NOT A FIRST DATE BUT A START, a short play by Kirby Fields

May 19, 2016 by RJ

 

The Characters

STANLEY – late-40’s

AUDREY – mid-30’s
The Place

An outdoor café in an American city.
The Time

The present.

 

At rise: A table for two at an outdoor café. The table has a cloth on it that extends all the way to the ground. STANLEY sits at the table. He nervously taps an envelope. AUDREY enters. She wears an ankle-length skirt and a tank top. In one hand, she carries a cup of coffee. In the other, a gift bag and a single red rose. She looks around, twirls the rose. STANLEY stands.

STANLEY
Audrey?

AUDREY
Jake.

STANLEY
Hello.

AUDREY
Hi.

(STANLEY awkwardly extends a hand. She shakes it.)

STANLEY
So, uh.
(He motions to the seat opposite.)
Please.

AUDREY
Thank you.

(They sit. She places the gift bag, the rose, and the coffee on the table.)

STANLEY
This is a nice place. I like it.

AUDREY
Delivery trucks can be a bit much, but otherwise.

STANLEY
Do you live around here? Or is that an inappropriate question?

AUDREY
No. It’s not inappropriate at all. I live in the neighborhood, yes. You?

STANLEY
No. I, um, I live in, um…I don’t live around here.

AUDREY
Cool.

STANLEY
Yeah.

Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Coffee?
(AUDREY gestures with her coffee.)
Oh, right. Something to go with it, maybe? A muffin or a scone? I had a cinnamon-chip scone, myself.

(STANLEY taps the envelope.)

AUDREY
I’m fine.

STANLEY
Are you sure? It was very—.

AUDREY
Jake.

STANLEY
Yes?

AUDREY
Relax.

(STANLEY stops tapping.)

STANLEY
Relax, right. Relax. Apparently you’ve done this before.

AUDREY
I have.

STANLEY
Ahh….
AUDREY
Enough to be impressed that you followed through, actually..

STANLEY
Yeah?

AUDREY
Yeah. You can usually tell from that first email who’s serious and who’s desperate at the end of a late night.

STANLEY
I seemed desperate?

AUDREY
You seemed tentative. Curious, but unsure.

STANLEY
I was impressed by how quickly you replied. And that you knew when to use capital letters.

AUDREY
All lowercase is the hallmark of the underaged. It’s the kiss of death in this line, unless you want to attract the real creeps.

STANLEY
You get a lot of those? Creeps?

AUDREY
I get my share, but most guys are harmless enough. They’re just looking for a discrete way to blow off a little steam without feeling too guilty about the wife and kids. After all, it is only coffee, right?

STANLEY
And sometimes not even that.

AUDREY
Exactly! Sometimes not even that.

No, I was impressed that you followed through because you sent your first email at 3:30 in the morning. That’s either drunk or on a whim, neither of which suggests a high level of commitment.

STANLEY
I wasn’t drunk.
AUDREY
The earliest message you sent was at 2:00 a.m. Another was close to 4:00. You having a hard time sleeping, Jake? Looking for a little nocturnal release?
(She nods to the ring on his finger.)
Or do you just prefer that early-, early-morning privacy?
(STANLEY covers his ring with his thumb.)
Not that I necessarily blame you for being cautious, of course. What with all of the casual surveillance out there? Maybe I’m a set up? Maybe Dateline is lurking in the bushes? Maybe I’m some money-hungry vixen looking to make a dishonest buck?

STANLEY
I don’t think you’re dishonest.

AUDREY
I try to do everything short of business cards to prove that I’m legit. I use my real name. I send pictures. I send real pictures. I’ll even give you my phone number if you ask. Well, the business line, anyway.

STANLEY
You told me what neighborhood you live in.

AUDREY
I told you what neighborhood I live in. See. I try to keep everything on the up-and-up. So, you see Jake, there’s no reason to be nervous.

STANLEY
Your pictures don’t do you justice, by the way. You’re prettier in real life.

