Startups

Jason Gray Platt

CHARACTERS
J: 30-ish.
I: 30-ish.

The play requires five actors.

Each actor will play four scenes (two as J and two as I), one with every other actor.

J and I are always the same character, even when the actors vary in regards to gender, ethnicity, etc.

Gender and sexuality are fluid. Feel free to adjust pronouns and other textual indicators to serve any casting.

TEXT NOTES
A dash (-) means the speaker has stopped him or herself.

A backslash (/) denotes a point of overlapping or interruption by the following dialogue.

Scene titles are projected.

The scenes probably go in this order. But not necessarily.

[MATCH]

J
And you think, who IS this person?

I
Exactly!

J
Because it’s nothing like their picture /

I
Scanning the coffee shop for someone /

J
They’ve altered it, or it’s from ten years ago /

I
If it’s a picture of them at all.

J
Has someone used a total stranger?

I
Or friend, maybe, I don’t know, but it wasn’t them.

J
See that is /

I
Unless they purposefully shaved down their cheekbones.

J
Then do you feel bad?

I
For them?

J
About yourself.
That you care at all, because you shouldn’t, not supposed to, if you were attracted because of what their interests, or chatting, then the way they look-

I
But they lied.

J
Still the same person.

I
How can you know? If they lie about the one-

J
Who doesn’t want to adjust themselves a little?
I feel bad for them.

I
But you’re not still attracted to / them

J
Oh no, not at all.
Not because they might look-

I
Right.

J
Because they’re dishonest.

Beat.

I
So you didn’t exaggerate-

J
No.
Well, exaggerate, that’s not lying-

I
It’s just a small /

J
That’s almost an accident.
Maybe I’m closer to 5’8” than 5’10” /

I
Dostoevsky isn’t my favorite author.

J
But you are a reader, which / is what

I
He is who I want to be my favorite author, but really it’s James Patterson.

J
Good! I don’t think Dostoevsky should be someone’s favorite author.
That’s a little like saying your favorite color is black, which, to each his own, but then you’ve basically put yourself on suicide watch for the rest of your life.

I
Have you been on a lot of these?

J
Seven.
This time around.

I
Exhausting, isn’t it?

J
Like you’re learning a foreign language with each person.

I
I moved here without really knowing anyone, so I’ve had maybe-
I don’t think I can go on another one.

J
Know what you mean.

I
Would you want to?

J
With someone else?
No.

I
What about with me?

J
. . .
You know, in your picture your hair was longer.

I
I can always grow it back out.

 

[YOUTUBE]

I
So when you told me you could swing dance /

J
Hoped you might think I was interesting.

I
I did.

J
Never imagined /

I
But that-

J
I’m so sorry.

I
I shouldn’t laugh.

J
Is she going to be all right?

I
Definitely threw her back out, but otherwise /

J
She hit the floor so hard /

I
Oh I really shouldn’t laugh.

J
I thought I heard it pop.
I can at least pay for the ambulance-

I
Don’t bother, I’ve never liked her anyway.

J
Really, I thought I could support her weight.

I
Any other phantom skill sets you’ve claimed to have that I should know about?

J
I think everything else is true?

I
You won’t be offended If I have someone stand in for me at our first dance?

J
First dance?

I
When we get married.

J
Oh.
Are we getting married?

I
I want to think ahead. Stunt performers probably book far in advance.

 

[TUMBLR]

J
I think it just slipped out.

I
Uh-huh.

J
But when she said “car accident,” I said “what car accident” /

I
And you weren’t about to let her off the hook.

J
Think she wanted to tell me.

I
I’m sure she did.

J
No, because she wants you to be happy.
Cares about you.
And she thinks I should know that sort of thing, if we’re going to be /

I
Wants to make sure I’m not able to forget.

J
Why did you say it was a dog attack?

I
Was simple.
People ask the least questions.

J
Will you tell me?

I
. . .
It was in high school.
Was pretty much a demon then. Seriously, I look back now and I think, how did I go so long without attracting the suspicion of the Catholic church?
Between drinking, drugs, fighting /

J
You?

I
Yeah.

J
Fighting?

