BJ Northrop, a lonely bookworm in rural Grey Center, Ohio, says good-bye to her best friend Madge and heads off to State College determined to grapple with the Great Questions and the Opposite Sex. BJ is eager for intercourse, sexual and intellectual. At school she discovers that "in loco parentis" means a Dorm Mother, two Home Economics majors for roommates, and a set of parietal rules that would daunt the denizens of a gulag. Still, BJ quickly picks up Philip, a poetry-quoting senior who is a genius math major, to be her first lover -- and then discovers to her dismay that she is Philip's first, too.
On the basis of essays signed with her androgynous initials, BJ gets herself invited to the weekly gathering of literary intellectuals at Professor Levine's house. There she is befriended by Levine's wife Rachel, --at twenty-six the mother of six children-- and she is introduced to Stefan, the editor of the school literary magazine, and Jake, an African-American art major. BJ is eager to embrace the Bohemian way of life, and as many "genius" lovers as she can handle. Over Thanksgiving break, BJ manages to escape disaster back home in Grey Center when she and Madge hide surreptitiously visiting Philip under the bed, but back at college BJ's opinions and behavior land her in trouble with her dorm, and by the end of Act One she has been ordered to see the school psychiatrist and "Get straightened out."
In Act Two BJ finds that the psychiatrist, Dr. Oloff, is a strong woman herself, one who is not inclined to go along with "shrinking" young females to fit society's double standard. The doctor encourages BJ to be strong too: use her excellent mind and follow her usually accurate instincts. But by this time BJ has begun to have doubts about her course. The "geniuses" who cluster around the charismatic Professor Levine seem to see sex and art and intellect as macho competitions, and they are out to win whatever the cost. What IS the cost? And who pays it?
BJ confides to Rachel that she's beginning to think maybe what she needs is a noncompetitive love-partner, an ordinary B-student kind of guy ---like the engineering major, Milton, who has asked her to marry him. Yet how is she to disentangle herself from the State College Smart Set? They speak BJ's language: the literary language of her girlhood's bookish dreams. But Philip, who seemed at first to be a free spirit and a soul-mate, is increasingly eccentric -- on top of which he has turned jealous, and may even be stalking her. And Jake-- how is she to explain all this to Jake? To him her new-found "maturity" and "realism" has other names: cowardice and racism Madge and Rachel, even they can't really understand. Maybe only a daughter could.....
Intercourse, Ohio was workshopped in the 1992 New Play Festival at the Cleveland Public Theater. Scenes from the play were presented at the Medford Library, under a MCC Arts grant. Revised, it had a staged reading in the 1995 Playwright's Platform Summer Festival, after which it had yet another rewrite.
B.J. I'm packing up to go off to college, and my relatives keep cracking the same stupid joke: "So, you're off to State U. to get an MRS?" How could anybody say that? To me?! Class poet, winner of the Thespian Club Oscar! This is 1959, when a girl can be a serious person. The only marriage that matters to me is the "marriage of true minds". If physical intimacy is part of a spiritual and intellectual dialogue -- well, maybe that's why it's called "liberal education". Carnal knowledge has Nothing to do with "snagging a meal ticket", or "catching that gold ring"! I can't wait to get out of this stupid town. Grey, Ohio. Where there's not a soul worth talking to except my friend Madge. B.J. puts a bathrobe over her clothes and walks into the scene. MADGE is wearing pajamas. They sit on the bed, half-under the covers, talking.
BJ: Oh, God, Madge, I wish we were going to the same school!
MADGE: A Catholic college for girls? Not to learn about Life and Love.
BJ: But if you're going--
MADGE: I'm used to it! Mary Immaculate Elementary. I lasted two months.
BJ: You were kicked out!?
MADGE: Nothing so exciting. Dad got laid off from his job. But two months exposure means I'm immune. I know all about their stupid rules, its the nun's "protection" racket. So by day, I'll pass for a demure coed, but by night-
BJ: Technically, you aren't a coed.
MADGE: Technically, I may even be a virgin. But really, what? Vamp?
MADGE: Jeeze, no, not slut! Lover?
BJ: Lover's a man.
BJ Mistress is so ironic! A woman who is kept isn't anybody's mistress. The man who pays her is her Master.
MADGE Still, I can't say I'd really mind -- .
BJ: Heterae. That's what the Greeks called them. Intellectual women who lived on their own and took lovers--
MADGE: High-class, but hookers. On the other hand, if you give it away, you're a chippy. Face it BJ: there aren't any good words.
MADGE: That's whore, too. Sex for money. Just not piecework.
BJ: Well, I like it. Adventuress. A woman who has adventures! As different as possible from what a girl has to pretend to be if she's living around here.
MADGE Like Suzanne and Becky.
BJ Worse. They're popular.
MADGE Nothing's worse! Look at them! They've got to have brains, with their SAT scores! But have you ever heard either of them say one single uncensored non-boring thing? Not and be Popular!
BJ: Doesn't make sense, does it? As evolution? If guys pick stupid girls on purpose, why haven't we all died out?
MADGE: Smart girls pretend.
BJ: Pretend long enough, it becomes true.
MADGE: I wonder. Remember Alice Feering?
BJ: The one who got married?
MADGE: Freshman year! I don't suppose it made that big of an impression on you, you'd just moved here. But I'd known her since kindergarten. Straight A's, president of our class. Then one day she drops out and gets married because her sixteen year old boyfriend knocked her up!
BJ: A freshman's Juliet's age. If I'd had a Romeo -
MADGE: You, yes, or me--that's the point! Juliet and her raunchy old nurse, they talked like we do--
BJ: (melodramatic pose) "--and learn me how to lose a winning match"
MADGE: Yeah. But Miss Perfect. She was over to my house once, and my dumb brother tricked her into that pencil game where you follow the dots and it makes you write out F-u-c-k. Well, Alice practically fainted! From then on my family was some kind of inferior species. Well, I guess I should be glad Alice couldn't keep her panties on, because if she were still in our class I'd never have won the scholarship. But how could Alice pretend to be shocked, by the word! About the first word you learn to spell after "cat".
BJ: You know, I've never heard anybody say it.
MADGE: Are you serious? I have, zillions. Men who were in the war, or Korea, they f- all the time. Like, playing poker? Your dad was in the navy-. BJ: Not in front of me. "Frigging", sometimes. At parties, he'll sing navy songs, "Frigging In the Rigging"
MADGE: After Mom has sent us to bed. Dirty Concert Hour.(sing together) "Roll me over in the clover"..
BJ: I like "intercourse".
MADGE: BJ, you haven't!
BJ: I mean the word. " Intercourse." The same word as for conversation, so it means a dialogue. An intimate exchange. "And Adam knew Eve his wife." In Pennsylvania, there's a town named Intercourse. Lovers send cards on Valentine's day, to get the postmark. Isn't that sweet?
MADGE: If it was in Ohio, they'd change it. To Interdict.
BJ: Not Outer Dick?
