Trust Balance (A Short Play)

31 Plays in 31 Days #21

(A bed. LANE and MAUREEN snuggling. MAUREEN is teasing Lane with her fingers, but he is just sort of staring into space.)

MAUREEN
Heya. Hey. Hey. Hey buddy boy. Maureen to Lane, come in Lane. Come back to Earth. We have sex waiting for you. Anybody alive up there? My god, we’ve lost him.

LANE
(a distracted noise)
Hm.

MAUREEN
Drastic measures are called for.

(MAUREEN blows a raspberry on his belly.)

LANE
Whaaaa?!
Ohh. Hi, sorry. I’m back.

MAUREEN
Yeah?

LANE
Yeah.

MAUREEN
What’s up, space cadet?

LANE
Nothing.

MAUREEN
Then take off all the clothing.

LANE
Oh, how seductive.

MAUREEN
You don’t seem up to being seduced so I’m using the direct approach.

(LANE just stares at her.)

MAUREEN
Oh geez. Okay. Clearly something’s on your mind. Well, go on. Spill it, I’m impatient today.

LANE
It’s… it’s nothing. Forget it.

MAUREEN
I invoke the Rule.

LANE
What? Already?

MAUREEN
Impatient! Just tell me, unload your mind, so the good times can roll on.

LANE
Uh-

MAUREEN
(a warning)
Lane.

LANE
Okay okay- 
(poking her in the ribs, clearly not saying this seriously)
Times like this I regret agreeing to the Rule.

MAUREEN
Uh-huh, you don’t regret it when I’m the one who’s holding something back. Come on, out with it, buster.

LANE
It’s- It’s about Sandra.

MAUREEN
What about her?

(LANE sighs and rubs his eyes. MAUREEN gives him an encouraging kiss on the cheek.)

LANE
…I think she’s cheating on Bryant.

MAUREEN
Oh.

(Pause.)

MAUREEN
Oh. Is that… is that so?

LANE
Yeah.

MAUREEN
…Really. Well uh.
How about that…
Um, why do you… why do you think that?

LANE
(caressing her)
We don’t have to get into this.

MAUREEN
Excuse me? Yes we do! We’re seeing them both tomorrow at the shindig. I need to be up on the news and rumors so I can examine their behavior appropriately for signs and signals. Forget the sex. Sex can wait.

MAUREEN & LANE
“Masturbate.”

(They give each other a high five.)

MAUREEN
But seriously, tell me.

LANE
It’s more a series of hunches than anything.

MAUREEN
…Yeah, and? Do I have to drag this out of you?

LANE
All right, all right. The main hunch that lead me to thinking she might be cheating came from just today. Did you see I posted on Facebook I had time to kill while I was stuck up in Hagerstown?

MAUREEN
Yeah, I saw she posted back that she was around there for some reason, and if you wanted to get lunch she’d love to hang out. Did you?

LANE
No, I ended up getting called back in before we could meet up-  You know how it is at work-  But we talked on the phone before that happened to try and figure out where we could grab a sandwich or something. And naturally I was like, “Oh, hey, what brought you way out here in the random middle of the day?” And she was like, “Oh, uh… uh…” and then laughed the way she does when she’s nervous about something.

MAUREEN
Right.

LANE
And then she was like, “I was just shopping at this outlet for a special present for Bryant.”

MAUREEN
What? Way out there? That doesn’t sound like Maureen.

LANE
I know, right? Plus, you notice, that subtly suggests that maybe I shouldn’t mention it to Bryant because it might be a surprise.

MAUREEN
She posted her whereabouts on Facebook!

LANE
And then deleted the comment. Interesting, huh?
So anyway I was still on the phone with her, and not even thinking about it, I said, “Oh, are you going to look up ol’ Steve while you’re way up here?” And she just got… quiet. I said, “Good ol’ Steve? He still lives up here, right?” And she said, “Oh, yeah, I guess, we don’t really talk anymore.” She changed the subject to sandwiches, I got call waiting, it was work, I had to go in, I flipped back to her and said ‘sorry can’t make it,’ and… that was it.

