The Bindermeyer Theory
By: Nicholas Wardigo
CAST OF CHARACTERS
EDWIN BINDERMEYER � A scientist in his late thirties, bookwormish, wears glasses, low self-esteem.
ALAN � Owner of the cafe, late twenties, self-assured, likes to help people, good at giving advice, good with people.
MARCY � Business executive in her late twenties, very pretty, easily takes offense, has a distinct feminist bent, self-sufficient.
RAY � Drifter-type in his early thirties, unshaven, scruffy, quiet, keeps to himself, often lost in another world.
ALEXI � Guy in his early thirties, eloquent, well-mannered, appreciative of beauty...as if he hasn't seen anything beautiful in several centuries.
ROBERT � Distinguished gentleman in his sixties, polite, warm.
JENNIFER � Sophisticated woman in her sixties, precise, has a bit of an edge on her (in the style of Betty Davis).
YOUNG ROBERT � Same as ROBERT, but thirty years younger.
YOUNG JENNIFER � Same as JENNIFER, but thirty years younger.
SCARMIGLIONE � A demon, big, imposing, wears a dark suit, hair is cut short and slicked back.
PAN � The half-man/half-goat Greek god of pastoral splendor.
(We are in Alan's Cafe at ten past eleven at night. There is a counter with stools [of the bar variety] stage left. Behind the counter are bins of coffee beans, coffee makers, espresso makers, coffee cups, etc. There are picture windows upstage center and stage right. The door leading outside is upstage, to the right of the windows. The door leading to the lavatory is stage left, downstage from the counter. There are a number of tables and chairs set up inside the cafe. There is nobody inside the shop except ALAN, who is behind the counter, wiping it with a rag. PAN enters from outside, crosses the room with a certain amount of cockiness, and stops on the other side of the counter from ALAN.)
ALAN Can I get something for you, sir?
PAN Yes, one cappuccino, please.
(PAN brushes back tail and sits on stool. ALAN brings him a cappuccino. Presently, EDWIN enters the cafe, disheveled, with scorch marks all over his clothes, soot on his face, and his hair a tangled mess. PAN doesn't take notice as EDWIN crosses to ALAN.)
ALAN Hey, Dr. B. Here kind of early, ain't you?
EDWIN (Somewhat incoherent) Alan?
ALAN Yeah, Dr. B?
EDWIN Where is everyone?
ALAN You beat the late crowd. They usually come in around now.
(Edwin frantically scans the room, spies PAN, and stares at the god's back.)
So, Dr. B, what'll you have? (EDWIN doesn't answer) Are you all right, Dr. B?
EDWIN What time is it?
ALAN Uh, about ten past eleven.
EDWIN Ten past eleven...ten past eleven. Alan...
EDWIN I'm going to the facility.
EDWIN (Starts toward lavatory, stops suddenly) But first I need a cup of coffee.
(ALAN pours him a cup of coffee.)
(EDWIN takes the coffee and tip-toes across the floor, scanning it as if calculating something. He pours the coffee on the floor, somewhere away from the center of the room. He returns the cup to ALAN. PAN doesn't notice any of this.)
ALAN Are you sure you're all right?
EDWIN Listen to me. It's important. Don't mop up that coffee. Understand?
EDWIN I'm going to the facility now, but don't tell anyone I'm in there. Don't tell anyone I'm in the facility, and don't mop up the coffee. Understand?
(EDWIN exits into the lavatory. Over the next several minutes, a crowd amasses inside the cafe. This crowd includes YOUNG ROBERT, YOUNG JENNIFER [both sitting together at the center table], MARCY, RAY, ROBERT, ALEXI, and SCARMIGLIONE (who sits somewhere in the background). ALAN runs from table to table, taking orders, pouring coffee, making sandwiches, etc. After some time, EDWIN re-enters from outside, cleaned up.)
ALAN What did you do, Dr. B? Climb out the window?
EDWIN Excuse me?
ALAN You've been in the bathroom for forty-five minutes, now. You look a lot better, but you could've used the door to the john like everybody else, you know.
EDWIN Alan, I just got off my worst day of work ever, and all I want right now is a cup of espresso.
ALAN Hey, you didn't pay me for the coffee before.
EDWIN (Pulling out a money bill and slapping it on the counter) Alan, this is a hundred-dollar bill.
EDWIN I want you to take it.
EDWIN What I want you to do is set up five cups of espresso right here in front of me. When I drink them, you're going to refill them. Then I'll drink them again, and you'll refill them again. And we'll keep going like that until I tell you to stop.
ALAN (Picking up bill and examining it) Okay.
(ALAN sets up five espresso cups and fills them. EDWIN opens up a notebook, pulls out a pen, and writes. EDWIN says what he's writing out loud.)
EDWIN �The Bindermeyer Theory�
(The cups are filled. EDWIN puts down his pen and drinks down all five cups like a row of shots. Immediately afterward, he coughs and sputters, but gestures toward the empty cups. ALAN refills them.)
