JANET: He’ll be here.
QUEELA: Have to get this done before he gets back.
ANNARAE: I’m three hours late so be there, be there anyway.
[Queela begins to pack her suitcase. She is not a pretty woman. Her body is thick and strong, her face set and resigned.]
QUEELA: Home by dinner. I’ll just walk out of here. I got nothing now. I got NOTHING now in this place.
JANET: I did it! I...just went up to him. I was so brave. I didn’t know myself! I didn’t know how ferociously brave I was. I said, I said to him, rather, ‘Hey, you want to meet for a drink? My treat.‘ [Pause as the music stops.] And he...looked so surprised. Yeah. Surprised.
[Reaches down to her purse for change for the unseen jukebox. Goes to play more songs.]
ANNARAE: It was supposed to rain, if it rained I wasn’t coming tonight. But it’s clear. I waited for the rain but it’s clear. [Pause as she checks sky.] He likes a woman to look like a woman, makeup on, hair fixed. That’s what’s important to him, that a woman look like a fucking woman. [Looks both ways, as if searching for the bus. Back to examining her face.] It’s not too much to ask. And also that girls not talk like sailors. It's not too much to ask. It’s not. It’s real life. People expect things of you. Men expect. They expect. And if you don’t...they don’t. Right? Right.
QUEELA: I’m a ghost. Haunting my own life. Haunting his life. God knows I ain’t dead yet. You’re not supposed to be a ghost until you die.
[Janet comes back into her light, the music low and more upbeat. She settles herself, smoothes her dress, checks her shoes, pats her hair. And then she checks her watch. Takes small sip of her drink.]
QUEELA: I used to fear. I used to fear that I’d be alone.
ANNARAE: My name is Annarae. I made that up. I’ve made porn movies. I’ve fucked dogs for money. But he’s good. My social worker boyfriend guy. Not a boyfriend yet! I’ve never had a boyfriend, weird, but true! We’re in negotiations, will be in negotiations. He doesn’t care about my past. He’s got a past, too.
QUEELA: If you’re willing to forgive, you won’t ever be alone. God forgives, women forgive. Men get forgiven.
JANET: I have to trust. I have to learn to trust. Men are not the enemy. People are not the enemy. You can’t live your life alone. And you can’t give up. Not ever! Not ever not ever not ever.
ANNARAE: You can’t give up. No matter what you’ve done, there’s forgiveness. That’s what I believe. You have to remember the love, not the ugly things. Not the things that hurt you, ripped you apart, left you for dead. And-- you gotta laugh. No use crying over anything, ever. Some people weep when they’re high, but I laugh. [Silence.] The coffeehouse-- that’s where he’s waiting. I just have to get there. I’m three hours late. First rule broken--he has a thing about time. People who like themselves are always on time, he says. What if...I started to ask him about that. There are no exceptions to this, he tells me--time separates the people who do from the people who don’t. But I still think time’s pretty elastic... [Silence. She sighs. Sets her shoulders.] I have to accept the rules.
JANET: Rules. Life has rules.
QUEELA: I obeyed all the rules.
ANNARAE: Natural order, rules and shit. Is he still waiting...?
JANET: Maybe. Maybe I shouldn’t have done this. [Gives herself a shake.] I won’t do that to myself. He’s not that late. I’m such a time freak. I was here early. And...and so what if he doesn’t show. It won’t be terrible.
QUEELA: [Opening the second drawer.] You ask, why do they stay. Those women. Those women.
JANET: I am proud of myself.
QUEELA: Why do those women always go back, why do I keep going back for more. As if they had a choice. What’s my choice--hooking? Working two jobs? Shit. Why do they drum it into our heads that it’s better to be beaten than be alone? That they can change, that we can change them. Makes the world go round, you know?
JANET: It’s just for a drink. It’s not a big thing. Try try again.
ANNARAE: He’s great. He’s strong. He has his shit together now. He’s survived things, like me. That’s what he told me.
QUEELA: Sometimes it is better to be beaten. That’s what they can’t understand. Everyone has bruises, all the time; you just can’t see them, you can’t see the bruises.
ANNARAE: I’m going to believe, going to close my eyes and believe.
JANET: The world’s so big and there’s so many wonderful things in it. I am one of those wonderful things. [Takes a sip of her drink. Checks her watch.] Sometimes you just have to say it out loud.
QUEELA: God knows I done my share. God knows I picked fights just...just to have something to do. My blood races. Everything heats up. And after...oh the loving! How can you hate someone who touches you like that?
[Stops in her slow folding and dropping of clothes into suitcase.]
QUEELA: The apology feels so good. And the strength of him, the smell of his skin, when he kisses you.
ANNARAE: I’ll be anything he wants. If he’ll love me, I’ll be anything he wants.
JANET: I’m smart, attractive and pay my own bills.
QUEELA: I’m his only softness.
