MAKE YOURSELF AT HOME

by

ALEXANDRA C.

Cast of Characters

LAURENCE, 20s; generous/lonely geek.

WES, late 30s; jaded business man.

CHRISTINE, 20s; intelligent and practical college student.

SCENE: Laurence's "apartment."

AT RISE: LAURENCE and CHRISTINE are entering the apartment.

LAURENCE

Welcome to my humble abode, Christine. Let me take your coat.

CHRISTINE

(Puts her book bag down.)

Thank you. Wow, your place is so nice.

LAURENCE

Can I get you anything to drink?

CHRISTINE

A glass of water would be great.

LAURENCE

Okay. Make this place your home.

CHRISTINE

Don't you mean, "Make yourself at home?"

LAURENCE

Oh yeah. I'll be right back

(He exits. She looks around the room. He returns with a glass of water.)

Here you go.

CHRISTINE

Thanks, Laurence. Fineman's bio lab was brutal today, wasn't it?

LAURENCE

I thought it was all right. I understood the concepts. I just don't like labs in general.

CHRISTINE

How come?

LAURENCE

The whole having-to-work-in-a-group thing.

(Laughs a little.)

But I am glad we got paired up this time. Working with you has been great.

CHRISTINE

I feel the same way.

LAURENCE

(Sits across from CHRISTINE at the kitchen table.)

How're you feeling about the upcoming midterm?

CHRISTINE

Let's say I'm – cautiously optimistic.

LAURENCE

Oh, please. You have no reason to be cautiously – anything. You're definitely going to ace Fineman's midterm.

CHRISTINE

I try not to let my expectations get up too high. Less chance for crushing disappointment that way.

LAURENCE

Jeez. That's kind of depressing.

CHRISTINE

I'm just very pragmatic.

LAURENCE

That's definitely not me. I expect good things to happen all the time.

CHRISTINE

And what if they don't?

LAURENCE

I don't know. I still expect them.

CHRISTINE

You amaze me.

LAURENCE

Me? Why?

CHRISTINE

After all you went through with your grandma's death, you still expect good things to happen?

LAURENCE

Yeah. I always do.

(WES enters in a business suit, carrying a briefcase. He walks over to the couch, turns on the stereo system, which starts playing Huey Lewis' "Hip to Be Square," and sits down. WES closes his eyes and drums his hands on his thighs to the music.)

CHRISTINE

(Brief pause.)

You didn't say you had a roommate.

LAURENCE

Oh, I don't. This is Wes. Wes, this is Christine.

WES

(Turns around and waves.)

Hi.

CHRISTINE

Uh, hi.

(To LAURENCE.)

Wes?

LAURENCE

It's short for Wesley.

CHRISTINE

I know that. You didn't mention a Wes.

LAURENCE

Wes lives here.

CHRISTINE

I thought you said you lived alone.

LAURENCE

Actually, I only said I didn't have a roommate.

CHRISTINE

But he lives with you.

LAURENCE

I look after Wes.

WES

Laurence takes good care of me.

CJRISTINE

Wait a minute. Are you guys boyfriends or something?

WES LAURENCE
No! No.

CHRISTINE

This is really making me uncomfortable.

LAURENCE

Not to worry. Wes wouldn't hurt a fly, and neither would I.

CHRISTINE

Why did you invite me over?

LAURENCE

Because I've admired you from afar since the beginning of the semester. Anyone can se you care deeply about your education, and you're an intelligent and beautiful woman.

CHRISTINE

(A couple beats.)

That's so sweet of you, Laurence.

LAURENCE

That's why I think you'd make an excellent addition to my collection.

CHRISTINE

. . . Your collection?

LAURENCE

Yes, my collection.

CHRISTINE

I don't understand.

LAURENCE

I collect people.

CHRISTINE

You collect people? Oh my God. I've seen movies that start like this!

WES

Could you keep it down? I'm trying to listen to my music over here. Jeez.

CHRISTINE

Oh my God. You're some crazy serial killer, aren't you?

(CHRISTINE pulls out her car keys.)

LAURENCE

I find that accusation incredibly offensive.

CHRISTINE

You lure people off the streets to your apartment!

LAURENCE

I don't lure anyone. I didn't lure you, did I?

CHRISTINE

(Indignant.)

No.

LAURENCE

That's what I thought.

(Heads over to the fridge.)

Want a beer, Wes?

WES

Sure, that'd be great.

LAURENCE

(To CHRISTINE.)

Anything for you?

CHRISTINE

I'm not touching a goddamn thing.

LAURENCE

Christine, this isn't how it seems.

