One Tennis Shoe

by Φ

Adapted from An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein

HE.  This is not going to be easy to say.
SHE.  Try.
H.  It’s not an easy subject to discuss.
S.  What is it?
H.  Well okay… okay.

WAITER.  Can I get you anything else?
H.   No. No thank you.
W. Very good.

S.  What? What? Are you sick? Are you…?
H.  I’m fine.
S.  You’re having an affair… You’re in love with somebody else…
H.   No, I’m fine… I love you…
S.  Well, then what?
H.   I can’t… say it…
S.  Then don’t even say it… I want another espresso…
H.   I’ve got to say it… I’m going to say it… you… are… becoming… a…
S.  Yes… yes… what…? I’m becoming a what? I’m becoming a nag? I’m becoming a bore? What?
H.   Worse.
S.  Nothing’s worse than a bore. Honey, what? What I am becoming?
H.   You… are becoming a… you’re turning into a… a… a bag lady.
S.  A bag lady.

H.   Yes. [sigh of relief] Phew… That’s the hardest thing I’ll ever have to say.
S.  I’m turning into a bag lady.
H.   Yes, I’m afraid you are, darling.
S.  I assume you mean one of those crazy old raggy ladies who pick things out of the garbage & carry all their clothes in shopping bags & have lice in their hair & talk to themselves… I assume we’re talking about the same ladies.
H.   I didn’t say you have lice in your hair.
S.  But you did say I was a bag lady.
H.   I said “turning into,” …not “was.”
S.  Turning into a bag lady… Well, that’s basically like turning into a modern day werewolf… in poverty. Isn’t it? You’re saying I’m a monster. Untouchable. Dangerous.
H.   That’s not analogous at all. I never said that; you did; it’s a straw-man argument. Don’t put words in my mouth. Please, honey, I’m just trying to…
S.  You’re trying to tell me I’m a bag lady.
H.   Well! [composes himself] It’s been evident for sometime, yes. You’ve been showing… symptoms for a while.
S.  Symptoms.
H.   Signs. Indications. Yes, symptoms. Manifestations…
S.  Of becoming a bag lady.
H.   Yes.
S.  There’s no chance that you could be mistaken. You’re sure.
H.   I wish I was! Mistaken… I would rather be wrong.
S.  Well, I think I’d like a 2nd opinion.
H.   I’m serious about this.
S.  Honey, look at me. Tell me… look at me… Harvey, wouldn’t you say I was a little too young to be a bag lady? Maybe a little too old for prom queen… But certainly too young to be an old bag lady?
H.   You think old bag ladies started out as old bag ladies? They started out as young women, & then…
S.  And then they went to a wild party & somebody slipped them a shopping bag full of recycled cans & it was all over.
H.   I’m trying to make you understand.
S.  That I am a bag lady. Because I am carrying currently a singular shopping bag. A Bloomingdale’s shopping bag. That makes me a bag lady? You’re such a shmuck.

H.   It’s not because of carrying a shopping bag. It’s because of what’s in the bag.
S.  What’s in the bag?
H.   Good question!
S.  Ok. I’m sorry if the contents of my bag don’t meet your standards! From now on I’ll only carry a tote with Gucci shoes & a few loose diamonds at the bottom. How’s that?
H.   I’m not talking about ‘status’.
S.  You’re talking about bagladydom! The lowest of the low!
H.  I’m telling you…
S.  You’re telling me what to carry in my bag.
H.   No! I’m telling you what not to carry.
S.  [pause] What not to carry. Ok. What should I not carry, Harvey? What should I not carry so that you will not think I’m a bag lady? Tell me & I’ll stop carrying it. Tell me, please.

H.   A sweater.
S.  A sweater.
H.   And a plastic raincoat.
S.  A sweater & a plastic raincoat, make me a bag lady.
H.   And the tennis shoe. Right on top there.
S.  Ok. So a raincoat, sweater & tennis shoes make me a…
H.   Tennis shoe… shoe singular… one shoe.
S.  One shoe makes me a bag lady.
H.   What are you carrying one tennis shoe around in your bag?
S.  [sarcasm] I’m taking it down to the Bowery… to meet my wino lover… my one-legged, drunk, homeless fiancee. I’m sorry you had to find out this way.

