One Act Play: Everything Falls Apart
1. MAN: Young man in his mid to late thirties suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s.
2. FRIEND: A man in his early forties. Loyal companion to Man.
EVERYTHING FALLS APART
[MAN faces a window with the blinds drawn. He is trying to light a cigarette when there is a knock at the door.]
MAN: Come in, it’s open.
[FRIEND walks into the room through the door.]
MAN: I knew it was you.
FRIEND: When is it not?
MAN: I didn’t know you were coming today.
FRIEND: Neither did I, but here I am.
MAN: Yes, here you are. To what do I owe this pleasure?
FRIEND: You tell me.
MAN: Hm. No real reason I suppose. But the company never hurts.
FRIEND: No, but you always hurt the company.
MAN: Touché. Come on in. Make yourself at home.
FRIEND: I always do.
[FRIEND shuts the door behind him as he walks into the living room, picking up papers from the floor. He places them atop a shelf. MAN is visibly struggling with lighting his cigarette.]
FRIEND: Need a light?
MAN: No, no. I’ve got it.
[MAN continues to struggle, finally getting it to light. A paper falls from a corkboard to their left.]
FRIEND: I’d tell you that those things are horrid for you. But there’s really no point now, is there?
[MAN takes a long drag of his cigarette.]
MAN: None whatsoever. But why stop telling me now?
[FRIEND shakes his head. He begins to pick up papers from the floor and sift through them.]
MAN: So, how long will you be staying with me?
FRIEND: Not long I hope.
MAN: Well why not? Surely you have the time. Why else would you come to see me?
FRIEND: I came to get you.
FRIEND: You know why.
MAN: I really don’t.
FRIEND: You don’t remember why?
MAN: No. But that’s not the problem.
FRIEND: Oh? Then what is?
MAN: Um. Uh, the problem is that I’m hungry.
MAN: Yes. Hungry.
FRIEND: Fine. Dinner?
MAN: You read my mind.
FRIEND: That’s what I’m here for.
[FRIEND stands up and begins to walk back to the door, while MAN walks over to a bookshelf.]
MAN: Where are you going?
FRIEND: To dinner.
MAN: No. You can’t leave.
FRIEND: Well, why not?
MAN: I, uh, well I have too much to do. I mean, have you seen this place? It’s practically falling apart.
FRIEND: No arguments here.
MAN: Exactly, so there’s no need to leave.
FRIEND: But I thought you were hungry.
MAN: Yes, I am. Keep up.
FRIEND: Well, if you’re hungry but you don’t want to go out to eat, what do you propose we do?
MAN: Um, we’ll call for take out, of course.
FRIEND: Oh. Okay. There is a phone book downstairs. Let’s go grab it.
MAN: No! No, no, there is no need for that. I have one.
MAN: Yes, yes. I have one. It’s over on the bookshelf.
[FRIEND walks over to the bookshelf MAN gestured to. He scans it for a few seconds.]
FRIEND: It’s not here.
MAN: Yes it is.
FRIEND: No. It’s really not. The yellow one, right?
MAN: Yes. It’s on the shelf.
FRIEND: No. There’s only a bunch of textbooks and test tubes.
MAN: No, it’s there. Always has been, always will be.
FRIEND: Well, clearly, something’s changed.
MAN: No, nothing has changed; it’s there. You’re just not looking.
FRIEND: Okay, if I’m so bad at looking, why don’t you find it?
MAN: I will.
[MAN jumps over the back of the couch and marches over to the shelf. He doesn’t break eye contact with FRIEND as he points indignantly to an empty space on the shelf.]
MAN: It’s right there.
[A beat passes. FRIEND looks at MAN quizzically. MAN looks at the bookshelf for the first time.]
[MAN quickly scans the room, locating the book on the kitchenette.]
MAN: See, look. There it is.
FRIEND: Well that’s not where you said it was.
MAN: No. Well. Yes. Oh, yes, that’s right. I was looking through the book during breakfast this morning.
[A paper floats down from a corkboard. MAN walks over and grabs the phonebook and begins to thumb through it.]
MAN: Good, so Mexican or Chinese?
FRIEND: Not Mexican. That place down the street, Senior Playa? Horrid. No need to relive that.
