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(SCENE: HARRY, a young boy aged ten, is sitting criss-cross applesauce in centerstage facing down stage wearing matching light blue linen pants and shirt.. There is a book shelf upstage right. The shelves are nearly full and the books are shades of brown, blue, and red. The spines of the books are thick but there is no writing on them. On top of the book shelf there is an unlit light. A faint pair of footsteps can be heard and grows louder. Enter BETH, a young woman aged sixteen wearing the same as HARRY, upstage left.) Beth: (BETH walks slowly towards HARRY) Hello? Harry: (HARRY doesn’t look up from his book) Hello. (HARRY looks up as BETH stops a foot away from him) Well, you’re young. What’s your name? (HARRY closes the book and sets it to his side, stage right, as BETH tries to look at the pages) Beth: (BETH crosses her arms and shifts her weight to one foot, popping her hip out) I’m Beth. (BETH and HARRY hold eye contact for a few moments) I’m sorry, did you say I was young? For your information, I have my driver’s license and I’ve been on a plane six times by myself. I’m independent while you look like you still need a babysitter. You’re a child. Harry: (HARRY smiles and stands up) So are you. Besides, when I said that you’re young I meant compared to the others, not me. (HARRY walks over to stand by the bookcase) Beth: (BETH looks across the stage and the audience then back to HARRY) What do you mean, others? (BETH walks over to HARRY and stands at the opposite end of the book case) Where are we? Is there anyone here with a phone? I promised my mother I would be home in time for dinner. Harry: You ask a lot of questions. Beth: Are you going to answer them? Harry: I don’t think my answers will be very helpful. (HARRY walks down stage and BETH follows him) Beth: What’s that supposed to mean?! Just answer the damn questions. In case you didn’t notice, you’re the only one here so you’re the only one I can ask. (HARRY looks at BETH and sighs) Well? Harry: Alright. (HARRY looks at the floor while answering the questions) No, I do not know where we are. No, there is no one here with a phone. And the others are the people who were here before you. The people who’ve moved on… that’s why they’re not here. (BETH looks at the book HARRY had been reading when she walked in and picks it up) You’re not going to be home in time for dinner, I can tell you that. Beth: (BETH opens the book to the middle and stares at it, not moving. She walks the short distance back to HARRY and shoves the open book right up to his face) Who in God’s name are you? Whatever this is, it isn’t funny. Harry: (HARRY takes a careful but steady step away from BETH) I know it’s not funny. Besides, I told you who I am. I’m Harry. You shouldn’t worry about that anyways. You might be here a while so we’ll have time to get to know each other. (BETH moves like she is about to speak again but HARRY continues before she gets a chance) Unless, of course, I move on before you. Beth: (BETH throws the book to the ground) It’s empty, Harry. The pages in that book are blank. No words. (BETH takes a step towards HARRY) No pictures, no page numbers, no nothing! Harry: I know. Beth: When I walked in- (BETH pauses for a moment and a puzzled look crosses her face) When I… showed up here, however that happened, you were reading that exact book. Harry: Not exactly. Beth: What do you mean ‘not exactly’?! (BETH does air quotes with her fingers when she says ‘not exactly’) You were sitting right there reading this book. Harry: I wasn’t reading the book. (once again BETH moves to speak but HARRY starts before she can) That’s not what they’re for. (BETH looks at HARRY incredulously before turning away from him. BETH paces from center stage left to center stage right as HARRY remains downstage looking towards the ground. After three paces BETH stops in place and looks at HARRY. She suddenly looks very tired and moves to center stage and sits down.) Beth: Am I dreaming? Harry: No. But if you don’t believe me, count your fingers. (HARRY looks to BETH at the same time she looks up at him as if he was expecting her to be curious about what he said) You can’t count your fingers right in dreams. (BETH holds her hands up in front of her and counts under her breath. After counting them all and confirming what HARRY said she drops them in her lap, shoulders sagging. HARRY sits down next to her on the ground, both of them facing downstage towards the audience.) Beth: Where did you learn that