Normad: Any gender, older than young, haggard and wearing tattered clothing; their hair is an absolute mess.
V Lloyd: Man, mid forties, classy/sophisticated type, he wears white shoes and a mustache.
*Italics are used when Normad is talking to themselves/audience.
Scene I: Trash Life
(Normad and V Lloyd are staring each other down in an alley, near dumpsters.)
Normad: I instantly didn’t trust him. No, not this one. His seemed like the sort with morals that could sway. He wore serial killer shoes and clothes that looked ordered. He had an air of mania, the upswing-ing redemption of proactive depression. Keep it controlled, on his terms; he didn’t want the real. Nobody wants the real; it comes in too hot. I knew his type. I know everyone’s type…enough to know we all fit one. Nothing can ever be different or new, except the random.
(Normad sifts through trash.)
Normad: He was going to ask me what I was doing here. Fair. I often wondered myself.
V Lloyd: Why are you here?
Normad: I’m on vacation…
V Lloyd: You don’t say.
Normad: I did already, and isn’t everyone?
V Lloyd: On vacation? I am, but then, I earned it. Many sacrifices, many gold stars, endless plastic exchanges.
Normad: A life can be boiled down in a pile of peanuts.
V Lloyd: Life isn’t peanuts, friend.
Normad: It’s pretty nutty though.
V Lloyd: Peanuts are the only things that you can boil and they stay exactly the same, in no way altered…not like eggs. Have you tried them both? It’s uncanny of peanuts. Eggs I get. They’re totally altered. Cabbage? Also turns different. But peanuts? No. Why go through the whole boiling process to have them turn out so similar? It makes no sense. Or does it?
Normad: Not sure. I don’t frequent the circus.
V Lloyd: But you’re here, you’re in it, right now. This is the spectacle we seek. Freaks for days.
Normad: I am one of them, but not the them.
V Lloyd: Who do you think the them is?
Normad: Who’s to say?
V Lloyd: Why do you say that?
Normad: Because I should.
V Lloyd: A mild answer, but it’s probably more about ethics than you realize. Of course ethics was my major in college—I minored in majorities. They both play a major part in my minor adult life…You go to school? I’ve been schooled, but I think it meant I was supposed to be insulted. Jokes on them though: you can’t insult someone who insults himself first. (notices Normad’s mind drifting) You seem like you know something, some things; you’ve obviously been places. I’ve been places too (wracking brain) I really can’t place the places, at this time and place…how bout we say the places we’ve been at the same time and see if we match! Okay? Okay, ready…go!
*V Lloyd: Europe! Asia! Africa!
*Normad: Northeast Dumpster Fire!
V Lloyd: Smart ass…
Normad: Sorry, I’ve never been there.
V Lloyd: I bet…and I do bet often, on things that can’t lose. You should try it. Just bet on something that will never fail…
Normad: It’s gonna be red-seven every time.
V Lloyd: I was thinking something beyond the casino floor.
Normad: Nothing will ever change my luck or ever increase my odds.
V Lloyd: Would be tough to increase your odd—ness.
Normad: What are you after?
V Lloyd: Where you’ve been, who you’ve been?
Normad: I was once successful, now I ride the success of others.
V Lloyd: Those who can’t do, teach. Never liked that one because those that do, wouldn’t be able to teach without first learning how to do. Of course, from there, yes the teachers get the one-uppery, the humiliating sting of the surpassing youth—that’s gotta burn…but at least legacy is involved, so life was less of a total waste. This is also why people procreate. You have the teachers, those who are taught, and then there are the naturals. There is no expression for them. Eh. You either got it, or you don’t. You were born to play, ya natural you! I guess there are a couple. There’s an expression for everything. Life is never too complex to sum up simply in a few words. Ask a fortune cookie. Still seems embarrassing that so much could be so peanut-boiled down though.
(Normad looks around for, presumably, a sundial.)
Normad: Watch the time but the hour never comes. I’ve been all these places before. Is there anything else? Another sidle, the others….the space with the other sides. The them waits.
(Normad lies on the ground.)
Normad: Never trust the credibility of what you’re experiencing—hearing, seeing, doing. All could be deception. The narrator could be crazy, and so could you.
V Lloyd: So, you don’t often bet, do you Normad?
Normad(sits up): How do you…?
V Lloyd: Everybody knows who you are. Everyone except you.
(Normad looks annoyed, then stares off at their foot.)
Normad: My toenail is about to fall off; I guess from nail polish that I never bothered to take off. I didn’t bother because I don’t care, about anything, in case there was still any confusion about that. I now suffer the effects of my inaction, as we all must. Do nothing but things keep happening. That happens, but not hard enough, often enough, to make me change. I ended up tying together the nail with a piece of dental floss and a hope strand, but I feel it coming off again…it’s going down and so am I. I’m losing my whiskers, myself, my myopia. My liver is a patient coffin, my lungs…the dregs of sawdust.
V Lloyd: Are you okay there?