I
Oh yeah.
I was young. Future doesn’t exist when you’re young, you don’t think there will ever be a time when that power goes away.
Was coming home from a party one night with some friends. I’d driven, and I was pretty drunk by then, but I’d do that sort of thing all the time.
That night someone- My friend, Leyton, took the keys from me, said I was too fucked up. Which was very considerate.
Except that Leyton had probably been drinking more than I had.
Only the rest of us were too far gone to notice.
Wasn’t two minutes before we were in a wreck.
He’d swiped a car, lost control, and gone off the road into a building that was being renovated.
I was knocked out for a moment, and when I came to, I saw him in the driver’s seat.
Screaming.
A metal pipe from the scaffolding had come through the windshield and run straight through his chest.
He was just screaming. Staring at the pipe and screaming.
I was pinned into my seat. Couldn’t do anything, couldn’t even reach far enough to hold his hand.
Voice was horrifying. Like I was listening to death claw the soul right out of his body.
Couldn’t have lasted long in reality. Thirty seconds maybe. Then he was silent.
That was it.
When I got out of the hospital, I decided. I wasn’t going to be that kid anymore.
At his funeral I put that part of me into the coffin with him, lowered it into the ground, and started over.
My sister won’t forgive me. She was friends with him, too.
Maybe she does want me to be happy.
But more than that, she wants you to know who I was.

J
Then the scarring-

I
From the accident.
Glad I wasn’t able to change that.

J
Would you have ever said?

I
Eventually.

J
Do you think it’s really buried? That demon?

I
Completely.

J
In the ground?
Or somewhere in your head?

 

[TWITTER]

J
What?

I
I still can’t believe you said that.

J
Said?

I
At dinner, that joke-

J
I didn’t mean / it

I
But you said /

J
They were all telling, I wasn’t even thinking I was only trying to join in / with

I
Why would you want to join in with that / kind of

J
If I ever want to have a shot at advancing, I can’t exactly point out to my bosses that they’re all a bunch / of

I
So instead you want to seem exactly, and why would you even know a joke like that?

J
You hear those things around, look, you know that’s not who I am.

I
When you’re saying-
Even in that context, never imagined I would hear that from you.
. . .
And if I ever see that side again-

 

[LINKEDIN]

I
Who sent you the email?

J
Anonymous, I don’t / know.

I
The address doesn’t say /

J
It’s obviously made up. Numbers, letters.
Could be anyone.
Colleague, a friend, pretending-
And now they’ve seen THAT.
I don’t know what I’m going to do.

I
At least it’s someone who cares about you.

J
Is that better?

I
Enough to tell you, yes, otherwise the video could have been up there / for who knows

J
Oh god.
What do I do, do I get in touch with these people, this site, but why would they take it down this is how they make money isn’t it humiliating people / embarrassing them

I
We can probably file a lawsuit.

J
Against them?

I
Yes, or, do you know where it came from?

J
I know. Who I gave it to, yeah.

I
That’s illegal too, isn’t it, without, some consent /

J
Is it?

I
At least, well, were you eighteen?

J
Nineteen.

I
OK.

J
Shit, do you think it’s been up there for ten years?

I
It will say when it was uploaded, I think /

J
I can’t look again, fuck, fuck I feel like I’m going to pass out.

I
I can check, if you’d like.

J
Do you want to look?

I
No.

J
Thank you.
Thousands of people had seen it.
There was a count, big numbers right underneath, tens of thousands, watching me /

I
That’s not you.

J
No, it isn’t!

I
Just a nineteen-year-old who made a mistake /

J
That’s the thing, it doesn’t even feel like you when you’re doing it either, the only reason I could go through-
Feels like someone is playing you, somebody more attractive, somebody braver.
But whoever recognized, it’s still my face.

I
You were in college?

J
Knew it was stupid. I knew it.
Wanted to impress him, that was all.
Never thought I could make someone want something so badly before that.

I
And did he send you?

J
We went back and forth.

I
So you could post-

J
His? No.

I
You still have them?

J
Been so long, maybe /

I
They’re somewhere. Nothing disappears anymore.

J
I couldn’t, though, I’m not that sort of /

I
But that’s the deal that’s the agreement, he knew, it’s like cold war, you destroy me I destroy you.

J
Have you?

I
Exchanged? Yes.

J
And if somebody released yours-

I
Then I would, no hesitation.

J
Really? And put them where I am right now? Degrade someone so /

I
In retaliation.
For you more than for me.
So what if we get the video down, does that hurt him?
No, he still violated-
And we could sue him, get a little money, or we could send his to everyone he knows:
work, family, friends. Put it on websites.
Shame him so deeply his bones collapse.

J
I don’t want revenge, I want to erase-
If this was an accident-

I
It wasn’t.