AUDREY
Thank you, Jake. That was a very sweet thing for you to say. That’s something I don’t get much of anymore. Sweetness.

STANLEY
My name is Stanley, by the way. It’s not “Jake.” If you’re really Audrey, then I’m really Stanley.

AUDREY
Then hello, Stanley.

STANLEY
Hi.

AUDREY
So. Shall we—?

(AUDREY begins to adjust herself in her chair.)

STANLEY
What? Here? Now?

AUDREY
That’s the whole point, now isn’t it, Stanley?

STANLEY
Wait.

AUDREY
Wait?

(AUDREY stills herself.)

STANLEY
Can we just sit for a few more minutes, before, maybe? Maybe talk. It’s been a long time since I just sat and talked to a woman.

AUDREY
A man who actually wants to take his time. Something else I don’t get much of anymore. What do you want to talk about?

STANLEY
Tell me something about yourself.

AUDREY
What do you want to know?

STANLEY
Well, for starters, how did you end up…?

AUDREY
You mean, What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?

STANLEY
I guess. Or do people ask you that all the time?

AUDREY
Actually, you’re the first.

It was a date I had in college, if you really want to know.

STANLEY
I do.

AUDREY
It was my freshman year—he was an older man, a sophomore—and we were in the same Intro to Sociology class. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 in Kimpel Hall. He was one of these introverted types who sat in the front row and wrote down everything the teacher said. Not just the notes on the board, but every single word. His notebook must have been like a transcription. He never looked up. He didn’t even know that I existed.

Then one day I stepped funny off a curb and twisted my ankle. I had to miss a week of class. No one would have more detailed notes than he. I explained my situation, and when I was done, I had not only the notes, but also a date. Only he didn’t call it a “date.” He called it “hanging out.” Do you want to, quote, hang out with me sometime, unquote? I should have known then.

So we hung out, me and this boy I was smitten with, and we had just a really, really nice time. Dinner and a walk through the park, and everything was just really free and easy and casual, you know. Comfortable. And at the end of the night, he walked me back to my dorm, and I thought, What a gentleman, half wishing that he wasn’t. After all, I was 19. I was pretty. I mean, all he had to do was say the word and I would have gone wherever he asked, done anything he wanted. Well, almost anything, apparently.

So we’re standing outside of my building, and finally, finally, he leans in to give me a kiss goodnight, only his cheek goes right past mine, and his breath is in my ear now, and my mouth opens to allow that sudden heave in my chest, and he’s pulling me close, and I’m thinking, OK, if this is how he wants to play it then that’s just fine with me, that’s just fine, indeed, and my chest flat against his now, and then he whispers in my ear, all moist like, he whispers, May I have your panties, please? Not How about a good night kiss or Do you want to go back to my place? Not even Will you suck my cock? Those I would have understood. But May I have your panties, please? May I. Please. No interest in that which was inside the panties, which, until that point, I had always thought was the goal. No. Just the panties. Thank you.

Well, of course I was mortified, so I pushed him away and ran as fast I could into my dorm. I must have looked like someone who had just been…well, I must have looked like someone who had just been raped. He called after me, but I didn’t turn back. That night I cried myself to sleep, and on Monday morning I dropped Intro to Sociology.

But that night always stayed with me, partly because of his audaciousness and partly because—well, if you promise not to tell—partly because it turned me on.

I don’t have to do this, you know. I have a job. I have a good job, with benefits and time off for vacation and sick days and a 401K even. I do this because I like it. I do this because nice boys are hard to find, and while I’m waiting, why not, you know? Why not have a little fun?

I’m sorry. That was more than you asked for.
STANLEY
I didn’t even know what I wanted until I saw your post. Then I thought I did. Now, sitting with you here, I know I do.

AUDREY
Plenty of women will mail you their game-worn jerseys, as it were. But what I provide is different. The connection. It adds a whole new dimension.

STANLEY
Yes. Yes, it does.

