Ed. note: Welcome to the latest installment of “Notes from the Breadline,” a column by a laid-off lawyer in New York. Prior columns are collected here. You can reach Roxana St. Thomas by email (at email@example.com), follow her on Twitter, or find her on Facebook.
As many of you know, waiting is an integral part of life in the breadline. You send out résumés, and you wait. You make follow-up calls to prospective employers — and wait. You hear that the nation’s economic climate is improving, so (although you see no factual indicia that this is actually the case) you dust off your interview suits, submit applications … and wait. You vaguely remember what momentum feels like, and what it feels like to have a life that moves forward. You think about getting up and walking away, about leaving frustration and disappointment behind you. But instead, because you have no choice, you wait.
This interminable waiting, of anticipating an event that never materializes, can become so familiar that, after a while, it barely registers. It also becomes progressively harder to identify what, precisely, you are waiting for. Movement is suspended; growth is deferred. The only way to stave off inertia is by clinging to hope, no matter how vague or ephemeral it seems.
On that bright note, we bring you Notes from the Breadline Community Theater. Because adult professional life probably doesn’t leave you nearly enough time to reflect on life’s baffling futility through absurdist theater, our feature presentation is — you guessed it! — an adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.” Since you all did so well on your Homework Assignments from the Breadline, you can go ahead and cheat on this one. The SparkNotes summary is here, and you can refresh your recollection of the text, in all its glory, here and here.
Now, dear readers, without further delay (hush! The house lights are going down!), we bring you “Waiting for Bono.”
In today’s production, Roxana will be playing the part of Estragon, and Vladimir will be played by Lat. Big Law Firm Partner will be making his debut appearance as Pozzo, while our old friend Giovanna will, with her typical flair, play Lucky.
A city street. A Starbucks.
Roxana, sitting on a faux-velvet armchair, is trying to take her BlackBerry out of its case. She pulls at it with both hands, panting. She gives up, exhausted, rests, and tries again. As before.
ROXANA: (giving up again). Crap! My BlackBerry is stuck. Nothing to be done.
LAT: (advancing with short, stiff strides, legs wide apart). I’m beginning to come round to that opinion. All my life I’ve tried to put it from me, saying “Lat, be reasonable, you haven’t yet tried everything.” And I resumed the struggle. (He broods, musing on the struggle. Turning to Roxana.) So there you are again.
ROXANA: Yeah, I’m here. My BlackBerry is stuck.
LAT: I’m glad to see you back. I thought you were gone forever.
ROXANA: Oh, I was just on a job interview. But I’m here now, and ready to … um … what was I going to do?
LAT: Together again at last! We’ll have to celebrate this. But how? (He strokes his chin thoughtfully.) Get up till I embrace you.
ROXANA: (irritably). Uh, how about a grande Frappucino instead?
LAT: (hurt, coldly). May one inquire where you were interviewing?
ROXANA: I was interviewing at a large media publishing company, with swanky offices and a sprawling snack bar.
LAT: (admiringly). A snack bar! That’s right up your alley. Where was this?
ROXANA: (without gesture). Over there.
LAT: And they didn’t beat you … this time?
ROXANA: Beat me? Certainly they beat me. I interviewed with four people, and then they made me take a written test and promised to call. But they won’t. In my opinion, it was pretty beat.
LAT: The same lot as usual.
ROXANA: Isn’t that what always happens on these interviews? Honestly, I don’t know why I keep falling for it.
LAT: (gloomily). It’s too much for one man, or woman, as the case may be. (Pause. Cheerfully.) On the other hand, what’s the good of losing heart now, that’s what I say. We should have thought of it a million years ago, in the nineties. When, by the way, I also should have bought real estate in Williamsburg.
ROXANA: Ah, stop blathering and help me get my BlackBerry out of this case. I could have a message from a potential employer. (Pointing.) By the way, have you heard from any of your erstwhile advertisers? Maybe you should give them a call.
LAT: True. As I always say, “Never neglect the little things of life.”
ROXANA: Well, get cracking. You always wait till the last moment.
LAT: (musingly). Ah, the last moment . . . (He meditates.) Hope deferred maketh the something sick, who said that?
ROXANA: Probably me. I believe the phrase you’re looking for is, “Hope deferred maketh the laid-off-lawyer-in-the-breadline sick.”
LAT: Funny. Well, there’s nothing to be done. (Roxana with a supreme effort succeeds in pulling her BlackBerry out of its case. She peers at it, turns it upside down, shakes it, looks at it to see if she has received any new messages, finds nothing, holds it to her ear and mutters “Is this thing on?” staring sightlessly before her.) Well?