JANET: Where is he?! [Stops herself.] It’s his loss not mine. I look good. I smell good. Fuck him.
ANNARAE: I’m lucky. [Stops adjusting makeup. Takes a deep breath.] I get a second chance, hell, this is probably a tenth chance!
QUEELA: Chances come every second. I know that. I have to believe that the next chance will the last one. That I won’t have to take any more chances, close my eyes and leap, that sort of thing.
ANNARAE: He’s good to me, such a good person. There are freaks out there. Freaks that should be chained up inside padded cells.
JANET: There are other fish in the sea.
ANNARAE: My God, I was so high when I met him. There he was, preaching about the evils of drugs. How can you do this to yourself, he asked me, how can you do this to your body. My body, I said, my body can survive anything.
QUEELA: I’m safe here, Mr. Director of the Shelter says. Another man telling me I’m safe.
JANET: There are other fish. Maybe I should give him another chance.
ANNARAE: Oh sure, we all have a sad story. Train fucked at thirteen, that sort of thing. Discovered smack, or crack or crank or whatever the shit’s called, that shit that takes you to neverland. I used to be so skinny, like a model. I had hair down to my fucking waist. Every bone I had you could see--I was so pretty. He likes me thin. He has these rules for women--pretty, lots of makeup, hair done and thin. [Silence. She considers for a moment. Leans forward. She is not that thin.] There are so many worse ways to live, so many more worse rules to follow.
QUEELA: I’m safe here. [Runs hand through her short hair. It has been chopped off.] Safe. Unloved. Unwanted. Unneeded. Why do they beat it into your head that you can’t be alone? Even here, they tell you they’ll help you, they’ll stand by you. That he can’t reach you. [Stares off into space, then comes back, nodding.] He’s always inside. My husband, my love, that man I live with now and then. Here.
ANNARAE: I don’t mind rules. Not anymore. Not after I woke up on a set tied up, being peed on by midgets. [Makes herself laugh, then really laughs.] Shit. Little tiny men spraying me with piss! If that ain’t a sign to quit.
JANET: I don’t mind being alone. I live alone, I go to movies alone. Why not?! I read somewhere where a lot of women can’t do that. Go somewhere alone. I go to movies alone all the time. Who wants to watch some weepy thing with friends? I hate crying in front of people. Where is he?
QUEELA: Where is he now?
ANNARAE: Wonder what he’s doing now? [Checks for the bus.] Should have got a taxi or something. Should have bought some... [Shakes head, rubs her arm. Makes a face.] I’m clean. I’m brand new. After waking up like that, something in me just...turned over. Like a pancake. I broke the metal frame they had me on; they never build them all that sturdy. I poured some bottled water over myself, right in front of everyone. I washed all that piss and whatever else they had been doing to me away. Away, away, away. The social worker guy gave me a card with his name on it. I called him. Save me, I said.
QUEELA: I worry. I worry he’s not eating. That his clothes aren’t washed. I worry that he’s lonely. That he’s angry. Angry and lonely don’t mix too good.
JANET: I mean, he seemed nice. He comes up to me, all the time, talks to me, winked at me that one time. I’m not a flirt. But I know what he was doing was flirting. Crap. Was he just being friendly to the old maid? [Takes a moment to regain her happy thoughts.] That’s it, feel sorry for yourself. That will solve everything! He’ll be here, of course he will. His car broke down. He got run over by a train. Or a bus. Or a tractor. He got shot, awful thought. There was something really good on t.v. He had to wash his hair. He had to wash his dog...does he have a dog? Or his cat.
ANNARAE: Save me, I said.
QUEELA: I have learned something here.
QUEELA: Love doesn’t end because it hurts.
JANET: There are so many worse things in the world than this.
ANNARAE: And he said he would. But he had some rules--I had to stop shooting up. I had to stop making movies. I had to act like a lady.
QUEELA: Once you love someone it’s like cancer. It spreads and spreads until it eats you up. That’s what they don’t understand here, in this shelter. Or any of them. There’s no cure for this. I don’t think so, anyway. This is my fifth shelter. My last one. [Silence. She considers her suitcase.] This time I won’t make any promises to anyone. Not to myself, not to him.
ANNARAE: Ah, a control freak, I said and he sure didn’t like that. I know what I like, he said. And he smiled, this sweet smile that said he knew everything already about me. That smile men get. That smile of indulgence. [Silence, next almost a whisper.] God help me, I can be what he wants.
JANET: There are women in shelters, hiding from their fucked up boyfriends and husbands.
ANNARAE: He’s a social worker.
QUEELA: They want me to give up on him.
ANNARAE: He wants to remake me.
JANET: I have so much. I’m lucky. I have good parents and I had an okay childhood. What if he thought it was a joke, me asking him here. Maybe I should call.
QUEELA: [Staring down at her suitcase.] Give up on him. Just...not love him anymore. He hurts you, he hurts you, how can you want to go back to that, they say here.