H.   Ok. Seriously. [pause; smug] May I inquire, instead then, about the picture frame?
S.  You may not. [terse pause; exchange looks; sighs] Ugh… What about it?
H.   It’s your picture frame. You tell me about it.
S.  It’s a picture frame. Beloved wood, probably pine, well-varnished… maybe nine by twelve…
H.  Why the picture frame?
S.  How about to hang a picture with?
H.  Why did you pick it up? Out of a garbage can? That’s what I…
S.  Not out of the garbage. It was next to the can, leaning against the can; not even touching the garbage.
H.  Why did you pick it up a picture frame leaning against a garbage can?
S.  Well, how can I hang a picture in it if I didn’t pick it up?
H. Why didn’t you buy a frame?
S.  Why buy a frame? This is a perfectly good frame.
H.  That somebody threw away.
S.  It would seem so. Yes.
H.  And the couch cushion… Was it leaning against the trash too?
S.  This is a perfectly good couch cushion! In a blue floral pattern it’d be so…
H.  And the magazines? All those magazines…
S.  Why are you attacking me like this? What’s really bothering you?
H.  This! This is what’s really bothering me. What could bother a man more than seeing his girlfriend collecting picture frames & one old shoe & a couch cushion… for fucks sake! A couch cushion…?!

S.  Well, don’t forget the grapes while you’re at it.
H.  [pause; deadpan] You have… grapes… in there? …right now?
S.  I have everything in here. I’m a bag lady, aren’t I?
H.  You are a bag lady! You just told me you have fucking grapes & a couch cushion in the same bag! Like that’s totally normal behavior! It is NOT normal. You ARE a bag lady.
S.  Oh so a few minutes ago I was becoming a bag lady… Now I am a bag lady?
H.  A few minutes ago I didn’t know about the grapes. [pause; nods] Wow. Grapes
S.  The grapes, of all things, make me a bag lady. I like a snack…
H.  The grapes and the raincoat and the tennis shoe…
S.  Stop harping on the shoe, OK! If the tennis shoe offends you so much I’ll get rid of it! [throws it] There. All right?
H.  And the rest of the stuff?
S.  You want me to throw it all away? [pause; exchange looks] Fine. I will. I can just leave the whole bag here. Let’s pay for lunch & I’ll leave my whole bag with all my stuff right here & walk away. Maybe somebody else can use it.
H.  No one else will use it. They won’t even think it…
S.  Ok! I already said I’m leaving it.
H.  Great.

S.  Except for the picture frame.
H.  That’s it… That’s what I…
S.  We can leave the rest here! I just want the…
H.  Sylvia, how can you not see what’s happening to you?
S.  What is happening to me is you… You are attacking me.
H.  I’m trying to reach you. I’m trying to bring you back to reality. You’re hoarding. I’m trying to make you see what you’re doing.
S.  I’m not doing anything. I just found a nice little picture frame I wanted to use & you turn it into a huge…
H.  Honey, we can stop this now, together. It’s we’re aware of it we can nip it in the bud.
S.  I don’t see what needs nipping in the butt.
H.  Not what I said. Hey. Really though. Will you do me a favor? One favor.
S.  What.
H.  Open your purse.
S.  Why.
H.  As a favor, to me. As a whim.
S.  Why should I cater to your whims?
H.  It’s a favor. Please. Will you open your purse for me?
S.  You think there’s another tennis shoe in my purse?
H.  I wish! No. I don’t. Just. Can you? Can you open your purse & just… look in it.
S.  No.
H.  Will you allow me to look in…
S.  A woman’s bag… purse… is a personal space.
H.  I’m going to open this purse.

HE grabs it. SHE purses her lips, folds her arms. He opens purse. Looks away. Then at her. He opens the purse at her.

