Better Left Unsaid — A Short Scene
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[Based on a very true story]
INT. A CORPORATE COFFEE FRANCHISE. DAY.
Our PROTAGONIST sits in a large chair, sipping his coffee and distractedly looking away from his book, the cover of which is folded back.
A CUTE PUNK CHICK in dark, narrow glasses walks over. She sits on the empty couch next to him, slides off her sandals and pulls out a copy of The New York Times.
He looks up; she smiles politely and returns to her paper. Our PROTAGONIST buries his head back in his book for a moment and then—
What’s your name?
CUTE PUNK CHICK
Your name. What is it?
CUTE PUNK CHICK
SARA (formerly Cute Punk Chick)
I’m sorry, do I—
—Know me? No, you don’t.
—I know you? No, we’ve never met before.
Look, I’m just gonna say this now and cut all the bullshit. I don’t know you. Don’t know anything about you. Don’t know where you’re from or what you’re like or what your politics are, though judging from the way you instinctively opened to Arts & Leisure, forgoing the traditional glance at the front page, I’m guessing politics aren’t all that important to you.
—There are some things you care about, sure. Free speech, funding for the arts, abortion, probably. Education, too. Hell, the fact you’re reading The Times instead of The
Post tells me your politics are slightly left of center, though still decidedly mainstream. But I’m just guessing. I mean, maybe you read The Times for Arts & Leisure and you get the rest of your news from The Post. Or maybe you read The Socialist Worker. For all I know, you could watch to the fucking 700 Club religiously. Point is, I don’t know the first thing about you. But I know I’m completely and utterly head-over-heels for you.
Let me finish. Maybe it’s because you smiled at me or because you sat down next to me. Or maybe it’s because you remind me of every other punk chick who read the “Paper of Record” in a corporate coffee franchise, while sitting next to me with her sandals off, who I failed to talk to. Either way, now that I’ve talked to you, I realize I don’t care about embarrassing myself anymore and I’m not turned off by your defects either.
Unsightly characteristics. Idiosyncrasies. The ridiculous shit I notice about women that prevents me from maintaining a serious relationship and paralyzes me from talking to a girl in whom I’m interested. Like your voice, for instance.
What about my voice?
Well, it’s deeper than I thought it would be. That sort of thing usually throws me for a curve, but I’m okay with it.
Oh, I’m glad.
Doesn’t bother me. And I’m okay with the fact you’re the type of person who sits in a café without ordering coffee.
—I’m okay with the way your hair’s not quite straight and the tips sorta frizz. Hell, I’m even okay with the Lisa Loeb, pseudo-retro glasses.
Gee…I’m flattered. Why—
Am I telling you all this? Cause if I don’t say this now, I’ll regret it later and I’ll wind up writing some self-loathing piece about what I should have but didn’t say that romanticizes you way out of proportion. I’m a writer, by the way, if you couldn’t tell. Well, I used to write. Now I mostly just think about writing. Sorta the way I would have only thought about talking to you if I hadn’t decide to take a chance.
Hell, maybe we would’ve talked. I would’ve waited until you were about to leave and said something stupid like,
“Smart move. I mean, not ordering anything. This coffee sucks.”
To wit you would’ve replied, “Yeah, I know, right.”
Then we’d smile at each other and laugh politely and that would be that. Except for the few excruciating seconds before you left in which I’d sit here, trying to look cool and succeeding in looking awkward, turning the pages of my book with a labored nonchalance and furrowing my brow in a look of intense concentration as if to say “Oh, isn’t that interesting” or “This author hasn’t the faintest idea what he’s talking about.”
But really it’s me who hasn’t the faintest fucking idea what the author’s talking about because I haven’t read the last ten pages and the truth is I’m not even here anymore. I’m replaying our entire conversation—every consonant, every syllable, every aspirated “S,” every wordy suspiration of forced breath.
And slowly, I start to play out all the possibilities of our life together—you writing your number on that crumpled napkin over there; me finding it a week later, smiling at the way you spell your name without the “H,” as I call from work; you answering the phone in a voice that was deeper than I remembered and joking that I should have called last week because you’re about to go on tour as the baritone in La Boheme; me asking you out, your voice grudgingly accepting, a smile on your face I can’t see; me stumbling into the bar five minutes late because the fucking express train got stuck between 34th and 14th; you smiling and telling me how likely that story is;
me laughing, making a mental note to blame more things on the Metropolitan Transit Authority because it’s funny and it makes you smile; you drinking as I drone on about international politics and the stupidity of our commander-and-chief; me moving on to movies, telling you how film is my life; you muttering about how that’s not much of a life; me changing the subject from my pathetic, lonely existence by asking if you want to go for a walk on West Side Highway; you saying that you just need to get your coat;
me looking down at my feet instead of out on the Hudson as we stroll along the waterfront; you making conversation about your favorite Saturday morning cartoons; me espousing apocryphal theories regarding Scooby-Doo’s cannabis habit and how Smurfette was actually a transsexual and the whole show was a metaphor for a Communist utopia; you telling me that the Smurfs were blue, not red; me laughing; you saying that we’d better get going or we’d be late for the movie and you wouldn’t want me to miss out my life; me reaching for your hand and saying, “Maybe it’s time for a new life;” you drawing in a breath as our lips meet;
the two of us, lost in the moment as cars drive down the highway and ships sail slowly along the Hudson;
you putting your head on my shoulder; me finally realizing something I can’t quite articulate; you suggesting that we go back to your place; me suggesting that we spend the rest of our lives together; and we take it from there.
I can see it—clear and true. And maybe it’s just my imagination, but I think you see it too. (He laughs.) And the funny thing is, I don’t even know the first thing about you.
I have a boyfriend.
Scuse me, dude.
A RANDOM PUNK BOY, carrying two cups of coffee, wedges between our Protagonist’s chair and the couch.
RANDOM PUNK BOY
Here you go, babe. (He sits, handing the cup to SARA.)
SARA leans on his arm, and returns to her “Arts & Leisure.”
Our PROTAGONIST hides his face behind his book, revealing the cover—
“One Hundred Years of Solitude”
He goes back to reading, turning the pages mindlessly.
FADE TO BLACK.
Poor, Poor Josh Gronsbell.