By Matthew Greene
Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea by Matthew Greene received its world premiere at Plan-B Theatre Company (Salt Lake City, Utah) 31 January–10 February, 2013, directed by Jason Bowcutt, starring Logan Tarantino as Steve and Topher Rasmussen as Adam.
The aphorism goes that you should “write what you know.” Never have I taken this advice more to heart than I did with Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea. What started out as a simple coming-of-age story quickly became personal. After all, I was a young guy caught up in the Proposition 8 debate, watching black-and-white beliefs fade into gray. When asked what I’m “trying to say” with this (or any) play, I answer in terms of what I’m trying to ask. Should personal convictions ever supersede a human relationship? What happens to you when you lose something you believe in? And why do two groups of people who claim to aspire to ideals of love have such a hard time with one another?
It’s true, those who know me best can see the autobiography woven into this script. But as I’ve worked on this piece, I’ve come to understand the “write-what-you-know” admonition a little differently. I’m part of an interesting religious tradition in which members of the congregation stand up and state publicly the things that they know. While such remarks are often based in personal experience, they branch out from there into more grand, transcendent territory. In this context, I profess to know things far beyond my tangible grasp. I know that faith is a basic human instinct, that love is a healing balm, and that it is often through each other that we glimpse divinity.
I lived through the events depicted in this play. But more than that, I learned the same hard-won lessons the characters do and have come to embrace the truths that I hope grace the text of this play. Most importantly, I have asked the questions that lie at the foundation of the story and, as I hope is the case with everyone, am in search of the answers.
NOTE ON THE SCRIPT
The action is set in Northern California, bouncing back and forth in time between 1995, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. The symbol “//” indicates an overlap in dialogue.
JULY 11 1995
(Lights up on a large hospitable tree, the type of haven little boys dream of. Sunlight though the branches. STEVE, age eight, is standing under the tree with his eyes closed, counting.)
STEVE: Ninety-three, ninety-four, ninety-five, ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-niiiine . . . One hundred! Ready or not! (STEVE runs off, passing ADAM, age twenty, but not noticing him. ADAM is dressed in a white shirt, tie, and Mormon missionary nametag. He dictates the words of a letter.)
ADAM: Summer comes in the other half of the year but it still makes me remember. I don’t think it’s fair we have to come of age so young. If I could try again, I might just get it right this time. (STEVE, age twenty, dictates the words of his own letter.)
STEVE: Sometimes a skinned knee or a partly cloudy day will catch me off guard. And I’ll think if I run fast enough I might just beat you there this time.
ADAM: I imagine a world where I can come back home and find everything just how it should be. My family around the dinner table, my future wife smiling at me from across a crowded room . . . And my best friend, underneath that tree. I’m getting pretty good at believing in things. Until then, though, take care.
STEVE: Your friend . . .
STEVE: Steve. (STEVE, now age eight, runs and tags ADAM. ADAM, now age eight, joins STEVE.) Got you!
ADAM: (Shouting.) Olly olly oxen // free!
STEVE: Too late!
ADAM: You said you were gonna go west.
STEVE: Yeah, the rocks are west.
ADAM: Nuh uh, the street’s west. You said Africa // was west!
STEVE: Africa’s that way. (Points, then demonstrates.) California’s here, Africa’s all the way // over there.
ADAM: Okay, fine.
STEVE: I’ll just be the navigator. I have a perfect sense of direction, look. Spin me. (STEVE closes his eyes and points in front of him. ADAM regards STEVE for a moment, shakes his head, and begins counting.)
ADAM: One, two, three, four, five // six, seven . . .
STEVE: I’m sick of hiding.
ADAM: Then you count; I’ll hide.
STEVE: You’re just mad I know where Africa’s at.
ADAM: It’s not even in Africa, stupid. It’s too hot there.
STEVE: But you said it never rained!
ADAM: Yeah, but it’s a garden.
STEVE: A garden with lions?
ADAM: I said tigers.
STEVE: Ohhh, tigers. That’s India, and that’s . . . (Points.) . . . this way. Unless you’re making it up.
ADAM: No way! It’s where it all started.
STEVE: If it was so great, they never would’ve left.
ADAM: So what? More room for us!
STEVE: Are you sure it’s allowed?
STEVE: You said God made them leave.
ADAM: That was different. We can just find it ourselves.
STEVE: And they really could ride on top of the tigers?
ADAM: If you don’t believe me then just don’t come.
STEVE: Swear on your grandma’s dead body.
ADAM: Are you gonna count, or what?
STEVE: You already did. (STEVE quickly tags “base,” grinning.) And I already won.
ADAM: That’s cheating.
STEVE: Nuh uh!
ADAM: I’m the one who keeps // the rules!
STEVE: But you didn’t tag me! (Taunting.) You didn’t tag me, you didn’t tag me . . . (ADAM begins chasing STEVE, who backs away from him.)
ADAM: I’m still gonna get you anyways . . . Steve! (STEVE laughs and runs away. ADAM chases after. Laughter continues as they exit.)
MARCH 11 2006
(ADAM and STEVE race onstage, age seventeen, ADAM in the lead. They collapse on the ground, breathless and grinning.)
ADAM: Yes! Ha!
STEVE: Ugh, my knee.
ADAM: Yeah, uh huh . . . The knee again.
STEVE: Listen, you won. I give you that.
ADAM: Don’t blame the knee.
STEVE: I need to save my strength for Saturday morning.
ADAM: And you let me win.
STEVE: No no, you beat me, Adam. Save that for a rainy day.
STEVE: I just gotta be careful, you know, for // Saturday.
ADAM: Saturday. I know.
STEVE: I mean, what if I don’t qualify?
ADAM: Then you don’t go to State, I guess.
STEVE: (Beat.) Let’s try that again. “What if I don’t qualify?”
ADAM: (Rolls his eyes.) Steve, don’t be crazy, of course you’re gonna qualify, those guys won’t know what hit them . . . Etcetera.
STEVE: Am I detecting some attitude?
ADAM: I’m still pissed at you.
STEVE: What, because I got you in trouble?
ADAM: You don’t know how . . . big a deal my mom’s gonna make out of all that.
STEVE: It’s just a dance.
ADAM: It’s never “just” anything.
ADAM: I’m serious, it’s like all of a sudden my . . . eternal salvation depends on what stupid girl I take to a stupid dance in a stupid dress where my mom might be able to see her stupid boobs!
STEVE: That seems like a bit much.
ADAM: You’re right. Thou shalt not take Katie’s boobs in vain.
STEVE: What if you just told your mom you’re going with a nice Mormon girl?
ADAM: I don’t like lying to her. She says it aggravates her condition.
STEVE: Yeah, I don’t think it // actually does.
ADAM: Neither do I. It’s one of her little tricks.
STEVE: Didn’t she let David go to Prom? With that chick with the forehead.
ADAM: Like anything was gonna happen with her.
STEVE: Wait, your dad wasn’t Mormon and she married him.
ADAM: Ask her how she feels about that whole experience.
STEVE: And who says you can’t just do it?
ADAM: “Who says,” you mean // other than . . .
STEVE: I mean, aside from your mom, and the rest of the people at church . . .
ADAM: And God.
STEVE: God really cares who your prom date is?
ADAM: Yes. Apparently. This sucks. (A beat. ADAM looks around.) I’m ready to go again. Let’s see if it really was a fluke.
STEVE: Hold on.
ADAM: I’m rested. You’re not rested?
STEVE: You won, alright? (STEVE leans back on the ground, tired.) I thought maybe we could talk or something.
ADAM: Are you sure you’ve got the energy for that?
STEVE: Screw you.
ADAM: You wish. Okay, here’s how we fix this. I just tell my mom we’re going stag. You didn’t even ask a girl unless I really missed something.
STEVE: I’m going to Travis Walker’s party.
ADAM: No you’re not.
STEVE: Oh, I’m not?
ADAM: You said you would go to the dance.
STEVE: But then you were going with Katie, and seeing as how I didn’t really care about prom in the // first place.
ADAM: Come on.
STEVE: And I’m gonna be swamped training for State // and all that.
ADAM: If you qualify.
STEVE: Which I will. Listen, I went to prom last year and it really wasn’t // that great.
ADAM: (Sarcastic.) Did you go last year? Because you hadn’t mentioned it.
STEVE: Geez, this is why I got you a date.
STEVE: I mean, I made sure you were set up with a date before I told Travis I’d be // at the party . . .
ADAM: That’s why Katie asked me?
STEVE: Okay, not that it matters . . .
ADAM: I’m an idiot.
STEVE: I’m sorry for helping, okay? I didn’t mean to get you in trouble with your mom and God and everybody. I didn’t realize it was that big a deal.
ADAM: Everything is that big a deal. You should be used to it by now.
STEVE: Why don’t you come to the party with me?
ADAM: (Laughs.) Travis Walker’s party? I don’t think so.
STEVE: It’ll be fun.
ADAM: Not for guys like us.
STEVE: Guys like what?
ADAM: Is anyone else from the team going?
STEVE: I don’t care. And yes, actually, several.
ADAM: I guess they’ll be the only guys there who aren’t in leather pants.
STEVE: (Wary.) Alright.
ADAM: (Loving his own joke.) One of those parties where the donkey isn’t the only one getting a tail pinned on him. (Laughs.) What?
STEVE: You’re being an asshole.
ADAM: You don’t know about Travis?
STEVE: What about him?
ADAM: Wow. Mr. Popular is out of the loop. Mr. Prom King, // Mr. Track Star.
STEVE: I’m not the prom king.
ADAM: Not until Saturday.
STEVE: Come to the party, you can see how retarded all of that shit is.
ADAM: Like my mom would ever go for that.
STEVE: She’s not invited, and neither is your pastor or the rest of the church people // or God.
ADAM: Seriously? A rave at some gay dude’s house with strippers and . . . Everclear?
STEVE: (Laughs.) Everclear? Rave? You just might have a good time, you know.
ADAM: Sure, but just because I might want to doesn’t // mean I’m gonna do it.
STEVE: (Overlapping.) Doesn’t mean you’re gonna do it, yeah. You know, all I hear is you want to. This is like the, what-do-you-call . . . like those monks whipping themselves on the back, you remember that shit?
ADAM: It’s nothing like that.
STEVE: I’m sure denying yourself any sort of happiness feels really good.
ADAM: Well, I can’t just go along with every impulse my body tells // me to do.
STEVE: Holy shit, is that what the rest of us have been doing? Why does it matter if he’s gay? Travis. To your mom or whoever.
ADAM: We’re going to prom. Everybody’s gonna be pissed if you’re not there.
STEVE: Like they give a shit. Like I give a shit.
ADAM: Plus, how many times in your life do you literally get to call yourself “royalty?”
STEVE: That stuff is stupid.
ADAM: Yeah, says the guy who’s gonna get it.
STEVE: Why does it matter if he’s gay? Travis. To your mom or whoever.
