by Edward Crosby Wells
JOE Ė age forty.
CONRAD Ė age forty. Joeís lover. Doubles as TORMENTOR 2, JUNIOR.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST Ė a woman between thirty and forty. Doubles as TORMENTOR 3, THE MOTHER, THE MOTHER SUPERIOR.
THE LAWYER Ė a ďno nonsenseĒ man over the age of thirty and under the age of fifty. Doubles as TORMENTOR 1, THE POPE, PRISONER.
The time is the mid-1980s.
The day to day events of the play take place in Lea County, New Mexico, a few miles from the West Texas border.
The action of the play is in the abstract; the time-space of the mind Ė the landscape of dreams.
NOTE: The actual design of the set is dictated only by an emphasis on the word "surreal" in the sense of style, a suggestion for having the actors seem to appear and disappear, and by the necessity for a functional bridge Ė dream-like and surreal. This bridge must support the actors who walk upon it from time to time throughout the course of the play. Furthermore, whatever the design of the set pieces, we shall need places to sit and a place to take our stand.
Scene 1 - a bridge in Joeís dream.
Scene 2 - a visiting room in the city jail.
Scene 3 - the same.
Scene 4 - the same.
Scene 5 - the photography studio.
Scene 6 - a visiting room in the city jail.
Scene 7 - the photography studio.
Scene 8 - a visiting room in the city jail.
Scene 9 - the same.
Scene 10 - the same.
Scene 11 - the bridge.
Scene 12 - a visiting room in the city jail.
Scene 13 - the psychologistís office.
Scene 14 - a cell in the county jail.
Scene 15 - the bridge.
Scene 16 - the psychologistís office.
Scene 17 - outside the judgeís chambers.
Scene 18 - Joe and Conradís bedroom.
Scene 19 - the psychologistís office.
Scene 20 - Joe and Conradís bedroom.
Scene 21 - a courtroom.
Scene 22 - the bridge.
NOTE: The play is broken down into 22 scenes for technical reasons only. Unless noted, there should be no visible break in the action of the play.
AT RISE Ė the stage is in darkness. A single LIGHT begins to fade JOE into view before spreading as it intensifies along the railing on the bridge fading into view. The bridge, seemingly, goes nowhere. There are steps leading up to and down from the bridge.
JOE: (On the bridge. Speaking directly to the audience.) This is the dream . . . or nightmare. You decide. I am on a bridge. Suddenly, the sun goes down as quickly as if someone had switched the lights off. This sudden shift Ė this darkness Ė does not seem out of the ordinary to me. And, I somehow have the knowledge that there is a force with specific form that I cannot grasp visually. Yet, I know it exists. I know it has form and shape within its own dimensions . . . dimensions for which I have no sense to put them into perspective. This force Ė this inexplicable entity Ė has the power to eclipse the sun by sheer will, enfolding me in the shadow of its omnipresence. Is it God?
I am overwhelmed by the thought of such an entity, so I fly. I fly just above arms beginning to reach up for me, trying to pull me down. Slowly, I descend toward the ground beneath the bridge.
(The TORMENTORS Ė three hooded and cloaked figures Ė ominously sinister and ghost-like, appear and move hauntingly through the fog and shadows beneath the bridge. They hiss and, in rasping voices, call: ďJoseph, JosephĒ etc.)
They drag me underground . . . into the dark, damp regions of their underworld. I recognize the futility of any effort to resist. Soon, after resigning myself to my captors, I try to remember where I was before I fell into their clawing, grabbing, clutching hands. I am horrified. Horrified at the faceless faces of these demons. Horrified because I cannot remember any prior existence beyond suddenly finding myself on that bridge. Every attempt to remember causes unbearable pain . . . a savage anguish. I understand it only as a feeling; a sensation of being dissolved in the face of infinity when one has come too close to its realization Ė that last conscious moment of I am before melting into the enigma of the eternal world without end Ė overwhelmed by the incomprehensible magnitude of it. Have you ever felt that? I have.
(The TORMENTORS continue to whisper and hiss.)
The shock of that impending oblivion causes me to wake. Not from sleep, but, rather, into another time and once again on that very same bridge.
(The TORMENTORS point accusingly at JOE.)
I hear voices accusing me of . . . what? Whatever it is, I feel the weight of its guilt. I think about flying to safety and I wonder about the direction to take. But, I cannot move under the force of this guilt that restrains me from flight. And, too, I come to realize that my very ability to fly . . . the fact that I am able . . . is proof of my guilt.
(The TORMENTORS continue to whisper and hiss.)
Then, someone approaches. I canít make out his face. We struggle. There is one thought on my mind. Kill him! His death will be my absolution. Kill him! I push him from the bridge. I watch him fall, silently, to the ground below.
(The TORMENTORS watch the invisible body as it falls, pointing to it before surrounding it.)
I think there ought to be a thud. But, there is only silence. I wonder: What if he isnít dead? There must be no evidence of his ever having existed! I see a large rock on the bridge, I pick it up, raising it high above my head, and aim it at his face before hurling it with all the force that I can muster. Suddenly, he disappears. The rock strikes the empty ground and bounces, soundlessly, out of sight.
(The TORMENTORS disappear into the shadows.)
I fly away. Not very fast. Not very high. But, I fly just the same.
(JOE descends from the bridge and walks downstage.)
Then, I am awake . . . soaked with sweat . . . feelings mixed with sorrow, guilt and remorse Ė a painful and complete sense of being utterly alone in all of time and space. And I wonder: Can absolution be won through the trials of men in their search for Truth? And I wonder: Was there ever innocence? Or is there, indeed, an original crime for which Man can never be absolved? Is there no redemption?
Thatís it. Thatís the dream . . . or the nightmare. You be the judge.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: (A thoughtful, pleasant, professional woman who appears as if from nowhere while finishing an entry in her notebook.) I am not here to judge, Joe.
JOE: Well, Iím certainly not in any position.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Of course you are. You know, thereís been a substantial change.
JOE: Has there?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Donít you see it, Joe?
JOE: Itís always the same. Nothingís changed.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: What about the man on the bridge?
JOE: What about him?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Any idea who he is . . . whom he represents?
JOE: I told you, I couldnít see his face.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: No. But, in the past, it was always you who fell from the bridge. (Reading from notebook.) ďI am on a bridge. Someone turns the lights out. Someone approaches. He grabs me. We struggle. I fall from the bridge. I wake.Ē (Thumbs through notebook.) The following session: (Reads.) ďI am on a bridge.Ē (Looking through notes.) Here it is. (Reads.) ďI fall. I see the bridge as I fall. I think I am about to hit the ground. I wonder why I cannot wake. I am on the ground. I look up and see someone on the bridge looking down at me. He disappears.Ē
JOE: Thatís right! Weíve changed places. What does that mean?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: I really canít say. What do you think it means?
JOE: I donít know. Itís a struggle with myself, maybe.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Maybe.
JOE: Why? Why would I want to hurt myself? Why should I want to destroy myself . . . so completely . . . so finally?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: I donít know. Why should you?
JOE: Well, I donít!
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Good. Joe, I want you to start writing down these dreams in more detail, along with how you feel about them at the time of the dream and then again upon reflection.
JOE: I canít.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Why is that?
JOE: Because they donít let me have a pen, paper . . . nothing in this place! I have to ask for my toothbrush every morning. They wonít let me keep it with me.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: I wasnít aware of that.
JOE: Yeah . . . well, I guess theyíre afraid Iím going to do myself in . . . disembowel myself with my multi-tufted Doctor Good-Dental!
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Iím certainly glad to see that youíre keeping your sense of humor.
JOE: And my sanity?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Was there ever any doubt?
JOE: I think . . . no, I feel . . . I feel that Iím going to lose it in here. Oh, God! Iím so afraid.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Youíre doing very well, Joe. Iím proud of you.
JOE: Yeah . . . well . . . I wish I were.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Do you want to talk about it . . . what youíre feeling?
JOE: I hate the kid! I hate his mother! I hate the whole stinking idea of it!
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: What are your thoughts about the boy . . . his mother?
JOE: Iím sorry. Iím really not up to this.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: All right. We donít have to if you donít want to. But, sooner or later youíll have to deal with it, Joe.
JOE: I know.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Good. Any word about when youíre being transferred to the county jail?
JOE: If Conrad canít come up with the bond money . . . in two days, I think. (A pause to control his mounting panic.) Oh, God! Iím not going to make it, Doctor! Iím not going to make it!
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes, you are. Youíll be just fine.
JOE: No, I wonít.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Joe, youíve held together better than should be expected of anybody going through what youíve been going through.
JOE: Well, Iím not through it yet . . . not nearly.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: No. But this is no time to lose control. (Glances at her watch.) I have an appointment at the hospital. Will you be all right?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Good. Is there anything I can do?
JOE: Talk to Conrad. Tell him to come up with the money. Rob it, if he has to.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Seriously.
JOE: Seriously? Seriously . . . I donít know. I just donít know.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Iíll do what I can.
JOE: I know you will. Thank you. (THE PSYCHOLOGIST turns to leave.) Wait!
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes?
JOE: No. Nothing. Just . . . just know that I am innocent.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: I believe you, Joe. (She disappears.)
CONRAD: (Appearing suddenly.) I love you, Joe.
JOE: Then, how can you leave me here?
CONRAD: Iím doing everything I can.
JOE: Iím scared.
CONRAD: I know you are. Look, in a few days I think we can raise the money.
JOE: How? You tell me how weíre going to come up with enough money to cover a hundred thousand-dollar bond. Huh? Tell me, Connie, tell me!
CONRAD: I donít know yet. Weíre working on it.
JOE: Working on it. I may be dead in a few days!
CONRAD: Youíre being unreasonable.
JOE: Go to hell!
CONRAD: Joe, I canít talk to you when you get like this.
JOE: Theyíre going to kill me, Connie.
CONRAD: Who? Whoís going to kill you?
JOE: Youíll see. Youíll see that Iím right.
CONRAD: No. I wonít. Youíre just being paranoid, thatís all.
JOE: (Mimicking.) Youíre just being paranoid, thatís all. (After a pause.) You donít love me. You never loved me.
CONRAD: Stop talking nonsense.
JOE: Nonsense? Nonsense is it? Connie, theyíre shipping me off to the county jail in two days. You should hear what the guys in the cells on either side of me have to say about that place. Last month they found a guy hanging. Hung himself, they said. I mean, he had his hands tied behind his back, but he hung himself! The talk is theyíll cut my balls off when they find out what Iím in here for.
CONRAD: Nobodyís going to cut your balls off.
JOE: Itís not like here in the city jail. Up there itís different, Connie. They throw you in with all kinds of criminals. Do you know what they do to child molesters?
CONRAD: Youíre not a child molester, Joe.
JOE: I know that. You know that. But, do you think they give a shit? Christ! Wait until they find out Iím a faggot.
CONRAD: That has nothing to do with anything.
JOE: You know, Connie, youíre perfectly stupid sometimes.
CONRAD: (Obviously hurt.) Thanks. Thanks a lot, Joe. Iím sure you think I deserve your abuse. Iím sorry you feel that way. (Turns to leave.) Maybe when I come back youíll be in a better mood.
JOE: Donít bother. Just leave me alone. (After a pause.) Wait!
CONRAD: (Turning back Ė tired and drained.) What? What, Joe? What do you want from me?
JOE: Understanding. Patience. Love.
CONRAD: Youíve already got that, Joe. Did it ever occur to you that I might want the same?
JOE: You get it.
CONRAD: From you? Thatís a joke. When you want something maybe.
JOE: No, not just when I want something.
CONRAD: It sure seems that way.
JOE: Well, Iím sorry.
CONRAD: Yeah . . . me, too.
JOE: Iím scared, Connie. Iím scared.
CONRAD: I know you are. So am I.
JOE: But, youíre not the one in jail.
CONRAD: No. Iím not the one in jail. Iím the one left to pick up the pieces.
JOE: Oh, poor put-upon Conrad.
CONRAD: Look, Joe, Iím doing what I can . . . all I can. I canít do anymore.
JOE: You think Iím guilty.
CONRAD: No. I donít think youíre guilty. Joe, Iíll do what I can to get you out of here as soon as possible.
JOE: (After a pause.) I know you will . . . I love you, Connie.
CONRAD: And I love you . . . Joe, you need to take things one day at a time.
JOE: Oh, thanks for the platitude! (CONRAD disappears.) Donít you think I know that? I take things one minute at a time in here.
THE LAWYER: (Appears. Scribbles throughout scene on a yellow legal pad.) Take it step by step, Joe.
JOE: Iím trying. For Godís sake! Iím trying.