MAUREEN
So you think she’s having an affair with Steve.

LANE
Yeah. …That asshole.

MAUREEN
Asshole? You liked him! “Good ol’ Steve”!

LANE
I liked him up until he became involved with the possible future breakup of our best friends’ marriage.

MAUREEN
Possible future?

LANE
I mean-  That’s what’s so maddening, it’s not certain… I mean, there have been other vibes-  Like for instance, Sandra asked me recently if I ever thought about having an affair-

MAUREEN
Be very careful about what you tell me your answer was. I will know if you’re lying.

LANE
Oh! Goody. I love these moments.

(LANE and MAUREEN sit up and stare directly into each other’s eyes.)

LANE
I said, and I swear it, you can trust me as I’m pretty sure this is word for word, because it was only this past Sunday and it was a memorably weird conversation- I said: “Sometimes I think about it, because I feel like it’s not a real marriage until one of us cheats.”

(MAUREEN roughs up his hair.)

MAUREEN
Asshole!

LANE
It’s what I said. And she looked unhappy with the answer because I wasn’t being serious, so then I was serious and I said, “Okay, seriously: Sometimes. Because I’ll see a hot chick or whatever and think, what would happen if I just… did? But then as soon as I think about it, all the attraction in it disappears, and I just think, ‘Nah, that’s dumb, Maureen is so much better than anything else.’”

(MAUREEN looks taken aback by this answer.)

MAUREEN
Oh.

LANE
“Oh”? What do you mean “oh”? That’s the honest truth-

MAUREEN
No I know it is-

LANE
Of course you do-  Then was that not the answer you were looking for?

MAUREEN
It was just surprising, sorry. I was expecting, because you and Sandra have been friends so long, something more honest and dark, like “Sometimes, when we’re fighting.”

LANE
Well, no. That’s not true. When we’re fighting I only worry about making up. Do you think of cheating sometimes, when we’re fighting? Honestly?

MAUREEN
Uh- Yes, but I always reach the same “Lane is so much better” conclusion idea thing.

LANE
It is an excellent conclusion idea thing.

MAUREEN
Sorry.

LANE
No worries.

(They kiss.)

MAUREEN
You still surprise me sometimes. That was really flattering, what you said.

(They kiss again.)

LANE
So anyways, that little conversation, and some other little hints, sort of all came together in my mind-

MAUREEN
The “Eureka!” moment. Yeah.

LANE
Uh-huh. I thought: “Holy shit, Maureen is cheating on Bryant, with her ex-boyfriend.”

MAUREEN
You know, it sounds like you’re right.

LANE
It really hit me today, and it’s a scary thought.

(MAUREEN bites her lip.)

LANE
It’s so sad if something is falling apart over there… And I don’t know what to do. Do I confront Sandra? My evidence wouldn’t hold up in court because it all just comes from me knowing and reading Sandra super well. Do I tell Bryant? Do I drive over to Steve’s and confront him? Do I ignore it? God, I just don’t know. It’s been plaguing me all day… It’s actually really a horrible situation.

MAUREEN
Um…

LANE
Honey?

MAUREEN
I think it might be a good thing.

LANE
…A good thing? A good thing? Please explain, please.

MAUREEN
Well… I’m pretty… sure… that Bryant is cheating too.

(Pause.)

LANE
What.