J
Possibly, his computer was stolen, or he was hacked. He wasn’t the kind of person that would do such / a

I
Not a decade ago. You have no idea who he is now.

J
If there was a way to ask him-

I
He’d deny it.

J
. . .
I can’t hurt someone like that.
Even to retaliate.
I’d hate myself.

I
Well.
That’s one of the many reasons I love you.

J
Hasn’t changed your mind?

I
It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past.

 

[PINTEREST]

J
I don’t know what to do.

Beat.

I
A lot more money.

J
It’s a lot more money. And not only the money, the position /

I
You deserve it.

J
I want something different.

I
Thought you liked it here.

J
Why it’s so hard /

I
You’re always bragging /

J
But I grew up here.

I
So you’ve done it all?

J
Feel like I’m haunting myself.
Versions of me in every alleyway, from high school, from college.
Can’t live your entire life in one place.
I didn’t even know what it was until I was driving home, after they offered, and it finally sank in.
Now I have a reason to leave.

I
Except.

J
Well.
Would you go?
Come with me, I mean.
Know you only moved here what a year ago /

I
Yeah.

J
What are you thinking?

I
Little shocked you asked.
Flattered, I mean.

J
Because we have something.
Don’t we?

I
That’s what I- You know, after we met, I’d wanted to move here for such a long, and your family was here I just thought, this is too perfect, my life’s going to be here, it’s settled /

J
Could end up coming back, you never know.

I
. . .
If I said no, if I stayed-

J
I have to go. I think.
Really want this.

I
Wouldn’t want to anchor you here anyway, that’s / not

J
Know you wouldn’t and I love you for it.

I
Unexpected, it’s just /

J
Don’t have to decide right away, they gave me until the end of the week.

I
Finding a new job right now-

J
I know.

I
Somewhere nobody knows who you are.

J
Could be a good thing, could be an opportunity.
I know you don’t love what you’ve / been

I
No but it’s easy /

J
Chance to reinvent yourself then, try design, right? You’re always talking about going off on your own /

I
Guess if you’re going to be making that much money /

J
Exactly, some time to start from scratch.
Just make sure to keep all the parts I like.

I
Know I shouldn’t go just for you, I should go for myself /

J
Little of both would be all right.

I
Be mostly you though.

J
Can’t pretend I still wouldn’t want you to come.
I’d like to be that strong, but /

I
You saying that if I don’t, then we wouldn’t-

J
We can try, but I’m no good at living in two places at once.
Means each one only gets half of you.

Beat.

I
All right.

J
You will?

I
We can make this work.

J
You’re sure?

I
Where do I sign?

 

[AMAZON]

J
I should have seen it.

I
How?

J
It was there. We would talk, and he would say things that were, I thought maybe he’d been drinking, or he was just pulling my leg. Not often, every few months. Or I’d wake up and he’d have sent me ten emails in one night.
But I really didn’t want it to be true.

I
He’s safer now.

J
There’s not much they can do.
Forcing him to take medication. Just numbs you really. Like a zombie, compared to-

I
How did they get him in-

J
Said he was downtown, on the east side, where it’s a little-

I
Right.

J
Was going up to people’s houses.
When they opened the door he was saying that they had to kill him. That the planet was being taken over by aliens, and the only way to save it was for someone to shoot him in the head.

I
God.

J
Should have known.

I
Not a doctor.

J
No, but-
Our uncle had it.
Know the symptoms.
Probably why my brother was able to hide it for so long, what not to say, what not to show.
But I knew that if they both had it-

I
Genetic.

J
Based on previous, yeah.
So there’s a chance for us, or me, really, when I have children.
If.
I’m sorry.

I
Don’t be sorry.
Don’t be sorry.

J
I know this isn’t exactly what you wanted.

I
Well we don’t know anything for certain.

J
Certainly looks pretty different.

Beat.

I
Why didn’t you tell me about your uncle?

 

[FACEBOOK]

I
Do you think about other people when we’re having sex?

J
I-
What?

I
When we’re having sex /

J
Did I say something that makes you think /

I
No, I was just remembering I want to see that movie, what is it-

J
Flowers of Deception?

I
Not because he’s a good actor /

J
A torso with eyes.

I
But they’re such blue eyes.

J
Wait you think about him when we’re having sex?

I
He’ll pop in my head.
What, that’s not unusual /

J
Why would you tell me that?

I
I was wondering if you /

J
Never.

I
Come on.
We should be able to say.
Just fantasy, it’s healthy.