MADGE: A state that calls the college Normal School.
BJ: Oh, God, please! I can't take another minute. Normal! Send me a genius to talk to, please. Or three or four-
MADGE: Two, greedy. One for you and one for me.
BJ: Share's fair. You would.
MADGE: If I had the chance. At least where you're headed, there's a faint hope. At ol' Mary Immaculate--.
BJ: I'm scared.
MADGE: Maybe you should have stayed home, kept on at the Museum.
BJ: I can't draw. Can you believe, it took me 6 years of art lessons to find out I have no talent?
MADGE: So you didn't get a Museum scholarship. Big deal. Your parents could afford to send you someplace other than State Normal.
BJ: They're not about to waste their hard-earned money on Art. But I could still go. Mr. Freemark told me I could earn my way modeling.
MADGE: Then why not?
BJ: I don't want to be exposed like that, to have the guys with talent look at me and ---. Plus, I'd have to keep seeing Tom. And my one class friend, Sara, she's off to study fashion design-. Sara's good enough to make it.
MADGE: I like your stuff. Really. The heads, the seascapes--
BJ: It's crap! I have great ideas, but--
MADGE: That's why you need teachers--
BJ: Teachers can't help! Oh, they're good at the museum, not like Grey High. I can tell they know what they're doing. But they can't put it in words. I get so frustrated!
MADGE: But if you were in art school, you could find some nice young Picasso to put an end to that frustration!
BJ: I don't think so, Madge. In my experience, painters are jerks. Like jocks. They're only interested in what's tangible, you know? Colors. Brushes. No ideas, no -- . And they really care about what a girlfriend looks like. Style is-- I want someone who'll talk seriously to me, like -- like a poet.
MADGE: I'll wave my wand.
BJ: You would! I know you would. Oh, Madge, it's so cruel. Sixteen years it took us to find each other, and now we have to go away. Where maybe there'll be no one who understands.
MRS.CARTWRIGHT: Now girls, your Alma Mater stands here "in loco parentis", which means, in the place of your parents. Your copy of the parietals and the dress code should be like your Bible. Any girl accumu- lating 10 demerits will be grounded: confined to the dorm. No passes, no dates, not even a trip to the library! Male visitors are restricted to the front lobby, and must all be out of the building by nine p.m. Fathers and brothers may visit briefly, with your door left open. Sign them in and announce it good and loud by shouting "Man on the floor"! -- you don't want to catch a girl in her curlers! Be considerate of your roomies at all times. Those girls are your best friends. Your roomies have been select- ed carefully, so you will have a lot in common.
JUDY: Is that your stuff in the room?
BJ: 343? Uhhuh.
JUDY: I guess we're roommates. Would you mind taking the upper bunk? I'm nervous about heights.
B.J. Well, I like to read in bed. If I'm on top, I might --
CHARLENE: What's your name? Belinda Northrup? What kind of a name is that?
BJ: BJ. Call me BJ.
JUDY: Hi. I'm Judy Krespin, and that's Charlene Pinderhoft. We're both Home Ec, too.
BJ: You're kidding. Aren't you?
CHARLENE: The Dorm Mother said you're taking Home Economics.
BJ: Oh, no. No, I'm not.
CHARLENE: That's supposed to be your major.
BJ: Well, I can't help it. It's not.
JUDY: What is your major, then?
BJ: Philosophy, I think. Or maybe Art History. I'm not sure.
JUDY: That's funny.
CHARLENE: We were really excited when we heard you were Home Ec, because we could all study together.
JUDY: Maybe you put down Home Ec as one of your interests?
BJ: No! I haven't the slightest -- Oh, my God! The Lunch Club.
JUDY: Well! You don't have to swear about it.
BJ: (to audience) Gray High was a very small school. If I joined the home ec Lunch Club, once a week I could cook lunch in the lab -- I mean I was bored: I never thought it'd come back to haunt me!
BJ: Oops! Excuse me.
PHILIP: My fault. My feet.
BJ: It's so dark. Why do you suppose it's so dark? If the idea's to meet people?
PHILIP: Be grateful for the mask of night. Otherwise the gods might be forced to avert their eyes.
BJ: Is something wrong?
PHILIP: "The question is absurd. If anything were wrong, we would certainly have heard."
BJ: Auden! The Unknown Citizen..
PHILIP: A gold star for the little lady. She's "had" Auden.
BJ: I haven't "had" anybody yet. I'm just a Freshman.
PHILIP: Don't let that stop you. Having and being had: isn't that what this Mixing is about? What are you waiting for?
BJ: Oh, poetry. And Romance.
PHILIP: Well, don't look to Mr. W.H. He's not that sort.
BJ: But he wrote that lovely "Lay your sleeping head, my love". Better than Dylan Thomas, who makes women sound like beefsteak.
PHILIP: If women were steak tartare, Auden would gag. He's queer.
BJ: Oh! Is he? Is that why they despise us? I mean, Eliot, for instance.
PHILIP: Eliot doesn't like anybody, much. Women, Americans, Jews-
BJ: Are you Jewish?
PHILIP: Are you a bigot?
BJ: I hope not.
PHILIP: Then why did you ask?
BJ: Was it rude? I always want to know everything, and sometimes I don't consider whether it's any of my business.
PHILIP: (sarcastic) Simply fascinated by religion.
BJ: Well, I am, actually. Like Eliot, I was raised in a not-quite- Christian church where Jesus is sort of a great rabbi.
BJ: You've heard of it?
PHILIP: My family is, too.
BJ: Good God! Look, I don't want to slobber all over you, but ever since we moved away from the city I've been starved. No Buddhist study group. No Evolution and Human Reproduction. If you grew up Unitarian you know what I mean.
PHILIP: My parents were Quakers. There wasn't a meeting in our town, so they went to the Unitarians. But I'm an atheist.
BJ: Not even a Humanist?
PHILIP: Humanity appalls me.
BJ: (laughing) "There's a hell of a good universe next door--let's go!"
PHILIP: I'll drink to that. Want some?
BJ: I have some. I didn't spill it all on you.
PHILIP: This has got a little kick..
BJ: You mean alcohol?
PHILIP: Sshh! Contraband.
BJ: No thanks. I don't like the taste.
PHILIP: You don't drink it for the taste. You drink it so you can stand to be here with the Jocks and Jills. All the simpering, phony-
BJ: If it upsets you that much, why do you come? I mean, you're not a freshman, you're not expected--
PHILIP: I spend hours and hours alone in my room or in the lab, and then when I begin to think I'm lonely I come over here. To remind myself that the human race isn't worth missing.
BJ: You don't have roommates?
PHILIP: I'm better off than when I was bunked with a goon from Youngs- town. But I had a fantasy when I came here that I'd find friends. First rate minds, learning and arguing--
BJ: The dorm's a desert. Nail polish, hairdos--! I can't believe I've traveled hundreds of miles and paid hundreds of dollars to hear the same conversations as in the locker room at Gray High! Are you telling me it won't get better?
