SANE REACTION

©2003 Lisa Morton

 

Lights come up, and two people walk onto the stage, both dressed nicely as if they just came from a party, both at that slightly-uncomfortable stage in a relationship when you've just met and are beginning to acknowledge a mutual attraction. ANNE is still jingling keys, indicating they've entered her apartment; JOHN is looking around, checking it out.

ANNE: ...it's a little messy. Oh, and I forgot to take the garbage out last night, so please excuse the - ah -

JOHN (laughing): It's okay, I can handle it. (He stops, looking around) Hey, this is really nice. What do you pay here - if you don't mind my asking.

ANNE: Seven-fifty, plus utilities.

JOHN (nodding): Not bad.

(JOHN looks around a moment longer, then turns to look directly at ANNE, smiling knowingly)

JOHN: Just like I pictured it.

ANNE: Really? I wouldn't have thought you'd had time to 'picture it'.

JOHN: Oh, it's a little game I play, you know, in my head. Whenever I meet someone new, I always try to figure out what their home's gonna look like. I'm usually right, too. With you I guessed loft apartment, floral prints and lots of refrigerator magnets.

ANNE: Yeah, well, you were wrong there. I only have one refrigerator magnet.

(A long beat follows, each of them standing on opposite sides of the stage, waiting to see who will make the first move. Finally:)

ANNE: How 'bout a drink?

JOHN: Sure. What've you got?

ANNE: Vodka?

JOHN: Stoli, I hope. No Absolut.

ANNE: Sorry, it's a generic brand.

(JOHN smiles at this and begins to saunter across the stage towards her, finally putting his arms around her, flirting, teasing. She returns the hold, but tentatively, pulling away from him slightly)

JOHN: Generic, huh?

ANNE: Um-hmm.

JOHN: Well, there's a bad habit I'll have to change.

ANNE: Oh, you will, will you?

JOHN: Uh-huh...

(He's leaning down, as if to kiss her, when she abruptly pulls away and heads off the stage, towards the unseen backstage)

ANNE: I'll get our drinks.

(She pauses to smile coyly at him before disappearing. JOHN grins to himself and takes a seat in a large, comfortable chair, still looking around)

JOHN (calling out loud, to be heard): So have you known Patrick long?

ANNE (from offstage): Patrick who?

JOHN (laughing): I guess that answers that question. You know, the guys who's birthday party we were at tonight.

ANNE (offstage, laughing): Oh, that Patrick. No...

(She appears again, holding two small glasses of clear liquid, one of which she passes to him. He examines the glass before drinking)

JOHN: Jelly glasses. I guessed that, too.

(Both laugh and sip the liquor, then)

JOHN: So, about Patrick...

ANNE: Oh, right. No, I went with a friend who knows him.

JOHN: And you abandoned your friend to leave with a stranger?

ANNE: My friend abandoned me first.

JOHN: Oh.

ANNE: What about you? How do you know Patrick?

JOHN: I work with him.

ANNE: Down at - where is it, again? 21st Century?

JOHN: Right. I like someone who pays attention.

(ANNE puts her drink down and sits suggestively on the arm of his chair, toying with his hair)

ANNE: What else do you like?

JOHN: Women who make a habit of picking up men they don't know at parties.

ANNE (laughing and pulling away): Oh, wait a minute, who said I 'make a habit' of this?

JOHN: Don't you?

ANNE: As a matter of fact, I've - (She giggles in slight embarrassment, then) Well, I've never done this before.

JOHN: You haven't?

ANNE: No. Usually I have to know someone for a long time before I - do this. Like my last boyfriend, Kenny. We saw each other nearly every day for a year at work before we ever went out.

JOHN: And what happened to Kenny?

ANNE (strangely suspicious): What do you mean?

JOHN: I mean, why'd you break up?

ANNE (relaxing): Oh. We'd been together long enough to know it wasn't working out.

JOHN: How long was that?

ANNE: Two weeks.

JOHN (laughs, then): You sound like you make up your mind fast.

ANNE: No sense in beating a dead horse, right?

JOHN: Especially when there are more interesting things...

ANNE: What about you? Is this your preferred method of meeting girls?

JOHN: Well, to tell you the truth - yes, it is.

ANNE (surprised): Really? At least you're honest. Kenny wasn't. Neither was Aaron.