CHRISTINE

It's exactly how it seems! You collect people! Is Wes a part of your collection too?

LAURENCE

Well, yeah.

CHRISTINE

If you come anywhere near me, I swear to God –

LAURENCE

I promise I'm not going to hurt you, Christine. Would you like something to eat?

CHRISTINE

What? No!

LAURENCE

Well, if you change your mind, just holler. I'm going to check on dinner. I'll be right back.

(LAURENCE exits to kitchen.)

CHRISTINE

I can't believe him. And you! How can you be so cool about this? Laurence kidnapped you!

WES

(Opens his beer and drinks.)

Are you kidding me? I love it here!

CHRISTINE

Don't you have a job? A family?

WES

'Course I got a job. And I got a family too.

(Beat.)

Why else would I be here?

CHRISTINE

Oh my God, you're just as crazy as he is.

WES

I got it all figured out, sweetheart.

CHRISTINE

(Realization dawns.)

Oh, I get it. I get it. You must be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

WES

What the hell's Stockholm Syndrome?

CHRISTINE

It's when kidnapping victims get attached to their captors.

WES

Stockholm Syndrome my ass. I could leave any time I wanted to.

CHRISTINE

You don't want to leave because he's you convinced you don't.

WES

My boss treated me like I was lower than pond scum. My wife was cheating on me with whoever crossed her path. Do you think I want to go back to all that?

CHRISTINE

You can't just run away because your life sucks.

WES

Like hell I can't. Hey Larry, toss me another Bud?

LAURENCE

Dinner's almost ready, Christine. I hope you like gourmet Italian –

CHRISTINE

I'm not staying for dinner. And neither is Wes. He's coming with me.

LAURENCE

You can't do that. You can't just – steal him.

CHRISTINE

How is that any different than what you did?

LAURENCE

Wes wanted to come with me. You're just being bossy.

CHRISTINE

Come on, Wes. Let's go. Now.

WES

Nice try, hon.

CHRISTINE

How long have you even been here?

WES

I don't remember. Three weeks? Larry, how long's it been?

LAURENCE

You know, I don't remember either.

(A timer goes off and LAURENCE exits.)

CHRISTINE

Your wife must be out of her mind with worry.

WES

That skank?

CHRISTINE

Okay, fine, I'll give you that. What about your job? Don't you miss that?

WES

My job as professional pencil-pusher? Hell no.

(Beat.)

Haven't you ever wanted to just escape?

CHRISTINE

Of course. Everyone does. But not everyone actually does it.

WES

Why put up with something that makes you miserable if you don't have to?

CHRISTINE

Because, unlike you, I have dignity and self-respect.

WES

Maybe I just have too much respect for myself to stay in a lousy situation.

CHRISTINE

(A couple beats.)

I guess I never thought of it like that before.

WES

Neither did I, until I met Larry.

CHRISTINE

Okay, here's what I don't understand. Regardless of how shitty your life is, why would you go home with a complete stranger? That's insane.

WES

That's just the risk you have to take.

CHRISTINE

That doesn't even make sense –

LAURENCE

(Enters with a covered tray.)

Was I interrupting anything?

CHRISTINE

No. What time is it?

LAURENCE

(Shrugs.)

I dunno.

WES

Me either.

CHRISTINE

(Spots a clock on the wall and pauses.)

Jesus. That clock. It doesn't have hands.

LAURENCE

I know. It came that way. Isn't it neat?

CHRISTINE

How long have I been here?

LAURENCE

I don't know. Do you know, Wes?

WES

Nope, I don't.

CHRISTINE

Maybe I'm having a nightmare. A really vivid, weird nightmare.

(Pinches herself. A beat.)

Dammit.

LAURENCE

Christine? Dinner is served.

CHRISTINE

I don't think so.

LAURENCE

I had the chef whip up a little something. Baby veal with –

(Lifts the cover to reveal the food.)

CHRISTINE

White truffles?

LAURENCE

Yup.

CHRSTINE

Those only grow in Piedmont, in Italy.

LAURENCE

I know. I picked them up when I was there over the summer.

CHRISTINE

You just "picked" them up?

LAURENCE

I don't get to go to Italy too often, and I decided, what the heck. Why not bring some back home?

CHRISTINE

Truffles are expensive. They cost thousands of dollars!

LAURENCE

Oh, believe me, I know. Christine? Please stay for dinner?

CHRISTINE

Well, it smells so good. And if your chef went through all that trouble . . . I guess I can stay. But after that, I have to leave. You know, I've only had white truffles once, at my grandparents' fiftieth wedding anniversary. God, I miss them so much.

