Brecksville-Broadview Hts High School
Instructor: Caroline Loomer
Over a black screen, the persistent ticking of a clock continues over deafening silence.
INT. PSYCHIATRIC OFFICE - DAY
Inside a therapist's office, colored in cheerful pastels, short glimpses are presented of the scene unfolding. A frigid hand grasping onto the folds of a perfectly pleated dress, a window looking out to a view of the springtime trees, the old wooden clock that's ticking fills the room. The hands of a middle-aged man, THE DOCTOR, are busy scribbling away at a wad of paper, his eyes glued down as he sits behind his desk.
Opposed to the Doctor, sitting in a chair at the far end of the room, is THE WIFE, a housewife in her early-30s with coiffed blonde hair and a cigarette dangling from her fingertips. The skirt of her knee-length housedress spills over the chair, like the dress of a princess. She takes a smoke of her cigarette and musters up the courage to speak.
I don't really know why I'm here.
Beat. She looks up at the Doctor but he remains unmoving from his frantic scribbling.
I guess I was under the impression that these sorts of things are meant for people who are unhappy. Deeply upset or disturbed… at least that's what my husband made it seem like.
I'm not one of those people, you know, I'm very happy with my life. My husband's a working man, provides for our lifestyle and all, and he comes home every night right as I'm about to go to bed. Oh, and I have two children too, two wonderful children, and sometimes the wives of the neighborhood will come to my kitchen as the kids watch the TV. We'll talk and smoke, they'll talk to me like I have the business of being talked to. I'm important to them, I really am.
She takes another smoke, contemplating on what to say next. Her eyes trace along the floor, she's unsure of herself.
We're rather new to the neighborhood, I suppose, and I guess I'm a new mother in my own right. Sometimes it doesn't feel that way. My son and my daughter are 3 and 6, respectively, but all the other wives of the neighborhood have children who are much older, and they just know so much, you know? About being a mother and all. Sometimes I think there oughta be so much I don't know, like there should be some sort of rule book that tells me how to be the picture you see in advertisements.
You know, she's smiling as she's setting a golden turkey on the dinner table, a kitchen that sparkles in the background. He smiles too because he's worked hard and he has a good wife. There's gotta be a way to have it, all the other wives do, they can't help but talk about it...
She pauses again, trying to think of the next thing to say.
Now that I start to think about it, there has been something on my mind lately.
The Doctor lifts his pen for a second, she notices. Soon afterward, he continues on writing, she looks back down at the floor, nothing's really changed.
I guess it's not much, but... I just think about it a lot...
My husband, he's been so stressed about work lately. I feel bad for him. He works in the city, you see, three-martini lunches and all that, but one of his accounts is giving him trouble. They're some nylon company, hosiery and the sort. They hound him, he's been having to stay so late to deal with them. Whenever we talk on the phone, he says how difficult they've been, business and all that. I guess it's not meant for me to understand. Last night, he didn't come home at all, and whenever he does, he looks as if he's been scooped clean.
She's silent, doesn't know what to say. Her cold fingers begin to stiffen their grip on the folds of her dress. The idle scribbling of a pen that will never stop is heard as she tries to claw her way out of a cave of silence.
I should get a new wallpaper for the house.
The one we have is terribly outdated. My neighbor came over this weekend and said our house was just darling, which I thought wasn't true. Sure, it's nice, but it's never that nice, is it? And besides, I went to her house not too long before and I said the same thing even though I didn't find the place to be too impressive. I guess I said it because it would be awful hurtful if I didn't say it. Maybe she felt the same way about me.
(beat, she smokes)
This is why I think there oughta be that rule book. I want to impress, but I shouldn't, should I? I stick out, I'm not quite right in the neighborhood.
She pauses. She looks up at the Doctor for some guidance but he says nothing.
I grew up on a farm, with a big family of unruly men and a couple of reserved women. It's foreign to most, I'm sure of it. I don't think they ever had to listen to crickets at night, the screaming downstairs. That's what makes me so different, I'm sure of it. Nobody wants to put up with someone who's had such an upbringing, and I can't really blame them. Out in our cul-de-sac, there's no dirt to get under your fingers. People memorize Bible verses over grain supplies. It's not the kind of place I ever thought I'd end up in, and sometimes I feel like I'm walking in someone else's shoes. I must be some sort of fool for it…
(gradually more frantic)
That's exactly what they say about me when I'm not around, I'm sure of it. But... it isn't shallow of me to be so concerned about what other women think of me, right? I'm not a shallow person, I just a need rock here. I can't keep feeling afloat, they have to be able to understand me.
She stops herself and attempts to straighten herself out. She faintly smiles.
