*The following piece contains passages that may be best suited for a mature audience.
T his play is based on a true story. Its lessons are manifold: Don’t ride in elevators. Be nice to gay people. See to it that your lady finishes, too.
I can only thank my lucky stars that I was there to see it all.
It is my sincere hope that you, the Reader, come away from this play a new man, especially if you happen to be an old woman. Furthermore, it is my sincere command that you, the Reader, reflect on the following themes as you read:
1. The rapid decay of communication skills not regularly exercised
2. The superficiality of the purported evolution of interactions between heterosexual males
3. The part played by God in an age which has largely forgotten Him
4. The criteria duly considered in the evaluation of whether the proverbial life is proverbially good
Think on these things, and let me know what you discover. My editor says we need the answers by tomorrow. Good luck!
GERALD enters an elevator, wherein the ATTENDANT awaits him.
I...I have a meeting.
Oh! I thought you were saying something else, ha-ha.
The ATTENDANT presses the button for the top floor.
Walk down if you need t'.
The elevator ascends. GERALD, confused and perturbed, tries to form the words to confront the ATTENDANT. He cannot; he elects cordiality instead.
This is the first elevator ride I've taken in a year.
The ATTENDANT does not respond.
Feels like I've forgotten how to talk to people after so long, y'know? Ha-ha.
The ATTENDANT does not respond.
You, too, huh?
The elevator bell dings, and the ride comes to a stop. CYNTHIA enters. She begins texting, as GERALD searches for just the right thing to say to her.
So am I the only one here who has COVID?
Not acknowledging GERALD, CYNTHIA reaches into her purse and withdraws a mask. She puts it on and continues texting. The ride continues until the next ding, whereupon DAN enters.
DAN has a forehead tattoo which reads "THIS SIDE UP."
I am Gerald.
It's good to be named Dan, though.
Several moments later, DAN pulls down his pants. CYNTHIA, too, disrobes. DAN reaches a hand into CYNTHIA's panties, and she takes hold of his genitals. The two engage in phalangeal love without making eye contact.
(after this has endured too long)
CYNTHIA continues to text as the action unfolds. DAN stares open-mouthed at the ceiling, groaning with increasing frequency and amplitude.
The ATTENDANT picks his nose.
CYNTHIA removes her hand from DAN's undergarments, and she sends off her text with an audible swoosh. The two put their clothes back on.
Are you...is...is anyone going to do anything about this?!
The elevator bell dings. CYNTHIA puts her phone in her purse, then turns to GERALD.
Death is everywhere.
CYNTHIA departs, and the ride continues. Gradually, a smile spreads across DAN's face. He, too, turns to GERALD.
I fucked her.
GERALD regards DAN, exasperated, hurt.
But... why you?
What are you, some kinda fucking faggot?
I'm sorry I called you "faggot."
What would you prefer to be called?
I did my training, man. This is a safe space. Do you prefer the term "gay"?
Oh, no, not gay, I'm not—
No, I'm...heterosexual, I'm not—
The elevator bell dings, and the ride comes to a stop.
Just tell me, dude. Queer? I like anal, too!
The elevator doors open.
No, man, I'm not fucking queer!
TIMOTHY enters, wearing a rainbow t-shirt. The word "GAY" is written on the shirt in hot pink bubble letters.
DAN briskly exits. GERALD is consumed by the horrible question of whether TIMOTHY overheard his declaration of heterosexuality. After an unbearable minute, the elevator bell mercifully dings.
(calling after him)
I, I, I voted for Biden!
The doors close, and the elevator reinitiates its ascent. GERALD throws his face into his hands.
(lifting his head)
Talking to people.
GERALD walks to the ATTENDANT's side. The ATTENDANT leans close to GERALD to whisper in his ear.
The secret, kid.
You need to. You need to picture you; no, you, you picture them. Picture themselves: naked. Or, or, you picture, you picture you naked, and them also, are—
GERALD attempts to physically disengage, but the ATTENDANT puts a hand on his shoulder to keep him close.
What, you, need, to do, is picture a naked, picture, and think that all of you there are naked. Also.
The ATTENDANT releases GERALD and sits back on his stool, satisfied and proud of his advice. The elevator bell dings, and KATHY comes on.
Good enough, GERALD thinks. Good enough.
The elevator continues to ascend. After several moments, KATHY suddenly turns to face GERALD, her eyes filled with tears.
I can't do this anymore.