THE LAWYER: All right. Calm down and get hold of yourself. (Pause.) Are you okay?
THE LAWYER: Okay . . . Why did you have the kid naked?
JOE: I told you.
THE LAWYER: A twelve year old boy, Joe. Naked?
JOE: I didnít want to get any oil on his posing-briefs.
THE LAWYER: Come on, Joe. Do you expect a jury to buy that?
JOE: Yes. Of course. Itís true.
THE LAWYER: Okay, answer me this: Had it been a twelve year old girl would you have had her naked?
JOE: No. Of course not.
THE LAWYER: Why not?
JOE: Obviously . . . because . . . because it wouldnít be right. I mean, a grown man and a twelve-year-old girl . . . Good God! What do you take me for?
THE LAWYER: But, a boy makes it all right?
JOE: In hindsight, I guess not. But, at the time . . . yes . . . I thought it did.
THE LAWYER: Even though youíre homosexual?
JOE: What should that have to do with it?
THE LAWYER: Come on, Joe. Who do you think youíre kidding? It has everything to do with it.
JOE: Look, I told you there was nothing sexual about it! I didnít think, thatís all.
THE LAWYER: Well, youíd better start thinking now, Joe, because the Assistant D.A., I can assure you, already is.
JOE: Believe me, Iím not turned-on by little boys. Thatís not my thing. I was thinking about what I had to do to get the job done. I was thinking about poses . . . about lighting . . . about props. But, I wasnít thinking about anything sexual with that kid! I mean, we were both males and I didnít see anything wrong with it. If the kid got horny and thought there was something more to it than there was, then it was in his head . . . not mine.
THE LAWYER: That may well be. The jury may see it otherwise.
JOE: Donít you believe me?
THE LAWYER: Thatís beside the point.
JOE: That is the point. If you donít believe me, how can a jury? How can you defend me?
THE LAWYER: Joe, try and understand what Iím going to tell you. You and Conrad came out here five years ago from New York. Right?
JOE: Yes. Right. So what?
THE LAWYER: This is another world, Joe. Youíve never really understood that. You came to town and got yourself involved with the little theatre, the arts council and . . .
JOE: (Interrupts.) Whatís wrong with that? I thought I had something to offer.
THE LAWYER: Let me finish. You did have something to offer. You and Conrad have contributed greatly. I know that . . . and some of our friends know that. But, this is Lea County, New Mexico, Joe. Most of the people here look askance on outsiders who blow into town and try to change things overnight.
JOE: Is that how you see it?
THE LAWYER: It doesnít matter how I see it. Iím telling you how things are. My God! Three of your photographs were removed last year from an exhibition at the public library by the City Manager.
JOE: There was nothing wrong with them. Youíve seen them. Theyíre hanging in my studio. Iím a first-rate photographer. Itís not my fault if some stupid, narrow-minded people thought they were ďtoo suggestive.Ē
THE LAWYER: No, I suppose it isnít. But, that is exactly what Iím trying to make you understand. Your fault or not, it doesnít matter. Are you listening?
JOE: Iím listening.
THE LAWYER: That jury will be made up of oil field workers, ranchers, farmers, and their wives. Can you identify with them? Can you understand where theyíre coming from?
JOE: I wasnít hatched, you know.
THE LAWYER: Damn it, Joe! Iím trying to tell you what youíre up against.
JOE: So, if Iím to listen to you, Iím already convicted, arenít I?
THE LAWYER: Youíre not listening to anybody! I didnít say that. I just want you to understand what it is we are up against here . . . what it is we have to deal with.
JOE: Yeah . . . well, I get the picture. These good, church-going, family-oriented, fundamentalist hypocrites are going to bury my ass.
THE LAWYER: (Losing his patience.) Stop playing the fool. If we have to go to trial, you can be sure the Assistant D.A. is going to play up to that jury like the good olí boy he is. Heís nobodyís fool. Now, tell me: Why did you have the kid naked?
JOE: Look. I made a mistake. A stupid, regrettable mistake. I usually wait in the reception area while my client is changing. But, he was late. I had an appointment across town in less than an hour and I hadnít set the lights or the backdrop. So, I told him to go ahead and change while I set up. The next thing I know he was standing there naked and I said, ďLetís put the oil on now so we donít stain your posing-briefs anymore than we have to.Ē Thatís it! It was stupid and Iím sorry. But, Iím telling you that there was nothing sexual whatsoever about it!
THE LAWYER: Then, you applied baby oil to his body. Correct?
JOE: Yes. I told you that already.
THE LAWYER: Tell me again.
JOE: Look. I had to cover him with baby oil. Thatís what his mother wanted. She came to the studio. She said that she wanted . . .
THE LAWYER: (Stopping him.) When? When did she come to the studio?
JOE: A couple days before the shoot.
THE LAWYER: Go on.
JOE: She came to the studio. She said that she was entering her son in a photogenic contest and wanted me to take the pictures. She said she wanted . . .
THE MOTHER: (THE PSYCHOLOGIST appears as THE MOTHER. She is wearing running clothes and a sweatband around her forehead. She is quick to speak, slow to listen, uncommonly affected in a rather common way.) . . . Something different! Oh, nothing common at all! I canít tell you how much I loved your show at the library last year. Was it last year? Yes. Iím sure it was. Wasnít it? Imagine! Your best work removed by you-know-who. Junior! Junior! Stop picking your nose and come over here so Joseph can get a good look at you. (THE LAWYER assumes the role of JUNIOR and reluctantly moves toward THE MOTHER with his finger lodged in his nose.) Isnít he handsome? Just like his father. But, heís got my chin . . . poor thing. Junior, if you donít take your finger out of your nose we wonít be able to see that handsome face of yours and then what will Joseph think of us? Huh? Huh? Do you suppose you could give it a break and act your age or do you want Mother to show the nice man what we do to young men who donít behave themselves? Huh? Huh? This nice man doesnít have time to waste. Heís an artist. Artists donít like bad manners. Tell him, Joseph.
JOE: Well . . . I . . . I . . .
THE MOTHER: You hear that, Junior? This nice manís time is valuable and he wonít have you wasting it. So, put your frigging finger where it belongs! You must excuse us, Joseph, but you really have no idea what itís like being a mother.
JOE: No . . . I . . . I . . .
THE MOTHER: See, Junior? Youíve upset him. One must never upset an artist. Believe you me I know the artistís temperament. Iíve dabbled a bit myself. Iím not altogether uncreative, you know. Iím a mother, arenít I? So, donít upset him. Heíll make you look ugly and then where will we be? Huh? Huh? Iíll be out all that money and youíll never win anything. Unless, we enter you in an ugly little piggy contest. (She snorts. JUNIOR removes his finger from his nose, wipes it on the side of his trousers, scratches his crotch.) Just like his father! Now, stand up straight, Junior, so the nice man can get a good look at you. (Reluctantly, JUNIOR stands straight.) There! Just look at that, Joseph. An hour every day at the gym. Show him your muscles, Junior. Donít be bashful. God knows we paid for them!
JOE: Thatís really not necessary, Mrs. . . .
THE MOTHER: But it is! Weíre going to make him look like a real little muscle-builder in our pictures. Arenít we, Junior? (JUNIOR shrugs.) Now, show the nice man your muscles. Now, Junior. (JUNIOR makes a muscle.) Oh, look! Look at Motherís little man. Heís a . . . a . . . Whatís the word? Hunk? Thatís it. Donít you think heís a real hunk, Joseph? Huh? Huh? I mean, for his age. You can put your arm down now, Junior. (JUNIOR drops his arm to his side, but not without first picking at the seat of his trousers.) Just like his father!
JOE: How old is your son, Mrs. . . ?
THE MOTHER: Tell Joseph how old you are, Junior.
JUNIOR: I . . . I . . . Iím . . .
THE MOTHER: Twelve. Twelve years old and never been kissed. (She cackles and snorts.) He better not have or Iíll give him what for! Wonít I? Huh? Huh? Wonít I? (She pinches JUNIORís cheeks and then gives him several, loud, pecking kisses.) Thatís my sweet little hunkypoo. Heís been taking karate lessons for over a year . . . just in case his father pulls something funny . . . if you know what I mean. A real killer! (She cackles and snorts.) Wonít that be fun!? So, tell me, Joseph . . . how do you get that shiny, sweaty effect like on the man in the photograph you-know-who removed from the library?
JOE: I use baby oil and then I spray it with a mist of water.
THE MOTHER: Oh . . . so, thatís how they do it. I always wondered about that. Isnít that interesting? I swear, never a day goes by without learning something new. Well, thatís what we want. Isnít it, Junior? I bought these for when you take the pictures. (She holds up a scant posing-brief made of a silver metallic fabric.) Sexy, huh? And donít tell me these didnít cost me an arm and a leg! The nerve of some people nowadays. And they call themselves businessmen. Funny business, if you know what I mean. Huh? Huh? (She cackles and snorts.)
JOE: Well . . . I . . . I donít know what to say.
THE MOTHER: Of course you donít. Who does? I mean, really? Huh? Huh? Iím sure I donít. So, tell me, Joe . . . may I call you Joe?
JOE: Yes. Certainly.
THE MOTHER: Well, tell me, Joey . . . (She cackles and snorts.) Thatís a joke. I ask if I can call you Joe and you say ďyesĒ and then I go right ahead and call you Joey. Thatís called schtick, isnít it? Yes. You could use that over at the little theatre. Be my guest. Itís yours. Free of charge. So, tell me, what kind of money are we talking about here? Whatís this going to set us back? Huh? Huh?
JOE: Conrad will give you all that information. Just stop by the reception desk on your way out and Conrad will have a form for you to fill out and . . .
THE MOTHER: (Cutting him off.) A form? What kind of form?
JOE: Itís just a little questionnaire. Conrad will explain it to you. Heíll also give you a list of our prices and set you up with an appointment.
THE MOTHER: Good. Good. Come along, Junior. Junior, now. (JUNIOR has resumed picking his nose.) One of these days that finger is going to swell up, turn green and rot off, young man! (Moving toward exit.) Remember Aunt Opalís toe? Huh? Huh? (About to exit.) Just like his father! (JUNIOR and THE MOTHER exit.)
JOE: (A sigh of relief. Directly to audience.) Jesus . . . I never saw anything like it. She had him show me his muscles. Told me about his working-out at the gym . . . his karate lessons. Oh, and the posing-briefs! From Frederickís of Hollywood, no doubt. Look. My business is photography. I do a lot of work with models and pageants and stuff like that. She wanted him posed in briefs and shining like in muscle-building photographs she had seen. I had the gist of what she wanted and knew how to do it. She was crazy, of course. I knew that. It didnít take that proverbial rocket scientist to figure that out. But, after working with all those pageant mothers, I was used to crazy women. Youíve got to be in this business. Itís all vanity and vanityís a bit crazy, you know. But . . . I didnít do anything sexual with that kid! I was just doing my job.
THE LAWYER: You said that you had her fill out a questionnaire?
JOE: Yes. I have all my clients fill out a questionnaire at least a day before theyíre to come in. That way Iíve got a pretty good idea about how Iím going to approach the shoot.
THE LAWYER: And on this questionnaire . . . did she write down what kind of photographs she wanted for her son?
JOE: Yes. In great detail. Thatís what the questionnaire is all about. It helps me determine how the client sees him or herself and how he or she wants to be seen. It really works. You see, this is a fantasy business, too.
THE LAWYER: Fantasy?
JOE: Capturing an image of yourself in a photo that has nothing to do with who you really are or how you could possible look at any given moment in day to day reality: Fantasy.
THE LAWYER: Do you keep these questionnaires on file?
JOE: Yes. At the studio. Conrad will get it for you. In fact, at the time, Connie and I had quite a laugh over it. She used words to describe how she wanted Junior to look . . . words like ďhunkĒ and ďhe-manĒ and . . .
CONRAD: (Appears Ė laughing and reading questionnaire.) Macho. Do you believe this woman? Straight out of hunger!
JOE: (Crosses to CONRAD.) You should have to listen to her . . . non-stop.
CONRAD: I did. I heard enough.
JOE: (Reading.) ďIf one word could describe the general spirit of your finished photograph, what would that word be?Ē
BOTH: ďStud!Ē (THEY laugh.)
JOE: That is one sick lady. The kidís only twelve. Can you imagine what kind of mess heíll be by the time heís twenty?
CONRAD: (Affecting a thick West Texas drawl.) Speaking of messes. Mrs. Emma Lou Shipp and little Heather Jo are in the waiting room a-waitiní the pleasure of your presence. So donít come a-rushiní on my account, she says, but Iím a-fixiní to take little Heather Jo to ballet class, and I hope he wonít keep us a-waitiní too long, neither.