ALAN Need to stay awake, Dr. B?
EDWIN Stay awake? No, Alan. Not quite.
ALAN You mind if I ask why you're doing this to yourself?
ALAN Like what? Anatomy or something?
ALAN Are you okay?
EDWIN I'm tired. I'm tired of watching my supervisor take credit for every little thing I accomplish. I'm tired of letting him walk all over me and watching him get away with it.
ALAN So stand up to him.
EDWIN I can't, Alan. I just don't have it in me.
ALAN You're doing fine right now.
EDWIN I'm here. At the lab, things are somehow...different. (Pause) How are things going for you?
ALAN Same as always. You know how it is.
EDWIN How's the crowd tonight?
ALAN An interesting bunch. A couple bizarros. A couple lonelies. A good mix. Over there in the middle we got a couple lovebirds.
EDWIN (Looking at YOUNG ROBERT and YOUNG JENNIFER) They look happy.
ALAN Yeah, they look good together. Not a lot of money, but they're in love.
EDWIN You know them?
EDWIN How do you know all that, then?
ALAN They guy ordered two iced coffees, and they split a sandwich.
ALAN And the guy would've ordered two sandwiches, but he didn't have the money.
EDWIN Maybe they're not that hungry.
ALAN He still would've ordered two. They're in love.
EDWIN You don't know that. That could be a guy on a fling with his secretary, and he's too cheap to buy two sandwiches.
ALAN (Shaking his head) I told you. They're drinking iced coffees.
ALAN You don't drink iced coffee with someone unless you're in love.
(EDWIN tries to respond, can't, and drinks the line of espressos instead. He coughs again, but not as badly. ALAN refills the cups.)
EDWIN So, who else have we got tonight?
ALAN Well, we have some kind of goat-man over there.
EDWIN (Looking at PAN) Now there's something you don't see every day.
ALAN Yeah, and we have a lonelyheart over there. See him? The older guy who keeps looking at the lovebirds when he thinks no one's watchin'.
EDWIN (Looking at ROBERT) Yes, he looks like he hasn't a friend in the world.
ALAN That, and he ordered a tea with lemon.
EDWIN Alan, lots of people drink tea with lemon.
ALAN At home, sure. But not in a public place. Not when you can drink just as good a cup in the comfort of your underwear or what have you. Someone takes the trouble to shower, get dressed, and go to a coffee shop, and they only order a tea with lemon, you know they're feeling bland.
(EDWIN looks at him for a second, then downs the line of espressos. ALAN refills.)
EDWIN So, lonely people order tea with lemon.
ALAN Sometimes. And sometimes they got a taste for coffee with a gallon of cream in it. Though that's more the thing for depressed people than lonelyhearts. That's what the lady is drinking.
ALAN The lady. The one in the dress that just got up to talk to the scruffy guy.
EDWIN (Sees MARCY) Oh. She's really pretty.
ALAN Sure is, Dr. B. But there's more cream than coffee in that cup of hers. Something's got her down. And that guy isn't going to be much help.
EDWIN Why's that?
ALAN He's drinking soda water, the drink of a frustrated man.
EDWIN Well, I'm sure Marcy will figure that out for herself.
ALAN You know her, Dr. B?
EDWIN No, she just said her name. Didn't you hear?
ALAN Hear what?
EDWIN The man said, �Your name wouldn't be Maryann Gitzsmevitz, would it?� And she said, �No, it's Marcy.�
ALAN Dr. B, you couldn't have heard them. They're clear across the room.
EDWIN (Raising an eyebrow) Really? (Writing) Fifteen cups � Senses become enhanced.
(The focus of the action now drifts away from EDWIN and ALAN and onto MARCY and RAY. RAY is seated, staring into his soda water. MARCY stands next to his table, holding her coffee.)
MARCY I'm sorry. I didn't know you were expecting someone.
RAY I'm not.
MARCY They why did you ask if I was Maryann Gitz...Gitzsmert....
MARCY Someone you know?
MARCY (Pause) What's your name?
RAY Ray. My name is Ray. I used to work in a bank. I don't now.
MARCY (Pause) That's interesting.
RAY No, it's not. Not at all. Everyone knows banks aren't interesting. Even kids. Ever ask a kid what he wants to be when he grows up? They always say a cowboy or an astronaut or a fireman. They get older and it's a rock star or a football player. Then a little older and it's a doctor or lawyer or electrical engineer. But never a banker. You know why? Nothing ever happens. You know what I did on my job? I stared at a computer screen and watched a bunch of numbers go to a bunch of names. Forty hours a week. It was nice when it started. Good pay. Steady hours. No heavy labor. I was even able to relax, just watch the scrolling names, make sure all the numbers were right. Then I saw that one name go by. (Stares into space)
MARCY What name?
