Editor’s note: “Memorial” originally appeared in the February/March 1996 issue of A&U.
by Tom O’Leary
STEPHEN SMITH: 38, acidic in his humor and outlook on life.
BILLY HODGE: 35, innocent until provoked.
MARTIN STUART: 42
1996. Late Afternoon.
[Lights come up on The Common Room of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Rear of stage is a long banquet table littered with food. BILLY HODGE stands alone, staring off. STEPHEN SMITH enters.]
STEPHEN: Delish food.
BILLY: I haven’t eaten.
STEPHEN: Try the wine. It’s frisky as a puppy.
BILLY: I keep meaning to eat. Something. Small.
STEPHEN: One never knows if it’s bad form. Chowing down. There’s so much food.
BILLY: It’s a waste.
BILLY: I’m sure they’ll donate it. To something.
STEPHEN: Everything gets donated to something these days.
The music was just . . .
STEPHEN: . . . perfection.
BILLY: Cello Sonatas.
STEPHEN: I often think memorials are the only proof we have of civilization, now.
[Nearly uncomfortable pause.]
His mother looks nothing like him.
STEPHEN: She’s big. Her head.
BILLY: His father’s head is small.
STEPHEN: Glass of wine?
BILLY: I keep looking at the food.
STEPHEN: Come to think of it, he never listened to Brahms.
BILLY: All this food, just begging for attention.
STEPHEN: So that’s what I have in common with food.
BILLY: His musical taste . . . to be honest . . .
STEPHEN: Was abysmal.
BILLY: He liked that woman with the season for a last name.
STEPHEN: Yes. That woman.
BILLY: [touching his head] The plethora of food is giving me a headache.
STEPHEN: She was always sharp on the phone. She didn’t believe in small talk. “Joseph, it’s your mother. Call.”
BILLY: Even when I close my eyes I can still see the food.
STEPHEN: So, how’s the TV business? Billy?
STEPHEN: How is the wide world of television?
BILLY: Oh. Fine.
STEPHEN: I see your Ms. Walters is combing down and over. Perfect choice.
STEPHEN: No “Hi, Stephen, how’s the hair business?” No “Hi, Billy, how’s the television business? Your Ms. Walters is combing her hair down and over. Very becoming.” Nothing idle from that one. That little one with the big head. Wine, Billy? Dry as dessert wine?
STEPHEN: Ixnay. Lactose intolerant. Can’t stand it black. Had you met her?
BILLY: His parents didn’t come east during our . . .
STEPHEN: Moment of bliss?
BILLY: I don’t . . .
STEPHEN: Bumping of uglies?
BILLY: . . . think . . .
STEPHEN: Roll in the hay?
BILLY: No, they didn’t visit.
STEPHEN: Yes, Tucson as center of civilization. Oh, Binky is here.
BILLY: He’s gained weight. How lovely.
STEPHEN: Please, God, don’t let him come over. One former lover’s former lover at a time.
BILLY: Are we all here?
STEPHEN: I haven’t seen Charles yet.
BILLY: Charles is in L.A. He has a great position with ICM.
STEPHEN: The food here is rather blinding, now that you mention it.
BILLY: Had you met her?
STEPHEN: No. They were in the city for one day. On their way to County Cork. I made an excuse. Joey seemed relieved.
BILLY: He hated confrontation.
STEPHEN: Didn’t he just.
BILLY: She seems harmless now. His mother.
STEPHEN: Except for the large head. Glass of wine?
BILLY: Sober. Two years. Three months. I thought everyone knew.
STEPHEN: Dear. One of the sober ones.
BILLY: It must be hell for his parents.
STEPHEN: I wouldn’t think your sobriety would affect them one way or the other.
BILLY: His passing.
STEPHEN: Oh. Yes. That.
BILLY: Michael is here.
STEPHEN: Yes. I see. If he’s expecting that hair color will bring back his long lost youth he’s mistaken.