J
Don’t need fantasy, I have you.

I
Aw, all that bullshit and we don’t even have a garden.

J
Fine.
. . .
Patrick.

I
Which?

J
That I used to /

I
Your ex Patrick?

J
Sometimes.
What?

I
Are you fucking with me?

J
You just told me / you pictured

I
Mine’s a fantasy, you’ve actually slept / with

J
Years ago-

I
But it’s real, it’s a memory /

J
I barely remember, and not necessarily imagining what happened, but what I wished we had / done

I
You should stop talking.
Do you miss him?

J
Not at all.

I
Why is he the fantasy?

J
Same reason you have the torso.

I
Which doesn’t bother you.

J
Not like it’s ever going to happen.

I
Exactly.
Were you just being flip, or do you really-

J
Like twice this has happened.

I
Would you mind if I was thinking about Felipe?

J
No.

I
Even if I accidentally said his name?

J
Pretend we were having a threesome.

I
You want to sleep with Felipe?

J
Maybe we should stop sharing.

 

[INSTAGRAM]

I
Should we just stay here?
Wanted to do the art museum, but-

J
We can’t sit in the hotel all day.

I
It’s too dangerous downtown.

J
The concierge said there was nothing to worry / about

I
He has to say that, he doesn’t want guests panicking /

J
Don’t think he wants them getting killed either.

I
We could do something outside the capital.

J
Why don’t we go?

I
Take a train?

J
To the protests.

I
But I forgot to pack my gas mask.

J
I’m serious.

I
You want to grab a pitchfork?

J
Why else are we here?

I
There had been talk of relaxation, sightseeing /

J
To see history, isn’t it, well this is / history

I
To see history, not be it.
You don’t even stop for the kids on the sidewalks with their clipboards.

J
I might if they were throwing Molotov cocktails.

I
No, they’ve been clashing with the police.

J
We won’t be standing right with them, we’ll be off to the side.

I
You think the government is going to want witnesses?

J
Besides, we’re foreigners.

I
That doesn’t make us immune, that makes us leverage.

J
Look we wanted to visit the country. Are we just going to go through the motions of museums and castles and T-shirts like every other tourist who’s come through?
Or do you want to see something a little more authentic?

I
Do you even know what they’re protesting?

J
The government.
Isn’t / it?

I
Specifically.

J
Taxes?

I
You see you / have no idea

J
I’m not going to take a side, I just want to watch.

I
That’s even worse, spectating while people / are shot

J
Would you rather I take a rubber bullet in the stomach?

I
Is this because I said you were boring?

J
What are you talking / about?

I
You wanted to go to France or Australia and I said /

J
Of course not /

I
Now you want to prove to me /

J
It’s that hard for you to believe I genuinely have an interest.

I
In something that dangerous?

Beat.

J
OK. I’ll see you tonight, I hope.

I
No.

J
No what?

I
You can’t go.

J
Excuse / me

I
Something might happen.

J
That’s what I’m hoping.
Is this you telling me what to do?

I
I’d be worried to death about you, you / know that

J
Come with me. I’ll even let you protect me.
You’re scared.

I
Yes.

J
All right.
So stop.
We aren’t at home, you can step outside of yourself here.
That’s half the reason you travel.

I
If you get thrown in a second-world prison, telling the guards you were just stepping outside yourself doesn’t keep them from beating you. I’ve got enough scars for one lifetime.
Stay.
Please.

J
You don’t think one day you’ll be lying to people about having been there?

I
I think I couldn’t care less if those people get lower bus fares or taxes or whatever it is, or if they all get shot, as long as nothing happens to you.

J
That’s awful.

I
Fine, then I’m awful.

J
I’m going.

I
When you know I’ll be sitting here, dreading /

J
Are you coming?
I think you should.
If something happened to me you’d never forgive yourself.
What do you say?

 

[GOOGLE]

I
There’s got to be something / I can do

J
There really isn’t.

I
. . .
I don’t understand. Why you’re doing this.

J
I’m sorry, I just /

I
I mean I’m not going to know what to do. At all, already I’m wondering how I would go to work in the morning if you left but I can’t because work doesn’t exist in that world tomorrow doesn’t exist it’s just space I’m floating through space until I run out of oxygen.
You’re the map.
I moved out here for you.

J
You’ll be all right. We both will.

Beat.

J
I’m not sure what you want me to tell you.

I
Tell me what I should do differently. Who do you want me to be?

End play.

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