(Lat breaks into a hearty laugh which he immediately stifles, his hand pressed to his chest, his face contorted.)
LAT: One daren’t even laugh any more!
ROXANA: What’s to laugh about? I can’t even remember how long I’ve been in the breadline at this point.
LAT: Then merely smile, Roxie. (He smiles suddenly from ear to ear, keeps smiling, ceases as suddenly.) But I guess it’s not the same thing. Well, nothing to be done. (He pauses.) Hey, Rox.
ROXANA: (irritably). What is it?
LAT: You should have been a poet.
ROXANA: That’s a productive suggestion, Lat. Besides, you would think, from my total penury, that I was. (Gesture towards her threadbare suit.) And the job market for poets is probably better these days.
ROXANA: I’m going.
(She does not move.)
ROXANA: People are bloody ignorant apes. (She sighs.) And my feet are killing me. I’ve been wearing Crocs for too long; I’ve forgotten how to wear heels.
(She rises painfully, goes limping to extreme left, halts, gazes into distance off with her hand screening her eyes, turns, goes to extreme right, gazes into distance. Lat watches her, then goes and picks up the BlackBerry, peers at it, drops it hastily.)
ROXANA: This is a charming Starbucks. I wish my living room looked like this. The décor presents some inspiring prospects! (She turns to Lat.) Let’s go.
LAT: We can’t.
ROXANA: Why not?
LAT: We’re waiting for rock star, human rights activist, and generally officious busybody Bono. He’s supposed to be here soon to tell us that the recession is over, so you can find a job and our advertisers can start spending again. I know it’s a bit unconventional, but no one else seems to have any answers.
ROXANA: (despairingly). Ah! (Pause.) You’re sure?
ROXANA: That we were to wait here, at Starbucks?
LAT: He said by the new fall drinkware. (They look at the shelves of drinkware.) Do you see any others?
ROXANA: He should be here, then.
LAT: He didn’t say for sure he’d come.
ROXANA: And if he doesn’t come?
LAT: We’ll come back tomorrow.
ROXANA: If he doesn’t come, will that mean the recession isn’t over?
ROXANA: We came here yesterday. I’m getting really tired of sitting in Starbucks.
LAT: He said Saturday. (Pause.) I think. I must have made a note of it. (He fumbles in his pockets, which are bursting with miscellaneous rubbish.)
ROXANA: (very insidious). But what Saturday? And is it Saturday? (Pause.) Maybe it’s Monday? (Pause.) Or Friday? I mean, I just went on a job interview. What day is it, again?
LAT: I thought you said we were here yesterday.
ROXANA: I may be mistaken. I’m not sure what day it is most of the time. (Pause.) Let’s stop talking for a minute, do you mind?
LAT: (feebly). All right. (Roxana sits down on the mound. Lat paces agitatedly to and fro, halting from time to time to gaze into distance off. Roxana falls asleep. Lat halts finally before Roxana.) Roxie! . . . Roxie! . . . ROXIE!
(Roxana wakes with a start.)
ROXANA: (restored to the horror of her situation). I was asleep! (Despairingly.) Is the recession over now? I had a dream. I dreamt that–
LAT: DON’T TELL ME! I can’t bear another Land of the Lost story.
ROXANA: (gesture toward the universe). Who the hell am I to tell my private nightmares to if I can’t tell them to you?
LAT: Let them remain private. You know I can’t bear that. Just calm yourself.
ROXANA: (voluptuously.) Calm . . . calm . . . In Long Island, they “cawm.”
LAT: STOP IT!
(Exit Lat hurriedly. Roxana gets up and follows him as far as the limit of the stage. Gestures of Roxana like those of a spectator encouraging a pugilist. Enter Lat. He brushes past Roxana, crosses the stage with bowed head. Roxana takes a step towards him, halts.)
ROXANA: (Roxana recoils.) Lat, you reek of donuts! Have you been plundering the harvest?
LAT: They’re good for my kidneys. (Silence. Roxana looks attentively at the drinkware.) What do we do now?
LAT: Yes, but while waiting.
ROXANA: What about checking lawjobs.com on our personal mobile devices?
LAT: Hmm. It’d give us an erection.
ROXANA: (highly excited). An erection! Wait a minute … it might give YOU an erection. I’m ill-equipped to get one of those. Let’s just apply for a job here at Starbucks!
LAT: Go ahead.
ROXANA: After you.
LAT: You’re the one who’s unemployed — remember? Make me a tall latte, barista!
ROXANA: Use your intelligence, Lat, can’t you?