from? Harry: Freddy. Beth: Who’s Freddy? Harry: My friend. (BETH looks at HARRY) He was here when I showed up. He taught me lots of things. (BETH watches HARRY as his demeanor has changed from precocious child to fragile and sad) He taught me how to not be scared. And how to be patient. Beth: Do you miss him? Harry: Yeah. Beth: I’m sorry. Harry: (HARRY looks at BETH) Thanks. (HARRY and BETH sit side by side for a few moments in silence. HARRY gets up, puts the book on the floor back in the book shelf and takes out two other books. HARRY sits back down next to BETH and hands her own of the books. BETH takes the book and holds it in her lap while HARRY opens his to the middle and stares at the pages.) Beth: (BETH looks at the book in her lap) I’m still confused, you know. Harry: Yeah, I know. Beth: (BETH stares at HARRY) Not just about the books… (HARRY looks at BETH) I don’t know where we are or what we’re supposed to be doing. I don’t even know how I got here. It’s like I blinked and suddenly here I was, walking towards you. (BETH looks down at her lap) I don’t remember what I was doing before I got here. Harry: I know you don’t. (BETH glares at HARRY after his repetitive answers) Okay, the books. Well, the books can be one of two things. They are either everything or they are nothing. The blank pages can be a blessing or a curse. You can look at the emptiness and just see the void, what’s not there. No words, numbers or pictures… just like you said. (BETH opens the book in her lap) Or, you can look at the pages and see a painter’s canvas, full of possibility. They can be a place to dream, think, and escape. I like to think of stories my dad told me before I would sleep. I get to be a prince who fights bad guys. (BETH smiles sadly at HARRY) The books will make you feel peaceful, but only if you want them to. Beth: Did Freddy teach you all of that? Harry: Most of it. The rest I figured out on my own. Beth: Is Freddy dead? Harry: Yes. Beth: Are we dead? Harry: (HARRY looks to BETH and holds her gaze) We’re not dead. Beth: (BETH looks away from HARRY) Okay, well, that’s good but I still don’t understand - Harry: (HARRY cuts BETH off mid sentence) We’re not dead, we’re dying. Beth: (BETH turns her head quickly to look at HARRY, a grave look on her face) What? Harry: When the light on the bookshelf turns on, we die. (BETH turns to look at the shelf) You’ll know it’s for you when it happens. The light will turn on and whoever’s time it is to move on will go. If it’s you you’ll feel it. Everyone says it’s an undeniable gut feeling. Beth: (BETH looks at HARRY) Dying? Harry: I don’t understand either. (HARRY looks at BETH) I think that someone could know all of the things there is to know in the world and still not understand. Beth: Do you know why we’re here, though? Why aren’t we just gone, right away? Harry: Dunno. We could be in comas, or surgery, in the back of an ambulance or drowning. It wouldn’t change anything, anyways. Beth: But people survive those things. People wake up from comas and make it through surgery and get rescued by lifeguards. Why are you so sure that we’re dying? What if we’re surviving, hanging in there? Harry: (HARRY pauses before responding, leaving BETH staring at him waiting) I already told you. It’s a gut feeling. When that light turns on for you there will be no doubt in your mind. It’s hard to accept. (BETH looks down at her lap) I know that you’re hoping you’re different, that it won’t happen to you. But it will. (HARRY reaches over and places his hand on the book in BETH’s lap) The books help. Beth: (BETH’s bottom lip quivers and silent tears roll down her face as she looks at HARRY) It’s not fair. Harry: (HARRY reaches up and wipes a tear off of BETH’s face) It happens to everyone, eventually. Death is the one thing we’re promised. Beth: (BETH takes a shuddery breath in) You’re so young, though. Harry: (HARRY smiles softly) We’re both so young. (BETH squeezes her eyes shut) It’s okay to be scared. I was scared, too. (The light on top of the bookshelf lights up. It casts a soft, dark red hue across the stage. BETH and HARRY sit still, staring at each other. After a few moments BETH turns to look at the light. HARRY picks up his and BETH’s books and stands up and takes a step towards the bookcase.) Beth: (sniffling while scrambling to get up) Harry? Harry: (HARRY makes it to the bookcase and puts the books away before turning around to face BETH) I’ve gotta go. It’s time for me to move on. Beth: No- (HARRY walks over to BETH and reaches up to put a piece