MAN: So Chinese it is.
[MAN speaks on the phone. FRIEND attempts to tidy up the mess of papers and files on the coffee table while listening to the conversation.]
MAN: Two orders of lo mein. Pint of fried rice ... No, no, no, not pick up. Delivery.
FRIEND: Why not pickup?
FRIEND: Here, just tell him pickup. We’ll go grab it.
[FRIEND walks towards the door and attempts to turn the handle.]
MAN: No, wait!
FRIEND: Why have you locked us in here?
MAN: Why have I what?
FRIEND: Locked us in. I can’t leave, the door’s locked.
MAN: I don’t recall locking it.
FRIEND: Neither do I.
MAN: Well, if it is locked, then it’s locked. It must be for a reason.
FRIEND: This may take longer than I expected.
MAN: Would you like some tea while we wait?
FRIEND: I suppose one cup won’t hurt.
[MAN goes to kitchenette and begins to prepare tea.]
FRIEND: I have the feeling this food is going to take a while.
MAN: 20 minutes, the guy said. 30 and it’s free.
FRIEND: We might just get that free meal.
MAN: Ever the optimist.
FRIEND: Realist, I prefer.
MAN: Potato, Potahto — cup half empty, cup half full. The question we should be asking is where did the rest of the water go? And who keeps poking holes in my cups?
FRIEND: Perhaps if you were nicer to people, no one would have any motivation to sabotage your cups.
MAN: But if I were nicer to people, then they would see it as an invitation to come over and help themselves to my cups. Then where would we be?
FRIEND: So then let them use the cups. That doesn’t mean they’re going to break them or poke holes. Hell, some of them might even wash them, dry them and tidy up your cabinets.
MAN:I like my cabinets just the way they are.
FRIEND: Your cabinets are a mess.
MAN: Pardon me?
FRIEND: Your cabinets. They’re a complete mess. This whole flat is a mess, as I’m sure you’re well aware.
MAN: I invite you into my home, and then you criticize my cabinets? My cabinets? They’re doing the best they can.
FRIEND: Doing the best they can?
MAN: Yes. They certainly are. That’s all they can do though, isn’t it? Try their hardest. Do the best they can under the circumstances. It’s not their fault that this is happening to them. They didn’t ask for this. They don’t need this.
FRIEND: Wait, are we still talking about cabinets or are we talking about you?
MAN: No, of course we’re not talking about cabinets. How absurd.
FRIEND: Then we’re talking about you?
MAN: No, stop trying to make this about me. This is about my apparently messy cabinets.
FRIEND: I thought this wasn’t about the cabinets.
MAN: Of course this is about the cabinets.
FRIEND: You’re not making any sense.
MAN: So? Are you going to leave because my cabinets don’t make sense?
FRIEND: When have I ever left because you don’t make sense?
MAN: You say that now. But what about when my cabinets have rotted away and the hinges have rusted and they sit barren and dusty? Will you still be there to admire the woodwork?
FRIEND: I’m leaving.
MAN: No, no, no! Please, don’t leave. I’m sorry.
FRIEND: Are you?
MAN: Yes, yes. I didn’t mean it. I’m just —
FRIEND: Just what?
MAN: I’m just —
FRIEND: And scared?
MAN: No. What? What would I have to be scared about?
FRIEND: You tell me.
MAN: No, I’m not scared. I’m just ... You know what, you should stay. I’ll tell you what: I’ll pay for the both of us.
MAN: The meal is on me.
FRIEND: Why? I really have no problem with pay —
MAN: I need you to stay.
FRIEND: Okay. Just for a while longer.
MAN: Perhaps some music to pass the time?
[FRIEND nods and leans back onto the couch. MAN walks across the room and digs out a violin from under a pile of junk. He walks back to the couch with the instrument tucked under his chin and begins to play. The notes are audibly off key. FRIEND sits up, worried. MAN furrows his brow, but attempts to play again. More papers fall in the room. Cacophonous sounds erupt from the violin.]
MAN: Oh. Must be out of tune.
FRIEND: Are you sure that’s the problem?
MAN: Yes, that is the problem. I’ll get it fixed soon.
FRIEND: Yes, that would seem appropriate.
MAN: Yes, it would.
FRIEND: Did you want to go now?