PHILIP: If it did, I wouldn't be standing here. The math department is a joke. Except for one professor who was rather good when he was young, there's not a teacher who even knows as much as I do! They give me scholarships, independent study, but for all the stimulus I get I might as well work in a tent at the North pole!
BJ: Well, at the moment I'm happy. Talking with you like this is just the stimulus I imagined -- . Oh, oh. That's my roommate staring at me. Maybe we ought to dance.
PHILIP: Join that primate copulation ritual?
BJ: I like primates. I like the animal in ME.
PHILIP: I don't lower myself.
BJ: Oh. Sorry. (turns to go.)
PHILIP: Wait! Don't go. I have this compulsion to push people away, especially people I want to like me. Please, don't be offended. I don't even know your name.
BJ: It's BJ. I'm B.J. Northrup. (offers to shake hands)
PHILIP: Philip Van Dyke. I'm a senior, double major in math and physics.
BJ: (to audience, walking toward the next scene, where she crawls
under the bed covers with Madge)
MADGE: So, BJ. Compared to my boringness squared, how are you doing? By Thanksgiving are you going to have something to be thankful for?
BJ: I've met a young man who's probably a genius-
MADGE: Hooray! Does he like you?
BJ: I think so. But he's so isolated, so prickly and bitter--
MADGE: What else? In Ohio? A genius could go all his life waiting for someone intelligent enough to appreciate-
BJ: I don't know, Madge. Tom told me his - uh- his- he's a genius. And that it's awfully demanding. Tom says it's as if to be worthy of a genius you have to give up your own ideas, your soul even--
MADGE: What does Tom know? He's queer!
BJ: Madge! That's awful! Like saying nigger, or Kike!
MADGE: I'm sorry, BJ. But really, how can you judge a love affair, if all you have to go on is your crush on an invert like Tom?
BJ: All right. I made a fool of myself. But I'm not sorry. Tom's a beautiful intelligent sensitive-- person. And he told me about his -- inclination-- in the most adult and elegant way-- (MADGE makes a rude noise) Don't be so smug, Madge Perinski! You're sneaking out of the dorm to make whoopee with that muscle bound creep Bobby Rukman--! His I.Q. must be minus sixty!
MADGE: I'm not interested in his I.Q! At least he doesn't try to talk. Jeepers, BJ, do you realize how hard it is to put up with these morons, once I've had a friend like you? You're the genius.
BJ: But I'm not. Maybe not ever. I'd have to be a genius At something. And what can a woman do anyway?
MADGE: There's Marie Curie.
BJ: I hated chemistry.
MADGE: Literature's the best bet. There's Mrs. Browning, and Edna Millay, and the George woman who wrote The Mill On The Floss,
BJ: Madge -- They're all gone. From the curriculum. The women writers, the ones we loved in high school.
MADGE: Not at St. Mary's. The nuns have their favorites. Flannery O'connor. Christina Rosetti--
BJ: State's banished them. There are a few printed in the anthology we had to buy, but not a one made it onto the syllabus. Not good enough, I guess.
MADGE: Not even the Brahmin lady who smoked cigars--?
BJ: Amy Lowell? She got fat.
MADGE: I hope that's not why she's out. Cause I'll bet we get fat again, too.
BJ: Oh, Madge!
MADGE: Slimming down never lasts. Even my mother was skinny once-- long enough for her wedding pictures.
BJ: You're probably right. We'll end up like our Moms.
MADGE: Better yours than mine!
BJ: Oh, no! You prefer my Mom, because she has a nice house and pretty clothes and good grammar--
MADGE: Because she's energetic and intelligent--
BJ: But what does she do with it? Keeps a spotless house, and invents pointless chores to fill it with busyness. Incredible executive ability: Mom'd make a Vice President at General Motors, or a 3-star general. But all she has to organize is Dad and me. And it's wasted on Dad. Because no matter how brilliantly she constructs an argument--
MADGE: Which she does! My mother can't put one thought in front of another, even if she had the nerve--
BJ: --the husband's the head of the house, the breadwinner, and the wife's duty is to let him have his way.
MADGE: Better to let him because it's her duty, than because if she doesn't he'll beat the crap out of her!
BJ: Oh, Madge. Why does she stay with him?
MADGE: Where would she go? She can't do anything. My brothers got jobs and got out. I used to escape over here, until thanks to your mom I got a scholarship to escape to college. But my mother is just stuck. With a man who married her because he got her pregnant. Who treats her like a cheap piece of furniture instead of like a person. Terrifying, isn't it? I've seen snapshots from when they were courting, and you'd swear that that was a couple who were happy together. (lights cross fade.)
BJ: Are you done?
PHILIP: Uhhuh. I didn't hurt you?
BJ: No. I feel -- all right, I guess. But I sort of expected the earth to shake.
PHILIP: I don't think it always does for the girl. Not the first time.
BJ: You mean it gets better?
PHILIP: Sure, it will. This could have been a disaster, blood all over, tears--! Now it's just a question of finding out what works.
BJ: A physics problem.
PHILIP: You're disappointed.
BJ: I'm fine.
PHILIP: If there's something I've done wrong-
BJ: I'm not blaming you.
PHILIP: God, I'm all over pine needles. You too? They've gone right into your skin.
BJ: That's what comes of being a romantic. I wanted a champagne picnic under the eyes of the pagan gods--
PHILIP: We should have finished the bottle first. Here. A toast to -- intercourse.
BJ: No, thanks. I don't like it. It's not as bad as beer or whiskey, but it tastes more like medicine than like nectar. Maybe that's because it was cheap. I had champagne at a wedding once, my memory is it was like fizzy fruit juice.
PHILIP: Fruit juice, yuck!
BJ: I suppose wine's an acquired taste.
PHILIP: Must you get dressed? I think we're safe here.
BJ: I'm chilly. Can you do me up?
PHILIP: Your back's all red, and here there must have been a stick or a stone, you're scratched! Why didn't you say something?
BJ: I didn't notice, not during the excitement.
PHILIP: Maybe that's why--
BJ: I don't think so.
PHILIP: Then what?
BJ: How should I know? You read, you get the impression intercourse is a crashing experience. What it means to be a woman.
PHILIP: You didn't get that?
BJ: Not really.
PHILIP: I'm sorry if--
BJ: Don't be. It's not your fault. At least I've done it--
PHILIP: Right. It's done, and it was worth it. Even if what we find out is how different it is from what we've been led to expect, that's learning something important, isn't it?
BJ: Other girls you've been with. Did they react with more--
PHILIP: I- uh -I haven't exactly-
BJ: You're not a virgin, too?!!
PHILIP: Not any more.
BJ: But you're twenty-one!
PHILIP: It isn't automatic, like the vote.
BJ: You let me assume you'd had experience.
PHILIP: I've had experience! I've had more experience than a human being ought to have. But not normal sex. Or love. I don't know a thing about love, except what I've read or imagined. Just like you.