of her hair behind her ear) I don’t understand, Harry. Harry: No one does. Beth: No, I don’t understand how you can be so okay with this. Harry: (HARRY starts walking away and pauses and turns around when he reaches the book shelf) You can’t change it. There’s no going back and there’s no stopping it so there’s no reason in being anything but okay with it, Beth. Beth: (BETH watches as HARRY walks into the wings upstage right) Harry? (the light on top of the bookshelf turns off, the stage lighting returns to normal) (BETH walks over to the bookshelf and takes out a book. BETH returns to center stage and sits down criss-cross applesauce facing downstage. She opens the book at the front and slowly turns the pages.) Beth: (BETH lets out a heavy sigh) Okay. END
I am needed yet invisible. They see me every day, touch me, but never notice me. I have become a means to an end just like everything else in their lives. I see their eyes on me, filled with nothingness. When they look at me, they look through me but never at me. I want to tell them, “I am here” but only manage a weak creaking sound lost in all the chaos around. When I am created they watch me, compliment me, until the next day they forget me. Even though, I can’t see it all, what I see I remember. I am the witness of the sins that mold their stories. They might not see me, but I see them. He is at it again. He chooses a girl, an average girl. He does this, so she can feel special because he chose her. He is a predator, always going for the weak ones. I hate to see it, but in this I have no choice. He is the perfect gentleman, until he isn’t. The first strike is always the worst. I can see in her eyes the innocence shattered. I know when it is time. When he is done with her. He slams me hard, making sure his secret doesn’t get out. I creak and creak, the sound muffled by the loud music. Then he sucks the air out of her until she is not more. I am an accomplice. Forced to forever keep his secret. It is happening. He is drunk again. I can’t see him, but I hear his drunken words. I hear the broken glass and pleasing words. The little boy is holding me, hearing with me. We both know what is coming next. The mom’s yelp sounds resonate through the house. The little boy touches me gently and pushes me tightly. I know what he wants, but I can’t give it to him. He wants me to keep him safe, away from the drunk guy, but I am not able to do it anymore. That part of me was taken, so I wouldn’t keep him from the little boy anymore. He looks at me scared and full of dread. The little boy hides in the closet, knowing he is coming in. I try to keep him out, but I am useless against his strength without that missing part of me. The boy cries for his mother not knowing she cannot respond. As I am forced to see and hear his cries, I feel useless and powerless. I feel like nothing, so I become nothing. I am nothing. The moment has come. In all of the lives I have witnessed, she is probably the saddest one yet. I have seen her grow gray and tired. She is kind but tough. She doesn’t see me, but she doesn’t need to in order to be kind. That is what I like about her. She is full of regrets as gray people are, they always regret the unsaid. Loneliness is her companionship, and me but I don’t count to her. I am only an enter and exit to her. I have yet to welcome someone but her enter me. I know there are people, but they don’t care to show their faces. I watch her lie in bed looking over the room. I know she knows as well as I do, this is the moment. She looks through me almost waiting for someone to come. A tear rolls down her check as she realizes no one will. I want to say I am here, and I see you, but I can’t. She disappears slowly, almost as she was never there. I am an intruder. I can’t help but witness her be forgotten. It is time. I have seen many of them grow from little things to look down to, to someone I can look straight in the eyes. From all the moments in their lives, nothing surpasses the firsts. If I could see only one moment of their lives I would pick one of the firsts. I see this baby trying to stand up and walk alone and failing. I see it happening over and over again. There are so many ways she could fall wrong. I almost wish for arms to catch her. She is very determined. I can already see she is going to be a tough one. She tries and tries and doesn’t stop until someone grabs her. Sometimes they are recording her. Trying to watch the moment through something instead of just seeing her do it. I could swear she drops to the