The Other Half
THE OTHER HALF
A Play in One Act
Scott C. Sickles
Copyright © 1993 by Scott C. Sickles
- Chapel Drive Pittsburgh, PA 15237
Home: (412) 366-3239 VOX: (412) 734-8951
Cast of Characters
TEENAGE GIRL: SURGEON: TWIN ONE: TWIN TWO: DOCTOR: MOTHER: FATHER:
Scene In the hearts, minds and souls of those involved.
Time When things that shouldn't happen, do.
ACT I Scene 1
SETTING: Up stage right is a full length standing mirror. Center stage left is a bench, porch swing, or sofa. (Not a love seat.) Up stage center is a stand with a tray displaying a scalpel and different surgical instruments.
AT RISE: Lights up on the mirror up stage right. TEENAGE GIRL enters from the shadows. She is still in the early stages of puberty. She examines her reflection from a small distance. Her expression is somber. Looking directly in the mirror, she opens her blouse. She has a very prominent scar on her chest, over her sternum. Still looking in the mirror, she traces the scar with her finger. She approaches the mirror and stands before it. She tries tracing the scar on the reflection, but of course cannot. She stares into the eyes of the reflection and tries touching its face, again in vain. She grabs hold of the mirror's sides, closes her eyes, and slowly draws herself to the mirror, pressing her scar to it first. She hesitates against the cold surface, but eventually embraces the mirror so that her reflection seems to be trying to embrace her in return, even though they are separated by an invisible partician. Lights fade to half or one third on the TEENAGE GIRL and rise to full on the tray of surgical instruments up stage center. The SURGEON enters and crosses to the instruments. He wears surgical scrubs, but no gloves, cap or mask.
SURGEON They were brought to me. I don't wish to ponder why this assignment became mine. At the same time, I can't believe that it happened to me because of hospital schedules and professional referrals. There seems to be a lesson here. Yet, I don't know what that lesson could possibly be. Two female human neonates; joined together at the chest; sharing one heart. Two baby girls. It is my job, my duty, part of my chosen profession, to separate these baby girls, two tiny souls sharing one tiny heart; my job to separate them forever. There is always some risk in the separation of Siamese twins. There is always the risk that one or both might die in the separation. In this case, there is no such risk. One of these human, female neonates; one of these little girls, will die. No risk. No uncertainty. No fate-defying hope. The only risk is the other might live.
(TWIN GIRLS, of any age, each dressed in pink blankets or robes, enter. They hold hands, embrace, or are otherwise somehow connected to each other.)
SURGEON Cups can be half empty or half full, or so I'm told by bumper sticker quoting conscience counselors who go out of their way to be the emotional equivalent of Tylenol to those who endure problems and encounter situations they cannot possibly understand.
ONE When I grow up,
TWO I want to be.
SURGEON To them, I say, "I have half a cup."
ONE I want to see autumn light.
TWO I want to smell chocolate chip cookies.
SURGEON I know both statements are equally true.
ONE I want to taste the ocean.
TWO I want to listen to Mozart and find out what the big deal is.
SURGEON I know I'm saving a life. At least, I know I'm trying to.
ONE I want to slap someone's face.
TWO I want a hug.
SURGEON I also know, once I make my decision, once I discover which of my Siamese dolls is more medically viable, once I finish gearing up and I lower that scalpel, I know I am taking a life as well.
ONE I'm going to skin my knees on a playground.
TWO I'm going to kiss boys and run away.
SURGEON And in this half of the cup, I know I will succeed. The infant separated obviously cannot survive without her heart.
ONE I'm going to read trashy romance novels and Playgirl magazine.
TWO I'm going to play with myself in my secret hiding place.
SURGEON She must give it up, unwillingly, to her carbon copy playmate, as if it were some toy.
ONE I'm going to lose my virginity in the back seat of a Yugo.
TWO I'm going to marry the first man I fall in love with, get my heart broken, take him for all he's worth, live abroad in Europe, and marry him again.
SURGEON But, there are no other toys for her to play with.
ONE I'm going to get seriously injured in a motorcycle accident.
TWO I'm going to walk down the street on a hot summer day and stop dead in a cool breeze.
