There You Were
(The setting is a bare stage. The stage is dark with a single spotlight on a thirteen-year-old girl named Kat.)
Kat: Last night I went to see “Easy A” with my friend. It was Loews AMC on 84th Street and I was buying popcorn and Milk Duds and it was five dollars, or maybe five fifty and I remember thinking–what was I thinking? Oh, of course, I was thinking man that’s expensive and I was digging in my pocket for a dime or two nickels and I looked to the side and Christ, there you were. You were wearing those boot-cut jeans you used to wear, cut off at the ankle, patches over the knees with American flags printed onto them. My friend tugged at the edge of my shirt and mouthed hipster ‘cause your boots were leather, stitched, and I felt dizzy for a minute and I grabbed onto the counter and my mouth tasted like sawdust. My friend grabbed my elbow to make sure I was all right and I nodded, yeah, fine, sure but I wasn’t ‘cause man, there you were. You looked skinnier than the last time I saw you and you had more piercings dotting your ears and nose and tongue and a tattoo on your left forearm. It was a giraffe– the tattoo, I mean– and I looked for someone to turn to and say hey that’s my origami giraffe but there was no one and I looked away, paid the cashier, and bam. You were gone.
(A small kitchen in a cozy, Manhattan apartment. Annie, 17, is standing by a stove stirring a pot of boiling water with a long wooden spoon. Kat, 8, is sitting with legs crisscrossed on a nearby stool.)
Kat: Do you think I’ll have a snow day tomorrow? Weather.com predicted snow. Mom said six inches.
Annie (taking box of Wacky Mack out of the cabinet): Six inches? Damn, dude, that’s legit.
Kat (watching Annie pour the Macaroni into a pot): None of my other babysitters say damn. Isn’t damn a bad word? The other day, in class–
Annie: Hey rat-a-tat-kat, can you pass me the milk? It’s on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
Kat (whining): Wait, just lemme finish my story. The other day, in class, Timmy who’s obnoxious and always sticks his gum onto the hood of my sweatshirt, he dropped his pencil during a multiplication quiz. Mrs. Applebaum– she’s my teacher–said always to be quiet during quizzes but he said, “damn, I dropped my pencil,” and boy was she mad! Mrs. Applebaum, I mean. She made him sit in the corner for five whole minutes.
(She hops down from the stool and opens a nearby stainless steel fridge. She retrieves a carton of milk, hands it to Annie and climbs back on the stool.)
Annie: Five minutes, huh? Well, I used to get time-outs all the time when I was in third grade.
Kat: Really? I guess you’re just like Timmy in my class. He gets time outs all the time.
Annie: Well, I kinda like time-outs.
Kat: Really? What do you do?
Annie: When I have time-outs? (She pauses, thinking. Her hand slowly, methodically, stirs the pot of macaroni.) Sometimes I write poems.
Kat: Can you read me one? One of your poems, I mean. Are you like Emily Dickinson? And Robert Frost? I read poetry in school sometimes. Lots of it. I memorized one of his poems, Robert Frost I mean. “Whose woods are these? I think I know. His house is in the village though, he would not see me stopping by–” like that, that’s Robert Frost. Is that what your poetry is like?
Annie (bursts out laughing and shakes her head): No, no not really. I definitely wouldn’t say my poetry is like that. It’s a little more– abstract. Well, it’s more real for me. I write about the stuff in my world. I write about what I see around me. “I ran into Woody Guthrie in an elevator,” that was my last poem.
Kat: Did you really? Run into Woody Guthrie, I mean? Daddy plays his records sometimes. “This Land is Your Land” that’s one. I can play it for you, if you like. But did you really? Meet him, I mean?
Annie: No, Woody Guthrie’s dead.
Kat (furrows her brow, confused: You are weird dude. (She shrugs). Can I stir the pot for a minute?
Annie (hands her the wooden spoon): Sure, here ya go.
Kat: What’s that? On your wrist?
Annie (pulls down her sleeve to cover her wrist): Nothing.
Kat: But I know I saw something.
