SHADOWS IN THE DARK

SHADOWS IN THE DARK

English One Act Play

Jay Crisostomo IV

KODOKUSHI n.

Translates to Lonely Death, kodokushi is a phenomenon recently experienced in Japan where single men and women are found in their apartments several days or even months after their deaths. The bodies, being left alone for an extended period of time, excrete bodily juices which marks the floor with their silhouettes.

Characters:

WOMAN, an office woman at 38, everything about her could be described as average

MAN, a figure from the WOMAN’s past though it is not entirely clear who the Man is

Setting:

A medium sized apartment in an urban condominium. At the rise, the apartment is very plain like its owner; white walls, white doors, a window with an awkward view of a billboard for maxi-size lingerie with the tag “There’s always space down there” slightly visible. Furniture include a sofa set, a beaten-up television, a small dining set for two, and a fishbowl with one lonely goldfish.

The Play:

First Thursday

(Darkness. Silence.)

(The WOMAN enters, she opens the lights, she drops her keys on the dish by the door, she takes off her shoes, crosses the stage to her bedroom, turns on the light, hastily changes from office clothes to a gigantic shirt and her panties, turns off the bedroom lights, crosses the stage to the kitchen, gets a bowl of cold soup, goes to the light switch by the door, closes it.)

(Darkness. Silence.)

(A roar of motorcycle motor is heard from the distance.)

(The WOMAN is sitting on the sofa in front of the television set, turns it on. Nothing but static on TV. She changes the channel with a remote control, still static, again, and static still. In the cruel glare of the television, she looks old and haggard. She gives up. We hear her slurping the soup in darkness.)

(Darkness. Silence.)

(The door opens. The MAN enters, carrying a couple of grocery bags. He turns on the lights. The WOMAN is startled, she hides below the seat. The MAN moves as if he had been born in the apartment.)

MAN

(Casually) You should really keep some lights on. People might think you’re a hikikimori or some thug might get the idea of breaking in. You’re a single woman living in a flat by yourself, that’s dangerous in a city like this you know. (Crosses to the kitchen, drops the groceries off, while sorting the canned goods and instant noodle cartons) You’re cable out again? You know you should pay the bills as soon as possible. The big companies are all losing money, and closing down one after another. They won’t wait around for you, if you don’t pay, they don’t serve. That’s how the world works nowadays. (Moves to behind the seat) Hey, do you think I could use your washroom?

(The WOMAN screams at the MAN. The MAN retaliates by screaming back at the WOMAN. The WOMAN faints from shock.)

You’re funny, you know that. Well, excuse me for a bit.

(He goes to the washroom. We hear him relieve himself and flush the toilet. Goes back onto the stage.)

Ah! That feels good. I feel so free! (Spins like a top, one foot on the ground)

What do you want for dinner? I bought some tuna, I forgot the rice though. Oh but I got the special ramen you like so much, the one with chunky beef bits.

(Crosses to the kitchen, prepares the ramen.)

(The WOMAN comes to. She scrambles to the door. Locks it tight.)

WOMAN

(From outside) Who are you?

MAN

(Pouring hot water on the second cup) What do you mean?

WOMAN

Who are you? Why are you in my apartment?

MAN

I think the real question is why aren’t you? This is your apartment. Now stop acting crazy and come inside.

WOMAN

But. But.     

MAN

Come on in. I won’t bite.

WOMAN

I’ve locked myself out.

MAN

Oh, that’s just so you. Like when we were kids. (Opens the door)

(The WOMAN moves to the kitchen with her back pressed against the wall, keeping her eye at the MAN at all times. She opens a cabinet, gets a colander and threatens him with it.)

WOMAN

I’m dangerous!

MAN

What are you going to do to me? Eat me with red sauce? Put that down, come on, I think the ramen’s just about ready. (Sits)

WOMAN

Answer me! Who are you? I don’t know what this thing is but I’m sure it can hurt.

MAN

Then why do you have it? Always the impulse buyer, aren’t you. It’s a colander, you use it to strain the water from pasta.

WOMAN

I don’t know how to cook pasta.

MAN

You just put the pasta in the boiling water, season it with salt, put some oil—

WOMAN

I don’t want a cooking lesson from you. I want your name, why are you here? Are you going to mug me? Rape me? It’s my period! Ha! You’re two days too late.

MAN

Mug? Rape? No you got it all wrong. I’m me! Don’t you remember me?

WOMAN

No.