(Lat uses his intelligence.)
LAT: (finally). I remain in the dark.
LAT: Well? What do we do?
ROXANA: Don’t let’s do anything. It’s safer.
LAT: Let’s wait and see what he says.
ROXANA: Good idea.
LAT: Let’s wait till we know exactly how we stand.
ROXANA: Where do we come in?
LAT: Come in? On our hands and knees.
ROXANA: Our hands and knees? Is it as bad as that? Are we not human? Do we not bleed?
LAT: You’d make me laugh if it wasn’t prohibited.
ROXANA: Alas, we’ve lost our dignity?
LAT: (distinctly). We got rid of it.
(Silence. They remain motionless, arms dangling, heads sunk, sagging at the knees.)
(They listen, grotesquely rigid.)
ROXANA: I hear nothing. And I’m getting hungry.
LAT: Do you want some split pea soup?
ROXANA: Is that all there is?
LAT: I might have some leftover pumpkin loaf.
ROXANA: Give me some pumpkin loaf. (Lat rummages in his pockets, takes out a piece of pumpkin loaf, and gives it to Roxana who takes a bite out of it. Angrily.) This is a turnip!
LAT: Oh pardon! I could have sworn it was a pumpkin loaf. (He rummages again in his pockets, finds nothing but turnips.) Oh — wait! Here’s the last of my pumpkin loaf. Make it matter, that’s the end of it.
ROXANA: (Looks at the pumpkin loaf appreciatively, dangles it between finger and thumb.) I’ll never forget this loaf.
LAT: The essential doesn’t change.
ROXANA: Nothing to be done. (She proffers the remains of the loaf to Lat.) Like to finish it?
(A terrible cry, close at hand. Roxana drops the pumpkin loaf. They remain motionless, then together make a sudden rush towards the wings. Roxana stops halfway, runs back, picks up the loaf, stuffs it in her pocket, runs to rejoin Lat who is waiting for her, stops again, runs back, picks up her BlackBerry, runs to rejoin Lat. Huddled together, shoulders hunched, cringing away from the menace, they wait.)
(Enter Big Law Firm Partner and Giovanna. Big Law Firm Partner drives Giovanna by means of a rope passed round her neck, so that Giovanna is the first to enter, followed by the rope which is long enough to let her reach the middle of the stage before Big Law Firm Partner appears. Giovanna carries a heavy bag, a bankers box full of documents, a computer, a stool, and Big Law Firm Partner’s coat; Big Law Firm Partner a whip.)
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Mush! (Crack of whip. Big Law Firm Partner appears. They cross the stage. Giovanna passes before Lat and Roxana. Big Law Firm Partner, at the sight of Lat and Roxana, stops short. The rope tautens. Big Law Firm Partner jerks at it violently.) Back!
GIOVANNA: This has got to be a violation of firm policy. What the fuck?
(Noise of Giovanna falling with all her baggage. Lat and Roxana turn towards her, half wishing, half fearing to go to her assistance. Lat takes a step towards Giovanna, Roxana holds him back by the sleeve.)
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Be careful! She has a brief to get out, and she hasn’t slept in two days! (Lat and Roxana turn towards Big Law Firm Partner.) She’ll snap at you.
ROXANA: (undertone). Is that him? Is that Bono?
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: I present myself: Big Law Firm Partner.
LAT: (to Roxana). Not at all!
ROXANA: (timidly, to Big Law Firm Partner). You’re not Mr. Bono, Sir?
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: (terrifying voice). I am Big Law Firm Partner! (Silence.) Big Law Firm Partner! (Silence.) Does that name mean nothing to you? (Silence.) I say: does that name mean nothing to you?
(Lat and Roxana look at each other questioningly.)
ROXANA: (pretending to search). Um, are you Skadden? Arps? Slate? Meagher? Flom?
LAT: (ditto). Big Law Firm Partner . . . Big Law Firm Partner . . .
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: I’M BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER!
ROXANA: Ah! Big Law Firm Partner . . . let me see . . . Big Law Firm Partner . . .Big Law Firm Partner . . . no . . . I’m afraid I . . . no . . . I don’t seem to . . .
(Big Law Firm Partner advances threateningly.)
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: How is it that you don’t know who I am? Aren’t you from New York? Aren’t you from EARTH? (He puts on his glasses.) As far as one can see, you’re of the same species as myself. (He bursts into an enormous laugh.) Of the same species as Big Law Firm Partner! Made in God’s image!
LAT: Well you see–
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: (peremptory). Who is Bono? You took me for Bono. Who is he?
LAT: Oh he’s a . . . he’s a kind of acquaintance.
