Shira Hereld

Way-Station

Characters:

Luisa – mid-60s.  Dressed like a homeless woman.  Owns several blankets and a large purse with a seemingly endless supply of knitting.

Lew – Stationmaster.  Mid-late 60s.  Wears a name tag with “Lew” on it.

Jeanie – Late 20s/early 30s.  Sensible.

Max – Jeanie’s husband.  A man to whom you tell your secrets.

 

Setting:

Walloon Lake, Michigan.  A small train station, the sort of station that only locals would ever use to get to work.  A small apartment with kitchen and bedroom, where Jeanie and Max live.

***

“Waiting hurts. Forgetting hurts. But not knowing which decision to take can sometimes be the most painful.”

― José N. HarrisMI VIDA

 

***

 1.

 (The lights rise first on Luisa, placidly sitting on her bench.  Knitting rests in her lap, but she does not pick it up yet – it is early in the day, she is fresh-faced.  Lights rise on the rest of the stage, illuminating a bed containing a sleeping Max and Jeanie.  After a moment, Jeanie wakes up – she has had the worst dream of her life and it takes a minute to fully hit her.  She rises, gets her bathrobe and collapses with the weight of the dream, tears overwhelming her.  Lew enters the train station with two Styrofoam cups, one of coffee, one of tea.)

Lew: Good morning, Luisa.  How are you today?

Luisa: Not bad, dear.  Not bad. (Lew hands her the tea, which she takes with a smile – this is a well-known ritual.  Lew sits down next to her.)

Lew: You’re awake earlier than usual.  You know the first one won’t be along for a while.

Luisa: These old bones just couldn’t seem to stay asleep any longer.  I think it’s a sign, Lew.  Today’s going to be the day.

Lew: Roger that.  (Max wakes up slowly and sees Jeanie.)

Max: Jeanie!  (Max rushes over to her.)  What’s wrong?  Why are you crying?

Jeanie: Sorry, sorry, it was – nothing – I’m being stupid.

Max: No, Lucky, talk to me.

Jeanie: Don’t – not this morning.  Jeanie.

Max: Sorry.

Jeanie: It was nothing – just a dream.  Scared the shit out of me.  I’m okay.

Max: A dream about what?  (Jeanie doesn’t want to respond.  The alarm by the side of the bed goes off.)

Jeanie (over the alarm): I have to get ready.  Don’t worry about it.  (She kisses Max to shut him up, but it is a real kiss, filled with years of love.  She exits.  Max hangs up her bathrobe.)

Luisa: The first one is coming at 5:55 this morning.  Do you know how I knew that?

Lew: No clue.

Luisa: I dreamt about it.  He told me, ‘Luisa, this morning, the very first train will come at 5:55.  You’d better be awake to see it.’

Lew: He did?

Luisa: Yessir, he did.  Did you know, in the Hebrew tradition, there’s a thing called ‘Gematriya’?

Lew: Gesundheit!  (Lew chuckles at his joke; Luisa smiles, but continues.)

Luisa: Every letter is assigned a number, and they all have a meaning.  And in Hebrew, the number five is equal to Hay, which is the letter that means God.  So, can’t you see how important today is now?  5:55.

Lew: 5:55.  God, God, God.  Jesus.  I guess you really have a point there, Luisa.

Luisa: Yes.  Aryeh found Gematriya quite fascinating.

Lew: Well, I’d better go back.  See you at lunchtime?

Luisa: I’m sure you will.  (Lew rises, begins to walk off.) You look quite handsome today, Lew.

Lew: Well – well that’s a helluva thing to say. (He waits, but she says nothing more, so he exits.  Jeanie runs back in, dressed for work.  Max has migrated back to the bed and is reading The Road.)

Jeanie: Gotta go.  Hate to be late the first day.  We’ll talk when I get home, alright?

Max: Absolutely.  (Jeanie leans down to peck him on the lips.)

Jeanie: Love you, Levi.

Max: Love you, Lucky.  (They smile at each other, then Jeanie grabs her purse from the chair and rushes out.  Max yawns and puts the book down.  Rolling over, he falls back asleep.)

 

2.

(Lights up on train station.  Jeanie comes hurrying in from offstage, afraid she was going to miss the train, and relaxes slightly when she sees the empty platform.  She uneasily approaches Luisa, who is attaching tassels to a scarf.)

Jeanie: The train hasn’t come yet, has it?

Luisa: No, it should be here any minute.  And there’ll be another one along after that, if you’re worried.

Jeanie: No, I – I’m here now, so it shouldn’t be – (Jeanie trails off, taking in Luisa’s apparently homeless appearance.)  Are you – are you taking the train to work?

Luisa: Goodness, no.

Jeanie: Oh.  (The small station suddenly seems unbearably close.)  What are you – (She stops.  After a moment, she digs in her purse and pulls out a quarter.  She moves to give it to Luisa.)

Luisa: Oh, no thank you dear, that’s very sweet of you.

Jeanie: I – I’m sorry, I –

Luisa: The train’s coming.

Jeanie (stepping towards the door): I – uh – it was nice to uh – (She takes another step towards the door, then stops, and abruptly returns to the bench.)

Luisa: You’ve missed your train.  Another will be along in an hour, but I suppose you’ll be late by then.

Jeanie: Do you mind if I sit down?