ADAM: (Shrugs.) I dunno. I guess the church isn’t really big into gay people. Or no, not the . . . people, but just . . . gayness in general. It’s unnatural, all that.
STEVE: You think it’s unnatural?
ADAM: They say it’s // not natural.
STEVE: You, though. Does it matter to you if Travis is gay?
ADAM: Travis is a dick.
STEVE: But, // I’m saying . . .
ADAM: Which is appropriate, I guess. (Laughs.)
STEVE: Adam. Is that what you believe?
ADAM: I guess, it’s . . . not how God created us.
STEVE: Maybe it’s how he created Travis.
ADAM: (Patronizing.) Sure.
STEVE: You don’t think . . .
ADAM: That’s a pretty nice excuse, don’t you think?
STEVE: And there’s, what, there’s no way he could be right?
ADAM: Not if he’s doing something wrong. Look, these kinds of conversations never end well // with us.
STEVE: So okay, God never makes any exceptions?
ADAM: For Travis Walker?
STEVE: For anyone.
ADAM: If there were exceptions I’d be off somewhere . . . doing it with Katie Banville right now.
STEVE: Geez, if you’re that horny, // just go . . .
ADAM: That’s how it works, I mean. If it sucks for me it has to suck for everyone else too.
STEVE: Sounds like a good time. And you just believe in a God like that, someone who knows he’s making us miserable, wants you to lose your prom date, and Travis to die alone, and me to . . . (Steve stops and a moment goes by. Adam gets up to run again.)
ADAM: Come on. Let’s go.
STEVE: I told you. I wanted to talk.
ADAM: I’m helping you train, if you think about it. You should be thanking me for beating you here. (Stops.)
STEVE: Fine. Thank you. The thing is, // I wanted to talk.
ADAM: You don’t want a rematch?
STEVE: I’m a little tired.
ADAM: You’re a little faggot is what you are. (Laughs.) Come on, man, get up. Loser has to go to prom like he promised.
STEVE: (Suddenly.) I’m faster than you, Adam! Shit, you didn’t even make Regionals and you wanna race? That’s a joke, I don’t need to beat you. (A beat. ADAM is taken aback but thinks better of pursuing the issue.)
ADAM: Fine. Talk.
STEVE: (Unrepentant.) Listen, I’m sorry.
ADAM: What, for . . . chewing me out or for ditching out on our plans // for prom.
STEVE: Can you please shut up about the dance!
STEVE: Because I’m not going to play the high school bullshit game with you.
ADAM: (Nods.) You said.
STEVE: Because I’m going to Travis Walker’s faggot party.
STEVE: You really haven’t heard what everyone’s been saying about me?
ADAM: Is that what you’re being all weird about?
STEVE: I’m not being // weird.
ADAM: Because that’s retarded. Because people are always making up crap like that.
STEVE: You didn’t think it might be true?
ADAM: No, I swear. Look. Show up at the dance, score the hottest girl because you can . . . and they’ll cut out all the rumors.
ADAM: I told them if anyone knew something like that, I would. (Beat.) Right?
STEVE: This is what I needed to talk to you about.
ADAM: I would. I would know.
STEVE: Shut up, Adam.
ADAM: Look. You don’t have to go to the dance. You don’t have to pretend like you’re . . . like something’s up, just so you don’t have // to go.
STEVE: Please stop talking.
ADAM: I don’t want to.
STEVE: I have to tell you something.
ADAM: Come on, man.
STEVE: Or would you rather just hear it from everybody else?
ADAM: Maybe you’re confused.
STEVE: I’m gay, Adam. (A long pause. Neither boy knows what to say.)
ADAM: Holy crap.
STEVE: I figured maybe you knew.
ADAM: Maybe I knew?
STEVE: Everyone else seemed to.
ADAM: No, I had no idea you . . . Holy crap, Steve. Is this real?
STEVE: What, you want proof?
ADAM: No! No no . . . (ADAM backs away. STEVE looks at ADAM in disbelief.)
STEVE: Wow, Adam.
ADAM: Let’s start over.
STEVE: From where? The part where I’m gay or the part where you’re disgusted?
ADAM: Come on.
STEVE: Or the part where you’re damning me to fire and brimstone.
ADAM: So dramatic. Wait, is this why you’re so dramatic?
STEVE: You know what, screw you, I’ll . . . see you // later.
ADAM: Where are you going?
STEVE: I have training to do.
STEVE: Did you have something else to add?
ADAM: Look, I’m sorry. That’s not really an easy thing to hear.
STEVE: Try saying it.
ADAM: I’m an idiot.
STEVE: (Beat.) Keep going . . .
ADAM: I honestly didn’t know. And all that stuff I said about Travis. I mean, I wasn’t serious.
STEVE: You said he was unnatural.
ADAM: Forget what I said.
STEVE: And that there’s no exceptions. For anyone.
ADAM: Since when does it matter what I think?
STEVE: What the—come on, of course it matters.
ADAM: Wait, hold up. This isn’t like you have . . . some kind of feelings for me // or something.
STEVE: No! (Laughs.) No-no-no-no-no, // not even . . .
ADAM: Okay. I get it. So who cares?
STEVE: Apart from you?
ADAM: There’s always been crap you do that I think is wrong. I mean, I assume . . . stuff happened.
ADAM: “Stuff,” yeah.
STEVE: Listen, if you can’t be mature about this, // let’s stop.
ADAM: I’m trying, alright?
STEVE: (Breath.) What if I said yes, stuff happened.
ADAM: I would say . . . okay. Fine.
ADAM: What do you want me to say?
STEVE: Well, that you support me.
ADAM: Look, you’re free to make your own // choices, okay?
STEVE: I wasn’t asking for your permission.
ADAM: What? No, I mean, // it’s okay . . .
STEVE: I don’t need you to tell me I can make my own choices!
ADAM: Okay, fine. Geez. So why are we still talking about this?
STEVE: Because you think it’s wrong. You think I’m wrong now.
ADAM: Come on.
STEVE: You were serious. About Travis, you meant all of that.
ADAM: (Breath.) Yeah.
STEVE: How “right and wrong” is this simple concept and // all that.
ADAM: Steve, this doesn’t matter. As weird as this is, it doesn’t change anything. We’re friends, you’re . . . gay, who cares. (ADAM smiles at STEVE, happy with his pronouncement. STEVE is unsatisfied.)
STEVE: So, tell me I’m right, then.
STEVE: Tell me I’m doing the right thing by coming out.
ADAM: (Beat.) You don’t care about that kind // of stuff.
STEVE: Don’t tell me what I care about. I wanna know, I wanna hear it // from you.
ADAM: Do you think you are? I mean, do you think you’re doing the right thing?
STEVE: I don’t know. I know how I feel and I know what I want. But I’m, I dunno, so alone. And if Adam—you know, with all his moral superiority shit—could just tell me I’m okay . . .
ADAM: Is that what you want?
STEVE: I want to feel normal. I thought if things could just be how they always were, you know, I could even picture it out here, just another afternoon with my best friend. I practiced the words, exactly what I would tell you.
ADAM: What were they?
STEVE: It’s stupid, it // doesn’t matter.
ADAM: No, what would you have said? If things were normal?
STEVE: (Breath.) I guess. I would’ve told you all the shit that’s going on. Like. How my parents knock on my door now. You know how they would never remember to knock, but now all of a sudden it’s “don’t ask don’t tell.”
ADAM: They found out?
STEVE: I told them. They said absolutely nothing for three days, then they bought me an X-Box and came up with some bullshit about how brave I am.
ADAM: You got an X-Box?
STEVE: Did you know I started getting threats? Like, what’ll happen if I go out for track again in the spring. I mean, me. And even the whole . . . (Hesitates.) It’s stupid and I don’t care. But even all this prom king shit. How all of a sudden it’s like, “Never mind, you’re not welcome anymore,” like I didn’t even have friends. (STEVE shrugs sadly. ADAM punches him hard on the arm. STEVE reacts, then takes a breath. The two look at one another for a moment, then smile slightly. STEVE takes a breath, prepares himself.) I guess there was, there was a guy. You don’t know him, don’t worry. And this guy, I couldn’t stop thinking about him, and I just kept wondering, you know, what the hell? Um, for months, seriously, long-ass time. And what was wrong with me, right? But that feeling, it’s the most normal thing in the world. I mean, I realized. It’s that thing, it’s all those movies, all those love songs, what I’ve heard my whole life. The whole stupid world is in love with each other . . . But it’s this guy. And nothing happened with him, but this is how I finally feel normal. (Beat.) And, I guess, that. That’s what I wanted to tell you.
ADAM: (Beat.) . . . Okay. And what would I have said?
STEVE: I don’t know, I didn’t really get that far.
ADAM: Oh. Well. What if I said . . . For what it’s worth, I don’t want you to go to hell.
STEVE: Don’t bullshit me, okay? You wonder why I waited so long to tell you?
STEVE: Because I actually care how you feel about it. I care what you think.
STEVE: Because you’re important, okay? Because you matter, you stupid prick! And don’t you dare start thinking this is some confession of love or any shit like that because believe me // it’s not.
ADAM: I wasn’t.
STEVE: I just don’t really have anyone else, you know?
ADAM: Whatever. Half the school, // practically.
STEVE: Screw half the school.
ADAM: And your parents are so proud of you.
STEVE: My parents stopped paying attention to me when I learned how to feed myself; you know they don’t give a shit. But when I started thinking . . . (Breath.) I can’t lose my best friend.
ADAM: You’re not.
STEVE: You said it // was unnatural.
ADAM: Dude. I don’t care if you’re gay.
STEVE: And that’s supposed to be good enough?
ADAM: What difference does it make if I think you’re right?
STEVE: Maybe it’ll make me brave like everyone thinks I’m supposed to be. Because, really? The truth, I mean, I’m so fucking scared right now.
STEVE: It’s true. And I can’t just have you thinking I’m a sinner, is the thing.
ADAM: (Attempting a joke.) It never bothered you before.
STEVE: Or that I’m just another faggot // like Travis.
ADAM: I didn’t say anything like that. I didn’t say you’re a faggot; I didn’t say you’re a . . . bad person, or . . . I don’t know.
STEVE: You don’t know.
ADAM: Not much of anything, actually.
STEVE: Well . . . What do you think?
ADAM: I think . . . you’re my best friend.
ADAM: And I think it’s kind of gross you want to kiss another guy.
ADAM: You heard me, but whatever. I think they’re crazy if they don’t want their all-State . . . whoever to run track next year.
STEVE: Right . . .
ADAM: And I think . . . I should support you. That maybe you’re right, I guess. (STEVE says nothing.) What, nothing to say?
STEVE: I didn’t get this far, remember? (They sit in silence for a beat.) I know I promised I would go to that dance.
ADAM: It’s not like I would be your date.
STEVE: Flattered. But I don’t think you’re my type.
