GRAFFITI

By Tamrat Gebeyehu

January 1995


Dear fellow Cleo(EEDN) members:

Here is the sketch I wrote last winter. Few reminders:

1) The same as in real life, the characters in this sketch are refered as first young man, second young woman, etc. until someone reveal their "real" identities: their names.

2) As you will notice the identities of these characters are not fixed. For instance the young woman who is described by the other characters as medical doctor becomes a military officer. Even then she refers herself as an army Major although her name tag says she is a Captain. Note that there are only three characters in the sketch.

3) The dialogue between Doc. and Solomon toward the end of scene one is just like when you overhear (eavesdrop) someone's conversation on the phone. You hear only what the person on your side says and you wonder what kind of things being said on the other end of the line kind to trigger the kind of responses you overhear on this side.

Thanks for taking your time to read my sketch, "Graffiti".

Yours

Tamrat Gebeyehu (gebeyhu@epas.utoronto.ca)


Dramatic Figures:

Eskender/Osman

Solomon/Hermit

Doc/Captain/Major

[A bathroom. For its occupants, it is a living/bedroom. Bright sun light is seeping through the frosted window. Two suitcases equal in size (one yellow and the other one red) are the most prominent objects in the room. A young man sits in a bathtub filled with lemons. Only his head is visible. Sitting by the bathroom sink is a young woman who is staring at the image of her right palm in the mirror above the sink. Another young man swings clinging to a heavy chain that is hanging from the wall. He is carrying a tattered raveling bag. The young man lands on the toilet seat which now serves as a sitting stool].

Second Young man [Standing on the stool [the toilet seat], the young man counts as the chains continues to swing]. Five hundred seven... Five hundred eight...Five hundred nine...Five hundred ten... Five hundred eleven... Five hundred twelve...Five hundred thirteen...Five hundred fourteen. [The woman holds the chains to stop it from swinging; the sound of toilet flushing follows. Five hundred forty one.... Jesus!

First young man What ... What.

Second young man You're snoring ![The woman lets the chain go. Five hundred twelve...Five hundred thirteen...Five hundred fourteen.

First young man Solomon?

Solomon Yes?

First young man Would you mind?

[The woman chains the red suitcase. The chain goes up. The sound of continuous toilet flushing is being heard].

Solomon Eskender!

Eskender What?

Solomon Eskender!

Eskender What?

Solomon Eskender!

Eskender What do you want?

Solomon You're snoring.

Eskender If you do that again...

Solomon If I do that again?

Eskender I swear...

Solomon Really?

Eskender Be careful you...

Solomon [Approaching Eskender who is buried under a pile of lemon]. You what? Say it!

Young woman [Again looking at the mirror. Oh my God! Yes .. yes. That is true. As the woman begins speaking, the chain goes down. The toilet flushing sound stops. Solomon backs away from the bathtub]. I remember now. Every one I know has a scar on one palms!

Solomon [Lifts the toilet seat and rummages through the items inside and then puts his traveling bag in it. He finds a box of dried raisins and a book in the seat. Eating the raisins, reads the book]. You read these kind of books?...Do you think that books like these make you feel any better--any happier?...Extraordinary! How?... But, Good Heavens! Do you seriously think that most people... To Eskender Could you help me to learn Mrs. Alving's part? Pause Eskender...Do you hear me? You're not sleeping. Please...I'm gonna tickle you... I'm counting to three...One...two...two and one, two and two, two and three, two and four, two and five, two and six... He reaches for the chain and pulls it. [A church bell chimes]. I know you're ticklish.

Eskender Stop that.

Solomon Pulls the chain; another chime. Yes?

Eskender Stop it.

Solomon Yes?

Eskender No! [Solomon chains the yellow suitcase. Both suitcases go up. The sound of two or more church bells follows].

Young woman Every one I know has a scar in their palms! It's strange. No one but me remembers how we got them. I mean the scars.

Eskender I will read Mrs. Alving's part, if you want.

Solomon Pastor Mander's.

Eskender Mrs. Alving's.

Solomon Pastor Mander's.

Eskender Mrs. Alving's.

Solomon Why her part?

Eskender That's what I want to do.

Solomon It was my idea.

Eskender Help or desire. You can't have both. Solomon Forget it!

Eskender Don't shout.

Solomon I'm s-h-o-u-t-i-ng!

Young woman All of them have scars, some even have dead hands, but they don't know how that happened to them. So why me? Why do I remember? [Solomon backs away from Eskender].

