Broadway Up and Down

The scene opens on James and Brooke, a couple in their early 40’s, walking in New York City.  Throughout the scene, the passing people, cars and sites of New York City are present as other characters to which Brooke and James both react — or don’t.

J:  I bet you don’t remember our first walk here.

B:  Of course I do.

J:  You do?

B:  Sure.  It’s the walk that broke us up.

James laughs.

B:  It did.

J:  What are you talking about?

B:  Now who doesn’t remember?

J:  Well, I remember the walk, but you seem to have forgotten that we lived together for a year after the walk…

B:  I remember.

J:  Then what do you mean it was the walk that broke us up?

B:  I mean I knew right then that we’d never make it. 

J:  Ok, Brooke… maybe it’s the twenty years since we saw each other, but you’re really not making any sense…

B:  Yes, I am.  You just don’t understand.

J:  Well, that, at least, is no different.  Care to explain?

B:  There’s nothing to explain really– it’s just that I knew on that first walk down Broadway that I couldn’t do it — that I wouldn’t do it.

J:  Do what?  “Make it”, you mean?  As an actress?

B:  No, not that.  I was still young and stupid enough to think I could make it as an actress — or at least make a living as an actress.

J:  Then what did you “know” you couldn’t do?

B:  I knew I couldn’t make a living… a life… with you.

James stops.  As he does, a person walking behind bumps into him.  Brooke keeps walking, slowly.  James watches her.

J:  Ok, I’ll bite…

Brooke stops, turns around, people behind dodging her.  Silently, the couple look at each other for a few moments, then James smiles, shakes his head, and weaves between people the few steps to catch up to her.

J:  …explain to me how our first walk down Broadway twenty years ago convinced you that we wouldn’t make it.

Brooke continues looking at him, then takes his arm and the two begin to walk again.

J:  Look around you, James — just look — and tell me what you see.

James looks.

J:  Well, ok… there’s Starbucks… couldn’t be Starbucks that split us up — they didn’t even exist back then… over there on the other corner is McDonald’s — you hate McDonald’s, or you did, but I do, too — did — anyhow, it wouldn’t be McDonald’s… a hot dog cart– no kraut, extra mustard… See, I remember…

Brooke smiles and squeezes his arm.

J:  So, not hotdogs… a Levis store — you took my favourite pair when you left, I remember that… a line of cabs… well, yeah, you hated taxicabs — who doesn’t?… and trash trucks…  buses…  subways…

B:  barricades

J:  bicycles

B:  sirens

J:  and people

B:  and… people

James stops.  Brooke stops with him.  He turns her to face him as people part around them.

J:  Are you telling me that you left me because of traffic and noise… and, and…. people? 

Brooke is silent.  James holds her tight by the arms.

J:  Are you telling me that you walked out on me not because I didn’t make enough money soon enough or because I didn’t want to have children or because I drank too much?  Damn, Brooke, after twenty years of silence, have you come all this way to tell me that you left me because of…

B:  New York City.

James lets go of her arms and walks across people to lean against a building.  Brooke watches then follows to stand next to him.  There is a short silence, then Brooke speaks.

B:  I realized it when we sat down at that table for lunch — the one outside that you loved so much…

James lights a cigarette. 

J:  Faustino’s

B:  Yes, that one.  I remember it was warm… sunny…

J:  Like today

B:  And when we sat down, you were so happy.  I realized I’d never seen you that happy before.

J:  Well, the love of my life had just come to live with me — forever, I thought.  We were young… talented.  We had such…

B:  …possibilites.  Yes.  I know.

A short silence while James smokes and Brooke stares up.

B:  So, there we sat at that table.  You talking about my first Tony award…

J:  About how we’d go and I’d hold your hand…

B:  And about how you’d be the youngest District Attorney in the state

J:  Yeah… 

B:  I just sat there… listening to you, as I always had, as I always did.  Listening and staring up and thinking… ‘Where is the sunlight?  Is this the only sunlight?”  Because everything — everything — was grey.  The buildings, the sidewalks, the cars, the people — all grey.  Even the sunlight – because by the time it worked its way down through the dirty grey sky, past the dirty grey buildings, to the dirty grey sidewalk, it was dirty and grey too.  Even the sunlight.  Dirty.  Grey.

James looks up.

B:  And I knew.  I couldn’t do it.  No way.  I couldn’t live here.

J:  But you stayed…

B:  Of course I stayed, James — I loved you.  No.  Really — it wasn’t even that.  I stayed because I loved who you thought I was.  Who you wanted me to be.  I loved the Brooke you created.  

J:  Created?

B:  Absolutely.  You had taken a slightly talented little girl from the High Plains of Texas and crafted her into a  well-spoken, well-read, beautiful young woman.  You’d taught her that Leonard Bernstein was popular, but Georg Solti was important.  That diamonds were beautiful, but pearls were elegant.  That film was Hollywood, but theatre was New York.  And those differences mattered.  That they mattered so much — especially to you.

J:  To me.

B:  Yes, James.  To you.  And yes, ok, to me too — at least they had come to be important to me… I don’t know.  I only knew that, sitting there at that table, with all those people, all that noise — all these people, all this noise — I couldn’t live.  Live, hell, I couldn’t breathe.  And yet you were happy.  Thriving.  It was your world.  It IS your world.  But I could never make it mine.  And I tried, James.  I tried so hard.  You have to know I tried.

James drops his cigarette, crushes it. 

J:  I know.

There is a pause.

B:  I thought you would’ve quit by now.

J:  Me too.

James takes a step away from the building, raises his hand to Brooke.  She looks at it.  He smiles.

J:  Come on — we’ve got just enough time for a drink before we have to get you to the airport.

Brooke waits a beat, then smiles back and takes his hand.  Together they step back into the sidewalk.

© s rogers 3 Jan 2009

the challenge

the photos

4 thoughts on “Broadway Up and Down

  1. shoegirlramblings says:

    Great work on this one Steph… I love it… Now I feel like I have to at least try to answer Kimberley’s challenge…. : )

  2. catgem says:

    thank you, Lisa — i’m not so sure about it, but i like it as an idea — maybe an outline of something larger… i’m not sure… it’s been a while since i wrote dialogue

    am anxious to see what you come up with 🙂

  3. mary rose says:

    Your dialogue is wonderful, I could see them!

  4. catgem says:

    thank you, dear mary — it’s so wonderful to hear from you here 🙂

Thank you for letting me know you were here.

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