from The Common Room

The play is set in a dorm room at a university in New York City. The action of the play takes place in the common room of the suite, which is shared by the three boys. JAMIE, PAUL, and ROBERT all have their own rooms surrounding the common room. There is also a bathroom, of which only the door can be seen. It is their first year.

April.

PAUL is shirtless, flossing. ROBERT (drunk) corners him a bit.

ROBERT

Hey, Paul, can I ask you something?

 

PAUL

You’re drinking again.

 

ROBERT

No I’m not.

 

PAUL

Ok. Ask away.

 

ROBERT

Like here? Is that ok? Where we are?

 

PAUL
(Confused)

Yes, that’s fine!

 

ROBERT

I’m not trying to say anything . . . or, to mean anything in particular by this, but . . . and it’s really not something I think . . . well—

 

PAUL

Go ahead, Robert.

 

ROBERT

You aren’t gay, are you?

 

PAUL
(A little amused)

No . . .

 

ROBERT

Ok what does that mean?

 

PAUL

It means I’m not attracted to men. I mean, I think they can be good looking, but I’m not attracted to them.

 

ROBERT

Ever?

 

PAUL

Ever.

 

ROBERT

Come on, everyone’s at least a little bisexual.

 

PAUL

I suppose. Listen, you know if I was attracted to men I wouldn’t hide it. Besides, why would I lie to you?

 

ROBERT

I don’t know, why would you?

 

PAUL

What’s that supposed to mean?

 

ROBERT

No no, I’m not saying that I . . . that you—

 

PAUL

I know. It’s fine. I’ve actually tested it.

 

ROBERT

What?

 

PAUL

No, I mean. Not actually. But I’ve let myself get close to a man and felt nothing.

 

ROBERT

Really.

 

PAUL

 

Yeah.

 

ROBERT

 

Like how close?

 

PAUL

Well it was at this interactive dance-theater thing where they pull you into rooms sometimes, and he like danced all around me, and was really good looking, and kissed me on the neck.

 

ROBERT

And . . .

 

PAUL

And I felt nothing. It was fun because of the dancing, but I did not want him to come any closer. And one time it happened with one of the girl actors, and that was fun.

 

ROBERT

But you never actually kissed him.

 

PAUL

No.

 

ROBERT

So—

 

PAUL

So I’m not attracted to men. What more do you need?

 

ROBERT

Ok ok! You know I didn’t ask you because I—

 

PAUL

Yeah yeah! Of course. Do you consider yourself bisexual?

 

ROBERT

I’m with you, I think. I mean I find men good looking, but—

 

PAUL

I’ve seen you kissing guys before.

 

ROBERT

Yeah, but that’s because they want to.

 

PAUL

Expand.

 

ROBERT

I’m really not that attracted to guys, but I, when I can tell that they really want to do something, when I can tell that I will give them pleasure, then I feel guilty not providing that for them.

 

PAUL stops flossing. He looks at ROBERT.

 

I mean, I don’t dislike it. But it’s for them.

 

PAUL throws away his floss.

 

PAUL

Wow. Ok. Really?

 

ROBERT

Yeah, I mean that whole thing with Patrick. That was that kind of a situation. I just wanted to see him happy.

 

PAUL

Alright. I understand that.

 

ROBERT
(Frames as a joke)

So, then, what are you and Jamie?

 

PAUL

Friends.

 

ROBERT

You’re more than that.

 

PAUL

Really good friends?

 

ROBERT

No.

 

PAUL

Yes! Again, why would I hide this from you?

 

ROBERT

I don’t know. Sorry for asking. You guys just seem like . . . I mean I sense a lot of sexual tension there.

 

PAUL

That’s funny. I guess we’re just cuddly friends?

 

ROBERT

Yeah. Whatever you say!

 

PAUL goes to the bathroom and rinses his mouth. ROBERT goes into his room. PAUL comes out, and goes into his room.

Time passes.

PAUL and JAMIE are in the common room. ROBERT walks out, sober.

 

ROBERT

Oh . . . um . . . what’s up guys?

 

PAUL

Can we talk for a moment?

 

ROBERT

Yeah, of course.

He sits, facing them.

What’s up?

 

PAUL

We’ve grown really worried about your drinking. Both of us.

 

JAMIE

And it’s not about us. It’s about you, your health.

 

ROBERT

Ok . . .

 

JAMIE

It’s not like you’re partying with friends. This is the kind of drinking that hurts your body . . .

 

PAUL

Yeah, and I hate more than anything to see this genius kid that I genuinely believe I am friends with get taken over by this stuff. It’s like a demon.

 

ROBERT

A demon. Really?

 

PAUL

Not like that, you know what I mean.

 

ROBERT

I don’t. Elaborate.