RAY Maryann Gitzsmevitz. Her name. I saw her name. It scrolled right by, and I couldn't stop it. I couldn't bring it back. It was gone, and there was a screen full of all these other names. Well, I went back to work, but every other screen or so, I swear I saw �Maryann Gitzsmevitz�, plain as day. Then I blinked and saw it was �Martha Gertrude� or �Mable Glucose� or whatever. The name was gone. As the weeks went by, I started thinking about her more and more. Not only at work, but in my dreams. I kept hearing her voice, a silvery sort of singing voice like in those German car commercials, saying, �Ray. I'm here, Ray.� And I'd ask who and the voice would say, �Maryann Gitzsmevitz.� I couldn't get her out of my head. I dedicated songs to her on the radio. When I took a shower, I'd write her name on the steamed-up tiles, making the �M� and �G� really big and curly-cue like on all those old documents. I even bought a goldfish just so I could name it Maryann Gitzsmevitz. Eventually, she was all I could think about. I couldn't concentrate at work. Every other name looked like Maryann Gitzsmevitz. I started making mistakes. One day, I let a name slip by with two or three too many zeros attached to it, and I was on the street. But I didn't stop looking. I pored over phone book after phone book, searching, searching. When she wasn't in the local phone books, I ordered out-of-state phone books by mail. I took out ads in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times: �Maryann Gitzsmevitz � Please call me � Ray�, with my phone number. I got a can of spray paint and wrote, �Where are you, Maryann Gitzsmevitz?� on my car and drove it across the country.
MARCY She must have been very special.
RAY She is.
MARCY What was she like? RAY I don't know.
MARCY What do you mean, you don't know?
RAY Well, I've never met her. I just saw her name once, but I never found her.
MARCY You mean to tell me you lost your job, put ads everywhere, and drove across the country because you're obsessed with a name in a computer? RAY Not just a name. Her name.
MARCY But you only saw it once. And you never saw her.
RAY Well, how many times did Moses see the burning bush? How many apples fell on Newton's head before he got the idea? Inspiration is a quick thing. Poof, and there's the Sistine Chapel. Poof, and there's Beethoven's Fifth. Poof, and there's Maryann Gitzsmevitz. I know I'm fated for this. I can feel it in every bone. She's out there somewhere. And damn it, I'm going to find her.
(There is a long, uncomfortable pause. During it, RAY returns his stare to his drink. MARCY glances around the cafe nervously. She spots ALEXI staring at her. She glares at him to dissuade him, but he continues to stare.)
MARCY Excuse me.
(MARCY crosses to ALEXI. RAY doesn't even notice her leave.)
(To ALEXI) Was there something you wanted?
MARCY Did it ever occur to you that I might not enjoy being looked at?
ALEXI I'm sorry. It's just that I think you are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
MARCY Am I supposed to be flattered now?
ALEXI Some women know how to take a compliment.
MARCY Yes, well, some women may fall over at a pretty word, but you should be thankful I don't pour your drink over your head.
ALEXI My drink is empty.
MARCY And that's the only reason you're dry.
ALEXI Now, now. I don't suppose it's every day a woman hears she's beautiful.
MARCY You have no idea what I hear every day.
ALEXI Careful, Miss. Vanity is a dangerous thing.
MARCY Vanity, nothing! Do you realize I have a Masters from Columbia? Do you realize I graduated second in a class of seventy? Do you realize I could've worked anywhere I wanted?
ALEXI I should think I could hardly realize that. I don't even know your name.
MARCY (Through clenched teeth) Marcy.
ALEXI Hello, Marcy. I'm called Alexi. I would like it very much if you would sit and chat with me.
MARCY I'm sure you would. Spend a quiet evening with a pretty face.
ALEXI Is there something wrong with that?
MARCY Maybe I'm sick of being a pretty face! Ever think of that? Ever think maybe I've got a real brain? Ever think maybe I'm sick of getting promoted because some vice-president thought I had a nice ass? Ever think at all?
ALEXI Yes. Right now I think you're being terribly bitter toward someone you don't even know.
MARCY Kiss my ass! You've been staring at me this whole time like a piece of meat!
ALEXI Or a work of art.
MARCY Art has nothing to do with it.
ALEXI Art has very much to do with it. After all, what is art but a physical manifestation of emotion? And what is the human body but an outward expression of the self?
MARCY So you're saying I should be happy when a bunch of construction workers whistle because I gave them an erection?
ALEXI People look at you, and they feel beauty. That is art. That is what it means to feel alive. (Pause to look away � for the first time) Let me tell you a story. There was once a man who spent a very long time not seeing any beautiful things. They were always there around him, he just never saw them. He didn't care. He was what you might call a practical man. For a long time, his only concern was security. For years he worked extra hours, through the night and holidays, saved, spent as little as he could to dress decently and eat moderately. After much work and suffering he amassed something of a fortune. And for a while this made him happy, until he discovered � with a certain amount of horror � that he had nothing to spend it on. He had nothing. And so it remained for the rest of his life. (Pause) You see, if I look upon you, I can feel a little of what it is to be alive. And perhaps that is something I can keep with me.