Eskender You read these kinds of books?...Do you think that books like these make you feel any better--any happier?...Extraordinary! How?...But, Good Heavens! Do you seriously think that most people...OK go ahead. I will read Pastor Mander's part...I said I will do it. Solomon! Do you hear me? Solomon!

Solomon Forget it.

Eskender Why did you wake me up then?

Solomon I said forget it.

Eskender You're nuts.

Solomon Who? I don't think so. It's not Solomon who goes out to the desert at midday and sleeps naked on the burning sand...

Eskender It's better than sitting around. It's better than imagining a mausoleum of a dead queen and then making up story about her half dead guard of honours. Did you say they have sworn not to conjure the image of women in their mind let alone to see one?

Solomon And staring at the mid-day sun...

Eskender What was that story you thought up last week? Oh yeah that creature who dreams about being human. I like that creature. It's great. What was your creature worried about?

Solomon What about that thing...

Eskender Yes I know. Your creature worries because it's not mean enough to be a human being.

Solomon The volcano!

Eskender My favourite is the trail of the mute-deaf girl.

Solomon You have never failed to stir the volcano inside you. Of course you always let it out.

Eskender Didn't you say she is accused of bad breath?

Solomon Fifteen years. Day after day, digging thousands of holes so that the molten you will come out of you.

Eskender [Impersonating a prosecutor] Your honour!

Solomon You always end up with hot ashes all over your head.

Eskender Your honour!

Solomon You go for another eruption to dust off your head.

Eskender After the defendant arrived in our city, the number of suicide cases have increased at an alarming rate.

Solomon Burning ashes piling on your head...

Eskender Our distinguished physicians have established that the sole cause of the rampant depression in our community is the defendant's bad breath. Solomon Stop it!

Eskender This girl is mute and deaf and deserves our sympathy. However, her breath threatens the very survival of our community.

Solomon Stop it!

Eskender The air is polluted by the defendant's bad breath. Her breath induces pessimism in those who are exposed to it. Sooner or later we'll end up in the same boat as the rest of her victims.

Solomon Stop it!

Eskender I ask the court to banish the defendant from our community.

[Solomon pulls the chain. Shower of Lemons fall from above. Solomon unties the two suitcases and approaches Eskender holding the chain].

Young woman Early one spring morning, I woke up from deep sleep. And went out dressed up. [Solomon lets the chain go and returns to the stool].

Eskender You're sick.

Solomon Am I sick?.. really! What about you... I smell it...You're rotting. You fled the country. You came here before all of us just to stink. At least mine is justified. If I didn't come here, I would have been rotting in that jail anyway. And you? You had a chance to do something about it. But what did you do? You crossed the desert just to come here and rot.

Eskender Did not. You're the one who's rotting. [Solomon pulls the chain and ties it around Eskender's neck].

Young woman Outside I saw this person coming in my direction. We exchanged a handshake without any apparent reason. Whilst shaking hands, I saw my two neighbours doing the same thing. I was shocked. I had never entertained the slightest hope that these two sworn enemies would be friends again. I turned around I saw a woman. I knew right away that she wanted to shake my hand. So I extended my hand to her. However, I ended up shaking a little girl's hand, probably the woman's daughter. The man those hand I shook first took the woman's hand. The lady and I succeeded in exchanging a handshake after she shook hands with my neighbours, a newspaper boy, a street walker, two elderly couples and a priest. By that time, I had already shook hands with an old lady, the shopkeeper across the street, a panhandler, a traffic officer, a waiter, a singer, a homeless man and a bus driver. I saw a young man parking his expensive car in the middle of the road just to shake hands with the traffic officer. The officer did not do anything except shake hands with the shopkeeper and the young man's girlfriend. Soon the whole neighbourhood was out on the street shaking hands. [Solomon removes the chain from Eskender's neck and returns to the stool].

Eskender Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Solomon. Happy birthday to you!

Solomon Didn't you call me sick a moment ago?

Eskender Aren't you curious?

Solomon Why do you bother? Anyway I'm nuts.

Eskender I'm sorry. Please. Take it. [Solomon opens the yellow suitcase and closes it right away]. That's Doc's suitcase.

Solomon You mean hers?

Eskender Yes. Doc's.

Solomon Why didn't you tell me before?

Eskender Why?

Solomon What do you mean why?

Eskender She is our friend.

Solomon I know that.

Eskender I mean friend as we are to each other.

Solomon I know that.

Eskender So why do you blush every time you see her belongings?

Solomon I haven't. I'm just embarrassed going through them.

Eskender You know this remind me of a story about a man who steals women's underwear from Laundromat.

Solomon Do you call me a pervert?