 

PAUL

Are you aware—god, I hate to say this—are you aware that you have, in a stupor, tried to hit me?

 

ROBERT
(Distraught, worried)

What!?

 

JAMIE

He was trying to get you to bed.

 

ROBERT

When was this?

 

PAUL

Last night.

 

ROBERT

Oh my god . . . I . . . I . . .

 

JAMIE

You were drunk.

 

ROBERT

I am so sorry . . . You know I would never want to hurt you guys . . .

 

PAUL

I know. I know that more than I know anything. And dude, I get it. The drinking, I mean. I get it. I understand the need for an off switch. Is it anything more than that?

 

ROBERT

No.

 

PAUL

When I was like thirteen, I went to Ireland. We stayed in this musty old house in the middle of nowhere, and at this point I had no real place in my school, I didn’t know what was going on, I felt lost and uncontrolled. I felt like there was no reason behind my every breath and moreover that there needed to be one. I didn’t know there were off switches. I didn’t know there were ways to turn off the questions. So I, I don’t know. I showered. I showered and I slept. I showered three times a day. I couldn’t think of another way to do things. I cried, lying on my mom’s leg, for an hour. I couldn’t explain to her why. I couldn’t go to the basement to watch a movie with my sister. I couldn’t bear to look at a TV screen. Something about the voices, the movement, the sucking-in . . . What I mean to say is, I understand that walking down the hallway can feel like some sort of infinite void. I get it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are times in one’s life where things don’t make sense.

 

ROBERT

How? How can it not be that way?

 

JAMIE

I’m so sorry, guys, but I really have to go to class.

 

PAUL

Jamie.

JAMIE
(Trying to hold back tears)

Paul.

He exits. He looks back on them as he leaves.

PAUL

Is there no other off switch? Have you tried weed?

 

ROBERT

I mean, I’ve smoked my fair share. But it makes me nervous.

 

PAUL

Uh huh. Here’s the thing. I think that you have such incredible brilliance and it hurts to see you destroyed. I mean, I don’t want to sound selfish, but it’s fucking impossible to come in here and fall asleep right away.

 

ROBERT

What do you—?

 

PAUL

It makes people toss and turn. It’s not a safe space here.

 

ROBERT

I don’t get it—

 

PAUL

I don’t know.

 

ROBERT

Just say it.

 

PAUL

You’re in here with strange people doing strange things and I don’t know when I last went into our bathroom without bracing myself for the possible throw up or . . . or . . .

 

ROBERT

Or what?

 

PAUL

Or you. Passed out, on the bathroom floor. It’s not out of the ordinary, Robert. And that’s what can’t continue.

 

ROBERT

It’s incredible how fucking unperceptive I am. For all the smart-sounding shit I say, I don’t notice that you guys . . . notice me.

 

PAUL

I mean, I admit this whole situation is fucked. You didn’t choose who you’re with. The fact that you’re in a single.

 

ROBERT

 Right!? I mean this fucking place. I can’t take it, Paul. The corners. The right angles. There’s something . . . deeply . . . darkly . . . disturbing about this room. Something I can’t quite . . .

 

PAUL

I know, Robert. It’s fucking chaos, I understand that. But you can’t just blame it on—

 

ROBERT

No, no, it’s not chaos. Chaos is bullshit. Everything can be predicted.

 

PAUL

Well, yeah, I totally ag—

 

ROBERT

I mean, when a bear steps on a log in the forest, and sixteen million reactions happen in a millisecond,—

 

PAUL

They can all be boiled down to sixteen million equations.

 

ROBERT

Yeah, exactly!

 

PAUL

But we can’t find those.

 

ROBERT

Yeah, but they’re not random.

 

PAUL

It’s outside the capability of our consciousness to prove that they are not random. That’s why we call it chaos.

 

ROBERT

Right . . . well . . . Exactly! You get me.

 

PAUL

But look, sometimes, I think, Robert, it’s not useful to us to question things whose answers are beyond our understanding.

 

ROBERT

It’s hard, sure, but it’s part of—

 

PAUL

It can be depress—

 

ROBERT

Dude, I’m not depre—I mean, I guess I am—I mean, you know this, I think humans are the most beautiful things in the world. I am fascinated that we monkeys are asking these questions to each other right now—

 

PAUL

 We are just monkeys.

 

ROBERT

And yet we wonder about atoms and universes.

 

PAUL

Well. I think that’s wonderful.

 

ROBERT

Me too, Man, me too.

He shifts in his chair.

So what do you want me to do?

 

PAUL

I don’t know. Stop drinking? I can’t tell you what you need to tell yourself.

 

ROBERT

I don’t know what to tell myself.

 

PAUL

Then I don’t know what to tell you.

 

Time passes.