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Rating: PG-13 (middle school or high school)
Characters: Gray, a thirty-three year old man who is settled down; Mark, Gray’s twenty-nine year old brother who still doesn’t feel like he’s found his place in life (characters do not need to be male; I assigned them male to address issues of masculinity and the different ways in which it’s demonstrated, but any gender works for these characters)
Preface: Mark has signed up for the military and is leaving in a couple of days, but he hasn’t told his family, so he invited Gray to get coffee in attempt to break it to him, leading up to this scene.
(Lights up. MARK is sitting in a coffee shop around one-thirty in the afternoon, waiting for GRAY. GRAY enters.)
GRAY: Hey, Mark!
GRAY: Long time, no see! (MARK holds out his hand for GRAY to shake, but GRAY pushes it out of the way and hugs MARK)
MARK: Um, yeah…hi, Gray…
GRAY: It’s so weird, we’re brothers, we live in the same city, but we never spend time with each other anymore.
GRAY: I mean, I’ve been pretty busy, work is picking up, and Millie’s pregnant again, as you know, so we’re getting ready for that, but this is our third kid, I think we’re getting the hang of being parents.
GRAY: (Sitting down) We’re hoping it’s a girl, but honestly we’d be okay with anything. So, how’ve you been, what’s new?
MARK: Oh, not much…mechanic work is going alright, I suppose, but it’s not really a career.
GRAY: You always say that. Don’t be so hard on yourself. (Ordering) Hey, barista, can I get a latte? (Turns back to MARK) So…how about Erin?
MARK: Oh, right…
GRAY: Yeah, you guys were together for a long time. I was starting to think that she was really…
MARK: The one? Well, me too.
GRAY: Hey, if she thought that you weren’t good enough, then she wasn’t worth your time. It’s a good thing that you got rid of her. And it’s been a couple months now, I’d love to see you back in action.
MARK: I dunno, I might be kinda preoccupied pretty soon…
GRAY: Too preoccupied?
GRAY: What could possibly do that?
MARK: A new job.
GRAY: You’re quitting the automotive center?
GRAY: Well…that’s great, actually. I mean, if you’re not happy there--
MARK: I’m not.
GRAY: Then great! Have you told Mom and Dad?
GRAY: Why not? They’d be happy for you.
MARK: Not really. You’re their golden boy, Gray, but if I mess up, they get all salty. It’s like they can’t wait for me to admit that I need help so that they can come swooping in and give me a loan along with a whole load of shame.
GRAY: They don’t feel that way. And don’t worry, you aren’t even thirty yet. I just found the person that I loved early on, and now we have two kids, soon to be three--you think that just happens to everyone? I mean, it does, but not immediately. You need a little more time.
MARK: How much more time, though? Look, you wouldn’t understand this, but think about it for a sec: where were you when you were my age?
GRAY: Still here, in New York City.
MARK: No, that’s not what I mean. You were married, you’d just had a son, you were working for a really great restaurant…everything was perfect. I was twenty-five, barely holding it together. And now, nothing has changed for me except four more years. But you? You’ve got your own joint now, and you’re only a little worried about supporting one more person--
MARK: And you’re not the only one! I keep up with my friends from high school and college, they’re all doing way better than I am. Most of them are married with kids of their own, or they don’t have the time for that because they’re out there in the world, exploring all these amazing places or helping people who really need it. I’m not going to be the only one who gets left behind.
GRAY: You’re not the only one. This is New York City, it’s oozing with people who haven’t found their place in the world yet, you should know that.
MARK: I do know that. And that’s why I can’t stay here.
MARK: I think I have found my place in the world. I want to help people.
GRAY: Why do you need to move away from New York City to do that?
MARK: I just do, okay?, will you listen now?
GRAY: Fine. Okay. Is it very far?
MARK: I think so.
GRAY: What do you mean you think so? Do you even have a plan?
MARK: Yes, yes I do. You’re starting to sound like our parents.
GRAY: Mark. What are you doing?
MARK: (deep breath) I joined the army.
MARK: I said I joined the army.
GRAY: I…let me talk you out of this.
MARK: Too late, it’s already done.
GRAY: No, that can’t be…
GRAY: When are you supposed to leave?
MARK: In fifty-one hours.
GRAY: Fifty-one hours?
GRAY: And you waited until now, fifty-one hours, to tell me this? How long have you been thinking about--about it?
MARK: A month, ish. Probably more.
GRAY: (shakes head) This is crazy.
MARK: I know.
GRAY: You should’ve talked to me.