Eskender Did I? I'm just telling you a story. The funniest part is when he comes back with the women's underwear to watch his victims searching for their missing item.

Solomon approaches him.

Eskender I told you. I'm just telling you a story. In fact it is an actual confession.

Solomon Really?

Eskender I read it in "Apology" magazine.

Solomon "Apology" magazine?

Eskender Yes. One of those weird magazines they have overseas. Solomon pushes Eskender's head to bury him in the pile of lemon. Eskender resists.

Doc We all proceeded to the main street and then to the town square. There we found thousands of people doing the same thing: shaking hands. Solomon returns to his stool. The hand shakes went on. Toward mid-day some people began to collapse from exhaustion, and I was among the first. Next thing I remember is I was in a hospital room with a swollen right hand and a bandaged palm. I don't remember how many people I shook hands with that day or how that strange festival ended. Since then I haven't heard anybody mentioning anything about it. I've asked some people about it. Nobody seems to remember. However, everyone I know has a scar on either of their palms. Mine is on the right. What puzzles me is why I'm the only person to remember what happened that day?

Eskender Are you gonna take your gift or what?

[Solomon opens the red suitcase].

Solomon What? You got me a scrubs of a surgeon?

Eskender No. That is hers.

Solomon You got her something too?

Eskender No. I mean the red suitcase.

Solomon What about the scrubs?

Eskender That too.

Solomon Is she a medical doctor?

Eskender I don't know. Why don't you ask her? [Solomon lifts the toilet seat and takes out a parcel].

Solomon Is this my gift?

Eskender Yes. Can you guess what it is?

Solomon Telephone set?

Eskender What? Why do you need a telephone set in this desert?

Solomon I don't know.

Eskender Darn it! Yes, I should've given you that.

Solomon Why?

Eskender Because that could be a symbol of our covenant.

Solomon We haven't said that we will keep in touch. We have only promised to reunite somewhere on an island.

Eskender Don't forget, that is twenty years from now.

Solomon We may not even get out from this desert.

Eskender What do you mean?

Solomon What about if we rot.

Eskender That is true. Like me.

Solomon I'm sorry.

Eskender You're right.

Solomon I'm sorry.

Eskender No you shouldn't be. I'm rotting indeed.

Solomon I said I'm sorry.

Eskender You're right.

Solomon Take your gift. I don't want it. Solomon doesn't return his gift.

Eskender OK give it back. I said give it to me! I want it back. I said I want it. [Solomon holds the chain and swings out carrying his gift. The gift box is thrown back on stage with its content (lemons) flying all over the place].

Solomon Off stage That is my gift.

Eskender On stage still buried under the lemons. You don't want it.

Solomon But one thing you shouldn't forget. You're the one who started this name calling.

Eskender Shut up !

Solomon Shut up?

Eskender Yes shut up. [Pause] What?

Solomon You heard me. [The sound of a slap, punch and fierce physical confrontation].

Doc. [desperately tries to say something. She pulls the chain nothing happens. In her frenzy she picks a lemon and freezes. Solomon re-enters crawling carrying a stick]. Your palm is bleeding.

Solomon ...

Doc What do you mean? Come over here.

Solomon ...

Doc Let's try this. She squeezes the lemon on his palm.

Solomon ...

Doc I know it hurts but it helps.

Solomon ...

Doc Yes. Isn't that amazing? They also say a basket full of lemons can't be a supper.

Solomon ...

Doc No. I don't mind.

Solomon ...

Doc What kind of a doctor am I?

Solomon ...

Doc Probably.

Solomon ...

Doc Maybe?

Solomon ...

Doc That is also possible.

Solomon ...

Doc Honestly speaking I don't remember what type of doctor I was.

Solomon ...

Doc No, it isn't because of that.

Solomon ...

Doc. No.

Solomon ...

Doc No.

Solomon ...

Doc I said no.

Solomon ...

Doc Don't.

Solomon ...

Doc Please, don't.

[Solomon Pulls the chain].

Solomon ...

Doc Why didn't you tell me today is your birthday?

Solomon ...

Doc Still you should have told me. Let's celebrate it.

Solomon ...

Doc I know you didn't celebrate it before. You have already told me that.

Solomon ...

Doc. I know, I know. But that doesn't mean you can't celebrate it now

Solomon ...

Doc Let's try.

Solomon ...

Doc You never know. Maybe this time [she picks a lemon from the floor, cuts thin slices and places one slice on each of a pair of glasses]. Here you go.

Solomon ...

Doc Liquor? I don't think we should risk our life for that.

Solomon ...

Doc Really.