FRIEND: Well, why not?
MAN: Well, the door’s locked for one. And the food hasn’t come.
FRIEND: At this rate, I don’t think it ever will.
MAN: And to think, I just called you an optimist.
FRIEND: And to think, I just told you that I am a realist.
MAN: Yes. Yes, you did.
[They sit in silence. FRIEND sips his tea while MAN puts out his cigarette. Sounds can be heard in the distance.]
FRIEND: Do you hear something?
FRIEND: I’m sure I hear something. It sounds like someone’s calling.
MAN: Calling for whom?
FRIEND: Seeing as where we’re sitting, I can only imagine it’s you.
[FRIEND walks to the window and begins to open the curtains.]
MAN: Don’t open the curtains.
[A book falls from a nearby shelf. MAN rushes over, picks up the book and positions himself in between FRIEND and the curtain. He tucks the book under his arm.]
[MAN walks over to nearby bookshelf and begins to push it in front of the window.]
MAN: Th — the light. It hurts my eyes.
FRIEND: It’s nighttime.
MAN: Is it? Oh. My clocks are broken.
FRIEND: Well they’re right at least twice a day.
MAN: Cheeky. Come up with that all on your own?
[MAN finishes pushing bookshelf in front of window, sets the book atop it and then returns to his seat on the couch. He grabs his cup of tea.]
FRIEND: Why? Did you like it?
MAN: That’s funny.
FRIEND: In that case. Yes. All by myself.
MAN: No. Not you. The tea.
MAN: My tea. It’s cold.
FRIEND: Oh, I can reheat it for you. Hand it here —
MAN: No, I don’t want it reheated.
FRIEND: Why not?
MAN: Reheating it is just a temporary solution to a much larger problem.
FRIEND: So you want it cold?
MAN: Heavens no. Who wants cold tea?
FRIEND: Oh, of course not. Because who on god’s earth has ever heard of something as obscene as iced tea?
MAN: Oh, don’t patronize me.
FRIEND: So you don’t want it cold. But you don’t want it reheated?
FRIEND: Then what do you want?
MAN: I want it to stay hot in the first place.
FRIEND: Well, then you should have drunk it before it had time to get cold.
MAN: Well, what if I didn’t want it then?
FRIEND: Well, then suffer the consequences.
MAN: No, that’s not the point.
FRIEND: Then what is the point?
MAN: The point is there is a much larger problem here. This isn’t right.
FRIEND: No, it’s not.
MAN: Yes. There is a problem here.
FRIEND: So you see the problem.
MAN: Yes, of course.
FRIEND: Then you understand what we have to do to fix it.
FRIEND: Then let’s g —
[A few books clatter down off the shelves.]
MAN: Blankets, that’s the solution.
FRIEND: To what problem?
MAN: The draft, of course.
FRIEND: That’s what you think the problem is?
MAN: Yes, the problem is a breach in the window. That’s what’s making my tea cold.
[MAN hops off the couch and runs to a trunk by the large bookshelf and retrieves from it sheets and blankets. He runs to the window, climbs atop the smaller bookshelf beside it and begins to stuff the edges of the window with the sheets, still not drawing the blinds.]
FRIEND: What are you doing?
MAN: What do you think I’m doing? I’m fixing it.
FRIEND: Oh, really?
[MAN attempts to hang the last blanket to completely cover the window, but falls. He catches himself on the drapes and hangs there limp for a beat.]
MAN: Yes. So are you just going to sit there or are you going to help me?
[FRIEND stands up and begins to walk over to Man, picking up fallen papers along the way, however he doesn’t make any attempt to help MAN.]
FRIEND: But those sheets and blankets. Are those not just temporary solutions to a much bigger problem?
[MAN continues to hang. A book falls off a nearby shelf.]
MAN: I suppose they are.
MAN: So how do I fix it permanently?
FRIEND: We can go across the street to the hardware store.
[MAN inadvertently releases his grip on the curtain and falls to the floor with a thud. More books begin to fall off shelves.]
FRIEND: Why? Honestly, it’s a simple fix. Let’s just go.
MAN: No, no, no. I can’t. I just can’t.
FRIEND: Why not?
MAN: I can’t.
