ARI: A waitress at P.F. Chang’s. She wears a typical waitress “uniform” (a button-up white shirt, a black skirt, a name tag, and a half-sized maroon apron for straws/tips) and has purple streaks in her hair. She must be able to pantomime effectively without being distracting.
DAVE: A broad-set, well-kept man who buys into the “macho” idea of what a man is. He is frequently anxious, but presents an inflated ego as his front. DAVE dresses in casual clothing (jeans, t-shirt, etc.).
BRYAN: A thin man with a handsome face, who sometimes masks his intellectual nature for the sake of getting along in social situations. He is romantic and emotionally sensitive. BRYAN dresses in business casual (button-up without a tie or a polo, relaxed slacks).
The scene takes place at a P.F. Chang’s, where DAVE and BRYAN sit in a side booth, waiting for a third friend to arrive. The table has three filled glasses of water and two menus. The decor is maroon and gold. DAVE and BRYAN are old friends. When the scene starts, the two are waiting for Frank, a third friend. DAVE is looking around impatiently while BRYAN looks at a menu.
DAVE. Frank isn’t even going to show up, is he? Shit.
(DAVE runs the fingers of his right hand anxiously against his water glass.)
BRYAN. Is their . . . General Tsao Chicken any good?
DAVE. Uh . . . yeah, I think so. I think I had that once. When I came here with Molly.
BRYAN. Molly Pike?
DAVE. Yeah, she loved this place.
(BRYAN returns to studying the menu.)
DAVE. I can’t believe Frank is bailing and didn’t even text.
BRYAN. Well, you know Frank.
DAVE. Yeah. The shithead.
BRYAN. Yeah, I think that’s what I’ll get. The General Tsao Chicken.
DAVE. Like I said, though. Be sure you get their sake. (DAVE pronounces “sake” just as it’s spelled.) Their chicken—I mean their food, is pretty good here, but their sake is the reason we came.
BRYAN. I was planning on it. (BRYAN sets down his menu.) It’s pronounced saké, by the way. ‘Eh’ at the end. Like you’re a Canadian.
(There’s an awkward pause, after which DAVE starts looking around the restaurant again and BRYAN pulls out and begins playing with a cell phone. After a few seconds—enough for the audience to get slightly uncomfortable/on edge—ARI approaches.)
ARI. Are you gentlemen ready to order?
BRYAN. (BRYAN’s tone is lightly flirtatious.) Miraculously enough. (BRYAN pockets his phone.)
ARI. So, what will it be?
DAVE. I’m getting the beef with broccoli. And a saké. (DAVE gives BRYAN a half-taunting glare as he emphasizes the correct pronunciation.)
BRYAN. (Smirks) And I’ll be having the General Tsao’s Chicken. Can we make that saké a double-size and get two cups?
ARI. Absolutely. And would you like white rice or brown?
BRYAN. Brown, please.
ARI. Anything else I can get you?
BRYAN. Nope, you’ve been perfect. We’re all set.
(ARI leaves. DAVE gives BRYAN a meaningful look, but BRYAN avoids eye contact, instead looking up at a painting on the wall.)
DAVE. Well, Bryan, at least you’re flirting again.
BRYAN. What’s that supposed to mean, exactly?
DAVE. I mean it’s been months since you and Kels split. It’s just good to see you flirting is all.
BRYAN. That was hardly flirting.
DAVE. Oh, right. Definitely.
BRYAN. And plus—months? It’s been nine weeks. That’s hardly months.
DAVE. It is months.
BRYAN. It’s two months. Barely.
DAVE. And what’s with this ‘nine weeks’ thing. Do you keep track of the hours and minutes, too?
BRYAN. Dave, she left the week before Valentine’s. It kind of stuck. (BRYAN’s voice becomes hostile on “stuck,” causing DAVE to become alert. There are a few seconds of silence.)
DAVE. All I’m saying is it’s nice. Seeing you more like this. Like how I’m used to.
DAVE. You going to ask for her number?
BRYAN. Not really.
DAVE. Why not?
BRYAN. The week before Valentine’s, Dave.
(DAVE shakes his head. The two engage in stage business for 5 to 10 seconds—taking swigs of water, looking at the scenery, etc.)
DAVE. All I’m saying is that you never know who might be the one. Maybe this waitress is yours.
BRYAN. You think this Ari girl is my type?
DAVE. You looked at her name-tag? Well, well, well.
BRYAN. It’s a name-tag, Dave. Not a lingerie drawer.