Luisa: Not at all.  (Jeanie sits next to Luisa and watches her knit.)  It’s alright that you’re staring.

Jeanie: W-what?  I’m sorry.

Luisa: Lots of people stare, but pretend to be doing other things. You give me all of your attention.  I appreciate that.  (They sit for a moment.)

Jeanie: I hate hospitals. I didn’t use to.  When I was applying to nursing school, they were okay.  But now they just – they give me the creeps.  I don’t like all the – death.  Death and Lysol.  You know?

Luisa: I’ve never been inside a hospital.  But that does sound dreadful.

Jeanie: You’ve never – Well, you haven’t missed out.  They’ll probably fire me for being late anyway.  Just the thought of going inside makes me want to – I don’t know – throw a fit.  I haven’t thrown a fit in so long.

Luisa: Everyone needs to once in a while.

Jeanie: I’m Jeanie.

Luisa: Luisa.

Jeanie: If you don’t mind my asking, what are you doing here?

Luisa: Waiting.

Jeanie: For someone?

Luisa: For a train.

Jeanie: Oh.

Luisa: He’ll be on the train.

Jeanie: Oh.

Luisa: Aryeh.

Jeanie: Oh.

Luisa: He’s my husband.

Jeanie: I see.  Um – Aryeh?

Luisa: Yes.

Jeanie: When is he – due in?

Luisa: Oh, I don’t know.  Soon, I think.  Sometimes I think I know, but I’m always wrong.  Lew agrees with me each time anyway.  It’s quite sweet.

Jeanie: So Aryeh hasn’t – called you, or –

Luisa: I know to wait here, so the time doesn’t matter much, does it?  He’ll be along soon enough.

Jeanie: Can I – can I get you anything, you know, to eat?

Luisa: Well, aren’t you a sweetheart?  No, dear, Lew fills me up nicely every morning.

Jeanie: Lew?

Luisa: The stationmaster.  Older man?  Wears an adorable little nametag?

Jeanie: Right.

Luisa: There.  (She finishes off the last tassel.)  Would you like it?  I was going to give it to Aryeh, but he isn’t here, so I would give it to Lew, but he isn’t here either.

Jeanie: No, no, I wouldn’t want to – take it from either of them.

Luisa: They aren’t here.  You are.  Go on.

Jeanie: Um – thanks.  (She takes the scarf and puts it around her shoulders.  Luisa resumes staring placidly out at the tracks.  Lights down.)

 

3.

(Luisa knits. Mike sits in one of the two chairs at the kitchen table and talks on a cordless house phone.)

Max: That’s absolutely fine, would you – (The person on the other end hangs up.  Max peers into a large binder in front of him and crosses off a name.  He reads the next number, dials it into his phone, and waits.)  Hello!  How are you today?…This is Max Schwartz from Schenley and Hines’ Automotive Company.  I was wondering if you might – No, that’s absolutely alright…Of course…I’ll certainly take your name off the list.  It’s a very beautiful name, by the way.  And may I say you have a very lovely voice…Yes, you do!  It sounds sad, though.  Has it been a hard day for you?…I’m not trying to sell you anything – anymore at least…Haha…Yes.  But really – no, I have time.  If you want to – Absolutely.  Go ahead.  (Max listens sympathetically for a few moments, ad-libbing responses.  He shows no sign of impatience – this is what he likes best.  Eventually,) Well, Miss Campbell – may I call you Carmelle?  Carmelle, let me tell you, that sounds like quite a doozy of a week you’ve had.  But you know what?  Nobody can tell you if you’re a good person, it’s something you know, deep down, inside.  And if you know it, that’s what matters.  And it sounds as though you know it.  So it doesn’t matter what your father thinks…Good…I’m so glad I could…Max… Well, that’s very sweet of you Carmelle.  You have a wonderful day too.  Good-bye.  (Max clicks off the phone, crosses another name off the list, dials again.)  Hello!  How are you today?  This is Max Schwartz from – (The other person hangs up.  Humming a song he creates on the spot, Max crosses the name off the list and begins again.)

 

4.

(Late evening, train station, bench center stage again.)

Jeanie (rising): It’s late, I should – thank you for today.  It was really nice to – I –

Luisa: And you, dear.  Safe travels.  (Jeanie leaves, crossing past Lew.  A train pulls in.  Luisa looks up momentarily, then returns to knitting.  Lew sits next to Luisa with a foil-wrapped sandwich.)

Lew (holding out the sandwich): You’ve got time.  The next one isn’t due in till 7:30.

Luisa (taking it): Of course.

Lew: Right, sorry, you – (He bites into his sandwich.  Luisa chews at hers delicately.  With food in his mouth,) You know, if you wanted a place to stay – warmer –

Luisa: That’s very kind of you, Lew.  As always.  But you know I have to –

Lew: Right.  Just in case.  Right.

Luisa: Trains are tricky, Lew.  You never know when one’s going to sneak up on you.  Better to be ready for them at all times.

Lew: Yup.  Oh, you got – (Luisa has a bit of mayonnaise on her lip.  Lew takes a napkin and wipes it off for her.  As subtly as he can, Lew pockets the napkin.)

Luisa: I think it’ll be tonight, Lew.  I can feel it.