JOE: Oh, God!
CONRAD: Oh, yes! (Resumes normal voice.) So, how do you feel about re-shooting little Heather Joís ballet pictures?
CONRAD: No. Shipp.
JOE: So, whatís wrong with the little shitís pictures?
CONRAD: Well, the big shit says that the tulle on the little shitís tutu is just too, too limp.
JOE: Thatís not my problem.
CONRAD: Of course it is. You want her to place an order, donít you?
JOE: I wish I knew exactly what in hell people expected of me.
CONRAD: Magic, honey. Magic.
JOE: Tell her Iíll be out in a minute . . . And, when did you set up our little studís appointment?
CONRAD: You mean Junior the nose picker? Thursday at three.
JOE: Damn it, Connie! You know I have a cultural council meeting at four on Thursdays.
CONRAD: Itís money, honey. Youíll just have to rush, rush, rush and click, click, click your little fingers to the bone.
JOE: Iím not happy about this.
CONRAD: Iím sorry. But donít you think a few extra bucks is more important than being a little late to your cultural affairs meeting?
JOE: Thatís not the point.
CONRAD: That is the point. You like the bills paid and you like to eat, donít you? Whatís the cultural affairs council paying nowadays?
JOE: Itís good for business.
JOE: Well, call them Thursday morning and tell them not to be late.
CONRAD: Yes, master. (He bows.)
JOE: Fuck you.
CONRAD: Oh, thank you, master. Thank you. What ever did I do to deserve you? (Bowing while moving backwards toward the exit.)
JOE: Cute! Really cute! Just too fucking cute!
CONRAD: (At exit.) Heíll be out in a minute, Mrs. . . . Shipp. (Exits.)
THE LAWYER: Do you get many requests for photographs of that nature?
JOE: From older would-be models, yes. But, certainly not from a mother for her twelve-year-old kid. That was a first.
THE LAWYER: Didnít you think it a bit odd?
JOE: Of course I thought it odd . . . and more than a bit. I also thought she was crazy.
THE LAWYER: She was on the police force. So was her husband.
JOE: (Stunned.) What?
THE LAWYER: They left the force last year to go into business with her father.
JOE: A cop?
THE LAWYER: You didnít know?
JOE: A cop? No. How would I know a thing like that? I mean, she was a space cadet . . . but, a cop?
THE LAWYER: Joe, this is going to be a tough nut to crack. I donít know of a lawyer in this county whoíd even consider handling this case.
JOE: But . . . you are going to be handling it . . . arenít you?
THE LAWYER: Yes. But, it wonít be easy . . . for you . . . or for me. Thereíll be some rough road ahead, Joe. You canít fall apart on me. Understand?
JOE: (Frightened.) I understand.
THE LAWYER: Good. Now . . . our best hope is that we can keep your sexual preference out of this. We need to get a handle on what the D.A.ís office has come up with.
JOE: Iím not a screaming faggot, you know.
THE LAWYER: No. However, you havenít been the most discreet fellow, either.
JOE: I havenít been a liar if that is what you mean. Iím gay and Iím not ashamed of it. Iíve done nothing wrong. Iím proud of who and what I am.
THE LAWYER: Damn it, Joe! Put that pride of yours on the back burner!
JOE: (After a pause.) Iím scared.
THE LAWYER: You have every reason to be. No jury in Lea County is going to assimilate that kind of information and still give you a fair hearing.
JOE: Canít we get a change of venue?
THE LAWYER: Itís too expensive and the county canít afford it. Besides, when it comes to this sort of thing, youíre not going to find an impartial jury anywhere these days.
JOE: Then, I donít want to go to trial.
THE LAWYER: Weíll cross that bridge when we get to it. First we have to see about getting you out of jail. Weíre meeting with the judge next week to try and get your bail reduced.
JOE: Oh, God! The county jail.
THE LAWYER: Just hang on a little while longer.
JOE: (Directly to audience.) One hundred thousand dollars. How in hell could we ever come up with that?
THE LAWYER: We only need to come up with ten.
JOE: It might as well be the moon.
THE LAWYER: Weíll get it reduced.
JOE: (Still, directly to audience.) Conrad says business dropped off to zilch. Heís getting threatening phone calls at the studio . . . and at home.
THE LAWYER: Just hang on. (Moving toward exit.)
JOE: When youíre homosexual youíre already guilty. It doesnít matter of what . . . your guilty. Iíve had more Bibles thumped at me than I care to count. I mean, if youíre queer, youíre guilty.
THE LAWYER: Just hang on. (He exits.)
JOE: (Alone onstage Ė continues directly to audience.) Guilty. Just plain guilty. (Sighs.) You know, I never tried to hide the fact that I was gay. Well . . . there was a time when I did. I was younger and it was a matter of survival. At least, that is the way I experienced it. And, no doubt, I didnít fool anyone except myself. (Pause.) Shortly after coming out I met a black man with a Mississippi drawl who swore he was Black Irish. What in hell is Black Irish? He also swore he was ďstraight,Ē but he had had Ė if you know what I mean Ė everybody I knew, including myself.
All over his apartment on the upper westside of Manhattan were these lovely, delicate doilies. They were everywhere . . . as fine as spidersí webs. And even though I had caught him at work, spinning those lovely webs, heíd quickly bury the thread and crochet hook beneath him and swear with unabashed dignity, ďNo, no, no. A man donít fool around with what god didnít intend a man to fool around with. But have a look at my latest treasure. Like gossamer. Heh, Joe? Mother sent them from home . . . from Dublin.Ē (After a pause.) Dublin. Sometimes it was Dublin. Other times County Cork or County Derry . . . or County something else. From one week to the next he could never remember where in Ireland he had told you he was from. This towering, three-hundred pound hulk of a man with a Mississippi drawl, with the sensitivity of an angel, died of a stroke on the menís room floor of The Great Northern Hotel Ė where he had been an attendant for more than forty years Ė and he died a liar. (Pause.) What causes a man to lie? Tell me.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: (Appears.) Suppose you tell me.
JOE: I donít know. I donít know anything anymore.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Fear?
JOE: Yes. Fear of not being accepted. Fear of being different. Fear of someone actually discovering who it is you really are.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: And who is that?
On the bridge, a hooded figure appears in a ghastly, ghostly light. No longer THE LAWYER, the hooded figure sings.
TORMENTOR 1: (Sings.) COME TO ME MY MELANCHOLY BABY
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: (After a pause.) What are you thinking?
TORMENTOR 1: (Sings.) CUDDLE UP AND DONíT BE BLUE
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: You seem to be drifting.
TORMENTOR 1: ALL YOUR FEARS ARE FOOLISH FANCIES
MAYBE YOU KNOW DEAR THAT IíM IN LOVE WITH YOU
TORMENTOR 1: EVERY CLOUD MUST HAVE A SILVER LINING
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Joe? Joe, are you all right?
TORMENTOR 1: WAIT UNTIL THE SUN SHINES THROUGH (The LIGHTING FADES on the TORMENTOR and he disappears.)
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Joe? Where are you?
JOE: (No longer distracted.) Here. Right here.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Where did you go?
JOE: I was thinking about my father.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: What about him?
JOE: For a second he just got caught in my mind.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Tell me about him.
JOE: If you donít mind, Iíd rather talk about something else.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: All right. Letís talk about you.
JOE: Sometimes I feel Iíve been a liar all my life.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Arenít you being a little too harsh on yourself?
JOE: Iím never sure if what Iím saying is really what I mean, or if Iím just repeating something Iíve heard before. Iím not always in the moment, you know?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Who of us is?
JOE: When I was in my early twenties . . . just coming out Ė I was always gay, but I didnít have a word for it and I was beginning to discover that I wasnít the only one in the whole world who was Ė well, there were no examples. Just stereotypes. I mean, I left the farm for the navy and the navy for New York City. I fell in with a crowd who used to cruise Forty-second Street . . . teased hair, plucked eyebrows, make-up . . . the whole bit. Well, I didnít know any better. I thought if youíre gay thatís the way you were . . . thatís the way you live . . . behave, I mean. You just kind of fall into it. You lose yourself, you know?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: But you grew out of it. You learned better.
JOE: Sure . . . with the help of Conrad.
CONRAD: (Appears on the bridge.) You want the moon, Joe? Itís yours. Iíll wrap it up in cellophane and give it to you.
JOE: What color cellophane?
CONRAD: What color do you want?
JOE: Gold. I want the moon wrapped in gold.
CONRAD: Itís yours.
CONRAD: Move in with me, Joe.
JOE: You want me? Really?
CONRAD: Because I like me better when Iím around you.
JOE: You make me feel special, too. Comfortable.
CONRAD: (A hearty laugh.) Like an old chair.
The LIGHTING FADES on CONRAD and he disappears. JOE chuckles, fondly.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Whatís that?
JOE: I was remembering something Connie once said to me. He said he was like an old chair.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: How so?
JOE: Comfortable. Just comfortable to be with.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Youíve been together fifteen years. Is that correct?
JOE: Thatís right.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Correct me if Iím wrong . . . but isnít that considered a long time for a homosexual relationship?
JOE: A long time, yes . . . for any relationship.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: (After a thoughtful pause.) What do you want, Joe?
JOE: I want to be someone who can leave the world a better place than he found it. Is that too much to ask?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Not at all.
JOE: The man on the bridge in my dream is me, isnít he?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: A part of you, perhaps.
JOE: I donít seem to like myself. (Chuckles at himself, at the understatement.)
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: No. Not all the time, Joe.
JOE: Not much of the time, you mean.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Donít be so hard on yourself, Joe.
JOE: (After a pause.) Policemen tearing the place apart . . . looking for child pornography . . . paraphernalia to arouse little children . . . hidden video cameras . . . tore the place apart . . . tore my life apart! For what? One spray bottle used mostly for misting plants . . . and one bottle of baby oil in with the studio make-up. Evidence! (Pause.) Do they want me to say I did it? Do they want me to say I ran my hand down the crack of his little-boy ass? Is that what they want me to say? All right! I did it. I may have actually done it . . . How quick we are to judge. The queer did it.
CONRAD: (Suddenly appears.) Stop it! Stop it, Joe! You stop it right now! Youíre only going to make yourself sick!
JOE: We make the world sick, donít we? A good queerís a dead queer, right?
CONRAD: Stop it.
JOE: Why? I did it, didnít I? Guilty as charged. (After a pause.) One day . . . everything. The next . . . nothing.
CONRAD: Weíll get through this, Joe.
JOE: Will we? Will we really? Connie, do you know the law in the state of New Mexico? A teacher can spank their little rumps and thatís corporal punishment . . . legal discipline. But, just one little pat of approval on that rump and thatís criminal sexual contact with a minor. And if you happen to be gay . . . God help you.
CONRAD: You didnít do anything wrong, Joe.
JOE: Didnít I? The fact is I may have actually done it. No, not in a sexual way. But rather, a careless . . . reckless . . . disregarding . . . mind-elsewhere way.
CONRAD: Thatís different. It wasnít intentional.
JOE: Weíre not judging intent here! Weíre judging facts. Weíre judging actions. And it is actions that count . . . not intentions.
CONRAD: In a philosophical debate you might have a case to argue there. But, weíre not playing head games now. In the eyes of the law, intent is a very real consideration. It was not your intention to have sexual contact with that kid.
JOE: So, whoís going to give a shit? Iím queer! Whoís going to give a shit whether it was the premeditated act of a degenerate or the careless slip of the hand because my mind was elsewhere? (Pause.) Iím going to plead no contest. I donít see that I have a choice. Do you have any idea what a trial would cost us? And Iím not only talking about money, either.
CONRAD: Well, you have a choice. But if thatís the one you want to make . . .
JOE: Look. Iíd never win a trial in this county. Donít you know that?
CONRAD: No. I donít know any such thing. And neither do you. We can deal with this. Weíve gotten through rough times before and weíll get through this.
JOE: You think so, do you?
CONRAD: Yes, I do . . . Will you please stop feeling so sorry for yourself. Christ!
JOE: Fuck you.
CONRAD: Fuck you, too. Youíre not the only person affected by all this. Think of someone other than yourself for a change. You use being gay as an excuse . . . itís an excuse for your shortcomings. Who could possibly feel sorry for you? You already hold the monopoly on that.
CONRAD: So what?
JOE: You think they wonít drag you into court along with me? (Pretending to be the prosecuting attorney.) Oh? Forty? Ah, single . . . never been married? You live with Joe? Well, what exactly is your relationship with the defendant? Titter, titter. Business partner. Oh, partners who live together. And good friends . . . very good friends. Titter, titter. And roommates . . . for how long? Fifteen years. Now, isnít that quaint? (A beat.) No trial!