BJ: You seem so sophisticated.
PHILIP: I am! I went to Swiss boarding schools, I've read Nietzsche. But that's not what counts, right? A woman wants a he-man. To "get those colored lights going."
BJ: Don't be silly. We're so much alike in our attitudes towards sex that I simply assumed that you must have -- I mean, I've come very close, and for a guy it should be easier. With no curfews, no chaperones--
PHILIP: No scruples. Screw anything that will let you in her pants, pay for it if necessary; or what's the matter with you, you queer?
BJ: Philip, I'm sorry. Of course you have scruples. You're a sensitive person. I should be honored that you--
PHILIP: Think nothing of it, BJ. It's been great, a momentous day. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I can't tell you how relieved I am about that.
BJ: You were worried that there's something wrong with you?
PHILIP: How bluntly you put it.
BJ: I suppose because I've been obsessed with -- intercourse--, I've distorted its importance. But look at Bertrand Russell!
PHILIP: At his age--
BJ: When he was young! He never slept with his wife the whole time he was working on his Principia. Maybe mathematicians sublimate.
PHILIP: Or maybe we're freaks. My brother used to say I'd never make it: If I saw a naked box I'd throw stones at it.
BJ: Your brother called it a box?
PHILIP: He's slime.
BJ: Some names are a lot worse. If you "saw a naked box" --thank you, Philip. For telling me that.
PHILIP: For God's sake, BJ!
BJ: No, really. It's intimate, it's burned into you, and you've trusted me with it. That kind of -- intercourse -- is so precious to me. Knowledge I could never get: about how men think. About women. What men lie about in mixed company. What they leave out of books. My real education: and now it's begun.
SCENE SIX (BJ puts on a cardigan and picks up books, walking in to Dr. Traversson's office.)
BJ: (from outside scene) Dr. Traversson?
DR.TRAVERSSON: Ah, the witty but obscure Miss Northrup. Come in. This will only take a minute, I trust. In your paper here. What does this say?
BJ: Uumm.. ah-- "perilously"--at least I think that's perilously-- "efficient as a- mechanism for--for"
DR.TRAVERSSON: Have you heard the story about the reader who asked Robert Browning the meaning of one of his lines and the poet replied, "When I wrote that, only God and Robert Browning knew what it meant: now God only knows."
BJ: I believe it's "apotheosis through the archetype."
DR.TRAVERSSON: Ah! So these are T's! It's rather difficult to tell if you don't cross them.
BJ: I believe that this line here crosses at least one of the T's.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Gone astray, taking the thought with it. Has it occurred to you that the more original your thought, the more careful you should be, for the sake of him who is to decipher your handwriting?
BJ: I'm sorry. But look. Where the slant changes and I can't stay between the lines? That's the best. Thoughts are coming a mile a minute. If I'd been neat, I probably wouldn't have HAD those thoughts.
DR.TRAVERSSON: A loss indeed.
BJ: You gave it an A!
DR.TRAVERSSON: A-plus for content, D- for form. Given that you seem to have a passion for literature, you might learn to type.
BJ: I'm afraid to.
DR.TRAVERSSON: An odd phobia: typewriters. Does it have a medical name?
BJ: Not typewriters. Typing. Becoming a typist. At least, a slave hoeing cotton, his mind is free. But typing the boss's correspondence--
DR.TRAVERSSON: I type. Even a he-man like Hemingway types.
BJ: You don't understand. Guys in class, their girlfriends type up their thoughts for them. Then for their own papers, the girls type up thoughts out of textbooks. Girls ask polite questions, and use proper punctuation, and find speculation shocking. Here, in the bosom of academia!
DR.TRAVERSSON: I wouldn't call State Normal the bosom of academia. The left armpit, perhaps. Still, there is occasionally conversation. Why don't you drop by Seymour Levine's house Saturday night? Sy teaches 17th century poetry, and loves to hold forth-- Here, I'll write down the address.
BJ: But I've never met Professor Levine.
DR.TRAVERSSON: He knows who you are. You'll find other students-- though probably not other freshmen--, and some of the more Bohemian faculty. As for speculation: Levine's a kind of brilliant monster, a minotaur, bull-headed and best approached with cape and sword.
BJ: I don't think I'm equipped.
DR.TRAVERSSON: He won't charge unless you threaten him. A great teacher, really. Not my style, no little donnish chuckles, but you should sign up for his Metaphysicals. Oh, and if perchance you write poems, bring them with you, Saturday night.
BJ: I couldn't--.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Nonsense! College has enough foolish rules to interfere with your education. Don't invent more. May I tell Sy you'll come?
BJ: I'd love to!
DR.TRAVERSSON: Oh -and Saturday, be sure that you talk to Rachel. Mrs. Levine. She's working on a translation of Horace. Get her into a corner, away from Sy and the boys, and she's marvelous, in a quiet way.
BJ: Her husband doesn't approve?
DR.TRAVERSSON: It's more a matter of volume. When Sy's wound up--! The --uh-- Alpha Males of the English Department -- have peculiar dominance rituals. You'll be somewhat of an anomaly, there.
BJ: You mean all guys?
DR.TRAVERSSON: Oh, no. Not at all. The fair sex will be represented. But most of the ladies aren't invited, they are brought. A gathering of brilliant young men and their -- consorts.
BJ: Consorts is a good term. I like that.
DR.TRAVERSSON: I'm afraid I must admit it's my term, Miss Northrup. The operant nomenclature within the subculture, alas, seems to be "chick".
BJ: (dressing, to audience) Dr. Traversson actually spoke to me! Being to being! Of course, most of what he said was prof to student stuff, good advice, blah blah: but underneath the curlicues of irony-- I think he likes me. And thanks to him, I'm invited. To Professor Levine's-- what? Salon? Salon conjures up visions of panniers and powdered wigs, harpsichords and snuff. Not likely in 1959 Ohio. What, then? "Brilliant young men" "Bohemian faculty" and -- "chicks". Does that mean they're all Beatnicks? Certainly Traversson's not! If he writes, I bet it's scholarship or criticism. God. This may be the most important two hours of my entire life, and I haven't the foggyest what's the right thing to wear. In Britain they all wear academic gowns, I hear. Long black gowns. Good idea, what? No marks of class or fashion to distract; simply mind to mind. Well, I am in black. Looking sort of like a photo I saw once of intellectuals on the Left Bank. At least no one will take me for Betty Coed.
SCENE SEVEN (In the dorm hall)
JUDY: You aren't going out like that!
BJ: Why not?
CHARLENE: Really, BJ, if you go out on campus dressed like a French prostitute, it gives the whole dorm a bad name.
JUDY: You'll be stopped, anyway. Five demerits.
BJ: I'm covered. Neck to toe! How can the Dress Police stop me when I'm covered?
CHARLENE: With a T-shirt? That's like parading around in your underwear. And so short that I dare you to bend over--!
