Buried

Rachel Joseph

A shimmering desert. Mountains in the distance.

HE
This desert is like a box of dry leaves. A dry river bottom.
You could disappear anywhere and never be found. You could be everywhere at once. You couldn’t dig deep here. Not like in the north. In the north with real mountains with snow and real trees that go up high. The saguaro blossoms here are plastic from outer-space. They are tumors that come out twice a year. They are red pulps—the flesh that is left . . . after. After living in the desert it’s hard not to see things as they are—wild, hot, desolate, empty. I eat gallons of ice cream in the desert. It’s the only way to find comfort. Strange. And then I see you. Do you see me? Look here. Make way. I’m coming toward you. I’m coming to get you.

SHE
Hello. Are you coming to get me?

HE
Yes.

SHE
Are you coming to kill me?

HE
Yes.

SHE
Are you going to claw and bite me before I die?

HE
Yes.

SHE
Are you going to bury me?

HE
Yes.

SHE
Will it hurt?

HE
Yes.

SHE
Are we in the desert now?

HE
No.

SHE
No?

HE
We’re someplace other than the desert.

SHE
You’re scaring me.

HE
We’re someplace other. We’re in the desert, but we’re someplace other than the desert.

SHE
I’m scared.

HE
You should be.

SHE
Are you still going to kill me? Are you still going to kill me even though we’re someplace other?

HE
Yes.

SHE
When?

HE
That’s the surprise.

SHE
Can’t I have a hint?

HE
No. But let’s dig a hole.

SHE
You said the ground was too hard.

HE
We’ll go north.

SHE
Just like that?

HE
Yes. See the mountains?

SHE
Why do we need a hole?

HE
You know.

SHE
Couldn’t you just leave me uncovered?

HE
That’s not the way I work.

SHE
Don’t you like to try new things?

HE
Not really.

SHE
Well, that’s no fun.

HE
We could play a game. That’s fun.

SHE
Like Scrabble?

HE
Something like Scrabble, but not like Scrabble. Words despise me.

SHE
You mean you despise words?

HE
No. Words despise me. I always almost say what I mean.

SHE
Well, then what are we going to play?

HE
Climb this mountain.

SHE
That’s not a game.

HE
It is if I chase you.

SHE
So soon?

HE
I like to be home before dark.

SHE
I love nighttime. Once in awhile I stay up all night. I watch the moon disappear. The moon does a flash and then is gone. I just love that. I like to know I’m alive.

HE
I don’t care for poetry.

SHE
I wasn’t . . .

HE
I don’t care for fancy talk.

SHE
I’m sorry. I just thought . . .

HE
Start climbing.

SHE
I just thought if we got to know one another . . .

HE
I know you.

SHE
You don’t know me.

HE
Yes, I do. You’re the dead girl.

SHE
I’m not dead.

HE
Yes. I just did unspeakable things to you. I just made you make certain sounds. I just made you not breathe. I made you stop.

SHE
But I’m here.

HE
That’s the funny part.

SHE
I’m not really here?

HE
No. No, you aren’t.

SHE
This is a shock.

HE
I told you what was going to happen.

SHE
But it didn’t hurt. You said it was going to hurt, and I don’t feel a thing.

HE
You will.

SHE
When?

HE
When you believe me.

SHE
I’ll never believe you.

HE
Oh, you’ll believe me.

SHE
Well, this isn’t fun at all. This is very strange.

HE
Yes, it is strange. Yes. I’m going to bury you now.

SHE
OK. Do you need help?

HE
Nah. This is my favorite part.

SHE
Should I lie down here? Or here? This seems like a nice spot . . .

HE
Sure. I’m easy to please.

SHE
Yeah. It’s starting to hurt now.

HE
What made you believe?

SHE
The dirt on my face.

HE
Now I wish I’d kept you alive.

SHE
Why?

HE
I like the way you talk.

SHE
Why, thank you. What a nice compliment!

HE
I always fall in love with the dead.

SHE
Was your father cruel to you?

HE
Not really.

HE and SHE regard one another. SHE shudders on the ground for several seconds. HE looks into the distance.

Nah. He was a man. He lived and then he died. Not much to it. He could squeeze a can of vegetables, say spinach, for instance, and crush the can just like Popeye. Never poured that spinach into his mouth that I can recall. I wish he had. Never remembered much until I startled him. Then crush. Crackle. His hands might have bled . . . bad memory—I just don’t know.

SHE
But I’m fascinated. And dead.

HE
You’re a lively one!

SHE
And you describe me to a T. Wonder if you might, when you get the chance, undo. I didn’t want to be dead today. I woke up lively, as you said, and I hit the dust lively. Tricky how things appear and then all of a sudden “poof”’ and disappear. You’re a magician, you are.

HE
You’re welcome.

SHE
Did I wake him?

HE
Who him?

SHE
My father. When he was told.

HE
I don’t believe he’s none too interested. Not interested at all, I heard.

SHE
I still feel hurt, little hole punches to the gut . . .

HE
Funny, isn’t it?

SHE
Swell. I think I’ll stand.

HE
But you’re caput.

SHE
I’m buried and I stand. See. That’s what happens now. It rips breath out of me and leaves me all new. I hurt so dreadfully. But just now it stopped and I realized how translucent I’ve become. I’m in your ear. I’m also standing right here. So, yes, I’m buried and I stand.

HE
You always did know me.

SHE
Buck up.

HE
You’re not here. You vanished.

They freeze. SHE leaves. HE, uncomfortably holds the freeze until HE, just as suddenly, begins moving in a similar manner as he did at the beginning of the play.

You walked away, and I couldn’t move. I think it is you making my lip sweat so awkwardly. You were never with me to begin with. You were never my own. So, I’ll stare into the distance. Here, I’m back in the desert. I didn’t get my present. The one I expected and didn’t get. I might appear to cry just now. Then I shudder like her. I say: This desert is a box of dry leaves.

HE turns upstage and begins muttering at the mountains until the lights slowly, finally fade to black.

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