Tom & Gerry
CAST OF CHARACTERS
TOM: Drug addict and house painter who runs out of heroin and reluctantly commits his first burglary. He is handsome but grizzled, 27 years old. His hair is long, brown, thick, and tangled, and his eyes are moss green. They would be striking, but the whites are bloodshot and the pupils are tiny. They have a faraway look.
GERRY: 28 year old college drop-out who stays at her parents sometimes. She is overweight but in a curvy, non-sagging, voluptuous way. Her hair is frizzy and not long. Her face is between plain and pretty, and is slightly pock-marked. Her eyes are enormous and resemble a polished, tiger-eye stone with a touch of light green. She is non-descript from afar but hypnotizing up close.
A Victorian mansion in the uptown Garden District, New Orleans. It is white, and the paint is flaking off in thick, ancient layers. It has gorgeous latticework, but it is rusted and peeling. There’s a partly-extended ladder near a high and open window. Paint-splattered drop cloths cover the bushes and flowers underneath, and there is covered painting tools near the foyer. Tom is employed by a painting company. He is one of two painters who’s assigned to the house. Several days ago, while working, he heard the owner and his wife as they talked of a vacation. In the days before they left he had noticed that the window seemed to always stay open. One evening, his boss told him to stay on the job while the owners were gone and to leave the ladder up while be prepped what he could reach. Tom’s partner was sick, and a 50ft. ladder was too heavy for one person. It ravaged Tom’s thoughts and he couldn’t get it out. The house wanted to be robbed…
It is one day later at nearly one in the morning. A purple night. Tom shimmies up the ladder that he’d left near the window. Earlier he stuffed some black clothes and a ski mask in a satchel and whittled down the hours at a local bar drinking. He is angry and desperate—and is dreading withdrawal.
(Tom crawls through the window into a large, open room. It is darker than he expected. Gerry, who’s been sleeping, is awake in a snap.)
GERRY: Who’s there?!
TOM: (Gives a violent start backward and nearly falls through the window.) Ahhhhhhh! Who the fuck are you?!
GERRY: (panicking) Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God…
TOM: Shhh! Shut-up!
GERRY: (Wails and prays loudly.) O God please help me! Be with me, O God! Don’t let him rape me or kill me or (Breaks off abruptly and starts breathing very fast.) Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God!
(Tom fumbles in the satchel, looking for his gun. He gives up and dumps the contents on the floor. He finds it. He aims it at the shrieking lump on the bed.)
TOM: I’m not gonna touch you, but I will shoot you in the head if you continue to scream. Now SHUT THE HELL UP!
GERRY: (Takes it down to a whisper.) Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God…. Puhleeeeeease!
(He throws his head back and laughs heartily. So amused by her antics that he forgets to be serious. He crouches to catch his breath.)
TOM: Next best thing to shutting up, I suppose: turning the volume down on not shutting the hell up.
(She calms down, sniffles a bit, and blows her nose. Tom has unwittingly revealed his humanity—and she notices.)
GERRY: What do you want with me, man?
TOM: Huh? What?
GERRY: What are you gonna do to me? That’s all I wanna know.
TOM: I’m not gonna DO anything to you. You’re not supposed to exist.
GERRY: I live here.
TOM: (Creeps along the wall and looks for the light switch. Meant to bring a flashlight, but forgot.) The hell you do.
GERRY: Sometimes I do. It’s my parents house. Hey, what are you doing?
TOM: (Stops and gives a self-righteous snort.) Rape you, Yeah right. First of all you might be old or ugly or have AIDS or something. Second, just the thought of a woman who doesn’t like me is enough to make me jump off a cliff—much less make me stalk her and rape her. Who could possibly want someone who finds them repulsive? Rape you? Yeah right.
GERRY: (Amused in turn by this haughty outburst.) (to herself) What kind of criminal is he?
TOM: …too much Criminal Intent and Law and Order and all that conservative, take-a-bite-outta-crime bullshit. That’s the point of the media, woman: to keep you well-to-do people—you freakin’ bourgeoi—you WASPS—scared shitless of poor people. That, and keep you pissed about your precious tax dollars.
GERRY: So you’re not gonna rape me?