ADAM: I dunno, maybe I could go to the party.
STEVE: Yeah? Do you want to?
STEVE: But that doesn’t mean you’re going to // do it.
ADAM: No. Let’s go.
ADAM: (Shrugs.) I want to go to the party. One exception, let’s go.
STEVE: Alright. Because I’m ninety-nine percent sure Stephanie Clavin will be there. And Melissa Hooper, ninety-eight percent.
ADAM: Like I can even do anything with them.
STEVE: You can kiss, right?
STEVE: Make out? Tongue?
ADAM: Ummm . . . yeah. Why not.
STEVE: Make out with titty grab?
ADAM: I’m starting to doubt this whole gay thing.
STEVE: Just sayin’. I’m the perfect wingman now.
ADAM: Right. Yeah. It’s not that big a deal.
STEVE: What’s not?
ADAM: Any of it, I guess. (ADAM stands up, STEVE follows.) You’re still invited to dinner at my place if you want.
STEVE: Oh, still?
ADAM: Don’t be gay. (Off STEVE’s look.) I mean. Don’t be retarded, you know what I mean. Come on. (They start to walk off. STEVE gives ADAM a playful glance and takes off running. ADAM chases behind.) You know that’s not gonna count! (They exit.)
JULY 11 1995
(STEVE, age eight, sneaks back onstage quietly and tags “base” triumphantly.)
STEVE: And the winner! (Out of breath, calls out.) Hey, you lost? Come back! (After a moment, eight-year-old ADAM runs on, breathless but determined. He tags STEVE violently.)
ADAM: You didn’t . . . say . . . “olly olly oxen free!”
STEVE: So what?
ADAM: That’s . . . how you play.
STEVE: Who cares?
ADAM: You’re it.
STEVE: Nuh uh.
ADAM: That’s the rules!
STEVE: We’re not playing that way anymore, okay?
STEVE: You don’t have to say anything, you just have to // tag base.
ADAM: (Enunciating obnoxiously.) “Olly olly oxen free.”
STEVE: I told you this game was stupid.
ADAM: I didn’t make the rules. (They are quiet for a moment, resting.)
STEVE: (An idea.) Could we switch what you have to say?
ADAM: Yeah, I guess.
STEVE: And we have to say it or else we’re it.
ADAM: That’s the rule, Steve.
STEVE: Okay, starting now you have to say, “Kiss my ass, dipshit!”
ADAM: (Beat.) Very funny.
STEVE: That’s the new rule.
ADAM: I’m not gonna say that.
STEVE: (Shrugs.) Then you’re gonna be it forever, that’s the new rule.
ADAM: No it’s not!
STEVE: Or we could just tag base.
ADAM: The whole point of “olly olly oxen free” is to make sure // they know you tagged . . .
STEVE: (Eyes closed.) One. Two. Three, four, five, six . . . . (ADAM sighs and exits quickly. STEVE continues counting quietly but begins walking, eyes closed, off in the direction ADAM exited.) Seven, eight, // nine, ten . . .
ADAM: (From offstage.) Steve!
STEVE: (Innocently.) What? (STEVE continues in the direction of the voice.) Eleven, twelve, thirteen . . . (He goes off.)
NOVEMBER 18 2006
(ADAM and STEVE, age eighteen, enter engaged in conversation. ADAM is acting strangely, carrying a stack of college brochures.)
ADAM: Here. No one’ll bother us out here.
STEVE: No one was bothering us at your house.
ADAM: David was about to start . . . talking.
STEVE: How is it, having him back?
ADAM: Fine. Annoying. Whatever.
STEVE: He seems happy.
ADAM: I know.
STEVE: Liked being a missionary?
ADAM: Apparently. (ADAM starts looking at the brochures.)
STEVE: Did he lose weight over there? He looks good.
ADAM: You’re kidding. My brother?
STEVE: Please, it’s not like that. He made it the whole two years; that’s something, right?
ADAM: Not really. You kind of have to stay out there all . . . both years. Once you sign up.
STEVE: All or nothing, huh?
ADAM: Can we . . . concentrate? Here. I’d like to point out “Exhibit A.” Look how happy this girl is on the UCSB campus. (He passes a brochure to STEVE, who is looking at another.)
STEVE: Oh, alright. Then I’d like to draw your attention to this smiling couple in the library at Georgetown. Look at that: true love blossoming before your eyes.
ADAM: We’re not going to an East Coast school.
STEVE: I’m sorry, what?
ADAM: That girl’s face looks like a foot. They all look like that over there.
STEVE: That whole side of the country.
ADAM: You can’t argue with this. You’re not into her . . . body parts. (Laughs.)
STEVE: Well then, speaking for my own body parts, East Coast boys are actually // pretty great.
ADAM: Okay, okay.
STEVE: Rowers, lacross players . . .
ADAM: What’s your next idea?
STEVE: Um, Sarah Lawrence.
ADAM: Why don’t we just mail our balls in with the application. It’ll save time. Do they even have a team?
STEVE: We don’t have to go somewhere that’s giving me a scholarship.
ADAM: Right. We could always just pick one of the schools that’s after me. Wait.
STEVE: Wow, is it “feel-sorry-for-Adam time” already?
ADAM: You giving up your spot on a good team isn’t going to make me feel any better.
STEVE: Okay. Then, how about . . . Seattle?
ADAM: How about killing myself? A million people drinking coffee in the rain every day. I do not own that many . . . turtleneck sweaters.
STEVE: You’re not being helpful.
ADAM: I’m helping you not make a stupid decision.
ADAM: Because I might end up wherever you decide to go. Assuming they let me in.
STEVE: And now it’s “worry-about-Adam’s-chances-at-a-good-school-time.”
ADAM: Shut up.
STEVE: Coach used to give you extra laps for whining like that.
ADAM: Forgive me for caring about my education. Damnit. (Laughs. A pause. STEVE surveys ADAM.)
STEVE: So, what, you got drunk during fourth period? (ADAM laughs.) Wow.
ADAM: I only had, like, one little drink.
STEVE: How little?
ADAM: (Laughs.) It’s not like I’d be drunk off one drink.
STEVE: You get drunk off one light beer.
ADAM: (Hurt.) Shut up.
STEVE: Eddie Dorado showed me this water bottle he had full of vodka, you know, at lunch. And I thought, what a dumbass.
ADAM: I was trying to avoid the lecture.
ADAM: If Eddie’s a dumbass, what does that make me? (STEVE shrugs. ADAM turns his attention back to the stack of brochures.) I’m very happy for you, getting all those offers. For the record.
STEVE: Thank you.
ADAM: And since it matters . . . I think I could go as far east as UNLV.
STEVE: Oh, your mom would love you living in Vegas.
ADAM: Like I care. It happens to be a good school.
STEVE: Why don’t you tell me what’s really bugging you?
ADAM: Why don’t you try to . . . focus. (ADAM dumps a pile of brochures in STEVE’s lap.)
STEVE: What the hell?
ADAM: Look, I’m going to college regardless of what . . . team you end up on.
STEVE: Good for you.
ADAM: Whatever little races you run, or whatever.
ADAM: And if you want to come with me . . . you’re more than welcome.
STEVE: Provided you choose a school.
ADAM: Provided . . . they choose me.
ADAM: Not everyone has a four minute mile and a 4.0.
STEVE: It’s a 3.8 and what is your problem? (ADAM finds a brochure.)
ADAM: Look at USC again. Okay? A long hard look.
STEVE: USC would be fine.
ADAM: It’s good enough for you?
STEVE: Stop, sure, yes. (Beat.) How’s your family?
ADAM: Come on.
STEVE: We picked a college, this is a new topic. Are things better with David in the house?
ADAM: Better than what?
ADAM: He keeps getting all worried about me.
STEVE: Well . . .
ADAM: Like you never do this.
STEVE: What, during chemistry class? Two o’clock or whatever in the afternoon? I liked you better as the designated driver.
ADAM: Sorry to disappoint you.
STEVE: That’s not what I // was saying.
ADAM: The family is good. Thanks for asking.
STEVE: You guys seeing more of what’s-his-name?
ADAM: It’s hilarious you’re so . . . freaked out that I’m a little tipsy.
STEVE: Shitfaced. This just seems a little irresponsible.
ADAM: No kidding.
STEVE: But, whatever; do what you want.
ADAM: Thanks for your permission.
STEVE: Cut it out, asshole.
ADAM: I don’t think I need you telling me what’s right and what’s not.
ADAM: I know.
STEVE: Good! (A pause. STEVE is irritated, ADAM retreats a bit.)
ADAM: That was cool of you. To pretend you didn’t know his name.
STEVE: (Nods.) Ellis.
ADAM: Ellis. Can you imagine your mom being in love with a guy named Ellis?
STEVE: So, it’s getting serious?
ADAM: They’re getting married.
ADAM: They told us last night. They’re very excited to . . . complete the family loop, or whatever.
STEVE: I’m sorry, man.
ADAM: No, it’s okay. It’s great, because Ellis even made some stupid-ass comment about how great it is they can still have kids at their ages. Just . . . have another baby a million years later.
STEVE: I thought your mom was sick.
ADAM: She’s feeling so much better. (Pause.) It’s bullshit.
STEVE: How’d David take the whole thing?
ADAM: He doesn’t like it, but he kept his mouth shut.
STEVE: Oh. And you . . .
ADAM: I’m a dumbass.
STEVE: Listen, you’re entitled to have a drink, your mom is getting remarried to // some douchebag.
ADAM: It’s illegal for me to have a drink. It’s wrong and I know better.
STEVE: (Beat.) Well, no need for a lecture, I guess. (ADAM shrugs.) Going away to school isn’t gonna change anything, you know.
ADAM: Thanks, doctor.
STEVE: And, uh, doing this kind of shit won’t either. Not that I’m trying to tell you what to do.
ADAM: I don’t see why not.
ADAM: Tell me what to do, Steve. Everyone else is doing it.
STEVE: Stop it.
ADAM: I mean, I’m obviously doing a shitty job deciding for myself.
STEVE: And who says I’m not making shitty decisions of my own?
ADAM: Everything seems to be working out pretty well.
STEVE: (Shrugs.) So I can run fast; so I get good grades. You could get good grades, too, if you wanted.
ADAM: Have you been talking to my mom or something?
STEVE: Wow, okay. I’m sorry my life doesn’t suck right now, Adam.
STEVE: You want my advice? It might not be the smartest thing to be getting drunk at school.
ADAM: That was simple.
STEVE: Well, it doesn’t take a genius.
ADAM: Even though you are one, technically.
STEVE: I’m gonna pretend I’m not hearing this. I’m gonna go ahead and not get annoyed because I know you’re having a crappy day and you’re currently under // the influence.
ADAM: Look who’s self-righteous now. This doesn’t seem to bother you on the weekend.
STEVE: That’s the weekend.
ADAM: I can’t keep up with this . . . complicated moral code of yours.
