a one act play

Julia, happily married, has carried a torch for her first love. Cliff, a widower, has pined for Julia as well. Over the years they have both maintained contact through Christmas cards. Cliff breaks the stalemate by calling Julia and inviting her to lunch. She sorts her feelings with her hairdresser, Billy. Cliff processes with his family friend, Gwen. Should they meet for lunch?

CHARACTERS:

 JULIA:  76, retired social worker, married to Jonathan her second husband.

BILLY:  Hair dresser.

CLIFF:  78, retired businessman

GWEN:  Long-time family friend to CLIFF

SETTING:

Minimal set.

Stage Left:  JULIA in chair with beauty shop towel.  BILLY working on her.

Stage Right: CLIFF at a café table with GWEN.

Dialogue alternates

BILLY (to Julia)

The usual trim and color?

JULIA

Yes, I suppose. The same old me. Not much point in changing my look now. (Sighs.)

BILLY

What? You don’t want a layered bob with (Ruffles her hair.) tints and highlights. You’d give Jonathan quite a surprise.

JULIA

Jonathan doesn’t do surprise. He probably wouldn’t even notice or care. He just smiles every time he sees me even over breakfast.

BILLY

That’s got to be …reassuring

JULIA

I suppose. It’s also boring.

GWEN (to Cliff)

So, Cliff, what’s exciting in your life these days?

CLIFF

Not much. Not much at all. Just a little gardening. Fishing out at the lake.

GWEN

What about tracking your investments?  That’s got to be…

CLIFF

A mental exercise. Like playing Sudoku or a crossword puzzle. Worth twenty minutes a day.

GWEN

I should be so lucky to be bored watching our nest egg. Well, anyway, you’re looking good. Are you feeling ok?

CLIFF

Yeah, sure. I can still drive at night.

GWEN (Chuckles)

That’s a plus with the ladies, I’m sure.

CLIFF

What ladies?

GWEN

C’mon. You’re a great catch. There’s got to be a line waiting to get their hands on you.

CLIFF

Their hooks, you mean.

GWEN

Not all women want you for your money.

CLIFF

I hope that’s true for one.

GWEN

Ohh, is there someone in the wings that I don’t know about?

BILLY (to Julia)

Ok. Out with it. There’s something on your mind besides your hair.

JULIA

It’s nothing, Billy. Really

BILLY

Oh no, you’re not getting away with that. This is Billy. I know you don’t go to church and talk to your minister or see a shrink. So, who else can you dish with, if not me?

JULIA

It’s such a cliché.

BILLY

There are only so many plots, sweetie. We don’t get to choose an original. So, out with it.

JULIA

(Sighs) There’s this man.

BILLY

Who has a name?

JULIA

Cliff Harrelson. He and I were quite in love. I was young. He was ready to graduate, to get married. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But it wasn’t just to be a sweet little mommy. I wanted to feel equal some kind of way. I needed an education, a profession.

BILLY

Your own identity.

JULIA

See? You get it. Yeah. But he knocked up some chick while I was away to school.

BILLY

He did the noble thing, I presume, and married the tramp?

JULIA

Yes.

BILLY

So, you’ve been thinking about him now and again and playing ‘what if’ and that’s got you down.

JULIA

More than that. He called me two days ago.

CLIFF (to GWEN)

There’s this woman.

GWEN

Give her name, would you? That’s so demeaning. Men always do that. ‘My wife’ instead of using her name. Defining people by their roles and relationship instead of their names. People…

CLIFF

Ok. You made your point. Julia. Her name was…is, Julia. Julia and I were very close just before I graduated. She insisted on going away for her social work degree.

GWEN

Understandable.

CLIFF

I told her she could go back later.

GWEN

That old trap. But she didn’t agree and that’s when you met Sherry.

CLIFF

Something like that. Yeah.

GWEN

So, this Julia has suddenly surfaced. Did she call you? Did you just run into her by chance in an airport? What?

CLIFF

I called her.

GWEN

Oh. Still carrying the torch. Well, why not? Sherry’s been gone how long? Seven years? And you’re lonely. Why not look her up?

CLIFF

Exactly

GWEN

So, did you?

CLIFF

Not right away.

GWEN

Why not? At our age, time is important.

CLIFF

Well, we have been sending Christmas cards over the years and…

GWEN

Sooo, you both kept in touch.

CLIFF

My god, if you’re going to make a melodrama of it…yes we kept in touch. I knew she was married a second time. And I knew where she lived. And I didn’t want to…I don’t know…interfere with her current life.

GWEN

Exactly. What good would it do if she was married?

CLIFF

Well, who knows? Maybe she was unhappy, ready to move on. Or maybe her husband was on his last legs and I just had to wait a little bit. Or maybe he was in an institution or…

GWEN

Omigod (Laughing) you are really serious about this woman. So, you wanted to talk to her, meet up with her. Did it ever occur to you that she might not want to run into you again?

CLIFF (Unsure)

The Christmas cards…?

GWEN

So, she remembers you. That doesn’t mean she wants to have you barging into her life stirring up all kinds of feelings, good and bad, about you.

CLIFF

I didn’t play it right the first time. I just want to see…where she stands, now. So, I tried to find out all I could. I Googled her…

GWEN

That’s an awful expression. Almost sounds like you…

CLIFF

Can I talk, or are you going to run everything I say through your Politically Correct filter?

GWEN

Talk.