Normad: OK is two empty letters, trapped in a meaningless alphabet, created by those who had vision, who thought we could do better than we were doing.
V Lloyd: OK’s not even in sequential alphabetical order so that would be extra meaningless, eh?
(Normad’s distracted again.)
V Lloyd: Do you have friends?
Normad: My best friend is a piece of driftwood I found at a deserted beach-like trash heap. I call him Sticky. He gets it, for the most part. I mean, we get along alright. Sometimes I stare and I wonder if he’s becoming unreliably unrelatable, just like them all. I barely wake up and I never remember falling asleep. Passing through it all but I must still be alive, or so says Sticky. But not the others: the them. I try to avoid these them. They spring up though, following as a reminder, begging me to consume, comply, engage, as if that’s all there is to it.
(Normad gets up to scavenge for food.)
V Lloyd: I see…so this conversation is still transpiring or…?
Normad: I just told you about him.
V Lloyd: I was thinking along the lines of things that aren’t made out of wood. Maybe something with a pulse?
Norman: My serial killer had observed my scavenging, in body and in mind. Sometimes it upsets people, but who are they? I prevent waste, cause no harm. They buy, buying-in to the nothing when they’re told to, a triumph for disposability, preserved without preservation—lots of packaging—is what I’m getting at. I only feed myself. They feed darkness, but it’s hard to see that, cause it’s so dark and all.
V Lloyd: Why are you here?
Normad: Where else would I be?
V Lloyd: You have your usual spots and this isn’t them.
Normad: You know stuff.
V Lloyd: Enough to be charming, yet creepy. I’ve got at least one of those words covered…
Normad: Thought I would make a change today, with this spot…maybe with everything.
V Lloyd: Something will always change…and always for the worse, because you’re always getting older. That’s just a reality. The greatest times were youth, and not your first outings either, with school and friends; it’s those memories you can’t remember, those throughout fully content infancy days.
(Normad stops at trash hunting and almost listens.)
V Lloyd: Whata cruel joke for the forgotten times to be the best ones…
Normad: I should go now.
V Lloyd: Can I buy you a sandwich?
Normad: That sounds too luxury for my filth.
V Lloyd (grabbing Normad by shoulders): Today you will live! And you will live for something! And you will want to! And there will be a sandwich!
(Lights out. They walk, sit down.)
Scene II: The Wurst Diner
(Lights up. Normad and V Lloyd sit in a brightly-lit restaurant.)
Normad: This restaurant is cold, in temp and mind. Artificial air perks me in an unsettling way. Not into it. I prefer a consensual perking. This must be how the them live.
(Normad looks around nervously.)
Normad: I should have left by now. Anyone reasonable woulda, but I’m not reasonable. Which is all pretty relative anyways. We create their rules for ourselves, enforce them and follow, but we’re the ones who decide what normal is, even if it isn’t.
(Normad looks up at V Lloyd.)
Normad: This fellow ghost having some regard for me is bizarrely fresh. It stirs me, or is that the future acid reflux? Was I having sympathy pains again? The physical is 90% metaphysical. Super meta. I think someone made that up. Someone makes up everything there is to explain. Regardless, he seemed to need a friend. What a sucker.
V Lloyd: I have a proposition for you.
Normad: Creepy opening, no doubt about that.
(Normad smiles and nods, slumps over, then consensually perks up.)
Normad: Here it comes, the perpetual grossness.
V Lloyd: Pardon…?
Normad: I don’t do those…propositions.
V Lloyd: You don’t do much of anything do you?
Normad: Not if I can help it.
V Lloyd: Do you think you help anyone?
Normad: Not anymore.
V Lloyd: What about yourself?
Normad: Is that rhetorical? Was that rhetorical? No, there’s nowhere good to go from here…only heartbreaking acceptance.
V Lloyd: I don’t accept that. The more you resist, the more it hurts—that’s what’s great about it. And that applies to political activism too. And assaulty stuff. (Beat.) Do you find yourself either looking at everything and thinking nothing or—
Normad (head down): Looking at nothing and thinking everything.
V Lloyd: Well that’s gotta mean something.
(Normad spaces out and shrugs.)
V Lloyd: Do you like liverwurst? And don’t say it’s the worst.
Normad: It’s not the best…
V Lloyd: No fear, I would never clever-wordsmith-you like that. I could never dreammm of achieving that level of clever. Never level of clever. Never clever level…that’s really not easy…but why would I ever say that? In that exact way? Oh words…
V Lloyd: So, you do?
V Lloyd: Do you like the worst of the liver, or, as many would deem it—I being one of these manys—the best of the liver? The best of course being the wurst. Simple query.
(V Lloyd gets up and walks near offstage.)
V Lloyd: Do you eat food?
Normad: I’m a human, aren’t I? No really, I’m curious.
(V Lloyd nods at Normad. A hand reaches out from offstage to present sandwich. V. Lloyd gropes blindly, intensely staring at Normad until he finally grasps the plate.)