MARCY Is this the part where I swoon?
ALEXI Oh, Marcy, I beg you, don't be a victim of your own vanity.
MARCY I'll be a victim of anything I like.
ALEXI (Thinking) You said you studied. Surely you read Dante?
MARCY A little.
ALEXI Then surely you know what happened to Lucifer, the most beautiful of God's creations, who fell victim to vanity and rose against his Lord. He was cast from Heaven into the deepest bowels of Hell, submerged to his waist in the frozen waters of Cocytus, never again permitted a glimpse of paradise, gnashing his teeth in torment, beating his wings against the surface of the ice for all eternity. I was just wondering if you knew that.
MARCY (Long pause) Excuse me, I need more coffee.
(MARCY crosses to the counter. ALAN leaves EDWIN to wait on her. ALEXI tries hard not to stare at her. The focus of attention is on MARCY and ALAN.)
ALAN Can I get you something?
MARCY Yes, I'd like a refill.
ALAN Coming right up. (Begins to refill MARCY'S cup)
MARCY Only half way.
(ALAN obliges. MARCY attacks a nearby bowl of creamers, putting an insane amount of cream in her coffee and tossing the empty creamers in an ashtray. ALAN watches her do this with some interest, and halfway through, he interrupts.)
ALAN You know, I could get you some fresh cream if it suits you, Miss.
MARCY No, thank you. This is fine.
(MARCY continues dumping in cream. After fourteen, she stops, stirs the coffee with a finger, and sips. She puts in three more, stirs, sips, and returns to her original table alone. ALAN returns to EDWIN, which is where the focus of attention has shifted.)
ALAN (To EDWIN) Seventeen creams. Seventeen creams. That lady...
ALAN ...Marcy, put seventeen creams in her coffee. You can't tell me she ain't some kind of depressed. Not when she's drinking that kind of concoction.
EDWIN Uh, Alan.
ALAN Yeah, Dr. B?
(EDWIN gestures to the empty cups. ALAN refills.)
You know, you never did tell me what you're doing.
ALAN Yeah, but what are you trying to prove?
EDWIN It's just an idea I was playing with when my supervisor was harassing me. I'll tell you about it later. Right now, I'd like to hear more about the people in the shop.
(JENNIFER enters the shop and sits at a table on the exact opposite side of the center table from ROBERT.)
ALAN Sure thing, Dr. B. But right now, I got another customer.
EDWIN The middle-aged woman?
(ALAN gapes, then looks at the coffee bins behind the counter and laughs.)
ALAN You saw her reflection on the coffee bin covers, huh? Pretty slick. I'll be right back, Dr. B. I just need to find out what she wants.
EDWIN I expect a full report on her character when you return.
ALAN You got it.
EDWIN Oh, and did you notice how Mr. Lonelyheart's eyes lit up when she came in?
ALAN No, and neither did you. Your back was to him the whole time. (Crosses to JENNIFER)
EDWIN (Writing) Forty cups � Develops extra-sensory perception.
(The focus of attention moves to ALAN and JENNIFER. ALAN makes a wide circle around the cafe so as to approach JENNIFER from behind. He pulls out a pad and pen. JENNIFER is rummaging through a purse, stealing glances at YOUNG ROBERT and YOUNG JENNIFER. ALAN stops at JENNIFER'S side.)
ALAN Cute couple, huh?
JENNIFER (Frightened, drops her purse) Is it that obvious?
ALAN No, Ma'am. Not obvious. Probably why I noticed it. Here, let me help. (Kneels and replaces the purse's spilled contents) I'm sorry for scaring you, Ma'am.
JENNIFER That's all right. It was my fault. I was off in another world.
ALAN I know what you mean. I get like that sometimes myself. (Returns purse)
JENNIFER Thank you. I appreciate it.
ALAN No problem, Ma'am. Something I can get you?
JENNIFER Just a cup of tea, if you don't mind.
ALAN Don't mind at all. (Writes in pad) I don't suppose you'd like lemon with that?
JENNIFER Actually, that sounds quite nice.
ALAN I thought it might.
JENNIFER How do you mean?
ALAN Well, it's just my experience that lonely folks drink tea with lemon. And, excuse me for saying this, but you sort of struck me that way.
JENNIFER Let me guess. Because it's not obvious, right?
ALAN Something like that. I get quite a few lonelies in here. Especially at this hour.
JENNIFER That doesn't surprise me.
ALAN As a matter of fact, the gentleman over there is drinking a tea with lemon, too. Oh, pardon me, Ma'am, I'm needed. I'll bring your tea around in a minute. Hope you're feeling better.
JENNIFER Thank you.