TOM: Good L— (exasperated stutter) Haven’t you heard a word I’ve said? I’m a blue collar addict who’s falling off the dragon. I need money, that’s all. So if you’ll shut-up and be cool I’ll collect your meager belongings—your parents’ meager belongings—and be on my merry way.
GERRY: (Forgetting her fear.) I do drugs too, you know. I got so high in college that I couldn’t domy classes. I still love reading—love learning—but the thought of wasting one second of my life learning something for any other reason than my simple love of knowledge—good grades, for example—makes me sick to my stomach. Spend 4-12 years learning something you have to in order to get a job where you piss away your life doing something you don’t want to—just to make a bunch of money that you’ll gradually spend more of. I would sooner commit suicide!
TOM: (to himself) She’s a goddam subversive. Gotta rebel in the family!
GERRY: I have some pills and weed in my purse, if you’re interested.
TOM: (ecstatic) No shit?! What kind of pills?
GERRY: Percocets or Hydros or something. I stole them from my Mom. You should see her medicine cabinet. You could close your eyes and pick something at random and it’ll probably get you high.
TOM: (hurridly) Can you spare 4 or 5?
GERRY: (Hurt that his attention has so easily shifted.) (frowns) Yeah, hold out your hand.
(She locates her purse and starts rummaging around. It’s one of those huge purses with a little bit of everything. She opens up a bottle and points it at the gloved hand. They’ve adjusted to the darkness, but not enough to see much.)
GERRY: Come over here, dude; I’m not leaving this bed.
(He gingerly approaches and she dumps them in his hand. It is more than he asked for. She gives him a half-empty Pepsi from her purse.)
TOM: Thank-you, young lady. What’s your name, by the way?
GERRY: (brightens) Gerry. What’s yours?
GERRY: (Chuckles softly at first, then louder and longer.) Guess that makes me the mouse.
TOM: Huh? (Pauses for a moment and erupts into laughter, spraying Pepsi all over. Tries mightily to stop but the irony of it all—a real life cartoon—is unbearable. He laughs on and off.)
(Gerry, meanwhile, has opened a pack of cigarettes and is puffing away. She’s a classy type smoker—like she’s modeling the product. Her face grows clever.)
TOM: You got cigarettes! Can I have one?
(She takes a few out and tosses him the pack with the lighter inside. He pulls out two and ignites them at once. They sparkle like comets.)
GERRY: Why are you doing that? For twice the nicotine?
TOM: (Lowers his voice.) That’s one for Jeckyl and one for Hype (feigns curiosity). But which’ll burn first?
(She bristles with fear. She realizes that their rapport, disarming as it is, is but two personalities that happen to click. That doesn’t change the situation: a drug addict has broken into her home, held a gun near her head, and implied he was evil.)
GERRY: (voice quivers) What’s that supposed to mean?
TOM: (Exhales a long cloud of smoke.) It means you’re open for business, dollin’. We’re gonna finish these smokes and you’re gonna take me on a guided tour of this slave plantation—starting here. I want small, pricey items: jewelry, old coins, Rolexes, all that. The only exception is sentimental stuff. If it’s precious to you and your family, I don’t want it. No matter how valuable it is. I don’t want your patriarch’s goddam pocket watch. Now let’s find the lights to this bad boy. (Walks toward the door and reaches for a switch.)
GERRY: No wait Tom don’t—nooooo! (Throws her arms over her head like a vampire in the light.) Oh God, don’t look at me. Plleeease don’t look at me!
(Tom stands there in the light, shocked, in his clothing and mask. She puts her hands on her face like a child and peeks through the fingers.)
TOM: What the hell’s a matter with you? Lemme see your face. (Walks over and yanks her arms down. Sees her for a moment, but she rolls down her head.)
GERRY: No, no—stop! Leave me ALONE!! You just want an excuse to kill me, that’s all!
TOM: Kill you? What the—(pauses abruptly).
GERRY: (shrieking) If you see my face you’ll hafta kill me for sure! That’s how it works!
(Tom laughs uproariously. He slides down the wall and collapses on the floor. She is perched on the bed like terrified bird. She still looks through her fingers, but they are splayed a little wider.)
TOM: I can seee you.
GERRY: It’s not funny, you bastard. If you’re gonna kill me just do it, You don’t have to be a sadist.
TOM: First of all, get your true crime right. It doesn’t matter if I see your face. What, you think they put the mask on the goddam victim’s face? What planet you from?