BJ: (bends) Can't you see I'm wearing tights? Not skin, not shear nylons. Heavy knit Danskin tights. The hem of my skirt is right at my knee, when we're allowed two inches above--
JUDY: If you get away with that, when I was stopped for Bermudas--!
CHARLENE: Judy, you weren't!
JUDY: Tuesday. I was coming back from volleyball. The very same bermudas we were required to wear in high school, so I don't see how they can be indecent. The monitor must have measured wrong. If my parents hear about it--
BJ: Humiliating, isn't it? We all should petition--
JUDY: I mean, it's not like I'm trying to be fast. Girls wear a lot less on the beach, in mixed company--!
CHARLENE: If they wore it on the street, they'd be arrested! My goodness, Judy, we've got to have standards. If we let down the rules, there'd be girls in the front row of every class, showing off their legs. Trying to distract the professors, trading you-know-what for a good grade.
SCENE EIGHT (The party. Saturday night at Sy Levine's house. A Bob Dylan song is heard in the background. )
RACHEL: Come in.
BJ: You don't know me.
RACHEL: I don't know most of the guests. My husband doesn't bother to introduce me. I'm Rachel Levine.
BJ: I'm BJ. Dr. Traversson invited me.
RACHEL: Dr T-- here's a friend of yours.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Hello, hello, at last! Come right along.
BJ: I can't stay long. Dorm curfew.
DR.TRAVERSSON: You must meet Sy. Seymour Levine, this is the tough mature and incisive BJ Northrup.
SEYMOUR: I don't believe this!
BJ: I beg your pardon?
SEYMOUR: You planned this, Traversson. You encouraged me.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Pay up.
SEYMOUR: You're really his freshman? Or did he put you up to this? What does BJ stand for?
BJ: Do I have to answer? I don't understand what's going on here.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Professor Levine bet me five dollars that you were a Korean vet.
SEYMOUR: You led me on.
DR.TRAVERSSON: I may have avoided the use of the gendered pronoun--
BJ: You talk about me?
DR.TRAVERSSON: Not any more. Now we'll talk TO you.
RACHEL: When Sy gets over the shock. Stefan, come and meet this young lady. Stefan's in Sy's poetry seminar.
SEYMOUR: You've met my wife? Rachel?
BJ: How do you do? Again.
RACHEL: Would you like a beer?
DR.TRAVERSSON: Naughty, naughty, Rachel. Miss Northrup's a minor.
BJ: Thank you, but I don't care for alcohol.
SEYMOUR: AArrg!(slams the wall)
DR.TRAVERSSON: Sy also deduced that like many tormented talents, you might have a drinking problem.
BJ: I do, I guess. Because I don't. (SEYMOUR turns abruptly and marches out.)
RACHEL: My husband doesn't mean to be rude.
DR.TRAVERSSON: That's how he betrays his working-class origins. A gentleman is never rude unintentionally.
BJ: Are you sure? I could leave.
DR.TRAVERSSON: No, no, no. You'll be quite a pet, I assure you. As soon as Sy's had time to recover.
STEFAN: I've never seen him speechless before. RACHEL: My husband hates to be wrong.
DR.TRAVERSSON: But not to worry. In ten minutes he'll have forgotten he was.
BJ: I won't know what to say.
STEFAN: Ask him a question about Henry James. You won't have to say anything. For hours.
BJ: Henry James?
DR.TRAVERSSON: You're not familiar with the Maestro, Miss N?
BJ: Just "The Aspern Papers" and "Portrait of a Lady".
RACHEL: "Portrait's" my favorite novel. That's how I knew Sy and I were meant to marry.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Imagine the mortification -- that prim old bachelor.
STEFAN: Sy in full stride, plaid tie askew, shouting out the punch line of some infinitely subtle Jamesian joke. Then poking his finger at a cowering student, yelling "Get it?!"
RACHEL: Let me introduce you to some of the others. Jake!
JAKE: Madam? Is this fraudulent versifier annoying you again? Stefan, I've warned you--
RACHEL: Here's someone for you to meet. Miss Northrup. TJ Northrup. I don't think she's met anyone here but Stef.
BJ: It's BJ. How do you do?
JAKE: Another one, Stefan? You ought to be ashamed. I'll bet she's even underclass.
STEFAN: You'll have to ask her.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Jake, Miss Northrup is not one of Mr. Furlong's chicks. She was invited.
JAKE: Oh? What's your gig, hon?
BJ: I'm not sure.
JAKE: A gig's a job, a skill, a vocation -
BJ: A friend back home is married to a sax player. So I know what a gig is. But I don't think I have one.
DR.TRAVERSSON: He's fishing for your major, Miss N.
JAKE: Or are you going to at least ask me mine?
BJ: Sure. What's your major, please, sir?
JAKE: Art. Sculpture and photography.
STEFAN You're supposed to look impressed.
RACHEL: He's good. So if he asks you to pose--
STEFAN: He also plays a mean Bongo.
JAKE: I got rhythm.
DR.TRAVERSSON: If you go to the Back Beat Coffee House this weekend, you can hear Stefan read and Jake play.
RACHEL: Oh, do come. You can keep me company.
JAKE: Now Miz Levine, any time you want company--
STEFAN: I edit the literary quarterly.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Which is why I suggested you bring your squibs tonight.
BJ: (digs in her bag for ms) Maybe. But I doubt it.
RACHEL: Don't worry. The Blot's standards aren't very high.
STEFAN: That's not my fault.
RACHEL: Stefan prints mine.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Major function of a salon. Artistic politicking.
SEYMOUR:(shouts from offstage) Rachel, will you get up here? Alissa and Lisa are fussing.
RACHEL: I'll be right back. Got to give the twins a bottle.
BJ: You have children?
RACHEL: Six. ( Smiles brilliantly. Exits.)
BJ: Six! But I thought Jews believe in birth control?
JAKE: Jews do, the Levine's don't.
STEFAN: Is there something wrong with six children?
BJ: No, I guess --but-- She looks so young! And frail.
JAKE: Rachel can't be more than 28.
STEFAN: 26. Married at 20.
BJ: This house is so small. Where do they all sleep?
DR.TRAVERSSON: Stacked in the attic like cordwood, I believe.
BJ: Well, I certainly hope the rest of you are paying for the beer.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Hear, hear!
SEYMOUR (calls from off): Trav! Carlton Traversson, are you going to come in here?
DR.TRAVERSSON: And endure that alleged "music"? (SEYMOUR enters)
SEYMOUR: Not folk songs. Fuck songs.
BJ (aside) He said it! A professor!
JAKE: If they'd just leave spirituals alone!
STEFAN: Sunday night at Professor Gormann's a hootenanny. Then you can hear the authentic thing, autoharps and banjos.
SEYMOUR: Authentic! Pete Pseudoceegar?
JAKE: You want to hear authentic white trash, try up in the hills just south of here. Orville's bar.
STEFAN: Jake! You haven't been in there?
JAKE: No. But I recognize the howl of a drunken redneck. (SEYMOUR waves a record under BJ's nose.)