AUDREY
So, Stanley. Was that talk enough? Are you ready to stop talking now?

STANLEY
You said I was married before.

AUDREY
I never said—.

STANLEY
You suggested it. I’m wearing a ring.

AUDREY
It was just an observation. I didn’t mean anything by it.

STANLEY
She died. She’s dead.

AUDREY
Oh. I’m—.

STANLEY
It’s—.

AUDREY
I’m sorry.

STANLEY
It’s OK.

AUDREY
I had no—.
STANLEY
Really, it’s—. These things happen sometimes. Sometimes people get sick and then they don’t get better. I gave myself a year before—. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense, seems disrespectful even, but I gave myself a year before I would…before I would put myself back out there again.

AUDREY
I see.

So…I’m, what, your first date?

STANLEY
It seemed less complicated.

I miss having her stuff around the house. A woman’s stuff. So much more dainty and ornamental and fragrant than a man’s. When she passed, I purged myself. Boxed it all up and gave it to her mother. Got it out of my sight. It felt like the right thing to do at the time. But now I miss it. Now I miss all of her stuff. The shoes lining the bottom of the closet. The six different bottles of shampoo in the shower. Those sponges that she washed with instead of the cloth. Her robe. I tried to buy the same things that she bought—that powder-blue deodorant, the baby powder she’d splash on before she got dressed. I’d try to scatter them around the house to make them look accidental. Oh, she must have been in a hurry this morning. Or Oh, her sister must have called. But it was no good. It was too forced, too sterile. How to be spontaneous in ten easy steps. Then I saw your post and I knew what I wanted. I wanted something alive, something lived in. I wanted something with a life behind it.

No, it’s not a first date, but it’s a start. It is—at the very least—a start.
(pause)
You’re still pretty, you know. I told you that before. I wasn’t being sweet.

AUDREY
You requested the white cotton with the small red hearts, right?

STANLEY
Yes.

AUDREY
Do you want to confirm?

STANLEY
How would I?

AUDREY
Take a peek.

STANLEY
But—?

AUDREY
Just lift up the tablecloth and take a peek.
(STANLEY looks left, then right.)
It’s OK. It’s just you and me, Stanley. No one else even exists.
(AUDREY’s hands disappears beneath the tablecloth. STANLEY looks around. He pulls the tablecloth up on his side and looks.)
Are those the right ones?
(STANLEY nods yes.)
OK. You can stop looking now.
(Her hands back above board, STANLEY lets the cloth fall.)
I’ve really enjoyed meeting you, Stanley.

STANLEY
I’ve enjoyed meeting you too.

AUDREY
It’s been a most affirming afternoon.

Are you ready?

STANLEY
I don’t know.

(STANLEY looks away.)

AUDREY
Stanley. Stanley, baby. Look at me.
(STANLEY looks at AUDREY.)
I said, Are you ready?
(STANLEY nods.)
Good. Now.

(AUDREY reaches under the table, wriggles in her seat a bit, first one side, then the other. When she is finished, she takes the gift bag from the top of the table, places it in her lap. She puts her panties inside the bag, neatly folds the top, and returns it to the table.)

AUDREY (cont.)
Special, just for you.

(She pushes the bag across the table. It sits next to her rose from before. In turn, STANLEY pushes the envelope back, but her hand stops his.)

AUDREY (cont.)
No. It was my pleasure. Really.
(She stands up, smoothes her skirt. She leans down, kisses STANLEY on the cheek, then whispers in his ear.)
I hope you find whatever it is you’re looking for.

(AUDREY begins to leave.)

STANLEY
Audrey.

(She turns around.)

(He extends the rose.)

 


 

KIRBY FIELDS is from Joplin, Missouri. He holds an MFA in Playwriting from Carnegie Mellon and has had his work produced or developed in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, Ann Arbor, and Kansas City. He lives in Washington Heights with his wife and two sons. Track his novel-in-progress at http://summer-session.tumblr.com.

 

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