PAUL
(in vain)
Can it wait?

MAUREEN
Close the door. And can you please turn this off? I could
hear it all the way down the hall.
33.

Paul closes the door and shuts off the
music.

MAUREEN (CONT’D)
“Pocahontas” means “cock tease” in Algonquian, you know.

PAUL
Is that a fact?

MAUREEN
(holding out the paper to him)
Read this.

PAUL
What is it?

MAUREEN
Just read.

Paul takes the paper, reads aloud.

PAUL
Everything burns with you.

He glances up at Maureen.

PAUL (CONT’D)
This is Manny’s?

She gives him a knowing look. He
continues.

PAUL
Everything burns with you. Eyes burn. Teeth burn. Chest
burns. Books burn. The keys on your keyboard burn. The pills
in your medicine cabinet for your sickness burn.
(slowing down on this next
line)
The little blue rock on your desk -- burns...

He looks up at Maureen. She snatches
the paper back from him.

MAUREEN
What the fuck are you doing?

PAUL
Nothing.

MAUREEN
The pills for your sickness, Paul? The little blue rock that
David found on the beach which I’m guessing he left behind
because here it is making a cameo in a poem by one of my
students?
34.

Paul turns away, crossing back to his
desk.

MAUREEN (CONT’D)
How long has this been going on?

PAUL
A couple of weeks?

MAUREEN
Did you think I wouldn’t find out about this? No, let me
rephrase that: Did you think everyone wouldn’t find out about
this?

PAUL
No one else knows.

MAUREEN
Really? He wrote about it for my class, who’s to say he isn’t
sprinkling little references to it everywhere he can? Jesus,
Paul, who’s to say he isn’t delivering weekly fuck logs
directly to Margot?

PAUL
Why would he do that?

MAUREEN
The same reason he complained to her about my grading: he’s a
manipulative little shit who wants what he wants without
doing the work to get it.

PAUL
He does the work. That wasn’t the worst poem.

MAUREEN
It’s his best poem all semester, that’s not the point.

PAUL
And we don’t know that he complained about your grading.

MAUREEN
I know. I’ve worked with enough students to know an entitled
one when I see him.

PAUL
And if you’re just being paranoid?

MAUREEN
If I’m just being paranoid, what about his friends?

PAUL
He doesn’t have any.
35.

MAUREEN
His parents. His goddamn Twitter Facebook blog or whatever
these kids are using.

PAUL
He’s never said anything about his parents.

MAUREEN
Well we know he’s got ‘em -- unless he’s sleeping with some
other guy who’s paying his tuition.
(holding out the paper)
What am I supposed to do with this?

PAUL
(firmly)
Nothing.

MAUREEN
Do you realize the position this puts me in? If I say
nothing, I’m an accomplice. If I go to Margot and she handles
it with her usual brilliance, the whole campus down to the
last janitor is talking about it. A gay professor preying on
a student who looks like he’s barely made it through puberty.
This place is going to fly into a full-blown gay panic! The
next time I meet with a female student I’ll have to leave my
door open!

PAUL
I had no intention of involving you.

MAUREEN
Thank you. Hearing that makes me feel so much better.

PAUL
He isn’t the conniving person you think he is. He’s lonely.
He’s hungry. Yes he feels entitled, but that’s human.

MAUREEN
Human.

PAUL
When something awful happens, when you feel screwed out of
everything comfortable and certain, you’re telling me it’s
not human to see something you want and grab it?

Maureen folds her arms, shaking her
head at the floor.

Manny has taken off his shirt. He
smiles at the computer screen --
presumably at a web cam embedded above
it -- and continues typing.
36.

MAUREEN
This isn’t what I meant when I told you to feel something.

PAUL
I know.

MAUREEN
You could be fired.

PAUL
I know.

MAUREEN
This kid could decide you’re too old, that you don’t fit the
ideal he’s made of you. He could meet some randy Philosophy
major with a full head of hair. He could decide you’re a drag
on Saturday nights when he’d rather be out partying, doing
bong hits and shots of Everclear out of a bathtub.

PAUL
(quietly)
He has these scars on this chest.

MAUREEN
What?

PAUL
Scars. On his chest. I don’t know what from, but he’s been
through something hellish.

MAUREEN
And you think that means you can trust him? David screwed you
out of everything certain, and you honestly think you have a
chance of getting that back with this kid?

PAUL
(losing patience)
Why do you keep pressing this?

MAUREEN
David’s my friend.

PAUL
No one’s your friend. You hate everyone. Not once have I
introduced you to anyone who wasn’t scared of you --
including David.

MAUREEN
That’s my war shield.

PAUL
For protection against what?
37.

MAUREEN
Look around you. Look at the walls, the people. The people
are walking scabs masquerading as educators in this mangled
injury of a college. And I tell you what. I will stay here
until I get tenure and for as long as it takes until I find
something else, but I will not have the life sucked out of
me. And I will not be your scapegoat. You fucked up. You
fucked up.

PAUL
He’s the one who left, not me. You know, I’m truly sorry you
don’t have the two of us to make you feel superior anymore.

MAUREEN
This isn’t about me feeling superior. This is about decency
and forgiveness. This is about you proving to David and me
that you aren’t a piece of shit.

PAUL
Oh, now that’s poetic.

MAUREEN
Because if you are a piece of shit -- if you’re so cruel and
oblivious that you’d rather fool around with a 19-year-old
kid than honestly reckon with yourself -- then you’re just as
stupid as everyone else in this place. I’m a handful, I know.
I’d rather strangers be afraid of me than think for a second
they can change who I am, because I changed too many times
for too many people, and I’ve worked too hard to get back to
this person I am now. I hate your writing and your politics --
this absurd, gentleman’s agreement you have with the college
to only be gay on weekends -- but at least you’d kept part of
your spirit. At least there was something left inside you
that I could respect.

PAUL
The only spirit I had was made out of metal, remember? Words -
- my playthings. Well I’m writing now. I’m writing better
than I ever did with David, even at the beginning, and I have
someone -- a 19-year-old kid -- who looks up to me and wants
to learn from me and gives me space to work and isn’t out
fucking around with strangers when I’m done.

MAUREEN
Take away the part about fucking around and you could be
talking about a dog.

Paul crosses to his door and opens it.
Maureen stares at him. Pause.

PAUL
You do whatever you want. I wouldn’t want to force you to
compromise your principals.
38.

Maureen flicks Manny’s poem onto Paul’s
desk.

MAUREEN
I’m looking out for my own ass, not yours. You better be
fucking careful.

She exits; Paul looks after her, then
closes the door.

Manny has taken off his pants and is
now naked save for underwear and his
hat. Paul assists with moving the
furniture while Manny watches him.
39.

SCENE 5

Paul’s apartment. Paul sits at his desk
and types. Manny watches him for
another moment, then crosses into the
space, standing by the sofa.

MANNY
You busy?

PAUL
Almost finished with this section.

He turns and sees Manny.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Oh.
(unbuttoning his shirt)
I guess I can be persuaded to take a break.

MANNY
No...

He stumbles, giggling, to Paul, losing
his balance.