SEYMOUR: You want to hear real poetry? You want to hear the voice of the people? Here's a kid nobody's heard of yet, a kid who's going to be remembered as the voice America had in our time.Poetry! He's changed his name to Dylan, Dylan for Dylan Thomas. But he's not flaccid academic bullshit like the crap that's published in the quarterlies. He's rough, and his only rule is the truth: "The pump won't work cause the vandals took the handle"! Sex slash-mark socialism! Get it?
BJ: But what an ugly sound--
SEYMOUR: Cigarettes and whiskey! Pedal to the metal! Oh, and Dylan's got the goods on your female artiste! "She's got an Egyptian ring that sparkles when'ere she speaks" Shakespeare and Cleopatra rolled up in one, the castrating bitch! Listen. (SEYMOUR strides into the next room, shouting.) Turn it up, turn it up!
BJ: For my sixteenth birthday my classmates got me Elvis. They came over to put on his records and squeal, "turn it up, turn it up!"
JAKE: Elvis stole from black soul music. Rock and roll is a hundred times better than the goo your parents like, but it's not real.
STEFAN: If you're going to be derivative, at least pick good models. (referring to BJ's poem) What is this, William Blake?
BJ: I hope not. (SY reenters)
SEYMOUR: The next song is rough as sandpaper. Listen close, now.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Not now, Sy. Stefan has convened the selection committee.
STEFAN: This is not a poem I'm willing to have in my rag.
SEYMOUR: Let's see.
DR.TRAVERSSON: The one about the horseman?
SEYMOUR: This is a terrible poem.
BJ: (to DR. TRAVERSSON) Why did you tell me to bring it? To be humiliated? (RACHEL returns, reads over shoulder)
DR.TRAVERSSON: Never you mind humiliation. My own youthful squibs were so embarrassing that I threw them in a drawer and for twenty years I wrote only a dry and academic prose, impervious to criticism. Now I look at my old poems and I see that in spite of the gaucherie, there was promise, promise that I was too poor-spirited to fulfill. You'll never write well unless you have the courage to write badly. Shelley did.
SEYMOUR: Which is hard, for a woman.
RACHEL: I don't see that it should be for a woman, particularly.
JAKE: You ladies ain't got rhythm.
SEYMOUR: A sustained, personal voice, without faking or self-deception? The exposure's too much.
STEFAN Only a man or a Goddess dares to appear naked.
JAKE Otherwise, somebody'll jump you.
DR.TRAVERSSON: This poem not terrible. It just doesn't sound like you yet, not in the way your prose does.
SEYMOUR: Her prose! You mean the Korean vet's?
RACHEL: The poem's sexy, though, sort of--
RACHEL: The other two are even warmer: "glinting"'s good. Vivid. I can feel my ears flush.
SEYMOUR: But what's the thing supposed to do, rhetorically? Seduction? STEFAN: Love me because I can really appreciate you, you gorgeous thing.
DR.TRAVERSSON: That's a classic strategy.
SEYMOUR: For men.
JAKE: Does it work?
SEYMOUR: Sure! But not on them. Men aren't excited by being told how beautiful they are, they're embarrassed. A man's got to feel strong, he's got to be in control. RACHEL: If you puncture that self-image, they fight dirty. All the silly jokes about so-and-so the nympho.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Emily Dickenson dealt with the problem by hiding upstairs.
RACHEL: I publish under a pseudonym. Alicia Gorman uses her own name, and you wouldn't believe the nasty gossip. (BETTY enters, watches Stefan silently)
SEYMOUR: If Mrs. Gorman likes to fuck--
RACHEL: Perverts call her on the telephone.
STEFAN: Which you know Alicia digs. Turns her to jelly.
RACHEL: You see what I mean?
BETTY: Stefan? We have to leave now if you're going to walk me back to the dorm. I brought your coat.
STEFAN: Thanks. Great party, Sy. Rachel. Try to keep it going, will you? I'll try to come back. (They exit)
BJ: What time is it?
DR.TRAVERSSON: Five of.
BJ: Oh, my God--. I'll have to crawl in through the laundryroom window! I thought there'd be a general exodus, girls leaving. Do the other women live off-campus?
JAKE: Upperclass. Only three more years and you can, too.
BJ: Can you believe this? My pumpkin time is earlier now than it was in the sixth grade! I've come to college to be called Miss Northrup and treated like a child!
SEYMOUR: A child who can get pregnant.
BJ: Can't I get pregnant at 10 am?
DR.TRAVERSSON: I have a car. Shall I try to whisk you back under the wire?
BJ: It was kind of you to invite me. But you're not responsible--
RACHEL: Don't worry, gentlemen, I'll take care of her.
BJ: How? (RACHEL begins to dial the phone)
RACHEL: Rank has its privileges. The number's 22 what?
BJ: 2265. But -?
RACHEL: Listen to this. Hello? Is this the proctor? I'm Rachel Levine, Prof. Levine's wife, from the English Department. I have one of your residents, BJ Northrup, babysitting for me. -- BJ. Belinda? -- Uh, yes. Yes, well, I'd like to keep her for a little past curfew, if I may. One of the twins is showing flu symptoms, and I want Belinda to stay here with the children while I run down to the all-night drugstore and refill my prescription--- Oh, no more than half an hour. Thank you so much, Mrs.--? --Cartwright. I'll be sure to send along a note with her. (hangs up) Applause, please.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Very creative.
BJ: Thank you. Amazing, the way you just rattled that off.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Totally without scruples.
RACHEL: Oh, I have principles. Never lie to a friend, never give a tyrant the truth. Next week you can sign out for an overnight, BJ. I'm respectable. Married to an ass. prof.
BJ: Could I? Like parole?
JAKE: What if you get caught?
DR.TRAVERSSON: Could she be expelled? RACHEL: See? Men have no idea. Do you like children, BJ?
BJ: I don't know. I've never been around them. I'm an only child.
RACHEL: We could try you. Tuesday or Thursday afternoons I'm here by myself. Are you free?
BJ: After two.
RACHEL: Why don't you come round? For poetry. I'm not Sy, but then, I let you have a turn, and I don't shout. Except at the children.
BJ: Tuesday. (RACHEL writes BJ's note)
DR.TRAVERSSON: Do you need me to run you home?
BJ: Thanks, but I'll walk. I like the idea of having the campus to myself. (DR TRAVERSSON exits)
JAKE: Just you and 6,000 guys.
BJ: And the townies, and the faculty and the grad students. All the women who aren't in purdah.
JAKE: I'd like to walk with you.
BJ: That's not necessary.
JAKE: Necessary? It's not possible, man. It's against the rules. You think it's an insult, that they've got all these rules apply to you but not to the men. Well, if you're a Negro, multiply that by a thousand. There are places we could walk together without me being some kind of animal or you being an outcaste. But not around here! (RACHEL hands BJ the note, BJ crosses out)
RACHEL: (calling after) If this doesn't work I'll show up with your bail. Otherwise, see you Saturday, at the coffeehouse.