JANET: Just be calm. If he’s coming he’ll be here soon. If not, then go home and take a hot bath, have a good cry over what a jerk he is and never talk to him again. Try try again.
QUEELA: Maybe he won’t. I’ve been gone a month. Maybe he won’t.
ANNARAE: Maybe he won’t. Be there. At the coffeeshop. [Sighs.] What a relief. [Silence. She digs through her purse, finds a battered pack of cigarettes. Finds one. Janet listens to music, foot tapping.] I should go home. Ah, fucking rent’s due!! Enjoy it before they kick me out. Take a long hot bath. Wash my face. Eat a bag of those little Snickers. Less calories than eating normal size ones. I could earn rent the old fashioned way. Work. Find a job. One where I’m not on my back or tied to a metal frame waiting to get pissed on. [Takes out her wallet, checks the cash in it, not very much.] Save myself. What a concept.
JANET: I’m not a troll. Or a hag. There’s nothing wrong with me.
QUEELA: I know exactly what he’s like. Why do they think I’m blind. [Throws open rest of drawers, throws clothes into suitcase. Sits on floor to sort and fold.] They think we’re so stupid. So stupid and blind. Just leave, just leave. Don’t be a victim. Uh-huh. Work at McDonald’s. Make minimum wage. Live with roaches, live with your kids with the roaches and rats, don’t love him hate him. Hate him, hate all men. Hate your own son because he’s got a little dick attached to him. Teach your daughter to be bitter. Teach your daughter to never trust, never love. That can’t be the answer. It can’t be.
JANET: I mean, I’m not stuck in some dead-end mess where he’s beating me. I would never let that happen. I’m too smart for that. Get a job, I’d say to them, stop having so many goddamn kids you can’t pay for. Hit him back, shoot his freakin’ head off, bust his head with a frying pan. That’s what I would do. If some guy ever tried to hit me I’d just flat out castrate him. [Considers for a bit.] I mean, how desperate do you have to be to put up with that? Get a dog if you don’t like being alone. Get a cat! I’m just waiting for this late guy to show up. I won’t be needy. That’s for idiots. I AM NOT AN IDIOT.
[Looks around. Taps her drink.]
ANNARAE: Save myself. Other people do it all the time. The success story, the woman who weighed eight thousand pounds-- now a size four and working for some modeling agency out of New York. The heroin addict who after spending five million a day on his habit, now a priest in the inner city, clean now for ten years! The porn star-- [Comes to her feet, very testimonial.] Who made six movies a day, snorted everything or shot it up her veins, woke up covered with pee--the porn star who cleaned up her life, quite literally, who got a great job after putting herself through school by selling Avon, and is now teaching retards. Yippee!! [Dances around, shakes it.] Don’t be an idiot!!
QUEELA: What job could I do? Have they ever worked at a fast food place? Have they ever made a choice between paying your electric or buying groceries? They’re such idiots, always talking at you. Always with the solemn faces. It’ll get better.
JANET: It’s not like I’m planning a future with him. It’s not like I asked him to marry me.
ANNARAE: Shake your groove thing, shake your groove thing!
QUEELA: I should buy something nice for dinner. He likes steak-- maybe a nice steak or some pork chops. Maybe...what if he has someone else? Who’d put up with him? I should ask him that next time he threatens me he’s leaving. Who’d have ya?!
JANET: Shake it, shake it, that’s what they want. They don’t want brains, no matter what they say. They want big boobs, flat stomachs, those legs that look good in those tight tiny skirts. Stop it-- stop being so cynical.
ANNARAE: I could be free. Free of everything and everyone. Save myself!
JANET: I just wish.
ANNARAE: I just wish, one time.
QUEELA: I love him and I wish.
ANNARAE: One time that I don’t have to be anyone but me.
QUEELA: I wish I could be free of him, of this love, I wish I wasn’t afraid and excited at the same time.
JANET: Just one time that I could be that girl that everyone stares at in admiration. Just one time. Beautiful.
QUEELA: That he’d call me beautiful.
ANNARAE: That I could be beautiful with my clothes on. With my legs closed.
JANET: Just this hot, sexy thing.
ANNARAE: That I could be admired and respected and oh! loved.
QUEELA: He’d call me beautiful every day. He’d tell me I was his world.
JANET: I could do that hair flip thing-- [Tosses her head.] Wear a black bra beneath a white shirt.
ANNARAE: Wear a sweatshirt and jeans. Everyday. No face paint, no hairspray. No shaving. No goddamn motherfucking RULES.
QUEELA: Everything would be perfect.
ANNARAE: Everything would be swell.
JANET: Everything would be fun.
[Silence. The three women sit or stand very still.]
JANET: Everything’s fine now.
QUEELA: We are what we are.
ANNARAE: I hope he’s still waiting.
[Lights dim very slowly. Blackout.]