MANNY (CONT’D)
Whoops.

PAUL
You okay?

MANNY
Yeah. I just... Don’t take off anything yet.

PAUL
You’re warm.

MANNY
It’s hot in here.

PAUL
(sniffs)
Have you been drinking?

MANNY
What?

PAUL
I can smell it. You’ve been drinking.

MANNY
I had a shot of vodka from that bottle on top of the kitchen
cabinets.
40.

PAUL
You should have asked me first.

MANNY
Why?

PAUL
Because you’re 19, remember?

MANNY
You’re not my dad. I wouldn’t be sleeping with you if you
were my dad.

PAUL
Why do you want to be drunk?

MANNY
I’m not drunk. It relaxes me.

PAUL
Okay. Why do you want to be relaxed?

MANNY
It makes it easier. To be naked.

PAUL
In front of me?

MANNY
Anyone.

PAUL
Technically you’re not naked.

MANNY
(looks down at himself, sees
his underwear)
Oh.

PAUL
And your hat.

Manny reaches to his head, feels the
hat. He takes it off and tosses it.
Paul is about to take down Manny’s
underwear, but Manny stops him.

MANNY
No.

He reaches behind Paul and takes a pair
of scissors from the desk.
41.

MANNY (CONT’D)
What do you see when you look at me?

PAUL
That’s a strange question.

MANNY
(of his underwear)
Answer it and I’ll cut these off.

PAUL
I see... I see a bright, attractive, talented --

MANNY
Not that. What do you see? Physically?

PAUL
I see a slightly concave chest. Two nipples. Pectorals.

Manny smiles. He makes a small incision
in his underwear with the scissors.

MANNY
Snip.

PAUL
One, two, three, four... seven birthmarks. On the front.

Paul turns Manny around, counting
silently.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Eight, nine more on back?

MANNY
(making two more incisions)
Snip. Snip.

PAUL
The fuzzy hairs on the back of your neck. The slope of your
back, like a swan.
(reaching out, tracing it with
his finger)
The faintest outline of your spine like the neck of a swan.
(gently pushing down the back
of Paul’s underwear to
reveal:)
Your buttocks.

MANNY
(laughs)
Buttocks.
42.

Paul turns Manny around again, peeking
down the front of his underwear.

PAUL
Your... unmentionable.

MANNY
My big unmentionable.

PAUL
I don’t know if I’d call it big.

MANNY
(playful)
Fuck you.

PAUL
I think these should be off by now.

MANNY
Oh yeah?

Paul takes Manny into his mouth. Manny
giggles, moans. But as the pleasure
increases, his mouth begins to harden
into something warlike. The scissors
tremble in his hand.

Paul’s fingers wander over Manny’s
chest, touching his scars. Manny
instinctively moves to push Paul’s
hands away. He catches one of Paul’s
hands with the scissors.

PAUL
Ow!

Beat. Manny stares at him as though
under hypnosis.

MANNY
Sorry.

Paul sucks on the nick. He gets up and
exits toward the bathroom. After a
moment, Manny looks after him, emerging
from his fugue.

MANNY (CONT’D)
Did I hurt you?

PAUL
(calling from off)
I’m bleeding.
43.

MANNY
(crossing towards the bathroom)
Let me see.

PAUL
(from off)
No!

Paul appears in the doorway.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Just... stay there. I’m going to dress this.
(seeing the scissors in Manny’s
hand)
Give me those. I need to wash them.

Manny gives Paul the scissors. Paul
exits.

We hear WATER RUNNING offstage as Manny
looks around the room, not sure what to
do with himself at first. His eyes fall
on Paul’s computer. He peers off
towards the bathroom, then, satisfied
that he won’t be seen, sits at Paul’s
desk and reads what’s on the screen.

The WATER SHUTS OFF. Manny gets up and
crosses to the sofa, sitting. Paul re-
enters, putting a band-aid on his hand.

MANNY
I’m sorry.

PAUL
It’s okay. It was just a nick.

MANNY
But it bled a lot?

PAUL
Enough.

MANNY
Enough?

PAUL
Enough that I don’t want to take any chances.

Paul sits at his desk. A few beats of
silence.

MANNY
You didn’t say anything about my scars.
44.

PAUL
Should I?

MANNY
I know they’re ugly. You don’t have to pretend they’re not.

PAUL
They’re part of you.

MANNY
They’re ugly.

PAUL
You haven’t told me how you got them. I thought that meant
you didn’t want me to say anything.
(beat)
Do you want to tell me how you got them?

MANNY
Why?

PAUL
It’s what people do. Share things. People who trust each
other. It’s a social element of our species I’d be glad to
introduce you to.

Manny looks at him, suspicious.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Come on. Try it.

MANNY
(pause, then:)
I had heart attacks.

PAUL
Heart attacks?

MANNY
(tracing the scars with his
fingers)
Three weeks after I was born. That’s this one, the first one.
This one when I was two years old, this one when I was seven,
these two when I was 12.

PAUL
Why?

MANNY
It’s this stuff called fibrin. It’s a blood-clotter, which is
good because I don’t bleed much when I get cut. What’s bad is
it builds up in your arteries and blocks your heart. My body
makes too much of it.
45.

(beat, off Paul’s look)
I’m fine now.

PAUL
You’re on some kind of medication?

MANNY
I’m not sick. I don’t need medication. It just... went away.

PAUL
A doctor told you that?

MANNY
Doctors never knew why it was happening or how to stop it.

PAUL
What you’re talking about doesn’t sound like something that
can just go away.

Manny’s mouth hardens. Beat. He wanders
over to the edge of the desk and picks
up the blue stone, examining it.

MANNY
(quietly)
You sound like my parents.

PAUL
(not hearing)
What?

MANNY
I said, you sound like my parents.

PAUL
They must have been so afraid of losing you.

Manny puts down the stone. His voice
takes on new power.

MANNY
I’m fine now. I didn’t tell you so you’d treat me like I’m
crippled.

PAUL
I wouldn’t.

MANNY
People look at you like you don’t have a mouth. Like they
need to speak for you because you can’t make decisions for
yourself. Don’t you look at me that way or I’m never coming
back.
46.

PAUL
Hey, I’m not looking at you any differently. I’m not.

MANNY
You promise?

PAUL
I promise.

Beat.

PAUL (CONT’D)
That stone you’re always looking at?

He gestures to it.

PAUL (CONT’D)
It was David’s. We were in New York for a conference; I was
presenting a draft of a chapter from my second book -- the
book I’m still writing. David said, “let’s walk along the
beach.” It was getting dark; he’d asked twice already and I’d
made no progress, so I said yes, we’ll walk along the beach.
I called Maureen -- Professor Young. She’d come to the
conference, too; not because she wanted to hear any of the
presentations, but because she and her girlfriend wanted to
see Fire Island.

MANNY
Her girlfriend?

PAUL
Liz.

MANNY
Professor Young is gay?

PAUL
Believe it or not, she’s also black*.

* Adapt to fit the race/ethnicity of
the actress playing Maureen.

Manny doesn’t get it.

PAUL
I’m teasing.

MANNY
Shut up.