JOHN: Aaron?

ANNE: The one before Kenny. I caught him with one of my best friends.

JOHN: Very nice.

(JOHN finishes his drink and sets the glass down)

ANNE: Can I get you another?

JOHN: Generic? Thanks, no.

(ANNE makes a face of mock outrage)

ANNE: What a critic! So much for hospitality.

(JOHN rises and puts his arms around her again. This time she doesn't strain against the hold as much)

JOHN: Why don't you show me some real hospitality?

ANNE: Real, huh? Okay...

(She reaches up and kisses him, tentatively, on the mouth. He pulls back first and smiles down at her)

JOHN: Now what would your mother say if she knew her little girl had picked up her first strange man at a party?

ANNE: She'd probably think it was about par for her strange little girl.

(ANNE tries to kiss him again, but he avoids her mouth and moves down her neck to one of her ears. She tilts her head back, eyes closed in pleasure)

JOHN: You have pierced ears.

ANNE (oblivious): Ummm...

JOHN: How old were you when you had it done?

ANNE (still enjoying the sensations): Uh - sixteen, I think. Why?

JOHN: Were you still a virgin?

(Now her eyes open in perplexity, although she doesn't pull back yet)

ANNE: What?

JOHN: Did it turn you on? You know, get you off?

(She pulls back now to look at him)

ANNE: No, of course not.

(JOHN fondles her earlobe as he speaks, fascinated)

JOHN: Too bad. It would have if I had done it for you. First I would have taken an ice cube, and rubbed it on the lobe, until it was numb and tingling. Then the needle, going in the soft flesh, slowly, twirling slightly. Then, when the needle was all the way through, the hole made, I would have put my mouth up to it and sucked the blood away.

(He inclines his head towards her ear, but she keeps him at arm's length)

ANNE: That's sick.

JOHN: How do you know, have you tried it that way? We could do it here, tonight... a lot of people have their ears pierced twice. Or we could do the tongue... or a nipple...

(Now she tries to push all the way back from him)

ANNE: Look, maybe you better go -

(But he doesn't release her, and she struggles in his arms)

JOHN: C'mon, I thought you wanted me.

ANNE: I did - I mean - you weren't like this at the party.

(She begins backing away from him, and he advances on her across the stage)

JOHN: You didn't get to know me very well at the party. (He's backed her into a corner) Did you?

(A beat, then she tries to run around him. But he catches her, and flings her roughly into the chair. She's on the verge of tears now, as he eyes her coolly, appraising, circling the chair)

JOHN: Why don't you just try to relax a little? You might actually enjoy it. (He begins to undress, removing jacket and tie first) The others did.

ANNE: The others - ?

JOHN: Yeah - all the other little girls from all the other parties. Oh, they screamed, even through their gags. (He bends down to caress her from behind, now) But it's so hard to tell a scream of pain from one of pleasure, isn't it?

ANNE: How many others?

JOHN (removing his shirt now): I don't know, I forget.

ANNE: You don't work with Patrick, do you?

JOHN (mocking her earlier response): Patrick who? Never met the man. I just saw all the cars out front, and thought I'd check out the action. (A beat, then) You've probably heard of me.

ANNE (confused): I don't think -

(JOHN slaps at a newspaper near the couch)

JOHN: Fuckin' papers - they're the one who gave me that name, "the Picasso Killer", but will they give me a headline? Shit. Still, it means they know me.

ANNE (frightened all over again, yet strangely fascinated, too): You're him...

JOHN: Yeah. See, you know me, too. And none of you are gonna forget me, either. It's not such a terrible name, I guess, because I am an artist at what I do. And because the way I left the third one, she looked like a Picasso painting. Not the Cubist period.

ANNE: They say you've killed - twelve times...

JOHN: But ya know what, little girl? That's just the ones they've found. The ones I wanted them to find.

ANNE: You wanted them to find... ?

JOHN: Of course. We all have to find some way of leaving our mark, don't we?

(JOHN reaches into the discarded jacket, and removes a small velvet pouch, tied with a wraparound sash. He removes the sash, and unfurls the pouch with a flourish, revealing a neat toolkit of various implements)

JOHN: Let's see, what shall we start with? (Seeing her look) Needles, skewers, knives, butane for brandings - oh, and rubbers. I believe in safe sex.