GERRY: (Embarrassed to the point of forgetting her fear.) Oh! I always thought… (Looks confused for a moment.) I guess I never thought it out.
GERRY: (Squeals joyfully like a kid.) Shut up, man!
(Tom and Gerry, meanwhile, are studying one another as men and women tend to do. Tom is dressed for his venture like a hand from way back. Like a professional diamond thief. The clothing and accessories show a man who’s seen burglaries—in movies. Gerry notes this and laughs.)
GERRY: Just look at yourself. Have you ever burgled anything?
TOM: (Looks offended, then relieved.) It’s retarded, I know. I could never rob someone, Gerry. Maybe steal but not rob. I mean, who am Ito pillage someone’s home, what their struggles have built—the only refuge they have in a world that’s wide open? I swear to God, Gerry, I would sooner kill a man. It’s not enough you hardworking schmoes gotta put your kids through college and save for retirement and pay medical and all that. You gotta worry about some crackhead—some loser like me—with a pistol in your face cleaning out your little nest. The conservatives are right. Let’s throw way the key. We don’t need ‘em.
(Throughout his rant, Tom is drinking in Gerry. She grows shy and straightens up, with her feet in neat rows. Her hairs is an afro, making her appear much taller than she is. She is wearing a black tee-shirt that reads “Revolution of One” and some faded blue jeans that are ripped through long use. Tom takes is all in: the lovely brown flesh peeking out through each rip, the ’70s hairdo, the impossible large eyes, made even larger and more impossible by the semi-plainness of the face and the closed, demure smile.)
TOM: You’re beautiful.
GERRY: (frowning) I have a couple of cute aspects, but I know I’m not beautiful.
TOM: I don’t lie, Gerry. You’re a beautiful girl.
GERRY: Thanks… I guess.
TOM: Look, Gerry, I can’t do this. I would sooner commit suicide than rob your right now. It’s the opiates that do it—especially the smack. We have this ghostly connection. It’s not like other drugs, you know? Not the hedonism of cocaine or the metaphysics of LSD. It’s a spiritual thing—a religion. You worship it, serve it, and it gives you the eyes to make everything beautiful. Everything, Gerry. You can be jobless and broke, kicking a tin can and talking to yourself—wife gone, kids hate you—whatever—and there’s beauty in that. The beauty of losing everything. You can be estranged from your family and friends, dying all alone is some faraway land… got Hep C and cancer and you hate yourself and you hate God and you’re fulla evil and sickness and fear, and you say to yourself, “I think I’m finally gonna snap. I think I’ve found the killing road”—and its beautiful, you know? The beauty of being damned. It’s crazy, Gerry, your emotions are dead. You’re incapable of feeling happiness or sadness, love, hate—anything. It’s simply nostalgia through time-eaten eyes…
(Gerry looks charmed, but in ways that seem to change. It changes between “he’s brilliant,” “he’s mental,” “he’s artistic,” and “he’s delusional because of drugs.”)
TOM: … so detached that your omniscient—as far above your life as a god above a man or a man above an ant. If life is a movie and the people are actors—actors on the set who don’t know that they’re actors—than you’re on the couch eating Cheetos and watching. Who cares if it’s tragic?
(Tom paces back and forth, throwing glances at Gerry. He is acting like a man who, on pains of death, has minutes to make salable the benefits of heroin.)
TOM: You’re this warrior, you know? This hero from the ancient past. Remember Beowulf? He’s this warrior king who ruled the Getes for 50 years He’s an old man now, and he’s going to fight this a dragon who’s been threatening his kingdom. He obviously gonna lose, right—everyone knows it—hell, he knows it—but it’s all a part of fate. In dying he comes to his glory. In dying he slays the dragon.
GERRY: (Looks suddenly enlightened.) Don’t you see it, Tom? You’re a natural born philosopher. It’s not something you study or major in like a job or a hobby—it’s your whole life. You’re an obsessive-compulsive philosopher. You’re afflicted with DEPTH. Depth of thought and depth of feeling. And it drags you to the bottom.
(The orbs in the mask become glazed with a sheen. A new sheen. It nods its head and sighs with relief.)