(ALAN scampers off to wait on SCARMIGLIONE. The focus of attention remains on JENNIFER, who looks beyond the center table to spy ROBERT on the other side. They stare at each other, with a look of recognition. Attention returns to ALAN, who leaves SCARMIGLIONE and returns to the counter and EDWIN. ALAN refills EDWIN'S cups.)
EDWIN So what's the story, Alan? (Drinks the line)
ALAN (While getting a cup of tea and a cup of coffee ready) Another tea with lemon. Seemed nice enough, just lonely. Maybe a potential match for Mr. Lonelyheart. About the right age. So I kind of casually nudged her in his direction. You know, all subtle-like. (Refills the espresso cups)
EDWIN That was nice of you.
ALAN Yeah, well, it's sort of my job, Dr. B. Anyone can just pour coffee or make a sandwich. But the payoff is in taking the trouble to help someone out if you can.
EDWIN You're one in a million, Alan. (Raises an espresso cup in toast) Here's to you. (Downs the line)
ALAN (Refills) Thanks, Dr. B. That means a lot to me.
EDWIN Who's the other cup for?
ALAN Hmmm? Oh, the guy over there at the table way in back. The one with the dark suit and slick haircut. This is the third coffee since he's been here. Drinks it black. I can't get a read on the guy. It's like he's waiting for something. I don't know. I just can't seem to figure him out.
EDWIN (Downs the line) He's a demon.
ALAN I'll say he is. Beady little eyes. The way he hunches over his coffee. Not the kind of man I'd trust in a hurry. Ties his tie a bit too tight. Say, Dr. B, you're putting these things away awfully fast.
EDWIN What can I say, Alan? Caffeine makes me thirsty.
ALAN Lord knows where you're putting it.
(ALAN refills the cups. As he replaces the pot, EDWIN writes.)
EDWIN (Writing) Sixty cups � Ability to identify beings from lower dimensions.
ALAN (Returning) Think you can tell me what this is all about, Dr. B?
EDWIN About? It's about science, Alan! It's about heart! It's about pushing man farther and farther, extending one's limits, reaching for the golden fleece!
ALAN Can't say as I know much about that.
EDWIN No, but you shall. (Downs the line)
(ALAN hesitates. He refills the cups. By the time he gets to the fifth, EDWIN has already downed the first. By the time ALAN lifts up the pot, the entire line is consumed. ALAN holds the pot in mid-air, staring at EDWIN. EDWIN stares back.)
EDWIN Another round, Alan, if you please.
ALAN I never thought I'd hear myself say this in a coffee place, but...don't you think you've had enough already?
EDWIN You know, there was a famous scientist named Skinner, who used to lock cats in boxes to study their thought processes while escaping. This was all fine and dandy until he wanted to study how human thought processes developed. Then he had no choice but to lock his own infant daughter in a box, sometimes for hours. Modern science has learned a lot from Skinner, but probably the most important thing is that it's generally not a good idea to lock your kid in a box.
ALAN (Pause) So what's that supposed to mean?
EDWIN (Counter-pause) It means, pour me another round of espresso.
(ALAN considers, shrugs, and refills the cups. He places the tea and coffee on a tray and departs.)
ALAN I'll be right back, Dr. B. Promise me you'll take these slowly, okay?
(EDWIN drains the cups before ALAN is ten paces away. He spins on his stool and studies the cafe. He gets up and crosses to MARCY.)
EDWIN Excuse me, your name is Marcy, isn't it?
EDWIN Mine is Edwin. I don't mean to bother you, but would you mind standing up?
MARCY Standing up?
EDWIN Thank you. Now take two � no, three, big steps backward, away from the table. Oh, here, take your coffee with you. (Leads MARCY back) There, now just stand there.
MARCY I don't understand....
EDWIN It's simple. I'm marvelously eccentric.
(EDWIN returns to his seat and writes. MARCY stands by herself, holding a cup of coffee, obviously looking uncomfortable.)
EDWIN (Writing) Seventy-five cups � Ability to foresee the immediate future.
(Attention shifts to YOUNG ROBERT and YOUNG JENNIFER. They stand and almost promenade to the exit. As they near the door, ROBERT � gazing at the couple � stands and slowly plods away from his table. The couple kiss. ROBERT is engrossed. When the couple leaves, ROBERT reels as though faint and stumbles into MARCY'S table. MARCY dashes to him.)
MARCY Are you all right?
(ROBERT seems too incoherent to speak. ALAN rushes to them.)
ALAN Take it easy. I'm calling an ambulance.
ROBERT (Becoming coherent) No, no. That's all right. I just became dizzy for a moment, that's all.
ALAN Are you sure? You look a little pale.
ROBERT Yes, I'm fine. (Stands) I'll just sit for a while to be sure. I'm sorry for being such a nuisance.
ALAN (Smiling) You're not a nuisance at all.
MARCY (Taking ROBERT'S arm) I'll walk you to your table.
ROBERT That's very kind of you.
MARCY (Leading ROBERT to his table) There you are. Now, are you sure you're all right?
