The room is completely dark, and you can hear someone moaning, as if they have a splitting headache. A light switches on, a bright lamp light on a table, illuminating BRIAN sitting in a chair, ropes around him, who looks as if he’s in pain. Also on the table is a glass of water, and a cheap chess set. Two chairs surround the table. KATIE is obscured in darkness. BRIAN winces at the brightness, then tries to get his bearings. KATIE is dressed in back robes.
BRIAN: Where am I?
KATIE: I will be asking all the questions, thank you very much.
BRIAN: Who are you?
KATIE takes a plushie and smacks BRIAN across the face.
KATIE: I said I’m asking all the questions!
BRIAN: What the…Katie? Is that you?
KATIE smacks BRIAN across the face with the plushie again.
BRIAN: Look Katie, I’m really not into this kind of stuff –
KATIE slaps BRIAN a third time with the plushie. Ouch.
KATIE: What word do you not understand in “I’m asking all the questions?” This is an interrogation! And! (her voice drops low dangerously) You’re going to tell me everything I want to know. Or else.
BRIAN: Or else what?
KATIE: No affection for a week.
BRIAN (incredulously): What?
KATIE: Silence! Now, where were you last night?
BRIAN: Last night? Um, out. With some friends.
KATIE (slamming her hands on the table): You were supposed to call! Why didn’t you call?
BRIAN: I forgot! It was late!
KATIE: Where did you go?
BRIAN: To Jamie’s apartment. With some friends.
KATIE: Which friends?
BRIAN: Steve, Kevin. Jamie. Robert was there for a little bit.
KATIE: Who’s Jamie?
BRIAN: He’s a guy at work. You haven’t met him yet – wait, what is this all about?
KATIE smacks BRIAN in the face with the plushie.
KATIE: You’ll regret asking another question. Just answer mine! Now! Who is Jamie?
BRIAN: He’s just a friend! Not even a friend, really! He’s just this guy I work with in the office!
KATIE: She’s not a girl?
BRIAN: Jamie? Oh, no no no. He could probably eat steel for breakfast. I wouldn’t call him a girl, ever. Nah, he works in IT. We went out to play some games after work.
KATIE: And there were no girls?
BRIAN: Well, there were girls at the apartment, but if you mean with us, no.
KATIE: None whatsoever?
BRIAN: No. What is going on here?
KATIE tries to smother BRIAN with the obnoxiously adorable plushie.
BRIAN (speaking through the plushie): Is this supposed to like, scare me or something? Because I can still breathe.
KATIE: So…not gonna talk, huh? Well, we have ways. Ohhh, we have ways. Maybe we can hang you upside down until you beg for mercy. Or maybe set my dog loose on you after bathing you in steak sauce. Of course, we could just do it the old fashioned way and throw you on the rack. Well, if we had one. Though…water boarding has been pretty popular today.
BRIAN: Whoa, whoa, whoa, hey! I’m not a terrorist or anything! Ok, so I didn’t call you! I’m sorry!
KATIE: Well, you won’t give me the information I need –
BRIAN: You mean you want.
KATIE: That I need so we need to find a way to make you talk.
BRIAN: I have been talking!
KATIE: You haven’t been telling me the whole story though.
BRIAN thinks really hard.
BRIAN (shouting): Help! My name is Brian McAllister! I’m 23 years old and I’m being held captive against my will! Help! Help!
KATIE walks over to the table, picks up a glass of water and splashes BRIAN in the face. BRIAN sputters for a bit.
KATIE: Feel like screaming for help now, huh? Or do you feel like talking?
BRIAN: Was that…was that supposed to be the water boarding?
BRIAN starts to genuinely chuckle.
BRIAN: You’re just not meant to be an interrogator, Katie. Cut this out and let me go.
KATIE: Fine! Not cooperating? Then the prosecution calls Brian McAllister to the stand.
The lights illuminate the stage, and a JUDGE walks over to the table, holding documents, a cellphone in a plastic bag, and a gavel. KATIE removes her black robe to reveal a sharp business suit underneath. She walks over to the table, and the JUDGE hands over to her the manila folder with documents.
JUDGE (motioning to a chair next to the table): Well, Mr. McAllister? Have a seat?
BRIAN is silent for a bit.
BRIAN: I’m kinda tied up here at the moment. I can’t really come up to the stand.
KATIE: Oh, right.
She unties BRIAN, who walks tentatively up to the stand and sits in the chair.
BRIAN: So I’m on trial here? What, are you judging me?
KATIE: No, she’s judging you. (Points to the judge).
KATIE: Now, Mr. McAllister, where were you at 11:47 Post Meridian Time, Eastern Standard, last night, which was the Friday the 16th of February?
BRIAN: At Jamie’s apartment.
KATIE: And where is that?
BRIAN: Off of Fifth and Main.
KATIE: I see, and were there any girls involved?
BRIAN: Wait, do I get a lawyer?
BRIAN: On what grounds?
JUDGE: Objection sustained. Continue, please.
BRIAN: Wait a second. This is hardly fair-
JUDGE: I suggest you sit in your seat and answer the questions, Mr. McAllister. You’re in enough trouble as is.
