Steve Schutzman



"Italy" was first published in Poems&Plays#16, nominated for a Pushcart Prize and subsequently published in "The Best Ten Minute Plays of 2012" (Smith&Krauss) and "Regional Best: 2012" (Level 4 Press).  The play had its premiere at Alive Theatre, Long Beach, CA, 2010.




Italy

a ten minute play 


Time: The present.


Setting: A bedroom. A bed and a chair at least.


Characters:

Woman – 30’s

Man – 30’s


(WOMAN and MAN in bed after love making. WOMAN, tense and wide awake, MAN blissfully asleep. Distantly, a woman sings a haunting, wordless melody. Singing fades.)


WOMAN (Prodding him.)  Hey, you better go.

MAN  Huh?

WOMAN  You’ve got to go.

MAN  What? Huh?

WOMAN  Go. You need to go now.

MAN  Go? I…. Go where?

WOMAN  Away.

MAN  You want some space? 

WOMAN  Just go.

MAN  If you want some space, Sweetie, just say so?

WOMAN  You’ve already left so you might as well leave. Go. Go. Go to where you’ve already gone. Far away from here. Clean, quick and far.

MAN  But I haven’t gone anywhere…I was just asleep… That was so nice. Right? Come here. (She’s rigid.)  You want to talk?

WOMAN  No.

MAN Okay. (Beat) Okay. Where have I gone?

WOMAN  How should I know? A beautiful country, far from here.

MAN  Cool.

WOMAN  A country known for its pleasures.

MAN  Like Italy. You know how I love Italian food.

WOMAN  Italy. Italy. I should have known you’d go to Italy.

MAN  I’d love to go to Italy with you.

WOMAN  Go. Get out. Quick, clean and far. So I can’t even reach you by phone.

MAN  You can always reach someone by phone these days. There’s no getting away from the phone anymore.

WOMAN  I should be used to it.

MAN  What?

WOMAN  But I’m not used to it.

MAN  What (Beat) Feeling vulnerable, Sweetie? Come here.

WOMAN  Stay away from me.

MAN  Come here, Sweetheart. I thought you were drifting off too, like we usually do. WOMAN  I will mourn as if you had died. (He reaches for her.)  Stop it and get out.

MAN  Okay. (He doesn’t move. Beat  Beat)

WOMAN  Why are you doing this to me?

MAN  What?

WOMAN  This. This.

MAN  What? What is it? Sadness. You’re sad. Come here, Baby.

WOMAN  No. Don’t touch me.

MAN  I’m sorry I fell asleep.

WOMAN  Too late. Get out. (Pause)

MAN  I think you like being sad.

WOMAN  Now that’s helpful.

MAN  Well, it’s true.

WOMAN  You’re either sad or you’re not sad. Liking sadness has nothing to do with it. MAN  That makes sense.

WOMAN  Someone has to be sad and I know you won’t be.

MAN  I’ve never been happier in my life.

WOMAN  See, I told you.

MAN  I give up. (Beat Beat)  So you’re sad because I’m not sad, is that it? (Beat) So because I’m not sad you’re going to make me sad? (Beat) That’s not fair.

WOMAN  I’ll tell you what’s not fair: You being in Italy while I’m in the sinking boat of this bed trying to bail the water out all by myself.

MAN  I’ll help. I really want to help. Just show me the water. Show me where it’s coming in. Give me a bucket. Please, tell me what’s going on.

WOMAN  Too late. If you don’t know, I’m not telling you.

MAN   People can’t always feel the same thing at the same time.

WOMAN How’s the weather in Italy?

MAN  You want me to be sad with you? Is that it? Because sadness is part of loving. I know that.

WOMAN  Loving is impossible to bear.

MAN  A few minutes ago, we were happy, ecstatic.

WOMAN  That was sex. Loving is impossible to bear.

MAN  And getting more impossible all the time.

WOMAN  Is that a threat?

MAN  I love you. I’ve never been happier in my life.

WOMAN  Too late. Isn’t it great to be in Italy where the women are beautiful and undemanding and never sad? Isn’t it great to be in Italy?

MAN  But…

WOMAN  Get out. Get out. Get out.

MAN  Oh all right.

(MAN gets out of bed and sits in chair nearby.)

WOMAN  If I feel alone, I might as well be alone.

(MAN starts to dress. He gets an idea and pretends to write.)

MAN  My Dearest Darling, I can’t tell you how much I regret this stupid trip. Nothing but rain and cold for days on end. I’ve never been so miserable in my life. I thought Italy was supposed to be warm and sunny.

WOMAN  Finally. Loneliness.

MAN  It’s been raining for so long the local vineyards are about to lose their entire crop of grapes; the wheat had to be harvested before it was ready; the roots of the basil plants have rotted from the constant damp; and mushrooms have begun to sprout from the faces of the town’s old men.

WOMAN  The loneliness I was made for.

MAN  What a disaster. Cold and damp everywhere, even under these covers. Impossible to get warm. I miss you terribly and can’t wait to hold you in my arms again. Signed, your true and everlasting love. So much for Italy.