floor on purpose when they do that. Almost as if she wants it to be her moment. Whenever she is ready to do it. It is time. Nobody is looking, just me. I can see in her eyes that she is ready. She stands up with her little hand holding the bed. I creak, nothing, they refuse to see her moment. She attempts to take her leap of faith and almost falls, but that doesn’t make her step back. I almost don’t want to see what is going to happen, but someone needs to. She stops holding the bed and reaches balance. She is walking. As I see her take her first steps, I can already see so many other moments of her life happening. She looks around as if looking for someone to walk to. She walks towards me and lays her tiny soft hands on me, and I feel special. I won’t forget the first thing she reached for was me. This moment would always belong to me. She is part of me now. I have seen so many of them, they all blur together now. I understand now my role is to be a mere witness and nothing more. I keep watching, but I have stopped seeing. Now, I look at them as they look at me. They are all so different but also the same equally. I feel like I understand them now. Kindness is rare, and cruelty is the norm for them. I thought I had met all kinds of them there could be. That was until I met her. Who are you? I watched her come in just as they all come. She made the space hers just like the others before her. Then, suddenly she looked at me. She saw me. And I felt. It is a feeling I can only describe as when they are naked in front of someone for the first time. Exposed. I want her to stop looking and to look at me forever at the same time. I start seeing her as she sees me. She touches me, pushes me almost as if she is testing what I am made of. I respond with creaking sounds showing I am strong. She cleans me delicately in some parts and strongly in others that need it more. She frowns trying to erase my past. I want to tell her there are some things you can’t erase. In this instant I remember, the care and delicateness in with which I was made. The hands that delicately made sure I was perfect. When she is done, she smiles at me. I am happy to get some part of my old self back. The thing about her is not that she sees me but that she makes me see me, and I feel like I am something. She likes to look at me a lot, especially at night. She loves my clicking sound, it makes her breathe easier and fall asleep faster. Every time she is here, she makes me click. It has become our routine. When the dark comes, and it is time for bed, she looks at me as if she is waiting for something but hoping for nothing. She checks on me a couple times a night, touching me, making sure I am fine and ready to sleep without being bothered through the night. She is a kind person, but it is not without faults. She lets me know when she is angry she pushes me hard. And I feel this more than with the others before, so I clang hard. I know she feels terrible the minute it is done. She closes her eyes hard, trying not to hear the sound. I understand now they can be kind and mean, it is part of who they are. Pushing me is a way for her to express her feelings, so I express mine. Sounds have never come easy to me, but I know when I talk she listens. She is always listening to me. I wasn’t meant to talk, so my sounds are quieter than their words. I have learned better than to talk when all I see is dark. She wakes up suddenly, I can see her chest going up and down. Then, she looks at me in a way I don’t want to be looked at. I am reminded of the little boy’s eyes once more. She checks on me making sure I am still closed. Then she falls back asleep knowing I won’t open for anyone but her. When the world has gone quiet and it is just me and her, we talk. The minute I start talking she looks at me. She frowns and wonders whatever do I mean. It is not perfect communication, but her eyes say what her words can’t. When I met her, I knew she was meant to be my last. Everywhere you look there is one of us. Wherever there is one of them, there is always at least one of us around. We are needed, important. They can’t survive without us, and yet they don’t really see us. We are pushed, pulled, kicked, destroyed and for them it is just another day. I am the keeper of all of your secrets, if you lean in closely I might let you listen. I am a world full of possibilities, but you won’t know unless you see behind. I am what keeps you safe from the outer and inner world. I keep you and the world apart. Do you know what I am? I am the witness.