Deepak & Stephen: A One-Act Play — An Excerpt

by DRM

94/365: Empty walls

Scene I

The lights come up and reveal a grey, empty room.  Our perspective is at an angle; two walls retreat to the back of the stage and join in a corner in the deep recesses of stage right.

The lights dim.  Ocean sounds fill the air, the swell and wash of the water, a building rush of wind, the snap of waves slapping into shallow troughs.  The sensation is hypnotic and comforting.

After a couple of minutes, the sounds dim and vanish as if we had been carried away from the ocean into a vast and empty space.  We sit in silence for a moment.  Then we hear the sound of a thin wheel being pushed over a dry surface.  The lights come up.

To the right of the stage, a man sits in a wheel chair.  The sturdy wheel chair appears to swallow his slight body up.  The man is at an angle to us and he is looking up at the point where the wall vanishes into the darkness.  His body is contorted, as if he were frozen in mid crouch, and he is perched sideways on the chair.  He moves his head slowly about at an awkward angle.  Between the pitch of his head and the slope of his shoulders and the asymmetric instance of motion and immobility signified by his body, it is impossible to discern exactly where he is looking.  The sensation is unsettling.

The chair begins to rotate away from us.  We see his back, and then the angle of his far side, then a shock of black hair, the thick lens of his glasses, the melting slope of his jaw, and then, his entire presence full on.

The man is smiling.  He squints at us.  We still don’t know where he is looking.

The lights dim perceptibly.  The man closes his eyes with a look of satisfaction.  Brilliant white numbers, translucent and three-dimensional, fall around the man.  The numbers become interspersed with scientific notations, then formulas, and begin to fall faster and thicker, until the air appears filled with dandelion spores. Sound fills the air, a melodic roar, as if the universe were unveiling it’s perfect pitch, at once assuring, divine, overwhelming and frightening.

The man smiles.  The lights go black.

Scene II

A spotlight goes up on the left rear stage.

A small, nut-brown man stands near the back wall.  He has thick black hair, thin lips, a stocky torso and thin legs.  He wears black Gucci glasses with square lens, a black shirt that hugs his belly, and black pants that make his ass look thin for his body.  A thin sheen of perspiration covers his face. He has burgundy clogs on his feet.

The man is absorbed in his own body.  He holds out his hand and peers at it as if it were an item in a shop.  He refracts and extends his arm, then points out his toe, and begins to swing his arm back and forth and lift his leg up and down like a ballerina warming up.  He pirouettes, then bends his knees.  He stops and looks down at his leg.  He runs his palm along its length, as if he were smoothing the fabric.  He takes off his glasses and inspects the lens.

Then he stops and looks around.

Deepak:  What?

He moves around the tight circle of the spotlight, peering into the dark.

Deepak:  Hmmm.  This is different.  There.  No.  There?  No.  Am I seeing into space that I know or am I seeing into the space that could be? A conjecture? This could be the conjecture and I’m gaining awareness?  Evolving into the space I’m seeing.  This is potential.  Potent.  All.  Potent.

We hear the sound of the wheelchair crossing the stage.  Deepak becomes silent.  He doesn’t recognize the sound.  A sliver of the chrome chair wheels breaks the border of the spotlight.

Stephen:  Or, this moment is discrete and can’t be conjoined with any other moment, but is influenced by those moments.  So there is no knowing.

Deepak:  My word, that’s wrong.

Stephen:  Wrong?

Deepak:  There, there!  That shadow.  That is the idea manifest, that has to be it!

Stephen:  Why wrong?

Deepak:  Shh.  Wait a moment.  Wait…ahhh, it’s nothing.  No, it’s reduced to nothing.  It was something.  It was part of me.  Now, where were we?

Stephen:  I am wrong, I believe you said.

Deepak:  Well, if you are saying that this moment is unique and disconnected from any other moment, then you’re wrong.  Everything is about the connections.  That is how our consciousness is bound together.

Stephen:  You are certain of that?

Deepak:  I’ve devoted my life work to that.

Stephen:  Everyone needs something to pass the time.

Deepak stares past the edge of the circle where Stephen sits.

The lights come down.

Scene III

The lights come up to reveal Stephen sitting in the center of the stage facing the audience.  Deepak is standing facing the wall stage left.  He is pushing at the wall with the tips of his fingers.

Stephen:  What’s your diagnosis, Doctor.

Deepak:  Oh, I’m not that kind of Doctor.

Stephen:  Your palpating technique appears very experienced.

Deepak:  It helps me think, pushing against something.  It’s a physical metaphor.  By engaging my fingertips with the obstacle and probing gently, I’m able to channel my thoughts in a productive way around the problem at hand.  It’s a meditative technique.

Stephen:  Practical too.

Deepak:  Practical?

In his response, Deepak mimics Stephen’s halting and unfamiliar cadence.  Stephen is slow to respond.  He tilts his head to the side like a myna bird so that he can look over at the man by the wall.  Deepak moves into the silence and steps to the center of the room.

Deepak:  How is it practical that I’m pushing at the wall?  Or…do you think it is practical that I push against the wall to help myself think?  Or is meditating…

Stephen:  When you apply force to the wall, the energy from your body is transferred to the dynamic structure of the wall — the molecules and atoms and everything else that consists of the wall right now. That energy has to go somewhere.  Imagine that the wall is every time, that time is X over X, where X is any moment.  When you transfer your energy to the wall, you influence X, making it Xy, and then, everything that was true for X is untrue for Xy. That change could conceivably influence your neurons.  After all, it’s interacting on some level with a quark billions of light years away.

Deepak: Yes, yes, quarks.  Everything that is outside is inside.  Tell me…do you think we can get out of here?

Stephen: Here?

Deepak: Yes.  I’m going to be late for an important conversation.

Stephen: So, you perceive that you are here and can’t leave?

Deepak: Yes.

Stephen: You’re trapped?

Deepak looks around at the three walls.

Deepak: Yes.  It appears so.

Stephen: Then you’ve arrived at a moment of understanding.  That’s good.

The lights go down.