MERIL and JEAN sit in a forest behind JEAN’s parents’ house in Northern California. It’s late fall, early winter. It’s starting to get really cold. MERIL is pouring a small bottle of whiskey into a mug of tea, and JEAN clutches a thermos, a blanket around her shoulders. There’s a pile of towels in front of them stained with something dark.
They’re both 17.
It’s fucking freezing
should you be—
(glancing at JEAN)
maybe you shouldn’t be out here
I want to be
we can go in in a minute
the hospital, you think?
just to—to check
I told you, I feel fine
it just looked like a lot but I’m fine
A pause. A weird pause. Another weird pause. MERIL talks just to be talking.
All summer, you’re like—it’ll feel like this forever
and then you wake up and your nose is all crusty and your throat is all dry
Will seasons ever not be a marvel to me? like a total marvel
they happen all the time
In fact, they happen every year
I’m so cold
I’m so cold
Do you want one of my gloves?
She slips one glove off and holds it out to MERIL, who doesn’t take it.
What about you?
I’ll keep one, and I’ll put the other hand in my pocket
plus I have this
(indicating the thermos)
it’s keeping me warm
(shaking her head)
No, it’s my own fault
I didn’t prepare well
I didn’t wear my big coat
I hadn’t admitted it yet
It’s my fault
I deserve to be punished
You didn’t prepare well
It’s your fault
You deserve to be punished
MERIL gives JEAN a look.
See how mean it sounds when I say it?
You shouldn’t be so cruel to yourself
Everyone’s cruel to themselves
everyone worth something is cruel to themselves
JEAN shakes her head slowly.
That’s where you’re wrong
that’s what they want us to think
they want us to feel so ashamed
that we’re surprised when someone’s kind to us
that we’ll fall head over heels for the first person who writes us some bad poetry
Who’s / they?
I wish I had been born a man
I don’t mean I believe I am a man, but I wish I was born one.
I wish I was a trucker, a cross-country trucker.
I would burp in my truck as much as I wanted
I would sweat through my T-shirts and grab my junk whenever I wanted
I’d sing along to . . . Bon Jovi and I’d spit out the window
I’d jack off in traffic, just to pass the time
I’ve done that
If the traffic was really bad
(beat, looking at JEAN)
Do you want to talk about it?
(gaining a bit of confidence)
Maybe it would be good just to go to the hospital
just to make sure everything’s . . .
it looked pretty bad, Jean
just to have them make sure you’re OK
I feel totally fine
I’d know, wouldn’t I?
I don’t know—they’re doctors
that’s their job
I can’t, anyway
they’ll ask me what happened and I’ll have to tell them and then they’ll tell my parents
Maybe they wouldn’t
if you asked them not to
I’m seventeen, Mer
that’s the law
I’m on their insurance
so even just going there—they’d get a bill and . . .
Even so, your parents would understand
They can say all sorts of things, it’s another thing not to flip out that your daughter got pregnant, didn’t tell you, then had a quick ugly miscarriage in the bathtub
They both stay quiet for a while.
Well, if you start feeling dizzy or
I mean, if you feel sick
just tell me and we’ll go
I’m not going
So stop fucking hassling me about it
MERIL scoots back, hurt.
You really fucking scared me, you know
Well, I didn’t know you were coming over
I’m glad I did
Well you should text me
if you’re gonna just drop by
(looking at her, weirdly)
Since when have I
I’ve never done that
I didn’t think
I didn’t expect to find you—bloody, in a bathtub
Don’t be so dramatic
J, I’m not
you were crying, bloody, in your bathtub
I didn’t know what to think
(shaking her head)
it’s a good thing I came over
you could’ve died
I wasn’t gonna die
it was a miscarriage
I was pregnant, now I’m not
it’s a good thing, honestly
She sips her thermos.
I knew I was gonna do it
I didn’t consider should I or shouldn’t I, I just did it
I feel like I’m always doing that
making decisions like they’re not decisions
MERIL pulls something out of her pocket. It’s a bright orange sticker that says HEAVY in black writing.
I got this on a package today
it reminded me of you
She puts the sticker on JEAN’s forehead. JEAN touches it.
Are we gonna go to Winter Fest this year?
We always go to Winter Fest
Why wouldn’t we go to Winter Fest?
I don’t know
sometimes it feels like everything’s changed
like I woke up in a new world where all the small details have changed
and they’re still changing
so small no one notices
but I notice
We’ll go to Winter Fest
We’ll make Kevin stop the Ferris wheel forever when we’re at the top
so we feel like we’re sitting in the air
sitting on top of everything
JEAN stares off into space. MERIL drinks straight from the whiskey bottle and grimaces.
How come you didn’t tell me?
