(A One-act Play for Two Actors)

Translated by John McCorkle

The Cast -
Bill, 45 years old
Helen, Bill's ex-wife, 43 years old

During the play, the actors dance a few steps of the tango.

The time is today. The scene is set in the apartment of Helen's new lover, James, a 25-year-old student. The apartment is sparsely furnished, with a small table, a couple of side chairs, a radio and a record-player. An antiquated couch lounges in a comer of the room. A phone rests on a worn plant-stand, next to an un-made bed. A partially empty bottle of brandy stands erect on the table. The apartment door is slightly ajar.

As the scene opens, Helen is idly browsing through some old photographs, tearing up a few after looking at them.

Bill peeks around the opened door, knocks softly.

Bill: May I come in? Your door was wide open! Anyone could have walked in on you!
Helen: Oh! .. Darling! What a surprise! An unexpected guest!
Bill: May I come in and close the door? (As he slowly eases the door shut)
Helen: Of course you can, darling. Of course you can! If you wanted to see James, he is not here right now. He was here... But now ... I... I... don't know where he went. I can't imagine where he went!
Bill: No, I didn't. Actually, I came to see you. (Gazing around the bare room) You have a.. a nice apartment here, Helen. It's so.. so neat.
Helen: Yes, it's a real love-nest, isn't it? (slightly smiling). But why do you come now? You haven't come to see me since we parted, you know. How long has it been since we last met? A month? Six months? Two years?
Bill: It's been nine months today, Helen. And I have missed you.
Helen: Really? Well, you still look good. Have a seat here, my long-forgotten husband. Would you care for a bit of brandy to warm yourself?
Bill: With pleasure! It's awful weather outside - so blustery and cold for this time of year.
Helen: Yes, indeed it is. So why have you come at this strange time. I don't remember inviting you over.
Bill: Well, can't an old husband come to visit his former wife - and the lucky fellow who has now become her lover?
Helen: But you could never come before. You were always 'Too Busy", you said. You always had so many other things to do, you said. You have never had time for me!
Bill: I'm sorry. That's just the way things happened to be at the time.
Helen: That's a likely story!! Anyway, have a drink and tell me.... tell me something about your life now.
Bill: Yes, OK. (pauses, taking a sip of brandy). I.... I don't know where to begin.
Helen: Well, you could begin by telling me why you didn't hang yourself when I left you!! Why didn't you throw yourself off the bridge and drown yourself like a true jilted lover would do!! Why? Why??
Bill: That's not funny, Helen.
Helen: But you said you loved me! All the time, you cried that you loved me!! Bill: Yes, I did love you! Helen: But then what happened?
Bill: I don't know for sure. I.... we... Nothing. Nothing happened. (Bill turns toward the small couch) Well, look at this! I remember this plush bear! (Picks up the small bear).
Helen: Yes. I took it when I left, along with some other things from our apartment. Bill: I didn't even notice it was gone. I gave you this bear at.... at... Helen: Never mind that, now! It doesn't matter, anyway. Bill: Yes. I guess, .....never mind. Helen: You haven't asked me how I am getting along.
Bill: Yes, of course. And how are you getting along?
Helen: In spite of you, I am living very well. James is a good lover... in fact, he is a fabulous lover! We spend all of our time together. He has introduced me to all of his friends. And they are such sweet people! I was so shy and reserved .... almost lonely.... with you. But now!! Now I am in a whole new world! I feel like I'm 20 years old again! James gives my all the love that you just promised! I have all that I need .. for the rest of my life! (Bill smiles at her) Don't laugh, you will never understand!
Bill: I'm not laughing - really - I'm.... I'm just happy for you!
Helen: I was just a plaything for you. And now, just an old, old plaything! .... The monotony... the poverty.. .the boredom!...
Bill: Well...... I'm sorry. I know things should have been different, but..... But how old
is he? How old is James?
Helen: He is twenty-five! And I feel as though I am the same! And I have not gone mad! That is the honest-to-god truth!
All of his friends feel the same way about us. Just a few weeks ago, we all had dinner at a very nice restaurant, and everyone told me that I must only be 30 at the most! A woman really has no age, you know. It's you men that make us think we're old - just because we have a few wrinkles here and there. If I had never lived with you, I would never have known that I was 43 years old!
Of course, my life with James isn't always a bed of roses. Sometimes we do quarrel. Maybe, more often than we should, - but it's a quarrel between two live, human beings - not just a couple of mummies from the museum!! But, - forgive me for the outburst. It really wasn't all your fault, you know.