WOMAN  The local people are used to this period of constant rain. It happens every year and they frolic in it like sleek otters. Local tradition has named it the ‘downpour de las bombas’ because of how the rain makes the white peasant blouses cling to the ripe breasts of their young women who have nothing else to do in the bad weather but serve the needs of the town’s only tourist.

MAN  Thousands of rats have swarmed from the flooded sewers seeking higher ground. They line the rooftops like vicious pigeons and grind their teeth at passers by. There are rumors of plague in the region. I can’t stop shivering. I need immediate medical attention but the mountain roads have become impassable and all the phone lines are down.

WOMAN  A fire burns constantly in the stone fireplace in the hotel room of the town’s only tourist, the wine of the region flows like wine and the beautiful young women pile their great steaming tits on top of the tourist to keep him warm.

MAN Pile their great steaming tits. Wow. That’s terrific. See, we’re terrific together. Can I please come back to bed? I’ll do things to you.

(WOMAN throws her hand up like a traffic cop to stop him.)

WOMAN  The isolation of this mountain region has created a Rubenesque female gene pool.

MAN  Jesus Christ, that’s good. You don’t know how electric you are to me right now. I have never loved you so much. Please don’t make me leave.

WOMAN  You’ve already left. How’s Italy?

MAN  I spend every rain-ruined day under the damp covers writing letters to my love back home, letters I can never mail in this one horse town without a horse or a doctor. But still I write as a hopeless act of devotion to the only one who can end my misery. I write of how much I love her, of how I am filled with regret, of how much more of this rain-soaked penance I would endure to be forgiven for the selfish act of falling asleep after lovemaking. My body quakes with fever, my brain swells and my stiffening fingers smear the ink into an indecipherable mess but still I write her these unreadable letters I can never send.

WOMAN  I knew this would happen. I haven’t heard from the son of a bitch since he left. I turn my bedroom upside down and scrape it for his skin oils. I play our favorite music so many times it becomes nonsense to me. I sweep the floor of our commingled hair and burn it in exorcism.

MAN  This is the end. I’m burning up, dying. My shivering won’t stop, I can’t breathe or hold food down and have lost thirty pounds. Insects dot the ceiling like greedy relatives waiting for me to die, the stone walls of my room glow with cold and no one here speaks a word of English.

WOMAN  Language has always been the greatest obstacle to pure animal pleasure. First, a thought inserts itself into the left brain…

MAN  Left brain? Come on, Sweetie. I’m sick and dying in Italy.

WOMAN  Quiet. Don’t interrupt. Language has always been the greatest obstacle to pure animal pleasure. First, a thought penetrates your left brain and then that thought lays its eggs like an insect queen, the eggs hatch into words and you can’t stop thinking them. It’s the signal disorder of modern man, too many words, super self-consciousness. The sexy and free, unthinking and non-verbal, young women of this isolated region have no such problems.

MAN  That’s very good, how you made that connection. I really can’t keep up with you. Okay. Okay. (Beat) The young women of the town don’t think at all, or bathe. Civilization never really reached this remote place.

WOMAN  Civilizing ideas like marriage and…

MAN  You want to get married? Is that it? Let’s do it.

WOMAN  Civilizing ideas like marriage and…

MAN  …toothpaste...

WOMAN  Like marriage and sexual taboos have never reached this isolated mountain region where there are no phone lines and cell phones are as useless as watches, umbrellas and...

MAN  …toothpaste…

WOMAN  As watches, umbrellas and brassieres. Uncomplicated creatures serving the town’s tourist trade, each young woman lets the foreigner have his way with her.

MAN  These smelly women cling to me like the mold on the hotel walls. I can’t get a moment alone.

WOMAN  Finally. Loneliness. The loneliness that I was made for. If I feel alone, I might as well be alone. To hell with the bastard. He’s out of my life forever. Good riddance.

MAN  I’m really starting to enjoy these young women who have not conceived of themselves as destined to have their hearts broken and do not feel compelled to bring on this destiny in self-fulfilling prophesy.

WOMAN  Get out.

MAN  Sweetheart, sweetheart, come on, let me back in bed please.

WOMAN  No.

MAN  I promise I won’t leave again.

WOMAN You’ve already left.

MAN  You’re being very unreasonable, you know that?

WOMAN  I don’t care. Get out.

MAN  I’m going.

WOMAN  I knew that. I knew you’d do that.

MAN But you chased me out.

WOMAN  You’re supposed to fight harder.

MAN  You’re being impossible. (Beat)  All right.  I’ll fight to the death for you with you. WOMAN  Too late. Loving is impossible to bear.

MAN  I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?

WOMAN  I guess.

MAN  Can’t you tell me what it is?

WOMAN  No. There are no words.

MAN  Bye.

(MAN exits.)

WOMAN  Who are you?

(As the lights start to slowly fade, the haunting, wordless melody is heard again.) WOMAN (cont’d)  Now that he’s gone, my loneliness lies in bed with me like a young woman who sings herself to sleep and keeps on singing the same sad song in her dreams. Hers is a beautiful, sad and never-ending song of lovers separated by a great sea...


(Singing. Fade to black. End of play.)