CLIFF

Well, I finally got her number and thought of what I should say and I called her.

JULIA

So, there I was in the front room, reading. Jonathan was watching the ball game when Cliff called.

BILLY

Surprise!

JULIA

Well, yeah. I hadn’t heard his voice in 60 years. But it sounded just the same. And I…you know when you notice a certain smell and suddenly you’re back to your grandma’s kitchen or the school cafeteria…

BILLY

Or the locker room. Beam me up Scotty.

JULIA

Well, his voice shot me right back. Jonathan, must have noticed my reaction because he mouthed, ‘Who is it?’ I put my hand over the phone and said, ‘old friend’. He goes, ‘All our friends are old’ then, first he made a muscle with his arm, then held cupped hands in front of his chest.’

BILLY

He wanted to know if it was a man or a woman?

JULIA

I pointed at him and gave him my look.

BILLY

Jonathan sounds cool. I’d like to meet him.

JULIA

Cool. He’s cool all right. He’s so cool…

BILLY  (Interrupting.)

That you wonder if he ever is jealous of you? He sounds solid to me.

JULIA

Solid. Stolid. But yes, cool. I listened for a minute and then said nice and loud, ‘Meet you for lunch? I don’t know.’ Jonathan gave me a thumbs up.

BILLY

So, you said?

JULIE  (Indignantly)

Well, No. (Beat,) But he gave me his number in case I changed my mind.

GWEN

What did you talk about?

CLIFF

I asked her to meet for lunch.

GWEN

With or without spouse?

CLIFF

Alone. But she declined.

GWEN

Aww. Too bad.

CLIFF

Well, I keep wondering what it would have been like. I mean, I’ve changed so much. What if she’s…

GWEN

Old and wrinkled? Well, yeah. Why wouldn’t she be? Aren’t we all?

CLIFF

C’mon. It was more than that.

GWEN

Yeah, like what?

BILLY

Why, in heaven’s name, did you say no? What were you afraid of? Your husband obviously was okay with it? Did you think this Cliff guy was going to drag you off to a hotel room and have his way with you?

JULIA (Indignant silence)

BILLY

Sorry. That was out of line. Jury, please disregard that last remark. So, do tell me what you were afraid of.

JULIA

What if he looked at me and thought, ‘omigod is this what I’ve been pining over all my life? Thank god I’m not stuck with her.’

BILLY

Look in the mirror, Julia. You’re a beautiful woman. If he thought anything like that, we wouldn’t want him.

JULIA

But what if it was just the opposite. And this beautiful guy I dreamed about all my life turned out to be stoop shouldered, bald and overweight.

BILLY

You’re afraid, you’d blow up a beautiful fantasy…is that it?

JULIA

That or find him devastating.

BILLY

And have buyer’s remorse around your life with cool Jonathan.

JULIA

You have a way of ruining a good pout.

BILLY

Well, are you?

JULIA

What?

BILLY

Afraid that if you saw him you could never be happy with Jonathan again?

JULIA (Defiant chin up, gets off the chair.)

Well, I just might have to find out won’t I?

CLIFF

What if she was every bit as attractive now as I remembered her? Then what? I’d feel worse and more sad that we never got it together.

GWEN

Sounds like you’re hoping to find something about her looks or clothes or, I don’t know what, that means you could dismiss her and say to yourself, ‘thank god I got out of that. Now I can quit crying in my beer over what might have been.’

CLIFF

It’s not like that. I truly miss her and just want to see her again…

GWEN

Maybe you should just leave well enough alone…for all concerned.

CLIFF

Maybe. Maybe you’re right. But maybe I’ll just give her another call.

Lights down

Lights up on a restaurant table

CLIFF is sitting fumbling with the menu. JULIA enters. CLIFF stands they stare for a moment. JULIA approaches stops three feet away. CLIFF reaches for her hand, holds it gently, leans forward as for a kiss. JULIA backs up.

CLIFF

You’re every bit as lovely as I imagined you would be.

JULIA (Shyly)

Thank You.

(CLIFF gestures toward the table. They sit. Uneasy silence.)

JULIA

Do you remember the scene in Annie Hall where Woodie Allen says to Diane Keaton on their first date, ‘Look why don’t we kiss right away so we don’t have to wonder about it all evening and then we can enjoy ourselves.’?

CLIFF

Yes, I do. But I wasn’t planning on trying to kiss you.

JULIA

Nor I you. I mean let’s get the elephant out of the room. I’m happily married and have no intention of…getting involved, no matter how good you look.

CLIFF

Thanks for the compliment, I think. And no, the last thing I would want would be to disrupt your life…if you’re happy. I just wanted to see you again. I missed you.

JULIA (Nods slowly)

CLIFF

And I missed how direct you can be…

JULIA

Ha!

CLIFF

And how alive I feel when I’m around you.

JULIA (Reluctantly)

Stop.

CLIFF (Reaches for JULIA’s hand.)

No. I’m not going to barge into your life…cause waves for you.

JULIA

You already have.

CLIFF

Sorry. Look. I’m walking away after this lunch and will leave you alone. But you need to know, in just this short time together, I’m reminded of how much I’ve missed the companionship of an intelligent, attractive woman. Man, I’ve gotta get back out there.

JULIA (Laughs, grabs his hand and squeezes.)

CLIFF

So, now that we got that out of the way, can we enjoy our lunch?

  Lights Down

                                                            END

 

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