(the phone rings) Excuse me. That may be James now. (she picks up the receiver). Hello. Who is this?.... Hello?? Hello?? Who are you calling? Well if you don't have sense enough to speak, don't call here again! It's that bitch again!! That whore! (Helen exclaims as she slams the receiver onto the hook.)
Helen: I'm sorry for the interruption - what were we talking about?
Bill: I was just thinking. In 15 years, you will be almost 60 and James will only be 40. What then?
Helen: What are you now? A mathematician?? I will never be 60! I will never grow old! Look at David and Bathsheba!...... Anthony and Cleopatra!....... Romeo and Juliet!! We'll
be James and Helen ... Young forever!
Bill: Oh ... yes.... of course, that's right!! Forget I said anything!! What were we talking about then?
Helen: I was talking about love ... with a capital "L". Bill: Ah, yes....... love! Well then, is James any good in bed?
Helen: I can't believe you!! Is this my ex-husband. Bill talking? Get out of my home before I throw something at you!! I just don't understand you! You come to visit me after nine long months .. and for what? Just to ask me about my new lover?? Really, Bill - your new-found freedom has played tricks on you! Have you found somebody, too? A new babe to comfort you on these long, lonely evenings?
Bill: Yes, as a matter of fact, I have.
Helen: You have? And who is this woman? I can just imagine!! Probably some widowed school-marm with pimples on her back!! She probably reads you the poems of Edgar Alien Poe all night long, and then brings you your coffee in bed in the morning! I'll bet she sleeps in a nightgown, and only makes love in the dark!
Bill: You have a very good imagination, Helen! Helen: Well, .. am I right??
Bill: Maybe.. somewhat. At least I don't need a 20-year-old lover to satisfy my needs. Helen: Then tell me I'm wrong!! Tell me what a fool I am!! Bill: And just why would I want to do that?
Helen: Oh, Bill.... my wonderful ex-. This is serious business! I am afraid that you really are in love this time!..... That you have finally found the woman of your dreams! But..... but what about me? What about your first lover.... me?
Bill: What? Do I hear words of regret here? Are you feeling sorry for yourself?
Helen: I.... I.. don't know. I just didn't think that our mad, passionate love life could be over so quickly, I guess.
Bill: But it's been 9 months, Helen. Nine months!! That is a long time to be away from each other.
Helen: But that isn't so long ....if two people really have feelings for each other.... is it, Bill??
Bill: Maybe.... maybe not. I just don't know for sure.
Helen: Is your new...... "friend" .. really nice? Is she beautiful?
Bill: At my age, outer beauty is not that important. Outer beauty only seems to corrupt... .itself.. and others around it. She is...... common..... and kind.... Very kind.
Helen: You're starting to make me cry. Where did you meet this ... this person? This woman?
Bill: I met her at the post office. The one near our... .my.. .house. During the first few weeks that we were parted, I wrote long letters to you every day.
Helen: But, I never received a one!!
Bill: Well... I sent them to myself..... I just needed to write something. I had to write, ...and write and write and write!
Helen: And then 'She' caught on to what you were doing, huh? She is a clever woman!
Bill: Yes... well.... she is ... .kind! Will you have a little more brandy, Helen?
Helen: Yes, I surely need some now. (Helen moves to the couch). But, let's not be so gloomy!! Here... come sit by me .... (Bill moves to the couch) . .hold my hand for old times sake! Look at us!! We are together again!... Just like it used to be!! Close your eyes ... Please. Close your eyes and imagine!! There's no one else in the world. Just you and I.... together.
Bill: (Bill moves away from Helen) I.... I don't know if we should be doing this, Helen. What if.... what if James were to co....
Helen: (Interrupting Bill) You know. Bill, I think of you a lot. I've even dreamed about you .... about us. .before. Why can't we still be friends.... like old friends??... and talk to each other.. whispering our innermost secrets that only we know .. that nobody else would... Oh sometimes I just can't keep my heart quiet! Can I tell you my secrets, Bill?
Bill: No!!... No, I don't want to know them!! I don't want to be a bucket for your mysterious longings!!
Helen: (Jumping to her feet, laughing) Ha, ha, ha!! I was only joking.... I was teasing you! Don't worry... I wouldn't tell you anything! (Helen moves to the record-player) Why don't we just dance to some nice music? (Looks through the stack of records) Really!! I just don't like this modem music!! It makes me sick! This music is more of an enemy to me than James' old flames!
(picks out a record) Cugie... that's who we need... Xavier Cugat and his tango!! Our old-fashioned tango!! I can go modern... but only after dancing the tango! I know why these young babes don't like the tango..... because it never ages!!..... just like me!! C'mon... let's dance!