PAUL
The way she signposts it, she’d be furious you didn’t know.
47.

MANNY
I did. I thought she was. There’s a list.

PAUL
A list?

MANNY
Of gay teachers. At the college.

PAUL
And who’s on this list?

MANNY
Professor Young. You.

PAUL
That’s not much of a list, is it?

MANNY
You’re the only ones.

PAUL
Well, Professor Young and I -- all two of us gay teachers on
the list -- went for an evening walk on the beach with our
respective partners. David was angry. He wanted us to be
alone, but I knew he would keep us out there for hours if I
didn’t bring Maureen and Liz. He found that stone. A blue
stone. And he threw it at me, hitting me right between the
shoulder blades. Maureen and Liz followed him back to the
hotel. I stayed behind to look for the stone in the
moonlight. I brought it back to him and said, “I’m sorry.” I
didn’t know how to tell him I’d looked at his face on the
beach and not recognized it.
(beat)
Has that ever happened to you?

MANNY
What?

PAUL
Looking at the face of someone you know and not recognizing
it?

MANNY
(pause)
Yeah.

PAUL
Who?

MANNY
Me sometimes. I look at myself and I -- look strange.
48.

PAUL
You don’t look strange to me.

MANNY
(beat)
I found this quote I really like.

PAUL
Quote?

MANNY
By Philip K. Dick.He’s a writer isn’t he? A theorist?

PAUL
He was a science fiction writer.

MANNY
(disappointed)
Oh.
(beat)
I like this quote, though. I found it on the internet.

Manny gets up and retrieves a piece of
paper, reading off of it.

MANNY (CONT’D)
The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the
manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of
words, you can control the people who must use the words.

PAUL
That’s what you want to do, isn’t it? Manipulate the meaning
of words?

Manny sits next to Paul again.

MANNY
How’s your finger?

PAUL
Fine.

MANNY
Does it burn?

PAUL
It’s fine.

MANNY
The HIV. In your body. Does it burn?

PAUL
No.
49.

MANNY
Do you feel it? In your body?

PAUL
I feel the medications, not the virus.

MANNY
It should feel like something, shouldn’t it? You can’t talk
about it or describe it if it doesn’t.

PAUL
Let’s not talk about it, then.

MANNY
Why not?

PAUL
Because you’re only two snips away from making all
conversation impossible.

MANNY
Conversation is never impossible. Language constitutes
reality; a thing can’t exist if you can’t talk about it.
Nothing exists beyond the manipulative powers of discourse.

PAUL
Some things can. Certain shades of feeling. How human beings
connect with each other.

MANNY
Now you sound like Professor Young.

Manny moves to get up; Paul holds him
back.

MANNY (CONT’D)
I don’t want to fuck Professor Young.

PAUL
That’s a relief.

Manny gets up. A smirking Paul lets
him.

MANNY
I’m soft now.

PAUL
I can fix that.

MANNY
Not talking like Professor Young or my parents you can’t.
50.

PAUL
How would you like me to talk?

MANNY
(suddenly angry)
Like you!

Paul stares at Manny, serious now.
Manny registers the expression on his
face and instantly changes attitude.

MANNY (CONT’D)
I’m sorry. Don’t be angry. I just... I want to learn. There’s
still so much I don’t get. I’m sick of feeling stupid.

PAUL
You’re not.

MANNY
And weak.

PAUL
You’re not weak.

MANNY
I need more words. The ones I have aren’t enough. You need to
teach me more.

PAUL
I’ll try.

MANNY
I need to know more.

PAUL
The longer you stay, the more I can teach you.

Beat. Manny kneels next to Paul.

MANNY
(playfully)
How long can I stay?

PAUL
As long as you want.

MANNY
(tugs on his underwear, ripping
it a bit more)
Snip.

PAUL
Longer.
51.

MANNY
Sni --

Manny moves to tear his underwear
again. Paul stops him. Quickly and
violently, he rips Manny’s underwear
off completely, then slowly wads it
into a ball and tosses it on the floor.
Manny kisses him, then gets up and
crosses toward the offstage bedroom.

PAUL
You’re beautiful.

MANNY
(stopping)
Say it again.

PAUL
You’re beautiful.

Manny disappears offstage.
52.

SCENE 6

The lights change. Actors and crew
strew the stage with pizza boxes,
papers, stray items of clothes. Paul’s
apartment is a mess.

Paul sits at his desk and types.

PAUL
The body is illness, sickness, beauty. Today as in the
seventeenth century, passion is frequently described as
infection: love-sickness. This sickness binds my body to
yours. It binds us like muscle, like semen. Our bodies are
bound in a system of discursive production that collapses
sensation and language.

A KNOCK. Paul looks at the door.

PAUL (CONT’D)
(calling)
Manny?

No answer. Another KNOCK, this one
softer than the first. Paul slowly
rises, transported into memory.

PAUL (CONT’D)
(quietly, painfully)
David?

More KNOCKING -- soft and hesitant.
Paul looks around at the mess, then
slowly crosses to the door, peering
through the spy hole.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Who is it?

A YOUNG WOMAN’S VOICE
(from the other side of the
door)
Sarah?

Paul opens the door to SARAH, 19, very
pretty -- and very pregnant. Her voice
and bearing hint at a customary
brightness and optimism which are now
softened by weariness.

PAUL
I’m not interested in being saved.
53.

Sarah stares at him quizzically for a
moment, then forces a little laugh.

SARAH
Oh. I’m not here to save you, although I am a Christian.

Beat. She awkwardly maneuvers past
Paul, entering.

SARAH (CONT’D)
I’m sorry for coming to your home. I thought about seeing you
at school but I wasn’t sure if you had office hours during
the summer. Anyway, I’m trying to stay away from campus until
the baby is born and I’ve lost some of this weight.

PAUL
Are you a student?

SARAH
A sophomore. I didn’t want to fall behind, so I took online
classes last semester. It was convenient, but you do loose
something. I definitely missed having people to talk to. It’s
funny how much you can miss that, even if the things you
talked about never meant that much.

She looks around the apartment.

SARAH
(forced cheeriness)
It looks like my old dorm room in here.

Paul shuts the door.

PAUL
I apologize for that.

SARAH
My friends -- my former friends -- thought I was a neat
freak. I wouldn’t go that far, but I do like being organized.
My roommate was a sweet girl -- well, she had her positive
qualities -- but no matter how hard I tried keeping our
things separate, her stuff always ended up all over the
place.

PAUL
Sarah, is it?

SARAH
May I sit down?

PAUL
How exactly can I help you, Sarah?
54.

Sarah’s eyes have caught on something
on the floor.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Sarah?

She looks up at him, smiling.

SARAH
Those are his, aren’t they.

PAUL
What?

SARAH
(pointing)
The underwear. Those are Manny’s.

Paul sees the underwear. He picks them
up.

SARAH (CONT’D)
I mean, they could be anyone’s. Everyone wears underwear.
Well, my roommate didn’t, but most people do. They could be
yours, but they look torn. I’m sure you take better care of
your underwear.

Paul stares at her with a look of
deepening awareness.

PAUL
You’re the one who cleaned him up.

