ALONE-ISH BY JEFFREY LO (DOWNLOAD PDF HERE)
Larry’s diner – 9 PM.
TOMAS, a history teacher sitting alone.
Beside his cup of coffee is a copy of Haruki Murakami’s “Men Without Women.”
Beside his book is a set of fancy looking headphones.
TOMAS takes a sip of his coffee and picks up the book.
He opens the book from where his bookmark left off.
TOMAS takes another sip.
CLAIRE, a waitress at Larry’s diner enters.
CLAIRE: Hey Tomas, how’s it going?
TOMAS: Oh, hey Claire, going alright.
CLAIRE: Are you sure you don’t want any cream or sugar for your coffee tonight?
TOMAS: No not tonight.
TOMAS: Trying to cut down on the cream and sugar.
CLAIRE: Got it. You sure do like to –
TOMAS: Have a little bit of coffee with my order of cream and sugar? I know.
CLAIRE: Haha, ok.
CLAIRE: How’s school going?
TOMAS: Not bad. Not good. Just… is. The kids can be tough sometimes.
CLAIRE: I can imagine.
TOMAS: But it’s been worse so – no complaints.
CLAIRE: Well your order should be ready soon. Just wanted to check in on ya.
CLAIRE: Enjoying the book?
TOMAS: Most of it.
CLAIRE: Better than barely any of it.
CLAIRE: Well I’ll be back when your food is ready.
TOMAS: Thanks Claire.
CLAIRE: Of course.
CLAIRE walks to her next table.
TOMAS goes back to his book.
TOMAS takes a sip of coffee.
He reads for some moments.
Then, BRIANNE a 14 year old high school freshman enters.
BRIANNE walks straight to TOMAS.
BRIANNE: Mr. Carter?
TOMAS looks up from his book.
TOMAS: Oh. Brianne. Hey.
BRIANNE: Can I sit here?
TOMAS: Um. Sure.
BRIANNE sits in the booth with TOMAS.
TOMAS: Can I do something for you?
BRIANNE: Nothing really.
BRIANNE: It’s just, I pass Larry’s Diner all the time as I’m walking home from school and I see you here, like, all the time.
TOMAS: I like the food here.
BRIANNE: It’s pretty regular diner food.
TOMAS: Ok, well I like it here in general. Is there a problem?
BRIANNE: No, it just got me curious.
BRIANNE: Do you come here often?
TOMAS: It sounds like you already know the answer to this.
BRIANNE: Right. So you’re really here every night?
TOMAS: Pretty much, yes.
TOMAS: I come here every night at around 8:45 – 9:00 PM. What are you doing walking home at that time?
BRIANNE: The Cougar Tribune? I write for it.
BRIANNE: It doesn’t write itself magically during school hours. We’re all working hard after school on it.
TOMAS: Till that late?
TOMAS: When do you do your homework?
BRIANNE: I’m Hermione.
BRIANNE: Harry Potter joke. Never mind. I do my homework when I get home. Obviously.
BRIANNE: You didn’t answer my question. Why do you come here every night?
TOMAS: Why are you asking me?
BRIANNE: I know what you’re doing.
CLAIRE returns with TOMAS’ order.
CLAIRE: Alright Tomas here is your regular order. Cougar scramble with extra spinach and extra feta.
TOMAS: Thank you Claire.
CLAIRE: You have a friend with you tonight?
TOMAS: Oh, Claire this is my student.
TOMAS: Claire, this is Brianne. Brianne this is Claire.
CLAIRE: Pleasure to meet you.
BRIANNE: You too.
CLAIRE: Can I get you anything Brianne?
BRIANNE: Oh, no –
TOMAS: Go ahead, I’ll take care of it.
BRIANNE: Oh. Well. A hot chocolate?
CLAIRE: Great. I’ll be back with that.
TOMAS: Don’t worry about it.
TOMAS: So you want to know why I come here every night.
TOMAS: And I want to know why.
BRIANNE: But I asked you first.
TOMAS: And I just bought you hot chocolate. So you owe me.
TOMAS: I don’t make the rules.
BRIANNE: What rules?
BRIANNE lets out a sigh.
BRIANNE: It’s just… Well. Don’t get mad, ok?
TOMAS: Why would I get mad?
BRIANNE: This isn’t me. This is everyone else.
TOMAS: Ok, sure.
BRIANNE: Well… everyone else at school says you’re super weird.
TOMAS: I’m super weird?
BRIANNE: That’s what they say.
BRIANNE: The upper classmen.
TOMAS: Upper classmen say a lot. Throughout history, upper classmen have always said a lot.
BRIANNE: They say that you don’t really interact with any of the students outside of class and they say you aren’t friends with any of the teachers.
TOMAS: How do they know that?
BRIANNE: They say you don’t hang out with any of the other teachers. You don’t even walk with any of them down the hall. You just walk around campus by yourself, wearing your headphones and carrying a book.
BRIANNE: Thing is, I started to pay attention to it and they’re right. Everything they say is true.