(They join hands and begin to dance the tango. Bill speaks softly)

Bill: I know you're going to kill me for this.... but you do have some more wrinkles under your eyes.
Helen: Be quiet you foolish man! While we're dancing, you should only give me your finest compliments!
Bill: But you really are as beautiful as ever! I have always been fascinated by your radiant eyes.
Helen: Really?.. And are you still?.. fascinated, that is?
Bill: Absolutely! Let me gaze deeper into those lovely pools of beauty.
Helen: Whoa!! We'd better stop the music! ... Get something to cool you off? You're coming on like some wild kind of Cassanova for heaven's sakes?!
Bill: I'm sorry. I got carried away.... the music... the brandy!
Helen: Yes... I'm sure. Anyway, James will be coming home soon and I don't want him find us like this!
Bill: Are you sure?.... That he'll be home?
Helen: Of course I am sure!! Here, help me put these photos away and straighten up the place. Wait!! I've changed my mind. Let's have another sip of the cup... and you can tell me more about your new 'paramour'.... your woman friend!
Bill: Why do you want to bring her into this?
Helen: Because she is a good topic of conversation, of course! Go on.... tell me about her!
Bill: Well... I don't know that I can tell you much about her. She... she has chestnut-colored hair.. she has a birthmark on her chin... a small one... birthmark, that is. She may be a little stout... you know... pleasingly plump? That's about it, I guess. She is a fine woman!
Helen: That's all I need to know. In fact... it's more than I need to know!

(The phone rings - Helen lifts the receiver to her ear, listens a few moments, says nothing, then slowly replaces the receiver on the hook)

Helen (quietly): When you are here, nobody should call me. Did you know that I lost my job at the University?
Bill: I did hear something about that, yes. Helen: And what was it that you heard?
Bill: Well ... that you were caught drinking with some of the students... a window got broken..... and that you had some problems with a professor.
Helen: Some problems? What do you mean "Some problems"? I tried to seduce him in his office for god's sake!! James' friends were having some fun and got me drunk one day. I thought I was having fun, too, but.... That's what can happen when "boozin buddies" start having some fun, I guess. But I would rather it happened to somebody other than me!!
Bill: A real Mister Right, huh?
Helen: Who?
Bill: Your wonderful James, of course! The pig!!
Helen: It wasn't his fault... not all of it. I asked for it! I wanted him to want ME more than he wanted his friends. It's really a very funny story..... ver-r-r-y funny!
Bill: And what is your job now, Helen?
Helen: My job?.... My job?... My job is to be here for James. I am trying to be the ideal housewife. I make dinner... I clean the apartment... I wait for my one and only to come home to me. My life today is the dream of every modem woman! Always, my main thought is that I have James.. and he has me!
Bill: You're talking as if nothing has happened!!
Helen: Well, what has happened? No big deal! ....You don't have to pretend to be so interested in me and my life! Why should you be, anyway? It's just a bunch of words, ... .words, words!
I'm sorry. I know you mean well.,. .you're a good man... but... .But what about you and your job? Have you been promoted yet?



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