STEVE: Who says I have a moral code? Is there some instruction book no one ever told me about? Steal vodka from Eddie Dorado if you want to steal vodka from // Eddie Dorado.
ADAM: And what if that doesn’t work?
STEVE: Looks like it did the trick for you, at least.
ADAM: What if it doesn’t work, Steve? (ADAM senses emotion and stops himself. He tries to shrug it off, goes through the brochures again.) So. If you’re not totally sold on USC . . .
ADAM: There’s more down there. Irvine, Fullerton . . . UCLA, obviously. (A hiatus. ADAM is trying to ignore STEVE’s concerned gaze.)
STEVE: You’ve been better, huh?
ADAM: (Laughs mirthlessly.) That’s genius.
STEVE: So what, I’m supposed to have the answers now?
ADAM: Don’t sweat it.
STEVE: Maybe we shouldn’t go to Travis’s party this weekend.
ADAM: Yeah, that’ll solve everything.
STEVE: I can’t solve everything for you, Adam, who says I can solve anything?
ADAM: (Turning on him.) Isn’t something supposed to make it better? Something’s supposed to help, right?
STEVE: I dunno, maybe you already know what that is. (Off ADAM’s look.) Right?
STEVE: You’re not happy. This isn’t, you know, you. Maybe your brother is actually on to something.
ADAM: It doesn’t make a difference. David’s mom is marrying a douchebag too. David’s family is a . . . train wreck too and he did everything right. Maybe this is just as good as it gets for a guy like me.
STEVE: Don’t start with the “guy like me” bullshit.
ADAM: I shouldn’t expect you // to understand.
STEVE: (Overlapping.) “Me to understand,” yeah, this again. Seriously, Adam, I’m telling you, // stop it.
ADAM: I’m telling you. This is just me coming to terms with the reality // that maybe . . .
STEVE: This is just you bitching about how life sucks and there’s nothing you can do about it—like no one’s ever had that brilliant realization. And no one can understand you because your life is so uncommonly shitty. And here we are, trying to pick a college we can go to so I can continue listening to you whine for another four years because, I dunno, I’m your best friend or something. So can we please . . . (STEVE grabs for the college brochures.) Irvine, yes. Fullerton, maybe. Santa Barbara, hell no. USC . . . fine. (A beat. ADAM nods.)
ADAM: David’s happy, isn’t he? You really think he seems happy.
STEVE: Sure. I guess he likes the whole “Mormon boy” act.
ADAM: Maybe it’s not an act. I mean, same shitty life.
STEVE: For the most part, yeah. Listen, he’s probably worried because he sees you like this, same reason the rest of us are worried. Maybe he’s, you know, not totally . . .
ADAM: You think David’s completely lame.
STEVE: I mean, you’re no barrel of laughs yourself, sometimes.
ADAM: Thanks. (Beat.) If I went on a mission, it would throw a serious wrench in all the college plans.
STEVE: Who said anything about a mission?
ADAM: David, for one. Ever since he got back.
STEVE: He thinks you should go.
ADAM: He says it was the best two years of his life. But they all say that.
STEVE: And you . . . want to do that?
ADAM: Well, I can’t. If I keep doing this kind of stuff.
STEVE: I guess you can’t get wasted if you’re a missionary.
ADAM: Or before.
ADAM: That’s how it works. You live the perfect Mormon life so you can be the perfect Mormon missionary and grow into the perfect Mormon man.
STEVE: Sounds exhausting.
ADAM: That’s what I thought, too.
STEVE: . . . Yeah. Listen, Saturday night, we’ll go see a movie or something, forget the party.
STEVE: We don’t have to // go to the party.
ADAM: I want to. I want to go. So I should go, right?
STEVE: (Thinks.) Sure, yes. It’ll be cool. (A pause, ADAM taking this all in. STEVE looks at the USC brochure.) Are we doing this?
STEVE: We can pick a school, right?
ADAM: Look, I know I’m being an asshole right now.
STEVE: And, I mean, you can try out for whatever team I end up on.
ADAM: Oh, can I? Can I please, Steve? (STEVE punches ADAM playfully on the arm.) Of course we’re doing this.
STEVE: You’re just being so cavalier.
ADAM: Don’t throw your SAT words at me. Yes. I would hate for someone else to listen to my bitching for four years.
STEVE: I just don’t want to, you know, lose our . . .
ADAM: Whoa, come on. I’m not that drunk.
ADAM: Kidding. (Laughs.)
STEVE: Right. Let’s, um, get you sobered up. (STEVE starts to lead ADAM back the way they came.)
ADAM: What are you gonna do? Spray me with cold water?
STEVE: Black coffee.
ADAM: You’re gonna spray me with coffee?
ADAM: I don’t drink coffee. It’s against my religion.
STEVE: You’re kidding, right? (They exit.)
JULY 11 1995
(Eight-year-old STEVE runs onstage and stands guard at the “base.” He waits a moment, then eight-year-old ADAM runs on and stops, seeing this. They watch each other for a moment. An impasse.)
STEVE: It’s impossible to get around me! You might as well just // give up.
ADAM: Nuh uh! (ADAM goes for the tree but STEVE heads him off. He sighs, then tries from a different angle. STEVE blocks him again and laughs.) Fine. I’ll just wait here. (ADAM mimes an invisible football and pumps as if he’s preparing to throw it.)
STEVE: What are you doing?
ADAM: Think fast! (ADAM throws the invisible ball to STEVE who simply stares at him. ADAM runs for the ball.) And it’s a fumble! (STEVE catches on and runs for the ball himself.)
STEVE: No fair, I wasn’t ready!
ADAM: And it’s loose, and it’s . . . (ADAM makes a break for “base” but STEVE heads him off again. ADAM retreats and they are in another standoff.)
STEVE: Nice try. (A moment passes. ADAM takes a lighter out of his pocket and begins flicking it on and off casually.) Where’d you get that?
ADAM: Found it. (STEVE takes a pack of cigarettes from his pocket.)
STEVE: Over by these?
ADAM: That’s against the law! Put it down!
STEVE: You took the lighter, that’s stealing.
ADAM: No. Finders keepers.
STEVE: What if I told your mom where you got it?
ADAM: Come on . . . (ADAM hands him the lighter. STEVE flicks it on a couple of times.)
STEVE: I can’t believe someone just left this on the bench.
ADAM: What do you think they were doing?
STEVE: Smoking. (He holds up a cigarette for ADAM to see.)
ADAM: Are you gonna try it?
STEVE: You can. (STEVE hands him the cigarette.)
ADAM: I don’t want it.
STEVE: What, are you scared? (STEVE starts closing in with the cigarettes.)
ADAM: Stop it. (Stands his ground.) No! (STEVE lights the lighter and ADAM jumps back.)
STEVE: What about this?
ADAM: You’re retarded.
STEVE: Oh no, watch out! (STEVE laughs and begins chasing ADAM.)
ADAM: Stop it! Steve! (ADAM runs off and STEVE chases behind.)
STEVE: You better run! (STEVE runs off and laughter is heard from offstage. ADAM reenters and tags “base.” STEVE follows behind with an unlit cigarette in his mouth.)
ADAM: Got it!
STEVE: Hey, check it out. (Impersonating Samuel L. Jackson from Jurassic Park.) “Hold on to your butts.” (Laughs.)
STEVE: Jurassic Park! Don’t you remember?
ADAM: I can’t wait until I’m thirteen.
STEVE: (Shrugs, amusing himself.) “Hold on to your butts.” “Hold on to your butts!”
ADAM: Aren’t you gonna light it? (STEVE throws the cigarettes to ADAM.)
STEVE: You do it.
ADAM: I’m not supposed to.
STEVE: No one’s supposed to; it makes you pee crooked.
ADAM: I’m supposed to know better.
STEVE: Better than what?
ADAM: Than smoking. (An idea.) Triple dog dare you! (STEVE rolls his eyes and prepares to light up.)
STEVE: This is so gay.
ADAM: One! Two!
ADAM: On three.
STEVE: Let’s just play the game.
ADAM: Three. Three! Two . . . three!
STEVE: (Examining the cigarette.) It’s dirty anyway.
ADAM: You baby.
STEVE: Wouldn’t it be wrong for me too?
ADAM: Gimme back my lighter.
STEVE: Finders keepers. (STEVE starts to back away.)
ADAM: Steve . . .
STEVE: I’ll hide it; you count to a hundred! (STEVE heads off.)
ADAM: Steve! I’m not playing that, Steve! (STEVE runs off. ADAM chases behind.)
JUNE 12 2007
(ADAM and STEVE enter, age nineteen. They are out for a jog and stop for a break under the tree.)
STEVE: You’ve been getting lazy.
ADAM: (Short of breath.) I’ve actually . . . been working a lot.
STEVE: I know, it’s been your excuse du jour for a while.
STEVE: Do you know who was asking for you the other night?
ADAM: No . . .
STEVE: I’ll give you a hint. She put down her rum and Coke and came over to ask // for you.
ADAM: No way.
STEVE: I’m serious.
ADAM: What did she ask?
STEVE: “What did she ask,” she asked where you were.
STEVE: Not five seconds after I walked in the door. It happens every time.
ADAM: To think I was so scared of that girl.
STEVE: Didn’t I tell you? This weekend, though, my house.
ADAM: Yeah, maybe.
STEVE: You can’t tell me Ellis is making you work on a Saturday night.
ADAM: I told David I would go // to this thing.
STEVE: That’s right, if it’s not Ellis it’s David.
ADAM: I’ve got plans.
STEVE: Why should this weekend be any different. (ADAM, tired, sits down.) You better get back in shape before tryouts.
STEVE: USC’s not just gonna let you walk on the team.
ADAM: I, uh . . . I do have to get back in shape. You’re right.
STEVE: Speaking of which . . .
ADAM: And I’m sorry I’ve been so busy lately. I knew you were gonna say all this. I think we should start running together again.
STEVE: Uh huh.
ADAM: You know. Never underestimate the basics. Remember how coach would say that? I can’t get so busy I forget about the important stuff.
ADAM: Staying in shape. You’re always on my case about this. (A hiatus. STEVE proceeds with caution.)
STEVE: How is everything?
ADAM: Good. Ellis gave me a raise.
STEVE: Now that it’s officially nepotism.
ADAM: Yeah, I guess.
STEVE: How’s all that going?
ADAM: Well, I’m still a “mecretary” but it pays alright.
STEVE: No, I mean . . .
ADAM: Oh. That’s good too. Great, actually.
STEVE: Your mom’s still, uh, taking some time off?
ADAM: No, she’s back at work. I thought I told you that.
STEVE: When would you have told me?
ADAM: (Mock penitence.) Okay . . .
STEVE: You know graduation was two months ago? And you just, like, disappeared as soon as we got to the lake that night.
ADAM: You were celebrating.
STEVE: We both were, I thought.