Lew: If you feel it.  You’ve got a sixth sense for this sort of thing.  (They eat their sandwiches together in silence.)

 

5.

(Max and Jeanie’s house, evening.  Jeanie is changing into her pajamas; Max is already in bed.)

Jeanie: I don’t know, I’m sure the first day went fine.  Pretty much the same job as the last one, you know.  I don’t really feel like talking about it.

Max: Your voice sounds sad, Lucky.

Jeanie: Please don’t pull that on me.

Max: Just an observation.  (Jeanie finishes putting on her pajamas and comes to the bed.  She lies down, head in Max’s lap.  Max starts stroking her hair.)

Max: So you ready to tell me what happened this morning?

Jeanie: I – I don’t know.  It was just a dream.

Max: And you are just beautiful.  (He kisses her.)

Jeanie: I was pregnant.  In the dream.  And I – you were there.  We were in the house, but it was understood that it was the hospital, you know?  And we were getting all excited because the baby was going to be born and we’d been waiting for the baby for so long – because in the dream, I’d been pregnant for four years, I don’t know why.  And then she started to kick and I was giving birth and – I don’t really remember the giving birth bit.  I think I just skipped that.  But then the baby was gone and you wouldn’t let me see her, you kept telling me that I hadn’t actually been pregnant, that there wasn’t any baby.  And there was this lump over in the corner, covered in this black cloth, just this sad little lump – (Jeanie breaks off.)

Max: That sounds awful, Lucky.  I’m so sorry you had to dream that.

Jeanie: It didn’t feel like a dream.  I know what dreams are like.  You wake up and they fade away and life goes back to normal.  This wasn’t like that.  It felt like – it felt like the truth.  Our future.

Max: You’re psychic now?

Jeanie: Don’t laugh at me!  You know I’m not like this!  I can’t explain why, and I know I sound like an idiot, but it was the truth.  And it hurt – so much – I can’t – I can’t talk about this right now.  (Jeanie moves over to the chair and sits down.)

Max: No – no, Jeanie, come back to bed.  Come on.

Jeanie: The bed was in the dream.

Max: Where are you going to sleep?

Jeanie: Right here.

Max: Okay.  (Max pulls the blanket off the bed and drags it over to Jeanie.  He wraps it around her shoulders and curls up at her feet.)  Good night, then.  (He kisses her feet and closes his eyes.  Jeanie’s sour mood breaks and she climbs down off the chair, wraps herself around him on the floor.  Lights out to their kissing and giggling.)

 

6.

(Lunchtime at the train station.  Jeanie is half-asleep against the back of the bench.  Lew, appearing with his paper bag of sandwiches, is startled to see another person on his bench.)

Lew: Um – I – Excuse me, miss?  (Jeanie jerks awake.)

Jeanie: I – oh – God – how long have I been asleep?

Luisa: The 11:30 to Metamora passed by a few minutes ago.

Jeanie: Jesus.

Lew: Have you missed your train?

Jeanie: Yes – I guess – it’s not – I didn’t mean to fall asleep.

Luisa: We all need to once in a while.

Jeanie: Did you want to – to sit?  (She moves over.  Lew fits uncomfortably into the small space between Luisa and Jeanie.)

Lew: Thank you.  That’s – that’s nice of you.

Jeanie: Lew!

Lew (startled): Yes?

Jeanie: I’m sorry – I – Luisa’s mentioned you – I – I feel like I know you.  I’m Jeanie.

Lew: Nice to meet you.

Jeanie: Why do you spell your name –

Lew: It’s short for Llewellyn.  But I don’t –

Jeanie: Were your parents Welsh?

Lew: No.  My mother was an alcoholic.

Jeanie: Oh.  (Silence.  Lew hands Luisa her sandwich.)

Luisa (to Jeanie): You must be hungry.  You’ve been here all day.

Jeanie: I’m alright.

Luisa: That’s very polite.  Here.  (Luisa hands Jeanie half of her sandwich.)

Jeanie: Oh.  Thank you.

Lew: Later today, I’m sure.

Luisa: No.  I don’t think so.  Today doesn’t feel right.

Jeanie: Why don’t you take a break?  Go for a walk?

Luisa: I couldn’t.  Just because it doesn’t feel right doesn’t mean it isn’t right.

Jeanie: Right.

Lew: If you wanted to go for a walk, I could – I could watch for a while.

Luisa: Don’t be silly, you have a job to do.

Lew: Right.  I should – I should get back – (He starts to get up and accidentally knocks the sock onto the ground.)  I’m sorry – I’m sorry – (He hands it to Luisa.)

Luisa: No harm done.

Lew: See you later, Luisa.  (He exits.)

Jeanie: He’s sweet.

Luisa: Yes he is.  Takes good care of me.  I suppose I’ll make him a hat one of these days.  I imagine his head must get quite cold without any hair on it. (Luisa smiles blithely and finishes her sandwich.)

 

7.

(Max and Jeanie’s house, kitchen.  Max and Jeanie eat dinner in a contented silence.)

Max: I spoke to my mom today.

Jeanie: Wanda called?

Max: No, I called her.  By accident, actually.  Her number was on my list.

Jeanie: That’s funny.  What’d she say?

Max: She told me she expected our daughter’s middle name to be Rose, after her mother.  I told her I’d have to discuss it with you first.  (Jeanie stops eating.)