Pause. Sarah smiles painfully,
gesturing at the sofa.

SARAH
May I?

Paul clears the junk off the sofa.
Sarah sits. Paul crosses to his desk,
gulping nauseously. He sits, running
his hands through his hair.

SARAH (CONT’D)
Are you okay?

PAUL
Is Manny the father?

SARAH
He didn’t tell you?

Silence.
55.

SARAH (CONT’D)
He doesn’t talk much about you, either -- except to say the
two of you are working on a project, a very important project
that I wouldn’t understand. He’ll say he’s going to the
library and disappear for days. I went looking for him once
and found him reading in a study room, exactly as he said
he’d be doing. But you can’t sleep in the library. I couldn’t
imagine where he was sleeping when he wasn’t with us.

PAUL
Us?

SARAH
My parents and me. He lives with us.

PAUL
Oh.

SARAH
He stays in the guest room. He’s sleeping there right now,
actually, though this is the first time in... 10 days? More?
His parents think he’s staying in the dorms for summer
classes. He gets angry whenever I ask about them, which makes
me think they don’t get along very well. But I’m hoping I’ll
meet them once the baby is born.
(beat)
Does Manny ever sleep here?

PAUL
(pause)
Yes.

Long pause.

SARAH
Do you give him alcohol?

PAUL
What?

SARAH
I’ve been trying to figure out where he gets it. He doesn’t
have friends; at least he hasn’t introduced me to any. But he
comes back drunk. A lot. Last week he woke the neighbors
yelling obscenities in the yard. My father almost called the
police.

PAUL
Manny is the father.

SARAH
He’s my husband.

Long pause.
56.

SARAH (CONT’D)
Being married hasn’t helped. The fighting. We fight. He
disappears. He drinks. It’s gotten to the point where my
parents don’t want him living with us anymore, but where else
would he go? Besides here. He’d have to move back with his
parents, and I’d rather fight with my husband than not have
him here at all.

PAUL
He married you.

SARAH
One person doesn’t marry another. Two people get married.

PAUL
(still digesting all this)
And you two... got married.

SARAH
My parents felt strongly that we should get married. I
couldn’t have my baby without a husband, and Manny is the
father. I knew he was... troubled. But troubled can be
intriguing -- at least in the beginning. It’s only later you
realize that troubled can just be troubled.

PAUL
He said he had things.

Paul gets up, paces.

PAUL (CONT’D)
He said his grades were slipping and he forgot to take a test
because of things.

His voice spikes on “things.” Sarah
startles.

SARAH
(pause)
You’re close with him.

PAUL
Yes.

SARAH
You’re...
(pause)
his teacher.

PAUL
I’m...

He looks at her. Pause.
57.

PAUL (CONT’D)
(a full confession)
Yes. I’m his teacher.

Sarah looks away. She avoids his eyes
for most of the rest of the scene.

SARAH
Then I need you to do something for me. Tell him it’s good he
found you -- that I don’t understand this exactly, but I
realize it’s a part of him and I won’t hold it against him or
tell my parents or his. Now that he’s experienced it, he can
have this to look back to. Then --

PAUL
I can’t.

SARAH
I need you tell him --

PAUL
I care about him.

SARAH
He made a promise to me. Before God and my family and in the
presence of our child, he promised he would be here. Has he
made that promise to you? Has he said anything that gives you
priority over me?

She heaves herself upright, trying to
stand.

PAUL
Don’t...

SARAH
[A visceral groan of sadness.]

PAUL
Sit...

He touches her; she shivers violently,
releasing a long, trembling, painful,
angry SOUND. Paul starts back and
stares at her -- almost as if she were
a foreign object.

Long pause.

SARAH
Do you love him?
(no response)
Don’t you know if you love him?
(no response)
58.

I didn’t either. I thought I loved him. I wouldn’t have given
myself to him if I hadn’t. Then everything changed and I
couldn’t stand him.
(pause)
I honestly don’t know if I ever loved him until now.

She exits. Paul stares after her.

RAIN is striking against the windows.
59.

SCENE 7

Manny enters, hair soaked and dripping
from the RAIN, which continues in the
background. He sits on the sofa,
nervously tapping his foot.

Paul exits toward the bathroom and
returns with a towel. He throws it
angrily at Manny. Manny quietly dries
his hair. Long pause -- nothing but the
sound of RAIN.

MANNY
She had no right to come here.

No response.

MANNY (CONT’D)
How did she even know where you live?

PAUL
(quietly)
You lied to me.

MANNY
She went through my stuff. She had no right to --

PAUL
You lied to me!

Manny startles. Long pause.

PAUL (CONT’D)
You should have heard her.

MANNY
(meekly)
What did she say?

PAUL
She made this noise.

MANNY
Noise?

PAUL
This awful, shaking, desperate, furious noise. It was beyond
words, beyond language.

Long pause.
60.

MANNY
Does this mean you won’t let me come here anymore?
(no response)
Do you want me to go?
(nothing)
I can go.

He watches Paul for a moment, then
stands, folds the towel, and crosses to
the desk to put it there. Paul grabs
his arm.

PAUL
I’m not going to let this happen again. This just happened.
This exact thing, in this room. I just went through this two
months ago. I’m not going to let it happen with you.

MANNY
Tell me what to do.

PAUL
I don’t know.

MANNY
I can divorce her, can’t I?

PAUL
You got her pregnant.

MANNY
How do I know it was me?

PAUL
Did you come inside her without a condom?

MANNY
What if there were others?

PAUL
(not buying it)
Were there?

Manny looks away -- there weren’t.

PAUL (CONT’D)
How could you be so stupid?

MANNY
What?

PAUL
Was this some kind of...? Some kind of “prove to myself I’m a
man,” thing?
61.

MANNY
I’m not stupid!

PAUL
Jesus!

MANNY
(furious)
I’m NOT stupid! I liked her!

Paul freezes.

MANNY (CONT’D)
(off Paul’s look; a whisper)
I liked her.

PAUL
She’s Christian.

MANNY
I know.

PAUL
You don’t believe in God. You hardly believe in human
feelings.

MANNY
Feelings are social constructs.

PAUL
Don’t quote.

MANNY
It’s from your book.

PAUL
Especially not from that.

MANNY
(beat)
She said God gave you power. She said, if you submit yourself
to God, He fills you with the power of the universe -- the
power he gave to Adam to name the plants and animals in Eden.
She said that God gave language to man, and with language
comes the power to place yourself above all other creations
because God created each of us to Rule.

PAUL
And you believed that? You believed that?

MANNY
She noticed me when nobody else did. She noticed me when you
didn’t.
62.

PAUL
So now you’re going to spend the rest of your life with her.
Raise a child --

MANNY
No.

PAUL
and throw away your education --

MANNY
NO!

PAUL
(softening)
This won’t just go away.

Long pause.

MANNY
What if the baby died?

Paul looks at him.

MANNY (CONT’D)
I could get a divorce.

PAUL
You can get a divorce anyway.

MANNY
But I’d have to raise it. Give up my life, like you said.

PAUL
There are ways we could do this. Compromises.

