Waiting (in America) — Robert Walikis

WAITING (IN AMERICA)

A Play in One Act

CAST

ADLEIGH:         Female. Two children. Partner in the military overseas.

BENORICE:        Female. Single. Close to parents. Furloughed.

CAMERON:        Female. Single mother. Large family. Must work.

DEIRDRE:        Female. Husband. Grown children far away. 

SETTING        A coronavirus testing line, 6:11 a.m.

(Open curtain/lights up. Overhead spotlights like street lamps brighten 6-foot distant markers across the stage. ADLEIGH, standing in line stares ahead, off-stage right. A beat. Ahead of her, BENORICE, also masked, walks slowly on stage, downstage of ADLEIGH, slight acknowledgment and noticing as they pass fully distanced. BENORICE walks to the line, stands, takes out a phone from her pocket, and starts to text. ADLEIGH strikes up a conversation.)

ADLEIGH

Good. Someone else is here. So glad to have some company.

BENORICE

Where’s the line? 

ADLEIGH

You’re looking at it. I am the line. 

BENORICE

Thanks. I’m just surprised. Where is everyone? Yesterday, right?

ADLEIGH

I waited yesterday, for over two hours, it was way too long. 

BENORICE

I drove past. Ugh, yeah.

ADLEIGH

I gave up: “Try again tomorrow.” And now that’s today. 

BENORICE

Yeah. Today is another day.

(BENORICE returns attention to her phone) 

ADLEIGH

2:30. 

BENORICE

Pardon?

ADLEIGH

2:30. I got here at 2:30 this morning. I couldn’t sleep. 

BENORICE

I know what you mean; these days…

ADLEIGH

I woke up at 2, paced around my bedroom. Then I drove over, with the kids, and parked. We waited in my car and we all fell asleep. 

BENORICE

Wow. Are you doing okay?

ADLEIGH

No. Not really. There was this car coming into the lot: it startled me. The headlights woke me up, around 4:37, I think it was? I grabbed my keys, locked the car doors, left the kids, ran to the line.

BENORICE

Long time to stand here alone. I thought getting here after 6 was a risk. But I needed sleep. I don’t sleep much, either, these days.

ADLEIGH

There were cars before the one at 4:37, but you could tell they were just driving through. And I was awake then. 

BENORICE

I see why you got in line. You couldn’t risk it.

ADLEIGH

The car was driving so slow. It looked full. For a minute, I imagined there were even more cars behind their headlights. A caravan. A caravan of cars. Maybe I dreamed that. Seemed real.

BENORICE

Wow. That’s a really bad dream: car caravan and not being in line. 

ADLEIGH

Would you tell me your bad dreams? I know I shouldn’t pry. 

BENORICE

It’s alright. I’ll tell you. It’s all hunger and money and sickness and housing. And death. A lot of death. And I’m not a nightmare kind of person. These are dreams about everything. And death.

ADLEIGH

That’s worse than a car caravan. Wow. 

BENORICE

Sorry. I’m telling the truth more these days. Seems important. I’m so sorry if what I said bothered you. I can be pretty morbid.

ADLEIGH

No, it’s just…my dreams aren’t that vivid. They’re all surface level. The banality of overwhelming inconvenience: limited toilet paper options, on-line food orders that never show up on time.

BENORICE

Change is scary enough. Put all the rest on top and it’s pure horror.

ADLEIGH

I had my mace, just in case. Maybe I should have gotten a tire iron from the trunk, right? My son is a black belt in taekwondo. Now that someone else is here, I think I’m fine.

BENORICE

Do they need to be in line too? Because I don’t mind if they go ahead of me. They should go ahead of me.

ADLEIGH

No. Just me. It’s just me.

BENORICE

If you change your mind, I don’t mind. They are welcome to go first with you. I think I would feel better if they did.

ADLEIGH

Thank you. You’re kind. I don’t get a lot of kindness these days.

BENORICE

I hope you get a lot more. I’m glad to help. Glad to be here.

(CAMERON enters stage left, not feeling well: wheezes, coughs, catches her breath then begins again; BENORICE notices first, because of her breathing. ADLEIGH notices her coughing.)

