Doomsday

by Miles Magnesi

Characters:

MAN, late 30s, business attire.

WOMAN, mid 30s, fashionably cheap.

Scene – WAITING ROOM

Two wooden benches face each other from opposite ends, a coffee table at the center that’s covered with old magazines. The WOMAN is already seated on one of the benches, reading. A moment later, the MAN enters, glances at the WOMAN, and sits across from her on the vacant bench.

MAN
I figured you’d be early.

WOMAN
(Without looking up from the magazine)
Mhm.

(Pause)

MAN
How are you?

WOMAN
Fine. (Pause) You?

MAN
Good, good. Just tired.

WOMAN
Okay.

(Pause)

MAN
So, today’s the big day.

WOMAN
You make it sound like we’re throwing a party.

MAN
I didn’t mean it like that.

WOMAN
I hope not.

(Pause)

MAN
(Tense) Look –

WOMAN
What?

MAN
(Fumbling) I know you’re not happy about this. I get that. (Beat) I just want another shot is all.

WOMAN
This isn’t golf.

MAN
(Agitated)
I know that.

(Pause)

I miss them. (Beat) Do they miss me?

WOMAN
How would I know?

MAN
Well do they talk about me at all?

WOMAN
No.

The Man sighs, looks around. The WOMAN continues to read her magazine. After a moment, he slaps his hands onto his knees, leans back and chuckles to himself.

MAN
(Still chuckling, grimly)
So you’re actually going through with this. You’re gonna fight me. Again.

WOMAN
The court told you to stay away, the court’ll decide to bring you back.

MAN
And if they keep me away?

WOMAN
Then they were right.

MAN
You really think so?

WOMAN
Absolutely.

MAN
Why?

WOMAN
Because your definition of doing ‘well’ is a dry jacket and a ride home.

MAN
Oh that’s cute.

WOMAN
I don’t think so.

MAN
You’re being unfair.

WOMAN
Unfair? I don’t think you’re even capable of discerning the difference between fair and unfair.

MAN
What makes you say that?

WOMAN
(Chuckling, bitterly)
The fact that you actually showed up today!

MAN
I have a right to be here.

WOMAN
Yes, you do. And that isn’t fair to anyone. Especially us.

MAN
Us? (Beat) You know, I don’t remember you being so goddamn cold.

WOMAN
You couldn’t remember anything about me if you tried. And I wasn’t. You’re just intent on handing me reasons.

(Pause)

The MAN Hunches forward and clasps his hands together.

MAN
What the hell happened to us?

WOMAN
You tell me.

(Pause)

MAN
(Speaking to himself) Kids happened.

WOMAN
Is that your excuse?

MAN
No, I’m just saying –

WOMAN
You’re not exactly helping your case –

MAN
Stop. I’m not saying that I regret it. If I did, I wouldn’t be here. (Beat) I’m just saying, I think that’s what did it. That’s what changed.

WOMAN
You weren’t the center of attention anymore.

MAN
Jesus Christ, will you calm down? (Beat) You know, you used to love me.

WOMAN
I’m sure you brought a newspaper with you. You should try reading it.

MAN
(Mumbling)
Unbelievable.

The MAN sits quietly. The WOMAN lifts another magazine from the table and scans the face. After a moment, the MAN hesitantly opens his briefcase and removes a newspaper. The WOMAN smirks.

MAN
So what do you think about this whole twenty-twelve thing?

WOMAN
Are those the kind of papers you’re reading these days?

MAN
There’s always some opinion piece polluting page six.

He raises the paper in the air.

Spoils the entire damned thing

(Pause)

WOMAN
It’s bullshit.

MAN
Huh?

WOMAN
Twenty-twelve. It’s bullshit.

MAN
You think so?

WOMAN
Of course.

MAN
I’m surprised. You used to be all about the doom and gloom.

WOMAN
Well doom and gloom isn’t really appropriate anymore. (Beat) Besides, the world’s been ending for how many years?

MAN
Right.

(Pause)

Remember Y2K?

WOMAN
(Fighting a smile)
No.

MAN
Yes you do. God, you were so upset about it.

WOMAN
Well of course I was. The world was going to end.

MAN
Remember the little panics you’d send yourself into? We started buying all the bottled water and canned fruit we could afford.

WOMAN
And vegetables. So we wouldn’t get fat.