BJ: (to audience) If I'm going to get away with shinannigans like this, I've got to do something about my roomies. They're a Watch and Ward Society.
BJ: Mrs. C, my roommates and I are fundamentally incompatible.
MRS.CARTWRIGHT: Nonsense. You're one of the better matches. Graduating High School, fewer than 300 students. We find it's best not to throw girls right off the farm in with young ladies of sophistication. From Cincinnati or Cleveland. Then there's religion. We try to put Methodists with Methodists, Baptists with Baptists, the Jewish persuasion--
BJ: Mrs.C., my roommates are Apostolic Holiness. They read their Bibles in the afternoon, and pray on their knees before they go to bed. They pray for me!
MRS.CARTWRIGHT: You could pray together.
BJ: I'm a Unitarian. Unitarians don't pray: they "aspire"! Religiously, we have nothing in common.
MRS.CARTWRIGHT: You're all "other"!
BJ: Mrs. Cartwright! Mine is a liberal religion, founded in Boston in the 1820's--.
MRS. CARTWRIGHT: (nods) Like Christian Science--
BJ: Well, we do have this thing about science. But we're not really Christian. We're humanists. We reject the Bible, the Trinity--.
MRS.CARTWRIGHT: You mean Jesus? Your church doesn't believe in Jesus?
BJ: Some do. Others think St. Paul invented him. But nobody thinks he's divine. The Virgin Birth was a story put around to save the reputation of a girl in trouble--
MRS.CARTWRIGHT: My God!
BJ: That's what my roommates think. So could you move me in with a Muslim or a Buddhist, please?
SCENE TEN (Night. Moonlight. Back seat of a car. Sex sounds, a sigh, silence, then a little flurry of activity.)
BJ: Hummumm? What is it you're..?
JAKE: I'm trying to be discreet. But you're staring. Baby, I'm brown all the way down.
BJ: Sorry. I shouldn't look at you?
JAKE: Not at this thing. The manufacturer calls it "flesh color": truth is, it's pink and nasty.
BJ: I think I'm at the wrong time of month to worry.
JAKE: Are you kidding? That rhythm stuff is jive. Even a diaphragm-- my sister had two kids, using one of those. We're not taking chances on any little brown babies.
BJ: God, no. I'm only beginning. But do you mean you don't want children, ever?
JAKE: Maybe someday. Sure, why not? Little Jakes.
BJ: But not brown?
JAKE: Brown's all right. Maybe I'd even like that, say twenty years down the road. I'm not prejudiced against mixed. But baby, this world's got to do a lot of changing before I'd want to bring any little kids into it, brown black or freckled. You haven't got something like that in mind?
BJ: Not me! I'd have to be -- tamed. Oh, I don't want to be bad, or hurt anybody. But I can't stand the idea of being tied down!
JAKE: Free at last! That's why we're so good together.
BJ: You think we're good?
JAKE: Don't you, baby? ( BJ smiles, sighs) You're welcome. BJ: But I haven't had much to compare with.
JAKE: You want references?
BJ: You've had a lot?
JAKE: More'n a few.
BJ: How many? Two? Ten? A hundred?
JAKE: More than ten, less than a hundred.
BJ: Are they very different?
JAKE: The best are pretty much alike, and so are the worst. But in between there's quite a spread.
BJ: What makes one good and another not?
JAKE: Good sex's the same as good conversation, or good jazz. Giving and getting. Relaxed, but putting out your all.
BJ: Uhumm. Intercourse. That sounds lovely.
JAKE: But it's not on the menu. We've got to get you back to your dorm. Tidy you up so nobody asks where you've been.
BJ: I know it's none of their business, but I feel guilty anyway! You said you've been with women who were proud.
JAKE: That's back home. Black ladies back home.
BJ: I've never known any --black ladies. Is black all right to say? Not Negro or colored?
JAKE: My momma prefers colored, as in the NAACP. That makes sense: we're quarter Indian on her side. They're all fine words with me- except nigger. No white person should ever say nigger. BJ: Even I know that. There was only one in museum school, none in my hometown. None here, either: in Taft dorm, at least.
JAKE: They room all of them together, upperclass too, in Lincoln. But here the ladies're all changed. A whole sorority, full of straight hair and girdles. Always worried to be taken for loose. Shit-- a black girl can keep her legs crossed 'til gangrene sets in, the white man is still going to think she's a whore. I'll let you off by the golf course, you can walk from there.
BJ: (to audience) It's so wonderful: as if being hidden and naked together means a person can tell me the truth -- and The Truth will set me free. Not stuck in 1959, or Ohio, or a girl's body, or a white skin. Free from the inside out. The closest I've come to this before is poetry, or Shakespeare. Right inside another mind, looking out at the world: I felt I was Othello, or Shylock. I played Shylock, in eighth grade. But the intensest sense of all is with Hamlet: I mean, Hamlet's thought is more real to me than my own experience. Come to think of it, some of Shakespeare's women are pretty convincing. I wonder if Shakespeare played women's parts? Cleopatra, Beatrice, Goneril -- I recognize them. They're me, or Madge. But all around me, even in books, I'm surrounded by girls and women who are saying what they think they're supposed to say. Trying to believe in it. Even in Shakespeare! Miranda, Perdita, Hero: who are these women? They're innocent, or if they're not, they die. Innocence is ignorance, innocence is waste! Our First Parents, they say, lived in Paradise, without knowledge. For Adam, his disobedience is a Fortunate Fall, a fall into freedom. But Eve's fall is pure degradation. Painful pregnancies, a husband who is her master. I refuse to accept this. It's propaganda. Men tell these stories to distract us from some other plot line.
SCENE ELEVEN (the woods again. BJ and PHILIP are each wrapped in a blanket.)
PHILIP: How should I know? Chuck talks to me about booze and physics. Maybe he doesn't want to look like a sissy.
BJ: How can a person hate the girl he makes love to--?
PHILIP: It's easy! Sons hate, brothers hate. But hate's too strong a word for what Chuck was talking about- BJ: Total contempt!
PHILIP: You can't take these things personally. You're not like Sue.
BJ: I want to understand. Sex, and love, and the difference--
PHILIP: Read Henry Miller. Read abnormal psychology. The so-called deranged have the same impulses. The difference is they let them slip out in mixed company.
BJ: Havelock Ellis?
PHILIP: I take it back. Stay away from it! Psychiatrists are the modern Inquisitors. They invent crimes-- except they call them diseases. They imprison, they torture--
BJ: You said once you'd had experience I couldn't even imagine.
PHILIP: Very sharp, BJ. Yes. They put me in the bughouse.
BJ: When? For how long?
PHILIP: Off and on. Nine months, once. The first time was when I was 8, and the most recent summer before last.
BJ: What happened when you were eight? I mean, what can an eight year old do?
PHILIP: I tried to kill my brother.
BJ: Doesn't everyone? My grandfather's brother hit him on the head with a hammer, at about that age.