SURGEON And in doing this - in this potentially life saving, positively life ending, exercise in medical miracle working, in the never ending war against genetic improbability - no one is guaranteed a working heart.
ONE I'm going to sneak into different movies at multiplexes.
TWO I'm going to close my eyes.
SURGEON Not the surviving baby.
ONE I'm going to call people bad names and cry when they hit me.
TWO I'm going to eat out of garbage cans.
SURGEON Not me. I think I'm afraid.
ONE I'm going to be the eighth woman killed in combat.
TWO I'm going to wonder who my rapist is for the rest of my life and never know if he's even in the same room as me.
SURGEON I'm afraid of balance.
ONE I'm going to be a suicidal, heroin addicted, vaginally nondiscriminating, bingeing-and-purging, gun fucking, non-bathing, ex-Episcopalian, publicly naked, anti-establishment, folk singer on VH-1.
TWO I'm going to buy too many hats and not nearly enough shoes.
SURGEON As a physician, I see the human body countering and counter-countering itself constantly.
ONE I'll work as a temp and seduce my bosses.
TWO I'll be very confused of the resurgence of public interest and popularity of the hula hoop.
SURGEON Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
ONE I am going to despise performance art.
TWO I'm going to be a patrol on my school bus.
SURGEON When anorexic bodies can no longer support prenatal life, they stop menstruating.
ONE Boys will humiliate me at summer camp.
TWO I'll blow someone's head off, because they cut me off in traffic.
SURGEON They become sterile.
ONE I'll be a battered wife and a feminist.
TWO When I'm old and alone, I'll shatter stereotypes and live in a huge dusty house at the edge of a neighborhood, only instead of cats I'll have a house full of multi-colored wombats.
SURGEON When I take this heart away from this human female neonate, this baby with her eyes so blue, when I close those eyes forever, how will I see the world?
ONE I'll get enthused over the way my babies spit up.
TWO I'll destroy world governments by saying I slept with their leaders.
SURGEON And will I give up my heart to her for taking hers away?
ONE I'll thank God for standard anti-lock breaks and passenger side airbags.
TWO My second abortion will have complications, but my third one will be fine.
SURGEON Can I survive without one?
ONE I'll love a man who has no social skill or literary integrity, but who does have an exceptionally cute ass from very, very far away.
TWO I'll hate my parents.
SURGEON Will I be able to live with one?
ONE I'll take friends to dinner.
TWO I'll moonlight on a crisis hot line.
SURGEON Will I be able to watch as the tiny body is put away in the tiniest of zippered bags as though she were some segregated tumor tossed into a kidney dish?
ONE I'll watch reruns of Hello, Larry and Different Strokes, but will tell no one.
TWO I'll betray the people who love me.
SURGEON And what if I am?
ONE I'll love Mexican food, but it won't love me.
TWO I'll latch onto the first finger that brushes against my palm.
SURGEON What if I don't flinch?
ONE I'll enjoy someone behind me kissing my neck.
TWO I will revel in no bake cheesecake.
SURGEON What if I turn back to the other baby, the other human female neonate, and close her up?
ONE I won't be able to get rid of the guy who, at a very blurrily remembered fraternity party, thought he formed a serious bond with me because he held my hair while I threw up.
TWO I will become obsessed with air fresheners.
SURGEON I can't afford to give the lost one, laying in her zippered cradle, the tiny moment of silence, the sliver of time and respect smaller even than the width her of neonatal fingernails, the sigh and salute that she deserves.
ONE I'll cry at weddings and eat at funerals.
TWO I'll know we love each other, but I won't know why we can't say so.
SURGEON So, I won't.
ONE I'll hate Smurfs.
TWO I'll never get even with the bigger kids who stole my lunch money and locked my in my locker.
SURGEON I am emancipated from the slavery of ceremony.
ONE I'll need more space so my aura can grow prosperously in a stable environment.
TWO I'll help my closest friend bury the bodies.
SURGEON What if I don't mind?
ONE I'll ride my favorite roller coaster until the park closes.
TWO I'll see Jurassic Park another time.
SURGEON What if I don't notice?
ONE I'll wonder what's missing.
TWO I'll wonder why it's gone?
SURGEON What do I do when I'm done? (Lights go to half on the TWINS. A DOCTOR in an expensive suit and glaringly bright, white lab coat, enters and crosses to the SURGEON.)