[MAN walks over to the couch and plops down. He swaddles himself in the blanket so that only his head peers out.]
FRIEND: Oh, no. Don’t tell me you’re in your burrito of sorrow again.
[MAN does not respond.]
FRIEND: Oh, you are.
[MAN again gives no response.]
FRIEND: Are you really being this childish? Fine. If you won’t speak to me then —
MAN: It’s not a burrito.
MAN: It’s not a burrito. It’s a cocoon.
MAN: Yes, really.
FRIEND: Not that I care, but it’s clearly a burrito.
MAN: No. It’s not.
FRIEND: Yes. It is. A cocoon encloses everything. Your head is popping out. You’re simply wrapped up like a burrito.
MAN: No. That argument is invalid because a burri —
FRIEND: What am I doing? Am I really arguing over this right now? Oh, god, I’m losing it, too.
MAN: Excuse me?
FRIEND: We need to leave. Right now. Before it’s too late.
MAN: We go nowhere until you acknowledge this as a cocoon.
FRIEND: Oh, god!
MAN: Say it.
FRIEND: Fine! It’s a damn cocoon. Can we go now?
MAN: No. The door’s locked.
FRIEND: Don’t do this to yourself. Don’t do this to me.
FRIEND: Of all the selfish things you’ve done, this one takes the cake.
MAN: Wow, cake sounds good right about now. Should I order one —
FRIEND: Oh, for once, could you cut the bullshit?
MAN: I can’t leave.
FRIEND: Why not?
MAN: Because if I leave I’ll lose it!
MAN: I’ll lose it.
FRIEND: Then lose it!
MAN: Just lose it? Are you kidding? I can’t. I just can’t.
FRIEND: Why not?
MAN: If I lose it then what do I have left?
MAN: But I won’t. When it’s gone, you’ll go with it. I know you will. You say you won’t but you will. It’s the reason you came and it’s the reason you stayed. It’s the only thing I have. The only thing that makes me who I am. And when it’s gone? Well, so am I.
FRIEND: That’s where you’re wrong.
FRIEND: It may be the reason I came but it is not the reason I stayed.
MAN: No. You say that. But you don’t know it. You don’t know who I am without it.
FRIEND: Then let me find out.
MAN: No. No I can’t.
FRIEND: Why not?
MAN: Because I’m nothing without it.
FRIEND: You are so much more than just it.
MAN: Okay, then tell me. Tell me what I am without it! Without this?
[MAN flagrantly gestures to the room.]
FRIEND: You are a man.
MAN: Exactly what I’ve always tried not to be.
FRIEND: Well that is the problem of the century, now isn’t it? Everyone trying to be something they’re not. The lines are blurring. Soon there will be no distinction between friend and foe, reality and imagination, man and god.
MAN: As a man, I am nothing. With this. I have made something of myself.
FRIEND: No. As a man, you are a man. First and foremost. Even when all is lost, that is still what you are. And that is all you’ll ever need to be.
MAN: Wrong. With this, I am so much more.
FRIEND: Then you’re a man playing God.
MAN: It’s not playing if I’ve already won.
FRIEND: You need to let this go.
MAN: No, I can’t. You don’t understand. I need to keep it. I can’t lose it.
FRIEND: No, you don’t understand. Look at it! It’s damaged. Degenerating. Dying. Even if you stay, it’s not what it used to be. What it used to be was amazing. Brilliant. Unlike anything this world has seen and will more than likely never see again. It helped you become a hero. Gave you purpose, I get it. But that, is still in there.
[FRIEND places hand on MAN’s heart.]
MAN: That is not this.
[Places hand on MAN’s head, then gestures to the room.]
FRIEND: This. This is gone, and there is nothing we can do about that. But if you don’t let it go now, all you’re going to be is stuck. Stuck like the punctured cups in your rotting cabinets.
MAN: No, no, no, look. I can fix it!
[MAN unwraps himself from his blanket. He throws books back onto shelves and pin papers backwards and upside down onto corkboards.]
FRIEND: No, you can’t.
MAN: Yes, I can!
FRIEND: But you can’t! You know it, and I know it. You heard well what the doctor said —
MAN: That so called doctor doesn’t know anything about me.
FRIEND: I know you don’t trust doctors. But he was right. He warned us about everything. He told us this would happen.