BILLY: How many former boyfriends do you suppose there are?
STEPHEN: Oh, not many. Just enough to fill Noah’s Ark.
BILLY: Joe was popular.
BILLY: You heard his Elton John story.
STEPHEN: Not from him. He hid all of that from me. He thought I was this mature, settled figure. Thought I wouldn’t approve of his youthful indiscretions. I did hear the story eventually. One always hears those stories eventually.
BILLY: I hated that she never bothered to learn my name. Granted, our shelf life was just two years. Joe had a two year limit. As you know.
STEPHEN: Oh, look, Martin is still alive. [They smile at an unseen MARTIN.]
BILLY: Joe would have been . . .
STEPHEN: Thirty-four. Just.
BILLY: Thirty-four. Yes. When I first laid eyes on him I actually said out loud, That is the best looking boy I’ve ever seen. He sparkled.
STEPHEN: One needed sunglasses.
When you say two years, are you saying twenty-four full months on the dot?
BILLY: Perhaps a sandwich. They look so inconsequential.
STEPHEN: Wouldn’t it be nice to clear the air? Everyone else seemed to know at the time. Everyone but us.
BILLY: It was a dozen years ago.
STEPHEN: Call me Cathy Curious.
BILLY: Martin is on a new regimen. Louis was telling me. He’s doing that tea thing everyone is doing. They look like pods. You boil them. Or something. I’d be afraid the pods would come and crawl on your face in the dead of night. You’d wake looking like Cathy Lee Rigby. Very Rod Serling. What was your question again?
STEPHEN: All of ’84 and the winter, spring and the beginning of the summer of ’85 he was with me. You came along, as the world knows. You. Bathsheba. Came along. But you didn’t arrive until after the summer began. You couldn’t have.
BILLY: Professionally speaking, what would you do with Frank’s hair?
STEPHEN: Set it on fire.
BILLY: How do you define the beginning of summer?
STEPHEN: Joey and I were with Rick and Jason on the Island the weekend of the Fourth.
BILLY: Seriously? July 4th? Where was I?
STEPHEN: I can’t possibly know. I’m not sure I know where you are now.
BILLY: To be perfectly honest, since you insist, I met Joe the day before Mother’s Day.
STEPHEN: [shocked] You can’t have. You must be thinking the Fourth. After the Fourth.
BILLY: They’re wrapping things. I should grab something.
STEPHEN: Let me!
[STEPHEN goes off. He returns with a tray of pastries.]
BILLY: Stephen, really! You’ve returned with a plate of sin. I couldn’t.
STEPHEN: Don’t be precious. You, Jerry Hall, you.
BILLY: They’re watery.
STEPHEN: They’re sweating. Pastries sweat. It’s how they mourn.
BILLY: Just one tiny one.
[BILLY eats a pastry.]
STEPHEN: He spent Labor Day with me.
BILLY: That’s a lie! We were on the Grove with Sally and Cherise. I was reading A Tale of Two Cities. These sweaty pastries are beyond delicious. Just one more.
STEPHEN: Explain Mother’s Day.
BILLY: Explain Labor Day.
STEPHEN: I asked first.
BILLY: I could eat a hundred of these.
STEPHEN: If you do not explain Mother’s Day, I will rip the perfect eyes out of your perfect head.
BILLY: Wait. Last one. If I reach for another cut my hand off.
STEPHEN: Oh, why stop at the hand?
BILLY: Wait. Where is your glass of white wine?
STEPHEN: [smile] Darling, I finished that ages ago.
BILLY: Stephen, you had a full glass when you went for the pastries.
STEPHEN: Really, Billy. It doesn’t take an Academy Award winning performance to finish a glass of wine.
[Pause. BILLY’s face turns white.]
[BILLY rushes off. MARTIN STUART enters.]
MARTIN: Did someone call me?
STEPHEN: Hello, Martin. How are you?
MARTIN: Alive, Stephen. How are you?