CONRAD: If thatís your choice.
JOE: Donít say it like an accusation of guilt! Win or lose . . . we lose.
CONRAD: I think you ought to think about it some more. (After a pause.) Did you eat anything today?
CONRAD: Youíve got to start eating, Joe.
JOE: I canít. I want to die.
CONRAD: No you donít. You want to feel sorry for yourself. This isnít easy for me, either.
JOE: I know. (After a pause.) Are you all right?
CONRAD: Iíve been better.
JOE: Me, too.
CONRAD: Iím sure. (After a pause.) Youíll be all right. Weíll get the bail reduced and then weíll have you out of here in no time. It will all work out . . . youíll see.
JOE tries to reach out and touch CONRAD, but there is an imaginary glass wall that separates them. And then, CONRAD disappears.
JOE: I want to touch you . . . hold you. Hold me. I need you to hold me . . . someone to hold me. Oh, God!
The stage is in darkness except for a single LIGHT upstage center that slowly intensifies along with the haunting recorded MUSIC of a Gregorian chant rising in volume. The bridge, slowly, fades into view. Regally posed, and an imposing presence (no longer THE LAWYER), stands THE POPE on top of the bridge, dressed in regal splendor. A moment to be properly awed Ė and then, the Gregorian chant fades into silence. JOE falls to his knees beneath the bridge.
THE POPE: (With outstretched arms Ė a magnificent gesture Ė he sings.)
COME TO ME MY MELANCHOLY BABY
CUDDLE UP AND DONíT BE BLUE . . .
(JOE applauds. THE POPE now speaks, booming with pontifical fervor.) Ex post facto. Gloria in excelsis. In extenso. In perpetuum. In toto. Meum et tuum. De profundis. De facto. Ad infinitum. (JOE rises to speak.) Not now, boy! I havenít finished. (JOE kneels.) Quid pro quo. Pro et con. Pro tanto. Pro tempore. Now, boy. Now. Now Iím finished!
JOE: (As a twelve year old Ė through remainder of scene.) Can you help me?
THE POPE: I am the fire-breathing, flying whatchamacallit! Of course I can help you.
JOE: I lost my . . . my . . . I donít know. I donít know what it was I lost until I find it.
THE POPE: Sounds a bit cryptic for my taste. It might make sense to a complete idiot.
JOE: Guess what?
THE POPE: What?
JOE: I can fly.
THE POPE: The devil you say.
JOE: I can. I can. I really can fly!
THE POPE: Donít you ever let me hear you say that again, young man. You hear me?
JOE: Yes, sir.
THE POPE: Flying is against the Holy rolling Church. Against the begats . . . the begotten and the begone. Against the beguine. Against the Great Inert Thingamajig, Himself. (Takes out a cigar and lights it.) Weíll make a man of you yet. Did you kill any niggers today, boy?
JOE: No, Daddy.
THE POPE: Faggots?
JOE: No, Daddy.
THE POPE: No niggers or faggots? What kind of kid are you? If I told you once I told you twice, a nigger a day keeps the doctor away and a faggot a day keeps the nurse at bay.
JOE: An apple. An apple a day.
THE POPE: Correct me once more and Iím going to split your skull with a two-dollar whore!
No longer THE PSYCHOLOGIST, THE MOTHER SUPERIOR Ė dressed in the black and white habit of her order Ė rushes onstage and coddles JOE.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: You will do no such thing, Big Papa!
THE POPE: Speaking of two-dollar whores. The kid said he could fly.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: Of course he can fly!
THE POPE: You hadnít ought to be putting ideas into his head.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: Heíll fly to the moon one day. Heíll be the moon away and you wonít be able to touch him. (To JOE.) Now, donít you let that mean old bogeyman frighten you. I am the Earth and I will protect you.
JOE: Thank you, Mommy.
THE POPE: But, I am the sun and the stars and all that jazz, boy. Iím hot, boy. Hotter than hell. Hotter than lightning and twice as fast. OUCH! A scorcher! Hot as Easter!
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: You will do no such thing! Not on Earth, you wonít. From ashes to ashes he is mineómine.
THE POPE: No! I will cause floods and famine and little razor-toothed creepy-crawling things. I will cause mind-boggling enigmas to grow and fester with putrefied pus and corruption. Every time you blow your nose you lose your brains! Ha, ha, ha! I will cause inter-galactic thermonuclear fireworks! And then where will you be?
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: Better off.
THE POPE: You never loved me.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: How can you say that? I cook for you, clean and sew for you . . . do your laundry.
THE POPE: Big deal.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: Go to hell!
JOE: Mommy . . . Mommy . . . please . . .
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: (Slaps JOE to the floor.) Shut up! You stupid know-nothing! Just shut up before your father gives you a beating you wonít soon forget. Iím only doing this to protect you from your father. So, thank me, you stupid thing! I never wanted you in the first place. (Points an accusing finger at THE POPE.) He made me have youóyou useless thing. I prayed for a miscarriage.
THE POPE: Thatís right. Turn the kid against me. (Puffing on cigar. Comes down from the bridge.) Youíre the one who put the coat hanger up the old kazoo. Blood all over creation, but the kid came plopping out anyway. Well, let me tell you something, lady. You stink! (Slaps her, punches her, beats her to the floor.) Stink, stink, stink, stink, stink . . . (Each ďstinkĒ is punctuated with a blow to her body.) Stink, stink, stink, stink!
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: (Hysterical.) Help! Help! Heís killing me! Joey! Joey! Help me! Your fatherís trying to kill me! Help! Help! Joey! Joey! Arenít you going to help your mother? For Godís sake, what kind of a kid are you?
JOE rises, clutching a long, shining butcherís knife high above his head and crosses, with cautious apprehension, towards the two fist-flying bodies entangled on the floor.
JOE: You leave my mother alone! You hear me? I said leave my mother alone, please, Daddy. Please. I donít want to kill you.
There is a terrible SILENCE while THE POPE slowly rises, staring menacingly at JOE who is beginning to back away.
THE POPE: (Breaking the silence.) Whatís that, Sonny Boy?
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: You leave my baby alone. (To JOE.) Kill him. Kill the sonofabitch if you have to. Itíll break my heart, God knows . . . but kill the fucker anyway!
THE POPE: Shut up, you silly old cow!
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: (To THE POPE while grabbing onto his legs.) I love you! I love you! I love you!
THE POPE: (Pulling himself free of her.) Iím going to teach that boy a lesson heíll never forget. You hear that, boy?
JOE: (With knife poised for attack.) Donít make me do it, Daddy. Please. Donít make me do it.
THE POPE: I love you, son . . . and the fishes and the loaves . . .and your mommyís thighs. Does Joe-Joe love his mommyís thighs? (Moving towards JOE who is backing away.)
JOE: Leave me alone.
THE POPE: Does Joe-Joe want to smell his mommyís thighs? How about your daddyís? Youíd like that, wouldnít you?
JOE: Donít come any closer!
THE POPE: (Cupping his crotch with his hand.) Want to taste something good, boy?
JOE: Leave me alone.
THE POPE: Iím all for you, boy. I love you.
JOE: And I love you.
THE POPE: And thatís why Iíve got to teach you a lesson youíll never, ever forget. Now, give your daddy the knife.
THE POPE: You donít want to go to the orphanage, do you?
JOE: (With fear and trembling. ) Na . . .na . . . no, Daddy.
THE POPE: Or the closet? Do I need to tie you up and put you in the closetóagain?
JOE: Pa . . . pa . . . pa . . . pa . . . please, Daddy. Na . . . na . . . not again.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: He pissed himself the last time you put him in there, Big Daddy. Arenít you going to punish him? Beat him with your belt? Slap the little fucker around a bit?
THE POPE: I get a hard-on when I do that, Big Mama. I get a great big hard-on.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR:(Rubbing her breasts.) I want to see the little bastard squirm. I love it when he squirms. Squirm, you stupid know-nothing!
JOE: I . . . I . . . Iím . . . sa . . . sa . . .sa . . . sorry.
THE POPE: Sorry what?
JOE: Sa . . . sa . . . sir, Daddy.
THE POPE: You wonít piss yourself again . . . will you, boy?
JOE: Na . . . na . . .na . . .
THE POPE: Answer me when I speak to you!
JOE: Ye . . . ye . . . yes, Daddy. Na . . . na . . . no, Daddy.
THE POPE: Which is it? Yes or no?
JOE: Ye . . . na . . . I . . . I . . . I . . . I donít na . . . na . . . know, Daddy.
THE POPE: Give me the knife. Donít let me have to take it from you, boy. You know whatíll happen if you make me have to take it from you, boy?
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: Go ahead, Joey. donít just stand there like a nincompoop. Tell your father what heís going to do to you if you donít give him that knife. Somebody could get hurt, Joey. Donít be afraid. We only want to help you. We love you, Joey.
JOE: I . . . I . . . I . . . da . . . donít want him to hu . . . hu . . . hurt me, Mommy.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: Oh, donít be such a silly goose. Heís your father. Heís not going to hurt you. Just tell your father what he wants to know.
JOE: He . . . he . . . heíll have my brains for breakfast.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: Thatís right, dearóand your what for lunch, Joey?
JOE: An . . . an . . . and my ass fa . . . fa . . . for lunch.
THE POPE: Thatís right, boy. Now, give me the knife.
JOE: (Stands his ground.) No! Just stay away. Stay away and you wonít get hurt.
THE POPE: You wouldnít hurt your old man, would you?
JOE: Ye . . . yes, I would. Sa . . . sa . . . so stay away or Iíll kill you. (Moving toward THE POPE who is backing away toward the bridge.) I swear, Iíll kill you if I have to.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: Donít swear, Son. I taught you better than that.
JOE: I will if I have to, Mommy.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: Well, if you have to you have to. Itís your choice. Donít mind me. Iím only your mother.
JOE: Heís a bad daddy. Didnít you say he was a bad daddy?
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: I might have. Nobodyís perfect, Joey. God knows Iíve tried. If youíre going to kill him, kill him. Do it and be done with it, for Godís sake.
THE POPE: (To THE MOTHER SUPERIOR.) This is your doing. You poisoned the little bastard against me. THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: The little bastard didnít need my help for that.. Every little thing that goes wrong you blame me for it. Be a man for once in your life.
THE POPE: Yeah? Yeah? How come every time you donít get your way you shove the kidís head in the oven along with your own and turn on the gas? Huh? Huh? If Iím not a man, what are you? Queen of the funny farm?
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: I am Mother Superior. Divine daughter of Our Lord King of Kings, Lord of Lords. Tape up the door and windows real good, son. Weíre on our way to Jesus!
JOE: Ma . . . Ma . . . Mommy, please. Youíre scaring me.
THE POPE: Kill her, boy! See what sheís doing to our lives? Take a good look at your mother, boy.
JOE: Na . . . na . . . no!
THE POPE: Look, boy! Look!
JOE: No. Sheís my mother.
THE POPE: All the more reason you should lookóand learn. The truth shall set you free.
THE POPE: You better take a good, hard look. Sheíll be dead soon.
JOE: Na . . . na . . . no!
THE POPE: Donít you remember, Joe? She does it on a warm Indian summer afternoonówith sleeping pills.
THE POPE: You go downstairs and you get the glass of water. Remember? (Ascending the bridge.) A classic case of denial, boy. She takes the sleeping pills and then she wraps her green plastic-beaded rosary around her wrists and then sheó
JOE: (Cutting him off.) They werenít plastic.
THE POPE: Whatís that, son?
JOE: The beads were green cut glass. They werenít plastic.
THE POPE: But, the crucifix was. Cheap plastic with a gold spray-painted Jesus clutched to her breasts. And then she was dead. Dead, dead, dead. The dead bride of Jesus. (Puffs on cigar.)
JOE: And Jesusóall the gold paint just peeled away.
THE POPE: (On top of the bridge.) Thatís right. It will happen in a few more days.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: I did it for you, Joey. (She takes from out of the folds of her garment a set of rosary beads and a large plastic crucifix.) I did it for you and I did it for your father. And I did it for the love of Jesus.
JOE: But, Jesus isnít gold anymore, Mommy.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: Well, what is?
THE POPE: Say goodbye to your mother, Son.
JOE: Donít do it, Mommy.
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: The razor didnít work. The exhaust from the car out in the garage didnít even kill the cockroaches. The kitchen stove doesnít work for beans. So, whatís a mother to do? Sleeping pillsóthatís the ticket.
JOE: Why, Mommy? Donít you love me?