MAN: Stop it!
FRIEND: The memory loss, the confusion, the mood swings. It’s happening! It’s happening now, and if you don’t leave, its going to consume you. If you can’t accept this then you’re going to be stuck in here and there will be nothing left of the real world for you.
MAN:No. No! No! Shut up! I’m fine. It’s fine! Everything’s fine!
FRIEND: No! It’s not! And I’m sorry it’s not. And I know it’s not fair, I know. No one deserves this. Not a single man would wish this on even his greatest adversary, but you know what? S— happens. S— happens, and everything falls apart and the only thing you can do is let it. Let the world reap what it sowed and for once don’t try and outsmart it.
MAN: You’re asking me to do the impossible.
FRIEND: No. I’m asking you to do what’s right. You need to leave it behind. Staying in here is wrong. Not only to yourself but more importantly to the people that love you.
MAN: There are no people who love me. They only love what I can do for them. All they love is this!
[MAN again gestures around him to the crumbling room.]
MAN: This is the reason why you’re here. This is the reason I’m not alone. And this is the reason I can’t leave. If I lose this ... If I lose my mind, I lose you, and I can’t be alone again.
FRIEND: You’re already alone!
MAN: No, I’m not alone. I have you. If I stay in here at least I have you. If I stay, I won’t be alone.
FRIEND: I’m not even really here.
FRIEND: I’m out there.
MAN: No, you’re not. You’re right here with me.
FRIEND: Don’t you get it? I’m outside right now. Waiting for you. Waiting for you to leave this place and come back to me. I’m sitting at your bedside, and you’re just lying there. Staring into space. And just like you, I’m scared and alone.
MAN: No, I’m not alone. I have you.
FRIEND: No! You are alone! You’re alone right now and if you don’t walk out that door right now then all you’re ever going to be is alone.
MAN: Stop it.
FRIEND: So either we leave now and we’re together or you stay and we’re both alone.
MAN: I can’t leave. The food hasn’t come.
FRIEND: I’m leaving.
MAN: No, you can’t. We’re locked in here.
FRIEND: Yes, you are.
[FRIEND walks towards the door and turns the handle with no resistance. He exits, shutting the door behind him. As the door shuts, several books begin to fall off the shelves. MAN runs over to the door and attempts to open it again to no avail.]
MAN: No. I’ve changed my mind. Please. Come back, I can’t be alone. You can’t leave me like this. I can’t be alone. I’m alone.
[Books begin to fall from every shelf, several at a time. We hear the sound of
crumbling. MAN tries the door one more time. He pulls until the handle comes off.]
MAN: No. No. No. No! No! No! I can’t be here alone. I need to leave. I have to leave.
[MAN runs over to the window and pushes the bookshelf back out of the way then yanks down all the curtains. We see blackness through the glass. He attempts to open it, but can’t. Frantic, he pounds his fists on the glass, attempting to break it.]
MAN: I need to get out. I can’t be alone!
[Still failing to shatter the glass, MAN grabs the cups from his cabinets and throws them at the window. They all shatter upon impact. He begins to throw books at the window. Still unable to break it, he grabs a large barstool from the kitchenette and hurls it at the glass. It breaks on impact.]
MAN: No. No. No. No. No. No! I have to leave. I will leave.
[MAN runs around the room, dodging falling books and furniture. He rummages through various debris piles, eventually finding a rope. He grabs the large barstool and drags it over to back stage left. He climbs atop and with shaking hands, ties the rope around the rafter beam and pulls it secure. He slips his head into the noose and kicks the stool out from under him. At his weight, the rafter breaks.]
[MAN crawls out from under the debris of the rafter and looks around the flat and watches it crumble.]
MAN: I don’t. I, I can’t remember why I’m here.
[MAN gets up and runs to the door.]
MAN:Why did I lock the door? I can’t remember. I can’t remember why I’m hungry. I can’t remember where I am. I can’t remember who I am. I can’t remember.
[The bookshelves begin to fall over as the set caves in.]
MAN:Why am I alone? I ... I can’t remember.
[Set continues to collapse as the lights go out. The audience can still hear the sound of crashing. These sounds are the only things heard for several seconds and then ... Silence.]