ROXANA: Come on, Lat. We don’t even know him.
LAT: True . . . we don’t know him very well . . . but all the same . . .
ROXANA: Personally, I wouldn’t even know him if I saw him.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Waiting? So you were waiting for him? Here? On my land?
LAT: We didn’t intend any harm. Besides, this is a Starbucks. You may be a Big Law Firm Partner, but you don’t own Starbucks.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: YET! I don’t own Starbucks yet. It’s a disgrace, isn’t it? But there you are.
ROXANA: Nothing we can do about it.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: (with magnanimous gesture). Let’s say no more about it. (He jerks the rope.) Up, Associate! (Pause.) Every time she drops she falls asleep. (Jerks the rope.) Up, Associate! (Noise of Giovanna getting up and picking up her baggage. Big Law Firm Partner jerks the rope.) Back! (Enter Giovanna backwards.) Stop! (Giovanna stops.) Turn! (Giovanna turns. To Lat and Roxana, affably.) Lady and Gentleman, I am happy to have met you. (Before their incredulous expression.) Yes yes, sincerely happy. (He jerks the rope.) Closer! (Giovanna advances.) Stop! (Giovanna stops.) Coat! (Giovanna puts down the bag, advances, gives the coat, goes back to her place, takes up the bag.) Hold that! (Giovanna puts down the bag, computer, and stool, helps Big Law Firm Partner on with his coat, goes back to her place and takes up bag, computer, and stool.) Where’s my chicken?
GIOVANNA: You’ve got to be kidding me. If I didn’t need this job …
(Lat and Roxana, cautiously at first, then more boldly, begin to circle about Giovanna, inspecting her up and down. Big Law Firm Partner eats his chicken voraciously, throwing away the bones after having sucked them. Giovanna sags slowly, until bag and computer touch the ground, then straightens up with a start and begins to sag again. Rhythm of one sleeping on her feet.)
ROXANA: What ails her?
LAT: She looks tired.
ROXANA: Looks like her last gasp to me.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Leave her in peace! (They turn toward Big Law Firm Partner who, having finished eating, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.) Can’t you see she wants to rest? (Giovanna starts, almost falls, recovers her senses, advances, procures and delivers a venti mocha latte to Big Law Firm Partner, and goes back to her place. (He pulls out his pipe, lights it, stretches out his legs.) Ah! That’s better.
LAT: (exploding). It’s a scandal!
(Silence. Flabbergasted, Roxana looks at Big Law Firm Partner and Lat in turn. Big Law Firm Partner outwardly calm. Lat embarrassed.)
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: (To Lat). Are you alluding to anything in particular?
LAT: (stutteringly resolute). To treat an associate . . . (gesture towards Giovanna) . . . like that . . . I think that . . . no . . . a human being . . . no . . . it’s a scandal! I need to call Elie.
ROXANA: (not to be outdone). A disgrace!
LAT: Let’s go.
ROXANA: So soon?
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: One moment! (He jerks the rope.) Get me my computer! (He points with his whip. Giovanna, though sleeping, presents the computer.) More! There! (He sits down. Giovanna nods off.)
LAT: (vehemently). Let’s go! I need to blog about this, this … disgrace.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: I hope I’m not driving you away. Wait a little longer, you’ll never regret it.
ROXANA: (scenting charity). We’re in no hurry. (She whispers to Lat.) He may be a jerk, but maybe he’s a jerk who’s hiring.
LAT: I’m going.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: He can no longer endure my presence. I am perhaps not particularly human, but who cares? (To Lat.) Think twice before you do anything rash. Suppose you go now while it is still day, for there is no denying it is still day. (They all look up at the sky.) Good. (They stop looking at the sky.) What happens in that case to your appointment with this . . . Bona . . . Bonaroo . . . Benno . . . anyhow, you see who I mean, who has your future in his hands . . . (pause) . . . at least your immediate future?
LAT: Who told you?
(Roxana goes over beside Lat. Motionless, side by side, they wait.)
ROXANA: (Eyeing Giovanna.) Why doesn’t she put down her bags?
LAT: Ask him.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: The answer is this …
LAT: Hold on, Roxie. He’s about to make a partner-esque pronouncement. Do you still remember how to feign interest in, and pretend to be transfixed by, his wise, partnerly words?
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Good. Is everybody ready? Is everybody looking at me? (He looks at Giovanna, jerks the rope. Giovanna raises her head.)