ADAM: There’s no way that was two months ago.
STEVE: And I barely even saw you at my birthday party.
ADAM: That wasn’t a “birthday party.”
STEVE: It was my birthday!
ADAM: There wasn’t even a cake! I brought a gift and everyone looked at me like I was retarded.
STEVE: Probably because you were supposed to bring beer.
ADAM: People were being jerks. I didn’t want to stay.
STEVE: And how about this weekend?
ADAM: I told you, // I’m busy.
STEVE: I’m not stupid, Adam. I’ve barely seen my best friend in almost two months and I know something’s up.
ADAM: I get it. We should hang out more.
STEVE: You’re okay, right?
ADAM: I’m good, I’m . . . well. Really, I am exceptionally well.
STEVE: You seem good. (Beat.) Why are you working so much?
ADAM: Okay look, you’ve probably noticed I’ve been acting different.
STEVE: No shit.
ADAM: I know it’s cliché to go through this whole post-graduation . . . reinvention, reevaluation phase, // you know?
STEVE: You’re saving up money, huh?
ADAM: I mean, obviously.
STEVE: And you think I don’t know why.
ADAM: I . . . Well, yeah.
STEVE: You could’ve just talked to me about this.
ADAM: How did you know?
STEVE: The housing people called me. From USC, they said they haven’t gotten your deposit yet.
ADAM: (Beat.) Oh.
STEVE: They told me my new roommate was some asshole from Poughkeepsie. I said they were wrong, obviously, but // you should call.
ADAM: I guess we really should talk about this.
STEVE: I know it’s awkward or whatever, but if this is about the money // I can help.
ADAM: It’s not.
STEVE: Well. I vouched for you but they said they can’t wait much longer.
ADAM: I mean. I was kind of on the fence about all that.
STEVE: What fence?
ADAM: I never said for sure I was going to USC. If you recall.
STEVE: I recall you didn’t think you’d get in.
ADAM: It might not be the right thing for me right now.
STEVE: Listen, we can figure all this out. There’s student loans, financial aid, scholarships you haven’t // looked at yet.
STEVE: It’s a lot to think about, I know. And it’s scary, // I get it.
ADAM: No no, that’s not what // I’m saying.
STEVE: You think I’m not a little nervous too? But it’s part of growing up.
ADAM: Stop the pep talk, alright?
STEVE: I’m trying to help. It’s just money; it’s stupid. I mean, obviously you still want to go.
ADAM: I’m trying to tell you // something.
STEVE: It’s bad enough you’re missing out on the best summer of your life, I’m not gonna let you miss out on college.
ADAM: I’m not missing out // on college.
STEVE: We didn’t even talk about my campus visit, did we? Honestly, man, the girls down there. I might have to go through a college straight phase, these girls were so hot, // it’s crazy.
ADAM: I’m not going. Steve.
STEVE: Course you are. Stop worrying about the money, call the housing // people up.
ADAM: Did you not hear me or something?
STEVE: I know you want to go.
ADAM: What makes you so sure?
STEVE: What else are you saving up money for?
ADAM: I’m going on a mission.
STEVE: (Beat.) What?
ADAM: A mission, Steve, for my church.
STEVE: You’re not going to college all of a sudden?
ADAM: I didn’t say that. Just . . . not right now. Not yet.
STEVE: Holy shit, Adam, were you gonna tell me about this?
ADAM: Yes, the . . . next time I saw you. Going to school isn’t the right thing for me right now.
STEVE: And what about me?
ADAM: Look, I know this isn’t what we planned, and I’m sorry // to do this.
STEVE: We were supposed to go together, if you recall.
ADAM: I know, and I am really sorry.
STEVE: No. No no, you can’t do that. Blind side me in the middle of a jog.
ADAM: I was planning to wait until after the jog.
STEVE: Oh. Oh, you were planning to wait until after the jog. Well, okay then, as long as you were planning to wait until after // the jog.
ADAM: It’s all the same to you. You’re still going.
STEVE: Who picked USC? Who even wanted USC?
ADAM: They gave you full tuition plus housing plus that . . . clothing allowance.
STEVE: Oh, get off the clothing allowance.
ADAM: And none of that changes if I’m not there.
STEVE: Poughkeepsie has a Venus fly trap for his Facebook picture, do you realize what a disaster this is gonna be?
ADAM: Did I mention I’m sorry?
STEVE: This is bullshit.
ADAM: Come on.
STEVE: David really got to you, huh?
ADAM: What’s that supposed to mean?
STEVE: Or was it Ellis? Which one is your excuse this time?
ADAM: I don’t need an excuse. Maybe things are different now. Did you think of that? Did you think of how I’d always say life would be better if my mom wasn’t sick and if I was cool with my brother and if I had a father who did more than just // send birthday cards.
STEVE: Hold on, your mom is doing better?
ADAM: Yeah. And . . . it was Ellis. He said we should pray for her and fast for her . . . um . . . as a family.
STEVE: And did you tell him you guys tried all that stuff?
ADAM: Yeah. But . . . (Smiles, shrugs.)
STEVE: Well . . . great.
ADAM: Yeah, it is. It was a . . . wake up call, you know?
STEVE: Just because your mom got better doesn’t mean // anything.
ADAM: I want to go on a mission. I want to do something important with my life.
STEVE: You found God all of a sudden?
ADAM: “Found God?” What the hell does . . . (Stops himself.) What do you mean?
STEVE: This is all just a little sudden.
ADAM: And I really was going to . . .
STEVE: Wait until after the jog, I know.
ADAM: I don’t think it’s that big a surprise.
STEVE: It’s unexpected, yeah. How long have you known about this?
ADAM: I’ve been thinking about it for a while.
STEVE: That’s the reinvention you’re talking about?
ADAM: Reevaluation, I think is a // better word.
STEVE: Because of Ellis and his miracle cures.
ADAM: Don’t be a jerk about this.
STEVE: What am I supposed to be?
ADAM: You’re supposed to be glad that your friend found real . . . lasting happiness. Not some momentary pleasure on a Friday night, but something real.
STEVE: “Momentary pleasure on a Friday night.” I’m guessing they fed you that line.
ADAM: I’ve had to make a lot of . . . significant sacrifices.
STEVE: You’re giving up college.
ADAM: I’m putting it off for a couple years.
STEVE: And you think you’re out of shape now . . .
ADAM: Come on. I’m gonna be walking up and down the streets of Brazil every day.
ADAM: That’s where I’m going. I was going to tell you that.
STEVE: After the jog was over. You’ve . . . known this for a while?
ADAM: No. Just a week or two.
STEVE: A week or . . . (Breath.) So, when do you ship out?
ADAM: I don’t totally know yet.
STEVE: What, they didn’t tell you?
ADAM: There’s just some loose ends to take care of. Anyway, you don’t care about this stuff.
STEVE: No, I’m intrigued.
ADAM: I’m just working through some stuff with the church leaders, my parents.
STEVE: Your parents?
ADAM: To make sure I’m ready.
STEVE: Whoa, “worthy?” Like this is // some test?
ADAM: Like it’s a serious responsibility? Yes.
STEVE: Okay, calm it down. So what, they found out about all the shit you did?
ADAM: I told them about the stuff I did.
STEVE: And now it’s all . . . “What would David do?”
ADAM: You don’t get it. I want this. It’s my life and I want this.
STEVE: But they don’t want you? You’re making all these, what-did-you-call-it, significant sacrifices and they won’t even let you // go on a mission?
ADAM: These were my mistakes!
STEVE: You’re not good enough for them.
ADAM: Well. I will be.
STEVE: After your reinvention.
ADAM: See, I knew you were gonna be like this.
STEVE: I’m just saying, this is the latest big life change in a long series of big life changes.
ADAM: I always believed this.
STEVE: Sure, I guess you always believed in all that. Praying and fasting and, what-do-you-call, divine intervention, medical miracles . . .
ADAM: My mom is better, Steve!
STEVE: And yeah, you believed you should be celibate and never drink and . . . shit, honor your father and mother, and thou shalt not get blow jobs under the pool table . . . (Beat.) I’m being an asshole. (ADAM shrugs.) I’ll take that as a yes.
ADAM: I’m trying to be better than that. I know, what I did, who I’ve been. I know. You have a right to be upset. I told you I’m sorry and I’ll . . . tell you again. As many times as you want. But I have to do this. I shouldn’t have sprung this on you.
STEVE: Well, maybe if you hadn’t been so “busy” lately . . . (Beat.) Shit. Hold on, is that it? Am I one of those “significant sacrifices” you’ve had to make?
ADAM: Don’t be . . . silly, // Steve.
STEVE: I’m getting dumped, aren’t I?
ADAM: (Rolls his eyes.) Shut up.
STEVE: Are they scared I’m gonna turn you?
ADAM: Don’t get all weird.
STEVE: They’re okay with us running together, though?
ADAM: It’s not about them.
STEVE: I just want to know the rules.
ADAM: It’s not about you either, for the record. Just the . . . choices you influenced me to make.
STEVE: (Laughs slightly.) Excuse me?
ADAM: Never mind.
STEVE: You were shitting your pants to get invited to those stupid parties. How many times did I say, you know, “Is this a good idea? What would your mom think?”
ADAM: It’s not about her.
STEVE: “You’re gonna have to talk to your bishop,” how many times did I say that?
ADAM: (Upset.) You mean, how many times did you . . . condescendingly mention my religious beliefs?
STEVE: Oh wow. You didn’t believe in it, Adam! And if you’re discovering yourself or your beliefs then great, good for you, okay, but don’t try and act like any of this was my fault. My fault you didn’t know who you were or what you were about because none of us did.
ADAM: This is pointless. This is stupid.
STEVE: Because it’s the truth.
ADAM: Because it’s bullshit! (Silence. ADAM takes a breath, ashamed of himself.) I’m sorry.
STEVE: For what? (ADAM tries to formulate a response.) How long are they gonna make you wait?
ADAM: I dunno. Maybe a year.
STEVE: (Breath.) A year from now.
ADAM: I know it seems like // a long time.
STEVE: So come to school.
STEVE: Do two semesters and then go off to Brazil, doesn’t that make more sense?
ADAM: It’s not that simple.
STEVE: A hell of a lot more sense than waiting around here all year, working some dead-end job.
ADAM: It’s not a good idea. I’m turning things around and making changes and if I just keep putting myself in the same situations . . . (He stops. STEVE looks at him expectantly.) Then I’ll never make it.
STEVE: They don’t want you, Adam.
ADAM: They want me to be better. I want me to // be better.
STEVE: You’re not good enough for them. Just like I’m not good enough // for them.
ADAM: I’m sorry I expected you to support this, Steve.
