By: Shawn Davis
Scene: It’s a dreary, gray and windy afternoon with rain that just won’t taper off. A green sedan beats the upcoming traffic light by making a sharp right turn and in doing so, covers MAN from head to toe in water from a puddle near the sidewalk. He angrily wipes his face free of the dirty water with his jacket sleeve and then tosses his umbrella in the street because he’s no longer dry. He checks the time on his wristwatch, looks solemnly in both directions and then walks into a small, warm, café.
He approaches the barista and places his order. While his drink is being prepared he surveys the sparsely occupied space and motions to the barista that he’s going to find a seat. After taking off his jacket and placing it at the back of the chair, he returns to the register to pay and grab his cup. He places it on the table and stands at the window, watching the rain…and waiting. A few more patrons enter to escape the elements and he sits to sip the warm liquid before it becomes like him…cold.
The steam dances inside the cup and he fixates on it unaware that WOMAN just entered the establishment and is walking towards him.
Woman: (pulling her wet hair into a ponytail) Hi there.
Man: (startled) Oh, uh…hello.
He stands and attempts to help her take off her raincoat but she politely declines. She rests it on the back of her chair while he watches; still standing. They share an awkward hug and he waits for her to sit before doing the same. He looks at her while she rubbernecks to peek into his cup, trying to avoid eye contact with him at all costs.
Woman: Hot chocolate, I see. That’s just like you; mmm…I…should get something.
Man: Want a sip?
Woman: No thanks, I’m gonna get…
Man: (motions to the barista) I got it.
The barista brings over a cup of dark coffee with a spoon for the creamer resting on the table, two sugar packets, and three oatmeal cookies. A shy smile forms on Woman’s face as it’s placed before her.
Woman: Thank you.
Man: (hesitantly) Did I get it right?
Woman: You did.
Woman digs into her raincoat pocket to find her clutch to pay.
Man: I took care of it, already.
Man: Well I placed the order when I arrived and took care of it all.
Woman: What would you have done if I wanted something else?
Man: Good point! I would have ordered the whole menu until you got what you wanted.
Woman: That’s cute. What if I didn’t show up?
Man: I would have given it to someone on the street I guess.
Woman: And my cookies? You would have eaten them.
Man: I would have eaten them.
They share a brief laugh and she looks directly at him – which makes him exhale; he smiles, she giggles.
Woman: It’s been a while now since we’ve seen each other.
She mixes her drink, takes a gulp and then takes a small bite of one of her neatly stacked cookies.
Man: (rubbing his cup) It really has been. Three whole months…
They both remain quiet; he gulps his drink while she looks at the rain on the window directly behind him.
Man: Were you going to cancel? I thought you were, honestly.
Woman: I gave it serious thought. I wasn’t sure what would come of it, you know? Seeing you again, I mean it has been some time and the unknown did present some apprehension. But I’m here so whatever that means, it means.
She glances at him but he turns away.
Woman: (continuing) What’s the matter with you?
Man: (resting his chin on his hands) I’m…just…so…glad you’re here.
She doesn’t respond. After stirring her coffee and tasting a spoonful she takes another bite of her cookie.
Man: (summoning the confidence) I know that I screwed some things up between us the last time and…
Woman: (visibly uncomfortable) I’m not sure I’m ready for this. You want to do this…here? I mean is this why you wanted to meet?
Man: (nervously) Yes.
Woman: I don’t need an apology, it is totally fine. I’ve accepted that our dynamic works in some ways but fails, horribly, in others; I’m at peace with that. Do I wish it was different? I do, but that isn’t the case. If it was…there wouldn’t be lingering tension between the two of us. Don’t do me any favors, ok?
Man: Ok. I know you don’t need an apology but I owe you one and…
Her disposition turns cold as she shoots him an icy glare. (If looks could kill…)
Woman: You don’t owe me anything.
Man: (calmly) Please, can a finish?