LAURENCE

Your grandparents were from Italy, right?

CHRISTINE

Yeah, on my dad's side. Nonna, my grandmother, always said my parents were crazy for pushing me into neuroscience. She always thought I should do something artsy.

LAURENCE

Artsy? Like drawing and painting?

CHRISTINE

Yeah. Nonna always used to give me drawing pads and colored pencils when I was a kid. My mom and dad thought art would distract me from my studies.

LAURENCE

I think my parents would have encouraged me if I'd shown an interest in the arts.

CHRISTINE

You think they would have?

LAURENCE

I don't know.

CHRISTINE

What do you mean you don't know?

LAURENCE

Well – they never told me.

CHRISTINE

How awful.

LAURENCE

No, I mean, they didn't tell me because – they're not around anymore. They died when I was little.

CHRISTINE

I'm sorry, Laurence.

LAURENCE

(A couple beats.)

You haven't touched your truffles and veal, Christine. The chef'll be disappointed if you let it go to waste.

CHRISTINE

You have your own chef?

LAURENCE

Oh yeah. He used to be the head chef at Trump Tower.

CHRISTINE

How'd he end up with you?

LAURENCE

They fired him when he started to lose his eyesight. Can you believe that? He moved in with Wes and me. All he does is cook.

CHRISTINE

(Eats.)

He's definitely good at it. This is the best meal I've ever had.

WES

Excellent as always, Larry. Give my compliments to Giuseppe.

(Heads back to the couch and turns the stereo back on; Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" starts playing and WES sings along.)

People always told me be careful what you do and don't go 'round breaking young girls' hearts . . .

CHRISTINE

Is that all he listens to?

LAURENCE

Pretty much. He says listening to oldies helps him relax, so I went and bought him all the top albums of the 1980s.

CHRISTINE

That's very sweet of you. Well, dinner was great, but I really should be leaving.

LAURENCE

Do you have to? I had one more thing I wanted to show you.

CHRISTINE

I've got a lot of homework to do.

LAURENCE

Please, Christine? It'll only take a minute.

CHRISTINE

Okay, but then I'm leaving.

LAURENCE

I think you'll be really pleased.

(Gets up and leads her to an area marked off with a curtain.)

Don't worry. No boogeymen are going to jump out at you.

(Pulls back the curtain to reveal an artist's easel and supplies.)

CHRISTINE

(Several beats.)

Laurence, how did you know I like to paint? Nonna was the only one who ever knew . . .

LAURENCE

I always see you drawing in the margins of your textbook during class. You even drew in the margins of our lab manual.

CHRISTINE

I can't accept this, Laurence. I'm sorry.

LAURENCE

You're good enough to make a career out of this.

CHRISTINE

No, I'm not. My parents have paid my way through school. I can't throw that away.

LAURENCE

Would it really be throwing it away?

CHRISTINE

My parents would say yes.

LAURENCE

Do you even want to do neuroscience?

CHRISTINE

It's what I've been working toward my entire life.

LAURENCE

But do you like it?

CHRISTINE

We can't always do what we like.

LAURENCE

Why not?

CHRISTINE

I don't know. Because that's what children do. We're not children anymore.

LAURENCE

(Picks up a paintbrush.)

Children aren't the only ones who get to do what they like. We can too.

CHRISTINE

What about you?

LAURENCE

What about me?

CHRISTINE

What is it that you like to do?

LAURENCE

(Looks around at the whole room.)

I like doing this.

CHRISTINE

What's this?

LAURENCE

(Gestures to CHRISTINE and WES.)

This.

CHRISTINE

(Looks at the easel and art supplies longingly.)

God, this must cost you a fortune. Where'd you get the money to pay for all of this stuff, anyway?

LAURENCE

My grandmother gave it to me when she died. She told me to do something worthwhile with it. Don't spend it on junk, Larry, she said. Make somebody happy.

CHRISTINE

(Touched.)

So how did you know I liked art? All you saw were my stupid sketches.

LAURENCE

You put as much effort into your doodles as you do biology class. I could tell just from looking at you, and spending time with you, that that's who you really are. An artist.

CHRISTINE

I don't know, Laurence. I come from a very long line of neuroscientists, I'd be throwing six years of education away and I don't even know if I'd be any good at it.

LAURENCE

You already are.

(LAURENCE holds out the paintbrush to her.)

Take it. It's yours . . . if you want it.

CHRISTINE

(Looks at the paintbrush in LAURENCE'S hand for a few beats and reaches for it.)

BLACKOUT