At Capacity--Scene 15: Predictions

(Claire is alone smoking a cigarette. Outside in late afternoon, at sunset. She’s in a cemetery, standing over the burial plots of her parents. She takes a puff of the cigarette, inhales deeply, and then blows the smoke out slowly.)

CLAIRE (to herself)

So what do we do now?

(Claire looks down at the plots. Takes another puff. Blows out. Waits. Asks again but this time directs it to the plots.)

So what do we do now? (no answer) Hello? . . . Anybody home? . . . The least you two could do is send a little advice from beyond. You know, like a “Keep going, Claire! We’ve got your back.” Or how about a “Keep your chin up, Claire! It’ll all get better soon!”

(She waits for a response. Nothing. Takes a puff of the cigarette. Holds it in. Lets it out. Drops the cigarette, rubs it out, takes a pack and a lighter from her pocket, and lights another one. Puts them back in her pocket. Looks at the plots.)

I know. . . . I know, I know, I know. These things are gonna kill me. I know. That’s what you always said, Dad, and I stopped for a long time. But since you’ve been gone, things have gotten pretty rough around here, so old habits come back hard. (Claire waits for a response. Nothing.) You know, you two really did it this time. You really made a mess of everything. I mean a giant mess. Not just a little mess that’s just taking awhile to clean up, but something that’s not going away anytime soon no matter which way I scrub it.

(Claire takes a puff of the cigarette and just looks at the graves in silence.)

You know, I’m starting to think you two did this on purpose. Steve and I have both told you a zillion times to wear your seat belts and you just don’t listen. And then you go driving late at night on a dark road that you know has a lot of curves. All sorts of curves. And it’s snowing, of course, because you two have to go shopping when it’s snowing. We’ve told you about that too, but you just do whatever the hell you want with complete disregard for the consequences. You just don’t care. Snowy curve, slick spot, going just a little too fast, not paying attention because you’re singing along to the goddamned Christmas fucking music and whammo.  WHAMMO!

(Claire smashes her hands together, drops the cigarette, picks it up, takes a drag, and continues.)

Whammo. And it’s over. You two are over. Late 60s, retired, shouldn’t have a care in the world, and you two wrap yourselves around a fucking tree in the middle of a light snow at 10:30 at night. (Claire takes a drag.) What were you thinking? Huh? Did you really have to do this now? (She waits for an answer. Nothing.) People say that it’s really great to talk to dead people, say the things you wanted to say while they were alive but you didn’t say them. Somebody else told me to write you a letter. (Claire scoffs at this and takes another drag.) I tried the letter part, and I got three sentences in and stopped. “Dear Mom and Dad, how are you? How is heaven? I hope good. Things are the same here--  That’s where it got dicey. Cause things are not the same here, and I’ve never been a good liar. I never lied to you very well, you always knew when I was lying and it made for a really shitty childhood. No sneaking around for me. I was too much of an open book. I hate being a crap liar. Lying can be really useful I find. Sometimes.

(Claire takes a drag off of the cigarette. Thinks about what she just said. Makes a connection and begins to lecture her parents a bit.)

You see, it’s kinda like what you did about Uncle Steve all these years, you just kinda lied and pretended none of it happened, and as long as you two were alive, we just all pretended too. “Don’t talk about it and it never happened. Don’t look Julia in the eye when she comes home for Christmas, and it never happened. Don’t tell Steve that he’s named after a child molester, and it never happened. (Claire finishes the cigarette and tosses the butt to the ground.) Do you two have any idea what a mess you’ve left behind? Do you? (No answer.)  DO YOU? Well. lemme tell you. Julia is completely lost, like in a psych ward, Steve is about to have a breakdown, and I’m—Well, I’m--  You know what?  I’m trying to hold them together and self-destructing at the same time. It’s just great. Feels swell, Mom and Dad. Just like old times. Just like old times. . . . .  When you two were alive, we all just pretended so we wouldn’t upset you. We knew that upsetting you was a bad choice, but the consequences don’t seem to be much better for all of us since you up and left us here to deal with the aftermath. . . . You fucking left us here to deal with the aftermath of that ugly, ugly secret, that neither of you would ever acknowledge. . . .  That’s why Julia never came home. Stopped coming home for birthdays, holidays, and then just stopped all together. Sure, she said it was because of work and the long hours and dealing with the holiday shifts, but that wasn’t the truth. She had to stop coming home because that house has so many bad memories buzzing in it that she can’t stay sane when she’s in there. And so you two up and die and then she has to come home. She makes it through your funeral and all the people saying how wonderful you both were, and she never says a word to contradict that. After what you did to her, she still smiles and sheds tears and pretends that the two of you were these amazing parents. All three of us did. Steve didn’t know any better, so no loss of energy for him, but Julia and I? We had to be Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren at your wake.  And you two just laid there and soaked it all in. Not a peep. No confession, no acknowledgement, no afterlife signs. Just those sewed up still lips, just like in real life, but this time without the smile to go along with it.

(Claire thinks about this for a moment, and she gets angry.)


(Claire is crying now. She tries to collect herself, but it’s not much use.)

He did that stuff to Julia for eight years. And you just ignored it. She tried to tell you. I tried to tell you. But you two just acted like we were blowing it all out of proportion. “He doesn’t mean anything by it. He’s just tickling her.” She tried to tell you it hurt. I tried to tell you that one time how red she was “down there” like raw from whatever he did to her, and you, Mom, you told Julia to stop rubbing herself! I mean, how could you? How could you blame it on Julia?  She didn’t do anything! And then you did nothing to help her. NOTHING!

(Claire turns and starts to walk away, like she’s had enough, but she stops and comes back.)

And now that you’re gone, the dam just broke and the flood’s bearing down on all of us. I’m not sure how much longer Julia’s gonna be here, and if she ends up where you are, you two better watch out. She’ll come after you with a vengeance, and I don’t blame her. I don’t know where you are, if you’re anywhere at all, but if she finds you, it’s not gonna be pretty, not pretty at all. She’s got a lot to say, and I doubt you’re gonna be ready to hear it. But you both deserve it. After what you did to her, to all of us, and then left us like this, you deserve whatever she has to say and then some. You deserve it.

(Claire takes one last look at the plots, turns to go, then turns back and picks up the cigarette butts that she had left behind. She walks off as the lights fade. End of scene.)