DAVE. Ari. Yeah, she could be your type. And Ari would be short for . . . Ariana or something. You’d go for an Ariana.
BRYAN. Nope. (BRYAN shakes his head, then the left side of his mouth curls to a half-smile.) Aribella, maybe. Or—wait, no—Ariel.
DAVE. Like the mermaid?
BRYAN. No. Like Shakespeare. Go to college, dumbass.
DAVE. Bite me. And that bit of purple hair? All buttoned up but with a burst of rebellion. She’d be the sort who grew up with straight-laced parents. Left home the second she turned eighteen. Took a road-trip to Vegas. Just the sort of adventurous streak you’d like.
(BRYAN takes a drink of water. DAVE waits, uncomfortable. After setting his glass down, BRYAN responds.)
BRYAN. Sure. A girl who runs away on a whim. But not to Vegas. To the beach.
DAVE. Sure, whatever you say, man. And she’d be going to college.
BRYAN. What? No. Done with college. Post-grad degree.
DAVE. No. Going. You need someone who doesn’t care as much about that intellectual shit as you. But still smart. Not quite as smart as you. But she can keep up.
(BRYAN laughs through his nose.)
BRYAN. Okay. (Pause) And she’d love art.
DAVE. Of course. She’d be an artist. That streak of color in her hair would change every season. Red next week. Blue in October. Silver in July. And she’d like going to rock concerts.
BRYAN. But only the real rock bands. None of this Green Day bullshit. Why blue in October?
DAVE. (Shrugs) She’s an artist, man. Don’t ask me to explain her logic.
BRYAN. (Smiles) What’s her major?
(DAVE leans to look at ARI, who is on stage-right, pantomiming waiting on a table. She leans over to pick up a glass.)
DAVE. (Lasciviously) Exercise science.
(BRYAN rolls his eyes.)
DAVE. Well, what then?
(BRYAN looks at ARI as she continues to pantomime waiting tables. He crosses his arms.)
BRYAN. Something creative. Like a creative writing major. But she wants to teach it someday, to kids. She wants to save the world like that. And every morning she has a yoga class.
DAVE. See? Smart man. Yoga class. Flexible.
BRYAN. And she likes hiking and swimming out in the mountains. She grew up in some backwoods place just a few minutes away from a stream.
DAVE. Couldn’t resist going to it every day—stripping down . . .
(ARI begins to cross the stage, approaching DAVE and BRYAN’s table.)
DAVE. Feeling the cool water against her—
(BRYAN hisses and makes vigorous arm motions to indicate to DAVE, whose back is to ARI, that he needs to be quiet. After ARI passes [heading to the kitchen], BRYAN grimaces nervously. DAVE smiles.)
DAVE. She’d want kids. Not too many, and not any yet.
BRYAN. And she’d want to get a condo in the city. With an east-facing window, for the sunrise.
DAVE. Beautiful, creative, adventurous, smart—remind me again why the hell you aren’t getting her number?
BRYAN. Because there’s one problem.
(ARI exits the kitchen and moves toward stage right. BRYAN follows her with his eyes.)
(BRYAN continues watching ARI, who is dropping drinks off, for 2 to 3 more seconds.)
BRYAN. She’s not real. (BRYAN breathes out heavily through his nose.)
(DAVE shakes his head and looks down at the table. The two engage in awkward stage business for another 10 to 15 seconds—or enough to cause the beginning of audience impatience and discomfort.)
DAVE. I wish Frank would show up. Or at least text if he’s not going to make it.
(Another few seconds pass. We see ARI pantomiming work on another table, then moving back to DAVE and BRYAN’s table. She motions toward DAVE’s glass of water.)
ARI. Can I get you a refill on that?
DAVE. Yeah, please.
ARI. Your meals will be out in just a minute here. Anything else I can get you gentlemen while you’re waiting?
(DAVE cocks his head to the side and raises an eyebrow as he looks across the table at BRYAN. BRYAN hesitates momentarily.)
BRYAN. No. Thank you.
DAVE. No, I think that’s it, Ari. (DAVE turns toward ARI.) Ari, by the way. Don’t see that name much. Is it short for anything?
ARI.Oh, yeah. For Ariel. Like from Shakespeare.
(DAVE and BRYAN exchange a meaningful, silent look. Cut the lights.)
This dramatic scene was written first as a short story in Spring of 2011 and then re-written as a dramatic scene in Spring of 2012. It was published in the Spring 2012 edition of Touchstones.