ANNE (starting to rise slowly): Look, why don't I go get us a couple more drinks, and we can -

(He pulls her back down into the chair)

JOHN: And go out to the kitchen where the phone is? I don't think so.

ANNE: So you think I'm just going to sit here and let you do this?

JOHN: Why not? The rest did. You'd be amazed. Oh, they'd struggle a little, scream - but they didn't really fight back. Like they'd been conditioned to recognize the superior force, and give in to it. Or like they really did get off.

ANNE: Maybe I'm not like all the rest.

(JOHN leers as he reaches into a pocket, and withdraws a pair of industrial rubber gloves, which he snaps on with a flourish)

JOHN: How do you know all the rest of them didn't say that at first?

(Now he reaches into the toolkit, and selects a large needle, only slightly smaller than a barbecue skewer)

JOHN: You're no different. When you feel the first prick - see the blood bead up, and trickle slowly down the needle - you'll scream, and try to fight me. Then I'll hit you, maybe knock out a few teeth, and after that you'll take whatever I give. (A beat, then) I think we'll start with this.

(As he advances on her, circling, we see Anne's mind furiously racing)

ANNE: You know, I think maybe this could be a turn-on... (She tries - badly - to flirt with him) What if we go slow, so we can both get into it -

JOHN: I've got another idea: Why don't you decide where we should start? (A beat, then) No? My choice, then...

(ANNE tenses as he bends over her, the needle tip approaching the skin of her neck - and he hesitates. He blinks, shakes his head, tries again - and actually staggers back this time, unsteady, head weaving)

JOHN: What's happening... ?

(Anne's tension seems to drain instantly, as she rises from the chair and picks up his drink glass)

ANNE: About fucking time. I've gotta find something that'll work faster from now on.

JOHN (staggering): The drink... ?!

ANNE: Yeah, asshole, a muscle relaxant, they use it mainly on horses. A veterinarian friend of mine got it for me. She thinks I get off on it. She's not so far off the mark.

(He drops the needle from nerveless fingers, and she catches it easily, stepping up close to him)

ANNE: It's perfect. See, it'll leave you conscious - even feeling pain - but you just won't be able to move. You probably just thought that weird taste was because of the generic vodka, I'll bet.

(He lunges at her clumsily, and she sidesteps easily, laughing at him as falls to his knees, trying to shake his head clear)

JOHN: Don't... don't fuck with me, bitch...

ANNE (laughing): Oh, stop. Don't you want to know how I knew about you? Huh? (He looks up at her, confirming the question) This is the best part - I didn't. We're just - strangers in the night.

(He falls back in shock, leaning against the chair, blearily looking up at her)

JOHN: You mean...

ANNE: That's right, I gave you the drink before you tried anything, didn't I? Maybe that's because - I'm just like you, and neither of us knew it. No, wait a minute - I'm not like you, because I would never be so deluded as to think you might get off on what I'm gonna do to you. You really believe that, don't you?

JOHN: What - what are you gonna do... ?

ANNE (ignoring him): And you're all the same, too. You think women actually enjoy being subjected to your sweat and your ramming and your cum. The truth is that you're only necessary to propagate the species. When we can do that without you... we will, believe me.

JOHN (ragged, desperate): WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO?!

(As Anne speaks, she kneels down and peels off one of the gloves to place it on her own hand, smoothing it on suggestively)

ANNE: Maybe I'll give you a taste... (A beat, then) Look at it this way: It takes most couples ten, twenty years to find out the truth about each other. But we already know the truth, don't we? That there's no such thing any more as safe sex. And there are worse ways to die - much worse ways - than from some disease.

(Anne picks up the velvet tool pouch, examining the implements with obvious interest)

ANNE (admiringly, to herself): You sick bastard. (then, to him) I'd use my own, but I'd have to go back out into the kitchen, and I'd rather not, with Kenny there and all.

JOHN: Kenny... ?

ANNE: Yeah. That smell? Kenny. All six pieces of him. (She remembers and giggles) Make that seven. And I'll tell you something else, sweetheart: They'll never catch me, because I don't want a headline. I just wanna pay you back and then get rid of you. Every one of you. And look what I got this time out! How lucky can a little girl be? Let's see - what shall we start with?

(She kneels down, straddling him, her back to us, and he begins to scream. Lights out)

 

CURTAIN