- Full Length
- Radio Drama
- Solo show
Written as both a radio and a stage play, this single-hander centers on a woman who encounters some complex and unexpected questions surrounding her comatose husband and discovers the subtler horrors of classism along the way.
Play Sample Text
Why did you marry me?
I’ve been reflecting a great deal on those early days, trying to figure if I missed any warning signs that this was a thing that could happen. I keep getting stuck on our engagement. True to form, you totally outdid yourself on the proposal. We’d been dating exactly a year and I’d been complaining about how you never really spoke about your childhood— like were conspicuously silent on the subject, actually. You hadn’t even brought me around any of your family so I could pump them for stories. But that day, to mark the completion of our first year as a couple, you made a point of taking me to your old neighborhood. Specially arranged a whole tour. Three stops. I remember all of them vividly.
The first was Ellery’s Fish Fry. Which you rented out in its entirety, although “entirety” hangs large on the actuality. Three orange Formica tables and a counter. But one of those tables was draped in fine linen and topped with a fancy silver candelabra, and the staff, which included Ellery himself, just fussed and fawned over us. They served our lunch with such pride. On rented china. Lord, that was the best catfish I’ve ever had. Say what you will about the ambience, that breading was God’s work. Not too greasy. A perfect blend of seasonings that Mr. Ellery refused to divulge. But he did tell me that they sifted the cornmeal beforehand. Try as I might, I was never able to replicate it. Well done, Ellery.
The second stop was Jefferson Elementary School. Your alma mater. We were greeted by the new principal. The one who presided over the school when you were a student there had retired a couple years prior. But your music teacher, Mrs. Boxley was still there, thanks, in no small part, to a donation you made specifically to save the music program. You don’t know that I know that. She pulled me aside and told me when you were preoccupied with that kid with the tuba. You’d instructed her to not mention it, but she was just so proud of you. So proud of who you had become and that you had thought enough of her and the school to do that. Then she and her students treated us to a private jazz concert. Which was astonishingly good. You squeezed my hand when they played Night and Day. Meanwhile, I pondered the irony of all those beautiful black and brown children attending a school named after a man who owned slaves, impregnated at least one of them. Hell, one of those kids could have been his descendant.
And finally, the King Street Projects. You showed me the apartment where you lived. Or rather where you somehow survived. Like grass persisting through a crack in the sidewalk. The woman who lived there then was quite abrasive. I’m guessing you had to offer her money or something to gain access— she didn’t strike me as the type to indulge the nostalgia of strangers. It was a pretty pitiful place. Not even the plants helped. And she had a lot of plants. They just drew attention to the dullness of the walls that were in desperate need of some fresh paint. The peeling linoleum floors. All I could do was smile and nod while you walked me around. You took me down to the playground where you used to play. But always, of course, after you’d done your homework. Then you pointed at a spot where two little girls were doing chalk drawings. “And that,” you said, “is where my father got arrested.” You were ten. You watched him get slammed down and cuffed on that very patch of asphalt where those girls were drawing hearts. And that was the last time you saw him out in open air.
I, of course, had no idea that any of this was in your history. So many feelings assaulted me in that moment. I was embarrassed for you. I was aghast that this was an experience that someone could have so close and yet so far from where I was living out my own relatively charmed life. And mostly I was angry that this was a thing that happened to you. And just as I was transitioning into a weird acceptance of these circumstances as what ultimately led you to be the man you were—see? I process fast— you told me, as if reading my mind, you said that it was all in the past and that you were determined to give new significance to that place, a positive association. You asked if I could help with that and pointed down to the chalk drawing that the girls had been working on. And there amongst their little hearts and squiggles were two words and a punctuation mark: “Marry me?”
And I looked at you, and in that moment, you were the realest, bravest, most vulnerable thing I’d ever seen in my life and I knew that I loved you. I knew that you hadn’t shared all that so much as confessed it. You were pleading with me not just to accept your proposal, but your past as well. To transcend it as you had. You smiled so earnestly. God, you were radiant. So much so that I almost didn’t even notice the ring you were holding out to me.
It’s still my favorite piece of jewelry.