I thought we were gonna
that was the deal
when we lost it
you were supposed to call me right away
I don’t know
I always thought it would be me first, honestly
Guess I’ve gotta hurry up
Hurry up and “lose” it
get it lost
What was it like
Why didn’t you use a condom
JEAN leans back, putting the blanket over her head. Then she sighs and sits up.
I don’t know
I thought about it but he told me he never used one
I think he just assumed I was on birth control
So what was it like
JEAN looks up awhile, thinking. Then, MIKA wanders out. He’s in his twenties, dirty, handsome. He doesn’t exist for the girls, and they don’t exist for him, yet.
I drove up to his place in Arcata
parked too far
walked in my shoes, those blue ones that are too small
the ones we got on Fourth Street at the vintage shops
I love those
you should give those to me
He tasted like blood when we kissed
he said he had just cut his mouth on a beer bottle
. . .
. . .
I got a wax before
my first one ever
from those ladies at Happy Nails
they took me in the back, I felt so weird and—
it was like I was saying before
it didn’t even feel like me doing it
just something that was happening to my body
and I was just going along with it
All of it?
I was just gonna do the sides
but then she was doing it and she asked and I figured I’m already here, I might as well just get it all off
Did it hurt?
yeah of course it fucking
oh, god and the—inside part
it hurts worse than
then—he tells me—he says
“it’s so smooth”
and I’m happy, right?
but then he says—it’s like you’re seven years old
why’d you do that
why’d you do that to yourself
“I feel weird enough making love to someone so young”
MERIL shakes her head.
He said “making love” . . . ?
that’s so gross
I did it cuz—
I mean, the girls he’s with
I figured they all do it
I didn’t want him—worse than him saying anything to me
was thinking about him telling people, telling his friends I was gross
You’re not gross
but it’s OK
So are you guys like—
what’s the deal no
I don’t know
I don’t know
he’s still with
let’s play a game
let’s play “What If”
you want me to go first?
Hm. OK. Hm.
What if . . . what if
Mika drove down here
and he knocked on your door
and you’re about to go to ballet
so you have your outfit on
You’re about to go to ballet
and he says . . .
“get in my car
let’s just—let’s drive away from here
I broke up with Keila
I’m all yours
let’s just drive
until the gas runs out
until the windshield freezes over
and then we’ll get on a plane
it’ll be dawn on the onramp
we’ll just get out of here”
. . .
what would you do?
JEAN smiles. She doesn’t talk for a while.
In my dream where I’m a trucker, I never see a dentist
my teeth are yellow with little purple-gray plaque stains
and when I eat garlic, I can taste it for days
My undershirt is encrusted with yellow sweat stains, I sweat so much
I hold my dirty shirts out the window to dry in the wind
You can be a trucker
if you want
(after a beat)
We’re gonna set fire to these towels
to hide the evidence
and for—for remembering
even though it wasn’t anything
but it came from me, so
I just wanna say, bye
(the whiskey is showing a bit, she waves)
JEAN stretches out.
I wonder if
you know I read this thing
about having a daughter
like—what will we say to our daughters?
you are being born into a world that hates you
a world that gives you less
because you weren’t raised to ask for more
(after a moment, shrugging, casual)
You’ll say—I’ll love you
you were born into a world where I love you
and you’ll make beautiful things
and we’ll make them together
and I’ll protect you
and you’ll protect yourself
we’ll do that protecting, together
JEAN nods a few times and then takes a lighter out. She flicks it on and off a few times.
(undercutting the emotion of this line, though she feels it)
What if I can’t have kids now
MERIL glances at her so quick it’s almost imperceptible. Fear crosses her face, just momentarily.
JEAN looks at the ground and pulls a bit of frosted grass out. She holds the clump in her hands. She looks at it while she speaks to MERIL, who stares at her.
I love you so much
You can’t ever decide you’re not my best friend anymore
you can’t wake up one day and decide you have other things to do
or that you’re too in love for me
Even if I wanted to do that—
I could never do that
They look at each other for a moment. JEAN holds out the lighter.
MERIL nods, takes the lighter. She flicks it on after a few tries and then sets the towels on fire. A small flame starts. A bigger one emerges. It’s totally engulfed. The two of them watch as it grows and recedes, like the ocean or a forest fire.
MIKA walks toward it, speaking into space.
I made a painting. A painting of a lake at dusk. I set the edges of the painting on fire, so that they would look black and crumpled. I dipped the edges in gasoline and let the fire consume the sides before extinguishing it. I picked my nose and rubbed it into the little trees, making them greener. I hacked up a bunch of phlegm and spread it on the grass. I smeared my own shit on the painting, making storm clouds. I pissed on the painting, and the sunset was beautiful.
He takes one last drag and flicks the remainder of his cigarette into the fire. The fire swallows him up. The girls don’t notice, drink their drinks, laugh.
Then they watch until everything turns black, like ash.