MAN

Sometimes you can just be plain hurtful. I’m me. Your Auntie sent me. She said she’s been having trouble sleeping now that you’ve been away for so long, in the big city, making your mark, doing your thing, just like you said when we were kids. You should phone once in a while, we’re not dead you know, we’re just in the province. We worry, especially Auntie. She’s 64 now. You shouldn’t worry a poor old woman like that.

WOMAN

Auntie?

MAN

Your mother’s cousin. My mother. Don’t you remember? You used to stay in our house during Thursdays because you were afraid of the weekends. You said that if Thursday was good then Friday wouldn’t be so bad. And guess what, it’s Thursday! Happy Thursday, cousin!

WOMAN

I don’t remember.

MAN

Call your dad. He paid for my train ticket.

WOMAN

I don’t want to talk to my dad.

MAN

Then you just have to trust me, don’t you?

WOMAN

Please. Leave.

MAN

Oh, please let me have some dinner first. I haven’t eaten since I left. That’s a whole six hours without anything in my tummy. And I carried all these groceries here.

WOMAN

I didn’t tell you to shop for me.

MAN

You didn’t. My mom did. She gave me a lot actually. She told me to stay a while in the big city and watch over my little sister. I even have an apartment, not something in a mansion like this though, you big shot office worker you.

WOMAN

I don’t need help. I don’t need anyone. Please leave.

MAN

Liar. I know it gets lonely here.

(A silence.)

You remember the top dance? We did it when we were kids. We loved tops didn’t we. Here (procures a top from his pocket, hands it to her). Spin, spin, spin! With one foot on the ground! (Does the dance) Spin, spin, spin! With one foot on the ground. Don’t you remember? It’s what being a child is like.

(A silence.)

WOMAN

(Sits down) Sit down. Finish your ramen.

(They eat in silence.)

Are you really my cousin.

MAN

Second cousin really. But we were very close. I was your first kiss.

WOMAN

My first kiss? That’s gross!

MAN

It didn’t mean anything. We were just kids. We just wanted to know what it… you know.

WOMAN

No. I don’t. I don’t remember anything.

MAN

We just wanted to know what it felt like. Kissing.

WOMAN

Oh.

MAN

Yeah.

WOMAN

So you’re my cousin?

MAN

Second cousin.

WOMAN

I’m sorry. I don’t remember much. I’ve been very busy.

MAN

Don’t sweat it. You’re bound to forget the unimportant things when you’re on a mission. It’s okay. (A beat) Say, you like fish? (Points on the fish bowl in the counter)

WOMAN

What? Yeah. I guess so. It was a gift from my boss. Eighteen years of dedicated service.

MAN

Eighteen years and all you got was a gold fish.

WOMAN

It’s kind of like a trophy. I think. Well at least I didn’t get silver.

MAN

You done eating?

WOMAN

Thank you for the noodles.

MAN

I welcome you! (Comes to hug the WOMAN, doesn’t quite know where to put his hands, decides not to) Well, anyway, I have to get going. now (Wears his shoes) It was nice meeting you cousin (bows).

WOMAN

(Opens the door) Second cousin. (Bows)

MAN

I’ll see you next Thursday.

(The MAN exits.)

(The WOMAN goes to the window and waves.)

WOMAN

Spin, spin, spin. With one foot on the ground.

Second Thursday

(The WOMAN is tidying the apartment. She is expectant, looking every now and then at the window, stopping here and there from an imagined knock.)

WOMAN

Hi.

(There is no one.)

Oh.

(She continues to tidy up the apartment. She turns the television on for background. It catches a news program.)

(To no one in particular) See? I pay my bills.

NEWS CASTER    

The country is experiencing a great decline in its spirits. The UN has just called us the loneliest country in the world.

(The WOMAN closes the TV.)

None of that.

(The door opens. The MAN enters, something held behind his back.)

(Failing to hide her obvious joy) Don’t you ever knock?

MAN

What’s the use of knocking? We’re family. (Beat) Hey, I have a big surprise for you cousin.

WOMAN

What is it?

MAN

You have to close your eyes first.

WOMAN

This is so exciting. I feel like a child.

(The MAN empties a plastic bag containing a goldfish into the fishbowl.)

MAN

Tada! Look now, she’ll never be lonely again.

(A pause.)

You didn’t like it?

WOMAN

No. I mean, yes. I mean, I do, I do like it. Thank you cousin. You have made me very happy.

MAN

I’m happy, you’re happy. Mind if I have a drink?

WOMAN

I don’t keep alcohol here. Drinking makes me sad.

MAN

Oh.

WOMAN

I think I have some cooking wine though. If you’re up for that.

MAN

I thought you didn’t cook.