MAUREEN
(LANE just stares at Maureen throughout this)
Yeah. Uh. You know, just hints and allegations, too, mostly that I’ve seen him over by the Medical Center hanging around after work, and how my hot coworker Ella, who he met at our holiday party, asks about him, and what we were all like in college and stuff like that, so she’s clearly interested in him, and how just the other day he was outside the Center again and I ran into him. That was the day you were out of town. And he said. I mean, I said, “hey come on, join me for dinner, let’s catch up, since you’re just standing around here” and we went to that Indian place, the really nice one, but he kept looking out the window and checking his watch, and barely touched his food, and at about 7 he suddenly turned to me and said-  And by the way 7 o clock is when Ella usually gets out of work, and he said to me, uh, “Sorry, I’ve got to go,” like really abruptly, and didn’t even provide some lame excuse, he just paid for both of us and then left. And you know that Bryant only pays for other people when he’s feeling really good about things, and we know that the two of them have been stressed about her job issues and their fertility problems, and… oof…
(as LANE stills just stares at her)
…I guess I added it together the same way you did, again, nothing that would hold up in court, but all the details…
Uh, is something wrong?

LANE
You didn’t tell me.

MAUREEN
Well I wasn’t sure-

LANE
You were as sure as I was. Five days ago.

MAUREEN
Well uh…

LANE
You broke the Rule.

MAUREEN
No, I-
Noooo na-uh! You didn’t invoke it…

LANE
The corollary to the Rule: hiding something so that the other one of us doesn’t know there’s something to discuss is as bad as not opening up when we invoke.

MAUREEN
I didn’t think it was something to discuss…

LANE
Oh please. Half our conversation that isn’t about Mad Men or the house is about Sandra and Bryant.

MAUREEN
You were hiding something just a minute ago until I invoked the Rule.

LANE
No I wasn’t. I was clearly worried in front of you.

MAUREEN
If I hadn’t noticed-

LANE
Of course you would have noticed, unless you were going to have sex with me while I stared into space, which isn’t your thing.

MAUREEN
So you’re saying you spaced out on purpose so that I would ask you about it?

LANE
I’m not that clever. I’m just saying that I wasn’t actively suppressing my worries. Apparently you’ve spent the last few nights in bed acting totally undisturbed and also, I might add, rather randy. Unless you want me to believe it hasn’t been upsetting to you, the idea of them cheating?

MAUREEN
It was, until I found out it was both of them!

LANE
So? That was just now. So you were actively hiding it these past few days?

MAUREEN
I didn’t say that… But if you want to put it that way…

LANE
Need I remind you of the invocation of the Rule. Do I have to get the Floppy Hat of Truth?

MAUREEN
No no no fine.
Oh, shit.

LANE
Honey.

MAUREEN
He made me promise.

LANE
Who made you promise? Bryant?

MAUREEN
Yes.

LANE
Promise what? He didn’t know that you knew.

MAUREEN
He did… because I followed hun and Ella to The Pines.

LANE
The Pines? Holy god.

MAUREEN
He likes to show off and he makes like five times as much as her, you know.

LANE
And they saw you?

MAUREEN
I… hid in the waiting area and when she went to the bathroom I confronted him.

LANE
You took that on yourself? And here I was debating even mentioning to Sandra that I had a notion about it…

MAUREEN
No, no, no, I wasn’t trying to confront him about the affair…
Um… I was just mad that he didn’t tell me.

(Pause.)

LANE
Irony is great.

MAUREEN
Yeah, well.
He made me promise… and then I left.

LANE
Made you promise what?

MAUREEN
He said, “I know you and Lane share everything, but he and Sandra are too close, so when I say tell no one, I mean not even Lane. Do this if you value our friendship over your silly little marriage pact.”

LANE
Wow, he said that?

(MAUREEN nods.)

LANE
…What a jerk.

MAUREEN
So I promised, you see? And now I broke it.

LANE
You broke both promises. The promise to him, and the silly pact with me, because you didn’t tell me until now.

MAUREEN
He said that it was silly, not me. You know I don’t think that.

LANE
Are you sure? You did accept the promise.

MAUREEN
What did you want me to do?

LANE
Tell me anyways, of course. Tell me that he told you not to tell me, and trust me that I would be able to keep it under wraps. How would he have ever found out?

MAUREEN
That’s not the spirit of a promise. You can’t break a promise on the premise that the break won’t be discovered. That’s not trust.

