A short play: Aftermath or Before the Parade Passes By

Inspired by the events of June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida

For Sloan, Jacob, Anthony, Audrey, and Tyler

(It is the morning of Sunday, June 26, 2016, about 11:30am. In the darkness, the sound of a buzzer, the kind that rings when a person needs to get buzzed into a New York apartment building. It buzzes three times as the lights come up to reveal a modest living room with a couch, and armchair, and a coffee table. The front door of the apartment is upstage left of center. MARTHA, a woman in her early forties, wearing shorts and a t-shirt that says “We Are Fa-mi-lee”, enters from another part of the apartment and hits the button that opens the front door of the building. She holds it for a long time, and the sound of the door opening and closing comes through the speaker. She calls towards stage right.)

MARTHA
JASON! THEY’RE HERE! . . . C’MON!

(There’s no response. She looks at her watch.)

MARTHA
JASON, WE’RE GOING TO BE LATE!

(Nothing. She goes to her purse and takes out her phone and keys and wallet. Then there’s a knock at the door. She goes to it.)

MARTHA
JASON, LET’S GO!

JASON (offstage)
We’re not going!

MARTHA
Shit…

(Another knock at the door.)

MARTHA
Coming!

(Martha opens the door and her brother MARK strides in wearing Gay Pride paraphernalia, suitable for a 46-year-old who imagines he’s still 33 years old. Mark is not a caricature of himself, but he likes to celebrate Gay Pride.)

MARK
What’s going on? We’re gonna miss the beginning!

MARTHA
I’m sorry, Mark. He won’t come out of his room.

MARK
Why not?

MARTHA
I don’t know. Where’s Steve?

MARK
I told him to wait downstairs.

MARTHA
Is he alright?

MARK
He’s fine. We’re fine.

MARTHA
Maybe you two should just go on ahead.

MARK
Nope, we’ve been doing this together for the last four years. 

MARTHA
But I think he’s upset.

MARK
About what?

MARTHA
I don’t know.

MARK
Martha?

MARTHA
I don’t know.

MARK
No, you do know. I know you know because you only say that you “don’t” know something when you’re lying.

MARTHA
What?

MARK
Your diction gets way better when you lie, Mart. That’s how Mom and Dad always knew when you were lying about sneaking out to meet up with Pete Newton. When you really don’t know something, you say, “I dunno.” 

MARTHA
You’re ridiculous!

MARK
Why is he upset?

MARTHA
I don’t—dunno.

MARK
See? What happened?

MARTHA
Nothing happened. I was making him eggs and we were listening to NPR like we always do on Sunday mornings. He was playing games on his iPad, and the next thing I know, he’s running from the table and his door slammed.  I don’t know what happened.

MARK
What was on NPR?

MARTHA
Just the news.

MARK
What time was it? 

MARTHA
Like 9:30 or so?

MARK (realizing something)
We had it on too.

MARTHA
What are you saying?  What?

(Mark looks towards the direction of Jason’s room, which is stage right.)

MARK
JASON? IT’S UNCLE MARK. UNCLE STEVE’S DOWNSTAIRS WAITING. ARE YOU READY?

JASON (offstage)
We’re not going!

MARK
WHY NOT?

(There’s no response.)

MARK
JASON? . . . WHY NOT?

JASON (offstage)
Because…

MARK
JASON, THAT MAY WORK WITH YOUR MOM, BUT IT’S NOT GOING TO WORK WITH ME. GET OUT HERE NOW, SO WE CAN TALK ABOUT THIS.

MARTHA
I’m telling you, you guys should just go on. He’s been in a bad mood all week. It’s not going to be like it usually is.

MARK
I’m not going anywhere until he tells me what’s wrong.

MARTHA
Well, at least stop yelling at him. That’s what his father does all the time. He hates it.

MARK
JASON, THIS IS NOT YOUR FATHER.  IT’S UNCLE MARK.

JASON (offstage)
I know!

MARK
THEN GET OUT HERE AND TELL ME WHAT’S WRONG.

(There’s no response. Then after a moment, JASON enters from stage left. He’s wearing a rainbow t-shirt that says, “My Uncles ROCK”, baggy shorts, and Converse sneakers. He’s a typical 12-year-old boy.)

MARK
Nice t-shirt. 

JASON
Thanks. It still fits from last year.

MARK
Yeah, it’s a little tight, but you’ll blend right in at the parade. What’s the hold up, kiddo?

JASON
We’re not going.

MARK
Who’s “we”? 

JASON
Us. None of us should go.

MARK
Why not?

JASON
Because I don’t think we should go this year.

MARK
But we go every year. Why wouldn’t we go?

JASON
I just don’t think we should. Especially you and Uncle Steve.

MARK
Well, kiddo, Uncle Steve hasn’t missed a New York City Gay Pride Parade in 22 years, since his first summer after NYU, so that’s not gonna happen.

(Jason is silent. Mark looks at Martha.)

MARTHA
Honey, what’s wrong? Why don’t you want to go?

JASON
It’s not that I don’t wanna go. I just don’t think we should go.

MARTHA
Why?

(Jason looks at his mother and at his uncle. He’s not sure how to say it.)

MARK
Jason?

JASON
I’m . . .  I’m a- . . . (He trails off, not able to finish the thought.)

MARTHA
What, Jason?  You’re what?

JASON
I’M AFRAID, OK?  I’M AFRAID!

(Jason starts to run back to his room, but Mark heads him off.)

MARK
Jason?  Hold it! What are you afraid of?

(Jason tries to avoid his uncle’s question and his gaze. Mark won’t let him.)

MARK
Jason?