BENORICE

Are you okay? 

CAMERON

I’m okay. Is this the line?

BENORICE

Yes. You’re in the right place. 

CAMERON

Where is everybody?

BENORICE

I know, right? 

CAMERON

Do you think it’s closed?

BENORICE

I don’t think so. The tents are still up. It’s just early?

CAMERON

Okay. I need to get back soon. I walked over. Doesn’t it open at 8?

ADLEIGH

You don’t sound so good.

CAMERON

I know. It all came on overnight. I need to get back to my kids. 

ADLEIGH

Mine are in the car. Sleeping.

CAMERON

I left my oldest in charge. He’s 12: he makes breakfast. I trust him.

ADLEIGH

How many do you have?

CAMERON

There are five. 12, 9, 7, 5, and 2. It’s a lot. They’re good, but it’s a lot. It’s just me, but my oldest, he helps. More than he should.

BENORICE

Five. Wow. I don’t know how you do it. 

CAMERON

I don’t know either. But I think he can manage while I’m gone. 

BENORICE

Do you want to get ahead of me in the line? 

CAMERON

No, the line is short. When it opens, will it move quickly?

BENORICE

I would feel much better if you went ahead of me. Please?

ADLEIGH

I don’t know if that’s wise. I think it’s better if she stays back behind you. Right? We’ve got masks, but just to be sure.  

BENORICE

Four kids is a lot for a 12-year-old: she needs to get back home. 

ADLEIGH

Look, no offense, but you’ve got symptoms. I’m glad you’re here, you’re in line, but I can’t risk it. I can’t get sick if I’m not already. 

BENORICE

No one can. I can’t. My parents have been 6 weeks without anyone, getting food dropped off, neighbors nice enough to help. Now I’m out of a job, and I need to know so I can help them. But the backlog is at least a week. Not one of us will know today.

CAMERON

A week? Takes a week? I don’t have time. I need to know now.

ADLEIGH

I know. We all do. I just don’t want to put myself at more risk. If I’m not sick, I don’t want to get it. If you’re sick I want you to know. We won’t know for a week, but that’s why I’m here today. 

CAMERON

I can’t go to the emergency room. What will I do?

ADLEIGH

If you’re sick, you should go. 

CAMERON

I have no insurance. I can’t pay. I can’t go.

BENORICE

I think you should get ahead of me, turn yourself away from both of us, and that way there’s no risk to you or me or anyone, right? 

ADLEIGH

I don’t want her near me. Can’t she just stay in line? We’re all in line. Just stay in line. 

BENORICE

If you’re not getting much kindness, maybe you should be giving it?

ADLEIGH

I need to be safe. For my kids. Amy is overseas: there’s no one else to take care of my kids. I cannot get sick. I want her to stay in line.

CAMERON

I don’t want to cause a fuss. It’s okay. I’ll be okay. I’m fine where I’m at. I’ll be okay. If it takes a week, then I’m stuck. Lose my job. 5 kids. I’m stuck. But I’ll be okay.

BENORICE

I hope you’ll be ok. Maybe it’s not what you think? Maybe it’s just a bad cold. Did you get your flu shot?

CAMERON

No. No. I’ll be okay. 

(DEIRDRE arrives: purse, coffee cup; walks past CAMERON and BENORICE and then in front of ADLEIGH. Indignant. Mask down. Looking on the ground for something).

DEIRDRE

Where is it? Didn’t you see it? What did you do? 

ADLEIGH

What are you talking about? Can you please put your mask up?

DEIRDRE

There’s a note. I left it here this morning. 

BENORICE

We didn’t see any note. What note?

DEIRDRE

I was getting coffee and I left a note. Put it right where you’re standing. I know I left it there. What happened to it? 

ADLEIGH

I didn’t do anything. I didn’t see a note. I’ve been here all night.

DEIRDRE

No, I was here before you. I was here just after midnight. 

ADLEIGH

I have been here since 2:30 a.m. You weren’t here then and you haven’t been here. I didn’t see anyone in line here.