MANNY
What kind of compromises?

PAUL
You get a divorce, share custody of the child. Your parents --

MANNY
No.

PAUL
You have to tell your parents.

MANNY
I don’t have to do anything.

PAUL
You’ll need their help. Financially.
63.

MANNY
They’d pull me out of school! They’d make me move back home
and go to community college.

PAUL
I’ll talk to them.

MANNY
You?

PAUL
As your professor, I’ll tell them you’re very promising and
this is the best place for you.

MANNY
They won’t listen.

PAUL
They might.

MANNY
You don’t know them. They’ll hear something’s wrong -- could
be that I blew up the school, doesn’t matter what -- and my
mom will freak out about my heart and convince my dad to make
me move back home. They’ll spend every minute checking up on
me, taking me to doctors, opening and closing doors for me.
If it were up to them I wouldn’t have gone away to college in
the first place! I’ll have no say in anything. You think I’m
going back to that?

PAUL
It would be temporary.

MANNY
You think I’ll let anybody control me like that? My parents?
Her? Fuck them! Fuck my parents fuck Sarah fuck the baby.

Manny smashes Paul’s chair into the
desk.

MANNY (CONT’D)
FUCK THEM!

PAUL
(startled)
Manny.

MANNY
And fuck you if you aren’t going to help me.

Pause.

PAUL
I’ll help you financially.
64.

MANNY
And?

PAUL
And?

MANNY
What else?

PAUL
You lied to me. You threw this thing into my life that’s
completely beyond my control. What else do you think you’re
entitled to, exactly?

MANNY
Promise you won’t make me stop coming here.

PAUL
Of course I promise.

Paul reaches out for Manny; Manny grabs
his hand, pulling himself flush with
Paul’s chest, gripping Paul tightly. He
rests his head in Paul’s lap.

PAUL (CONT’D)
We can make this work.

MANNY
(bright)
Yeah?

PAUL
You’ll need a lawyer. You need to decide if you want custody.

MANNY
Custody?

PAUL
And when you tell your parents -- because you’ll have to tell
them -- I’ll be here to support you.

MANNY
(emptily)
Support me.

PAUL
And if they try to take you out of school, you can live with
me.

MANNY
With you.
65.

PAUL
I’ll make space. If you decide you want custody, I’ll make
space for both of you.

Pause.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Manny?

MANNY
Yeah?

PAUL
I think I’m falling in love with you.

Long pause.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Manny?

MANNY
(summoning a smile, turning to
Paul)
Thank you.

PAUL
That’s a strange thing to say.

MANNY
Love is just a word.

PAUL
It’s not one I use often.

MANNY
It’s a discursive production, configured through the
perceptions of a given culture at a given time. Niklas
Luhmann says --

PAUL
Forget about Niklas Luhmann.

MANNY
I understand him better now.

PAUL
Good.

MANNY
I have you to thank for that.
(kisses him)
Let me thank you.
66.

PAUL
Do you love me?

MANNY
(unbuttoning Paul’s shirt)
Let me thank you...

Lights out.
67.

SCENE 8

Lights up -- same location. Paul is
grading papers at his desk. A KNOCK.

PAUL
(trying to stay focused on the
grading)
Who is it?

MAUREEN’S VOICE
Your conscience.

Paul looks up at the door, sour. Pause.

PAUL
The door’s unlocked.

Maureen opens the door and steps
inside.

MAUREEN
Is he here?

PAUL
He’s at the library.

She closes the door.

MAUREEN
Did he tell you I failed him?

PAUL
He told me.

MAUREEN
How did he take it?

PAUL
He was pissed.

MAUREEN
That’s all?

PAUL
You were hoping for something more?

MAUREEN
(surveying the room)
I see he’s nested.

PAUL
It’s gotten a bit messy.
68.

MAUREEN
It’s a health hazard. Calling it “messy” tells me you’re
deliberately refusing to grasp reality, which explains more
than just your attitude towards Manny.

PAUL
What do you want?

MAUREEN
(pause)
I’m here to ask you to resign.

Pause. Paul chuckles.

PAUL
Resign?

MAUREEN
Yes.

PAUL
Resign?

Pause.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Why would I resign?

MAUREEN
You know.

PAUL
No, I don’t know. What I do in my personal life is my
business.

MAUREEN
Not when the student you’re doing it with decides to sell you
out.

PAUL
Sell me out?

MAUREEN
Last week I find a note on my door from Margot. She wants a
meeting. I think it’s going to be about my tenure, so I call
you. I leave a message. You don’t call back. I stop by your
office and you aren’t there. I ask around. You’re teaching a
class this session but nobody’s seen you.

PAUL
I’ve been holding office hours in my classroom. Frankly I’m
not fond of being glowered at.
69.

MAUREEN
So the day comes for my meeting. I’m all dressed up. Margot
leads me to the conference room. The President is there. The
Vice President. Some nitwit counselor from Student Services.
Alvyn. Sharon. Most of my tenure committee. I see them
passing around a sheet of paper, taking turns reading it and
shaking their heads. It’s a poem. At least that’s what one of
them calls it. Margot hands it to me, and it says, “Professor
Nulman fucks me. He fucks me three times a day, every day. I
let him fuck me three to four times a day -- because he makes
me burn.”

PAUL
Manny didn’t write that.

MAUREEN
“He makes me burn.”

PAUL
So he used the same word.

MAUREEN
Same word, same font. Manny was one of two students in my
class who used Courier, and as far as I know you aren’t
fucking the other one.

PAUL
He didn’t write that.

MAUREEN
Then who did.

PAUL
(reluctantly)
It was -- his girlfriend.

Maureen looks at him.

PAUL
(correcting himself)
His wife.
(correcting himself again)
His soon-to-be ex-wife.

MAUREEN
He’s married.

PAUL
At the moment.
(off Maureen’s look)
He’s bisexual.

MAUREEN
Is he?
70.

PAUL
He made a mistake.
(clears his throat)
Look, this is...
(beat)
I met her. She came here -- to my apartment. Asked me to stop
seeing him.

MAUREEN
And I take it you declined.
(no response)
Let me ask you something. Did Manny tell you he was married?
I’m guessing he didn’t. This is the same kid who went over my
head, straight to Margot, rather than taking my feedback,
buckling down, and doing the work. He handed in nothing for
the last three weeks. He barely came to class. Now he lies to
you -- the man who fucks him, diligently, three to four times
a day -- and your first impulse is to blame her?

PAUL
I’m not blaming her.

MAUREEN
It’s moronic!

PAUL
(strong)
I saw how upset she was. I knew I was causing her pain -- am
causing her pain.

MAUREEN
(through her teeth)
Then why didn’t you just stop it.

PAUL
Because I don’t want to!

Long pause.

MAUREEN
I warned you this would happen.

PAUL
I have no intention of resigning.

MAUREEN
Do you have any idea how embarrassing this could be for you?
The college doesn’t have to keep quiet. It’s in their best
interest, they know that. But I sat with the people in that
conference room. I held my tongue as they stammered at me
without ever looking me in the eye. This thing has shocked
them down to their conservative little cores. You have them
confused and angry and disgusted, and they want you out.
71.

