by Charles C. Cole
Scene 1 appears
in this issue.
SCENE 2: Later that night. HART sits in his wheelchair in low light. EDNA enters.
EDNA: Hart? Memories flooding back?
HART: (Laughing cynically) No, not yet. Florence Nightingale on the battlefield. Did I wake you? Meant to have my squeaky wheels oiled, but I’ve grown accustomed to the white noise. It’s not me, it’s the country. Every movement, every gesture seems louder, but it’s just the quiet, like the way voices carry at night in winter.
EDNA: Too much quiet makes us paranoid, that it’s going to end loudly. When I didn’t hear you snoring in the other room, not that you’re a loud snorer, I figured you’d somehow managed to drive off or you were in here replaying the evening in your head, moment by moment. (A forced joke) Or should I say, cribbage hand by cribbage hand.
HART: Pretty much. How’d you know? It’s a novel gift, this whole “memory” thing. I’m still toying with it. I can see how it would come in handy, especially with those trivia games.
EDNA: They weren’t so bad, were they, Judy and Everett, as parents I mean?
HART: Judy, Mrs. Everett, makes a ham-on-white sandwich that’s to die for, though I don’t know why she cut the crust off, unless I used to ask her to back in my pre-school days. She’s a keeper, that one. And that Everett didn’t try to cheat once, not so’s I could tell. But I’m convinced he let me win, which is acceptably patronizing.
EDNA: No one patronizes better than parents of very sick children. It’s in their DNA.
HART: So I’ve heard. (Beat) Yep, they weren’t so bad.
EDNA: Is that surprising?
HART: To be honest, I thought they’d be more... suffocating. Isn’t that how it’s done, these family get-togethers? They were almost too perfect. She put a napkin in my lap and he had the audacity to laugh at my unconventional jokes, not every time but convincingly.
EDNA: That’s what you do for a three-year-old.
HART: Hah. Here I thought I was on my best behavior. Before the weekend’s over, you’re going to promote me to four years old. Hell, six. I’m tired of being three. That’s my stretch goal.
EDNA: Now we have goals? That’s news. Progress, I think.
HART: I’ve always had goals. You don’t get to hear my every thought. It’s called taking personal space, ever hear of it?
EDNA: You mean my favorite activity in life before “Hart 2.0.”
HART: (Beat) Will they come back? You don’t think I scared them off.
EDNA: They’re your parents. Of course, they’ll come back. Do you want them to come back?
HART: Let me think about it. Though I can’t think of a downside at the moment.
EDNA: You do that.
HART: I just want the option to say, “Time out.”
EDNA: You’ll always have the option to say, “Time out.” No matter what. That’s my promise.
HART: If they can continue to behave themselves, then definitely maybe. But it was a little creepy earlier, borderline, like they were waiting for me to blow up or have a meltdown or something. They kept watching me with eyes as big as hoot owls. I wonder if I was a tyrant in my other life because, frankly, I’m not that interesting.
EDNA: I laid down the rules, plain and simple. They were on their best behavior because they were dying to see you. If you give them time, I’ll bet the pendulum will swing the other way: you know, with nagging, and in-fighting, mixed messages, and grand displays of disappointment.
HART: So that’s the carefree childhood I’ve forgotten. When you put it that way, my life on wheels sounds like a family vacation, and by that I mean a vacation from family.
EDNA: (Smiling at his joke) I understand. Do you really think Everett let you win?
HART: Maybe I’m just a better player, but as I understand it, this is his house, his board and his cards. I’d say he had a distinct home field advantage.
EDNA: It’s your house, too, you know. (He dismisses this with a wave.) I’ve got to ask, “having parents,” is this something that appeals to you?
HART: I never said it didn’t. Ideally, since I’m starting over anyhow, I’d love to be able to select them like from a vending machine or one of those online dating sites, a people catalogue, matching their personalities to mine –
EDNA: Because you know so much about yourself at the moment.
HART: (Ignoring her) But if that’s not an option, I could probably make do with Everett and Judy. Sure, parents are something I could get used to. Not overnight mind you; I have my training wheels on, don’t you know. But with a lot of “short bursts” of practice and, of course, a steady supply of ham sandwiches, I can see the appeal.
EDNA: (Cynically) To the new you or the old you?
HART: The new me, of course. That’s still the only me I know.
HART: How do you mean?
EDNA: I know you have this lovely metaphor in your head of being reborn, all grown, as an adult, to start life anew. But I’m telling you right now, there is no new you. When did you decide to be right-handed? When did you decide you liked cribbage? Or TV game shows. Your mother told me as a kid, you kept a journal of your victories so that one day—
HART: Enough! No more small talk about my lost youth. Thank you.
EDNA: Okay. How about manly talk about the adult life you tried, nearly successfully, to leave behind?
HART: I’m going back to bed.
EDNA: But not back to your coma?
HART: You got something on your mind?
EDNA: Look at me, Hart. Do I remind you of somebody? (With an exaggerated smile)
HART: The fairy godmother in Cinderella, only this time she’s a drill sergeant from Philadelphia.
EDNA: (Not reacting) I’m your wife.
HART: (Serious) You don’t wear a ring.
EDNA: We’re separated. We’ve been separated for over a year. Surprise.
HART: What are you doing here with me? That doesn’t sound like the way separated couples behave.
EDNA: You asked me to come back. You called me from the car the night of your accident. You wanted to give it another try. A male friend of mine answered the phone and you immediately jumped to the wrong conclusions.
HART: And then?
EDNA: I don’t know. You hung up. I called the number back and, eventually, a policemen at the scene of the accident picked up.
HART: That’s a good story, a little melodramatic, but it does explain something that’s been bothering me about this situation.
EDNA: Which is?
HART: How I feel so attracted to you and so angry at you all the time. Honestly, I thought it was a side-effect of my meds.
EDNA: No. It sounds pretty consistent with our whole relationship. What did I tell you? The old you and the new you have more in common than you think.
HART: But you’re really a nurse? Or is that an act?
EDNA: I’m a nurse.
HART: And are those my real parents? And this is my real childhood camp?
EDNA: Yes and yes.
HART: Then I don’t need you, do I?
EDNA: No. I was planning on heading back home in the morning. And your parents will take over your care, not that you need much. Your laptop, a printer and a box of paper are all in the trunk. That’s all the therapy you need right now. You don’t need me.
HART: Funny, earlier, I thought I’d be the one to race for the car.
EDNA: But you didn’t. Because part of you know this is the best place for you right now.
HART: You don’t have to wait until morning, if you want to go.
EDNA: (Gently warning him) This is a lot to take in.
HART: If you get me the laptop and paper, I think I’ll be okay.
EDNA: Tell you what, if you get out of that chair and go get it for yourself while I’m packing up my things, I’d be happier.
HART: Stretch goal.
EDNA: Big stretch goal.
HART: Get your stuff. I’ll be here, on my feet or on the floor.
EDNA: Hart. (Beat) You’re stronger than you think.
HART: I should have been more patient with you when I taught you how to play cribbage. For that I’m sorry.
EDNA: You’ve always been fluent in “Sorry.”
HART: I suppose I have other things to say sorry for, but I can’t remember them. You can, though, can’t you?
EDNA: They’re not worth remembering. You get to decide if they’ll be part of the new you or get left behind with the old you. I’ll get my stuff. (EXITS.)
HART (Starts to roll his way to the door, then he sets the brakes on his wheelchair and stands, unsteady at first. He walks slowly to the door, while EDNA watches unseen from behind him.)
Copyright © 2015 by Charles C. Cole