Scarred

Yasmine Beverly Rana

Characters
LAUREL: an American war correspondent in her early-mid 60s
AHMAD: a Pakistani-British writer and professor in his late 50s

Place
A hotel room at London Heathrow Airport’s Holiday Inn

Time
Early afternoon, the present

The sound of airplanes taking off linger in the background as AHMAD sits casually dressed at the edge of the unmade bed. The bathroom door to stage left is closed. A suitcase with carry-on luggage is haphazardly left on the bed.

AHMAD
I don’t want you to return. (Beat) There. I’ve said it. I can’t understand why you would want to go, well . . . maybe I could. (Beat) No. I can’t. I don’t believe your reasons for returning: duty, ethics, morality, nobility, boredom, relevance, youth? Your attempt at staying . . . relevant, young, dazzling? Believing gun-shot wounds and car bombs and beheadings maintain your . . . relevance, your name, your identity, whatever that is. Journalist? Lover? Wound? Is that what you are? What you want to be known for? Shrapnel? A scar?

(LAUREL enters from the bathroom. She is fully dressed, made-up, red lipstick, glamorous in her own style.)

AHMAD (Cont’d)
What do you want to be known as?

LAUREL
Is that a trick question?

AHMAD
No.

LAUREL
A marriage proposal?

AHMAD
No.

LAUREL
(Packing her bags)
Good.

AHMAD
Why “good”?

LAUREL
You want to be married to me? Again?

AHMAD
(Pause)
No.

LAUREL
This is more entertaining.

AHMAD
Is it?

LAUREL
Unmarried furtive sex in airport hotel rooms vs. married sex in . . .

AHMAD
Airport hotel rooms . . .

LAUREL
All right! We were never the most . . .

AHMAD
Domesticated?

LAUREL
Traditional.

AHMAD
Normal . . . couple.

(Pause)

LAUREL
Boring.

AHMAD
Peaceful.

LAUREL
Who wants peace?

AHMAD
Most people do.

LAUREL
Globally . . . politically . . . of course.

AHMAD
Of course globally! Politically! But never personally.

LAUREL
I was personal when I married you.

AHMAD
For a moment.

LAUREL
Five years.

AHMAD
As I said, a moment.

(LAUREL turns on CNN reporting from Afghanistan on police shootings and another car bomb. AHMAD takes the remote control from her hands and turns off the television.)

LAUREL
What do you want?

AHMAD
Tell me. Why aren’t we married anymore?

LAUREL
Because we never should have been.

AHMAD
Why? And don’t say religious differences because that would be too provincial of you and we all know there is nothing provincial about you. And don’t quote Kipling with, “East is East and West is West” because you Westerner know more about the East than I or perhaps anyone from the East knows. And don’t say it’s because, “What would our children be?” Because we were long past that phase for it to have ever been an issue. And don’t say it’s because of your work . . .

LAUREL
It’s because of my work!

AHMAD
Because I was more than willing to meet you in furtive airport hotel rooms in between wars and other geo-political conflicts and humanitarian disasters.

(Pause)

AHMAD (Cont’d)
And don’t say it was because you didn’t love me anymore.

(Pause)

LAUREL
I wasn’t going to say that.

AHMAD
Good.

(LAUREL joins AHMAD on the edge of the bed.)

LAUREL
I can’t be committed to anyone.

AHMAD
You were to me.

LAUREL
An attempt, for a moment, as you said.

AHMAD
What’s stopping you?

LAUREL
People like me, shouldn’t be with anyone.

AHMAD
Like what?

LAUREL
Those more at ease with violence than with peace.

AHMAD
You’re not.

LAUREL
I am. Quiet scares me. Why are we here?

AHMAD
I wanted to be with you.

LAUREL
But why here?

AHMAD
Because you suggested it.

LAUREL
I did. Here. Not at your home.

AHMAD
Your home.

LAUREL
Surrounded by books and artwork and a hundred different brews of tea, and opera CDs. A haven. Civility. Yours. Not mine.