Solomon ...

Doc I didn't know that.

Solomon ...

Doc No.

Solomon ...

Doc Yes my hands are warm. Eskender sits up.

Solomon ...

Doc Why?

Solomon ...

Doc I don't think that is a good idea.

Solomon ...

Doc She burst in to laughter.

Solomon ...

Doc Another fit of laughter.

[She takes the stick that Solomon is holding, cleans the blood, sticks a lemon on it and gives it back to him. Holding the stick, Solomon pulls the chain. We hear a heavy door opening and the sound of light rain. He then stretches the stick to her. First, she hesitates, then takes the lemon from the stick. The space is now divided into two: one spotlight on Solomon and Doc; another one on Eskender who emerges from the pile of lemon under which he has been buried. Eskender empties the two suitcases and exits carrying them. Drumming. Solomon makes room in the bath tub by taking out some of the lemons. Meanwhile Doc goes to the mirror and observes the image of her right palm, holding the lemon in her left hand. She then slices the lemon and cools her body with its juice. Standing in the bath tub that is half-filled with lemons, Solomon invites her to join him. Blackout. Pause].

Solomon Shall I weep now?

Scene II

[The chain from the previous scene is loosely stretched across the stage, like the ones at check points. Beyond it is a big sign that reads "Welcome to the New Island, the site of the holy water." Lemons' skins are everywhere. A field telephone rings.

As the woman previously referred to as Doc enters, the chain drops to the ground. She is in military uniform and one can tell from her name tag that she is a captain. She picks up the phone and listens: there is the sound of a spring water flowing, then religious chants which is followed by gun shots. Pause. The sound of ocean current followed by the sound of heavy fighting. Pause. Next is heard the sound of a tape rewinding. She replaces the handset.

The phone rings again. The chain goes up. She goes away from the phone and observes the surrounding area with a pair of binoculars and studies her left palm. She compares it with what she saw through the binoculars. She shakes her head. She does the same thing with her right palm: observes the surrounding space through the binocular, studies her palm, checks the space beyond and compares it with her bare palm. She smiles. The phone keeps ringing. The chains drops. The young man previously referred to as Solomon enters dressed as Hermit: he is wearing animal skin. His hair which he hasn't combed for years looks like dreadlocks. He has a long beard and wears earrings. He has strapped his bare chest and his waist with chains. He carries a long iron staff that has a taper end. He cautiously approaches the phone and turns the handset with his staff. He hears the following recording. The voice is that of the young woman (the Captain)].

I don't recall when or how it started. When my grandma called me "Doc", I realized all my names were gone, even my nicknames. Oh, it is torture. My title became my name. "Doc this" "Doc that". It's confusing when you have two names: one inside you by which you know yourself and the other by which others know you. I never knew myself by my title. Do you know what it means to have "Doc" for a name: it means broken heart, at least for me. This wonderful person I met through a friend left me because he felt ashamed when he was unable to recall my proper names, which he didn't know in the first place. At that time, I was even afraid to die. Had I been dead then, the priests wouldn't have remembered the name they given me when I was baptized. Do you know what that would mean? No mass for my soul. The Priests should know that name by which you are known in God's kingdom. Your sins and your good deeds are recorded under that name. Not by your last, middle, first name or title. So, I decided to restore my names. I went to court. I made official announcements. I threw parties. I wore oversized name tags. I did all I had to do to return my proper names to their proper place. As I began to see the fruit of my effort I was forced to stop practicing my profession. That didn't upset me a bit. Rather I was ecstatic. I hoped people would forget that I was a doctor and address me simply by my proper names. But that didn't happen. Even those who began to address me by my proper names reverted back to my title. Why: some out of sympathy, others to laugh at me because I was no longer a doctor. Finally I gave up trying to restore my names. Instead, I channeled all my energy in to draining out all that made me a doctor. I hope I have succeeded. What do you think?

[Next is heard the sound of a tape rewinding. The chain goes up. The Hermit replaces the hand set with his staff. Pause].

[The phone does not ring but the chain goes down. The Captain goes to the phone hangs it up properly].