KATIE: So, any girls involved last night?
KATIE: Then how do you explain…this? (Out of the folder she produces the cellphone in a plastic bag.) The prosecution would like to present Exhibit A. Here’s a cellphone. This is yours, I presume.
KATIE: And do you recall a certain message from a certain Cindy Matthews, who most certainly sounds female – and we can confirm it once the lab processes this – left on your voicemail at 2:45 Ante Meridian Eastern Standard Time telling you that you can spend the night at her place after she picks you up from Jamie’s because you are obviously too tired to self-propel yourself back home?
The “courtroom” is awkwardly silent.
BRIAN: You don’t understand.
KATIE: I think the prosecution perfectly understands! You were cheating on my client, Katie Green, with this Cindy! You did stay overnight at her place, did you not?
BRIAN: Well, yes, but –
KATIE: And did she not pick you up for the night?
BRIAN: Well, she did, but –
JUDGE: This is all damning evidence, Mr. McAllister. How do you explain this?
BRIAN: Cindy…well, she’s my sister.
KATIE: Cindy is your sister?
BRIAN: Yeah, married to Francis Matthews, who despite marrying our sister the rest of the family is pretty sure is gay but has no idea of finding out. That Francis.
KATIE: How come you didn’t tell me, er, the prosecution about this?
BRIAN: It never came up.
KATIE: But we’ve been dating for three months!
BRIAN: But did your client, Katie Green, ever explicitly ask me to tell her about the family?
KATIE: Well…I, no, not that I can think of –
BRIAN: Then how do you expect your client to know this information if she never asks?
KATIE: Well, you can’t just…hey! You can’t cross-examine the examiner!
JUDGE: Oh no, I’m interested to see where this goes.
KATIE: Wait! Wait! What about the time you said – (Her speaking dissolves into another language.)
KATIE poses the question she just asked in the foreign language again.
BRIAN: I can’t understand you.
KATIE sighs, then claps her hands twice. The JUDGE leaves off stage, and the TRANSLATOR comes out, and translates for KATIE.
TRANSLATOR (Eastern European accent): She wants know about time you said you two were in serious girl-boy relationship.
BRIAN: Huh? I mean, yeah, we’re in a serious relationship – I think – but that doesn’t mean I just divulge my entire family tree to you out of nowhere.
The TRANSLATOR translates to KATIE, who grows angry and fires back in rapid foreign language.
TRANSLATOR: She wishes know what you mean when you say serious.
BRIAN: I don’t know. Look it up in the dictionary.
The TRANSLATOR begins to translate.
BRIAN: Don’t translate that! Look, when we’re serious it means we’re not seeing anyone else – which I didn’t last night, I would add. But it doesn’t mean we’re going to be marrying anytime soon.
The TRANSLATOR translates. KATIE’s eyes go wide and she fires off a rapid procession of phrases that do not sound pleasant.
TRANSLATOR: She says now not time for marriage proposal, you uncouth, smelly yak. But I think, how you say, “way to go”?
BRIAN: I didn’t propose to her! I said specifically that it’s not like we’re going to get married.
TRANSLATOR: Sorry, your meaning was lost in Bill Murray movie.
The TRANSLATOR translates once more. KATIE gets even angrier.
BRIAN: This is ridiculous! Katie! Stop this! Just listen for once!
KATIE looks sternly at BRIAN for a moment, then nods at the TRANSLATOR, who walks respectfully of stage. She walks behind the table and pulls out a cheap chess set. She opens it and begins to set it up.
KATIE: So, you wanted to talk to me about something? Well, go ahead then, Brian. Talk. I’m listening.
BRIAN instinctively and naturally pulls the chair over, helps set up the board.
BRIAN: Well, why do you always do this?
BRIAN moves a pawn dramatically two spaces.
KATIE: King’s Gambit? Risky. And do what?
KATIE moves a pawn in counter of his pawn movement.
BRIAN: You know, this. You’re always misunderstanding what I’m saying, asking all these questions, judging me. Why do you keep doing this?
BRIAN moves a piece accordingly.
KATIE: Oh, of course. It’s all my fault then.
KATIE moves a piece forward.
BRIAN: That’s not what I said! (A piece is moved.)
KATIE: Then what is it? (Moves a piece.)
BRIAN: You keep putting words in my mouth! (Moves another piece.)
KATIE: No I don’t. (Moves another piece.)
BRIAN: No, seriously! I could just not talk at all, just stand here with my arms crossed and mouth zipped and you could still have an entire conversation without me where you accuse, convict and execute me in your mind for things that I didn’t actually say! (Moves another piece.)
KATIE: My, you just come out of the starting box with your arms flailing. But you’ve left yourself defenseless. Check. (She moves a piece that threatens BRIAN’s king.)
BRIAN: Katie, I’m trying to be serious.
KATIE: Oh, you’re being serious? All this time, you say I’m too serious and now you want to be the serious one? Fine, be the serious one. Move.