PAUL
Why haven’t I been approached directly?

MAUREEN
That’s a stupid question.

PAUL
So they sent you.

Maureen looks off, chuckles.

MAUREEN
I wore a skirt to that meeting, did I tell you? Went to the
department store and everything, felt like an idiot. I tried
it on and the saleswoman said I looked powerful but feminine.
After the meeting Margot took me aside and said I looked like
a different person.
(off Paul’s look)
You like that?

PAUL
(sad for her)
No.

MAUREEN
It’s only a few weeks til September. I can wear skirts til
then, teach poems by dead white guys and Emily Dickinson. The
day after Labor Day, I step onto that campus a free woman.

PAUL
They’re giving you tenure -- for this?

MAUREEN
I’m a good teacher.

PAUL
I know.

MAUREEN
I work hard. I work too hard to be walking around with your
shit all over my face. People associate me with you. You’re
my mentor. Who the fuck are you to be mentoring me?

PAUL
You never wanted a mentor. From the moment I met you, you’ve
done nothing but undermine me. My work, my relationships --

MAUREEN
Relationships?

PAUL
You call me a closet case, a robot. Any idiot could see that
David and I made each other miserable, but you kept
intervening --
72.

MAUREEN
Here you go.

PAUL
Was it out of concern for him? Was it so you could go home
and write poetry about the stupid, passionless cruelty we
inflicted on each other?

MAUREEN
I have better things to write about.

PAUL
Feel something, you said. Burn for something. What do you
burn for? It’s not Liz. Not poems or queer pride or morality
or truth.

MAUREEN
Justice.

PAUL
(scoffing)
Justice?

MAUREEN
You don’t deserve it. The respect. The authority. The
security. Your name on articles and a book cover. When have
you ever had to struggle? What have you ever wanted,
including that kid, that you haven’t swept up without
consequences?

PAUL
I’m being bullied out of my job. I’m anathema to my
colleagues. I’ve fallen in love with a married, bisexual
teenager who’s also about to be a father.

MAUREEN
A father.

PAUL
I take pills every morning to prevent my body from destroying
itself. Two pills at first, now three, then before I know it
I’ll be operating a pharmacy out of my bathroom and at any
point my immune system could say to hell with it and destroy
my body anyway.

He stops. Pause.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Why are you looking away?

MAUREEN
I’m not.
73.

PAUL
Why aren’t you looking at me? I’m talking my mortality,
Maureen -- the final cruelty inflicted on me by the man I
loved.

MAUREEN
(looking at him)
Inflicted on you?

PAUL
With your help.

MAUREEN
(pause, staggering)
What about Fire Island, Paul? What about that torn wad of
latex you left on the dunes? Did you think I forgot about
that?

Paul’s face has changed.

MAUREEN (CONT’D)
The man refuses to get over you. He won’t get out of bed. He
hoards a pile of stuff that reminds him of you. He’s stopped
taking his medications. That -- idiot won’t get over you!

Paul stares at her. Maureen’s eyes land
on the blue stone.

MAUREEN (CONT’D)
I liked seeing you miserable, it’s true, and I told you to go
back to him. But this was never supposed to happen to him.
(looking at him)
You weren’t supposed to do this to him.

She exits with the stone.

Paul remains alone on stage for several
beats. At one point he covers his mouth
as a wave of nausea passes over him,
but it fades quickly. He uncovers his
mouth.

A HIGH-PITCHED TONE, pulsing like
tinnitus, gradually becomes audible.
The lights fade on Paul and Paul’s
apartment, rising on the other side of
the stage to create a new space.

Manny enters this new space. His shirt
is torn; he has a few bloody scratches
on his arms and face. He breathes
heavily, adrenaline rushing.
74.

He takes out his cell phone and texts,
then smashes the phone on the floor,
opening his mouth and releasing
something between a WAIL and an
EXHILARATED CRY. He spots a nearby wall
and bashes his head into it. Again and
again. The lights dim.

The HIGH-PITCHED TONE turns into the
sound of an AMBULANCE SIREN, then fades
to silence.
75.

SCENE 9

The lights brighten on Sarah. She is
sitting on a bench, wearing a simple
black dress, no longer pregnant. She
stares hard at her hands.

Paul enters, approaching the bench. He
is dressed more formally than usual, in
a sports jacket and tie. He holds a
manila envelope.

SOUNDS OF CARS PASSING.

PAUL
Thanks for seeing me.

SARAH
Where’s Manny?

PAUL
(sitting)
You must be burning up.

She looks at him.

PAUL
Your dress. It’s over ninety. Black absorbs heat.

SARAH
I don’t have much choice, do I.

PAUL
You’ve been mourning for a long time.

SARAH
My baby was alive inside me for almost eight months. My
parents can’t mourn her. They’re sad that she’s gone --
anyone can be sad -- but I’m the only one who experienced her
life. The least I can do is mourn her for as long as she
lived inside me.
(beat)
Where is he?

PAUL
I didn’t tell him I was meeting you.

SARAH
But you said --

PAUL
I needed to speak to you alone.
76.

SARAH
(getting up)
I wouldn’t have come if I knew you’d be alone.

PAUL
He wouldn’t have come anyway.

SARAH
You didn’t ask him.

PAUL
Even if I had, trust me, he would have stayed as far away as
possible.

Pause. She remains standing, watching
him.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Did he look at you -- differently?

SARAH
Differently?

PAUL
Was there a point -- a moment you can remember -- when he
began looking at you differently?
(beat)
Sometimes I swear he doesn’t remember who I am. He sort of --
cocks his head, like a curious animal. A dog. The way a dog
looks at you, or a stranger, as they’re trying to make sense
of your face. Every day my face seems to make less and less
sense to him.

He looks at Sarah; they lock eyes.

PAUL (CONT’D)
You know what I’m talking about?

She looks away.

PAUL (CONT’D)
He goes to the library. Constantly. He comes home at three,
four in the morning. He crawls into bed and I can smell the
alcohol. I can smell other men on him.

SARAH
Other men?

PAUL
Their sweat.

SARAH
You don’t know that.
77.

PAUL
How did you know about me?
(beat)
It’s the smell, the lying -- those ridiculous lies about the
library, like once he’s lost interest he can’t even be
bothered to lie to you convincingly.

Pause. Sarah gestures at the manila
envelope.

SARAH
Are those the papers?

PAUL
(pause)
Yes.

Sarah breathes in deeply.

SARAH (CONT’D)
I have to sign them, right?

PAUL
After you’ve shown them to your parents, your lawyer.

SARAH
What if I want to sign them now?
(pause)
Did you bring a pen?

PAUL
No.

Sarah digs through her purse, finding a
pen.

SARAH (CONT’D)
Is purple okay?

PAUL
I don’t know.

SARAH
It’s all I have.

PAUL
Maybe you shouldn’t do this now.

SARAH
My parents don’t believe in divorce. I’ve never met our
lawyer but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t believe in it either.
Marriage is a promise. Manny broke every promise he made to
me.
78.

She opens the envelope, takes out the
papers, and scans the first page.

