Scenes from an infestation

The following scenes are excerpted from Buzz, a full-length play. The action takes place in a loft apartment over the course of two days. All characters appear in their underwear, which is utilitarian in style, nothing fancy.

Scene 1

Tom is removing plastic coverings from furniture and unpacking small domestic objects: books, et cetera. He is mid- to late thirties, not in the best shape, overdue for a haircut. He retains much of the physical and intellectual authority granted him by past successes in school, the theater, and with women, and is mostly good-humored even when distraught. Lately, though, his thoughts tend to confusion, and he will come to seem somewhat puzzled and aghast, like a man just informed of bad news.

Having tidied the room, Tom sits down. Listens a moment for a sound. Hears none, is pleased. Begins to write in notebook, or to type. Suddenly looks up—startled, suspicious—at some noise.

Scene 2

Sasha enters wearing a three-quarter-length springtime coat. She is thirtyish and a beauty, about six months pregnant. With a ready wit and considerable physical grace, she nevertheless seems slightly more nervous than is warranted, as if no one—till now?—has ever prized her in the measure she would seem to deserve. Her bouts of sarcasm, even harshness, do little to conceal a basic goodness.

She stands still, listens for a sound, hears none. Removes coat. Walks farther into the apartment, scanning for motion, sound. Nothing.

Sasha Thank God. Thank me. Sometimes you get what you pay too much for.

Now she addresses audience:

Oh, it’s like how it almost makes you glad to’ve had the nightmare, now that you’re awake and safe, you know? And God, it has been such a, literally, such a stupid . . . I mean, where’s the dignity—terrorized is probably too strong a word—but where’s the dignity in being literally annoyed to death by . . . ? Not that they necessarily even grated on me so much at first, whenever that was. But then Tom—see, like the danger of another human being, it turns out, is they might actually affect and in-fluence you the way once upon a time you fantasized a fellow human would. For example, what if he’s an artist and you start seeing things the fucked-up but also true and undeniable way that artists—isn’t this the theory? (beat) Sorry, I’m not super practiced at speaking to an audience who’s not even there. I’ve never been in a play before! (pause; grateful) Oh God, it is so quiet in here. (addressing absent flies) So thank you all for having gone away.

Tom enters with bouquet of flowers, wearing three-quarter-length winter coat and scarf.

And thank you for having come back.

Tom Think I wouldn’t?

Sasha Not bearing gifts. There were no—?

Tom It was very quiet.

Sasha No wonder they’re the best in the city! And I love those white suits they have!

Tom The guys from the—?

Sasha Who do you think? The ones in black, they’re the bad guys. The good guys are in white. I love those suits! It makes you feel like they’re cleaning up nuclear waste or something.

Tom is smiling agreeably but does not share her delight.

Aren’t you beside yourself with . . . quiet? You seem—I sense moderately elevated affect, but not—

Tom No, I feel good. In fact I started over.

Sasha Is that good? Starting over? (with broader reference) I guess it is. (non sequitur) Why the winter coat?

Tom I like to observe the seasons with appropriate attire.

Sasha (affectionate; seductive) Take off your stupid coat.

Tom does so. Noticing his underwear; alarmed:

Wait, Tom, you have them on you! You have—

Tom No, no. This is not from here. These stains derive from the world at large. From the florist, more particularly.

Sasha (very relieved) You freaked me out! (beat) So you got some work done?

Tom Yeah.

Sasha You could focus?

Tom Like a laser.

Sasha Yay! (beat) How goes the love scene? Or is it scenes, plural?

Tom I feel like I can do a pretty credible portrayal of love at the moment.

Sasha (arranging flowers) Is the heroine maybe a statuesque beauty—

Tom Even while arranging flowers—

Sasha The fineness of whose features is excelled only by the goodness of her heart?

Tom People might not believe my alter ego was so lucky.

Sasha It’s always plausible when the woman’s too good for the man. (beat) And does the heroine show her love for the man she loves—sorry, redundant—but does she like, manifest her—?

Tom By hiring the good guys in the white suits—?

Sasha Yeah, and maybe she’s six months pregnant? And there’s this interesting paradox or irony or whatever where the embodiment of fertility is also the agent of extermination?

Tom Sounds a bit abstract.

Sasha I don’t feel abstract. How many gray hairs would she have?

Tom Not one too many.

Sasha Even if there were more all the time? (beat) What I find interesting about the statuesque, pregnant, and dare I say well-spoken heroine—

Tom Hey, who’s writing this thing?

Sasha It’s like life. It’s super naturalistic. Basically writes itself.

Tom So what do you need me for?

Sasha Um . . . your DNA.

Tom smiles.

Your smile. (beat) And your play!

Tom No one needs another—

Sasha So reason not the need!

Tom You know I think I felt more comfortable when I dated less intelligent women.

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