THE MOTHER SUPERIOR: What kind of silly question is that? Itís because I love you. Forever and everóyouíll be mine. Youíll never forget me, I promise you that. (She lies on the floor on her back Ė arms enfolded.) Mine. (She is motionless Ė and then there is SILENCE.)
THE POPE: (After a pause.) What a bitch! (He snuffs out his cigar.) Say goodbye to your mother, son.
JOE: (Kneeling over her lifeless body.) Mommy, Jesus is peeling all away. He isnít gold anymore, Mommy. All the goldís just peeling away. Jesus is turning green and gray and ugly, Mommy. Canít we paint him again and make poor Jesus all pretty againómommy?
THE POPE: Wake up, boy! Jesus doesnít give a piss antís fart about you!
JOE: He does!
THE POPE: He doesnít and he doesnít because he canít.
JOE: But, he has to. Heís got the key.
THE POPE: Nope. (Holding up a silver key suspended from a silver chain.) Iíve got the key.
JOE: (Rises, crosses to bridge.) How did you get it?
THE POPE: Thatís a mystery, my son. God loves a mystery. He always did and He always will. Heís a slippery old goat, He is. Now, say goodbye to your mother, boy.
JOE: No. Iíve got to find what Iíve lost.
THE POPE: Iíve got the key. (He spins the key on the chain as an airplane propeller. ) No key, no flying.
JOE: Iíll kill you! (Brandishing knife.) Iíll kill you, you son of a bitch!
THE POPE: Thatís your answer for everything, isnít it? Kill, kill, kill. Donít they teach you kids anything else in school anymore? First you go and murder your mother and now you want to kill your old man. What is this world coming to? Youíll be the death of me yet, you . . . you . . . you juvenile delinquent!
JOE: I didnít murder my mother. You did. (Begins to climb bridge.) You killed my mother and now I want the key. (He has reached the top of the bridge with the knife firmly in his grip. ) I donít want to have to kill you, Daddy.
THE POPE: You want the key?
THE POPE: I loved her, son, and I love your mother. Thatís the key. (JOE begins to close in on THE POPE.) Do you know what love is, boy? No, I suppose you donít. Who does? Whatís the matter with children nowadays? You sweat and sweat to put a meal on the table. You give them the shirt off your back and whatís the thanks you get for it? Just a knife in the back . . . (JOE plunges the knife into THE POPEís back. THE POPE then slumps to the floor of the bridge, gasping for breath.) Wake up, boy. Wake up! Kidsówho can figure them?
THE POPEís arm stretches out beyond the bridge. The key dangles in the air from his lifeless fingertips. A moment of SILENCE before the key drops to the floor below. JOE rises, goes down from the bridge and crosses to the body of THE MOTHER SUPERIOR and kneels. He silently slumps into her body like a child. The stage LIGHTING falls into darkness.
The LIGHTING returns to the stage. JOE is alone and in the same position as he was at the end of Scene 11.
JOE: (Rises Ė directly to audience.) I donít know. I guess you could call my family dysfunctional. We were right there in the mainstream of American life . . . dysfunctional. (Pause.)
My mother just laid there . . . dead. No. Actually thatís not exactly true. She didnít die there. Eventually I did call someone. I telephoned my grandmother and she phoned for the ambulance that soon came to take my mother to the hospital to have her stomach pumped. Only, she never made it to the hospital. She died in the ambulance. (Pause.)
You see, after she ingested the sleeping pills, I crawled into bed and laid next to her listening to the sounds of her breathing. At some point I determined that she was asleep. Then, I went to sleep myself. It was late afternoon . . . and hours later before I awoke and, in a panic, called my grandmother to tell her what had happened. I just told her I found the empty pill bottles and the letter she had written. Oh yes, there was a letter. Only, the odd thing is, I donít remember her writing it. I think, as I look back on it now, that she must have awoken while I slept and wrote it then. Thatís the only explanation I have since I am certain it wasnít there when I crawled into bed beside her.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: (Appears.) This letter . . . what did it say?
JOE: The police took it. I never saw it. I spent years afterward going to the police station from time to time asking for that letter . . . my motherís last words. I came home on leave from the navy years later and went to the police station one last time to inquire about that letter. I was told it had been destroyed.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: And your father?
JOE: After my motherís suicide I went to live with my grandparents. And he just took off. Flew away. Who knows where? Two years ago I received word that he was dead. Lung cancer. Thatís it. Thatís all. Thatís show biz. And I donít want to talk about it anymore.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: All right. (After a pause.) Iíll be out of town for the next couple weeks, Joe. I wonít be seeing you at the county jail.
JOE: (Frightened by this sudden shift into the Here and Now.) Oh, God . . .
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Keep your wits about you, Joe. Youíll come through this just fine.
JOE: Oh, God . . .
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Be strong. Youíll be all right. (Joe seems miles away and continues to mumble, ďOh, God.Ē) It isnít fair. I know that. We were making such good progress until this unfortunate incident with the boy.
JOE: Oh, God . . .
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: It isnít fair . . . to either one of us. But, itíll be over one day, soon. Then we can get back to helping you become a whole person again. Again.
JOE: Oh, God . . .
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Nothing is as bad as it seems. (More to herself Ė heavenward.) Oh, shit! What am I saying?
JOE: Oh, God . . .
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: I care about you, Joe. I know that sometimes you donít think I do, but I do. I care very much. You must believe that, Joe. Do you hear me, Joe?
JOE: Our Father who art in heaven . . . hallowed be thy name . . .
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: You must stay in control, Joe. Do you hear me?
JOE: . . . Thy kingdom come . . . thy will be done on earth as it is . . . as it is . . . as it is . . .
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: I know it wonít be easy for you.
JOE: . . . In heaven. Forgive us our trespasses and give us our bread . . .
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: But, it wonít last forever. Can you hear me?
JOE: Lead us not into temptation and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them . . . Deliver us from evil . . . No! Thatís not it! I canít remember it!
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Joe, listen to me!
JOE: Deliver us . . . no . . . give us . . . give us our bread . . . give us our daily bread . . . I canít remember it!
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Iíve spoken with Conrad. He thinks he can come up with the bail money soon. So, you wonít be there for very long. Remember that. Joe, can you hear me?
JOE: . . . As we give those who give us bread . . . blessed is the fruit of thy womb . . . world without end . . . I canít remember!
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: A few more days, a week, two at most. Joe, will you be all right? Joe?
CONRAD: (Appears. Angrily.) Well? Will he? Will he be all right, Doctor?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: I donít know.
CONRAD: What do you mean you donít know? You just let them throw him into the sheriffĎs car and haul him off to the county jail?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: There was nothing I could do.
CONRAD: Youíre a doctor, for Christís sake!
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Iím a psychologist. I pleaded with the sheriffís deputy to send for a medical doctor so we could give Joe something to calm him down.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: And he advised me that Joe was having a normal reaction . . . considering the circumstances.
CONRAD: (Incredulous.) A man has lost touch with reality . . . doesnít know where he is or who he is . . . is blathering ďThe Lordís PrayerĒ like a goddamned lunatic, and you take advice from a know-nothing sheriffís deputy who says Joeís having a ďnormal reaction!Ē And you call yourself a doctor!
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Your getting hostile with me isnít going to help Joe. Weíve got to think of Joe now.
CONRAD: (Enraged. Almost in tears.) For fifteen years Iíve done nothing but think of Joe. All his life Joeís done nothing but think of Joe. Well, fuck Joe! Itís time we thought of somebody else for a change. What about me? I could go out that door . . . (Indicating exit.) . . . Right now . . . get in the car and go . . . turn my back on this whole mess and go!
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Where?
CONRAD: I donít know where! Just away! (He storms out.)
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: (Calling after him while crossing toward exit.) Conrad, are you going to be all right? Conrad . . . Conrad! (She exits, leaving JOE where heís been kneeling downstage.)
The shadows of prison bars stretch across a dimly lit stage. THE LAWYER, dressed in the garb of a PRISONER, enters and crosses to JOE.
PRISONER: Hey, bro! Waddaya in for?
JOE: I killed someone.
PRISONER: Nooo. Youíre shittiní me, right?
JOE: I killed someone.
PRISONER: Whoídya kill?
JOE: I donít know.
PRISONER: Ya donít know?
PRISONER: Ya mean ya just up Ďní killed a perfect stranger? Hoooo-leeee shit! Go on! They ainít gonna put no murderer in with the general population. Youíre shittiní me, man. Waddaya really in for?
JOE: I donít know. I canít remember.
PRISONER: Hey! I knows who you are. I knows you! I recognized you from the get-go! Youíre the one who diddles little boys!
PRISONER: Yeah. We all heard you was cominí. Been the talk of the town!
JOE: No! Thatís not me!
PRISONER: Oh, itís you all right. Ya even look like queer bait, sucker! Wait till the guys hear about this. Sheeeet! Your ass wonít be worth two cents, motherfucker. Hey, bitch! (Bellowing with laughter.) Iím gonna have your brains for breakfast and your ass for lunch!
The PRISONER raises his foot to kick JOE in the stomach. He swings his foot and just as he is about to connect there is a BLACK OUT. Curtain.
AT RISE Ė the three hooded-cloaked TORMENTORS move menacingly through the shadows and fog beneath the bridge.
TORMENTOR 1: Rocco was here.
TORMENTOR 2: Sonny was here.
TORMENTOR 3: Kilroy was here.
ALL: (In loud, rasping whispers.) Joseph . . . Joseph . . . Joseph . . .
TORMENTOR 1: (Searching the fog and shadows.) Come out. Come out, wherever you are.
TORMENTOR 2: (Ibid.) We know youíre here.
TORMENTOR 3: (Ibid.) Where are you?
TORMENTOR 1: Anything?
TORMENTOR 2: Nothing. You?
TORMENTOR 3: Nothing. Keep searching.
TORMENTOR 1: You donít suppose he flew?
TORMENTOR 2: Not a chance. Too dark. Keep searching.
TORMENTOR 3: Where are you, Joseph?
TORMENTOR 1: Come out. Come out, wherever you are.
TORMENTOR 2: Maybe he doesnít know.
TORMENTOR 3: He never did and he never will.
ALL: Poor Joseph.
TORMENTOR 1: Rocco was here.
TORMENTOR 2: Sonny was here.
TORMENTOR 3: Kilroy was here.
TORMENTOR 1: He doesnít know his way through the dark. TORMENTOR 2: There is no way.
TORMENTOR 3: No way but every way with nowhere to go but everywhere . . . through darkness. (A snake-like hissing.)
TORMENTOR 1: Weíll tie you in knots.
TORMENTOR 2: And twist you inside-outside-in.
TORMENTOR 3: Ancient knots.
TORMENTOR 1: Forget-me-nots. (A snake-like hissing.)
TORMENTOR 2: Knots upon knots with open-ended connections.
TORMENTOR 3: Thereís a tidy bundle for you.
TORMENTOR 1: Tightly bound.
ALL: We are the light. (Hissing.) We are the way.
TORMENTOR 2: Hear us. All who enter here cannot return.
TORMENTOR 3: Hear us. All who enter here can never return.
ALL: (Hissing.) Joseph . . . Joseph . . . Joseph . . .
TORMENTOR 1: Rocco was here.
TORMENTOR 2: Sonny was here.
TORMENTOR 3: Kilroy was here.
TORMENTOR 1: Without the light you are lost.
TORMENTOR 2: Forever lost.
TORMENTOR 3: Come out. Come out, wherever you are.
TORMENTOR 1: Weíve games to play.
TORMENTOR 2: Come play with us, Joseph.
TORMENTOR 3: Eternal games.
TORMENTOR 1: Immortal games.
TORMENTOR 2: Games you cannot lose.
TORMENTOR 3: Games you cannot win.
TORMENTOR 1: Games that never end.
ALL: (Hissing.) Joseph . . . Joseph . . . Joseph . . .
TORMENTOR 2: Joooooe . . . seeeeeph.
TORMENTOR 3: JOSEPH . . . JOSEPH!
TORMENTOR 1: Rocco was here.
TORMENTOR 2: Sonny was here.
TORMENTOR 3: Kilroy was here.
Slowly, the LIGHTING rises on the bridge where we see JOE slumped in the shadows. With uncertain steadiness, he slowly stands.
JOE: (From the bridge Ė directly to the audience.) In jail. In a place that serves and services the needs and the discards of its surrounding society. The essential aura of the place is primitive to medieval. The stale, musty odor seems to ooze like sap through the oppressive atmosphere. And the walls! The khaki-painted cement walls that cry out with the scribblings of those who have passed through on their way to God-knows-where . . .
TORMENTOR 1: Rocco was here.
TORMENTOR 2: Sonny was here.