WOMAN

I bought a cook book. You were right. I should at least learn how to cook pasta. I still don’t know how to though, I just horded ingredients.

MAN

Okay, I’ll have that cooking wine.

WOMAN

It’s in the fridge.

(The MAN gets the cooking wine from the refrigerator. Sips.)

MAN

This is nasty! (Puts it down)

(The WOMAN laughs.)

If we’re done bullying poor-little-me, how are you cousin?

WOMAN

I’m fine. I’m fine. I was actually just waiting for you. Oh, I called the house the other day. First time I talked to dad for ages. Your story checks out. My dad says he bought you the ticket, first class. I’m amazed he spent so much money on you.

MAN

He didn’t spend it on me. He spent it for you. You are his only daughter.

WOMAN

(Trying to be nonchalant) So you’ve just been here since last Thursday?

MAN

Yup.

WOMAN

What do you do? Don’t you have a job that you’re missing back home?

MAN

No. I’m freelance. Sort of a detective.

WOMAN

Like Sherlock Holmes.

MAN

Not as cool as that.

WOMAN

Is that so?

MAN

Yup. I have all the free time in the world. So don’t worry about me.

WOMAN

You could come here on Wednesdays, it doesn’t have to be a Thursday, you know, anytime actually, I rarely have visitors. I’ll be happy to have you.

MAN

It has to be a Thursday, otherwise it won’t be special. I’m just here to make your weekends better for you.

WOMAN

Oh.

MAN

And besides, this is a big city, and I want to see it all. The subways, the buildings! There’s so much to see.

WOMAN

Yes, this is a big city.

MAN

You could walk it for an entire day, the whole 24 hours, and you still wouldn’t see everything . Back home, with just an hour flat you’ve already circled the lake and seen the entire village. So boring. You were right cousin, I should have moved here with you when I was younger.

WOMAN

Yeah.

MAN

And you’ve got it all now, haven’t you. The big job, this cosy apartment, this city! You’ve sure done well for yourself.

WOMAN

Yeah.

MAN

And this city! O, this city is so vibrant, so interesting! So many wonderful people to see! Did you know that this city has the highest suicide rate of all the cities, of all the countries, of this big wide world? It’s there, I read it in a brochure.          

WOMAN

(Shouts) Cousin!

MAN

Yeah? What?

WOMAN

Nothing.

MAN

Nothing?

WOMAN

Thanks for the goldfish.

MAN

It’s nothing.

WOMAN

Sorry, you have to go now.

MAN

Why? We haven’t even had dinner yet. Your Auntie will be very mad at you.

WOMAN

I’m sorry. It’s just I need to be alone now. It’s because…

(A beat.)

MAN

You can’t sleep, can you?

WOMAN

How did you know?

MAN

I know. I know a lot of things about you, cousin. I know you like keeping the lights closed, and that you rarely feed your goldfish, and you actually hate it. You hate the fact that all you got for your hard work was a stupid gold fish who thinks it has everything, a castle, an entire world, but you know something it doesn’t know, you know its world is just a couple inches of glass.

WOMAN

Please stop.

MAN

I know. I know the top dance. You hate it also don’t you? No. You loved it when you’re younger but you still do it sometimes even if you’re already 38 years old. You do it to remind you that childhood is like spinning as fast as you can with just one foot on the ground, you think you’ll never fall but—

WOMAN

Stop!

MAN

I’m sorry. I know it’s hard for you. You’re all alone. It is not good to be alone. That’s why I came. I don’t want you to be alone anymore, cousin.

(A silence.)

WOMAN

Why are you so nice to me? I don’t even remember you.

MAN

You’ve forgotten me. You’ve forgotten your Aunt. Your Mom, your home. But it doesn’t matter, because you see, we remember you. We always think about you. Yes, we miss you every now and then, we want you to come back but we know you never will. You like it here it, don’t you?

WOMAN

I guess so.

MAN

If you won’t come home. I’ll come to you, every Thursday.

WOMAN

Say, cousin.

MAN

To be correct, second cousin.

WOMAN

Second cousin, it doesn’t matter if second cousins, you know…

MAN

What?

WOMAN

Do you mind if I close the lights?

MAN

Go ahead.

(The WOMAN closes the lights.)

WOMAN

Do you mind if I undress?

MAN

I’m your cousin. It’s fine. I’ve seen you naked a hundred times.

(In the darkness, the WOMAN takes off her blouse. She tries to kiss the MAN.)

(Realizes what’s happening) Oh! Oh no!

WOMAN

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.