LANE
Funny, that’s exactly what you did to me.

MAUREEN
And you would never have known… if I hadn’t told you just now. And I did tell you.

LANE
You had to tell me. Otherwise, in the future when, surprise surprise, our best friends’ marriage ENDED, I’d turn to you and I’d say, “oh, honey, did you see this coming?” and you’d either have to lie blatantly to my face at that time, or you’d have to tell me that you knew all along.

MAUREEN
But that’s the whole point! Their marriage doesn’t have to end!
Now that we know it’s both of them cheating-

LANE
I fail to see how that makes it better. At least if it was just one of them, that would mean the other one would still be wanting to repair their-

MAUREEN
But maybe it’s not broken! It’s in balance!

LANE
Two wrongs don’t make a… a marriage of true minds.

MAUREEN
But it does make a fair battleground. When I thought it was just Bryant, I thought, oh no, now if Sandra ever finds out, she’ll tear him apart, she’ll never forgive him, when she stayed so true during their times of trouble and all that. But now-

LANE
What, because she’s morally compromised too, she can’t throw it in his face? Have you met Sandra?

MAUREEN
She can, sure, but he won’t take it. He won’t collapse and turn into Guilty-Mode Bryant. They won’t be able to play the Moral Superiority Game, and instead they’ll have to just deal fairly in their problems, and work them out as equals.

LANE
Or… they’ll break up.
Like, for instance, if Sandra cuts Steve off just as soon as she finds out about Bryant’s affair, so she can claim to be clean; or Bryant gives himself a standard-issue Bryant-style justifying reason to call Sandra out on her affair while keeping his a secret- 

MAUREEN
Right, right-

LANE
So, you see? Them both cheating doesn’t help. All it means is more guilt for both of them. It only has a remote chance of helping if they are honest about it all and both know about the other.

MAUREEN
Right, which is where we come in.

(Pause.)

LANE
No!

MAUREEN
Yes!

LANE
We’re not telling them!

MAUREEN
Of course not! We’re going to be good friends, and encourage them to come clean to each other-  And if one of them does, and the other doesn’t, then we step in and go “excuse me.”

LANE
So what, I just go to Sandra and make her confess to me so we’re sure about her and Steve being a thing, and you attach to Bryant, and then we hang back and watch out for any future rule breaking on their part, like referees?

MAUREEN
Something like that. They need us.

LANE
What if Bryant makes you promise again?

MAUREEN
Then I’ll promise. And then tell you what he made me promise.

LANE
What about the spirit of promises?

MAUREEN
My promise to you is more important.

LANE
You say that now, but what if some further information comes up? What if he suspects you might have told me because, you know, he knows you, and he knows me, and so he comes to me and confronts me and drags it out of me that I know?

MAUREEN
Well, you already know. We can only do the best we can to keep everyone happy.

LANE
I think we should forget what we think we know about this, and stay out of it.

MAUREEN
I mean it, Lane, they need us. We love these two, and we love them together, at least when they’re at their best. No one else could put up with them but each other.

LANE
If we try and manage their infidelity and marriage, it will all come to a head eventually, it will erupt all over us. We can’t hold back the chaos. We’ll get caught in it, and it will burn us. Us, honey.

MAUREEN
We’ll be fine.

LANE
Fine?! It’s already hurt us-  Hurt me, at least, since you don’t seem bothered by it-

MAUREEN
I am-  I feel awful about keeping it from you-

LANE
We could ruin our friendship with them. We could hurt each other when the time comes to choose sides. I don’t want to risk that.

MAUREEN
We can’t throw away our friends because of this fear. We’re the only ones who can help.

LANE
We’re better off ignoring it and hoping that they work it out themselves.

MAUREEN
Obviously Sandra, at least, wants you involved, these hints she’s dropping. You know that first it was “have you ever considered an affair,” and next it will be “what would you say if you found out I was having an affair,” because, God love her, that Sandra is not a subtle one.