Jeanie: There’s no reason to talk about that now.

Max: Why not?  You never know what tomorrow might bring.  Probably another phone call from my mom.

Jeanie: We really don’t need to talk about it.

Max: What’s wrong?

Jeanie: Nothing’s wrong, I just – I don’t want to talk about kids.  Not while I’m eating.

Max: Is the idea that unappetizing?

Jeanie: Max.

Max: Sorry.  I’ll stop.  (Pause.)  I – I just – Mom made me think about it some more.  And I think it’d be really nice to have some little tykes running around, you know, being cute.  Wrecking things.  (Jeanie puts her fork down and rises.)

Jeanie: Why do you always say you won’t talk about things and then bring them up again?

Max: I’m sorry.  I’m done.

Jeanie: No, you’re not.  I can see it in your eyes, you want to keep talking about this.

Max: Of course I do.  I’m ready to be a father.

Jeanie: Well, I’m not ready to be a mother.

Max: Okay.

Jeanie: Okay.  (Max and Jeanie stare at each other for a moment.)  Jesus, Max.

Max: What?

Jeanie: Stop – making me out to be the bad one.  For not wanting kids.

Max: I’m not.

Jeanie: It’s in your eyes.  I’m a heartless bitch.

Max: I’m absolutely positive my eyes aren’t saying that.

Jeanie: Your mother is.

Max: My mom –

Jeanie: I’m not ready and I don’t want to talk about it until I am.  Okay?  (Jeanie stomps off

Max: Okay.  (Lights down.)

 

8.

(Train station.  Luisa works on a sock.  Jeanie enters and immediately sits down next to her.  She wears the scarf; it clashes horrendously with her work-wear.)

Luisa: Early again.  The scarf looks nice on you.

Jeanie: Thanks.  Who’s the sock for?

Luisa: Aryeh.  Or Lew.  Or you.  Whoever’s around when I finish it.  Hopefully they’ll also be around for the second one.  Otherwise the two socks might never see each other again.

Jeanie: What was he like?  Aryeh?

Luisa (putting down the sock): Jeanie, may I tell you something?  His smile has its own song.  I mean it.  I can hear it when he walks through the door, even if I’m on the other side of the house.  Sometimes when we go out in public, other people will give us looks – because singing isn’t really acceptable in public places – but he’ll just keep on smiling until they smile right back.

Jeanie: What’s the song?

Luisa: Oh, it depends on his mood.  Usually it’s Israeli – in words I can’t understand.  Hatikvah, I think one is called. “The Hope.”  And another is Hinei Matov Umanayim – it means – (She thinks hard for a moment) – “How good it is to sit together at a table of brotherhood.”  And sometimes he’ll just make up a new song and dedicate it to me, like all the others.  (The train comes and leaves.  Jeanie makes no move to get on it.)

Jeanie: Do you have any children?

Luisa: Goodness, I don’t know.

Jeanie: You don’t –

Luisa: I think I did at one time or another.  But when I try to remember, they suddenly turn into rosebushes.  Oh well, children or rosebushes, I had one of the two at some point.

Jeanie: Did you want – what do you think of children?

Luisa: They are not trains.  You cannot trust them to arrive anywhere on time.  (Pause, considering.)  But sometimes I believe that’s exactly what we need.  A surprise or two.  Laughter that’s always a tad bit too high-pitched.  Quiet is lovely and lonely and noise is ruthless and loving.

Jeanie: I’m afraid I won’t like noise.

Luisa: Noise is simply the absence of quiet. Absences are many things, but they are not frightening.

 

9.

(Max and Jeanie’s house.  Max reads at the kitchen table.  The phone rings.  Max doesn’t seem to know what to do, but at last he picks up.)

Max: H-hello?…Yes…Oh, hi Carmelle…No, I’m just – usually the calls go the other direction… So were you thinking of taking that survey?…Oh.  Sure, I can –  no, no, that’s fine…Yes, I have time.  (He hears the door offstage.)  Actually, wait.  No, I’m sorry, my wife just got home.  We’ll have to rain-check…Alright.  Tomorrow.  Good night.  (He hangs up just as Jeanie enters.  He rises and kisses her the moment she walks in.)

Jeanie: Wow.  What was that for?

Max: I just love you.

Jeanie: I love you too.

Max: You seem happier today.  Work was better?

Jeanie: I am happier today.

Max: Glad to hear it.

Jeanie: Who were you talking to?

Max: Client.  Nice woman.  Carmelle.

Jeanie: What sort of name is Carmelle?

Max: French?

Jeanie: Stripper.

Max: Maybe.  (They laugh.)  I like to see you in a good mood, Lucky.

Jeanie: You’re crazy.  (Max moves in to kiss her again.  When his intention becomes clear though, she starts to pull away.)  Levi, don’t.  I have to get dinner on the table.  Levi.  Max!  (Max backs off.)

Max: Sorry.

Jeanie: I know what you’re doing.

Max: Isn’t it obvious?

Jeanie: You’re trying to seduce me.

Max: Absolutely.

Jeanie: You’re trying to get me pregnant.

Max (laughing): What?

Jeanie: You know if I get pregnant I’ll go through with it.

Max: That’s ridiculous, Jeanie.

Jeanie: You were talking to your mother when I walked in and she gave you this idea.  “Carmelle.”