MAN

No. It’s just. No. We can’t. I can’t look at you that way, you were like a sister to me.

WOMAN

(Covers herself up) You’re right that would be disgusting.

MAN

Yeah.

WOMAN

Yeah. (A beat) I really think you have to go now.

MAN

(Stands) Yes. Me too. I can see myself out.

WOMAN

You can see in the dark?

MAN

My eyes are used to it. There are always darker shades of dark, that’s how I can manoeuvre without the light.

WOMAN

Next Thursday?

MAN

Next Thursday. (Exits, closes the door)

(The WOMAN goes to the fishbowl)

WOMAN

Fish and tops, huh? Just going around and around. (Feeds them) Don’t be so lonely, cousin, we’re together, aren’t we?

(In the semi-dark, the WOMAN removes her bra, leaves it on the sofa and goes to her room.)

(Lights out. The roar of a motorcycle is heard from the distance.)

Third Thursday

(The MAN enters, carrying grocery bags.)

MAN

Hello?

(The MAN sits on the sofa. He notices the bra beside him. He looks around. He opens his pant-zipper. He begins to masturbate.)

I… I love you, cousin, beautiful cousin. I love you cousin, beautiful cousin, don’t cry, cousin, there is nothing to be sad about…

(The MAN ejaculates on the bra. The WOMAN enters, her eyes swollen from crying, she carries a box.)

WOMAN

Wha-what are you doing?

MAN

I… I… wait, I can explain.

WOMAN

It doesn’t matter.

MAN

What?

(The WOMAN lays down her stuff on the carpet. She sits beside it.)

WOMAN

I just got fired.

MAN

What? Why?

WOMAN

I haven’t been going to work on time. For a long time. I couldn’t wake up. You know, you’re right. I hate being a top. I hate being a goldfish. I hate spinning around and falling on my face and there’s no going up from that. At the beginning yeah, you feel like flying but then it’s all crap. And fish… I hate fish! Stupid metaphors!

MAN

It’s alright. Everything is gonna be alright.

WOMAN

(Calmly) And, I know. I know, you’re not my real cousin. Who are you?

MAN

I am. I am your cousin.

WOMAN

I have no cousin from my mother’s side. My mother had no siblings.

MAN

But your dad. You called your dad right? He vouched for me.

WOMAN

I’ve been calling home ever since I realized you were a fake. No one has been answering. What did you do to my dad? Who are you?

MAN

I’m your cousin.

WOMAN

(Explodes) Who are you?

(A silence.)

MAN

I’m… I’m no one. Just a face in the crowd. One day, I thought to myself, I’d jump. Time to end everything. It’s stupid. Everything is stupid. But then I saw you.

WOMAN

What?

MAN

I tried to jump from that building. (Points outside the window)  Look. There’s a clear view from that ledge to this room. You were doing the top dance. I’m sorry. I lied to you.

WOMAN

But how did you know so much about my childhood?

MAN

I’m a detective remember? Not a very good one but a character check is one of the first things they teach you.

WOMAN

And what did you do to my dad?

MAN  I

’m sorry… You’re dad died, three or four years ago. I’m not sure. I just bribed the guy who lives there now, to tell anyone who asked that he paid for some ticket.   

(A silence.)

WOMAN

What were you doing with my bra?

MAN

Look, I just couldn’t help myself. I…

WOMAN

Leave.

MAN

But.

WOMAN

Leave!

(The MAN bows to the WOMAN. Exits.)

(The roar of the motorcycle is heard from the distance.)

(The WOMAN closes the window.)

WOMAN

The world is a shitty place isn’t it. (She lies on the ground)

Every Thursday he came, knocking, banging at the door, asking for forgiveness. I did actually, forgive him. It’s not that I didn’t want to see him anymore. But, I just didn’t care enough to open the door, nor to stand, nor to be. But without fail, every Thursday there would be a knock on the door.

(Lights out.)

I lay there. Until I was just another shadow in the dark.

(The MAN breaks the door open. Light spills from the outside. The WOMAN is gone. He sees the silhouette-mark of the WOMAN from the ground.)

(He walks towards it.)

MAN

(Bows) I am sorry.

(No answer.)

(Bows lower) May I?

(He lays beside the mark, he holds the silhouette’s hand.)

(Lights out.)

—END—

                  

                                                                                      BJC l December 2012

3 thoughts on “SHADOWS IN THE DARK

  1. Wow. This is good stuff. I found it hard to move on from the line: There are always darker shades of dark.

    Wow… It grips.

    Thanks for this. Looking forward to seeing your play, Pieta next year! :-)

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