Annie: Kat. I promise, it’s nothing.
Kat: But I saw something, I know I did. Can you just show me what it is? Please? Please with five gazillion cherries on top?
Annie (tapping a beat on the kitchen counter as Kat stirs the pot): It’s art.
(Annie pulls up her sleeve to reveal a series of doodles made with marker, as well as two real tattoos.)
Kat: What kind? Did you use craypas? Or chalk?
Annie: No, I made them. Myself. Well, some of them I made myself. See, that’s what I do during my time-outs, when I haven’t got paint or Cray-Pas or crayons. I make art. I doodle. They’re called tattoos.
Kat (skeptical): You call that art? I thought art is only like… paintings and stuff. Like the Mona Lisa.
Annie: Well this is a different kind of art. It’s a secret though, ‘cause my parents don’t like it. This one here is an angel tattoo.
Kat: An angel? Which one? St. Maria? St. Catherine? That’s who I was named after. St. Catherine, I mean. My dad puts her at the top of my Christmas tree. Is your angel an angel-that-goes-on-top-of-Christmas-trees type?
Annie: Exactly. My parents never really bought Christmas trees ‘cause my mom… she’s kinda a neat freak. She didn’t want to get pine needles all over the living room. But I make angels myself, all up and down my arm. Likes Christmas tree decorations, I guess.
Kat (stops stirring the pot for a minute and thinks): You’re weird, man. Maybe even the weirdest babysitter I ever had. And trust me, that’s saying a lot. You’re even weirder than the old lady mom hired once to take care of me who smelled like tuna fish.
Annie (taking the wooden spoon out of Kat’s hand): My turn to stir. Hey, Rat-a-Tat-Kat, look out the window. Weather.com was right, huh? That snow is legit, dude.
Kat: Yeah. Maybe snow day material. Just maybe.
Annie: Should we go outside and make snow angels?
Kat: Are you crazy? We’ll catch our deaths. ‘Sides, I’ve got a violin recital Thursday.
Annie: Aww, come on dude. Don’t be such a scaredy-Kat.
Kat: I’m not scared; I’m just being sensible.
Annie (reaches into a cabinet to pull out two bowls): Oh, come on, Kat. Don’t you wanna make snow angels? You can make St. Catherine. St. Kat the divine.
Kat: Well… I don’t know. I’d rather–
Annie: That’s it. We’re going outside. Come on, kiddo, go get your ski jacket.
Kat: What about the Macaroni?
Annie: It’ll taste even better once we’re all cold and wet. Come on, buddy. Move your butt.
(Kat plants her feet on the linoleum floor and jumps down, scampering out of the kitchen. You hear her footsteps fade away, and Annie continues to stir the Macaroni pot. She pauses for a moment, thinking, then licks the cheese off of the wooden spoon and tosses it into the sink, turning off the stove. She turns of the kitchen lights and you hear her footsteps fading away. For a moment, the stage is dark. The lights come back on. The two are outside, both wearing winter coats, hats, scarves, and ski gloves. Kat’s coat is fitted, black cloth with fur lining the hood. Annie’s is a bright orange puffy skit jacket. Annie lies down on the snowy ground and flaps her arms and legs, forming an angel.)
Kat (she is standing above Annie, looking down and laughing): It’s funny, you know… for a minute you really did look like an angel. St. Catherine I mean, the one on top of my Christmas tree.
Annie (reaches out her arm and grabs Kat’s hand): Hey, Kat can you help me up for a minute?
Kat: Sure, but I–
Annie (pulls Kat down on top of her, into the snow): Gotcha!
Kat (squealing with laughter): Stop, stop lemme up!
(The two roll, giggling, in the snow for a minute. Kat stands and pulls Annie to her feet, both breathless.)
Kat: Oh, look what you did, Annie! You really are crazy, you know that? The angel is all messed up now, look!
Annie: Sometimes the messiest things are the most beautiful.
Kat (places her hands on her hips and looks up at Annie, squinting): Like what?