ROBERT Yes, I just had an encounter with an old ghost, that's all.
ROBERT Have you ever had something, something you cherished for a long time, and then lost it?
MARCY Such as...
MARCY No, I've never had that.
ROBERT Then you haven't lived yet. It's something wonderful and amazing � just like in all the fairy tales. But when it's gone, it leaves a hole that eventually gets filled up with regret. As much regret as there was love. So you start looking back to the days when the regret wasn't there. You try very hard to relive those days. Then the time comes when those days look back at you. And, well, you start falling into tables.
ROBERT Do you understand?
MARCY I think so.
ROBERT Then you know I'll be all right.
MARCY Okay, but if you need me...
MARCY ...Robert, I'll be right over there. Take care. (Kisses his cheek)
ROBERT I feel better already.
(MARCY laughs again and returns to her table. ALAN has reset it, refilled her coffee [half-way] and set an entire bowl of creamers on it. Attention focuses on ROBERT and on JENNIFER, who crosses to him.)
JENNIFER Hello, Robert.
ROBERT Hello, Jennifer.
JENNIFER May I sit down?
ROBERT Of course.
JENNIFER (Sitting) So, Robert, still making a spectacle of yourself, I see.
ROBERT Jennifer, it's over. There's no need to be so bitter. No here. Not now.
JENNIFER Yes, here and now. The night you asked me to marry you � thirty years ago.
ROBERT Did you see how young we looked?
JENNIFER I saw.
ROBERT God, we were so young.
JENNIFER And foolish.
ROBERT We had no money.
JENNIFER No one to help us.
ROBERT No chance.
JENNIFER We had each other.
ROBERT (Pause) Why are you here?
JENNIFER Why are you?
ROBERT Do you remember what it was like?
JENNIFER To be in love?
ROBERT To be in love with me.
JENNIFER (Thinking) I remember walking with you on the back streets of the South Side. It was pitch dark. The street lights were out for some reason. I couldn't see anything and kept tripping over the pavement. I remember how tightly you held my hand to make sure I wouldn't fall. I could almost feel the blood being squeezed out, but I didn't say anything because I wanted you to hold me that tight. It kept me � secure, somehow. Then we stopped at a railing, and there below us the river stretched for miles. I could barely hear the old steamboats going by, all lit up like Christmas trees. And the city glowed on the other side, across the bridge. It was like we had stepped into a magical world.
ROBERT When was that?
JENNIFER Tonight. About an hour from now. Just before you proposed.
ROBERT (Chuckling) God, I was so nervous. It was all I could do to keep my hands from shaking.
JENNIFER Your hands were shaking.
ROBERT They were?
JENNIFER Yes. Even while you were kissing me. I could feel them tremble against my back.
ROBERT You never said anything.
JENNIFER I didn't mind. (Long pause) Where did we go wrong?
ROBERT I think we lost something important. When I proposed, when I said that I loved you, there was something magical about it. For that moment, it was the only thing that mattered. Then we started learning about checking accounts, and tax forms, and how to work two jobs. I think that, somewhere along the line, we stopped believing in magic. We stopped believing in each other.
JENNIFER Robert, why are you here?
ROBERT It's been thirty years, long enough to forget what it was like. Why are you here?
JENNIFER Because I remember what it was like.
(ALAN arrives at the table.)
ALAN Excuse me, Sir, are you through with your cup?
ROBERT Yes, take it.
(ALAN senses the awkward moment and hurries to clean up the table and return to the counter and EDWIN. The focus of attention follows him.)
ALAN Well, I guess I put my foot in it that time.
EDWIN Don't worry too much. They weren't doing too well to begin with.
ALAN (Refills cups) Oh, I don't know about that. They looked like they were carrying on very well.
EDWIN Sure, that's the way it looked, and that's what they want, but they're not going to do anything about it.
ALAN And why's that?
EDWIN They think they're old. (Drinks)
ALAN You're never too old to live, Dr. B.
EDWIN You know, you could tell them that. It might help them out.
ALAN No, I've already done what I can. Anything else would muck it up. If anything's going to come out of this, it's up to them.
EDWIN But you would help them, if you thought you could.
ALAN Well, sure, Dr. B. It's like I said before, it's sort of my job.
EDWIN No, it's not, Alan. You don't care because it's your job, you care because that's the way you are.
EDWIN But suppose you had the power � suppose you knew you had the power � to fix every problem in this room right now, but you couldn't find the guts to do it.
ALAN Then I'd say I was the one with the problem.
EDWIN (Considering) Alan, would you say I was a meek man?
EDWIN Yes, if you were describing me to someone, would you use the word, �meek�?
ALAN No, I wouldn't say you were meek, Dr. B, just a bit reserved is all. Nothing wrong with that.
EDWIN (Grinning) You might want to brace yourself for this.
(EDWIN stands. He steps purposefully to the center table and climbs on top of it. The effect is something one might find at the Acropolis.)