TORMENTOR 3: Kilroy was here.
JOE: These walls . . . scabbed and encrusted with the soundless screams of incarcerated souls . . . peeling and chipping away in quiet, unending condemnation. In jail.
TORMENTOR 1: Jose Gonzales betrayed me!
TORMENTOR 2: My wife betrayed me!
TORMENTOR 3: My lawyer betrayed me!
TORMENTOR 1: Jose Gonzales is screwing my wife.
TORMENTOR 2: My wife is screwing everybody.
TORMENTOR 3: My lawyer is screwing me.
TORMENTOR 1: Chickie Valdez gives good head.
TORMENTOR 2: Sally D. gives good head.
TORMENTOR 3: Detective Brodsky gives good head.
TORMENTOR 1: Rocco loves Chickie.
TORMENTOR 2: Sonny loves Sally.
TORMENTOR 3: I never loved Lucy.
JOE: In jail . . . where the cockroaches come and go with certain and quick decisiveness on legs that take them nowhere. Nowhere but around the base of the open toilet that services nine men to a cage.
TORMENTOR 1: Rocco was here.
TORMENTOR 2: Sonny was here.
TORMENTOR 3: Kilroy was here.
JOE: In jail . . . somewhere between nowhere and midnight.
TORMENTOR 1: Life is hell.
TORMENTOR 2: Only the good die young.
TORMENTOR 3: Born to be bad.
TORMENTOR 1: Death to Jorge Martinez.
TORMENTOR 2: Jake Early is a stool pigeon.
TORMENTOR 3: Bubba is a motherfucker.
TORMENTOR 1: Mary, mother of Jesus, save me.
TORMENTOR 2: Jesus saves.
TORMENTOR 3: Jesus is my savior.
TORMENTOR 1: Love is a four-letter word.
TORMENTOR 2: Bad to the bone.
TORMENTOR 3: Bite the big one.
TORMENTOR 1: My mother made me a homosexual.
TORMENTOR 2: Could she make one for me?
TORMENTOR 3: Death to all queers!
JOE: In jail . . . where the fingers of ghosts, long gone, carved away countless hours upon these stinking walls begging to be remembered.
TORMENTOR 1: Remember me.
TORMENTOR 2: Remember me.
TORMENTOR 3: Remember me.
TORMENTOR 1: I was framed.
TORMENTOR 2: Here sits an innocent man.
TORMENTOR 3: And Iíd do it again!
TORMENTOR 1: Rocco was here. (Exits.)
TORMENTOR 2: Sonny was here. (Exits.)
TORMENTOR 3: Kilroy was here. (Exits.)
JOE: In jail. (Descends from the bridge.) In jail for three weeks, two days . . . and an eternity. The bail was reduced to twenty-five thousand and Conrad, bless his soul, finally came up with enough money to post bond . . . and not a minute too soon. How I dealt with my time in jail I cannot say. My memory of it is much the same as that of a dream that escapes your grasp upon waking and slips into that place where dreams tease your memory, but never show themselves again. Just pieces of dreams remain to dance through uncertain memories . . . The persistence of a memory of something certain and yet uncertain. The dilemma of the butterfly man.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: (Appears.) Butterfly man?
JOE: Yes. Iím sure youíve heard it. (Quotes.) ďLast night I dreamed I was a butterfly. Today I am not sure if I am a man who dreamed he was a butterfly or a butterfly who dreamed he was a man.Ē
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Ah, yes. I have heard it. Given a choice, would you be a butterfly or a man?
JOE: What kind of a dumb question is that?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Forgive me. Youíve never asked a dumb question?
JOE: Of course I have. All the time. (After a pause.) A man. A man who could do or be anything he damn well pleased.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: And you feel you canít?
JOE: Of course I do. I mean, I canít. You have a knack for confusing me, Doctor.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: I donít mean to. (Pause.) Youíve come through the ordeal of jail all right, havenít you?
JOE: I suppose.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: You suppose?
JOE: Iím here, arenít I? Iím alive and well enough to face whatever comes next.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: What was it like for you?
JOE: What? Jail? (THE PSYCHOLOGIST nods in the affirmative.) I told you. I donít remember. Really.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: You mean, you donít want to talk about it.
JOE: I mean, I donít remember. I have lost nearly all recollection of it. Honest. It was like a dream . . . a dream I canít remember. Call it denial. Call it what you will. I donít care. All I remember is that I stayed to myself most of the time . . . stayed in my bunk mostly. At night, when no one seemed to be awake, Iíd go to the toilet and then Iíd crawl back into my bunk. I pretended to sleep when I couldnít sleep and I slept when I could. (After a pause.) My back . . .
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: (After a pause.) Your back? What about your back?
JOE: I remember always thinking about my back. Even in my sleep, I remained aware of my back. It had a sense all its own. An awareness . . . always aware of where anyone was in relation to me. Always sensitive to the slightest movement of others. Always on guard. Even in my sleep . . . always on guard.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, as you said, youíre here. Youíre alive. Youíre well enough to face whatever comes next.
JOE: I said that?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Not more than a minute ago.
JOE: Huh. Imagine that.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: What does come next, Joe?
JOE: Thereís supposed to be a hearing in a few weeks. Some sort of pre-trial hearing. I donít know what it is, really. If the judge will just hear me out Ė let me explain to him exactly what happened Ė I donít see any reason why it should go to trial.
JOE: I mean, if heíd just listen to me heíd understand that there was nothing sexual about what I did. I donít want to go to trial.
THE LAWYER: (Appears.) All right. However, the state is requesting that you submit to certain tests.
JOE: What kind of tests?
THE LAWYER: Well . . . if there is to be any plea bargain, the D.A. is recommending you submit to ninety days of testing to determine whether or not you would be considered a candidate for further rehabilitation.
JOE: And if I refuse?
THE LAWYER: If you refuse and still plead no contest, then the judge can order the tests anyway.
JOE: I donít want to go to trial. Iím gay. Theyíll crucify me.
THE LAWYER: Iím only telling you how it is. These are hysterical times, Joe, when it comes to charges of this nature. Now, if you pass these tests and get a clean bill of health . . .
JOE: I will. What kind of tests?
THE LAWYER: Wired-sensors to the penis. Pictures of children. That sort of thing.
JOE: Youíve got to be kidding! Iím not going to get my dick wired-up to satisfy the prurient interests of the state!
THE LAWYER: Look at the alternative: You could be sentenced to a maximum of three years in the state penitentiary.
JOE: I donít believe this! You mean to tell me that without even being proven guilty, the judge wants to send me to the state mental hospital for ninety days?
THE LAWYER: That is the recommendation of the D.A. However, you would be sent to the state prison in Santa Fe.
THE LAWYER: Not in with the general population. It would be a separate treatment facility for sex offenders.
JOE: But Iím not a sex offender.
THE LAWYER: That would be determined at the end of your ninety days.
JOE: No. No way. Absolutely not. Thatís out of the question!
THE LAWYER: Then weíll have to go to trial.
JOE: Fine. Then weíll go to trial. Iím not going to the state prison for ninety days to prove I shouldnít have been sent there in the first place. That doesnít make one bit of sense to me.
THE LAWYER: Letís get this straight, Joe. Are you telling me that you want me to go back into the judgeís chambers . . . (Indicates some place offstage.) . . . And change our plea from no contest to innocent?
THE LAWYER: If we lose, Joe, you could be facing three years.
JOE: No . . . Iíd be facing certain death in Santa Fe. Still, Iíd rather take my chances in court. (Pause.) Does it have to come out in court that Iím gay?
THE LAWYER: That would depend on how the trial goes. Unless you admit to it, or the prosecution can produce somebody youíve had sex with Ė as it pertains to the case Ė it shouldnít be an issue. However, without it ever being brought up directly . . . if the jury smells it . . . it could be very damaging to our defense. (After a pause.) So? What do you want to do?
JOE: (Determined.) We go to trial.
THE LAWYER: If youíre sure thatís what you want.
JOE: Given the options . . . it is, Iím sure. (After a pause to exhale.) Donít look so worried. Iím the one whoís supposed to be worried. Theyíre not going to put me away, wire me up, or do anything to me ever again without due process of law. Okay?
THE LAWYER: Okay. (Crossing to the judgeís chambers.) Boy, the last thing I needed was a trial like this! (Exits.)
JOE: Yeah . . . well . . . me, too.
CONRAD: (Appears.) And what about me?
JOE: What about you?
CONRAD: Youíve made up your mind . . . just like that?
JOE: Itís my life.
CONRAD: Donít I count for something? Itís my life too, you know.
JOE: This doesnít concern you.
CONRAD: You self-centered son of a bitch!
JOE: Iím the one facing prison!
CONRAD: You wonít go to prison . . . not if you tell the truth.
JOE: I will deny any accusation of being gay.
CONRAD: So, you want me to perjure myself. Is that it?
JOE: You do what you want, Connie. But, if Iím asked about my sexuality, Iíve no intention of giving them ammunition to use against me. Besides, unless you say anything, thereís no way anybody could prove Iím gay.
CONRAD: Everybody who knows us knows weíre gay. Everybody in this town knows weíre gay.
JOE: No. They donít. They think and they assume. But, they donít know.
CONRAD: Whatever happened to, ďI want to be an example?Ē Whatever happened to, ďI think all gays ought to be out of the closet because they do a disservice to the entire gay community?Ē Huh? Whatever happened to, ďThe worst kind of liar is the one who lies to himself?Ē
JOE: You know, I really hate you.
CONRAD: Sometimes, I hate you too. But, you just remember one thing, smart-ass . . . that studio was mine, too. Mine. My money went into it. My income came out of it. I hated to see it close, too. I poured a lot of myself into it, too. So, if I donít know how you feel excuse me! I know how I feel . . . and I donít feel like listening to your bullshit!
JOE: (After a pause.) Where did everybody go?
CONRAD: You ought to know how people are by now, Joe.
JOE: Some bunch of friends they all turned out to be!
CONRAD: Then, they were never your friends. They certainly werenít mine.
JOE: All those free sessions! All those free portraits!
CONRAD: You canít buy friends.
JOE: Look. Iím not interested in your aphorisms!
JOE: Thousands of dollars just in materials. Not to mention my time! All those photographs I did just to show how I cared. Do you know Iíve done more work gratis than I ever did for money?
CONRAD: I always thought that was a bad idea.
JOE: (After a pause.) You blame me for this. Itís all my fault, isnít it?
CONRAD: No, Joe. Itís not all your fault. If itís anybodyís fault itís the kidís. The motherís. I donít know. Itís . . . itís just the way it is. Thatís it. Thatís all. Itís just the way it is.
JOE: But you blame me, donít you?
CONRAD: Will you just let it rest . . . please? I donít want to argue. Canít we go twenty-four hours without some kind of drama in our lives?
JOE: (After a pause.) And when, may I ask without risking a bit of drama, do we have to have all our stuff packed and out of here?
CONRAD: Three weeks.
CONRAD: Iíll do the packing, Joe. You donít have to worry about it.
JOE: Would you stop making a martyr of yourself!
CONRAD: Joe, if you want to pack, be my guest.
JOE: We lost our business . . . we lost our house! Well, whatís next? What in hell is going to happen to us now?
CONRAD: After the trial weíll go somewhere else and start again.
JOE: After the trial? Suppose they send me to prison?
CONRAD: They wonít.
JOE: You donít know they wonít.
CONRAD: And you donít know they will.
JOE: They will if they find out Iím gay.
CONRAD: Iím going to tell you something and I mean it! If you go into that courtroom and deny being gay Ė should the question arise Ė Iím going to leave you, Joe.
JOE: Is this a threat?
CONRAD: Iím not going to make a liar of myself and Iím not going to watch you make a liar of yourself, either.
JOE: Do what you want!
CONRAD: I will. For once in my life, I will.
JOE: What is that supposed to mean?
CONRAD: It means, Iím tired of living for both of us! Iím going to start living for me from now on! And to hell with you!
JOE: (Charges CONRAD Ė pushing and punching.) Desert me! Go ahead; desert me, you fucking sonofabitch! You goddamn fucking piss elegant queen! Desert me! I always knew you would! Who the fuck do you think you are?
CONRAD: (Blocking himself from JOEís fists.) Stop it! Stop it! Youíre crazy! (He lands a solid punch on JOE, knocking JOE down. After a pause.) Are you happy now? Is this what you wanted?
JOE: (After a pause.) I get crazy sometimes. Itís like I really want to hurt you. I want to hurt you and I want to see your pain.
CONRAD: Then look. Look. Look at my pain, goddamnit! Look at me.
JOE: (After a pause.) Iím sorry. Iím afraid Iím going to wake up one day and youíre not going to be there.