BRIAN: This is exactly what I mean! You’re always belittling me, and you treat me like a kid, like you’re my mom or something! It’s driving me crazy!
KATIE: You haven’t moved yet.
BRIAN: Oh, right. Sorry.
He moves a piece. KATIE promptly captures it with one of her own.
KATIE: You’re really playing sloppy today. Are you even trying?
BRIAN: This isn’t a game.
He moves another piece.
KATIE: You’ve always treated this relationship like one before.
KATIE moves a piece.
BRIAN: Like when?
He moves another piece. KATIE captures this one too.
KATIE: Like the time you totally blew me off for your friends’ concert thing. If you were taking this relationship seriously you would take the time and sacrifice to make it work and be with me.
BRIAN: But I invited you. I told you how important it was to me. And you decided to stay at home instead of helping me support a friend and contributing to the relationship. You just wanted me to do all the work and pamper you.
BRIAN takes a piece. KATIE is shocked, but regains composure.
KATIE: What about the time you didn’t care that Rachel got the promotion over me because she’s probably sleeping with the boss?
KATIE moves her piece foward, but BRIAN takes it with another piece.
BRIAN: It’s not that I didn’t care, I told you that Rachel had been at the company longer than you and that you don’t have any proof whatsoever that she’s sleeping with your boss. I tried to tell you that and you didn’t listen. You just told me that I’d probably sleep with her too and didn’t talk to me for a week.
KATIE angrily captures a piece.
KATIE: What about the one time that you told your friends that I was a horrible –
BRIAN: Ok, fine. That wasn’t right.
BRIAN moves a piece. KATIE captures it.
KATIE: Or the time that you told me that I was too controlling?
BRIAN: Well, you kind of are. But…if you wanted someone perfect, you don’t have to date me. I’m not perfect. But I was trying. I guess I still am kind of trying. I mean, I like you. I like being with you. Yeah, sometimes you’re crazy but who isn’t crazy? I’d like to stay with you but you make it difficult sometimes. It’s like you’re trying to find reasons to break up with me. But I still like you.
BRIAN moves a piece. KATIE stares at it.
KATIE: That’s a checkmate.
KATIE: You won.
BRIAN: I know. I guess I don’t feel like keeping score anymore. Are we done yet?
BRIAN Stands up and turns to walk away.
BRIAN stops then turns to KATIE, waiting.
KATIE: Did it ever occur to you that my obfuscation of what I’m saying and distorting whatever you’re saying perhaps belies the fact that I’m afraid of getting hurt or that you will leave me because you will be disappointed with who I really am and thus I must always have to win the argument, even if it’s through twisting your own arguments against you so that I’m always in the right and can’t be legitimately rejected by you without you looking like a jerk?
BRIAN: I…you do all that?
KATIE (surprised at what she just said): Yes.
BRIAN: I…you’re complicated.
KATIE: Well, you are too.
BRIAN: I can’t be complicated, I’m a guy.
KATIE: Then…how do you explain how you act?
BRIAN: Easy. I’m always vague with my answers so that I can never be pinned down for anything I say because I fear being committed to someone but myself and get angry and defensive when someone accuses me otherwise because deep down inside I know I’m emotionally mistreating you and I care about you and know that you deserve better than how I’ve been in the past.
BRIAN: Wait! I don’t do that! Well…maybe a little. What’s going on?
KATIE: What do you mean?
BRIAN: Say something.
KATIE: Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that we may be two completely different human beings who have different thinking processes and so we may communicate in ways that are sometimes incompatible.
KATIE clamps her hands over her mouth.
BRIAN (pacing in circles): I know! I mean, my parents got divorced and so marriage scares the crap out of me but I really like you and I want us to work and you’re the best I ever had so far and I wonder if it’ll ever get any better than this or if it’ll ever last and I don’t want to sabotage it early on or make it go faster than it should and thus I make you do all the work in progressing our relationship to the next level.
BRIAN pauses and looks disturbed.
BRIAN: I…why are we talking like this?
KATIE: I think we’re finally talking.
BRIAN: We have been talking. This whole time.
KATIE: Like, really talking. Talking-talking.
BRIAN: You mean, honest to goodness communication? No smoke and mirrors? No tactics or traps? No games? Just talking?
KATIE: Yeah. Scary isn’t it?
BRIAN: I don’t know.
BRIAN and KATIE look at each other awkwardly. They don’t say anything for a bit, afraid of what will come out.
BRIAN: I don’t know if I like this. I’m afraid that if you reject me after I’ve opened myself up to you it will hurt so badly that I will never recover and –
BRIAN stops mid-sentence, then sighs.
KATIE: Yeah. I know exactly what you mean! I feel so vulnerable sometimes when I open myself up to you emotionally and oh my goodness Katie stop it!
BRIAN: Yeah I…I’m gonna stop talking before I say anything more.
KATIE: Me too.
KATIE and BRIAN look at the ground nervously and awkwardly. Finally BRIAN looks up.
BRIAN: Wanna catch a movie? That way we can avoid communicating effectively but still spend time together so that we can grow comfortable around each other’s physical presences.
Fade to black.