MAN
(Laughing)
That’s right. Canned asparagus. Terrible! And those MRE things, remember? God, those were expensive. Tasted like shit, too.

WOMAN
I wanted to throw them out.

MAN
Like hell! We ate those for a week.

WOMAN
And then I made you fix dad’s ancient two-way. You know, I’m not sure if that old thing had ever worked in the first place?

MAN
But I still figured it out, didn’t I?

WOMAN
You were always good at fixing things.

MAN
And then you refused to watch the ball drop in Time Square.

WOMAN laughs.

You didn’t want to see all of those people get microwaved.

WOMAN
But we went into the city anyway. That I remember. To that nightclub. (Beat) That place was vulgar.

MAN
Oh come on, you enjoyed it.

WOMAN
You yuppies knew good music.

MAN
(Laughing)
Says you.

WOMAN
You were loaded that night.

MAN
(Timidly)
Yeah.

WOMAN
Half-priced drinks after eleven.

MAN
‘Zero-hour.’

WOMAN
Puked all over yourself.

MAN
I did?

WOMAN
I had to help you back to the car. Then drive us home. You knew I hated driving in the city at night. And that smell, Jesus –

MAN
I don’t remember that.

WOMAN
And then we got back to the apartment, and you passed out on the floor.

MAN
But the world didn’t end.

WOMAN
No. It didn’t. (Beat) But that was a long time ago. We were young.

MAN
We’re still young.

WOMAN
No. (Beat) Puking up a gut full of liquor is funny at a nightclub. In your twenties. In a shitty little studio.

MAN
Wait –

WOMAN

It isn’t funny in our kitchen.

MAN
Hey –

WOMAN
In front of your son –

MAN
I get it.

(Pause)

The WOMAN bends the spine of the magazine.

WOMAN
You know what he asked me, after he found you that morning? He asked if that’s how dads always were. If you were supposed to drink yourself into a stupor after a bad readout from Bloomberg. (Beat) I hated that thing – you obsessed over it.

MAN
(Sternly)
We depended on those numbers. Did you want to go back to being broke? No insurance – one car? In that shitty apartment?

WOMAN
I didn’t care about money –

MAN
Liar.

WOMAN
(Fuming)
Money didn’t make the difference – and don’t you call me a liar. (Beat) Money was all you cared about.

MAN
Horseshit.

WOMAN
It’s true. When we didn’t have money you would piss and moan about it and when we did –

MAN
Well forgive me for being responsible.

WOMAN
(Condescending)
Responsible? Oh really? (Beat) Are you fucking serious? Responsible? Is that what you were?

MAN
Well maybe if you had a real job –

WOMAN
I try to make a difference!

MAN
You hand out condoms to derelicts.

WOMAN
(Suppressing rage)
You- (Beat) You know what, you’re right. Kids did change a lot of things. But you’re still an asshole. A court can’t change that.

WOMAN turns away, scans the room angrily.

(Pause)

MAN
So they do talk about me, then.

WOMAN
(Reluctant)
Just him.

MAN
And?

WOMAN looks back to MAN.

WOMAN
And what? Nobody’s pining over you in that house.

MAN
But they wonder about me.

WOMAN
That doesn’t mean anything.

MAN
It means everything.

WOMAN
They’re just kids. They don’t know what’s best for them.

MAN
And the court does?

WOMAN
No, but I do.

MAN
Do you really?

WOMAN
Yes – I’m their mother.

MAN
And I’m their father!

WOMAN
You hardly know them!

MAN
You have no right to say –

WOMAN
I can say whatever the hell I want to you – I’ve earned that much. Twelve goddamn years.

MAN
Bullshit. I know my own kids.

WOMAN
Then prove it.

MAN
Huh?

WOMAN
What’s your son’s favorite color?

MAN
What does that matter?

WOMAN
What is it?

MAN
I don’t –

WOMAN
Alien green. What sport does he play?

MAN
(Cocksure)
He’s a baseballer, like his old man –

WOMAN
Tennis. He plays tennis. What’s your daughter’s favorite food?

MAN
Just –

WOMAN
What is it?

MAN
PB and J.

WOMAN
(Pitying)
She’s allergic to peanut butter, you ass. See? You’re clueless. You don’t even know who the hell you’re fighting for.

(Pause)

MAN
Ginny.

WOMAN
What?