Annie (putting her arm around Kat and pulling her close, the snow coating each in a layer of white): Like life. Life’s pretty beautiful, sometimes…
Kat (distances herself from Annie, but does not completely leave her embrace): Like now?
Annie: Yeah, that’s right Kat. Like right now.
Kat: The weirdest thing was that it didn’t even make sense that I… looked up to you. I mean, you were only seventeen, and stupid sometimes too ‘cause I saw how you pulled your sweater sleeves down when Mom came home so she wouldn’t see the tattoos all up and down your right arm. And I know you made mistakes sometimes, like those snow angels ‘cause truth is I did have a cold for almost a week afterwards. But there was something… something about you and I don’t even know what. It wasn’t your poetry, or your laugh or the way you called me Rat-a-tat-Kat. It was just you, you were special. Sometimes I wondered why Mom hired you, I know she taught your English class at the high school downtown and I asked her once and that’s what she said, she said you were something special. “She colors outside of the lines, Kat,” she told me. Did I tell you someone said that to me the other day? It was the first time, and I thought of you and my stomach felt all weird and I had to kinda sit for a moment and think. I’ve always wanted to be like that. The kind of person who colors outside of the lines and up and down my arms in Crayola, tattoos and color and little bits of you.
Last night on my way home from the movies I was walking by the park. It was dark, like that kind of darkness that’s so thick you can taste it and feel it all over your skin and I was jogging ‘cause it was late and almost to curfew and I saw… this field. It was starry and the grass was all damp with late spring rain and I wanted to just go onto the field and lie down and soak it all up, the dark and the stars and the night, and I thought that’s what you’d do, Annie. But I didn’t. I closed my eyes for a second and all I could feel was the lateness and curfew so I just turned around and went home. Did you have to work at it, Annie? Or did it come naturally, like some people can beat box or tap dance or spell or play basketball? I never could really, just color outside of the lines.
(The setting is a bedroom with a Queen-size bed. There is a single lamp shedding light on Kat and Annie, and a moss green coverlet is spread over the bed. The two are perched on the bed’s edge. Kat is wearing an oversized white T-shirt with Mickey Mouse’s face on it that falls to her knees. She is barefoot. Annie is wearing loose-fitting light wash blue jeans, a maroon sweater, colorful striped socks, flat black converse, and a colorful scarf wrapped around her head. A copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is lying beside Annie on the bed.)
Annie (shutting the book): All right, time for bed.
Kat (yawns): But I’m not tired, Annie. Please, please, please, can’t we read a little more? Please with a billion cherries on top?
Annie: Kat, it’s 11:00! Do you want your mother to have me killed?
Kat: Well… I guess not.
(Kat crawls into bed and Annie pulls the covers over her.)
Kat: Don’t turn off the lights, though. ‘Least not ‘till I’ve turned on my Donald Duck nightlight. Annie, do you think it’s weird that I still use a nightlight?
Annie: Nope, I used a nightlight ‘till I was thirteen.
Kat: Really? Were you scared of the dark?
Annie: I was more scared of… being alone.
Kat: Oh…I’m scared of tarantulas. And raisins. And sometimes I’m scared of things I don’t understand. Like math problems, and complicated dessert recipes. I don’t really understand you either, just sometimes.
(Kat crawls under the covers and Annie leans down to give her a kiss)
Kat: Annie, can I ask you something?
Annie: Sure, Kat. Shoot.
Kat: Why are you wearing a scarf tonight? Did you get a bad haircut or something?
Annie: No, I didn’t get a bad haircut. It’s just… I’m sick.
Kat: Sick? With what? Are you going to be ok?
Annie (with a sigh): Hopefully. Hopefully I’ll be ok, but you don’t have to worry about that. Come on, it’s time for bed.
(Annie switches on the Donald Duck nightlight, and turns off the bedroom lights, stepping out the door.)