GIOVANNA: If I didn’t need this job, I would remind you that you’re a jerk.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Will you look at me, Associate! (Giovanna looks at him, disgusted.) Good. I am ready. Is everybody listening? Is everybody ready? (He looks at them all in turn, jerks the rope.) Associate! (Giovanna raises her head half-heartedly.) I don’t like talking in a vacuum. Good. Let me see.
ROXANA: On second thought, I’m going. This is bringing back bad memories.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: (angrily). Don’t interrupt me! (Pause. Calmer.) If we all speak at once we’ll never get anywhere. (Pause.) What was I saying? (Pause. Louder.) What was I saying?
(Lat mimics one carrying a heavy burden. Big Law Firm Partner looks at him, puzzled.)
ROXANA: (forcibly). Bags. (She points at Giovanna.) Why? Always hold. (She sags, panting.) Never put down. (She opens his hands, straightens up with relief.) Why?
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Ah! Why couldn’t you say so before? Why she doesn’t make herself comfortable? Let’s try and get this clear. Has she not the right to? Certainly she has. It follows that she doesn’t want to. There’s reasoning for you. And why doesn’t she want to? (Pause.) Lady and Gentleman, the reason is this.
LAT: (to Roxana). Make a note of this.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: She wants to impress me, so that I’ll keep her.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Perhaps I haven’t got it quite right. She wants to mollify me, so that I’ll give up the idea of parting with her. No, that’s not exactly it either.
LAT: You want to get rid of her? Lay her off? Why? She seems so … committed.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Hey, times are tough. She’s trying to impress me with her ability to carry massive loads for me, so I’ll be tempted to keep her on in that capacity, even though we have very little billable work. She imagines that when I see her indefatigability I’ll regret my decision. Such is her miserable scheme. As though I were short of slaves! Er, did I say ‘slave’? I meant ‘associates.’ (All three look at Giovanna.) Well, that’s that, I think. Anything else?
LAT: You want to get rid of her?
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: I do, unless I want her measly salary to affect my distribution. But instead of stealthily laying her off as I might have done, I mean instead of simply kicking her out on her arse, in the goodness of my heart I am bringing her to the fair, where I hope to get a good price for her. The truth is you can’t just kick these associates to the curb. The best thing would be to kill them.
GIOVANNA: God, I am so tired!
ROXANA: She’s crying!
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Jeez. Old dogs have more dignity than associates these days. (He proffers his handkerchief to Roxana.) Comfort her, since you pity her. (Roxana hesitates.) Come on. (Roxana takes the handkerchief.) Wipe away her tears, she’ll feel less forsaken. (Roxana approaches Giovanna and makes to wipe her eyes. Giovanna kicks her violently in the shins. Roxana drops the handkerchief, recoils, staggers about the stage howling with pain.)
ROXANA: What the hell?
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: I told you she gets testy when she has a brief due and hasn’t slept in two days.
LAT: (To Big Law Firm Partner, angrily.) Roxie’s bleeding!
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: It’s a good sign. I like an associate who can inflict real damage.
ROXANA: (on one leg). I’ll never walk again! Great! Now I’m really fucked.
LAT: (tenderly). I’ll carry you. (Pause.) I mean, if necessary.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: She’s stopped crying. (To Roxana.) You have replaced her, as it were. (Lyrically.) The tears of the world are a constant quantity! For each one who begins to weep, somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh. (He laughs.) Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. (Pause.) Let us not speak well of it either. (Pause.) Let us not speak of it at all. (Pause. Judiciously.) It is true the population has increased, and there are more associates than there are jobs. Ah, no matter. It’s time for this one to move on.
ROXANA: (To Big Law Firm Partner) Swine!
(Big Law Firm Partner more and more agitated.)
LAT: After having sucked all the good out of her you chuck her away like a . . . like a banana skin. Really . . .
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: (sobbing). She used to be so kind . . . so helpful . . . and entertaining . . . my good angel . . . and now . . . she’s hates me. They all do! I just know it!
ROXANA: (to Lat). Look, I hate to be so mercenary, but do you think this guy’s firm is hiring? Should I tell him I’m available?
LAT: I don’t think so.
ROXANA: Crap. Will you ask him?
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: (calmer). I don’t know what came over me. Forgive me. Forget all I said. (More and more his old self.) I don’t remember exactly what it was, but you may be sure there wasn’t a word of truth in it. (Drawing himself up, striking his chest.) Do I look like a man that can be made to suffer? Frankly? (He rummages in his pockets.) Puh-leeze.
LAT: Charming evening we’re having.
LAT: And it’s not over.
ROXANA: Apparently not.
LAT: It’s only beginning.
ROXANA: It’s awful. Where the hell is Bono?