SARAH (CONT’D)
Where do I sign?

PAUL
You initial the pages with the yellow tabs, then sign at the
end.

Sarah turns to a yellow-tabbed page,
initials it, then turns to another,
repeating the process until she signs
the last page. She hands the papers to
Paul.

PAUL
I need to sign, too -- as your witness.

She gives him the pen. He signs. He
returns the pen. Pause.

SARAH
That’s it?

PAUL
Should be.

She takes a deep breath, exhales
slowly.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Are you okay?

Her face clenches.

SARAH
Apparently he’s lost interest in both of us.

She takes her purse and is about to
stand.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Wait.

She looks at him.

PAUL (CONT’D)
I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry about this [the divorce
papers], the baby, the --

She spits on him. Long pause. She gets
up and crosses to exit.
79.

PAUL (CONT’D)
(wiping his face, stands)
I know you wrote that letter.

She stops.

PAUL (CONT’D)
I need your help.

SARAH
My help?

PAUL (CONT’D)
There’s something he’s not telling me. About that night.

SARAH
You think I care what he is and isn’t telling you?

PAUL
I talked with a police woman at the precinct. According to
her, before that night, the worst thing to happen in that
park was two freshmen getting busted for smoking a joint. I
get a message on my phone from Manny -- someone is following
him. He tells the police he was about to call 911 but then
something hit him and he blacked out. While he was
unconscious, he was dragged a mile to the library, his head
bashed against a wall. They tore open his scalp; the bleeding
would have killed him if he bled like a normal person. He had
no money. Whoever it was didn’t even take his cell phone,
they just smashed it. They took nothing from either of you.
They left you hemorrhaging in the park after literally
beating your baby out of you. Why would they do that?

Sarah stares at him.

PAUL (CONT’D)
The woman said you told her it was three men who attacked
you, and that each of them was wearing a hat pulled down over
his eyes. A brown, knit hat -- almost hiding his eyes.

She stares coldly.

PAUL (CONT’D)
What really happened?
(no response)
The police know practically nothing. Manny was barely alone
with them at the hospital for five minutes before his parents
showed up.

SARAH
His parents were at the hospital?
80.

PAUL
Only to threaten litigation if anything happened to Manny’s
heart.

SARAH
Did they come to see me?
(no response)
Did they -- even know about me? Did you tell them about our
baby?

PAUL
They found out afterwards.

SARAH
But you were there. You saw them. Did you tell them?

PAUL
(long pause)
No.

SARAH
(long pause -- painfully)
Did Manny come to see me?

Paul looks at her; she turns away,
fighting back an emotional tempest.

PAUL
Tell me what really happened.

SARAH
Why?

PAUL
Because I’m losing him, and I don’t know how else to get him
back.

SARAH
You think whatever I’d tell you would help you get him back?

Pause. She looks at him.

SARAH (CONT’D)
(searchingly; realizing it as
she speaks)
You’d hold it over him.

PAUL
No.

SARAH
That’s how you’d try to keep him? By holding it over him?
81.

PAUL
There weren’t really three people who attacked you that
night, were there.

SARAH
You’re both going to burn.

Paul stares at her.

SARAH (CONT’D)
This feeling inside me -- is the opposite of God. I give it
to both of you who created it in me. You’re both going to
burn in it.

She exits. Paul stares after her as
CARS WHOOSH BY on the throughway.
82.

SCENE 10

THE SOUNDS OF CARS fade as Paul
approaches his desk, the stage becoming
his living room again. Actors push the
bench back into place -- it is now the
sofa.

Paul sits and stares at his computer
screen. Silence.

He glances at his watch, looks around.

His eyes catch on Manny’s backpack.

He crosses to the backpack, opens it,
and pulls out Manny’s laptop.

The laptop screen casts its glow on his
face.

He digs around -- punching keys,
scrolling, clicking.

He finds something and reads.

PAUL
(reading/mumbling)
Take off your shirt. Take off your shirt.

He clicks around, presumably opening
another program. He reads.

PAUL
(reading/mumbling)
Passion is frequently described as infection: love-sickness.
This sickness binds my body to yours. It binds us like
muscle, like semen...

KEYS JANGLE in the front door. Manny
enters, wearing his brown hat. He sees
Paul and stops.

MANNY
Why are you on my computer?

PAUL
You’re back early.

MANNY
I forgot it.

PAUL
You were at the library?
83.

MANNY
Yeah.

PAUL
It’s past 11.

MANNY
So?

PAUL
So the library closes at nine on Saturdays.

MANNY
I told you, I made friends with one of the guards. He lets me
stay late.

PAUL
Is that who you’re fucking?

MANNY
(pause)
What?

PAUL
Are you fucking the security guard?

MANNY
I’m fucking you, stupid.

PAUL
Who else besides me?

Manny reaches for his computer. Paul
moves to keep it away from him at
first, then closes it and hands it to
him. Manny sets it on the desk, opens
it, and clicks around, looking.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Alright, let’s try something else. Why is my book on your
computer?

MANNY
You opened my chat logs.

PAUL
Why is my book on your computer with your name in the header?

MANNY
This is private. You had no right to look at this!

In a flash, Paul gets up, comes up
behind Manny, and starts undoing
Manny’s belt.
84.

MANNY (CONT’D)
Hey!

Paul rips off Manny’s belt, struggles
to undo Manny’s pants.

MANNY (CONT’D)
HEY!

Paul tears down Manny’s pants and
underwear, buries his head in Manny’s
groin. He comes up quickly and slaps
Manny -- hard -- across the face. Manny
crashes to the floor.

PAUL
You think I’m stupid? You think I don’t know what cologne and
shit smell like? Is it one of your buddies from the chat
rooms? “Take off your shirt,” you tell them. How many took
their clothes off for you? How many told you to do the same
before you decided to try it on me?

Manny has pulled his pants back on. He
stumbles to his feet and pitches
himself at Paul, forcing Paul to the
sofa. Manny grabs him by the collar,
glaring at him, their faces very close.
Long pause, then Manny lets go,
crossing back to the desk.

MANNY
(quietly)
You’re disgusting.

PAUL
What?

MANNY
(turns to him, forcefully now)
You’re disgusting. You’re WEAK. You go to work every day
dressed like a monkey. You don’t write. You don’t read
anything meaningful or important, just novels and magazines.

PAUL
I read novels and magazines because I use them to find
passages for exams.

MANNY
No one looks up to you. You’re a test-writer! You went from
being a teacher and an intellectual to an educational bottom-
feeder.
85.

PAUL
Need I remind you, I was forced to resign my appointment in
part because of you and your ex-wife. Need I also remind you
that I earn two times more as a bottom-feeder than I did as
an intellectual, and that I needed the money to pay your
tuition after your parents refused to let you leave home.

MANNY
You could have gotten a job at another college.

PAUL
I haven’t published in years. My former colleagues wouldn’t
exactly write me glowing recommendations.

MANNY
When you fuck me my skin crawls. When you touch me my dick
goes limp and I taste whatever I ate that day in the back of
my mouth. You’re too weak to be fucking me anymore. I oughta
be fucking you if the thought of it didn’t make me nauseous.