[The phone rings and the chain drops. The other young man referred to as Eskender enters dressed in the green scrubs of a surgeon. He is carrying two suitcases (one red and the other yellow) which are equal in size. He observes the surrounding area shading his eyes with his hands. He compares the environs with his palms. He smiles. The phone keeps ringing. He opens the yellow suitcase and pulls out a card that reads "Hi". He shows it to both the Hermit and the Captain. He then reaches into the red suitcase and pulls out another card that reads "I'm Osman, Eskender's identical twin brother. I'm not him but we're twins." Reaching into the same red suitcase, he pulls out another card which says "Is this for sale?". He quickly returns that and brings out another one from the yellow suitcase on which is written "Sorry". He returns that and brings out another one from the red luggage that says "I represent a bottling company. Which way to the holy water?" He then takes out a card from the yellow suitcase with "Please" on it. He rummages through the red luggage but can't find what he is looking for: he takes out cards that have "I'll pay you royally", "I'm madly in love with you", "I'll send it to you" "Believe me that is the best offer" "I'm not Eskender. I'm Osman. We're twins", etc. He tries the yellow one and finds the following cards: "Wow!", "excuse me," "See you later," "fuck," "Thanx a lot," "I beg you pardon."

He brings out the card on which is written "I represent a bottling company. Which way is to the holy water?" on it. The Hermit raises his staff and is about to show him the direction. The Captain points her gun at the hermit. The Hermit lowers his staff having changed his mind. Osman shows the captain the card. The Hermit raises his staff again. The Captain points her gun at the Hermit. Osman sees toward the direction the captain is aiming at and sees the Hermit's slightly raised hands. He follows the direction in which the Hermit seemed to point at. The Captain shoots the Hermit].

Hermit Yes Captain... Sorry. Major?.. shake them .. bird drop us pineapples.. .pineapples.. lemons.. pineapples.. .pineapples

[Osman returns to get his luggage. He takes both suitcases and proceeds off stage; but before he exits he returns and brings out the card with "I represent a bottling company. Which way to the holy water?". The Hermit raises his staff. The Captain points her gun at the Hermit. Now the Hermit decidedly shows the direction to Osman. But Osman exits as he had exited before. The Captain shoots the Hermit].

Hermit Yes Captain...Sorry. Major?....I didn't know that you were promoted. When my foster parents found out about me and the girl they didn't say anything. We were madly in love with each other since the age of nine. When my foster parents learned whose daughter my girlfriend is, they asked me if I wanted to marry her. I told them that was impossible. I told them of our promise to live as lovers forever. My parents didn't care. They forced me to marry her. And that was it. My love was gone though she continued to love me as she used to. She tried her best to keep our love alive but I couldn't get out of my mind the fact that we were forced to be husband and wife. I have almost forgotten how dearly I once loved her. I even doubted our love. I asked my self: was it really love or infatuation of a tender age? At times I even hated her. So one day...

Osman returns with both suitcases and leaves the red one on stage. He exits with the yellow one but he forgets the direction. He brings out the card "I represent a bottling company. Which way to the holy water." The Hermit raises his hand. Captain aims her gun at him. Osman sees to the direction in which the Captain is aiming. He sees the Hermit pointing but doesn't exits in the direction he is showing him. Captain shoots the Hermit.

Hermit So Solomon you said that you and Doc decided to cross the desert. That's better than sitting and waiting...How much did you pay them?...Just to show you the route?...Well that is a lot of money... Did you say they killed goat for you on the third day?..Why on the third day?..They fed you well and then what?... You should know better than that.. Tell Eskender what they did to you. If it wasn't for him you wouldn't have suffered so much... Tell him...You don't want to tell him?...OK I'll tell him. On the third day, they killed a goat for them and fed them well. Later that same day, am I right?...after lunch? yes right after lunch they told them to stand against a wall. They searched them, stripped them and fired at them. Then they let them go naked. Did you here me? Naked...How long?.. Seven days... For seven days and night... they wandered in the desert, naked...Hundreds of nomads and their herds saw them naked... They saw each other for seven straight days, naked...

[Osman re-enters and exits in the direction the Hermit has been showing him. The Captain shoots the Hermit].

Hermit In her dream, a woman saw a spring forming on an island where she lived twenty years as a nun. The next day the nun went to look for the spring and found it on the exact spot where she had dreamed that would be. That same day she left the convent to look for her childhood sweetheart; and she lived with him for the rest of her life. The spring she saw forming in her dream has became a cure for many. Many refer to it as the holy water. Pause.

[The Hermits collapses. The telephone rings. The Major takes off her uniform. The chain goes down. Osman comes in dressed in a very trendy outfit: heavy military shoe, heavy gold chain around his neck. He also wears dreadlocks but it is a wig. He picks up the phone. A reggae music is heard. He dances].

Osman Here is a lemon. Lime will also do. Peel the top part. Stick a candy in it. Like this.

The woman She threw a lemon and hit his chest missing his heart.

Osman Basket full of lemons for supper?

The woman That is impossible.

BLACKOUT