Woman: (rolling her eyes) Whatever…
Man: You deserve one. There were times I know I wasn’t fair in expressing myself and it took me a while, and some professional help, but I’m aware of why I was quiet at critical stages when I should have been vocal. I am sorry for any…time…that I confused you by not having something to say.
Woman: You didn’t have to do that but thank you for saying what you just did. I appreciate it.
Man: It feels good to be able to tell you that in-person. My therapist told me to be honest with myself…and with you – if you ever gave me the chance.
Woman: I see. You got professional help? When?
Man: Two months ago and he said that I wouldn’t have any type of inner-peace unless I looked at myself, first and foremost. He said that I was making excuses for some things and trying to duck responsibilities for others.
Woman: Sounds like he was onto something there.
Man: He was right about it though.
Woman: My problem was never about you trying to avoid responsibility – it was more of an issue about being, and feeling left out. About how you would just shut down and that would be all and I would just have to deal with that.
Man: I know and my mother said some of the same things to me at her birthday celebration.
Woman: Your mom is smart. Tell her I’m sorry that I didn’t make it to her event. I just, I wanted to but…
Man: She understood and gave me enough grief for it though.
Man: She also loved your gift.
Woman: I’m happy to hear that.
Man: Before I took off she told me to make things “right” with you, whether that meant we were going to be a couple again or not. It was one of the most everlasting things she said and it stuck with me on my trip.
She leans forward in her seat and takes a spoonful of her coffee.
Man: I was out of the country for two months. I just got back in town a few days ago.
Woman: Why didn’t you tell me?
Man: I tried to. On the last day we spoke.
Woman: You did? When was that?
Man: That really warm day, remember? That one unseasonably mild day that seemed to come out of the blue – and then it was cold again. I came to your apartment but you wouldn’t open the door for me.
Woman: I remember now. I took a few inches off my hair and wore that white tank-top that you love.
Man: I wanted to talk about getting back together and you didn’t…
Woman: …want to hear any of it. You put me in a bad place.
Man: I know. You didn’t even want to see me and that’s why I left your building. Can I ask you something?
She squirms noticeably in her seat while taking the last bite of her first cookie.
Woman: (sips her coffee) Sure.
Man: Was he there?
Their eyes meet.
Woman: No. But he was on his way…we had dinner that evening.
He struggles holding back the anger that washes over him but he deals with it while she observes his face and nervously pulls at her bottom lip.
Woman: (continuing) You’re upset. You asked a question and I answered. I’m sorry it wasn’t what you wanted to hear. You asked.
Man: I did.
She turns halfway around to dig into the inner pocket of her raincoat. There is nothing in there except for an empty lipstick tube, a few quarters and stale bubblegum but she just wants to break up the atmosphere. He stares at into his cup…waiting for her to stop.
Man: So at that point I decided I needed a break. I had to get away from the city, from work, maybe even from our situation to – hopefully – gain some perspective.
She stops fiddling with her pockets to face him.
Woman: Where did you go?
Man: Italy, Germany, Greece, France and Portugal.
Woman: (laughs) Look at you getting all those passport stamps! We always wanted to take a trip to Italy and Greece together. Did you enjoy yourself?
Man: Yes, I really did. Outside of taking in different cultures, I got to reset myself, in a way. Like I realized just how precious some things in life are.
Woman: How so?
Man: There was a point where I got lost in Naples – on my way to the AmalfiCoast – and this guy took it upon himself to get me where I needed to go. He drove me to the port and when I offered him money he was offended, he just wanted to help. How often does that happen anymore?
Woman: Not often enough.
Man: Exactly. Another time I was walking away from the Colosseum and there was a newly married couple – and the entire bridal party, dressed impeccably; dancing, laughing and taking tons of photos. I even snapped a few of them and they didn’t even mind that I was a complete stranger. I couldn’t keep my eyes off them because they all were so happy and there were like eight young girls with them running around, throwing flower petals and popcorn at one another. I’ll show you the pictures another time if you like.
