Mariana Baca

Scene A: Middle of a desert in central Libya. Soft sand dunes stretch for miles around. A small locked house, only one or two rooms. Has a central patio, a well in the center. A locked wooden door; barred windows. Two men inside; one has been there for over fifty years, another, a week. You can tell the time they have been there by the length of their beards. Both sit under the non-existent shade of the noon sun. They are political prisoners, most likely; terrorists, perhaps freedom fighters to others. People, nonetheless.

Aren't there things you miss? - He shifts on his seat on the ground, uncomfortable.

Like what? - Listless, uncaring, has eyes closed.

Like junk food. Or stores. - Shrugs. Was it not obvious?

Why? - As if the obvious question weren't obvious for him. As if he ignored his condition of lacking everything.

Wouldn't you love to have a piece of chocolate right now? - He craves the melting on his tongue.

I do not like chocolate. - He opens his eyes and grabs the stick next to him.

Or candy, sugar, whatever. -Rolls his eyes, unbelieving of the other.

I know there are things I don't miss. - Remembrance in his voice, certain annoyance. Not uncaring anymore, defensive tone of voice. He fiddles with the stick in his hand.

What? - Inordinately curious now, wondering at other man's decision to speak. He leans on one hand.

Work, lines, money. - He doodles with the twig on the ground.

I'd rather work all day and have the things I want than be here, man. - Self-assured. Believes in making sacrifices for the goal.

What do you need? You have food and water. - Objective tone, questioning. In a certain light, some have said he could sound like Socrates, had anyone been able to see him. Probably an intentional similarity.

No air-conditioning. - Ironic, even, meant to be humorous. A smile.

Well, air-conditioning would be nice. - Another smile. A chuckle. He draws two lines and a curve on the dust-covered floor.

I just want to go back. - He speaks with sorrow, regret.

Family? - Empathy in the tone, but of a distant time. Rubs off the drawing he made.

Girlfriend. - Answers as if one word explained the world.

Will she still be waiting for you? - Skeptical tone, of a man once maybe in love, many more times out of love.

Of course. Isn't there anyone you wish to see once more? - Hope in his voice. The hope of the young people. Question seems obvious to him, again.

Nobody is waiting for me. - Nonchalant speech, posture straight.

What a pessimist. There is so much out there to make life worth living. - Tone of one who is used to having opportunities and taking them. Of a left- wing activist.


There is so much to read, to learn. - As if he himself read much; it is a often repeated answer, cliche.

What purpose does it serve humanity for one more person to read something over again? What purpose do I accomplish by reading? Nothing. - Defensive, almost offensive in speech, leans forward, puts hand on ground and leans on it too, towards younger man. The twig is forgotten.

Aren't you bored here? - Bored tone himself.

There is always some detail I have not seen. Some new thought to think. - Air of wisdom, barest hint of an ego.

There are so many things you can invent, so many things to fight for. You could write even. And you don't desire at all to leave? - Rationalizing, because he feels he must convince the other. He should, shouldn't he?

Invent what? We can live perfectly fine on food and water, and I never found any other object that human beings require to find happiness. And fight for what? Ethical causes? What is right to you and me isn't for others. Write? I am content with my thoughts. - Definitely offensive now, short of standing up.

Others could gain from reading what you say. - Trying to be logical.

What do I care for others? -Not a rhetorical question.

That is selfish. -Silence.

They don't care for me. -Silence.

That is selfish. - Silence.

If you want to leave, then just leave. - Defensive once more, He puffs a few times, rests back against the wall.

I can't just leave. I must plan my escape. - After all, although he does not admit it, he is matter-of-factly, pompous, youthful, arrogant man.

Ah, of course. -Sarcastic, cheerfulness. A smile, a chuckle.

What, man? I can't just leave! -Loud now, frustrated with the other man.

The lock on the door, it is just for show. You could break it from the amount of rust it has. The bars, they are not firmly attached. - Showing the other man that he has no excuses to make.

Where does our water come from? - Deliberate question.

The well.

And the well water?

Don't know. Underground river? Too underground to reach. Food is here. -Hungry tone, glad tone, stands up to pick up food left under door.

Who brings the food? - Curious, but his intent is visible.

A man on a motorcycle. He drops the package once a week. - He is indifferent now to the other's plans.

Only one guy? - Certifying an almost unbelievably perfect circumstance.

Only one guy.

You sure you don't want to leave with me? -Hopeful, because it is what he was taught was the right thing to do.

Sure. - Silence.