STEVE: Do these church leaders know you’re breaking a promise you made to your best friend // about college
ADAM: No, I guess that didn’t come up. I guess I’m a terrible friend. For wanting something and expecting you to be happy for me. You know, to see that I’m finally on my way to really being okay. I guess I shouldn’t ask that from my friend. And I’m sorry, in case I didn’t mention it. For however this might affect you. But you, of all people, should know how scary it is to say, “This is who I am.” And just hope and pray the people in your life still stand by you. (Silence. STEVE doesn’t know what to say.) I’m going on a mission, Steve. (Breath.) And I think we should do this more often. We should get together more often like this before you have to leave and I have to leave // for Brazil.
STEVE: No. Adam? I don’t want to do this alone.
ADAM: Come on.
STEVE: I’m serious, and this is, you know, a rare five seconds of humility on my part.
STEVE: But please. (ADAM looks at STEVE: he’s serious.)
ADAM: I . . . wish I could but // I can’t.
STEVE: One semester.
ADAM: Steve. I can’t just keep . . . compromising for the rest of my life. You know? I’m starting to see in black and white again. And I forgot how good that feels.
STEVE: If you want me to, I mean, support you in this decision, // I can try.
ADAM: I can’t expect you to do that. Maybe you can’t support what you don’t . . . understand and maybe it’s, I dunno . . . time for us both to realize that. (They look at each other for a long moment. ADAM breaks away.) I think I’ve got one or two miles left in me. Yeah?
STEVE: No, it’s alright, I don’t, uh . . . I think I’m gonna head home, before it gets too dark.
ADAM: Right. Well . . . (ADAM turns to go, thinks, then turns back.) I should’ve just brought a birthday cake to that party, don’t you think? I knew there wouldn’t be one there. People would’ve laughed but you should’ve had a birthday cake. (No response from STEVE.) Next year. (ADAM turns and jogs away. STEVE watches him leave,
then goes off in the opposite direction.)
JULY 11 1995
(ADAM, age eight, wanders onstage looking around for STEVE.)
ADAM: Steve? (No response. ADAM starts moving off, looking around, now with urgency, to find STEVE.) Did you go out of bounds? You’re it if you go out of bounds! (STEVE, age 19, enters talking on his cell phone. He and ADAM don’t see one another. STEVE makes his way across the space, perhaps pausing only for a moment.)
STEVE: (On phone.) Hey Adam, it’s me. Just coming back from your house, you’re not there—big surprise. I told your mom I’m leaving tomorrow, you know, and I thought I’d stop by. Figured I’d call in case she’s not passing these little messages along. I kinda hope she’s not passing these little messages along, actually, because that would mean . . . Anyway. Anyway, just call me back, alright? I’ll, uh . . . talk to you soon. (He hangs up as he exits. ADAM continues calling out and looking around.)
ADAM: I give up, okay? You win, okay? I don’t wanna play anymore. Hey Ste-eve! (ADAM wanders off, looking for STEVE.)
AUGUST 19 2008
(STEVE, age 20, enters and sits alone under the tree. ADAM, also 20 and wearing a white shirt and tie, enters and sees him.)
ADAM: You’re here. (STEVE doesn’t answer. ADAM smiles nervously.) I kept thinking I should check out here. Long time, no . . . (Still no response.) Something’s wrong. I’m sorry if I’m interrupting . . . (Beat.) I wanted to say goodbye. I’m leaving. You’re upset. Listen, I don’t blame you, I guess. I mean, I know it’s been a while, but we kind of knew that’s how it would, uh . . . (ADAM waits for a response, sits a distance from STEVE.) I guess I can’t just say I’ve been busy lately. (Laughs lamely.) Wow. Okay. You don’t have to say anything. I just wanted to tell you I’m going and, you know, I’ll keep in touch better this time. Seriously. Things have been so weird and that’s probably my fault. That’s definitely my fault. (No response from STEVE.) How are you? (STEVE chuckles bitterly.) The truth is, I didn’t expect you to . . . want to talk to me if I called. I kept thinking about how you must feel // about everything.
STEVE: Don’t you have a party to get to?
STEVE: This is your goodbye, right?
ADAM: How do you know about the party?
STEVE: Uh oh, secret’s out, David’s in trouble now.
ADAM: Hold on.
STEVE: I saw him out, what-do-you-call, canvassing with his girlfriend.
ADAM: The chick with the teeth.
STEVE: He actually knocked on my door; didn’t recognize me at first, but // after that . . .
ADAM: It’s barely a party. My mom invited some people over from church.
STEVE: It took him a minute to realize, your brother, to realize who I was, but oh boy, good thing he finally did. Because we got to talking . . .
ADAM: Did he invite you over?
STEVE: I was a little surprised. I didn’t even know you were heading off to Brazil. A whole year; I guess you did enough “Hail Marys” or “Hail Joseph Smiths” for them to let you go. No word to me, though. You know, my best friend leaving the country.
ADAM: I wanted to tell you // about it.
STEVE: But things got especially interesting when they tried to give me one of the pamphlets they were handing out. (Pause.) More interesting still, I tried to give them one of mine.
STEVE: Yeah, oh. Did you have anything to add? Or did David pretty much cover it?
ADAM: I wanted to see how you’re doing.
STEVE: I’m fine.
ADAM: You know, see how school is.
STEVE: Also fine. You want to know all of this now?
ADAM: I told you, I . . . wanted to call but . . .
STEVE: But you didn’t. I think your brother’s little pamphlet explained // everything.
ADAM: It’s got nothing to do with all that. Really. Tell me about USC, freshman year . . .
STEVE: Lots of training, lots of homework, kept pretty busy.
ADAM: That’s good. I mean, the more things change the more they . . . That whole thing.
STEVE: You could’ve called.
ADAM: I know.
STEVE: Not that I don’t love these little clandestine meetings of ours // out here.
ADAM: Don’t be weird.
STEVE: I knew you were keeping yourself busy, kept telling myself that’s why I never heard from you. (Beat.) I just didn’t realize it was with all this shit.
ADAM: What are you talking about?
STEVE: (Loud and clear.) The proposition, Adam.
ADAM: I’ve been working. I’ve been getting ready for Brazil.
STEVE: Listen, you have your first amendment rights.
ADAM: I’m not campaigning for this, Steve. (A beat. STEVE is surprised by this and doesn’t know what to say.) I mean, who’s got the time for that, anyway?
STEVE: And . . . David . . .
ADAM: What did he say to you?
STEVE: Standard stuff . . . Protecting the ideal of the family, the foundation of society . . . Standard anti-gay marriage // rhetoric.
ADAM: No, we’re not anti-gay marriage, we’re . . . pro-family.
ADAM: (Shrugs.) It’s my church.
STEVE: Right, that’s how it works.
ADAM: But, Steve, // I’m not . . .
STEVE: That’s how you guys are, no exceptions.
ADAM: I’m not going door to door.
STEVE: You’re not even gonna be in the country for the election.
ADAM: Yeah, I’ll have to do the absentee thing.
STEVE: You’ve never voted for a thing in your life and all of a sudden you’re doing “the absentee thing?” Handing out propaganda?
ADAM: That was David. Is that what’s bothering you?
STEVE: You didn’t think this would come up?
ADAM: (Switching gears.) Do you want to go to my mom’s stupid open house? Come on. You’ll be the first one there.
ADAM: I’m serious. It starts in ten minutes.
STEVE: I don’t want to go. I think you’re really overestimating how much I care. (A beat. ADAM looks like he might leave until he has an idea.)
ADAM: Then what were you crying about out here?
STEVE: Listen, fuck you.
STEVE: I really think you should go. I’m fine, school is great. Have a wonderful time evangelizing.
ADAM: I’m not gonna leave things like this.
STEVE: You already left things, Adam! Shit! Do you not get that?
ADAM: Look, I know things haven’t exactly // been great.
STEVE: You told me you were better off without me, Adam, and you sent me on my way. Never mind the fact that USC was // your idea.
ADAM: Not this again.
STEVE: Yes, this again. I mean, I actually thought, “It’s okay, we’ll keep in touch at least.” (Laughs mirthlessly.)
ADAM: I meant to // keep in touch.
STEVE: A whole year, Adam. This is beyond “I meant to call.” This is beyond . . .
ADAM: Did you mean to call?
STEVE: That’s not what we’re // talking about.
ADAM: Or were you just really busy with school and everything. Because that’s what I figured. When I didn’t hear from you, // you know?
STEVE: Like you could really expect me to call with all of this going on.
ADAM: All of what?
STEVE: You declared war on me, your church declared war. And I was supposed to pick up the phone?
ADAM: I know you and I believe differently about this // particular thing.
STEVE: I’m sorry your family was a mess, Adam.
STEVE: See, sometimes ideals like what you’re defending, they’re a luxury some people can’t afford. I’d expect you // of all people . . .
ADAM: Don’t attack my family.
STEVE: Then don’t attack mine! (ADAM tries to think of something to say but STEVE regroups and continues.) I want to be in love, and belong somewhere, and stay there. And build a home around that place, for me and whoever else is there with me. Don’t I deserve that?
STEVE: I deserve to be good enough for myself.
ADAM: I said okay.
STEVE: So why are you doing this?
ADAM: Don’t I deserve to . . . build my home too? And protect it?
STEVE: From what, from me?
ADAM: From . . . immorality—from a different definition of morality, if that sounds better.
STEVE: It doesn’t.
ADAM: Maybe I can’t explain it. Maybe . . . believing is when you can’t explain.
STEVE: (Beat.) Try.
ADAM: Steve, I don’t . . . (Breath.) There’s an order that God established from the beginning with Adam and Eve.
STEVE: Holy shit, Adam and Eve? If I wanted this I could just read up on “homophobes-dot-org.”
ADAM: Alright. Look. I believe in home. I believe that’s what this is about: giving people what a home should really be. What we believe a home should really be, that . . . thing that everyone deserves. That thing I wanted my entire life when my family was a mess, I believe God told us where to find it. Home. And you and I might disagree about what “home” means, but we’re fighting for the same thing. So I don’t see why an election needs to pull us apart.
STEVE: You shouldn’t keep that party waiting.
ADAM: (Breath.) I just wanted to tell you that . . . I feel terrible for . . . shutting you out; it was wrong. I was scared of where my life was heading and I started blaming anyone but myself and it was wrong. I was wrong for not calling and for not caring enough about how my actions would affect somebody else. So I wanted to apologize a million times and try to make it right—to do it right this time. To, um . . . keep in touch. Your mom gave me your address. (No response. ADAM takes a card from his pocket and hands it to STEVE.) And in case you . . . The first one’s my address in the MTC. For a couple months before I go out to the field.
STEVE: What the hell is this?
ADAM: My address in Brazil. They write them differently // down there.
STEVE: No, this. What are you doing?
ADAM: I’m asking you to forgive me. (A pause. STEVE is blind sided.) Steve. Please.
STEVE: Just like that. (Beat.) Man, I thought your church was so strict, you know? So, what-do-you-call, exacting. But you just swing by here at the last minute, pick up some forgiveness on the way to the party.