LANE
You never give her credit.

MAUREEN
I’m just saying.

LANE
Well she can ask insinuating questions all she wants, I’ll just act oblivious. Enough time can go by and they can get over this… this phase, and move on. And everything will be sunshine and rainbows again in the Land of Our Friends.

MAUREEN
No. No it won’t be.
Not unless we manage their knowledge, you see? We have to, we have to use our intimate knowledge of our poor, fucked-up friends’ minds to help them and guide them back together. Or, fuck, if they’ve really, truly grown apart, we can help them separate peacefully and save everyone’s friendships. The only thing we can’t do is let them fall apart. Please trust me.

LANE
I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to eat the blowback from their drama. We’re too happy, you and I, to, I don’t know… to suck the poison from their wounds, because that poison will end up in our relationship.

MAUREEN
We’re tough. We love each other.

LANE
We clearly are not perfect.

MAUREEN
Of course not. But we ain’t Sandra and Bryant, either. We can take it.

LANE
Take it! I don’t want to take it. I’m not going to make that sacrifice.

MAUREEN
You’d put our happiness over our friends’ marriage?

LANE
You wouldn’t?

MAUREEN
I-

LANE
Clearly not, because you fell on Bryant’s side in making that promise.

MAUREEN
…Hurting you is something I can take when it’s a little hurt.

LANE
Really?!

MAUREEN
Our friends’ marriage, their whole damn lives, weighs more than just a couple little arguments between us. We’ll get better, but if we don’t help, their future will just die. Please, trust me.

LANE
“Little” arguments. “Little” hurt.

MAUREEN
Relatively speaking, honey. We’re not… you know.

LANE
Cheating on each other?

MAUREEN
Yeah.

LANE
Therefore any fight we have doesn’t matter?
Look, there’s only so much abuse the Rule can take before it becomes like one of those laws about spitting in public or riding donkeys on Sundays or adultery that’s technically still on the books but nobody enforces anymore. And then we just become like any other couple that lies and keeps things from each other. We never wanted that.

MAUREEN
Maybe it’s not that simple. We can make this work, if you just trust me, please. I swear we will not become like that kind of couple.

LANE
How can you swear that, if their marriage is your priority? How do I know you won’t just say “Lane will forgive me, so I’ll just keep this one thing from him, after all I wouldn’t want him blabbing to Sandra.”

MAUREEN
I can look out for my promise to you and my duty to them.
Please, I can do both.

LANE
I… respectfully disagree.

(LANE looks away and crosses his arms.)

MAUREEN
Honey…

LANE
Make your choice. Them or me.

MAUREEN
If I make the choice to go with helping them, what happens?

LANE
I’m not going to break up with you if that’s what you’re asking. But you’ll just have to live with knowing that… the Rule is dead. No more Rule.

MAUREEN
No. No no no.
We need the Rule. The Rule isn’t perfect, but the Rule is good. The Rule is us.

LANE
We can stay together without the Rule. We can even trust and love eachother and everything. Well, maybe not trust. I don’t know.
But the Rule can only stay on the books if it-  It, and us–  Are Priority One.
So pick. The Rule, or your crusade to save their marriage. One or the other.
And yes, I will trust you to keep your word if you pick the Rule. So just pick, and pick honestly.

MAUREEN
…You’d really just accept our best friends’ marriage breaking up.

LANE
It’s not like that.

MAUREEN
It’s what you’re saying.

LANE
No. I don’t think it’s over like that. They’ve weathered plenty together, they still love each other. It’s not some done deal. You’re picking between the Rule and your crusade, not the Rule and their marriage.

MAUREEN
No, I’m not. It’s over if we don’t… help… Please.

LANE
So it’s over if we don’t discard the Rule, you’re saying.

MAUREEN
Sometimes Rules are too rigid for the complexities of real live bleeding people. Can’t we just have a continuance, and the Rule will come back as soon as this is done?

