CHARACTERS: Three average people, two women who look alike,
one virile man.
SCENE: Two apartments divided by a wall.
APARTMENT ONE: A woman is sitting by a telephone
APARTMENT TWO: A man and woman are in bed having intercourse.
THE NEIGHBOR: (SWITCHES ON HER LAMP AND DIALS ON THE TELEPHONE) Paul? It's me again. I know it's late. I know you're tired, yes, I know. But I had to call you again. Oh Paul! No, nothing important to say, nothing new - I just want to hear your voice - oh Paul, I'm so alone! Forgive me, I shouldn't be annoying you this way. What a drag I am, I know. But I can't help myself. I love you so - I love you! Why aren't you here! Come over, now. I know. I know. But you're so cruel to stay away! No, not really cruel - it's all my fault, my fault. I'm forcing you to be. What a drag I am, I'm so ashamed. Forgive me. Paul, I haven't any right to ask and yet I'm asking. Paul, I need you. I need you, Paul. Paul? Paul!
THE MAN: (PULLING OUT) I'm sorry.
THE WOMAN: (SUPPRESSING RAGE) No matter, later.
THE MAN: You're very patient. No, not tonight. I'm not myself tonight.
THE WOMAN: Then next time.
THE MAN: (PREOCCUPIED) Yes ...
THE NEIGHBOR: (DIALS AGAIN)
THE WOMAN: What's wrong?
THE MAN: Nothing.
THE NEIGHBOR: Paul? I'm better now. Please don't hang up. I need to hear your voice. Please be kind. I know how kind you can be. Oh, I'm so ashamed! All my life, I've been able to keep myself in. This never happened before - never like this before. You're the only one who - do you understand? The only one. I'm so ashamed. Please, Paul, listen. Listen, Paul. I need you. Paul, I need you.
THE WOMAN: (ANGRILY) It's her again, Apartment One.
THE MAN: Yes, I know. I heard her before. These walls are too thin.
THE WOMAN: A drunk?
THE MAN: Who knows? She goes for weeks without a sound then for days she cries all night - so loudly I can sometimes hear her across the room.
THE WOMAN: (ANGRY AND EMBARASSED,IDENTIFYING WITH HER) So bang on the wall - that's no way to carry on.
THE MAN: (DEFENSIVE, ALSO IDENTIFYING WITH HER) What good would it do? She can't help it. She's in love.
THE WOMAN: (DEFENSIVE, OVERLY HARSH) With herself, you mean.
THE MAN: (DEFIANTLY) I sympathize with her.
THE WOMAN:(DISTURBED) Don't tell me that. People like that are - are too weak to waste sympathy on. I know.
THE MAN: (HOPEFUL) How do you know?
THE WOMAN: (EVASIVELY CONFESSING) Because I was once a fool like that - once, when I was much too young. It's allowed in the young - but not at her age. At her age, she's a fool!
THE MAN: (REACHING OUT) You don't fall in love anymore?
THE WOMAN: (ALIENATED) Not like that. Not anymore.
(THEY PAUSE, TO LISTEN)
THE NEIGHBOR: (DIALS PAUL AGAIN. AFTER A LONG TIME, HE ANSWERS. SHE IS LOUDER AND MORE ASSERTIVE, ANGRIER) Paul? It's me again. Does it please you to hear me cry? You ) could leave your phone off the hook but you never do - why? You tempted me first, you know that. I hadn't the slightest idea I would ever want you so much. You wanted me to want you. You don't want me to stop loving you. Why!
THE MAN: (SADLY, RESUMING) No, not anymore. No, you're too "sane".
THE WOMAN: What's wrong with you tonight?
THE MAN: (SENTIMENTALLY) You.
THE WOMAN: (VULNERABLE) Me?
THE NEIGHBOR: (HE HAS HUNG UP) Swine!
THE MAN: You'll laugh.
THE WOMAN: Why?
THE MAN: I want to buy you white roses. All day I couldn't work, couldn't think. I thought only of - roses.
THE WOMAN: (NERVOUSLY) You're mad!
THE MAN: I knew you'd laugh.
THE WOMAN: (WITH KIND CONCERN) Stop now, before it's too late.
THE MAN: (MATURELY) It's already too late. But don't you worry - I'm hard and strong -
THE WOMAN: (SEXUALLY) Then there's no problem. Come -
THE MAN: (RECOILING) No, not tonight. I've had all I need tonight.
THE WOMAN: (HUNG UP AND ANGRY) Strange, isn't it? Love often changes a woman from a virgin to a whore. But when a man loves - he even (THE NEIGHBOR: SHRIEKS IN ANGUISH "Oh Paul!") puts whores on pedestals and calls them virgins. There's always a wall! (BANGS ON THE WALL) Quiet Apartment One!