ADAM: What else am I supposed to do?
STEVE: I don’t care anymore, Adam. I’m tired.
STEVE: Stop, alright?
ADAM: I love you, Steve. (A beat. It is difficult to tell who is more shocked.) You know, not in . . . that way, but // I do.
STEVE: Not in what way? A weird way, a gay way?
ADAM: I lost my best friend, too. And it was my fault, I know, but I’m here. So please.
STEVE: (After a pause.) Go home, Adam.
ADAM: Steve, I’m // so sorry.
STEVE: Do you not get what’s going on? I mean, look. You’re not the only one who’s gonna be going door to door. Newsflash, you’re not the only one who believes in something, Adam! And if it’s “us against them” what does that mean for you and me? What do you think that . . . How do you not . . . (Breath.) Go home.
ADAM: I’m sorry. (STEVE gives ADAM a shove in the direction he came from.)
STEVE: It’s not okay, alright? I don’t forgive you, alright?
ADAM: For everything, Steve.
STEVE: Fucking . . . stop. (STEVE shoves ADAM again.)
ADAM: Steve? I’m . . . (STEVE suddenly makes a fist and punches ADAM in the face. He watches ADAM stagger back.)
STEVE: See . . . What God instituted from the beginning, like you said? It was this. Questions with no answers; no light at the end of anything. Just, you know, this inevitable demise. And now I’m sorry. And shit, we can’t just keep going like this. (ADAM moves his hand and looks at STEVE for a long time, blood pouring down his face.)
ADAM: Steve . . . (STEVE turns and leaves ADAM alone onstage. ADAM holds his face for a moment, trying to pull himself together. STEVE, age eight, runs onstage and tags “base” as ADAM attempts to clean himself up.)
STEVE: Olly olly oxen free! (Waits.) Kiss my ass, dipshit! (Waits.) Hey! I beat you, you can come back! (STEVE waits a moment, irritated. ADAM’s phone rings and he picks up the call.)
ADAM: (On phone.) Hey, David . . . No, I’m fine. Just . . . running late. Lots to do, you know?
STEVE: (Calling out.) I’m just gonna hide again, okay? (STEVE runs off.)
ADAM: (On phone.) Steve? No, um . . . no, I couldn’t find him. Looked everywhere, craziest thing . . . Oh, you did? Um. How’s he doing? (ADAM walks offstage as his phone conversation continues. Lights up on STEVE, now age twenty, dictating a letter.)
STEVE: Dear Adam,
I thought before I threw your address away, before I get cast forever as the arch villain who sent his missionary friend to South America with a black eye, before I forget how I really feel and how much you really hurt me . . . . (STEVE stops, takes a breath. ADAM, age eight, runs onstage and looks around.)
ADAM: That really hurt, Steve! I said no Indian burns or titty twisters! (ADAM nurses his wounds.)
STEVE: Dear Adam,
I could think of a hundred excuses. I could say this is all the fault of a faulty best friend who I needed too much, who I expected to be like a brother, like a family, like a whole Fourth of July cookout every day after school. But I’m sorry I let that go, sorry for whatever part I played in letting all of that go . . . (STEVE stops again.)
ADAM: Come out, come out, wherever you are! (ADAM runs off.)
STEVE: Dear Adam,
I’ll have you know this is my third attempt at a letter, though I probably won’t send this one either. And still no word from you. What’s really surprising is that I’m surprised at all. And I know that writing to tell you I’m not going to write is juvenile and petty. But I clearly haven’t grown up yet, since I still check the mail every day. Since I still sit under that tree of ours whenever I’m on break because it’s the only place left that still feels like home. (Lights up on ADAM, now age twenty, dictating his own letter.)
ADAM: Dear Steve,
I still haven’t heard anything from you and I’m choosing to blame that on the spotty postal service down here. Because that would be easier than blaming myself, which I’m not quite ready to do.
You’ll probably think I’m ridiculous but this is my fourth or fifth attempt at a letter. I’ve kind of lost count, but now I realize the only thing crazier than writing to you would be not writing, letting things stand the way they are. So this one is getting signed, sealed, and delivered. For better or for worse.
And here it is. A letter from your prodigal friend. I could tell you about the experiences I’m having here. The people I’m teaching, the things that I’m learning, the man I’m turning into. But I’m much more interested in how you are. Something I should have realized a little sooner, I think.
Summer comes in the other half of the year but it still makes me remember. I’m not sure it’s fair we have to come of age so young. If I could try again, I might just get it right this time. I miss you. Sometimes I think it couldn’t have been so good and I have to stop myself from trying to run back. Back home, back in time . . . Impossible things like that. Like finally making things right with my best friend. I’m glad you’re reading this, if you are.
And I’ll be glad to hear from you.
Adam (Lights fade on ADAM.)
STEVE: Dear Adam,
Of all the letters for the spotty Brazilian postal service to actually deliver. I’ll put it gently and say I was pleasantly surprised to get your letter. I think we should put apologies and forgiveness on hold before that’s all we have to talk about. Maybe that means we’re friends, or maybe just the opposite.
I still wish you were here. I still wish things had turned out differently, even though I’m sure you’re happy now. I wish the trees were still as tall as we used to think they were. Sometimes a skinned knee or a partly cloudy day will catch me off guard. And I’ll think that if I run fast enough I might just beat you there this time.
I’m doing well. Trying to keep my grades up, stay in shape, and avoid most of the cute boys who come along to distract me.
I find myself eager to send this off and I guess I should do it before I change my mind. In the meantime, though, I hope you’re doing exceptionally well.
Your friend . . . (Lights begin to fade on STEVE.)
JULY 11 1995
ADAM: (Runs onstage.) Steve! (No response.) I’m not gonna look anymore. (ADAM starts “throwing” the imaginary football in the air and “catching” it.) Steve? (STEVE, now age eight, joins ADAM.)
STEVE: You’re never gonna find it.
ADAM: (Preoccupied.) I give up.
STEVE: I bet some kids in a hundred years’re gonna dig it up cause it’ll take you so long. (ADAM continues his game.)
ADAM: Check it out. He throws the ball into the air again. Perfect spiral.
STEVE: No it wasn’t.
ADAM: How do you know? (Sings.) “Are you ready for some footbaaaaall!” (He throws it again and STEVE reaches out to catch it.)
STEVE: Interception! (ADAM jumps up and runs for the ball, STEVE chasing behind.)
ADAM: Nuh uh, it’s a fumble!
STEVE: It’s mine!
ADAM: And it’s loose! (Both boys “pick up” the ball.)
STEVE: I got it!
ADAM: (Simultaneously.) I got it!
STEVE: How come you always get it? I said it went over here.
ADAM: Fine. Throw it back to me. (STEVE does.) You call that a throw? You gotta put your fingers on the laces like this. (He demonstrates.)
STEVE: Hold on, lemme see . . . (STEVE looks but stops himself, rolls his eyes.) So dumb.
ADAM: I was just trying to show you how you’re supposed to . . . Think fast! (ADAM turns and hurls the ball in STEVE’s direction. STEVE catches it and ADAM looks on, impressed.) Nice catch. (STEVE stands and throws the ball back to ADAM. They play a game of catch as STEVE turns out and dictates another letter. His voice is twenty years old but his body still carries on the childlike make believe.)
STEVE: Dear Adam,
You know, before you left, you said you were going into the MTC, which I guess must stand for “Mormon Training Center” or something. But when you said it I heard “empty sea.” Like an empty ocean. I never got the chance to ask you, so I just kept wondering why they would send missionaries to some dried up hole in the earth. I pictured a desert ravine in the Holy Land full of handsome young men in ties and bike helmets. Maybe a sea that Jesus walked on and nothing remained but the ocean floor far below where your god had stood. I actually pictured you, squinting into the sun, convinced that something is up there. That maybe it’s not so empty. (The game of catch is over and ADAM has a seat on the ground.)
I’d like to try and see what you see. But I dream. That training center is just a few brick buildings; I looked it up. No magic; no miracles. But that’s the Adam I knew and the Adam I miss having around. The Adam I honestly hope is happy now. Honestly.
Steve (STEVE, now eight again, joins ADAM.)
ADAM: I don’t wanna go home.
STEVE: Me neither.
ADAM: Is it dark yet?
ADAM: Is it time to go?
STEVE: One more minute.
ADAM: (Nods.) One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi, five Mississippi . . .
STEVE: (Joining in.) Six Mississippi, seven Mississippi, eight Mississippi, nine Mississippi, ten Mississippi, eleven Mississippi . . . (The boys continue counting as the
lights slowly fade.)
DECEMBER 18 2009
(Lights up on an empty stage. ADAM, age twenty-one, enters in his shirt and tie. He does not look well.)
STEVE: (Off.) Adam, hey! (ADAM turns back as STEVE enters behind him.) Hold up, alright? It’s me.
ADAM: What . . . are you . . .
STEVE: Are you okay? (ADAM is breathing heavily and looks unsteady, doesn’t answer. STEVE reaches out for his arm but ADAM pulls back, nearly losing his balance.) Hey, whoa, let me . . .
ADAM: Sorry, I’m fine . . . (ADAM gasps for breath and sits.)
STEVE: Don’t talk, just . . . (STEVE sits next to ADAM.) I was practically running to catch up to you, man. Was that party just a little too much fun or something?
ADAM: I . . . still . . .
STEVE: Don’t talk, geez. Relax a minute, you know? (ADAM shakes his head.) What, do you have something to say? (ADAM starts to speak but starts coughing.) What’s that, Lassie? Timmy is stuck in the well? (ADAM gives STEVE a playful shove.) Take your time, you were really booking it out here.
ADAM: I still . . . beat you here. (A beat. ADAM starts to laugh and STEVE, eyes wide in disbelief, joins in.)
STEVE: Seriously, that? You almost gave yourself a heart attack, what, so you could brag?
ADAM: I said I’m fine.
STEVE: And I didn’t believe you the first time either.
ADAM: It’s just a little crazy when I . . . lose my breath.
STEVE: So, what is it, a respiratory thing?
ADAM: What? No.
STEVE: Some crazy tropical virus?
ADAM: Where’d you even come from?
STEVE: Your mom invited me.
ADAM: I didn’t know she was doing that.
STEVE: Well, surprise.
ADAM: I didn’t want her to invite people.
STEVE: That’s what you guys do, right? You bookend these missions with parties because you’re not allowed to have fun for two whole years.
ADAM: That wasn’t a party.
ADAM: And it wasn’t two whole years either.
STEVE: You’re okay?
ADAM: In what . . . sense? I’m just not supposed to exert myself like that.
ADAM: I had to get out of there. Half the neighborhood in my living room, practically asking to see my medical chart.
STEVE: Your mom said you didn’t know what // it is.
ADAM: We don’t. No one knows what it is but that doesn’t stop anyone from asking.
STEVE: You should get one of those blessings you guys have for sick people.