MARK: I know.
GRAY: Is this because of Erin?
MARK: No, not necessarily--
GRAY: Because I told you that she might be bad news--
MARK: Oh, and I guess I should’ve listened to you, because you’re clearly an expert at living a happy, fulfilling life--
GRAY: So this is because of me?
GRAY: Then why? Why would you do this to yourself? To everyone who cares about you? You could die out there, do you know that?
MARK: Yes, I’m well aware--
GRAY: So why?
MARK: Dammit, Gray, will you let me explain? (Huff) Sure, I’m not thirty yet, but I will be before too long, and life is moving too fast for me. I have tried and tried to be happy here, but something’s missing. Where so many other people have succeeded, I’m failing. I live in a loft with three other guys, I fix cars for a living, my linguistics degree isn’t helping me at all…that’s getting by. I never told anyone this, but I hate it. I hate it so much. There’s nothing to live for except food and rent. I don’t think I’m going to find whatever I need as long as I’m here. (Beat. GRAY is in dismay.) It’s all right, really. I think maybe this was supposed to happen. Remember how pissed I used to get whenever anybody said I should play basketball? Like, I was tall, and that meant I was supposed to be physically great. But I always hated sports. I never got how you were so into them. Now, I figure, maybe there was some truth to it. If I’m in the army, I can use physical power to help people, and not just getting paid for fixing their cars. No, I’m going to go out there and make a difference…I hope that you and Mom and Dad and everyone can be proud of me.
GRAY: Proud? Proud of you? Proud? For what? Running away from your problems?
GRAY: And what about us? I am going to have to live through every single day knowing that my little brother could be dying in a somewhere in a trench as I’m going about my daily routine, do you think that’s going to be easy?
MARK: No, but--
GRAY: And Mark, look at me, what the hell is wrong with you? You’re smart, you should know you don’t have to be risking your life to make me proud. I’m not stupid, I could see how much you were struggling. And I should’ve done something about that. I mean, had I known that you would rather die than keep dealing with it--
MARK: That’s not what I’m saying--
GRAY: But you were so resilient. Things came so easy for me, but you didn’t have that kind of luck. And you didn’t let it get to you, you just kept going, you kept being Mark. You helped people at the automotive center, people who didn’t speak English or just needed some random life advice, because that’s who you are. For that, I was proud of you. Somewhere, under all that condescending impatience, Mom and Dad were proud of you too, and you want to know the truth? I’ll bet that a lot of your friends from school who’re all settled down, like me, they’re probably jealous that you have this interesting life…look. I love my family, and I’m beyond satisfied with what I’ve got, but sometimes, after a day at work, I’ll be on the way home and I’ll wish I was you. I’ll wish I had half as much strength as you did, holding your own like you do. You do that every single day. Why can’t you just keep doing that?
MARK: I have to go.
GRAY: No, you don’t…
MARK: I’m not sorry. I can’t be. This is the right thing to do.
GRAY: You just keep telling yourself that. (Beat) You haven’t told Mom and Dad yet, have you?
GRAY: And you want me to tell them.
MARK: …I can’t do it. I can’t be the bad son one more time.
GRAY: You think that you’re army material but you can’t even sit down and have a mature talk with your parents.
MARK: I sat down and had a mature talk with you. My only sibling. Don’t even try to tell me that this wasn’t hard. (Beat) I’ll be at JFK at four-thirty on Tuesday, to go to training camp. If you want to say goodbye--
GRAY: If I want to…
MARK: …Terminal F. That’s where I’ll be. And if you can’t come…tell Millie I’d appreciate seeing my nephew and niece before I go, if that’s okay.
GRAY: Yeah. Whatever. I’ll see. Just…send me a postcard from Syria or wherever.
MARK: That’s not funny.
GRAY: I know. (Beat) I’m gonna go now.
MARK: What about the coffee that you ordered?
GRAY: Take it, it’s yours. You won’t be getting very good food where you’re going, anyway.
MARK: But I don’t want it.
GRAY: (exiting) And I don’t want you to join the military and get shot to death, but too bad, right? We can’t always get what we want.
MARK: Wait. (GRAY stops) I won’t really get to stay in touch with people at training, and then I head straight into the field, so…if this is the last time--
GRAY: Please don’t talk like that. (Beat)
MARK: …Thanks for everything. I’ve looked up to you for as long as I can remember, and I wish you the best, because you deserve it, really. And, you’re my brother, so…
GRAY: Okay. (GRAY exits. End scene.)