V Lloyd: I’m not sure. The them has been gripping people a lot lately. Haven’t you noticed?
Normad: I choose not to notice things.
Normad: I have noticed though. How could you not? He’s talking about the them. I thought he was one.
V Lloyd: You’re completely right in saying that it’s a choice—to notice things. You choose not to see what disrupts the cogs, as if something or someone could control the very experience of you consciously existing.
(V Lloyd takes a bite of his sandwich and looks away from Normad.)
V Lloyd: It’s just verbal coating and you seek the main source. Silver dropplings. Bronze delights. Crimson treatlings. I shall use that bit….bite.
(V Lloyd bites sandwich, then looks distracted.)
V Lloyd: You do know more than you think.
Normad (looking down): I don’t think so.
(V Lloyd lifts thier chin up.)
V Lloyd: Eat defeat.
(He takes an angry bite and Normad looks back down.)
V Lloyd: You hear me? You get it? You understand?!
(Normad pauses before taking a bite of thier sandwich.)
Normad: Liverwurst is not the worst. Let’s just leave it at that.
V Lloyd: Did you observe how I don’t even have to order here? This waitress reads my mind because she’s one of the them, the no ones who have been gripped. It’s difficult to tell though. What you think?
Normad: I treasure the moments I have free of thinking.
(They stare at each other.)
V Lloyd: What are you trying to forget?
Normad: Nothing I can’t remember.
V Lloyd: I know there’s more.
Normad: There’s always more.
(Normad takes a bite, painfully slow.)
Normad: I was happy once. That will do terrible things to a person.
V Lloyd: Can’t be so bad. You’ve made it here. You’re still moving, you’re still a good…one.
Normad: I’m scum.
V Lloyd: I find most to be scum. Disingenuous, self-fulfilling, scum buckets. I enjoy realness—yours, even if it’s like this. It’s refreshing to hear it but not to feel it. You exude pathetic and you don’t pretend you’re more than you are. That’s rare. Fine things are rare, that’s why everyone loves them. They’re rare because everyone likes them and takes them. Or maybe they were rare originally and that is what people find likeable.
Normad: Everyone wants to be more than they are but no one is anything.
V Lloyd: Exactly! Sort of. Brilliant!…mostly. Painless tragedy, unfazed apathy! Untrained nihilism! Unhinged bleakness! It’s all very excellent!
(Normad does not react.)
V Lloyd: I wish I could live you somehow. Just having this (motions a circle around the two of them) can’t be enough for a merry go round ride on this universal trip. People get cut off before they know knowing.
(He grabs Normad’s hand. Normad does not resist.)
Normad: If you want to kill me at the end of this sandwich, I won’t try to stop you. I only ask that it be painful, so at least I might feel something, before I feel nothing.
(V Lloyd chuckles.)
(Normad stares at V Lloyd. Normad slowly puts their head down in their hands, doesn’t sob, but looks like they want to.)
V Lloyd: You’re the poster child for misery. Never saw anyone that wished they were an abortion. *Ad Lib*
Normad (interrupts): I want to go now.
(Normad gets up and starts walking away.)
V Lloyd: But your sandwich…
Normad: I prefer dumpster and sticky.
V Lloyd: You simply must eat…to live—r. This liver is the flux of the soul—if that’s a thing. Would it kill for you to liver it up a little? Would you like a delivery of the wurst? You gotta live—r in the moment.
(Normad gets up to leave. V Lloyd grabs Normad.)
V Lloyd: Eating is always a good choice. It’s what people do who want to live—r.
Normad: I’m tired of eating. Tired of choices. Tired of livering. Tired of everything.
(Normad walks away.)
V Lloyd: In an enlightened way though, right?
(Normad crosses to other side of stage. V Lloyd gives a peculiar look to Normad.)
V Lloyd: You think you can leave this?
Normad: I walked out less hungry but with less inside me. His parting look was so peculiar I almost wanted to return. I didn’t, of course, I don’t do things like that, not anymore. It remains as clear as eyes full of crystal dancing and circles written in chalk dust that: we really didn’t know each other.
V Lloyd: We’re not the them.
Normad: Believe me, believe him, believe anything, but don’t trust the THEM.
V Lloyd: We’re the us!
Normad: Life is made up of stories remembered, retold; they cut through the living with what they may hold, chaos flukes that burn through forgettable fog of soul, and they remain empty, unknown, without strife. In both story and life, no matter how we play: nothing much happens, there’s nothing much to say.
End of play.
Allison Saft is a creative artist from writing and performance, to music and art. She has a BA in English/Theatre and a MA in Writing for Performance. She wrote, directed, and acted in the 2017 and 2019 New Works short-play series at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre in New York City. Allison has been published in Literary Orphans, Emanations : 2 + 2 = 5, Silver Birch Press, Poetry Nation, Sensible Reason, and others. She is also an active political activist and inactive philosopher. She hopes her writing may act as a vehicle for social change or internal exploration, or at the very least, be read.