DOCTOR Quit your whining.
SURGEON I'm not whining.
DOCTOR Are you skilled? Are you rich? Do you belong to country clubs and play golf or some such bourgeois sport?
SURGEON On occasion.
DOCTOR You are an expert. You've separated twins before. Sure, most of them survived, but not all of them. Correct?
DOCTOR So, what's the problem? It's not as though you'll really look at the sacrificed child as a hunk of excess tissue. Will you?
SURGEON No. I don't think so.
DOCTOR Neither do I. I admit, it's not a comfortable position to be in. Doctors are chastised for playing God, for challenging God, for confusing themselves with God. Well, it looks to me like God was rather indecisive himself when he did this.
SURGEON I thought we weren't supposed to believe in God.
DOCTOR We believe in ourselves. It's the same thing, isn't it?
SURGEON Is it?
DOCTOR Come on. You'll do the best you can with what you have to work with. It's a win-lose situation, sure. But after it's over, it's out of your hands. You did your best. You aren't perfect.
SURGEON Will I still have my soul?
DOCTOR Who says you have one now? Grow up. Do your job. Smile for the cameras. Save the day and be forgotten about.
SURGEON But, I won't forget. Okay, okay, what if you're right. What if I think I'm okay. How long will it last? When will I realize that it's not okay That I'm not okay? During an operation? Driving on the freeway? Someday, far from now, when I finally have a moment alone? When will I recognize that I've been living in pieces?
DOCTOR Why are you asking me? What? You want to let them both die or can you save the one?
SURGEON And if she does live, then what? Will some fourteen year old girl come to see me in my office, long after I've forgotten all about killing her sister? What will she say to me?
DOCTOR Not that this would ever happen, but: she'd probably say "Thank you for saving me." Would you just calm down. You're no good to anybody like this.
(Lights go to half on the DOCTOR and SURGEON and come up full on the center stage left seats, on which sit the MOTHER AND FATHER.)
MOTHER I don't know what to do with her.
FATHER She is a difficult child.
MOTHER Maybe we shouldn't have told her.
FATHER How could we avoid it? The doctors, the media, they all check up on her. She sort of famous.
MOTHER I hate cameras. And the way she just... withdraws. Why does she do that? And when she's not trapped inside herself, she's causing trouble for everyone else.
FATHER Did the school call again?
MOTHER No, thank God. Just one of the neighbors. It wasn't terrible. She just wandered into the street and was almost hit by a car. When the car stopped, she started screaming at the driver; hitting the hood. It's as if she were sorry the car hadn't run her down.
FATHER Maybe she was.
MOTHER Don't say things like that. Did you ever wonder... (Looks around for her daughter. Whispers:) Did you ever wonder what it would have been like... if they saved her sister, instead?
FATHER Don't say things like that.
MOTHER Did you?
FATHER Yes. Sometimes. But, that doesn't mean I don't love her.
MOTHER Of course, it doesn't. That's not what I'm saying. Actually, I can't imagine it being much different. I just wish there was something we could do. I try to understand her. I try to put myself in her shoes. But, I've never shared my heart with anyone else. At least not like that.
(Lights come up full on everyone.)
DOCTOR Let's go to work.
(The DOCTOR assists the SURGEON in dressing for the operation. The SURGEON appears dazed and does not resist the assistance. THE DOCTOR helps with the cap. The PARENTS rise and exit on opposite sides of the seats and the stage. Lights fade on the seats. The DOCTOR helps with the left glove as the lights go to half on the TWINS. The DOCTOR helps with the right glove as one of the TWINS lets go and exits, the other watching and extending her arms beckoning for her sister's return. She stands there frozen in shadow. The DOCTOR puts the surgical mask on the SURGEON. The TEENAGE GIRL opens her eyes. The DOCTOR places the scalpel in the Surgeon's hand. The SURGEON holds up the scalpel. The TEENAGE GIRL looks toward the two physicians. The DOCTOR returns her gaze and places a finger to his lips as if to silence her. He turns away from her to the SURGEON. He tenderly wraps his hand around the Surgeon's hand which hold the scalpel. He begins lowering the hand with the scalpel as the lights fade.