Max: I wouldn’t lie to you, you know that – Jeanie –

Jeanie: I don’t like to be tricked.

Max: I wasn’t –

Jeanie: Don’t trick me.

Max: I wasn’t trying to trick you.

Jeanie: Just – just let me make dinner, okay?  Go in the other room so I can make dinner.  (Max exits.  Jeanie sits at the table.  She picks up the phone and hits “redial”.)  Wanda, I’ve told you that this is between – oh.  I – I’m sorry.  Wrong number.  Goodbye.  (She drops the phone, horrified, then collapses at the table.)

 

10.

(Train station.  Jeanie and Luisa sit next to each other.  Jeanie brought a container of Dunkin’ Donuts’ hot chocolate, which the two share.)

Jeanie: My parents used to buy me grape juice when I got good grades.  They didn’t keep juice in the house otherwise.  They said they didn’t believe in it.  How can you not believe in juice?

Luisa: If you try hard enough, you can not believe in anything.

Jeanie: I think I’m going crazy.

Luisa: Always better to think than to be absolutely certain.

Jeanie: Max is really – he’s far to good to me.  I’m terrible to him.

Luisa: I can’t imagine you being terrible to anyone.

Jeanie: Oh, it’s possible.  Thanks.  You love – Aryeh a lot, don’t you?

Luisa: Goodness, yes.  More than myself, if I’m going to be honest.  I don’t recommend it – loving someone that much – it gives you quite a stomachache.  But it’s not exactly something I had a choice about.

Jeanie: Is the name Aryeh…

Luisa: Hebrew.  Means Lion.  Though he’s much more of a tabby.  We met on his college term abroad.  The very first thing I noticed was his right hand – it was missing two fingers.  And I thought to myself, Someone who is missing two fingers will never be able to love me with his whole person, so I should not fall in love with him.  I have never been very good at taking my own advice.  (Luisa puts down her hot chocolate.)

Jeanie: More?

Luisa: No, thank you, dear.  It will make me have to urinate and I can’t do that until the trains are finished running for the night.

Jeanie: If you wanted to go, I could watch for you.

Luisa: Now, isn’t that a sweet offer?  Just as sweet as Lew.  No, you probably wouldn’t recognize Aryeh, and then where would I be?  He would go right on his merry way without me.  No, I can wait.  (A train arrives, leaves.)

Jeanie: I think my husband is only trying to have sex with me so he can have a kid.

Luisa: Why, that’s all sex is good for.  Making love – making love is what husbands and wives should do.  Tell him to stop trying to have sex and make love to you instead.  Do you know, I used to do puzzles with my eyes closed?  I did.  I grew so tired of doing them normally, that I shut my eyes and felt the pieces together.  Of course, they were no machine-cut wonders, they were simple geometric shapes my father had carved for me with a pocket knife, trunks and limbs born of cardboard.  But how they tickled my fingers!  Oh, they sparked a notion in my nerves that I’ve never once felt since.  When you can’t see them, you see, your mind rides along the rough lines, kisses the angles – it sounds sensuous, doesn’t it?  It was.  The first many times I made love, it was with my eyes closed and only with my fingers.

 

11.

(The phone rings in Max’s kitchen.)

Max: Hello?…Hey.  How are you?…You know it’s my job to call you…I’m not complaining…It’s been a weird – never mind.  I’d rather just – I have a question, actually.  Do you think you’d like to have kids?…Wow…Well, six seems like a handful.  What about three?  Two boys and a girl…Of course she’d be the youngest…what would you name them?…Yeah?…Really?  (Ad lib as lights go down.)

 

12.

(Train station.  Luisa darns her sock.  Jeanie gets up and walks upstage.)

Jeanie: Lew?  Lew?  (Lew appears.)

Lew: Hey, Jeanie, what’s the matter?

Jeanie: Nothing.  I – what happened to Aryeh?  When is he coming?

Lew: Oh.  Well.  That’s a – that’s a real – hefty – question you’re asking.  I don’t know if I should –

Jeanie: What do you mean?

Lew: You seem like a decent sort.  But – if I tell you, don’t you let it put any ideas in your head about Luisa, you hear?  Because she’s as good a lady as they come.

Jeanie: Of course.

Lew: I mean it.  And don’t you go bringing it up with her either.

Jeanie: I understand.

Lew: Alright.  Look, I’ve been working here for twelve years, and when I started working, there was this older, foreign-looking guy who’d come every day to go to work.  Handsome type.  Friendly – always had a good word to throw my way.  Then one day, two years in – look, Luisa’s husband had demons, you know?  Left over from fighting in the Israeli army.  Some pretty mean things go on there.  And one day, the 6:54 was just pulling into the station, and he jumped.  Right in front of everyone.

Jeanie: God.

Lew: Like I said, don’t let this go putting thoughts in your head.

Jeanie: I –

Lew: I can see it starting, and you’d better stop it right now.  Luisa knows he’s coming back, she knows it.  And honest to God, some days she’s so sure, I believe it myself.

(A train comes and leaves.  Lights down.)

 

13.

(Lights up on Jeanie and Max’s bedroom.  Jeanie dresses for work, humming.  Max sits in bed, watching her.  Luisa sits with Lew, sharing a warm drink.)