THE MAN: (INDIGNANT) Stop it. She's not bothering us.
THE WOMAN: (AS IF IT IS HERSELF NEXT DOOR) She bothers me. She turns my stomach.
THE MAN: (STILL TRYING TO REACH HER) Why are you so cold?
THE WOMAN: (SHAKEN) Am I cold? Yes, I'm shivering. Keep me warm. You left too soon.
THE MAN: (DISTANTLY) I'm sorry.
THE WOMAN: (GOING TO HIM) Look, please forget what you said before. Between us, white roses? No, that can't ever be.
THE MAN: Why not?
THE WOMAN: I have too much pride. It's taken me years to learn to live with myself. Years not to need someone - years not to cry. I'm happy now - just the way I am.
THE MAN: (STILL TRYING) How insincere that sounds.
THE WOMAN: (COLDLY) Force yourself to believe it.
THE MAN: The modern woman.
THE WOMAN: (ANGRILY) As modern as Eve. There's a wall!
THE MAN: Don't be so afraid of pain.
THE WOMAN: What do you know of pain? When you want something you can ask for it - sometimes you can even take it without asking. Do you know what it is to be starving and to be watching others at a banquet - and to have to wait until someone offers you food? Never to ask, always to ask without asking, and pretending always that you've already had enough to eat. There's a wall!
THE MAN: (GIVING UP) I'm sorry for you.
THE WOMAN: (STRONGLY) May I use your phone?
THE MAN: Yes, of course.
THE NEIGHBOR: (DIALS AND WAITS. PAUL IS NOT ANSWERING)
THE WOMAN:(DIALS AND WAITS TENSELY FOR JIMMY TO ANSWER THE PHONE. SHE FEIGNS EASE, THROUGH GREAT TENSION, WHILE SPEAKING TO HIM.) Jimmy? Jimmy dear, guess who this is. Am I calling too late? I just happened to remember and dialed on an impulse - I hope I'm not disturbing you. I said to myself, I hope he's not angry because I had to rush away last time. I've been so busy - hardly at all at home - so I decided to give you a ring, since it's been practically impossible for you to reach me......No, I'm not doing anything special. I'm at a girl- friend's, but I'll be home soon. I'd love to have you drop over. No, it's not too late. We can chat for half an hour and then I'll send you home..... (LAUGHS) No, I didn't mean that. I expect you to behave yourself this time. Yes, that's an order. In an hour then. Fine! (HANGS UP WITH RELIEF)
THE MAN: (SADLY) You don't waste time.
THE WOMAN: (WILFULLY UNMASKED) I've a very efficient system now. See how fickle I can be - and a barefaced liar. Hang on to that.
THE MAN: (NOT FOOLED. KISSES HER.) No.
THE WOMAN: (STILL WANTING HIM BUT NOT FOOLED, PULLS AWAY) How lucky you are - to be able to take what you want. I once wanted someone's lips - so badly. So badly. THE NEIGHBOR: (HE TRIES TO KISS HER (PAUL HAS FINALLY ANSWERED AGAIN BUT SHE RESISTS, THE TELEPHONE. SHE SPEAKS FIRMLY.) It's no use. TO HIM IN AN APOLOGETIC AND There's a wall!
THE NEIGHBOR: (PAUL HAS FINALLY ANSWERED THE TELEPHONE. SHE SPEAKS TO HIM IN AN APOLOGETIC AND BUSINESSLIKE MANNER, BUT SOON DETERIORATES INTO A BLUBBERING FOOL.) Paul? I'm sorry I said what I said. I get so terribly angry - because I want you so much.
(THE WOMAN DRESSES AS THE MAN LIES IN BED QUIETLY WATCHING HER.)
THE NEIGHBOR: Just for once, hear me out. I have to speak to you. Can't you see how near the edge I am? I don't know what to do with myself anymore. Can't you understand how little I'm asking? Once, only once, that's all I ask. Then I could forget. I could put it out of my mind.
THE WOMAN: (READY TO LEAVE) Goodbye.
THE NEIGHBOR: I want to be myself again. Help me. Help me. (AT A HIGH PITCH, ALMOST SHRIEKING) Listen to me! I've lost all my pride. I know it! How much you detest me. You're so right to detest me. But I need you. I can't help asking. I need you! It's so little that I'm asking. Paul! (PAUL HAS HUNG UP)
(THE WOMAN WALKS OUT)
(FREEZE THE SCENE, THEN BLACKOUT)