His face brightens as he recalls the image in his head and she smiles, feeling genuine happiness for him.
Woman: Sure. You’ve always wanted to travel and I’m so glad that you finally got the chance. You are definitely more relaxed it seems, at least from where I’m sitting.
Man: I am. Thank you.
He finishes his hot chocolate with a final swig and walks over to the counter to purchase two waters. As he takes his seat, he catches her checking her watch and he passes her one of the bottles.
Woman: Thanks so much. You said that you realized why you weren’t being vocal at critical moments. What exactly was the breakthrough? When did it come?
Man: Am I keeping you? I saw you checked the time.
She bites her second cookie and purposely ignores the question.
Man: Yeah, that was the whole purpose of getting you here so on with it, right?
Woman: It’s your show…and I’m here, now, so don’t worry about me checking the time on my watch. I’m listening.
She ushers her drink to the side in favor of the water and takes a sip to wash down the cookie.
Man: It happened when I was in Capri. What it boils down to, in its simplest form is this: (he exhales) I never in my life, with any of the women I’ve dated, ever felt that I was looking my…wife…directly in the eyes.
He affectionately strokes the top of her hand; she wants to pull back but she relents and allows it.
Woman: What do you mean by that?
Man: Exactly the way it sounds. Exactly the way you heard it.
Woman: (confused) If that is the case then wouldn’t you be able to articulate at times and not shut me out? Not ignore me in other instances and try to stop me when I would walk away angry?
Man: Well that’s it. I was afraid to say anything during those times because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing or lose you.
Woman: So you opted to say nothing at all?
Man: And the relationship still crumbled; the one thing I wanted to avoid.
Woman: Look you weren’t the whole reason we didn’t work; you’re a great man. As adults we have to accept responsibility when we examine things and, yes, there are times when I get upset too quickly, I act stubborn and I say an argument is over only to throw it back in your face when I feel I’m losing ground in a different disagreement altogether so I have my marks in the “cons” column as well. I feel that we both carry an equal amount of blame here but I’m happy you found out what held you back. I need to work on my own issues as well, just as an individual, regardless of whether I’m in a relationship so they don’t hold me back.
She rubs her face with her hands and inhales, slowly, while he drinks water and looks behind him to watch the rain knock the window.
Man: Are you in a relationship with him?
Woman: I could ask you the same thing, you know.
Man: Go right ahead.
Woman: Why her? Of all the women in this city you could’ve been with – you date her?
Man: I didn’t plan it at all. It just happened out of the blue; I couldn’t anticipate it but ultimately I couldn’t have anything substantial with her.
Woman: (sarcastically) Oh…really? Why is that?
Man: She’s not you. There isn’t a woman created that I adore or love more than you. She was a rest-stop while you’ve always been the destination.
Woman: Uh, oh…ok; that was a lot to take in at once. I’m at a loss for words and I didn’t expect you to say something so heartfelt.
Man: A few days after you turned me away from your apartment building, she and I hung out and I told her that she shouldn’t call me anymore. From there I went to see my mom and then I left the country to figure myself out and – HOPEFULLY – find a way back to you.
He fights back tears, admirably, but one escapes down his cheek. She bites her upper lip and then brushes the lone tear from his face with her fingers. He blows her a kiss, she catches it with the other hand and places it in her jeans pocket; they both smile.
Woman: Find a way back? I don’t want to put any pressure on anything. I mean you’ve come home and you have peace; you’re so relaxed. Why do you want to mess with that? I’ve been taking some art classes and doing a lot of thinking…and I do have some peace regarding us.
Man: I don’t have any peace and home is wherever you are.
Woman: You see when you say things like that I feel nothing but a ton of pressure. Don’t you?
Man: I’m being honest with myself – and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in agony over not being able to spend it with you because of the mistakes I made.