CONRAD: (Crosses to JOE and helps him up. THEY embrace.) Weíve come this far, havenít we? And Iím still here.
JOE: (Breaking away.) Oh, God! When will this all come to trial?
JOE: Six months of waiting! How much longer do they intend to keep us on the hook?
CONRAD: Why donít I make us some breakfast?
JOE: Donít they care?
CONRAD: Probably not. How many pancakes do you think you can eat?
JOE: I donít know. Four. No, six. No. Make it two . . . Itís like limbo. You know, where they keep souls on ice.
CONRAD: Who keeps souls on ice? Are we into some Catholic thing of yours, Joe? Havenít they dumped enough guilt on you for one lifetime?
JOE: I suppose. But, it is like limbo. You know, where they keep those poor bastards who havenít been baptized . . . souls too good to got to hell, yet, not good enough to go to heaven. Neither dead or alive nor here or there. On hold. Just on hold. Do you know what I mean?
CONRAD: Yeah . . . youíre in a rut. Do you want sausage with your pancakes, or bacon? (Moves toward exit.)
JOE: Bacon. No. Sausage. And can I have some blackberry preserves on my toast?
CONRAD: Indeed, you can. And if we have any, you may. (Exits.)
JOE: (Alone onstage. After a pause.) He is such a literal son of a bitch.
CONRAD: (His voice from offstage.) I heard that!
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: (Appears.) Is he? Is he ďa literal son of a bitch?Ē
JOE: Sometimes. What, in my day, Iíd call a piss elegant queen. But, only sometimes.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: (Amused.) Iíve never heard that term before Ė ďpiss elegant queen.Ē I donít mean to make fun, but I find the vernacular filled with images far more amusing than in . . . ah . . . ďa literal son of a bitch.Ē Sorry.
JOE: Youíre putting me on.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: No. Iím not. Really. Youíve got to remember that I grew up in Roswell, New Mexico. I havenít been around all that much.
JOE: What about college?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Los Cruces and Albuquerque. I wouldnít call that ďgetting around.Ē
JOE: No. Neither would I. Iím at a loss for words.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Why?
JOE: Because youíre so easy to talk to. I never thought of you as coming from . . . well, you know . . . here. These parts.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: We donít all have horns, Joe. Some of us are the good guys. Isnít Conrad originally from ďthese parts?Ē
JOE: Originally, yes. Now, youíve shamed me.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Good. Why do you say, ďIn my day?Ē Do you mean to say that this isnít your day now?
JOE: Itís just a phrase. My day. Like when I was in New York and young and tomorrow was something I looked forward to with great expectations. That was my day.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: And these days?
JOE: These days? I honestly donít know.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: What donít you know?
JOE: Where Iím going. Why Iím going. Will I be going there with Connie? Will we ever stop bickering and fighting one another? Will I make it through the trial? Will I be free? Was I ever free? Oh, God! When I was young and stupid . . . was I ever free!
THE PSYCHOLOGIST Seriously.
: JOE: Seriously? Doctor, these days are about as serious as anything I will ever hope to know. New York is gone. For me, it might as well be the moon away. Thereís not one single soul I kept in contact with. Not one. Iíve never been good with keeping friends for very long, especially over long distance. Right now itís just Conrad and me.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: No gay friends?
JOE: Not since leaving New York. I know they must exist around these parts, but I havenít met any. Iíve seen their calling cards etched into the walls of the menís room over at the state line rest stop.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: How sad?
JOE: Is it?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Isnít it?
JOE: Whatís their choice? A little town . . . in the middle of nowhere . . . how else are gays going to meet one another?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: But, public restrooms? Itís nothing but illicit sex.
JOE: Perhaps we could take out an ad in the local paper and hold a luncheon in one of the banquet rooms over at the country club.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Weíre being flip.
JOE: No. Iím being flip. Iím trying to say that as much as I believe all gays ought to be out of the closet, there are times and there are places where to do so is extremely hazardous to your health. This town, at this time, is one of those places.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: How do you cope? I thought you were pretty open. Who are your friends?
JOE: Iíve spent the last five years with straight couples . . . and singles . . . and some who donít know what they are and probably never will. Five years to learn what I already knew the day I left the farm to join the navy.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: And that is?
JOE: I donít fit. I never did fit. I never will fit. And, frankly, I no longer want to fit.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: It can be a very lonely life.
JOE: Iím used to it.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: But, you did make the choice.
JOE: There was never any choice to be made. I was born this way. I am one hundred percent genetically homosexual.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Thatís been a subject of much speculation.
JOE: Of course it has. As long as conservative fundamentalist Christians can keep everybody believing that homosexuality is a choice, we will continue to be denied all our human rights. For them to accept us as being born homosexual would mean that somehow God had something to do with it. It would mean that weíd have to be accepted as having minority status. The fact that you even suggest thereís a choice shows me a bias on your part. A fundy background, no doubt.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Thatís quite unfair, Joe. Iím a trained psychologist.
JOE: Well, you seem to have a general lack of understanding. I mean, a girl who comes from Roswell, New Mexico, goes to college and earns herself a Ph.D. in psychology ought to understand that kind of defiant pride from a womanís perspective.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: According to you, what would that perspective be?
JOE: I am sure there were times when your just being a woman was an obstacle getting in your way. But, you donít want to be a man, do you?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: As a woman, I am proud of what Iíve done with my life. No. I donít want to be a man.
JOE: Even when you have to work harder than a man does, sometimes, just to prove your worth?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: No. I wouldnít choose to be anything else.
JOE: Exactly. Thatís just how I feel. I wouldnít choose to be anything else.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: But, you already said that you had no choice anyway.
JOE: I could choose not to be gay, but Iíd still remain homosexual?
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Joe, youíve got me totally confused. Is there a difference between being gay and being homosexual?
JOE: In my mind, I imagine a distinction. There are homosexuals living in heterosexual marriages. Theyíre miserable and disappointed with everything in their lives. Theyíre homosexuals, but theyíre not gay. Gay is a point of view. A lifestyle. Gay is the choice one makes when one chooses to be true to himself . . . or herself. I was born homosexual. There was no choice in that. The choice comes in choosing to accept it . . . in choosing to be gay . . . in choosing to be true to oneself.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Why, then, all the anxiety surrounding your decision to deny being homosexual if it comes up during the course of the trial?
JOE: Thatís another matter.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Listen to you. You canít have it both ways, Joe.
JOE: Iím trying to save my skin.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: By lying? By self-denial?
JOE: If thatís what it takes.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: You see no hypocrisy there?
JOE: I know who I am. Itís not necessary that I broadcast it to the world. Especially when the world we are talking about is Lea county, New Mexico . . . and is about as hostile toward gays as hostile can get! (After a pause.) Look. Iíve been thinking and I donít think Iíll be coming back here anymore. So, I want to thank you for all your help. Youíve been a tremendous help and Iíll never forget you for it.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Well . . . I am surprised. You think youíve worked it all out, do you?
JOE: Iíve worked out all that I can here. The rest Iíll have to do on my own . . . Conrad and me.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: If thatís your choice.
JOE: It is.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: (Extends her hand for JOE to shake.) Well . . . good luck.
JOE: (Shaking her hand.) Thank you. Well, goodbye. (Exits awkwardly.)
THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Goodbye. (Alone onstage Ė to audience.) Well . . . I guess thatís it. I havenít seen Joe since. About three weeks later I received a telephone call from Joeís lawyer declining my offer to testify on Joeís behalf. He thought, and I concurred, that the decision of the jury might be clouded by the fact that Joe had been in therapy for more than a year and a half; much of our work having to do with his learning to accept himself as he is, and with learning to accept his homosexuality without guilt. That was, of course, at the core of most of our sessions. Therefore, the decision not to testify. As of Joeís last session, he had displayed more confidence in himself and more self-control than I had previously observed. His nightmares had subsided. They were less intense, less threatening. Still, I had my doubts. After all, in all honesty, Joe would not be tried by a jury of his peers. How could he? One week later the trial would begin. I would remain in my office, see some clients . . . and pray. Yes, pray. Maybe that all had something to do with that little girl from Roswell, New Mexico and her fundy Christian background. (She exits.)
JOE enters. We see him preparing for the trial. He buffs his shoes, combs his hair, slips into a jacket, etc. CONRAD enters.
JOE: Connie, whatever happens at the trial . . . whatever happens . . . well . . . you know.
CONRAD: Iím with you, Joe. Whatever happens, Iíll still be with you.
JOE: Arenít you afraid?
CONRAD: Of course Iím afraid.
JOE: Me, too. (After a pause.) Connie, about our being gay . . .
CONRAD: Iíve said all Iím going to say in that regard. You do what you have to do.
JOE: About your leaving Ė I have to know . . .
CONRAD: (Stopping him.) You already know how I feel. Thereís nothing more to say.
JOE: But, if it comes up . . .
CONRAD: If it comes up, youíll do what you know is best.
JOE: Thatís not an answer.
CONRAD: Itís the best I can offer.
JOE: Well . . . what will you do? I mean . . . if it comes up.
CONRAD: The same . . . what I know is best.
JOE: (After a pause.) Well . . . how do I look?
JOE: You, too. (THEY embrace. A gentle kiss. After a pause to suppress a feeling of rising anxiety.) April the first! What a day to have a trial. God must be laughing His head off.
CONRAD: One can always hope.
JOE and CONRAD cross to opposite sides of the stage. THE LAWYER enters and crosses to JOE.
THE LAWYER: Relax.
JOE: Iím trying.
THE LAWYER: No matter what happens . . . no matter what the outcome . . . control yourself.
JOE: I feel sick.
THE LAWYER: No nonsense. Just stay calm.
JOE: Oh God! Iím going to be sick.
THE LAWYER: Here we go . . . ALL RISE! (Crossing downstage. To audience.) This court is now in session!
CONRAD: (Aside. ) Oh, God, donít let Joe do something stupid.
JOE: Oh, God, please help me.
THE MOTHER: (Enters, takes the stand and raises her right hand.) So help me, God!
THE LAWYER: (To audience.) Help me. Help me sort through this mess. (Turning toward THE MOTHER.) Did someone say ďvictim?Ē (Turning back to the audience.) Yes. The prosecutor said ďvictim.Ē
THE MOTHER: (Points an angry, accusing finger at JOE.) As the victimís mother, I, too, have suffered for what HE DID! (She continues with all the pathos of a grade-B movie.) I havenít been the same since. My doctor had to prescribe medication for me ever since he did what he did! (Again, she points at JOE.)
CONRAD: (Aside.) Iím going to be ill.
JOE: (Aside.) I wish to hell she would stop that pointing. Who is this woman? This is not the same woman who came to the studio. What is she trying to do? What kind of act is this?
THE MOTHER: He forced my little boy to strip naked! And when he had him naked he . . . he . . . (She breaks down, sobbing.)
JUNIOR: He said to go ahead and change while he got ready to take my picture.
JOE: The boy had already taken his clothes off without my being aware. I was setting lights and arranging barbells and weights in front of the backdrop. You would not believe some of the things I go through for clients.
THE LAWYER: Just the facts.
JOE: When I noticed him he was standing there completely undressed.
JUNIOR: I asked him if I should put my posing-jock on.
JOE: I told him to leave them off until after I had applied the oil.
THE MOTHER: So he could perform his disgusting sex act!
JOE: So I could avoid staining his posing-briefs.
JUNIOR: So he wouldnít mess them up with oil. They cost my mommy a lot of money.
JOE: Yes. Of course it was a mistake. It was the biggest mistake of my life.
CONRAD: I was in the hallway outside the studio working on a display.
THE MOTHER: I couldnít stay. I had errands to run. I was only gone about forty minutes. When I came back for Junior they were already done. Oh! My poor, poor baby!
CONRAD: Forty . . . forty-five minutes. Joe had a meeting to get to. Iíd say it was a fairly quick session considering how much time it takes to shoot thirty-six poses.
JOE: Yes. I used a thirty-five millimeter camera. I took a lot of shots that day. Good shots.
THE MOTHER: How can I live with what he did to my little boy? (She points at JOE.) Every time I think of it I . . . I . . . I canít help blaming myself for leaving my baby alone with that queer.
CONRAD: Oh, shit.
JOE: Oh, God.
THE LAWYER: I OBJECT!
THE MOTHER: Everybody knows heís a queer.
THE LAWYER: I object!
THE MOTHER: Him and that partner of his! We had to get ourselves tested for AIDS. God only knows what kind of horrible diseases they carry! I hope he burns in hell! I know I shouldnít wish that on anybody because Iím a Christian. And if the truth be known, I love them. Thatís my Christian duty. Itís what they do that I hate. But, these arenít people. Not people like you and me. Theyíre wicked and despised in the eyes of the Lord. Forgive me. I hope the jury understands a mother's pain and sorrow.