LAT: This is worse than watching pantomime. Damn! I just missed a call from an advertiser. I’ll be back. (He hastens towards the wings.) Keep my seat.
ROXANA: You know, this is a little awkward, but I was just wondering if you would take a look at my résumé.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: What for?
ROXANA: You’ll see.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: You want me to get up and come over there?
ROXANA: Wow, you really are a Big Law Firm Partner. (Sighs wearily.) No, of course you don’t have to get up. What was I thinking? (Gets up and goes over to Big Law Firm Partner. Roxana pulls out her résumé.) Look!
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: (having put on his glasses). Oh, I say! Too bad I’m not hiring.
ROXANA: Dammit. Foiled again.
(Enter Lat, somber. He shoulders Giovanna out of his way, kicks over a chair, comes and goes agitatedly.)
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: He’s not pleased.
LAT: Will night never come?
(All three look at the sky.)
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: You don’t feel like going until it does? I guess that’s natural, very natural. I myself in your situation, if I had an appointment with a Bona . . . Bonaroo . . . Benno . . . anyhow, you see who I mean, I’d wait till it was black night before I gave up. (He looks at his stool.) I’d very much like to sit down, but I don’t quite know how to go about it.
ROXANA: Ugh. Here we go. You probably don’t know how to turn on your computer, either. (Roxana waves expansively at the stool, suppressing irritation.) Be seated, Sir, I beg of you! (Pauses.) You know, I don’t even work for you, but I have a feeling you’re going to ask me to fax a document any minute.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: No no, I wouldn’t think of it! Well, if you insist. Can you fax this stipulation to each of the co-counsel in this MDL? I must really be getting along.
LAT: Time has stopped.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: (cuddling his watch to his ear). Don’t you believe it, Sir, don’t you believe it. (He puts his watch back in his pocket.)
LAT: Let’s go, Rox.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: (who hasn’t listened). Ah yes! The night. (He raises his head.) Look! (All look at the sky except Giovanna, who is dozing off again. Big Law Firm Partner jerks the rope.) Will you look at the sky, Associate! (Giovanna opens one eye to look at the sky.) Good, that’s enough. (They stop looking at the sky.) Behind this veil of gentleness and peace, night is charging (vibrantly) and will burst upon us (snaps his fingers) pop! like that! (his inspiration leaves him) just when we least expect it. (Silence. Gloomily.) That’s how it is on this bitch of an earth.
LAT: One can bide one’s time.
ROXANA: If one knows what to expect. I sure don’t. I thought this would be over months ago.
LAT: No further need to worry, Roxie.
ROXANA: Am I supposed to just keep waiting?
LAT: We’re used to it. Or at least you are.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: BOOORING! Let’s talk about me. So, how did you find me? (Lat and Roxana look at him blankly.) Good? Fair? Middling? Poor? Positively bad?
LAT: I’ve been better entertained.
(Silence. Big Law Firm Partner struggles inwardly.)
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: (He jerks the rope. Giovanna looks at him. He picks up the whip.) What do you prefer? Shall we have her dance, or sing, or recite, or think?
LAT: I’d rather she dance, it’d be more fun.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Not necessarily.
ROXANA: I’m sure she’s good at both. Perhaps she could dance first and think afterwards, if it isn’t too much to ask her.
LAT: (to Big Law Firm Partner). Would that be possible?
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: By all means, nothing simpler. It’s the natural order.
(He laughs briefly.) Do you hear, Associate? Dance, misery!
GIOVANNA: Oh, for the love of … if I didn’t need this job …
(Giovanna puts down bag and computer, advances towards front, and dances disinterestedly. Looking irritated, she stops.)
LAT: Is that all? Pooh! I’d do as well myself. (He imitates Giovanna, almost falls.) Well … I’m a little out of practice. I guess being an associate isn’t as easy as it looks.
ROXANA: Um, Lat … it doesn’t look particularly easy.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: She used to practically caper. For joy. Now, after months of brutal hours and tedious work, that’s the best she can do. Do you know what she calls that dance?
ROXANA: The Scapegoat’s Agony.
LAT: The Hard Chair.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: The Net. She thinks he’s entangled in a net.
ROXANA: Hm … I wonder why.
LAT: (to Big Law Firm Partner). Okay: now for the thinking part.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Stand back! (Lat and Roxana move away from Giovanna. Big Law Firm Partner jerks the rope. Giovanna looks at Big Law Firm Partner.) Think, Associate! Think!
GIOVANNA: Oh, enough already. I’m way too tired for this horseshit.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Stop! (Giovanna stops.) Back! (Giovanna moves back.) Stop! (Giovanna stops.) Turn! (Giovanna turns.) Think!