Long pause as Paul absorbs this. Manny
stares at him.

PAUL
How long have you felt this way?

MANNY
Since you stopped teaching.

PAUL
Even if I stopped teaching for you?

MANNY
You made me sick before that. You said you loved me. The only
reason I’m still here is because I feel sorry for you.

PAUL
Not because you’re completely dependent on me?

MANNY
I’ll find somebody else.

PAUL
Who?

MANNY
Maybe I already have.

PAUL
Who else would be stupid enough to take care of you?

MANNY
You were stupid enough.
86.

Paul grabs Manny.

PAUL
Listen to me. I told you once before, I’m not going to let
this to happen again. If you think I’ll let you leave, you’ve
learned nothing. You might know a lot about literary theory,
but you’ve learned nothing about me.

MANNY
You can’t stop me from leaving.

PAUL
I can stop you from stealing my book. You have the file on
your computer with your name all over it, but you think
that’s enough to convince anyone you wrote those words?
You’re a kid. What little writing you’ve done for me is
clumsy, arrogant -- the sort of thing one expects from a
megalomaniacal freshman parroting the great scholars. To even
stand a chance of passing off my work for yours, you’d need
someone like me to vouch for you.

MANNY
You’d do that?

PAUL
No. But I would -- and will -- make sure you get expelled for
plagiarism if so much as a paragraph of that book ends up in
anything with your name on it.

Manny glares at him.

MANNY
Don’t push me.

PAUL
You’re not leaving.

MANNY
You’re not in charge of me.

PAUL
That’s exactly what I am. And I’m telling you, you’re not
leaving.

MANNY
You can’t keep me here.

PAUL
I’m not going to discuss this.

MANNY
I HATE you.
87.

PAUL
You’re not leaving, Manny.

MANNY
You’re pathetic!

PAUL
You’re not --

Manny grabs Paul and slams him against
a wall.

MANNY
(wild)
You can’t keep me here!

PAUL
Let go of me.

MANNY
(grabs the scissors from the
desk)
I could shove these into you. I could cut myself open and
bleed almost nothing and say you attacked me.

PAUL
You murdered your child.

MANNY
You’re not in CHARGE of me!

PAUL
In the park. In your brown hat. No one was following you. You
murdered your child.

Long pause. Manny puts down the
scissors.

MANNY
I didn’t murder anything.

PAUL
You attacked her.

MANNY
She didn’t want it.

PAUL
She lied for you.

MANNY
She was going to use it to keep me tied to her for the rest
of my life.
88.

PAUL
(sad and exhausted)
So you killed it.

MANNY
Death has no meaning.

PAUL
She loved you.

MANNY
Love doesn’t exist. Pain doesn’t exist. Murder. Disease.
They’re all constructs... [stumbling over his words] social --
inventions created by the ninety-nine percent of people out
there because... because those people know they’re
inventions, but they insist on living with them anyway
because the alternative... The alternative is chaos, and
ninety-nine percent of people are so scared and weak, they’d
believe in anything to avoid that, even the most
artificial... the most conventional... the most patently
hegemonic...

He stops, exhausted, panting. Paul
stares at him.

PAUL
I didn’t teach you that. Not intentionally. The fact is, you
murdered your child. You can attempt to justify what you did
with a Frankensteinian academic theory, but the guilt you’re
feeling -- that’s no construct. That guilt is the truest
thing about you, and no amount of skill with words can change
it.

Long pause. Manny stares at the floor,
face blank, as though suddenly lost.

PAUL (CONT’D)
I won’t tell the police.

MANNY
(vaguely)
What?

PAUL
I thought about telling them after I saw Sarah. I’d known for
some time before that, but not really. When the truth is
intolerable enough, it just sort of floats inside you, like a
planet. It creates its own gravity so that everything else
inside you orbits around it without actually touching it.

MANNY
(present now)
What are you going to do?
89.

PAUL
Nothing.

MANNY
If I stay.

PAUL
You don’t want to leave.

MANNY
I’m going.

PAUL
I know you better than you realize, better than I realized
that first day we met when I said you reminded me of myself.

MANNY
I feel sick.

PAUL
Let me touch you.

MANNY
It makes me SICK. No! Don’t fucking touch me it makes me
SICK!

Manny nearly vomits. He coughs, heaves
for breath, supporting himself on the
sofa. His coughing settles. Pause.

PAUL
It makes you sick when I touch you.

MANNY
When anyone.

PAUL
(beat, gently)
I’m going to get you something to drink. From the top of the
fridge. Then you can go. Okay?

They look at each other. Manny nods.
Paul disappears to the kitchen.

Manny looks around, still obviously
feeling ill. He glances at the front
door, takes a few steps toward it, then
stops, looking toward the kitchen. He
moves quietly to the desk, grabs the
pair of scissors, and slips them into
the back of his pants. He sits on the
sofa.

Paul reenters with two glasses.
90.

MANNY
I thought you didn’t drink.

PAUL
I haven’t in awhile, on account of my medications. But I
think my body should be used to them by now.

Paul has handed Manny a glass. Manny
inspects it.

MANNY
It’s cloudy.

PAUL
I didn’t wash the glasses.

Manny shoots it back. Paul takes a sip,
makes a face.

PAUL (CONT’D)
It’s been awhile.

MANNY
Yeah?

PAUL
Yes, it has.
(beat)
I meant what I said about knowing you. What you did...
Irrevocably change the course of another person’s life, take
control of them for the sake of your own needs. Harm them.
Irrevocably. It’s an act of desire so savage that not even us
robots can process it for what it truly is. So we disguise
it, calling it love. We use language -- a bookful, sometimes -
- to construct that impenetrable atmosphere around our truth.

He looks at Manny. Manny stares at him
sleepily.

PAUL (CONT’D)
I had sex with another man the night David and I fought on
the beach. I knew I was losing him. I can’t explain it now,
but at the time I felt -- I knew -- that having sex with
another man was the only way I could regain some kind of
control.
(he picks up the stone)
The condom broke. Four months later I tested positive. And I
sat in this room with David -- he was sitting right where you
are -- and I decided I was going to make love to him. It
would be the first time we made love in months, and also the
last time. He’d been having trouble falling asleep, so that
night I gave him a pill -- something to help him relax. With
just the smallest push, I was inside him.
91.

I held his body to mine. I came inside him -- because I
wanted this sickness to bind my body to his. I wanted him to
stay...

He looks up at Manny, who is now
asleep, and sets down the stone.

PAUL (CONT’D)
I don’t want to hurt you. I just want you to stay.

He takes a piece of paper out of his
pocket.

PAUL (CONT’D)
You wrote this for me, remember?

He reads. A HIGH-PITCHED TONE, pulsing
like tinnitus, gradually becomes
audible.

PAUL (CONT’D)
Everything burns with you.
Eyes burn.
Teeth burn.
Chest burns.
Books burn.
The keys on your keyboard burn.
The pills in your medicine cabinet for your sickness burn.
The little blue rock on your desk burns.
Words burn without you.
Without you, everything is just noise.

He kisses Manny very gently. Lights
out. The end.

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