Woman: I totally get that but we now know why you were shutting down at times. I’m not holding anything against you anymore. It’s a clean slate, I promise, no hard feelings. Regarding the past, the two breakups…we have a clean slate. It may be in a different capacity, going forward, but you are one of the best people I’ve ever met.
She leans closer and places her hand over his heart while he drops his head, feeling like his time with her has passed. With her other hand she lifts his head so they’re eye-to-eye.
Man: So you only see me as a friend?
Woman: You will never be just a “friend” to me. You are a part of my being, the closest thing to a soul mate there is on earth – if those types of things exist. You will always be in my life.
Man: I feel the same way about you. Is it him? If it is…I understand and I’ll stay away.
He pulls back from her touch and places his chair against the window.
Woman: Why are you pulling away from me? Please don’t be that way, come on now. He’s not in the way, he isn’t a factor. The night he came over to my house for dinner I told him that he shouldn’t pursue me anymore – and he understood. He walked away, he’s a good guy but he isn’t you.
The rain begins to slow and the sun is trying to fight through the clouds. He moves back to the table and grabs her hand.
Man: I love you so much.
Woman: Why are you saying things like that?
One tear travels the length of her face and he kisses the inside of her palms.
Man: I promise! I need ONE chance, that’s all.
Man: Yes. I know we both have some things to work on but let’s do it together. Let’s heal as a unit. We don’t have to do it alone – and I don’t want to.
She bites her last cookie in half and places the rest into his mouth. He’s unsure of what the gesture means as they both take a drink from their respective water bottles.
Woman: I love you. I don’t want to do it alone, either.
Man: (smiling brightly) Does that mean you’ll give me a chance?
Woman: You better treat me like your wife or I’m telling your mother.
Man: I’ll do you one better: I’ll make you my wife if you’ll have me.
They hug and he lifts her by the waist. They kiss and then he whispers into her right ear which elicits a raucous laugh from her as he places her on the ground.
Woman: I’m hungry.
Man: We can go somewhere else for dinner.
They put their coats on and walk outside to notice the rain has all but stopped; however it’s still gray and considerably gloomy. She opens her umbrella for a brief moment and then places it into her bag, no longer needing it. They stand in place as he holds her by the waist.
Man: Are you teaching this summer? I know you’re taking your own classes at the moment but are you carrying a class this season like you did last summer?
Woman: (gleefully) Nope! Not at all. I’m just taking the classes and I have most of the summer to myself. Why?
Man: Nothing. I was just wondering if you want to go to Italy with me.
Woman: Wait, you just came from there. How can you afford to go back?
Man: Well I actually won a trip there for two full weeks.
Man: Yeah. Hotel and airfare included we just pay for our meals and whatever else we need while there.
Woman: By “won” what exactly do you mean?
Man: It was an eating contest that I stumbled upon; stuffed shells were the food. It was not a pretty sight when I went to the bathroom that evening.
Woman: (laughing) I am not at all surprised.
She takes his arm and they walk down the street to find somewhere to get dinner. The sun finally breaks through as the rays glisten off of the cars on the street. People are emerging from stores and cafes to enjoy the dry, cool, air.
Man: Are you in?
Woman: When did you want to go?
Man: When do your classes end?
Woman: Next month.
Man: We can book this evening.
Woman: I’m in. Totally! I’ve always wanted to take that trip.
Man: That’s why I fought off the cheese that tried to come back up my throat during the contest.
She playfully smacks his face.
Man: You’re worth it.
Woman: You and the sweet talk, my boy. Are you trying to get in my pants?
Man: I’m trying to stay in your heart. Getting in your pants is on the list though.
Woman: Ha, crazy. We’re going to Italy because you consumed a few pounds of cheese, sauce and pasta. Again…not surprised.
Man: Maybe I’ll surprise you one day.
As she grabs his right hand, he places his left hand in his jacket pocket to make sure he has the package sent from his mother: a dark, wood grain ring box.