LANE
You’re the one who invoked it earlier.

MAUREEN
Honey, please. Don’t make me pick. I can’t decide the fate of our friends’ marriage alone.

LANE
I’m telling you, it’s not like that.

MAUREEN
And I’m telling you it is.
Please. Look at me, and trust me. It is like that. If I go with the Rule, their marriage is done for. Please don’t make me pick.

(LANE looks away.)

LANE
Sorry.
Pick.

(Pause.)

MAUREEN
Are you sure?

LANE
Yes.

MAUREEN
You know I love you.

LANE
You know I love you too.

MAUREEN
Okay.
I pick the Rule.

(LANE breathes a sigh of relief.)

LANE
Thank you.

MAUREEN
Bryant kissed me.

(Pause.)

MAUREEN
Did you hear me?

LANE
He kissed you?

MAUREEN
I didn’t kiss back.
I didn’t want to believe it.

LANE
He… kissed you how?

MAUREEN
Like a meaningful kiss.
He has seen Ella a couple times. I think he wanted to test out how cheating felt. And then he waited outside of work, and I ran into him, and he invited me to the Indian place. He told me he’d always loved me, and he told me Sandra was nothing compared to me, and he complained about her- about her sex drive! – imagine that! – and he… he kissed me. Pulled me in and kissed me.

LANE
He… kissed you.

MAUREEN
I heard him breathe this little sigh of satisfaction, like he’d been waiting so long to do that, even if I didn’t even move my lips… he was just glad to come into contact with them…
I said, no. No, Bryant. Please, god, no.
And he… was not surprised. He said, “Well, I figured as much. See you later, ‘gator,” and he stood up, and paid, and left. He drove off. And I followed him, and he went to The Pines, and there was Ella, and I waited in reception like I said, and then I confronted him and said, “Not only did you just kiss me, but you’ve been cheating with Ella this whole time as some sort of backup in case I turned you down?”
And he said, “Well, yeah. I know you. Of course you were going to turn me down. I didn’t want to be left with nothing.”
And he said, “Please leave before Ella comes back.”

LANE
And you did, and you came home and had sex with me.

MAUREEN
I sublimate guilt into sex. Don’t complain.

LANE
I’m not. That’s not what I’m doing.
This is what I’m doing.

(LANE picks up a phone.)

(MAUREEN looks sad.)

LANE
What?

MAUREEN
No, go ahead.

LANE
I have to call.

MAUREEN
I know. I told you it was the end of their marriage for sure.

(They look at each other.)

MAUREEN
Unless you want to surprise me again, and not do it. Let it go.

LANE
The part you haven’t mentioned and don’t seem bothered by is that it’s also the end of our friendship with Bryant.

MAUREEN
Their marriage was more important to me.
Will you let it go? Surprise me?

(Pause.)

LANE
Sorry.

(LANE dials.)

MAUREEN
…It’s okay. I understand.
Which one are you calling?

LANE
Hello? Sandra? No, it’s Lane, on Maureen’s phone. We’re both here. Hold on a second.

(LANE puts it on speakerphone and sets it in front of her.)

LANE
We-

(MAUREEN interrupts him with a kiss. He kisses back. They kiss for a while.)

VOICE THROUGH THE PHONE
Uh hello? Guys?

LANE
Sorry.

MAUREEN
(I love you. I’m sorry.)

LANE
(I love you too.)
Sandra, darling.

VOICE OVER THE PHONE
Yeah?

LANE
Is Bryant there?

VOICE OVER THE PHONE
No, he’s out shopping for the thing tomorrow. Why, what’s up?

LANE
…We have something we need to tell you.

(End of play.)

writing time: about 3:00

Advertisements

One comment

  1. […] help each other out during an evacuation Came from a dream [not as vivid as Terminal Dream's] 21) Trust Balance – a couple in bed discuss their friends’ relationships and secrets Came from a request […]

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: