Take Eight (A short screenplay)

FADE IN:
INT. BEDROOM – L.A., PRESENT TIME – MORNING
BEER BOTTLES & USED NEEDLES are strewn around the floor.

RENATO, 32, hungover, hits alarm clock, and gets up frantically, looking at phone.
TEXT that says “Left without you, find another way there.” Renato groans, gets out of empty bed.
He is showing signs of aging mostly in his bloodshot eyes, wearing boxers.
Renato clumsily puts on sunglasses, dark jeans, & a black blazer over a gray shirt; turns off TV playing reruns of a show starring a much younger Renato.

EXT. DOWNTOWN L.A. – FOGGY MORNING.

Renato stumbles down street, smoking a cigarette. He waves to sweeping shop owner.

SHOP OWNER, an old man, groans and turns away from Renato.

A SMALL GROUP OF FANS whisper across the street. One walks over and asks Renaldo for an autograph.

FAN runs back over to group.

FAN (mouthing): So retro.


INT. LOCAL COFFEE SHOP, – STILL MORNING.
In a SPARSE CROWD, Renato orders black coffee.  
BARISTA, an older woman, uses one finger to tap her temple.
Renato sighs and takes off his sunglasses. He looks around the room cautiously, then sits down at the coffee bar.

CELEBRITY, who looks an awful lot like a younger Renato, walks into coffee shop.

PAPARAZZI,one photographer & one journalist, immediately get up from a table and hound celebrity.

Renato rolls his eyes and groans, puts his sunglasses back on, takes coffee, and leaves angrily.

EXT. SOMEWHAT CROWDED STREET, – MORNING

Renato is walking, lights up another cigarette. He starts walking across the street, hotter than before.
A speeding car almost hits Renato, honking at him.
Renato is alarmed, but then flips the car off, remembering to puff his cigarette concurrently.  
Renato runs across to the other side, stands & looks at crosswalk he’s at. He sees a church.

CUT TO: – CONTINUOUS 

a small sign reading “Alcoholics Anonymous – Sundays at 9 AM.”

EXT. BAR – LATER

Renato is standing there, looking in the window.
Sparse crowd is inside, faint music is playing.  

CUT TO:

EXT. STREET. – SAME DAY

Renato holds his cigarette in his mouth and looks at his phone. It reads 12:05 PM. There is a picture of a young girl smiling with a backpack on, slightly resembling Renaldo.
Renato sighs and downs the rest of his coffee. He walks towards the bar, throwing away his coffee in a trash can by the door. He takes one last deep puff of his cigarette while grabbing the door. He hears the bartender LAUGH loudly. Renato stops & looks up.

RENATO’S POV: through a window into the bar. A small TV is playing Renato’s old show, the same one that was playing on his own TV earlier that a.m.

BACK TO SCENE

Renato, looking through window, lets go of the door; mouths “Fuck.”

He takes a step back, throwing his cigarette down and putting it out with his feet.

Renato looks over to the church, frowning.
Two people walk into church, nudging each other in a friendly manner and smiling.
Renato puts his hands in his jean pockets, empty-handed.
Renato sighs and walks towards the church as the church bells ring to signify it is 2 PM.

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human connection

An invite from you,
that new year’s eve.
We had been long time, no see;
that night, we were so much of us to see,
and no time. Time stopped.
3 a.m. and we were whispering, giggling, on your friend’s couch.
We left, secret in the morning dark
Walking barefoot to my house, I drove the getaway car.
Tension, pausing and replaying, co-owned by our separate silence.

I opened the door to our new apartment-
or did you open the door?
The memory is slipping away.
The carpet was freshly vacuumed,
our connection freshly polished.
We had one mattress, my twin-sized answer
to your question.
That night, we didn’t close our eyes for more than a minute.
So much time, and no sleep.
There was too much to do together;
too much to think about, to dream about, to laugh about,
to keep to ourselves.
Our floors, our doors that stuck from the paint,
our place to house all the silenced desires,
to stoke all the short-phrased fears.

We were sitting opposite each other in wicker chairs, or were they wood?
You were wearing a yellow shirt,
Or was it blue?
All the memories are slipping away.
My hair was tied up with a scrunchie that you let me borrow
(later, you would throw all those borrows in my face)
But for now, we picked up our forks and talked about
Human connection. And our perfectly cooked eggs.
Your lips were consistently curved up, seducing mine to do the same.
Your eyes would explode every time I said something that echoed inside you,
Something just for you to hear.
My eyes would blush in their own way, looking down and away from you –
So much was in you.
So much of me.

It was midnight, or near it.
Fresh out of the shower, I was sleeping naked and covered by a thick bed sheet.
You knocked on my door and came in,
Tears knocking on your bottom eyelid.
You sat on the end of my bed.
“What’s wrong?”
You responded by laying next to me, your silhouette
Tracing the curvature of my own,
Only a blanket and your big t-shirt between us.
Your boyfriend is in the other room, or did he leave already?
You were holding onto me, and I was holding onto my breath.
We were both holding onto the moment, the veiled connection.

Present day, I’m sitting on my mattress, on the floor we don’t co-own.
We don’t co-own borrows, favors, gifts, apologies, fights, touches anymore.
We don’t talk anymore, don’t connect anymore.
It ended in silence, we ended in silence, in avoidance.
We avoided lifting up the veil, lifting up that blanket, lifting up that shirt.
You would push, I would push back, but we never met in the middle.
Never merged into the middle lane.
Instead, I found this new carpeted floor. This floor we don’t co-own.
We don’t co-own anything anymore.

 

swerve, then steady

I left the front door wide open, swinging on hinges.
Breath, mine, rapid, blending in with the fog, this weird red fog.
Driving down I-44
Diving down and down on I-44
Looking for smooth gliding, looking for straight driving-
Bloodshot eyes, mine, almost crash into a clown car in the next lane-
I swerve, then steady.
Clown car? Whatever, I made it.
Then, there are giant spiders, purple and blistery.
White knuckles on the gray steering wheel, mine, swerve then steady.
Safe. Made it.

Then, a rabid four-headed snake, taking up the entire highway.
Blue fingertips, mine, swerve, then steady.
All good. Made it.
Bloodshot eyes, heavy enough to close,
Mine? I’ve gotta make it.
Gotta make it back home. Gotta make it to home.
I left home, I left home. Door swinging on hinges, I left it like that.
Bloodshot eyes, not mine, but a red face that covers up my windshield.
I’m blinded by this red, bug-eyed fog of a face-
I feel a scream, but it doesn’t come out – it stays in bed, stays at home.
Dirty and unclipped nails, mine, swerve, then steady.
Whew. Made it.
Driving down the I-44.
Maybe smooth sailing, maybe straight nailing.
Wait, what? Nailing, railing, bailing – I should bail.
Bail back home.
The black road, yellow lines, tick-tick-ticking under tires, mine.
Tick-tick-ticking, from what? Never heard that before.
Dark driving, 3 a.m. No more spiders, no more snakes, no more fa-
There’s another face.
Eyes more bloodshot than mine, more bloodshot than my mother’s after a night of talking to monsters.
Mother, she’s home, she’s so afraid of snakes. I left home.
The face, the eyes!
These eyes, I see them in my rearview mirror, floating above my backseat,
Floating in my backseat, like a child I forgot about, a child with a monster face.
It’s red, I thought I swerved this! I thought I steadied this!
No, different face, different blood, feels the same though.
Breath, mine, catching, telling my hands to move, to fix it.
I can’t swerve, I can’t steady, it’s in my car.
Bloodshot eyes, mine, dart from street to face to street to face.
The face is smiling, keeps smiling, keeps whispering something, repeating it,
What is it? Ears, mine, straining. Like when the pastor, like when my mother, told me how to redeem my unworthy soul, I’m straining.

Tick tick tick, tick tick tick

The whispers from the face keep me racing racing racing,
Down the I-44, driving in the fog.
Hot tears, mine, on my cheek, I whisper back
I gotta make it home, gotta make it home
Like a plead to this face, a plead to its monsters it sent for me to swerve, then steady away from.
I see my exit.

Tick-tick-tick, it just smiles.

I see my exit and I really gotta, really otta, never go back home.
The red fog face in my backseat keeps smiling, keeps ticking me along to red fog highway.
Like an instructional lullaby, the ticking makes me listen, says shut up about gotta make it home.
From under my eyelids, red fog, black fog, red fog. Smiling, me.
White knuckles, blue fingertips, those unclipped nails, I can’t see them when they unclaw from the steering wheel, unhinge themselves like a door swung wide open.

tick         tick          tick

it’s slower, no more racing racing racing,
no more gotta make it home, I can’t see yellow lines from inside my red fog eyelids.
I left home. Steering wheel, absent of hands, it swerves,
it steadies.