DEIRDRE

I was here just after midnight and I left a note. I went for coffee and now I’m back. Where’s the note?

BENORICE

I think there’s something under your shoe. There. Yes. 

(ADLEIGH reaches down, looking around her, and finds a small pink note, folded tightly. She puts on a glove and brings it up for all to see.)

ADLEIGH

This is your note?

DEIRDRE

Yes. I said I left a note.

ADLEIGH

Why did you leave a note?

DEIRDRE

Read it.

ADLEIGH

Why a note?

DEIRDRE

Read it.

(ADLEIGH unfolds the note, reads it, and is angry.)

ADLEIGH

This? You think this gives you the right?

DEIRDRE

Yes. I was here after midnight. And I left a note.

ADLEIGH

“I went for coffee. I will be back. Save my spot. Signed, Deirdre” You think this gives you the right?

DEIRDRE

I was here. That note proves it.

ADLEIGH

And you left. You left. Leaving a note doesn’t save your spot. You left. This isn’t the Huntington Beach July 4th parade, where you’ve chalked out your space on the sidewalk like everyone else and then you leave. You don’t get to leave a note to save your spot. 

BENORICE

You came here after midnight to leave a note and went for coffee? 

ADLEIGH

I didn’t come here at 2:30 a.m. and leave a note. I sat in my car and I waited, with my kids. When I got in line, I got in line and no one else was here: no one. I didn’t see your note and you don’t get the right. I didn’t go out to get coffee after staying up all night and expect to have my spot held by a note left on the pavement.

DEIRDRE

Do you want to get some coffee? Because I can hold your spot…

ADLEIGH

NOOOO! I don’t want to get coffee and you don’t get my spot and you don’t leave notes. And can you keep your mask up? Please.

DEIRDRE

Okay. Okay. Fine. Fine. I’ll get in line. I’m going.

(DIERDRA passes CAMERON, whose breathing and coughing start as DIERDRA approaches. She masks up immediately)

Oh, great. Excuse me? Can you cough in another direction, please?

ADLEIGH

Leave her alone. She’s in line just like everyone else. 

DEIRDRE

I just don’t need this. I can’t get sick and then get on a plane. I leave in two weeks for vacation and I can’t get sick.

ADLEIGH

Good God, you’re insufferable. Do you have any symptoms? 

DEIRDRE

No. But I can’t fly without a negative test. Everyone knows that.

BENORICE

There’s no requirement for testing proof. They just take your temperature and ask you questions. Have you been exposed? 

DEIRDRE

Are you kidding? No. I mean, probably not. Just the neighbors. We had a cookout, but that was two weeks ago, and even though one of their family is in the ICU and a few are sick, we’re fine. And the girl group. We had some drinks last Friday. Tracey didn’t make it to spin class, but she thinks it’s a reaction to all the gin we drank. I mean, I don’t think my gardeners have it. But I can’t understand them without their masks off. No, no, probably not. I hope not.

ADLEIGH

Unbelievable. Do you take any of this seriously? Does anyone you know take this seriously at all? Ever?

(CAMERON has been on her phone, looking on-line, and dejectedly reports the news back to everyone:)

CAMERON

There’s no line. There’s no testing today. There’s no line here. 

DEIRDRE

What? Well, why the hell did I leave a note, then? 

CAMERON

I just looked it up on-line. They moved the location to the other side of town. It opened already. I don’t think I will make it. 

BENORICE

Do you need a ride? I could give you a ride. In the backseat.  

CAMERON

Are you sure? Okay…

DEIRDRE

Good luck. Next time, I’ll leave a person instead of a note. 

(DEIRDRE leaves. CAMERON leaves with BENORICE. ADLEIGH is left where she began, realizing she is first in a line of a line that is not, at least, happening today.)

ADLEIGH

What do I do? 

THE END

***
Robert Walikis is a writer, playwright, poet, and songwriter. His work has appeared in Literary North, Pif Magazine, and Barzakh. Rob graduated from Cornell University and lives in Irvine, California with his wife-partner-writer Diana Mullins. He makes maps and tells stories. Read more at www.robertwalikis.com