KATHY rushes to the button panel and smashes EMERGENCY STOP. The ride comes to a screeching halt. She crumbles to the floor and weeps.
(kneeling down to meet KATHY)
(punctuated, hysterical sobs)
I can’t take this anymore!
The ATTENDANT seems to fall asleep.
(exasperated, becoming impatient)
What? What can't you take?!
I...I was with my friends at dinner the other night. It was Luke and Olivia, who're dating, and Marianne and Gretchen, who're also dating, and me. And they were telling me about this BuzzFeed quiz they all took, which essentially assigns you a movie that best matches your "dating style," or your "love style," or something.
And...and they asked me to take it.
KATHY's face contorts as she recalls the details.
And, like, Luke had gotten The Notebook, and Gretchen had gotten, like, The Proposal, and, uh...
KATHY starts to sniffle.
It's okay. Really.
GERALD holds KATHY's hand in his.
(barely able to get the words out)
And...and...and Marianne got La La Land, which is my favorite movie, and...and...
You can tell me.
GERALD holds KATHY's other hand in his other hand.
And...and...and I got SCHINDLER'S LIST!
KATHY erupts in sobs again, throwing her head onto GERALD's chest.
You got Schindler's List? The Holocaust movie?
(muffled by GERALD's chest)
The Holocaust movie!
GERALD scrambles to think of something reassuring to say.
Wait! Maybe the quiz meant you were, like, the hero, right? The guy who saved the Jews!
KATHY sits up and pulls her phone out of her pocket.
Quote: "Your romantic aura is most like the 1993 Steven Spielberg classic Schindler's List. You are nothing like Oskar Schindler, the guy who saved all those poor Jews, honey. No, you are 100% the Nazis who killed all those Jews in cold blood. Hashtag, boss bitch."
KATHY explodes once more in a violent fit of tears.
Hey, no no no, I mean, I'm Jewish, and I'm not afraid of you at all!
KATHY leaps off the floor and stumbles to the button panel. She punches the panel as hard as she can. The panel malfunctions, and the elevator is sent into free-fall. This development stuns her out of despair. She, along with GERALD, screams helplessly in the name of life.
The ATTENDANT briefly opens an eye and grumpily presses an unseen button on the panel, halting their plummet. GERALD and KATHY catch their breath, and the elevator bell dings.
I think it's going to be okay.
(turning to GERALD)
KATHY exits, and the elevator continues its ascent. A long while passes before GERALD speaks.
What does it mean, man?
Are you talking to me?
What does it mean?.
(eyes remaining closed)
It means, Gerald, that you're going to be fine.
GERALD digests this.
At least we're going up.
The ATTENDANT nods his head.
(eyes remaining closed)
The elevator bell dings. JULIA steps on.
Isn't it great having COVID?
GERALD stares at her.
Total hoax, right?
JULIA smiles to herself.
(a chuckle crescendos to belly-laughter)
Ha...ha-ha...ha-ha-ha-ha! Yes! Yes it is!
JULIA turns to see whether GERALD's laughter is sincere (or whether he is crazy). She finds that it is (and that he may be).
People don't usually like that joke.
I love that joke!
(laughing now herself)
I made it when I got on, too!
(opening and rubbing his eyes)
Made the joke.
Well, I'm glad to hear that.
Where are you heading?
Ah. Are you a serial killer by chance?
No! No, I just, well...
GERALD realizes all at once that JULIA is someone he can talk to.
Well, you see, I'm actually a spree killer.
Oh! Yes, I do see.
Yeah, we actually have a big thing about people confusing the classifications. It's like, like, all we talk about—
All you talk about at the meetings, huh?
Gotcha, yeah, I see how that could be a pain.
The elevator bell dings.
Listen: my lunch date just canceled. Do you want to replace him? Or is there a spree killer summit right now?
GERALD looks to the ATTENDANT. The ATTENDANT is trying to lick his own elbow. GERALD returns his gaze to JULIA.
I would like to date you.
Well, let's try one lunch first, okay?
Meet me downstairs in five.
JULIA exits, and the elevator doors close behind her.
Okay! O-KAY! O-KAY, O-KAY, O-KAY!
GERALD dances as the elevator continues its ascent. Suddenly, he grasps the intolerability of the direction.
GERALD reaches past the ATTENDANT and repeatedly smashes the button for the lobby. But the elevator continues to ascend.
GERALD frantically scans the elevator for a solution. The ATTENDANT's tongue is a millimeter from his elbow.
The ATTENDANT licks His elbow.