 

Insatiable

My last day began with rain, a drumming beat on the dirt,
showering songs to announce descent to earth.
Rain taunting my feet, I am on the sidewalk,
sheltered by a makeshift roof and lying trees.
The cars beyond me toss tears
off themselves, wheels swerve and then steady.
Then a bell chimes, crisp and bird-like, first slow and steady secrets,
then a playful tune to celebrate the rain’s arrival.
The rain, the bells-
one does not cancel the other out, but rather coincide with the other.
A perfect harmony that the human heart will but watch.
Sweet, sweet cinnamon in a soy satin river,
frothy and smooth- it warms my lips before finding solace
in my esophagus. The rain is cold, the coffee is hot,
my breath belongs to the rain.
I am an alien, unwelcome to the rain’s domain?
The rain is a vein to the plants, to the trees
but it is cold to me-
I hide from it but splash in it, pretend it falls just for me,
I ignore the cries of the tree and hope the rain won’t ignore me.
I cannot stop the rain, but the rain will always stop me.
Still-

I sit here and write these words and hear those bells and taste the cinnamon dew
and I am
human.

My insatiable human lips will never feel the peace of grass drinking its morning brew,
but I do find myself here, feeling all the shades of blue the sky has ever been,
and I ask the rain?
but I wonder
does it want me to look or to look away?
Does the rain want me to notice
or to let it be?
Does it think me a monster, does it think an alien of me?
the rain wants not, asks not, begs not,
and in that, I could never be the rain.
Now I am inside, hidden,
like a child in the womb, momentarily blind
and deaf to pain.
The trickle of raindrops is now a
heavy, consistent, foreboding heat of voices-human voices that sound like mine and that don’t sound like mine,
all invading the stream the rain gave birth to.
In here, I cannot breathe, I cannot think-
I am being coerced into suffocation, coerced into emotions but devoid of them?
The rain is the eye and the shelter is the mouth,
always talking but never seeing.
a fire that desperately wants to touch the rain-
we are put out by our own choice.
But the pleasure of the drowning human voice!
The longing moans of our anguish, the desperation in our cries!
Every single word and every single wall we build to keep the rain out
is saying please break in, love me like I scream to the rain,
love me like I’m scared to.

But the rock never cries to the rain
and in that, I can never be the rock-
like veins bursting out from the skin I am human and always will be,
I wish the rain was desperate like me and I wish the rain would beg for me.

Jack

My name is Jack and this is my throne of leaves and lobsters.
I scratched and clawed and bit and stretched my way here.

I’m having my coffee now, ma’am, I asked you not to bother me.
You feel like a slave. I hear you, I hear you.
Sometimes I feel like a slave too.
Like when I see the Russian mountains outside my window mock at my borrowed power.-
I try at immortality every time my queen undresses.

I really don’t have the time to hear your questions.
You feel like a slave, you’ve said this to me before.
Yes, I know how you feel because I am a slave too.
I feel chains around my ankles when I toss and turn on the grass
And it laughs at my nature, it laughs at my biology.
But I’ll tell you something. My queen never laughs at me.
I never feel like a slave in our bed. (I am not Jack).

This coffee is bitter now, get me sugar please just a little.
Lips and throat and stomach and blood (mine is the same as yours).
We feel like slaves because we are slaves.
My name is Jack (but it hasn’t always been).
Do you understand ma’am-
I am my queen’s Jack; my body is hers. my body, my body.
My borrowed divinity seems powerless in our unfertilized wombs.
Immortal only in pleasure, you and me, sister -  
we are slaves to these mountains.

A Refraction of Light

A refraction of light
to create the sovereign judge –
no objective measure.
courts of equity –
means of peace are good,
making good on what is endeavored.

what does it take?

well, the most men and women I’ve ever seen.
so many cry out far at the same time.
we don’t own a conversation,
there is never a new one.

we are all the best things, the worst of the best,
you, I, womb, food bank – a refraction of the light to
change from the heat of the
people.
I am that which I

loved.