EDWIN (To the cafe) Excuse me, can I have your attention, please? For five minutes? See, I've very recently come into my godhood, and I'd like the opportunity to help you with your problems.
(The cafe hushes. PAN glances over his shoulder.)
RAY (Scornfully) What are you selling?
EDWIN I'm not selling anything. I'm giving you answers.
RAY You don't have anything I want.
EDWIN I can give you Maryann Gitzsmevitz, or at least tell you where she is.
EDWIN You'll never find her like this, Ray, and I'll tell you why. Most people don't give ideas names, but you've somehow managed to do it. While you were at the bank, you dreamt of what you wanted to be. Somehow, you thought the only way you could obtain that dream was to make it physical, give it a name, but that's exactly wrong. Maryann Gitzsmevitz is inside you, but you'll never find her so long as you keep calling her that. You'll never find the dream until you stop looking for it and start being it.
RAY (Sobbing, violent) Yeah, what do you care about it anyway?
EDWIN I do, and that's all there is to it. What you do now is your decision. (Pivoting to MARCY) Marcy. Your friend was wrong. You're not a victim of your vanity, but of your pride.
MARCY What do you know about it?
EDWIN Everything, which is more than you can say. You blame your beauty for everything that hurts you, because it's easy. It's easy, but it's a lie. Your looks can only hinder you if you let them, if you let them outshine your warmth. Rest assured, Marcy, beauty is only skin deep, and your beauty will fade. But what you have inside will benefit everything forever. Hold onto that. Hold onto what you are, not what you happen to look like.
(MARCY flushes. EDWIN pivots to ROBERT and JENNIFER.)
EDWIN The two of you have played around the issue for quite a while, now. You can't stand one another. You can't live with one another. And yet you both used the technology of your day, without the knowledge of the other, to travel thirty years back to here, to the same night at the same place to watch yourselves when you were young and in love. Just how much of a coincidence do you need? Can't you both, for a little while, forget who you are and remember who you were? And ask yourselves, if what you are is so much better, then why are both of you here?
(ROBERT and JENNIFER gaze at each other. EDWIN hops down and crosses to a frightened ALEXI.)
EDWIN I know your story, Alexi. I know all of it. You are a fugitive from the Fourth Circle of Hell, the place where the misers and the squanderers roll huge stones against one another, then turn around and roll the stones the other way around the ring until they meet at the other side again, back and forth for all eternity. The place where you slipped, and your stone plunged a hole into the side of the Pit, the hole through which you fled back into the Realm of the Living. Yes, I know your story, Alexi.
ALEXI (Frightened) Please, you must help me.
EDWIN You can't stay here.
(Behind EDWIN, SCARMIGLIONE stands. EDWIN whirls to confront him.)
EDWIN But you won't have him, either!
SCARMIGLIONE You obviously don't know who I am.
EDWIN I know exactly what you are. You are the demon, Scarmiglione, summoned from the Eighth Circle to retrieve this soul.
SCARMIGLIONE Then you know what must be done.
EDWIN I sense no evil in this man. Leave him go.
SCARMIGLIONE Your senses do not concern me. I am commanded.
(SCARMIGLIONE raises his hands, and the cafe turns into a tempest. Lights flash and thunder crashes. After several seconds, EDWIN merely snaps his fingers and it all ends.)
SCARMIGLIONE That was terribly impressive.
EDWIN Thank you.
SCARMIGLIONE However, I am afraid it changes nothing.
(SCARMIGLIONE points offstage. A blood-red light seeps in from the wings. Wails can be heard. Everybody on stage looks into the light with horror.)
SCARMIGLIONE Come, Alexi. The Abyss awaits.
EDWIN You won't have him.
SCARMIGLIONE Hell may not be defied.
EDWIN We shall see.
(SCARMIGLIONE loses any clue of composure. He snarls, glowers, leers, circles around EDWIN.)
SCARMIGLIONE Yes, we shall indeed see! We shall see what mortal courage looks like when its lungs are rent through its ribcage! We shall see the bold colors and taste the rare sweetness of a hero's spine! We shall see!
(SCARMIGLIONE reaches the puddle of coffee that EDWIN spilled on the floor earlier. He slips, hits his head, and is knocked unconscious. Everybody is stunned for several seconds.)
ALAN Wow, he's out cold.
EDWIN Yes. Give me a hand would you?
(ALAN and EDWIN try to lift the demon, but he is much heavier than he looks. RAY rushes to help, and the three lift SCARMIGLIONE, carry him to the portal, and toss him in. ALEXI approaches EDWIN.)
ALEXI Thank you...thank you.
EDWIN You are not a safe man, Alexi. Others will come. And soon. You can't stay here. But I can give you this.
(EDWIN points into the light. It turns blue.)
EDWIN The gates of Heaven are barred to all but the Worthy. The portal now leads to the foot of Mount Purgatory. You can plead your case there. They might take pity on you. They might not. But it is a chance, which is more than what you had before.