AHMAD
(Circumventing)
You had a layover.

LAUREL
I could have left tomorrow.

AHMAD
(Still circumventing)
I wanted to please you.

LAUREL
You have. Here. In flight. In noise. In transit . . . fleeting. My home.

AHMAD
We’re still here.

LAUREL
For a moment.

AHMAD
So why did you do it? Why marry me?

LAUREL
I loved you.

AHMAD
So?

LAUREL
I thought you had a magical mind.

AHMAD
So?

LAUREL
You were from the East.

AHMAD
So?

LAUREL
You thought I was dazzling.

AHMAD
So?

LAUREL
I wanted to try it, to see what it was like.

AHMAD
Like a drug.

LAUREL
Like the peaceful.

AHMAD
The civilized! And what did you discover?

LAUREL
I can’t be you.

(Pause)

AHMAD
(Pacing)
You know, you’re not the most celebrated journalist in the world.

LAUREL
(Steadfast)
I know.

AHMAD
(Cutting)
Respected in the academic world, yes. But the “come on the Sunday morning news and let’s sum up the Taliban in fifty seconds or less” world . . . not so much.

LAUREL
I wouldn’t want to be.

AHMAD
You haven’t won a Pulitzer or any other major prize; no film options for your book, as of yet . . . Hell, some people don’t even know you exist . . .

LAUREL
(Vexed)
I don’t need movies about myself or awards or to be loved or even liked!

AHMAD
What do you need?

LAUREL
To be myself and to tell a story.

AHMAD
Write a children’s book.

LAUREL
I have to go back.

AHMAD
At what price?

LAUREL
No price.

AHMAD
A gun-shot wound.

LAUREL
A ricochet. A flesh wound.

AHMAD
More than that.

LAUREL
A scar. Under my blouse that no one can see.

AHMAD
Except for me and perhaps the one that will come after me.

LAUREL
Except for you.

(AHMAD approaches LAUREL and places his hand under her blouse.)

AHMAD
It’s a noble scar.

LAUREL
Is it?

AHMAD
Is there any other purpose it serves?

LAUREL
My Pulitzer.

AHMAD
You don’t need it.

(LAUREL pulls AHMAD’s hand away from her chest and rises.)

LAUREL
It’s mine.

AHMAD
But it’s not you.

LAUREL
My validation.

AHMAD
For what? Words? What does it prove?

LAUREL
That I’m better than you! Than most. Extraordinary more than ordinary. There, I’ve said it! That I take risks. I don’t care if I live or die or if I’m half or whole! It’s all I have without family, celebrity, or even honor. You’ve reminded me of that!

AHMAD
You could have had more.

LAUREL
Like you?

AHMAD
I have neither a prize nor a scar to offer.

LAUREL
And you’re so contented.

AHMAD
I am. Can’t you be?

LAUREL
No. That’s how we’re different. Did you think I would become like you?

AHMAD
A little bit. I would have liked a little of my . . . tedium to have become a part of you, just a drop.

LAUREL
The drug didn’t . . . take.

AHMAD
You sound disappointed.

LAUREL
I’m indifferent. Perhaps a scar has numbed me.

AHMAD
Maybe that’s the attraction. To feel nothing.

LAUREL
I feel.

AHMAD
When? Over there? As you try to extricate a story from the remnants of someone who was once a human being? (Beat) Were you ever once a human being?

(Pause)

LAUREL
Do you think your challenge will keep me here with you?

AHMAD
I hope so.

LAUREL
I wish so. I wish it did. I wish it could. I wish a gunshot wound could scare me into becoming . . . you.

AHMAD
I’m not that boring.

LAUREL
Not boring . . . normal.

(Pause)

(LAUREL completes packing and places both bags on the floor by the door.)

AHMAD
Perhaps you’ll meet someone like you.

LAUREL
He wouldn’t want a reminder of himself.

End of Play

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