STEPHEN: Oh, I’m presently going through a Bette Davis phase. Mischief. Mischief. Mischief.
MARTIN: How does one manage to be mischievous these days?
STEPHEN: It takes great thought and planning.
[BILLY returns, out of breath and red in the face.]
BILLY: COW! BENEATH PEASANTRY!
MARTIN: William, really. All of the other boyfriends are looking.
BILLY: YOU KNEW I WAS SOBER!
STEPHEN: I had heard tell.
[BILLY lunges at STEPHEN.]
BILLY: I’ll rip every processed hair out of your skull!
STEPHEN: Get off me, animal!
MARTIN: Darlings, what the hell are you thinking? Everyone is watching! Stop it! Now! You heard me!
[BILLY and STEPHEN pull apart.]
[BILLY takes MARTIN’s glass.]
BILLY: What is this?
[BILLY drinks, gargles, spits behind him.]
[They stare at him as if he were from another planet.]
Have you lost your slender mind?
I slept with him the day before Mother’s Day. So there.
STEPHEN: I slept with him Labor Day weekend. So there.
MARTIN: Girls, girls. We are not in a Bavarian Beer Hall.
STEPHEN: You were nowhere near him on Mother’s Day.
BILLY: No, but I was on top of him the day before.
BILLY: We met at the skinny card shop at Eighteenth and Seventh. He was late with his Mother’s Day card. He cruised me like a sailor who’s been at sea for decades.
STEPHEN: I don’t believe it. Not a word. Your brain has obviously been damaged thanks to the decades you’ve been pickling it.
MARTIN: Oh, no.
STEPHEN & BILLY: What?
MARTIN: She’s crying.
STEPHEN & BILLY: Who?
MARTIN: The mother.
STEPHEN: Oh, God, no.
BILLY: I hate that.
MARTIN: The father is going to say a few words.
STEPHEN: I really hate that.
MARTIN: Very few words.
BILLY: They’re both crying now.
STEPHEN: Not fair.
MARTIN: The entire room is crying.
STEPHEN: I hate it when they thank us for being family too.
MARTIN: That always kills me.
BILLY: Stephen, your mascara is running.
MARTIN: My God, it is.
STEPHEN: That’s impossible. This is tear-proof.
MARTIN: You, butch-fem, you.
BILLY: Heard you were doing the tea thing, Martin.
MARTIN: Yes. It’s fabulous.
STEPHEN: Your color is thrilling.
MARTIN: Thank heaven; it’s been a grand month. Excepting Joseph.
MARTIN: Did he tell you his Elton John story?
STEPHEN: I heard it.
MARTIN: Yes. One does.
STEPHEN: Anyone going uptown?
MARTIN & BILLY: No.
STEPHEN: Well. Then.
MARTIN: How about a movie? An old movie. One of the bad Julie Andrews musicals. Something overblown and witless.
STEPHEN: Like us.
[They stare off.]
One often feels like a dinosaur.
MARTIN: Surviving the crunch.
BILLY: Leave it to Sondheim to have the last word.
STEPHEN: Let’s not do this again soon.
MARTIN & BILLY: Agreed.
[Pause. They stare off.]
Tom O’Leary is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and humor writer. O’Leary wrote the screenplay for the short film Where We Began, which won a 2007 PlanetOut Short Movie Award and tied for the PlanetOut Audience Choice Award. Nourishment, another short film written by O’Leary, has played around the world at over thirty film festivals. With writer Cathy Crimmins, O’Leary co-authored the best-selling humor book The Gay Man’s Guide to Heterosexuality. His play David won the Provincetown Theater Company Best New Play of 1998. David received its world premiere at the Theater on the Square in Indianapolis where it played to sold-out houses. Breath, an evening of one-acts by O’Leary, was performed in both New York City and Los Angeles. His play The Negative Room won the Best New Play Award at the Towngate Theater in 1994 and played to sold out audiences in Provincetown, MA.