GIOVANNA: I am calling HR as soon as I get back. You want thinking? I’ll give you thinking. Ahem. ‘On the other hand with regard to–’
(Giovanna embarks on a lengthy speech. During Giovanna’s tirade the others react as follows.
1) Lat and Roxana all attention, Big Law Firm Partner dejected and disgusted.
2) Lat and Roxana begin to protest, Big Law Firm Partner’s sufferings increase.
3) Lat and Roxana attentive again, Big Law Firm Partner more and more agitated and groaning.
4) Lat and Roxana protest violently. Big Law Firm Partner jumps up, pulls on the rope. General outcry. Giovanna pulls on the rope, staggers, shouting. All three throw themselves on Giovanna who struggles and shouts the first ten amendments to the Constitution.)
GIOVANNA: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion! Or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances …!
(Silence of Giovanna. She falls. Silence. Panting of the victors.)
ROXANA: Is she dead?
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Up, Associate! (He jerks the rope.) Help me! Raise her up!
(Lat and Roxana hoist Giovanna to her feet, support her an instant, then let her go. She falls.)
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: You must hold her. (Pause.) Come on, come on, raise her up.
LAT: You’re going to kill her.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Interesting idea … it would save us some money. But I still need her to finish that brief. Hold her up! Don’t let her go! (Lat and Roxana totter.) Don’t move! Hold her tight! (He puts the bag in Giovanna’s hand. Giovanna drops it immediately. He puts back the bag in Giovanna’s hand. Gradually, at the feel of the bag, Giovanna recovers her senses and her fingers finally close round the handle.) Now! You can let her go. (Lat and Roxana move away from Giovanna who totters, reels, sags, but succeeds in remaining on her feet, bag and coat in her hands. Big Law Firm Partner steps back, cracks his whip.) Forward! (Giovanna totters forward.) Back! (Giovanna totters back.) Done it! She can walk. (Turning to Lat and Roxana.) Thank you … I don’t know what would have happened to that brief if she hadn’t recovered. Anyway, let me wish you . . . (fumbles) . . . wish you . . . (fumbles) . . . what have I done with my watch? Well now isn’t that just–
ROXANA: I hear something.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Where? Which of you smells so bad?
ROXANA: It’s both of us. He smells like donuts, and I don’t really shower much anymore.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: I must go.
ROXANA: Whatever, Big Law Firm Partner.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Adieu.
LAT: (Cordially.) Adieu!
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: I don’t seem to be able . . . (long hesitation) . . . to depart.
ROXANA: Yeah, well … Such is life. Everyone seems a bit stuck these days.
(Big Law Firm Partner turns, moves away from Giovanna towards the wings, paying out the rope as he goes.)
LAT: You’re going the wrong way.
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: I need a running start. (Having come to the end of the rope, he stops, turns and cries.) Stand back! (Lat and Roxana stand back, look towards Big Law Firm Partner. Crack of whip.) On! On!
(Giovanna moves off, cursing under her breath.)
BIG LAW FIRM PARTNER: Faster! (He appears, crosses the stage preceded by Giovanna. Lat and Roxana wave goodbye. Exit Giovanna.) On! On! (On the point of disappearing in his turn he stops and turns. The rope tautens. Noise of Giovanna falling off.) Stool! (Lat fetches stool and gives it to Big Law Firm Partner who throws it to Giovanna.) Adieu!
LAT and ROXANA: (waving). Goodbye, already, Big Law Firm Partner! Jeez.
LAT: That passed the time.
ROXANA: It would have passed in any case.
LAT: Yes, but not so rapidly. (Pauses.) I guess it’s good to be reminded of the gruesome existence of an associate.
ROXANA: Yeah, that poor thing. What do we do now?
LAT: I don’t know.
ROXANA: Let’s go.
LAT: We can’t.
ROXANA: Why not?
LAT: We’re waiting for Bono.
ROXANA: (despairingly). Oh, this sucks!
(From the hallway by the coffeemakers and inspiring Oprah’s Book Club books, a BOY calls.)
(Roxana halts. Both look towards the voice.)
ROXANA: Hey, Lat, I think that kid is talking to you.
LAT: Approach, my child.
(Enter Boy, timidly. He halts.)
BOY: Mister Lat . . . ?
ROXANA: What do you want?
(The Boy does not move.)
ROXANA: (forcibly). Approach, for Pete’s sake. Are you waiting for a friend request or something?
(The Boy advances timidly, halts.)
LAT: What is it? You have a message from Bono?.