ALEXI (Kissing EDWIN'S hand) Thank you, Sir. I shall never forget you.
EDWIN No. Not for a while, at least.
ALEXI How can I ever repay you?
EDWIN Make things better for yourself.
(ALEXI smiles. He winks at MARCY and then marches offstage, into the light. EDWIN points at the light, and it disappears. ALAN approaches EDWIN.)
ALAN You're all right, Dr. B.
EDWIN You do the best you can, Alan, whatever it is, and hope it's enough.
PAN Everybody wants to be a god.
(EDWIN spins. PAN points at him. There is an explosion, and the lights go out momentarily. When they come back up, EDWIN is gone, perhaps in the proverbial puff of smoke. Again, everybody is stunned into silence. PAN slaps two dollars on the counter.)
PAN Thanks for the cappuccino. Keep the change.
(PAN trots toward the exit unopposed. ALAN recovers.)
ALAN Oh, man! What did you have to do that for?
PAN (Stops, turns to face ALAN, shrugs) Not enough keys to the executive washroom. (Exits)
(There is a further, stunned pause as everybody stares at the spot where EDWIN was standing. The lavatory door squeaks open, and EDWIN creeps out in the sooty condition his was in at the beginning.)
EDWIN Is he gone?
(Nobody answers. EDWIN scans the room, decides it's safe, and crosses to his seat at the counter.)
EDWIN You can mop up that coffee now, Alan. (Writing) One hundred and five cups � Limited ability to travel into the past.
(The cafe returns to its noisiness. ALAN returns behind the counter. Presently, RAY approaches the counter with a bill and some money.)
RAY Excuse me, I'd like to take care of this.
ALAN Certainly. (Making change) So tell me, what do you plan to do with yourself?
RAY I don't know. After spending so long chasing after ghosts, it feels kind of empty without something to chase after. I guess I'll just spend my time figuring out who I am, or maybe who I want to be. (Smiles at EDWIN who smiles back nervously) By the way, this sort of thing doesn't happen every night, does it?
RAY (Pause) Shame.
(Attention shifts to ROBERT and JENNIFER.)
ROBERT Jennifer, there's something you should know.
ROBERT You know how stubborn I can be sometimes, and I was determined not to let the loss of you affect me. So....
ROBERT I didn't come back on the thirtieth anniversary. I held out for the thirty-first.
JENNIFER (Thinking) You mean, when we go back, I'll have to wait a whole year before you even know about this?
ROBERT I'm afraid so. I don't see any other way.
JENNIFER (Wryly) You could go back with me.
ROBERT You mean go to 2022 instead of 2023? Where would I sleep? The other me would be living in my apartment for a year.
JENNIFER You could move in with me. It'd be cramped and small, like the old days.
ROBERT The old days.
JENNIFER Or we could just stay here.
ROBERT Here? 1992?
JENNIFER You do remember 1992, don't you, dear?
ROBERT Sure, I remember it. You could still go eighty miles an hour because the cars still used real gasoline. And there were still a few good bands around that used a live drummer.
JENNIFER The pollution, the starvation, the Greenhouse Effect, the Russian Coup, AIDS....
ROBERT The peace riots.
JENNIFER The abortion riots.
ROBERT The Guns �n Roses riots.
JENNIFER It was a clumsier time, wasn't it, Robert?
ROBERT The perfect time to fall in love.
(The focus of attention shifts to MARCY, who gets up and approaches EDWIN from behind. She taps his shoulder, and he starts.)
MARCY I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you.
EDWIN That's...that's okay.
MARCY I just wanted to ask if you meant all those things you said about me.
EDWIN All those things?
MARCY When you spoke about my problem.
EDWIN Oh. Yeah, I...I guess so. I mean, yes.
MARCY Would you like to sit and talk for awhile? If you're not busy?
EDWIN Talk? Sure, that would be...be nice. Could you excuse me for a moment? I'll be right there.
MARCY (Smiling) Sure.
(MARCY returns to her table. EDWIN frantically turns to ALAN, who is grinning.)
EDWIN Alan, what am I going to do?
ALAN If I were you, I'd talk to the lady.
EDWIN That's just it! I can't!
ALAN You did a good job before.
EDWIN I had a hundred and five cups of espresso in me before! It's all gone now! I'm just myself!
ALAN A caffeine rush didn't say all those things. All of that came from you. That's what Marcy sees in you. Not a guy who wrestles demons, just a guy who cares.
EDWIN You think so?
ALAN Sure. It's like you said, Dr. B, �You'll never find the dream until you stop looking for it and start being it.�
EDWIN I really said that, didn't I?
ALAN You sure as hell did.
EDWIN Thanks, Alan. I don't suppose you could bring two cups of coffee around to our table, could you?
ALAN Sure. It's on the house.
EDWIN Thanks again. (Gets up, stops) Better make it de-caf.