Walking Sideways

Walking Sideways                                                             By Ron Campbell

CAST

Hal……….Male, 43. Recently engaged.

Cliff……….Male, 43,recently divorced.

SETTING

A living room.

(Curtain rises on Cliff and Hal. They are drinking Scotch. Half the bottle is gone)

HAL

It was great that you finally got to meet her.

CLIFF

Meet who?

HAL

Meet who?! Inga, my fiancée. You finally got to meet her.

CLIFF

Oh right. Yeah. Finally. Cheers.

HAL

Cheers.

(They drink.)

HAL

And you liked her, right? I mean you seemed to. It was weird at first. I mean it’s bound to be. My oldest buddy meeting my fiancée for the first time.

CLIFF

You’re a lucky man.

HAL

Yes I am.  Sorry about Rita, by the way.

CLIFF

It happens.

HAL

But you guys were together for a long time.

CLIFF

Long time…

HAL

Hey, now you’re “back on the market”, eh?

CLIFF

Nah. Forget about me. You’re about to embark on the great voyage of marriage. Bon voyage. Cheers.

HAL

Cheers.

(They drink.)

CLIFF

You want me to tell you a little story? Let me tell a story.

HAL

I’m just saying.

CLIFF

What? What are you just saying?

HAL

I’m just saying. You’re not gonna change my mind.

CLIFF

Of course not.

HAL

Of course not.

CLIFF

Not my intention. I’m not here to change your mind.

HAL

Of course not.

CLIFF

Of course not. I’m here as your friend.

HAL

My best man.

CLIFF

That’s right. I’m not here to change your mind. I’m here to support you. I’m your best man. I’m here to back you up.

HAL

To watch my back.

CLIFF

To back you up.

HAL

To hold the ring.

CLIFF

To hold the ring?

HAL

Yeah, to hold the ring. That’s one of your duties. As best man. To hold the ring.

CLIFF

Oh yeah. I hold the ring. Until the moment.

HAL

That’s right. The moment.

(A pause as they think about “the moment”)

CLIFF

Cheers.

HAL

Cheers.

CLIFF

Maybe you don’t want me to tell the story.

HAL

Tell the story.

CLIFF

Nah. You don’t want to hear the story.

HAL

Tell the story.

CLIFF

Hell, you got all this positivity going for you right now. All this brightness in your future. You don’t want to hear the story.

HAL

Cliff. Just tell the story.

CLIFF

Okay, I’ll tell the story. It was Rita’s birthday.

HAL

I can’t believe it. You’re trying to change my mind.

CLIFF

Just listen. It was a long time ago. Way back. Before we got married. Before we bought the condo. Before Rita poured her sugar coated napalm into my ear and seduced me into seven years of indentured slavery. Before we got divorced. Before she stuck the ‘ol ice pick between my third and fourth rib and scrambled my heart like an egg.

HAL

Cliff-

CLIFF

I know you don’t want to hear this. You’re embarking on a grand adventure.  You’re in the picking phase. You’re picking out sofas. You’re picking out window treatments. You’re picking up each other’s dry cleaning. You’re picking nits out of each other’s hair. You still think it’s cute when she snores. You’re in love.

HAL

Well, yes we are, Cliff. Don’t tell me you didn’t feel the same way about Rita when you guys first got together. I remember. You were in love.

CLIFF

Love? Love? What Rita and I had was not love. What Rita and I had was a deep, mutual distrust.

HAL

Well Inga and I are different. You’ve seen her. There’s a purity there. A purity like I’ve never known.

CLIFF

A purity?

HAL

Yeah. A purity. An innocence. Inga is not Rita, Cliff.

CLIFF

Cheers to that.

HAL

Cheers.

            (They drink.)

CLIFF

Okay. You obviously don’t want to hear the story.

(A beat)

I’m only trying to save your life. That’s all I’m doing. Saving your life. You’re my buddy. Isn’t that what buddies do? Save each other’s lives?

HAL

They support each other’s decisions too, Cliff. They back each other up.

CLIFF

Back you up? You want me to back you up?

HAL

Yeah Cliff. I need you to back me up.

CLIFF

Like you did me?

HAL

hunh?

CLIFF

Like you backed me up? When I came to you and asked you if I should marry Rita? That kinda backing up?

HAL

I guess…

CLIFF

When you said “Go ahead, marry Rita. You guys are in love. Go ahead and marry her.” That kind of backing up?

HAL

That isn’t fair, Cliff. That was years ago. And you guys were in love.

CLIFF

Sure we were. Until she decided to cut my heart out with the blunt end of a rusted butter knife.

HAL

I understand you’re bitter.

CLIFF

Bitter? Who’s bitter? Not me. No sirree. This is not  bitter. This is aware. This is enlightened. I have transcended bitterness and risen above my feelings. What are feelings anyway? Arbitrary synapses triggered by arbitrary stimuli creating arbitrary purchases of arbitrary condos in arbitrary little housing developments built on hillsides that will all sink into the ocean anyway! You know what I mean? Who decided that feelings were important all of a sudden? I know. You can get by without feelings and be much happier, believe me.

HAL

Cliff. Happiness is a feeling.

CLIFF

Is it? Is it really? Are you sure? You can live a very fulfilling life without them; feelings. You can.

HAL

How? How can you live a life without feelings? What would there be left?

CLIFF

…Sports. There’d be sports.

HAL

There’s feelings in sports.

CLIFF

Not at the highest level. At the highest level there is no feeling in sports. There is only winning and losing. There is only the truth. The scoreboard. The scoreboard doesn’t care about your feelings. It reports the truth. That’s why I want to tell you the story.