JASON
I’m afraid something bad is going to happen, OK? I’m afraid something’s going to happen while we’re there. 

MARTHA
Jason, sweetheart, nothing bad’s going to happen.

JASON
How do you know?

MARK
Because it’s Gay Pride in New York City, kiddo! Nothing bad’s going to happen at Gay Pride.

JASON
That’s not what they’re saying on NPR. They said that there’re police all over the place and people with guns on buildings just in case and then I looked on the internet and the Mayor is saying that everybody needs to be careful and that it’s dangerous right now and we need to—

MARK
Kiddo, politicians have to say those things to cover their asses. But that doesn’t mean anything’s going to happen.

MARTHA
Jason, Uncle Mark is right. We talked about this last week. People are being extra careful, and that’s just what happens when—

JASON
Nobody thought anything bad was going to happen in that bar and look what happened. (There’s no response.) Right? (Nothing.) See! That’s why we shouldn’t go.

(Martha and Mark don’t have a response for any of this. A long silence. Mark finally breaks it.)

MARK
Look, kiddo, that was just—

JASON
And Uncle Steve’s friend got shot.

MARK (to Martha)
Jesus, Mart, why did you tell him that? I told you not—

MARTHA
He heard me on the phone with Steve, and he thought something happened to you. I had to tell him to calm him down.

(Mark looks at Jason for a moment.)

MARK
Jason, Uncle Steve’s friend is recovering at home. He’s going to be OK.

JASON
But what if it happens again?

MARTHA
Honey, c’mon—

JASON
What if it happens here?

MARK
Kiddo, I can’t promise—

JASON
What if something happens to you? What am I gonna do?

(Jason’s words land hard for Mark. It’s not an easy question to answer. Mark collects himself and faces Jason head on.)

MARK
Jason, I want you to listen to me very carefully. Nothing bad is going to happen at the parade today and noth—

JASON
How do you know that?

MARK
Let me finish. Nothing bad is going to happen at the parade today, and nothing bad is going to happen to me.

JASON
But what if—

MARK
And even if something bad did happen, there’s absolutely nothing we can do to stop it. Do you understand me? If somebody wants to do something bad to people today, us not going to the parade isn’t going to stop that.

JASON
But then we wouldn’t get hurt. You and Uncle Steve won’t get hurt.

MARK
Sure, OK. We won’t get physically hurt, but we’ll suffer the consequences of your Uncle Steve breaking his 22-year parade attendance streak. Trust me, that won’t be pretty.

JASON
So he’ll risk his life to go to some dumb parade?

MARK
“Dumb parade?” Whoahoho! OK, when did it suddenly become “some dumb parade?”

JASON
You know what I mean.

MARK
No, I don’t know what you mean. It’s not some dumb parade, kiddo. Lots of people fought long and hard for that parade to happen, and just because it’s been going on since before you were born and that you have two cool uncles and a kinda cool mom who bring you each year doesn’t mean you should take it for granted.

MARTHA
Mark, don’t lecture him.

MARK
I’m not lecturing. I’m making a point.

JASON
You’re kinda lecturing.

MARK
OK. Sorry. But do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?

JASON
Sorta…?

MARTHA
Honey, we can’t avoid the things we’re afraid of by hiding from them.

MARK
Smart girl, your mom. Shitty liar, but a smart girl.

MARTHA
Mark?!?

MARK (ignoring his sister)
The point is, you can’t let what happened in Orlando scare you, Jason. It happened and we can’t change it. (Jason turns away from his uncle. Mark tries again.) Look, I understand. I cried all morning that Sunday because I was really sad and really scared. Every time we checked the news, it just got worse. More people dead and more people injured . . . . Your Uncle Steve got the call about Manny at 9:30 that morning, and we were a mess until his husband called and told us that he was out of surgery and alive. As I watched the news that week after and learned about all of those people who died, how much they were loved by their family and friends, I realized that being scared of something happening again and letting that change how I was living my life would be wrong. We need to live as big as we can right now. If we change, then we’re giving in and doing exactly what the violent people want us to do.

JASON
But that’s really easy to say.

MARK
None of that’s easy to say, kiddo. Every morning when I get on the subway or walk through Times Square or catch a train at Penn Station and see those cops with the weapons and the dogs and the body armor, I have to remind myself that it’s all going to be OK. But I refuse to let my fear stop me. (Jason is still not convinced. Mark has another idea.) It’s kinda like when you wanted to ride that roller coaster a couple of summers ago.

JASON
How so?

MARK
Well, if I remember correctly, you were pretty scared about—

JASON
I was not scared!

MARTHA
Jason, you were so!

JASON
I was nervous, Mom! There’s a difference.

MARK
Either way, once you were on the ride, what happened?

JASON
I really liked it?

MARK
Right. And thinking back now, was there really anything to be scared of? Or I mean, “nervous” about? 

JASON
Not really.

MARK
So, can you think about the parade in the same way? Maybe we’re a little nervous, but we’ll fasten our seatbelts and lock down our shoulder harnesses and see what happens?

(Mark and Martha look to Jason for an answer. Jason is still not so sure. Suddenly, Mark’s cell phone rings. He takes it out of his pocket and looks at the screen.)

MARK
It’s Uncle Steve. We gotta go. You know he likes to be right up against the barricades.

(Jason doesn’t move. The phone continues to ring.)

MARTHA
Sweetie?

(Still nothing from Jason.)

MARK
So, whaddya say?

(Jason looks at his mom and then at his uncle and then runs to him, wrapping his arms tightly around his waist. Mark is overwhelmed by the show of affection from his nephew, and he returns the hug just as hard, as the phone continues to ring and the lights fade. End of play.)