MAN
Ginny. Her stuffed rabbit. The one she slept with until she was four, that got that hard glue-patch on its foot from that day she brought it with her to daycare. And then you cut off the glue-bit and she was hysterical for hours, so I covered it with a bandage, to make it better. And every night after, we’d have to kiss the bandage three times, and then she’d sing us both Goodnight because it made you smile. And she would just cry in the morning if the bandage fell off, because she was afraid it was gonna bleed out all over the place. Because she takes after you. So one night, you sewed it up, and we called you Doctor Mommy. All three of us did. You were a hero.

(Pause)

I remember that. (Beat) You don’t remember a goddamned thing about me.

(Pause)

The MAN leans back, completely silent. His expression begins to sour. The WOMAN looks to her lap, entwines her fingers.

MAN
Twelve years.

WOMAN
What?

MAN
Twelve years. That’s how long you’ve known me.

WOMAN
And?

MAN
You loved me once.

WOMAN remains silent.

I know I fucked up. And you won’t let me forget that. But please. Don’t let these last couple years spoil the rest.

WOMAN
Now’s what counts.

MAN
Then let me have it. Just give me a chance, here and now.

WOMAN
It isn’t up to me.

MAN
(Frustrated, about to stand)
Why are you doing this? Are you trying to embarrass me?

WOMAN
No.

MAN
Then why put me in front of a judge again?

WOMAN
Because I don’t think you’ve changed! You just regret. And I don’t think you give a shit about saving this family. You’re just trying to save yourself. That ugly little thing you call a soul.

MAN
So you’re gonna come at me with fire, then?

WOMAN
Fire. Brimstone. Dirt and mud.

MAN
And you’ve got yourself a pretty bitchin’ lawyer, I imagine?

WOMAN
The quickest gun in the west. Why, who’d you scrounge up?

MAN
(Chuckles)
Please. The firm’s attorneys would crush you.

WOMAN
(Patronizing)
Oh!

MAN
I’d have custody in a week.

WOMAN
I’m sure.

MAN
I didn’t bring anybody.

WOMAN
(Derailed)
What?

MAN
I didn’t bring an attorney.

WOMAN
Really? You’re going in there alone? (Beat) You don’t stand a chance.

MAN
You know, you’re probably right. And that’s why this is bullshit.

WOMAN
Protecting our children is bullshit?

MAN
No, keeping me away – that’s bullshit. You can’t just shut me out – pretend I don’t exist. A judge can’t say that I’m rotten because of what you’ve put on paper. Because I didn’t pay for a fucking lawyer. This is our life, goddamnit.

WOMAN
Yes, it is. It’s our life, and our children’s lives, and I think that’s worth a few bucks on a fucking lawyer!

MAN
You’re letting strangers control us.

WOMAN
They’re not controlling anything! You’ve already made your choices. I’m just making sure you pay for them.

(Pause)

The MAN stares at his lap. The WOMAN crosses her legs.

MAN
You know… I –

WOMAN
Don’t you dare.

MAN
Please, let me-

WOMAN
No.

(Pause)

MAN
I’m sorry.

WOMAN
I said don’t. I’m sick of hearing it. It doesn’t mean anything – it won’t fix anything – you can’t fix it anymore!

MAN
I just want you to let me try.

WOMAN
No.

MAN
Just give me a chance.

WOMAN
No! I – (Beat) goddamnit.

(Pause)

(Quietly) I hate you.

MAN
Please, babe –

WOMAN
I hate you.

MAN                                                 WOMAN
Just let me know them.                     I hate you.

MAN                                                 WOMAN
It’s all I ask.                                        I hate you.

MAN                                                 WOMAN
Just one chance.                                I hate you.

MAN                                                 WOMAN
Please –                                              I HATE YOU!

MAN
(Rising)
I KNOW!

(Pause)

I know you hate me. But please… Don’t let them hate me, too.

The door opens. Light shines on stage.

WOMAN stands.
WOMAN
(Knotted)
Good luck.

They exit.


 

Doomsday_Magnesi_Photo_lgeMiles Magnesi received his BA from the University of California in Riverside. Much of his creative work draws inspiration from the writings of Dostoevsky, McCarthy and Miller, but now and then he prefers to forget what he’s read, and just write about what’s in front of him. He currently lives in Long Beach, California, where he is working toward his MA in English. Afterward, he wishes to pursue a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing.

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