Kat (age 13): Now I realize how goddamned stupid I was not to realize. I mean yeah, I was 8-years-old and who gets those things at 8-years-old. But still, I’d heard that ugly word even then. Cancer. My ex-best-friend Maxine who was into astrology once told me that’s what I was, a Cancer ‘cause I was born in the month of July, she said, and I was like, “But isn’t that a freaking disease?” My Great Aunt Susan died of leukemia when I was three but it couldn’t happen to you ‘cause you wrote poetry and wore stitched leather boots and light-wash jeans and… it just didn’t add up, like one of those Algebra problems and the answer in the back of the textbook is “No Solution,” ‘cause the numbers don’t fit together. And I told you I was afraid of things I don’t understand, and I guess I still am ‘cause the numbers still don’t add up and already it’s been three years, and I guess that wasn’t you I saw in the movie theatre last night.
(A small, white and fluorescently lit hospital room. The bed is made with a puke-green coverlet and the night table is covered in vases of flowers, shiny-corny-teddy-bear-covered Get Well Soon cards, bags of Hershey kisses, and a small menagerie of stuffed animals. Annie is propped up on the bed, her noticeably bald head glowing in the harsh bright lights. She looks thin and is wearing a white hospital gown. Kat is perched on a stool near her bed, sitting stiffly with her mouth awkwardly pursed shut.)
Annie: Gosh, you look old Rat-a-tat-Kat! I mean, it’s been like a month since I last saw you and you look like you grew at least a billion inches. How’s school?
Annie: Yeah? How’s Timmy?
Annie: How’s, uhh… how’s Harry Potter?
Kat: Stopped reading it.
Annie: Is something… wrong, Kat?
Kat: No… No everything is totally perfect and good except that… Except that you left me! Except that you’re sick and you left me and Mom says… Mom says you might die, she said that’s what happens sometimes and sometimes it’s tomorrow or in a week or a year or eighty years but… but what does it even matter anyway. I wouldn’t care if you died. I really wouldn’t.
Annie: Kat, please, I–
Kat: No just stop talking. You’re just a dumb, old babysitter. I didn’t even want to come here! To the hospital, I mean. Dad made me come. He said I wouldn’t get dessert tonight if I didn’t come.
Annie: I’m sorry, Kat. You know, sometimes life just isn’t very fair. Sometimes people get sick and–
Kat: You sound like them.
Kat: Them. Mom, and Dad, and Mrs. Applebaum. You’re not any different from all of them. I thought you were. I liked you, for a day, but you’re just like all of them. You… I remember you told me you wrote a poem about meeting Woody Allen in an elevator. But it wasn’t real, was it? You’re not real you’re just… breakable.
Annie: Kat… I wish I weren’t sick but I’ll be better soon, I promise. We’ll make Mac & Cheese, just the two of us, OK? How does that sound?
Kat: I don’t want to make Mac & Cheese. I don’t want to see you ever again. I don’t want–
Annie: Kat, please. Damn it, I just–
Kat: And stop cursing, it’s not right to curse. Especially not in a hospital. (Elongated pause) I have to go. Daddy’s taking me to Mariel’s birthday party.
Annie: OK. I’ll see you soon, Kat.
(Kat jumps down from the stool, turns to leave and walks offstage, and Annie stares after her for a moment, then lies down and closes her eyes.)
13-year-old Kat is on stage, and 7-year-old Kat is nearby, in the corner.
Kat: Well later that night, after I dropped my friend off on Riverside and 86th I was walking home along West End and it was snowing a little, and chilly. I was thinking about you and wanting to tell you I bought Raisinets at the movies and they were really pretty good, and wanting to tell you Timmy’s still obnoxious and the other day I doodled poems in my math notebook, like one about Woody Guthrie and one about a girl in stitched leather boots at the movies. But you’re not there for me to text, or call, so I kinda walked home and thought it to myself for a while. And when I finally got home I stopped by my stoop for a minute and I looked up ‘cause somehow the streetlamps weren’t washing out the stars that night. The snow was drifting and it was so white and still, like a postcard or something, and for a minute I thought I saw… well, you’ll think I’m crazy but I swear I saw the outline of your angel, your snow angel, on the cement outside my building. I know it isn’t possible, I mean you’re gone and it’s gone and it’s been years of snow falling and melting but God, just for a second… there you were.