HAL

Maybe I should go.

CLIFF

It was Rita’s birthday. There was a party. I had been out of town. When I got to the party it was in full swing. Lots of people. Dancing. The whole bit. Of course there was a kitchen party. Lots of people clustered in the kitchen. And it sorta spilled into this little laundry room. People were smoking, having a good time and there was this chick. Sitting on the dryer. And the dryer was on. Clikkity- clack, clikkity-clack. Somebody’s sneakers in there or something. And I found myself talking to her. But kind of standing there, leaning against the dryer, with her sitting on the dryer and one thing led to another-

HAL

What color hair?

CLIFF

What color hair? Does it matter? Blonde. Nordic looking.

HAL

You know I like that. Go on.

CLIFF

Well we found ourselves outside. In the driveway. We started going at it right there. I’ll never forget. She pulled my belt off and I remember the sound of it going flap flap flap flap against the belt loops. She pushed me back onto the hood of this car. It was a 240Z. Remember those? They had a big long hood. She threw me back on the hood and climbed onto me. We could hear the party going on inside. We just kept going at it. After awhile I kind of pushed her back a little and said “Isn’t there somewhere we can go?” She had this look in her eye. Wild. Molten. Something. She grabbed me by my waistband and said the sexiest word in the English language.

HAL

What’s that?

CLIFF

“C’mere.” She said “C’mere” and led me to this little detached room that Rita’s dad used as a library. We went inside. It was empty. A few candles. Lots of bookshelves.  A chaise lounge. She pushed me back on the chaise lounge and tore off her skirt. It was a Danskin skirt. Remember those?

HAL

Oh yeah. The Danskin skirt. I remember. Inga still wears one occasionally.

CLIFF

So we make it. Right there in Rita’s Dad’s library. And I tell you, it was good. The best. It was more than just making it. I felt… engulfed. Tidal. Like she was the sea and I was just some piece of flotsam or jetsam and she would pull me in like she was some riptide, And I was just pulled into her undertow and then she’d deposit me back on the shore only to wash back over me and pull me back into her depths. Her face over me, her hair the color of a Van Gogh wheat field dragging across me in the candlelight.

When we were done she rolled onto her side and turned away from me.  We lay there as the sweat dried. I stroked her hair. No words. The exquisite curve of her hip. The sharp delicacy of her clavicle.

HAL

Oh yeah. I’m a clavicle man myself.

CLIFF

You want me to tell the story?

HAL

Tell the story, tell the story. I’m just saying.

CLIFF

So I notice her skin. It’s glowing. Like from within. Like her skin is alive or something. Pulsating. Red , yellow, orange. And I look at her back and I don’t know how to say this but it’s like I’m looking at every woman’s back. Like the combined femaleness of all mankind is being represented here in this one back for me to marvel at. And I’m just staring at it. Lost in this post-coital wonderland of curvy female back perfection. And there’s something holy and ancient and sacred going on in this little room. And her skin is just glowing.

            (A pause as CLIFF relives it a little.)

HAL

I should probably head out. Inga’s probably-

CLIFF

I’m not finished. So we’re lying there. Her skin is looking just kind of iridescent. Like oil on the water. And that’s when we both notice this smell. Burning. And I turn around and there are flames three feet high climbing up towards the bookshelves. It’s the Danskin skirt. It got thrown onto one of the candles and I don’t know if you know this but Danskin skirts are really really flammable! Pieces of it are floating in the air on fire. Little bits of floating flame are swirling around the room. And I realize that’s why her skin was glowing. It was the reflection. The flickering of the flames casting eerie light on her shoulders, her back. Luckily there was a bottle of wine on this little bureau. I doused the candles as she waved a book at the flying pieces of burning Danskin. We were laughing and coughing from the smoke. But we put it out. The smell was horrible. Like burnt rubber. We stood there. Panting. Without the candles the room was dark. Now we had another problem. To get out of there and get to our cars we would have to go through the party.

HAL

Oh boy.

CLIFF

Exactly. So I wrap my shirt around her waist and we try to kind of walk sideways together. Through the kitchen and out the front door.  And we’re walking sideways to hide the fact that this chick is wearing my shirt as a skirt . And we get halfway through the kitchen and everybody’s staring at us. Their mouths are open. And in the kitchen light I look over at her and she is covered in splotches of ash. Everywhere. And so am I. Black splotches of soot  like Dick Van Dyke in Mary fuckin’ Poppins. Both of us. And Rita’s standing there, at the door. Just glaring. It’s her party remember. And she just opens the door and says “Out. Out now.” And me and this chick walk out into the night. We stood there in the street. There was nothing to say. We’d shared this kind of holy moment together and we’d been marked in the process. Like Ash Wednesday. We made some kind of lame excuses and walked to our separate cars. She drove away. After a little while I went back in to apologize to Rita. We got together soon after that. I still think that if I’d stayed with that chick, if we’d gone off together, showered somewhere together, it would have been more. There was a connection there. Deep. Like the sea.

HAL

Wow. You never see her again?

CLIFF

Never. (a beat.) Until recently.

HAL

Recently?

CLIFF

Earlier tonight.

HAL

Earlier tonight? But we were…

What was her name?

CLIFF

Who?

HAL

The girl. The girl in the Danskin skirt. What was her name?

CLIFF

Inga. Her name was Inga.

HAL

My Inga?

CLIFF

Your Inga.

HAL

You asshole.

CLIFF

A toast. To the sea. Bon voyage old buddy. Cheers.

HAL

(A moment as he thinks about it.)

Cheers.

(Fade to black.)

END OF PLAY

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