Max (as Jeanie pulls on her cardigan): You look nice today, Jeanie.

Jeanie: Thanks.

Max: Any reason you’re getting ready so early?

Jeanie: Yeah, I was gonna grab breakfast on the way.

Max: We have stuff to eat at the house.

Jeanie: I know.

Max: How’re you getting on at the hospital?  I haven’t heard you talk about it in a while.

Jeanie: It’s fine.

Max: You like your coworkers?

Jeanie: Sure.

Max: You ever think about having any of them over for dinner some night?  Like you used to?

Jeanie: I don’t think I really know them well enough for that yet.

Max: Right.

Jeanie: Got to go, Levi.  See you tonight.  (She kisses Max and walks out.)

 

14.

(Train station, Luisa and Jeanie together on the bench, Luisa knitting the beginnings of a hat.  Off to the side, Max sits at the kitchen table, eating breakfast.)

Jeanie: What about my name?  What would that equal?

Luisa: Let me see.  It’s been a long time since Aryeh taught me.  Alright.  Jeanie: Gimmel, Yud, Nun, Yud, I think it would be.  So three, ten, fifty, ten.  Seventy-three.  That’s a good number.  It has the same value as the Hebrew word for “wisdom” and “to trust”.  That’s a wonderful value to have.

Jeanie: What about yours?  What’s yours?

Luisa: Now, now, don’t get too excited, dear.  The beauty of Gematria is how many meanings you can find – even in things that have no meaning.  That’s what Aryeh told me, that the ancient Jewish scholars were obsessed with meaning.  Before you know it, you’ll find meaning in any old thing.  Like this hat.

Jeanie: I wouldn’t mind finding meaning in your hat.  If you find it in the smaller things, you can stop worrying about the big ones.

Luisa: That, dear, is what they call “wishful thinking”.  (They lapse into silence.)

Jeanie: What’s Lew’s?

Luisa: There’s no equivalent for the “w” sound in Hebrew.  He would probably be “Lev”.  It means “heart”.  Don’t ask me about the numbers, though, I’m sure I can’t remember.

Jeanie: What about “Levi”?  Would that be something like “Lev”?

Luisa: It would mean “my heart”.  So many questions this morning.

Jeanie: I don’t have any answers.  I need to have something.

 

16.

(Max sits at the kitchen table, talking on the phone.  As he talks, Jeanie gets up and walks back home.)

Max: No, we should give them something like Lunchables and Yoo-Hoo so they can trade and make friends…Kids don’t care about nutrition at that age!…Fine, maybe we can compromise…You’re not going to cry when we say goodbye to them, are you?…Haha…Look, I know this is a little bit – I hope it’s not too forward, but – I can really imagine having kids with you…Yeah…Yeah, I’m serious…(He hears Jeanie coming.)  I’m sorry, I have to go, I’ll –  (Jeanie walks through the door and he hangs up.)

Jeanie: Hey.

Max: Hey.  How was work?

Jeanie: What?

Max: Work.  How was it.

Jeanie: Oh, fine I guess.

Max: You guess?  You don’t know?

Jeanie: Why are you snapping at me?

Max: I’m not snapping, I’m just wondering if you actually know how work was.

Jeanie: I said it was fine.  Don’t use that tone.  (Jeanie puts her coat on a chair and starts to walk into the other room.)

Max: Are you having an affair?  (Jeanie stops, turns around.)

Jeanie: Are you serious?

Max: Just answer me.  Please.  I’m tired of –

Jeanie: No, no, of course not.  I love you, Max.  Only you.

Max: The hospital called, a couple weeks ago.  They said you hadn’t been coming in, and that they would fire you if you didn’t.  Then they fired you.

Jeanie: Why didn’t you tell me?

Max: Why didn’t you go to work?

Jeanie: Why didn’t you tell me?

Max: Why did you lie to me?

Jeanie: I don’t know!  I don’t know what I was doing, Max.  I don’t – I don’t know what we’re doing.

Max: We’re fighting.

Jeanie: I don’t understand.

Max: What don’t you understand?

Jeanie: Anything.  (She begins to leave and Max grabs her back.)

Max: No, please don’t leave this time, Jeanie.  Just tell me what’s going on.

Jeanie: I’ve been – every day I’ve – the world stops in that train station, Max.  It’s not the real world anymore.  And time doesn’t pass and silly sorts of things like work and hospitals stop mattering and I can just – be.  For however long I want.  Once I started being, how could I stop?

Max: You’ve been spending the past three weeks – sitting in the train station?

Jeanie: There’s an old woman there – her name is Luisa – we sit together.  Sometimes we talk.  Sometimes we just sit.

Max: And you never thought to tell me?

Jeanie: I – I couldn’t figure out whether or not I was dreaming.  I was so sure I was dreaming.

Max: What about your job?

Jeanie: Fuck that job!  I don’t care about the fucking job!  I don’t care if they – they shut off our power, or throw us out on the street, I just don’t care!  I – in that station – there is time.  So much time.  And I sit and I think and every so often I stop and realize that I’m thinking and it’s been so very, very long since I’ve only thought and thought and not worried about conclusions or answers or talking or children or whether I’ll have anyone left to love me when I die, I just think!