I'm sorry, I suppose I'm not making much sense. Sometimes I talk and I just don't stop. Again, I don't really need this, maybe I'm painting it in some other way. I'm doing what I oughta do, I'm fulfilled. I wake up and cook breakfast, take care of the children in their nursery, vacuum the house, dust off the shelves, cook dinner. Maybe I'll be able to sit down with the kids and watch the television every once in a while too. It seems a pretty painting, like that image I always picture in my head. They say nothing's as fulfilling as raising children.
Her foot begins tapping against the floor, although she is unaware of it.
My little daughter, she'll say anything too, won't she? She really doesn't care what she says and she doesn't care about what others think about what she says, she oughta be fulfilled too. I guess I used to be a little like that before I got married, and I can't say I miss it. I used to think such foolish things about the future, the world. Just the other day, she asked me why the cowboy on the television set had no color, why he was gray instead of peach. I said that TVs just don't have color and she continued to ask me, "Why don't they have colors? The world has colors, doesn't it?". I sometimes forget myself but she couldn't. She's a child.
The tapping becomes faster, louder.
So, I said that I didn't know why the TV has no color, after all, no one's ever told me. Once I said that, she made up her own answer, she said that there must've been no color in the days of cowboys, that everything was black and white and gray like that. Then she said that maybe it was filmed on the moon where nothing really has any color. I said she was silly, but she was so sure of herself. How can a little girl like that be so sure of herself? Maybe I was a bit like that before I settled here but... I don't know any adult that can say something so ridiculous and not care whether or not others will call her hysterical.
She notices her tapping foot and stops. Quietly distressed, she takes a smoke of her cigarette.
I guess we all lose that part of ourselves one day or another and that's a good thing, of course, but… I don't know. Last Tuesday, I saw some divorceé from our neighborhood at the grocery store. She was wearing these plaid cigarette pants, and I thought, "How could a mother of two children wear something like that? Where people can see her and talk about her and how awful she is and all," She was like the hussy my parents would always complain about on the farm, some figure you're supposed to hate and pity at the same time. But then I stopped myself, and thought about what a horrible thing that was to think. The other women of the neighborhood, my parents, that's the kind of thing they always say when they think they're being sly. It's starting to creep in me too. Part of me knows it's vain and self-indulgent, and it's nothing I pray my daughter would ever even think to say, but I don't really have a choice. They're perfect, I really do have to be them.
She stops and reflects for what seems like the first time in years.
In a sense, I guess I should be perfect then, shouldn't I? I have everything they have, but I just…
My husband, though, he's... he's what a man should be, right? Right? We're very alike in that sense, I guess, we're what's right. How we both take care of our family, fill our own duties, we have no reason to complain about anything...
She trails off.
But sometimes I wonder...
Of course, we're happy and content and everything, but it's the strangest happiness I've ever known. My husband'll come home from work and we'll lay in bed together. Nothing you dream about, though, we stare at the ceiling sometimes, we think everything is how it should be. He looks at me with those eyes I think I used to see something in. Something deep and beautiful. Where they went, I…
He works too much, that's it. He works so hard for us and I can't imagine how… how…
Maybe he sent me here because he thinks the same thing is happening to me. That my eyes don't sparkle anymore. No, that... we've matured, that's really all there is to it. We've seen the world for what it is. Sure, we were once children who dreamed of cowboys, aliens, and men on the moon, but those things don't exist, they don't fill people's lives and give them happiness. This life, family, the life of a housewife, a proper woman, this is the life people were born to have. It works, there's a reason I'm not on that farm anymore, you know. I think any reasonable person would die out there.
But does it make me happy?
She catches herself.
No, they do, of course, it all does, nobody would spend years building something so hollow. Everything I have is what is right, it's what everyone should have, because… well, because…
Beat. Her state intensifies.
I'm trying to find the because. Everything that's right… I don't know how much I feel about it now that I think about it. That's happiness, though, right? Happiness is when you lay in your bed, wondering why happiness feels like nothing. It's having a life that isn't yours. I was gonna travel the world when I was younger, I was gonna fly to the moon and back in one piece, and that was what my happiness was gonna be. A happiness away from the farm, somewhere it's green. Now happiness is this, all alone in that white little house.
It's so cold out there. I don't like that. I don't like that at all. Is anyone even a person? Their own individual? Aren't they all some part of what happiness is? My husband, the kids, the wives of the neighbor, are they the contentedness I'm supposed to be feeling? I feel like I don't even know where I am anymore, because it feels so different from where I'm from, where I should be, I—
(to the Doctor)
I'm trying to figure this out, why aren't you helping me?
The pastels of the room now appear faded and dull, yet the people inside don't change. The pinks, yellows, and robin egg blues have turned into muddled grays.
Doctor, I… it's the strangest thing, you know?
I'm not ha—
Suddenly the clock sounds off a shrill clatter, the clashing of metal bells. The Doctor puts his pen down and turns the alarm off. He looks at her for the first time.
Your hour's up.