I loved it so.

and I’m sure it is good to have the answer, to read
this article and read it all over again
and again
but then I scream- oh help us, we beg
and I hear us and we hear us now; we cannot close the tab
and I don’t know why but we will help, will always help because
I
all of us
know, already knew.

The House

The lounge chair in the entrance was imported from Turkey.
The spotless floor is marble, the playful mixing of
white and black, joining together and then pulling apart again.
The living room invites you to watch, but not join.
The game is already set and full.
Ripples, smoothed away in the blood red fabric of a rug,
placed  to make these borders into a model home,
so easily skewed off grid by clumsy feet.
Guests can have such clumsy feet.
A polished raven black banister outlining lacquered cream stairs,
leading to dim-lit bedrooms, where the charade of wealth ends.

Up there, home means fighting and sleeping and crying
and kissing and staying home sick for days.
Bowls of fake fruit and silver leaves won’t be found,
rather, half empty bottles and jeans with holes in the knees,
            tossed to the floor, that even the lowest of guests will never see.
No silk curtains, tied aside with ribbons to impose a scene,
but stained silk sheets, crumpled and lazily half-drawn for the use of
            a daughter that is only home at night and a cat, 
who’s favorite time is the night.
A fur coat from Nice hangs in the hallway downstairs that no one
dares to wear,
but up in these bedrooms, worn-out and ragged
      jackets and sweaters, thrown into closets and to the ends of beds,
are used the next day or to comfort and clothe in the chill of midnight.

Explorer

Re: Miniature

For years, it has been in space, away and far,
traveling the same path until it could name each star.
It doesn’t know its birthday or why it’s here.
It doesn’t know how these voices got into its ear.
All it knows is that it first awoke feeling much bigger than it feels now.
When it was born, it felt as if all the stars were taking a bow,
and the spinning globes across the sky were there to welcome its presence.
And it used to dream of escaping this circle it’s been traveling since,
and roam every rock and crater of this heaven it calls home.
Time, however, proved that Earth would not pick up the phone.

It could not move on its own, it could not turn or budge or fall.
Not a single star knew its dreams, or that it could dream at all.
The only thing the stars see is its designed path.
So, now, it is silent and small and wrecked from age’s wrath.
Earth plans to keep it in trek for years to come, and never thought to ask,
but it, indeed, does feel, these days, that it is not up to the task.
Its body was once so big that it carried all of Earth’s hope inside of it.
Now, it wants to quit.
It has begun to think this immorality that the Earth prized it with is a curse.
All it wants now is a hearse.
It wonders if the only way to escape this same ethereal scene
is to reduce its soul down to nothing, to wipe the slate clean.
It wonders if it must become smaller than it has ever felt before
in order to finally travel the surface of the home it cannot explore.

Blue Lipstick for American Girls

I bought dark blue lipstick yesterday for you.
I bought an album for you too.
I’m wasting all my money on you.
We were lying on your bed and you were talking all night
and I was listening and kissing you with my laughs.
Just my laughs.
My eyelids were lead, but I forced them open for hours for you.
David Bowie? Chocolate? Anything for you.
I want to spend all my time on you –
Fresh-eyed, but not yet old enough to be naive.
I want to be a French man for you –
to take you to the Louvre, take you at the Louvre,
and buy you souvenirs to bring back
to American girls like you.
I’m spending all my money on the absence of you.

Headlines

anxiety state under the compulsion of analysis,
it’s an honor to be included.
sexual mechanisms
prove my holiness,
constantly monitored;
objective of his journey.
stories of humiliation, backlash blues.
the hearing of voices swelling in the clearing of
positive deeds of wrong-doing.
what are men celebrating?
The relative impotence of my husband

money got such a power
self-satisfaction in a worldly sense
protective procedure that lessens the fear
true Religion – where is their God?
sieve of Satan rouse the frenzy
age of peace and security
enchantment pride, terror Ideal
I saw headlines
they understood-skeptical
the sensible sun, scales of justice
lobster is delicious, raise my bottle in a toast

long, long trip – Scrap of Life
I’d kill myself, doctor
to be sound alone
swallowed up in the sand, not long to run.

you’re on hold.

note: this is a political subconscious technique poem, consisting of lines drawn from the Quran and the Bible, and works by James Joyce, Susan Howe, Katie Rain Hill, and Malcolm X.