Max: I want you to think.  But – ever since that – that dream – you’ve been – I don’t know – we’re on two separate ice floes these days, and I’m tired of watching you drift away over the horizon.  And here I’m reaching and reaching and you’re – I don’t know where you are.  But it’s not where I am.  It’s about as far as the other side of the world.  You could at least give me your phone number.

Jeanie: You have my phone number.

Max: Don’t –

Jeanie: I don’t know how –

Max: I love you, Jeanie!  I love you.  Okay?  I love you.

Jeanie: Max –

Max: I love you!

Jeanie: I’m trying to –

Max: I love you!  I love you, I love you, I love you!

Jeanie: What about –

Max: I love you! I!  Love!  You!  I.  Love.  You.  I love you.

Jeanie: I love you.

Max: I love you.

Jeanie: I love you.  I love you.  (They embrace against the table, knocking the phone onto the floor.)

 

17.

(Both sides of the stage dimly lit.  Jeanie and Max’s bedroom, the train station.  Luisa has just watched the last train pass.  Lew walks out to her.  As Lew and Luisa begin talking, Jeanie and Max climb into bed.)

Lew: Not today?

Luisa: Apparently not.

Lew: Tomorrow.

Luisa: Or the next day.  (She begins gathering up her knitting.  Jeanie and Max spoon.)

Lew: Where are you going to stay tonight?

Luisa: Oh, right here as usual, if that’s alright with you.  (Max begins kissing Jeanie.)

Lew: Of course, but did you want to maybe – tonight – you could come stay at my place.  It’s small, but –

Luisa: Lew.  You are such a sweetheart.  You know I have to stay here.  (Jeanie pushes Max off, but gently.  She shakes her head, or makes some other gesture of no.  Max puts his arms back around her and they settle in to sleep.)

Lew: Right.  Well, goodnight Luisa.  See you in the morning.

Luisa: Goodnight, Lew.  Have a safe trip home.  (Luisa reaches under the bench and pulls out several blankets.  Lew makes as if to leave, but goes into his office instead and watches Luisa, making sure she’s safe.  Lights dim.)

 

18.

(In the dim light, Jeanie slowly rises out of bed, pulls on a dress, and slips on shoes.  Grabbing her purse, she makes to head out, but pauses, seeing Max.  She watches him for a moment, but as she watches he wakes up.  He reaches out, takes her hand, and pulls her down into a kiss.  Then he gives her a gentle push, as if to say “go”.  She goes.  Lights fully down.)

 

19.

(Max sits at the kitchen table, on the phone.  Luisa and Jeanie sit on the other side, Luisa knitting a large sweater, Jeanie staring off into space.)

Max: Hello, Carmelle?  Yes, it’s me…I’m alright.  I – I can’t have children with you.  Please don’t be angry – I –… I know…I know…They would have been.  But I love my wife and – and you deserve someone who will have as many kids as you want without ever worrying that there will be too many to watch and one might slip away and get eaten by a wild dog.  You do.  I mean it.  I’m afraid I won’t be calling again unless your name appears on my list, which – oh, right, I forgot, I put you on no-call.  Well.  I’m sorry it had to – but I know you’ll be happy, Carmelle.  I just know it.  And if you ever need anything – I’ll still be here to talk to.  If you’d like…Alright.  Goodbye.  (He hangs up, takes a moment, then looks at the next number on the list and dials it.  Lew picks up on the other end.)  Hello, how are you?  This is Max from Schenley and Hines Automotive Company, might I – might I ask you how your day has been going?

(Lights up on Lew’s chair.)

Lew: Well, I – it’s been – you know it’s been a long time since anybody’s asked me that and waited to hear the answer.  (Lights down.)

 

20.

(Train station.  Luisa continues to knit; Jeanie continues to stare into space.)

Jeanie: Did you have – have a name for him?  Like a – a pet name?

Luisa: No.  But he called me Lulu.  Isn’t that a lovely little nickname?  So musical.  He would smile and then call out my name, and it was an entire song and dance in a single moment.

Jeanie: On our first date, I got so nervous, I accidentally admitted to Max how much I hate my name.  Because it reminds me of a pair of jeans.  So he started calling me Lucky and I – I started calling him Levi.  Like the brand names.  So I would learn to love my name.  He was always sweet like that.  I should – I should tell him, I think.

Luisa: Aryeh always said, “Who is sated rejects honey, but to a hungry man all that is bitter tastes sweet.”

Jeanie: That’s lovely.  What’s it from?

Luisa: Proverbs.  One of the books of the Hebrew Bible.  He used to know hundreds of quotations from the Bible, one for every occasion.

Jeanie: You learned a lot from him, didn’t you?

Luisa: Goodness, yes.  Let me tell you, before I met Aryeh, I was quite lonely and quite cynical.  He taught me to find the beauty in the world.

Jeanie (without thinking): I’m so sorry for your loss, Luisa.