ADAM: (Laughs.) I stopped after the third or fourth one.
STEVE: Are you breathing weird, because it seems like // you are.
ADAM: When did you see my mom?
STEVE: She came by to invite me over.
ADAM: That was . . . unpredictable of her.
STEVE: Right? She said she had a feeling I would be home.
ADAM: Christmas break.
STEVE: Well, she was right. Told me you were back a little earlier than expected, health complications, no details. Thought I’d like to come see you, she was right about that too.
ADAM: Sorry I’m not much to look at right now.
STEVE: Right now?
ADAM: (Smiles.) How are you? How’s school? And the GL . . . LG . . . BLT . . .
STEVE: LGBT Student Union. It’s good, very exciting to be a part of.
ADAM: You’re president, right?
STEVE: Stop, I’m blushing.
ADAM: Of course you are.
STEVE: That’s not really important right now, I’m not the one // who’s sick.
ADAM: Steve, I left my mom’s party because I was tired of talking about my health.
STEVE: Right, right right, I’m sorry. I’m sure you’re gonna be okay, anyway.
ADAM: Well, great.
STEVE: You’re alright? I mean, otherwise?
ADAM: This just . . . wasn’t supposed to happen.
STEVE: People get sick.
ADAM: Missionaries don’t.
STEVE: Still people. Maybe this is all a test—of your faith or your determination // or something.
ADAM: I want to hear more about school.
STEVE: Sure, yeah. It’s fun, actually. Just had finals, my coach is finally taking me seriously, which, you know, took long enough.
ADAM: Yeah, you told me.
STEVE: That’s right.
ADAM: You wrote me.
STEVE: . . . I did.
ADAM: I didn’t think you would. (Beat.) It’s good to see you.
STEVE: You too. You know how long I was standing at your door, you know, finger poised at the doorbell and everything? Kinda scared shitless until I saw you, what-do-you-call, absconding through the back door.
ADAM: Look, I’m really // sorry about . . .
STEVE: (Laughs.) Sneaking out, like old times.
ADAM: Steve, I just need to say // that I’m . . .
STEVE: Don’t you dare apologize to me. We were having such a nice time. (A beat. ADAM nods.)
ADAM: I met this couple a few months back. They were really friendly and really not interested in our message after the first couple times we talked. They figured out pretty fast that it meant no drinking and no sex until they got married and they weren’t into that. But we kept visiting. I told my companion I had a feeling they might get baptized someday, but it wasn’t true. We were just friends. And we talked and I told them about home and I told them about you, my friend the track star.
ADAM: Yeah. And I was focused out there. Worked hard, all of that. I started to feel guilty about spending time with these two when there were other people who really wanted to learn the gospel. But then they asked one day, you know, “What’s your message all about?” And I didn’t hesitate for a second. I said, “Love. It’s a message about the most powerful love that exists in the universe.” And there was this moment when this guy and this guy looked at each other and smiled and I realized they probably know more about love than I ever have. Especially when I thought about you. When I thought about, with all my talk of ideals and perfect love, what I let happen to the best friendship I ever had. (A pause. STEVE sizes ADAM up for a moment.)
STEVE: I started seeing someone, actually.
STEVE: He came here, even. To meet my parents. Which was . . . yikes, you know?
ADAM: Oh, it’s serious?
STEVE: About six months. You look surprised.
ADAM: What? No. You just didn’t mention anything in the . . . aforementioned letters.
STEVE: I know I didn’t. But it was really great news.
ADAM: Of course it is. Didn’t I say that? Congratulations.
STEVE: Thanks. You didn’t. I was just being cautious; not wanting to jinx it.
ADAM: It seems like you were keeping this person a secret.
ADAM: This person named Greg. Well, great. What else is new?
STEVE: I think that’s all I’ve got.
ADAM: Were finals rough?
STEVE: You really want to talk about my finals?
ADAM: I don’t want to pry into the situation with . . . Greg.
STEVE: Please do. Pry.
ADAM: (Beat.) I feel like there’s some kind of test going on here. And I’m failing.
STEVE: No, no test. Forget it. How are you feeling?
ADAM: About what?
STEVE: No, I mean, caught your breath?
ADAM: Do you want me to be jumping for joy because you fell in love with some guy? (Off STEVE’s look.) That came out wrong.
STEVE: No, I’m afraid that came out right.
STEVE: God forbid you relax your impeccable standards for five minutes.
ADAM: (Chuckles.) Well, yeah he does.
STEVE: I can’t edit myself for you, Adam. (STEVE rises to go.) Let’s just leave it at “it’s-nice-to-see-you.”
ADAM: Don’t go.
STEVE: Before anyone says anything stupid.
ADAM: What if I just shut up?
ADAM: What if . . . Okay. Maybe I can’t set aside my beliefs and . . . maybe neither can you. But that doesn’t mean I can’t shut my mouth and sit down for five seconds and . . . listen. Right? And maybe I’ll have something to say when you’re done and maybe I won’t. But if we can’t just shut up for a minute, I don’t know what we’re doing.
STEVE: (Wary.) Okay . . .
ADAM: Okay. So. (A beat. STEVE is at a loss for words.) What’s he like?
STEVE: He’s . . . tall. Taller than me and, um, significantly smarter. I dunno, he’s kind, and funny, and . . . curious.
ADAM: I want to meet him
STEVE: You, uh . . . You just missed him. (Breath.) Anyway, enough of that.
ADAM: Seriously? “He’s tall?”
STEVE: It’s not important right now.
ADAM: It sure seemed important a minute ago.
STEVE: I only followed you out here to make sure you’re okay.
ADAM: I swear, man, if you don’t stop saying that, I will put you out right here.
STEVE: Oh, sure.
ADAM: I’m serious. Deathly ill or not.
STEVE: “Deathly ill?”
ADAM: It’s an expression.
STEVE: It’s a pretty shitty expression. You said you didn’t know what’s wrong with you.
ADAM: I said I’m fine.
STEVE: But, I mean, not to dwell on it // or anything.
ADAM: You didn’t tell me where he’s from.
STEVE: You’re obviously not fine.
STEVE: And I know you don’t want to talk about it // or whatever.
ADAM: That’s right. Where is he from?
STEVE: I just think if you really didn’t know // anything.
STEVE: Portland! Shit! (Beat.) It’s serious, isn’t it?
ADAM: My mom told you we aren’t sure // what it is.
STEVE: Because she doesn’t know. (A pause. The men stare at one another.)
ADAM: They’re running more tests. Perpetually running more tests. (Shrugs.)
STEVE: But you think it’s probably // serious.
ADAM: I think I was supposed to stay in Brazil for two years.
ADAM: (Shrugs.) There you go. It’s my nervous system, they’re . . . worried, and I can see it. And so I’m worried. I’m worried and I’m sick of pretending I’m not. You wanted the gory details? I have no reason to believe I’ll be okay. (Another pause. ADAM shrugs, the matter settled. STEVE searches for words.)
STEVE: I mean . . . Not to be a jerk or anything. But that’s never stopped you before. You’ve never had a reason to believe. You never needed one.
ADAM: Maybe I should’ve looked harder.
STEVE: You always insisted that miracles happen; all those impossible things, even if // it didn’t make sense.
ADAM: Look, nobody owes me a miracle. No one owes me any impossible thing. I can’t expect God to do me any favors. I mean, what is that?
ADAM: Alright. Faith. Sure. They gave me another blessing, like you were talking about. And they said God would work a miracle out of all this. And why shouldn’t they say that? They wanted me to get better, too; just like you, just like everybody. (Beat.) I was in a wheelchair at the airport. I had twelve different medications in my carry-on. I hate to say “you told me so,” but . . . Miracles? (Silence. STEVE tries to digest this. He takes a breath and steels himself.)
STEVE: Greg left me.
ADAM: What? No.
STEVE: This morning. I was supposed to go to Portland with him, um, for Christmas and everything. And I guess it was just too much. For him, I guess. Too much.
ADAM: Steve, I’m so sorry.
STEVE: Stop, no. Just let me . . . He left. (Attempts a shrug.) And I didn’t even move for . . . it had to be two hours or something. And then this knock at the door, and I knew it couldn’t be him; it wasn’t. It was your mom, out of nowhere, looking very old, and this sad smile, and . . . “Adam’s home, we’re having some people over.” And that was it.
ADAM: Okay . . .
STEVE: But the thing is, and you’re gonna love this. But Greg walked out and I just, you know, lost it, of course. Alone in a kitchen chair and just bawling my face off. Um. And talking. Pretty soon, I caught myself talking to no one, just begging for something. “Please,” you know? “I just need something. Just someone.” So. Um, I stopped as soon as I realized what I was doing. Who was I talking to and what did I expect them to do anyway? But then, you know, a knock at the door. Adam’s home. Crazy, the craziest thing. (Weary smile.) I need my best friend. Maybe it’s not the healing that’s the miracle. Maybe it’s the believing. (A pause. ADAM is at a loss for words.) And who says you owe me anything like that?
ADAM: I’m . . . sorry about Greg.
ADAM: Did he . . . Did Greg tell you why?
STEVE: It was too much. I wanted too much from him, like I have a million voids I’m trying to fill and, I mean, he’s right; it doesn’t work like that.
ADAM: (Dismissive.) Come on.
STEVE: No, I mean, it’s me. It’s not him, it’s not, I dunno, my parents; it’s not anyone else. I’m the problem and I should have learned my lesson by now.
STEVE: But maybe I never will.
ADAM: Maybe you don’t have to. (Beat.) People can love. It’s kind of what we’re . . . built for.
STEVE: (Rolls his eyes.) That’s nice, did you teach that to the people in Brazil?
ADAM: And some are better at it than others.
STEVE: He left me, Adam.
ADAM: I know. I . . .
STEVE: You’re supposed to tell me . . . it’s his loss.
ADAM: It is.
STEVE: And he’ll realize how much he needs me.
ADAM: He will. And, I mean, for what it’s worth . . . you know . . . I’m here. (A pause as the two regard one another.)
STEVE: Flattered. But I don’t think you’re my type. (They laugh, somewhat cautiously.) Listen, you don’t have to say this stuff just because . . . (ADAM cuts him off with a punch in the arm. STEVE reacts but then recognizes this as familiar. He takes a breath.) I don’t know what to do.
ADAM: Me, neither. (STEVE nods.) How worried do you think my family is?
STEVE: I’d say “pretty damn.”
ADAM: You know how my mom gets if I miss dinner. (STEVE laughs. The sound of thunder.) Whoa, how long’s it been raining?
STEVE: You can never tell under here. (They sit quietly for a moment.) You promised me tigers, remember? Tigers so gentle they’d take you for a ride. I don’t believe in much but those . . . I won’t settle for anything less. And I blame you for that.
STEVE: And we’ll just see, I guess. Just see where they take us.
(They sit in a finally comfortable silence. Lights fade.)