ROXANA: Aren’t you a little late? We’ve been waiting here for hours.
BOY: (recoiling). It’s not my fault, Ma’am.
ROXANA: Whose is it? Mine? And why are you calling me ‘Ma’am,’ you little turd?
BOY: I was afraid, Ma’am.
ROXANA: Afraid of what? Of us? (Pause.) Answer me!
LAT: Will you let him alone! What’s the matter with you?
(Roxana releases the Boy, moves away, covering her face with her hands. Lat and the Boy observe her. Roxana drops her hands. Her expression is pained.) What’s the matter with you?
ROXANA: I’m unhappy.
LAT: Since when?
ROXANA: I was before, but … I guess I’d forgotten. It’s so hard to keep track of time.
LAT: Extraordinary the tricks that memory plays! (Roxana tries to speak, renounces, limps to her place, sits down and begins to take off her shoes.) Well? (To Boy.)
BOY: Bono — (in a rush). Bono told me to tell you he won’t come this evening but surely tomorrow.
LAT: Is that all?
BOY: Yes Sir.
LAT: All right, you can go.
BOY: What am I to tell Bono, Sir?
LAT: Tell him . . . (he hesitates) . . . tell him you saw us. (Pause.) You did see us, didn’t you?
BOY: Yes Sir.
(He steps back, hesitates, turns and exits running. The light suddenly fails. In a moment it is night. The moon rises at back, mounts in the sky, stands still, shedding a pale light on the scene.)
LAT: At last! (Roxana gets up and goes towards Lat, a shoe in each hand. She puts them down at edge of stage, straightens and contemplates the moon.)
What are you doing?
ROXANA: Pale for weariness.
ROXANA: Of climbing heaven and gazing on the likes of us.
LAT: Your shoes, what are you doing with your shoes?
ROXANA: (turning to look at the shoes). I’m leaving them there. (Pause.) Another laid-off lawyer will come, just as . . . as . . . as me, but with smaller feet, and they’ll make her happy.
LAT: But you can’t go barefoot!
ROXANA: Christ did.
LAT: Christ! What has Christ got to do with it? You’re not going to compare yourself to Christ! Besides … where he lived it was warm; it was dry!
ROXANA: Yes. And they crucified quick. Unlike here.
LAT: We’ve nothing more to do here.
ROXANA: Nor anywhere else.
LAT: Ah Roxie, don’t go on like that. Tomorrow everything will be better.
ROXANA: How do you figure?
LAT: Did you not hear what the child said?
LAT: He said that Bono was sure to come tomorrow. (Pause.) What do you say to that?
ROXANA: Then all we have to do is to wait here.
LAT: Are you mad? We should take cover. We should go home and watch Gossip Girl. (He takes Roxana by the arm.) Come on. (He draws Roxana after him. Roxana yields, then resists. They halt.)
ROXANA: (looking at the espresso bar). Pity we haven’t got a Starbucks card.
LAT: Come on. It’s cold. (He draws Roxana after him. As before.)
ROXANA: Remind me to bring some money tomorrow.
LAT: Yes. Come on. (He draws Roxie after him.)
ROXANA: How long have we been together all the time now?
LAT: I don’t know. Fifty years maybe. At least that’s what it feels like.
ROXANA: Do you remember the day I spilled coffee all over my white shirt right before an interview? You took the train all the way to midtown to bring me a new one.
LAT: That’s all dead and buried.
ROXANA: You even brought me cufflinks.
LAT: There’s no good harking back on that. Come on. (He draws Roxie after him. As before.)
LAT: I’m cold!
ROXANA: Wait! (She moves away from Lat.) I sometimes wonder if I’m just dragging you down. (She crosses the stage and sits down on the faux velvet armchair.). Maybe we weren’t made for the same road … I mean, I can’t seem to get out of the breadline.
LAT: (without anger). That’s not certain.
ROXANA: No, nothing is certain.
(Lat slowly crosses the stage and sits down beside Roxana.)
LAT: We don’t have to watch Gossip Girl tonight. We can DVR it for another time, if you think it would be better.
ROXANA: It’s not worthwhile now to skip it. What else are we going to do?
LAT: No, it’s not worthwhile now. We’re not going to get any work done today.
ROXANA: Well, shall we go?
LAT: Yes, let’s go.
They do not move.
Roxana St. Thomas is a laid-off lawyer living in New York. You can reach her by email (at firstname.lastname@example.org), follow her on Twitter, or find her on Facebook. And check out the Notes from the Breadline t-shirt store here.
Earlier: Prior installments of Notes from the Breadline