Luisa (putting down her knitting, slowly): I did not lose him.  A person cannot be lost, like one loses coats or buttons or one sock in the drier.  I did not put him in the dishwasher and open it an hour later, empty and clean.  I did not lose him to my hairbrush in the morning, one piece at a time.   I put up no posters, promised no rewards, though believe me, the idea did cross my mind.  His body is exactly where I left it, six feet and one inch under the earth at the cemetery on Diem and Main Street.  Bits and pieces of it, I suppose, have been carried away by worms, but they aren’t the important ones.  He was never the type to give those up so casually.  The part of him that really matters, you will never see on the back of a milk carton, because it is right here.  I am quite sure of this.  And don’t try to convince me otherwise; others have tried, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, and they all spoke so – have you ever seen a dog beside another, dying dog?  It waits, and it waits, and it knows the other dog will die shortly, and there is nothing it can do.  That is the way they spoke to me, oh so gently.  They are the ones who are lost, my dear.  (Luisa finishes her row, then puts the knitting down again.)  Perhaps, if you must use that vile expression, it is more like this: I put my life away on a shelf for quite some time, having lost interest in it.  And when I finally chose to put it back together, a piece was missing, a corner piece, of course, and for the life of me I’ll never know where it went or why, or if it was my fault, if I should have been more careful putting it in the cupboard, or if the bottom of the box rotted out all on its own.  Well, you can’t do much without a corner piece.  It doesn’t matter, my dear.  Puzzles lose pieces all the time, there’s no way for one woman to keep them all straight.  What I mean to say is, don’t worry about me.  I enjoy waiting, a pastime that I fear has much gone out of style in this new, mercurious age.  (She begins knitting again.  She and Jeanie wait.  Lights down.)

 

21.

(Max sits at the table, now reading The Time Traveler’s Wife.  Jeanie enters, in a rush.)

Max: You’re earlier than –

Jeanie: I’m frightened.

Max: Jeanie –

Jeanie: I’m frightened.  I’m so frightened, Max. The dream I had.  It scared me so much I can barely breathe when I think of it.  And I know, I know it’s silly, I know it was only a dream, but – it hurt so much.  And I can’t bear the thought that we could have so much joy and then so much pain.  I don’t want us to hurt so badly.  I don’t think I could stand it.

Max: Alright.  Alright.  (Jeanie sits on his lap and he wraps his arms around her.)  We’re going to be okay.  We’re going to be more than okay.

Jeanie: I want us to be happy.  I want us to have a family.  But I think – I think I need a little bit more time.  A little more time to think away the fear.  And when it’s all gone – and I know it will be – then I’ll be done thinking.  If you can wait.

Max: I can wait.  I might even be able to help, if you’d let me.  (Jeanie smiles.)

Jeanie: I want you to make love to me like I’m a puzzle.

Max: What?

Jeanie (shocked at herself): I – I don’t know – I can’t – never mind.

Max: No, no, go on.

Jeanie: It doesn’t –

Max: Lucky, it’s alright.  I’ll do it.  (They stare at each other for a moment.)  How – how do I do it?  (Jeanie tries to decide how serious he is.  Finally, she gives herself over to the idea.)

Jeanie: Close your eyes.  (Max does so.  Jeanie waits.)

Max (beginning to open his eyes): Lucky –

Jeanie (gently closing them again): Trust me.  (Now, Jeanie takes his hands and puts them to her face.  At first the touching is awkward, while Jeanie waits anxiously for magic to occur, and Max tries to figure out what she wants.  Slowly, however, the two allow the strangeness of the moment to carry them away.  Finally, she leans in and kisses Max.  Lights down.)

 

22.

Luisa: I thought you were –

Lew: I came.

Luisa: No, you –

Lew: I know.  But you were waiting for so long and I thought – I brought these for you.  (He hands her the bouquet.  She takes it slowly.)

Luisa: This – this is very sweet, Lew.

Lew: Look, Luisa.  You were waiting for a man on a train.  I am a man.  And I came for you.  On the train.  Because I thought –

Luisa: I think I’m supposed to give this to you.  (She holds up the sweater. Lew takes it and puts it on.)

Lew: Thank you.  That’s – that’s very nice.

Luisa: Lew –

Lew: Luisa, I know I’m the wrong man.  I’m not the one you’re waiting for.  But I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  So – there it is.

Luisa: But Lew – I have to stay here, don’t you see?  I plan to stay here – as long as it takes.  Even if it takes the rest of my life.

Lew: That’s alright.  I – I don’t mind.  I’d be happy to stay here.  With you.  Bring you breakfast or – or more knitting – or whatever you need.  Spend the night with you on the bench so no one can hurt you – I don’t care for how long.

Luisa: But Lew – darling – you know when Aryeh comes, I’ll want to be with him again.  I will be with him again.

Lew: I know.  (They watch each other for another minute.)

Luisa: That sounds nice.

Lew: What?

Luisa: I think I would like you to wait with me.

Lew: You would?

Luisa: I would.

Lew: For as long as it takes?

Luisa: Yes.

Lew: Alright.  (Lew sits down beside her on the bench.)  So he didn’t come today?

Luisa: No.

Lew: I’m sure he’ll come tomorrow.

Luisa: Or the next day.

(They smile; then Luisa returns her gaze outwards.  Lew musters his courage, then shifts himself closer to Luisa.  Inching his hand outward, Lew puts his hand over Luisa’s on the bench.  Luisa takes it and squeezes it.  Then she leans her head on Lew’s shoulder, and they both look out, watching for a train that will not come that night.  Lights down.)

 

 

Shira Hereld is a junior at The George Washington University studying Political Science and Theater. She loves creative writing, and is partial to the poetry of E.E. Cummings and Yehuda Amichai.

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