CONRAD: (Aside.) What a performance! The envelope please .
. . THE LAWYER: (To the invisible judge.) That is hearsay! Sheer gossip, Your Honor. And irrelevant! (To the audience.) The seed is planted. I can represent and defend Joe to the best of my ability and with good conscience. But, can I defend Joeís sexuality?
THE MOTHER: Itís true! Everybody knows it! But faggots are usually pretty good when it comes to artistic things, arenít they?
THE LAWYER: I OBJECT!
THE MOTHER: His father and I both told Junior to keep an eye out and make sure he didnít try any funny business.
JUNIOR: Yeah. If he tried anything funny I was to make sure and let mommy know. Daddy didnít want him to take my picture, but mommy said that his pictures win all the contests so we should give him a chance . . . even if he is queer.
THE MOTHER: It doesnít pay to give that type a chance!
THE LAWYER: I OBJECT!
THE MOTHER: A mother and her son have their rights, you know. How do you compensate a child who will carry the scars for the rest of his life? How do you compensate for my suffering?
THE LAWYER: (Heavenward Ė sardonically.) A tragedy for which the court is lacking in its ability to compensate. Sadly, our hands are tied. We can only do what the law will allow. Your suffering, however, has hardly gone unnoticed.
THE MOTHER: I object! Your Honor, is he being a smart-ass?
THE LAWYER: (To audience.) This is it in a nutshell. Joe is charged with criminal sexual contact with a minor under the age of thirteen. A felony in the state of New Mexico and punishable by a maximum of three years imprisonment and/or probation and rehabilitation at a state mental health facility. The State must prove that a felony has been committed and they must prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. What have they proven? Junior had some photographs taken. He was also prejudiced by the alleged nature of the defendant, and so was psychologically predisposed to any number of erroneous conclusions. Thirty-six exposures were taken in forty minutes. The contact sheet shows thirty-six distinctly different and carefully posed photographs. Hardly enough time for ďfunny business.Ē But, the mother made certain that her opinion of the defendant be known in no uncertain termsóand in the courtís record.
THE MOTHER: Well, heís queer, isnít he? He told the arresting officer that if he wasnít gay this never would have happened.
JOE: (Aside.) Did I say that? I donít remember saying that?
THE LAWYER: (To THE MOTHER.) There is no mention of that in the arresting officerís report.
THE MOTHER: Irregardless, he said it! (She points at JOE.)
THE LAWYER: Regardless of the fact that it does not appear in the report?
THE MOTHER: Thatís right.
THE LAWYER: (To the audience.) And exactly how did the mother know what Joe may or may not have told the arresting officer?
THE MOTHER: Heís a good friend of the family. We attend the same church and we were on the force together.
THE LAWYER: On the police force doing undercover work.
THE MOTHER: Sometimes. We busted some heavy-duty drug dealers and broke up some gambling scams in the south part of town. We worked together on several major operations.
CONRAD: (Aside.) Jesus Christ. Next weíll discover she was a hit man for the CIA.
THE MOTHER: Well, once. Just once. I only shot a man once. I caught him in the chest. But, they got the bullet out and he lived to go to trial.
JOE: (Aside.) Iím sure that was a major disappointment.
THE MOTHER: He was scum. Why should I feel sorry? I was acting in the line of duty, protecting our children from the criminal element. Weíve let low-life run our lives for too long! Itís time we took our country back! Besides, I thought the perpetrator was armed. How was I to know? So the jury found him innocent. I donít care. I know better. He was scum. No. Iím not sorry. Iím not sorry at all. Iím a mother, arenít I?
CONRAD: (Aside.) Was there ever any doubt?
THE MOTHER: I was a police officer acting in the line of duty. No. That was not why my husband and I left the force.
THE LAWYER: (To the audience.) No, indeed. She and her husband had come into a large sum of money that they, along with her father, invested in an oil well servicing company.
THE MOTHER: (To the audience.) And there was a little extra left over which I used to open a little boutique in the mall with, along with my sister.
THE LAWYER: (Ibid.) Where she sold ladiesí negligees and other sorts of informal attire for ďherĒ to wear for ďhimĒ in the privacy of the bedroom. And the name of that establishment?
THE MOTHER: Scant Fantasies.
CONRAD: (Aside.) Which, of course, was her idea.
THE MOTHER: The name was my idea. God knows we all agonized hours over it. But we all decided that Scant Fantasies was the best of all the names we came up with. The whole family. Weíre a very close Christian family. Unlike some, we still believe in family values.
THE LAWYER: (To the audience) And where did all this money come from?
THE MOTHER: I have been advised not to discuss it.
THE LAWYER: (Ibid.) Undoubtedly she had been advised not to discuss it. In fact, in the terms of their settlement, both she and her husband agreed not to disclose the amount. This undisclosed amount was an out-of-court settlement with a national chain of daycare centers where, for a very short time, Junior attended for a few hours each day after school.
THE MOTHER: I told you I canít discuss it!
JUNIOR: The director of the center touched my private parts.
THE MOTHER: (Pointing at JOE.) That doesnít change what he did! What business did this so-called photographer have stripping my son naked and rubbing oil all over his body? Huh? Tell me that.
JOE: She understood two days before the shoot exactly what the procedure would be.
THE MOTHER: I donít know what heís talking about. All I wanted was a picture of my little boy to enter in a photogenic contest. I never consented to child pornography!
THE LAWYER: Child pornography is not in question here. The photos all look perfectly normal to me and, no doubt, to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury.
THE MOTHER: Itís what went on between the photos.
JOE: Yes. She did fill out a questionnaire.
THE MOTHER: I donít remember.
JOE: On it she wrote exactly what she wanted.
THE MOTHER: I donít recall.(After a pause.) Yes. That is my handwriting. I think. Yes, now I remember. But, donít they have girls to do that sort of thing?
THE LAWYER: What sort of thing is that?
THE MOTHER: You know . . . rub oil on his body and stuff like that. I was sure he had a girl who took care of things like that. I mean, wouldnít that be more natural?
THE LAWYER: Natural?
THE MOTHER: Normal.
THE LAWYER: You mean, a woman would be more suited to the task of applying oil to the body of a young man?
THE MOTHER: Yes, of course. Iím sure you would agree.
THE LAWYER: No, maíam. I would not.
THE MOTHER: I was sure he had a female assistant who did that sort of thing. You know, like in a doctorís office.
THE LAWYER: My understanding is that a female assistant in a male doctorís office is there for the female patients.
THE MOTHER: I never dreamed that he would do it himself. I never dreamed . . . knowing what I know about him.
THE LAWYER: MOVE TO STRIKE!
THE MOTHER: (Pointing at JOE. ) Heís guilty! Guilty as sin!
JUNIOR: Yeah. He touched my butt-hole!
JOE: His what?
THE LAWYER: His anus. Did you put your finger on or in his anus?
THE LAWYER: Did you fondle or touch his genitalia?
THE LAWYER: Tell us what happened during the time you were applying the oil.
JOE: He got an erection.
JUNIOR: I pulled a boner.
JOE: When I noticed it I told him to put his briefs on.
THE LAWYER: Did he?
THE LAWYER: What was his reaction? Did he say anything?
JOE: He said something about when he grew up and got married he was going to have his wife give him oil massages.
THE LAWYER: What did you take that to mean?
JOE: That he was aroused by my putting the oil on him.
THE LAWYER: Were you sexually aroused?
JOE: No. I was amused. I had to restrain myself from laughing.
THE MOTHER: My sonís erection is no laughing matter!
JOE: Look, it didnít seem so out of the ordinary at the time. Itís just something that happens. Thatís all. I was amused because I knew that I had just filled the spray bottle with cold water and that the cold spray would get rid of it in a hurry.
THE LAWYER: What was the cold water spray for?
JOE: We had him pumping iron in the first few pictures and the spray would make it look like he was sweating. Thatís what he and his mother wanted. At the time, I didnít question it. My mistake.
THE MOTHER: No. I didnít go directly to the police. We went to the sheriff. He used to be our police captain when I was on the force. I could always go to him for advice. (Pause.) Yes. I did. I did call on the judge who set the bail. Why not? He and my father have been best friends ever since I can remember. He used to bounce me on his knee. My concern was for my child and for all the children he may have already victimized. (Pointing at JOE.) God only knows what heís capable of. Isnít one defenseless victim enough?
JUNIOR: Yeah. I know karate and I couldíve gived him a good chop if I wanted to.
THE MOTHER: His father and me want to make sure our little boy can protect himself. (Pointing at JOE.) But, look at the size of that brute! He might have murdered my little boy right then and there so he could hide his dirty shame! His type are capable of that sort of thing. Everybody knows that. And then what? Huh, huh?
JUNIOR: (Pointing at JOE.) He did it! I know he did it! He touched my butt-hole! I know he did Ďcause I was waitiní for him to try somethiní funny just like mommy said he would. And he did! He did! I felt it! Donít tell me I didnít feel it Ďcause I did! I know how it feels when somebody touches your butt-hole. You can ask mommy if you think I donít Ďcause I do!
THE MOTHER: And thatís the truth!
THE LAWYER: Thank you. You may step down. (THE MOTHER steps down from the stand and exits. CONRAD, also, exits.) The defendant will please take the stand. (THE LAWYER exits.)
JOE: (Crosses to the stand. Raises his right hand.) So help me, God. (Lowers his hand. Directly to the audience.) I have told you exactly what happened that day in the studio and I have told you the truth. So, if there are any doubts left concerning my sexual preference let me make it perfectly clear who and what I am . . . I am homosexual and I am proud that I am homosexual. I am who I am.
For me, being homosexual is far more than just a way for having sex. It is a kind of sensibilityósensitive to the thoughts and words left unsaid by others. When seemingly good people hide behind the religions of the world to threaten, not only your existence here on Earth, but your immortal soulóyou learn to listen. And if you fail to hear and respond to the dangers hidden in another manís heart, then todayís subtleties can very quickly become tomorrowís atrocities.
To be homosexual is to know the pain of a prejudice so ingrained in our society that it can turn our families and loved ones against us. Who but usóthe dregs of societyócould know better how to judge and accept a man on his own merits?
I am tired of rolling over and playing dead or playing the fool for all those who think I donít belong. I do belong. I am not sick, perverted or condemned. I am tired of listening to prejudice of any kind. And, when it comes under the banner of religious and moral doctrineóof family valuesóI am ashamed for Humanity itself. Family values without Human values are of no value at all.
I am tired of pretending I donít hear all the slurs and innuendo in conversations that make me blush with shame for not having the strength of my convictions to stand up for myself and others who are at the brunt of those disparaging remarks. Here I stand, gay and proud, tired of remaining silent. A slur about a Jew, an Arab, a Mexican, a Native American, or an Afro-American is a slur about me. To dishonor any manís or womanís heritage is to dishonor my own. Here I stand.
Is this planet so small that there is no room for us all? What have we done to deserve so many slurs and fists that would chase us and beat us out of existence simply for being who we are? I have cried and cried for an answer. Well, no more tears! No one, any longer, will determine how I feel about myself. I am tired of running and I am tired of hiding. Here I stand. Here. Now. Forever. I am homosexual.
I have lost my house, my business, my income, those friends I thought I hadóand I almost lost my lover. But, I have not lost nor will I lose my dignity. All that I am . . . all that I own . . . stands before you. I am homosexual and I am, in no way, guilty.
The three hooded-cloaked TORMENTORS appear and mill about in the shadows and fog beneath the bridge. In rasping whispers they call JOEís name. JOE becomes aware of their presence and slowly rises and approaches them. He moves with them and around them and yet they do not seem to be aware of his presence. Blindly, they continue calling out his name. JOE waves his hands in front of their unseen faces and still they do not respond. The TORMENTORS continue to haunt the shadows and fog as JOE ascends the bridge.
JOE: (From the bridge, he removes a silver key on a long silver chain from his pocket. To the audience.) The key. My fatherís key. It was in my pocket all this time. (He holds the key, watching it dangle from its chain before letting it drop to the floor below. The TORMENTORS scramble to retrieve it. When one does, they disappear into the shadows, greedily fighting among themselves for possession of it.) Love. All it was . . . was love. (After a pause.) Connie and I left to begin our new lives a week after the trial. We argue less and love more. Thatís all there is, really. And tomorrow . . . well, tomorrow is a dream away . . . the moon away.
As the LIGHTING slowly dims a large golden moon rises behind the bridge before fading to BLACK OUT.