TOM: (reminiscing) River Lethe, baby. The dreariest task was a silent epiphany. Slooow motion. Even something like laundry had a purpose and a passion—as part of the plan. It didn’t matter that my paycheck was gone and it was only Tuesday. It didn’t matter that my shoes were wearing thin and women looked through me like a fat, balding man. All that mattered was the here and now, the present being stretched into infinity and my past clinging madly to a future that died….
(Gerry opens a pack of cigarettes and tosses Tom two. He lights only one.)
TOM: …I’d awake in the arms of a silver sea mist: an awareness that revealed, if sought truly, a shadowy kingdom of grief and nostalgia. A fleeting enigma. She was my lover, my friend—my happiness and sadness all rolled into one—and with her I experienced no pain, no fear, no miserable hierarchies of awkward self-loathing. Some idiot like me coulda brandished a gun, and I would have died laughing—not with crazy self-abandon but with honest good humor. What’s that? A hole punch for a paper mask? Even death was a joke.
(Tom slides to the floor with his legs splayed out and his head drooped down. He looks exhausted. Gerry, unnoticed, stands up to approach but then quickly pulls back. She makes a pantomime motion of snatching the mask—then does it twice more.)
TOM: It’s a relationship, Gerry—the relationship. You ever wake up and the sun peeks through and your only half-conscious and you’re twisted like a vine around the person you love? That’s how it feels. It’s a spiritual union. You kiss and you hug and you fight and make up and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad but your loyal to one another, and so you never break up.
GERRY: (pensively) I’ve never had that kind of love.
(She grows jealous for a moment, then remembers the context.)
GERRY: (to herself) If all that love is being poured into a chemical, is there any left for people? For women? (Glares at Tom.) You’re ridiculous.
TOM: I know, baby, I know.
GERRY: (Takes a deep breath and throws caution to the wind. Rushes up to where he is seated, head drooping, and swipes the mask.) Hah!
TOM: Ahhhhhh! You crazy bitch! (Shields his face with his arms.)
GERRY: Lemme see your face.
TOM: No! You can’t see it!
GERRY: Why not? Why the hell not?
TOM: ‘cause, Gerry.
GERRY: (triumphantly) ‘cause you’ll hafta kill me?
TOM: (Stays in same position but shakes his head and laughs cruelly.) ‘Cause you’ll turn me in.
(A long pause ensues. Tom peeks up, cringing. He sees the flame in her eyes as the anger builds up.)
GERRY: You son of a bitch! How can you question my loyalty? I’m trusting you with my body—with my life—and you can’t even trust me with a few years in prison? Fuck you.
TOM: (Appears to deliberate.) I’m sorry, Gerry. I really am. I’m sorry about everything. But I need to just vanish and forget this ever happened. I haven’t touched you, I haven’t hurt you—
GERRY: (Stands tall, with her hands on her hips.) Haven’t hurt me. Really?
TOM: Yeah really. I’ve treated you like a goddam gentleman. (With his head still down, holds out his hand.) Now if you’ll give me my mask…
GERRY: (Pulls it from her back pocket and chucks it out the window.) There. Go get it.
TOM: (resigned) Fine, I will. (Jumps up, keeps a hand on his face, and uses the other to push her away. He heads toward the window.) Goodbye, young lady. (Gives a mock bow.)
GERRY: (Makes a long, angry, frustrated sound.) Uuuuuuyyyyhh!
(She charges him and tackles.)
TOM: Get off me, woman. Stop!
GERRY: (Starts hitting with all her might, but ineffectually, as women do.) I wanna see your FACE!
TOM: No Gerry no! Please stop! Go away!!
(He is frightened now and crying. The tables have turned.)
GERRY: (Pulls down his arms and starts smothering him with kisses.) It’s okay, baby, I’m your heroine, now.
(For the next several hours they cuddle and kiss. They tell each other stories and discuss future plans. They finally agree that he should leave while it’s dark. He climbs down the ladder, locates the mask, and throws it to Gerry, who stuffs it in her purse. He looks up softly as she leans on the casement and the moonlight illumines her face. She puts her chin is her hands.)
GERRY: O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore shall I see you again, Romeo?
TOM: (laughs) Probably in three hours when I work on your house.
GERRY: (Looks confused—then astonished.) Oh my God, you’re the painter!
(Tom laughs, rolls his eyes, and walks away in the darkness.)