Scene B: In a week's time the man leaves. It is a simple plan, really. Take one of the bars from the window, crack the lock, and hit the man with the food in the back of the neck, hard; break the bones, break the spine. Feel the blood flowing from his nape. Let him drop softly into the sand of the desert. Then drop the bar. Take some food, take some water, and fill dead man's canteen with chalky well water. Look for a map, and a compass. No compass to be found, nor map. The bearded man does not even flinch. The young man leaves into the sand of the desert, jetting off on the motorcycle.

Scene C: The man is found in the desert ten days later, dying of thirst, of starvation. There is nothing but sand to be seen for miles around. His voice is crackling and it is dry. Lips are covered with sand; his hands are weak. Men on identical black motorcycles find him; there was a tracking device in the fainted man's vehicle. They look at him, and they recognize his features, barely. They give him water, load him on the back of one of their cycles, and sand flies everywhere, as if a storm, as they drive away. The man awakens in the earthen house in Libyan Desert; his beard is a little longer. The other man's beard is just as long.

You are back. -A smile, derisive in manner.

Yes, they found me. - A huff, desperate, exhausted still from the journey.

They found you? - Disbelief dripping from his mouth, because he knows the man was rescued, not found in a city, or close to escape.

It was terrible. -Silence.

You were lost.

No references. - Automatic response, an excuse. The stick that was there a few weeks ago is broken. The metal shaft is in its place, still bloodied.

You were thirsty. - A simple statement, he wants to know what exactly happened.

It was too long a time. Hell, it was terrible. - He does not want to relive the nightmare. But, amongst all the sand, and the sun, how could he forget?

No food. - Not a question anymore. A statement, a chuckle too.

It ran out. I should have planned it better; the plan could have worked. It should have worked. Don't smile. I want to leave. - He feels despair; probably from the thought of a sultry woman whom he loves. He fiddles mindlessly with the rod, twirling it in his hands.

How was the journey? - Mocking, all knowing. Wants him to think about it.

Terrible, each dune looked just like the next, the sun, blazing, the night cold. You know. - Does not wish to speak, besides, he is thirsty too. Picks at the blood on the bar.

I know. I know very well. - Three consecutive nods of his head.

How was I to know that I would not find anything in ten days? -He does not want to be blamed for his stupidity.

I know. -In fact, he does know. A few more nods. The beard moves in a wave- like motion.

You know? - Uncomprehending, dazed still from the sunstroke.

Don't you think I ever tried running away, boy? I tried for nearly two years. I was always brought back. - Resignation in his voice, but experience and wisdom.

Why didn't you tell me there was no way to run away? - Wishes he had been told.

You wouldn't believe me if I just told you. You are willful still. - As if he had also been a willful young man once, a long time ago, and still does not forget that advice is never taken at that age.

I would, too. - Stubborn, even then. Hits the sandy tile floor with the bar, making a loud clanging sound.

And besides, it is more fun this way. - A laugh, because, it is more fun to laugh at others' misfortunes.

Sick bastard. - His pride is subdued, and he is filled with anger toward the other man.

Something has to humor me. - Sadistic pleasure almost, but mostly it is a relief of boredom.

Now what? - Lost, willing to listen for once. The rod is left forgotten.

What do you mean? - Sincere question. He has been here far too long to understand a change in routine.

What do we do now? - Hopeless, lost. Flubbing around alone.

We? I know what I will do. -Silence.

What will you do?

Think, eat, sleep, drink. Play in the sand, perchance.- Forced humor, but he laughs. At least, smiles.

I crave a bottle of whiskey now. -Silence

You will forget after a while. -Silence

I want chocolate.

In this heat? -Truly incredulous. He does not like chocolate anyway.

I miss her. - Depressed, resignation. Anxiety as he has never felt before.

She will forget you. -True resignation, and a consolation, of sorts.

I won't forget her. -A false hope, the anxiety.

Isn't that a shame? -Mocking once more. He feels little pity for the man who loves, because he himself has long forgotten people.

Have you no care for the feelings of others? - For once, he asks without an undertone of disbelief.

Has anyone cared for my feelings?

I want air-conditioning. - He was trying to break the tension, it seems. He smiles.

Ah, well. That I want too. - A smile back.

What do I do now?

You could kill yourself. -Silence

That would mean giving up. - Silence

What do you hope will happen?

That they get fed up of paying for our food and set us free. - A desperate smile.

Most likely, they would let us starve.-A chuckle.

Why don't they? - Curious, bewildered. He does not think like his captors.

They would rather make us suffer. It is the prison-with-no-walls theory.

Perfect prison. - An all-encompassing statement.

Right. - Silence.