TOMAS: Ok… And why did you start paying attention?
BRIANNE: Nope. Not answering that.
TOMAS: Why not?
BRIANNE: Because it’s your turn.
TOMAS: My turn?
BRIANNE: I don’t make the rules.
CLAIRE enters with the hot chocolate.
CLAIRE: Here you go hon.
BRIANNE: Thank you.
CLAIRE: Let me know if you two need anything else ok.
TOMAS: Thanks, Claire.
TOMAS: Ok. Well… I think the reason I come here every day at around the same time is because… I like routine.
BRIANNE: Doesn’t everybody?
TOMAS: Most people.
BRIANNE: Ok, well most people don’t eat at the same place at the same time everyday.
BRIANNE: So there has to be more there.
BRIANNE: Is it her?
TOMAS: Who Claire?
TOMAS: Her? No.
BRIANNE: Are you sure?
TOMAS: It might’ve been but – no.
BRIANNE: She’s cute.
TOMAS: She is cute. And really nice too. But also very gay.
TOMAS: Yeah, I had the same thought as you once I got to talking to her but alas – nothing to be done about that.
BRIANNE: I see… So what is it?
TOMAS: Umm… well… let’s see. I’m new to town. So I don’t really know anyone. So I have no one to eat with. And no one to recommend where I should eat so… this feels reliable.
BRIANNE: You’ve been new for three years.
TOMAS: You’ve done your research.
BRIANNE: Not really. Upperclassmen talk.
TOMAS: Those darned Upperclassmen... To be honest with this town is a bit atypical for my life.
BRIANNE: What do you mean?
TOMAS: This is my third year teaching here. I usually stay one.
BRIANNE: You only stay at schools for one year?
BRIANNE: Isn’t that weird?
TOMAS: It’s unusual.
TOMAS: I don’t know. I guess I’m more comfortable that way.
TOMAS: Alone-ish. I like to go from small town to small town. Meeting a new set of people every year. New set of students. New curriculum. New Claire at the new diner.
TOMAS takes a bite of his food.
BRIANNE takes a sip of her hot chocolate.
BRIANNE: I see.
BRIANNE: Are you making this up?
BRIANNE: Doesn’t that get lonely?
TOMAS: Sometimes. But I think any kind of life gets lonely some of the time. Otherwise a person is probably not being honest with their own feelings.
BRIANNE: … So why did you stay here?
TOMAS: Good question.
BRIANNE: Are you going to tell me it’s my turn?
TOMAS: No, cause the answer to this one is quick. After this answer THEN it’s your turn.
BRIANNE takes a sip of her hot chocolate.
TOMAS: I didn’t read the contract.
TOMAS lets out a light laugh at how ridiculous this sounds.
TOMAS: I know. But it’s true. They hired me last minute. They were desperate for a new person to fill their history classes and I was desperate for a new place. So I signed real fast and at the end of the school year it hit me… I was contractually obligated to be here for three years.
BRIANNE: That’s kind of stupid…
TOMAS: That’s actually really stupid…
TOMAS takes a bite of food.
TOMAS: So, tell me, why were you paying attention to me. Please don’t tell me something weird…
BRIANNE: No, it’s not reallyweird it’s just… I don’t know. I found myself in journalism class one night talking to the upperclassmen about how I was liking the school as a freshman and when they asked me which classes I liked I said, “Mr. Carter is pretty cool.”
BRIANNE: And when I said that, they all got to laughing at me and I didn’t understand why. So I asked them what was so funny. And they said all these things about you and they even said that the rumor was… you were a creeper.
TOMAS: A creeper.
BRIANNE: Like you probably think of the girls inappropriately.
TOMAS: Is that right…
TOMAS lets out a sigh and sips his coffee.
TOMAS: Well you’re brave seeking out the creeper.
BRIANNE: I didn’t believe them.
TOMAS: Thank you.
BRIANNE: I didn’t believe them and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. I wanted to know who you really were because in English class, you are really cool and really passionate and it feels like you understand people like me.
TOMAS: And so instead of going along with what the upperclassmen have to say, you dug deeper to learn who I really am?
BRIANNE: I guess so, yeah.
TOMAS takes this in.
TOMAS: Well. Brianne, I hope the world is filled with young people like you because if there is – we’re going to be in good shape. I’m sorry those kids laughed at you.
BRIANNE: It’s no big deal.
TOMAS: You’re right. It is no big deal.
TOMAS and BRIANNE share a smile.
BRIANNE finishes her hot chocolate.
BRIANNE: Well. I better get going. My dad’ll get worried if I’m too late.
BRIANNE: Thanks for the hot chocolate Mr. Carter.
TOMAS: Thank you for the talk Brianne.
BRIANNE stands from the booth.
TOMAS sits in silence.
CLAIRE: Everything ok Tomas?
TOMAS: Um. Yeah.
CLAIRE: Need anything else?
TOMAS: Probably the check pretty soon.
CLAIRE: Ok, I’ll be back with that.
TOMAS goes back to his food, his coffee and his book.
END OF PLAY.