  H.  Look. Please look at this purse. What do you see? What? What do you see, in your purse? [SHE mumbles] What?! [S mumbles even lower] Speak up. Tell me what we can both see in your purse.
S.  Oatmeal! It’s obviously oatmeal, OK?!
H.  Oatmeal.
S.  Yes. Are you happy now? Are you satisfied, you sadistic fuck? So I have some oatmeal.
H.  Cooked oatmeal.
S.  Yeah. Cooked oatmeal.  Cold, cooked oatmeal. You knew that oatmeal was in there, you asshole. You know it.
H.  I want you to know it. I needed you to see it.
S.  I see it! I’ve seen it!
H.  Now. Why? Why is your purse filled, filled to the brim with old cold wet cooked oatmeal. Who does this? Look at this.
S.  I see it’s fell with leftover oatmeal.
H.  Why?
S.  Harvey, I…
H. [gently] Why Sylvia, why?
S.  I don’t know.
H.  Do you want a purse full of oatmeal?
S.  No.
H.  Does any woman want a purse full of cold oatmeal? Does anybody need that?
S.  No.
H.  Do you need it?
S.  No, I don’t think so.
H.  You don’t think so?
S.  No! Ok. I know. I don’t need it.
H.  Then why is it there, Sylvia?
S.  I… don’t remember.
H.  It’s there because you put it there.
S.  I’m so embarrassed.
H.  All right. So you put it there. Didn’t you?
S.  I suppose so, yeah.
H.  You did. And you got it where?
S.  Please. You’ve made your point. I can’t…
H.  Where did you get the oatmeal? Did you cook it this morning at home? Did you cook it & then pour it into your purse?
S.  No.
H.  Did you buy it?
S.  Buy it?
H.  Then you found it… somewhere.
S.  Dennys.
H.  Dennys. You went into Dennys for breakfast & you…
S.  For a coffee.
H.  So it wasn’t even your oatmeal?! You saw a bowl of oatmeal on another table &…
S.  On the same table! [pause] They hadn’t cleared the table when I sat down.
H.  You sat down at a dirty table. On purpose.
S.  It was crowded. They were busy.
H.  It’s a Dennys. They’re always empty. And you emptied out a leftover bowl of oatmeal, into your purse.
S.  I didn’t empty it. I put it in my purse.
H.  The bowl too?! [he squishes his hand into the purse & half pulls out a bowl] There’s a spoon in here too. Sylvia, [napkins his hands] what does this make you?
S.  I love oatmeal .
H. You love oatmeal. And hubcaps. And a ketchup bottle. And these chicken bones. Chicken bones,Sylvia. You’re an intelligent woman. What does this [lifts purse] make you?
S.  A bag lady. Harvey, I don’t want to turn into a bag lady! I don’t want to push a supermarket cart down the street talking to myself & screaming at everybody. I don’t want to sleep in a doorway!
H.  Honey, you’ll never have to sleep in a doorway. [caresses her hand]
S.  This is how it starts. The oatmeal. And shopping bags. Then mumbling to myself. Then screaming at strangers. Rummaging through the trash & begging for money. NEver bathing & weaving things into my hair & growing an old woman’s mustache & spilling cheap wine all over my bib, oh god, I don’t ever want to find a bib & think “Oh, that’ll fit,” then go sleep in a park after dark & get arrested. Fuck, Harvey, don’t let them arrest me. Don’t let me sleep in the park. Please, promise me. I already started a nest in the woods in the park by your apartment.
H.  A nest?! WHy my apartment?! Jesus, what… why… Ok. Don’t get hysterical.
S.  If I start weaving crazy stuff in my hair please stop me. Cut all my hair off if you have to…
H.  Honey, I’m not going to cut your hair off for you. But I will stop you.
S.  Do it. Just slap me.
H.  I could never slap…
S.  You have to. You must. Try it. Do it. Right now. Slap me.
H.  Sylvia, I can’t just slap…
S.  Slap me & I’ll leave this whole bag right here where we are, where it is, with all my stuff still in it. I’ll leave it here. I’ll destroy the nest. Slap me. Let’s go home.
H.  Don’t. Stop.
S.  Be forceful, Harvey! They have no homes. They prowl the streets. They don’t get their hair done. They never bathe. They never shave. They don’t worry about it. Why would I? No cooking to do. No house to clean. No man to… consider. I’ll scream: “Hey! Pedestrian! Watch where you fuckin’ walk you walk always you walk into me I’m here too kiss me I’m—”  {SLAP}
H.  Are you ok?
S.  Yes. [stunned; eyes wide] Thank you. Ok. I’m leaving the bag. Let’s get up. Let’s go home. I’m alright now. Thank you.
H.  Listen to me. I… love… you. I just need you to be aware of…
S.  Thank you. Honey. Really. I mean it. I’m lucky to have you. Here, I’ll bring this sandwich home & we’ll share it later…
H.  Seriously. [he stands; they start to get up.
S.  That’s all right. You’re right. I don’t need it. Just thought it’d be nice. Wait. What if they see we’re leaving the bag… What if the waitress sees… And shouts: “Hey lady, you forgot your bag!” Then everyone looked. I’d die. Ok. Let’s take it outside & we can dump it in the nearest trash bin, ok? Actually, no, I know there’s a dumpster over on Fifth & Fifty-Seventh, oh, there’s a better on on Fifty-Ninth… we can just…
H. Leave it. We already walked away. Forget it. I love you. Now let’s go get all that hot garbage out of your kitchen closet.

They walk away together into the sunset.