PHILIP: I put my brother in the hospital. But Bruce was home in less than a week. While I was banished forever! Off to boarding school. As soon as the doctors finished torturing me.
BJ: Literally? Torture?
PHILIP: What else would you call it? Electric shock. Hydrotherapy. They would wrap me up in soaking cold sheets, so tight I thought I'd suffocate, and then dunk me in water till I wished I'd drowned. I used to imagine doing it to them. That my body'd dissolved, and the body inside those sheets was one of them. Disgusting, huh?
BJ: Not that.
PHILIP: What then? Pitiful? Pity's the worst. BJ: Why? You were a little kid. Anybody'd feel sorry for you. But mostly I'm frightened. We're so alike, you and me. I see what a thin line there is between the being a misfit, and being--.
PHILIP: A monster.
BJ: No! Being treated like one. My grandpa has a dent in his skull, but Uncle William was the family pet, and boys will be boys. You must have to watch yourself, all the time. Any little thing, once they decide you're not normal.
PHILIP: I should never have told you.
BJ: No! I want to know everything. And I keep perfect secrets. But now you feel at a disadvantage. Don't you?
PHILIP: How are you going to even up? What's your terrible secret? You take drugs? Practice Voodoo? You're a Lesbian.
BJ: I suppose it's possible. When my best friend sleeps over at my house and we share a bed, I find that exciting. But I think my darkest secret is that I'm fat.
PHILIP: You're what?
PHILIP: That's not funny, BJ. I tell you I'm mentally diseased, and you make jokes.
BJ: It's not a joke. It's disgusting, like you said. Your suffering, that's romantic. But fat is grotesque. Two years ago I weighed almost 200 pounds.
PHILIP: You're making this up.
BJ: I wish I were! But I was a fat kid. I was teased and nagged and put on diets and even prescribed pills. Then suddenly, when the hormones hit, I started shrinking. I don't know why, I don't know how, and I'm afraid at any moment I may blow up again.
PHILIP: You're serious.
BJ: That's the only reason I was still a virgin. The guys in high school weren't interested. I could show you a picture.
PHILIP: I don't believe it. 200 pounds?!
BJ: Do you know what's the worst part of being fat? I'm walking proof that my senses can't be trusted! What I want is too much, it isn't good for me! So-- do you feel better because we're back near equal? Or has an important fantasy bit the dust?
MRS.CARTWRIGHT: Belinda Jean, your roommates are like sisters, trying to help you get along in our dorm family. Now, I hear that you are sleeping through botany --!
BJ: It's not botany I'm sleeping through, it's Psych. But I'll get an A: I know the material and attendance doesn't count.
MRS.CARTWRIGHT: So you've read psychology on your own? Young people are attracted to psychology, oftentimes, when they realize they don't fit in. They're looking to rationalize their behavior.
BJ: You mean me?
MRS.CARTWRIGHT: Wouldn't you agree that to be mature is to be responsible for the effect we have on others? Now, Belinda, going by your so-called intelligence, you ought to realize that men of college age are subject to the animal urge. The rules may sound silly, I know the girls laugh at the one about keeping both feet on the floor, but it's all too easy to get carried away. Males are so constructed that once aroused, their desire becomes a source of actual physical pain. Their work suffers, they become prey to depression and even to disease. Do you want to be responsible for that? Now-- I have been told, I won't say by whom, but it comes from more than one source,-- that you've been observed in inappropriate embraces. And announcing in English class that you approve of premarital sex.
BJ: In English class! Nobody from this dorm is in my honors English. So how the hell- -?
MRS.CARTWRIGHT: Scandal gets around, Belinda Northrup, so you needn't curse me for it! Now I suggest to you very strongly, and I will put it in writing to the dean, that if you don't want this to become a matter for the dorm council, you take yourself over to the campus psychiatric service, and get yourself straightened out.
BJ (to audience): Remember what I told Madge about giving up art? How painful that was? Every Saturday from second grade on I took the bus to the Museum School. I took classes, and then just stayed the whole day... Smearing clay or paint, scooting around the galleries on my little stool, fondling the buttocks of a Greek athlete, or dancing the Seven Veils under his marble gaze -- when I was sure the guards were out of sight: the Museum was my playground. Empty galleries were, perfect, cool and quiet; but there were shouts and whispers from the walls, color and form and narrative calling to me. Not just me, of course -- the Greats were hanging there for anybody who could really see them. But I knew that to most of the odd tourists who trotted reverently from frame to frame, those images were dead. Nothing but relics. It was my eyes, my potency, eyes of a ten or twelve year old drunk with a godlike power, that answered their prayers and made them live again. I assumed then that one day I, too, would make images that called across the ages. When I realized I wouldn't, the magic disappeared. The thousand-year artistic conversations, this intercourse that sought to draw me in, took on an edge of mockery. I wasn't at home there. Only an eavesdropper. Was it a coincidence that happened at the same point where one of my Instructors noticed I wasn't a butterball kid any more? As a young lady with curves, he invited me. To be a subject, a model. For his adult class, at night. I was tempted. And I still wonder: should it be enough to be some ancillary part of what one admires? Or better to do or die?
SCENE FOURTEEN (Counseling office)
DR. OHLOFF: Zo, Miss Northrup? Come in. Why are you here?
BJ: The Dorm Mother sent me.
DR. OHLOFF: She believes that you have a problem. Do you agree?
BJ: No, I disagree. It's a matter of principle.
DR. OHLOFF: What principle is that?
BJ: It's not fair that coeds have a curfew and a dress code, while male students do as they please.
DR. OHLOFF: You are a minor?
BJ: So are the boys!
DR. OHLOFF: Your belief is that you are sent here to force you to conform, and not because of your distress?
BJ: I'm not in distress! I don't need a shrink.
DR. OHLOFF: Amusing, yes? Getting well is called to shrink, to make smaller.
BJ: To fit in.
DR. OHLOFF: I have not necessarily an interest in making a female smaller. You are familiar with the term "paranoia"?
BJ: I imagine they're out to get me. But what if they are?
DR. OHLOFF: Then you are not paranoid. Paranoiacs have delusions. Of reference, of grandeur.
BJ: Grandeur. Maybe so. I think I'm a genius, and I see all this authority as so much bullcrap. Like Aristotle. My prof says I'm arguing "ad hominum" when I say that Aristotle decided that women are inferior because Greek law gave him the power to bully his wife. My prof says, "It's irrelevant if a philosopher owns slaves, or beats his wife" and the students all laugh. But why? What are they laughing at? For a plumber, or a munitions maker, maybe irrelevant. But a philosopher?
DR. OHLOFF: I see what you mean.
BJ: You do? Everybody else looks at me like I'm-
DR. OHLOFF: Crazy. But to you it is the rest who are out of step?
BJ: I know it sounds strange, but if the others would look, they'd see. Marching in step straight into --
DR. OHLOFF: "Bullcrap." Zo, let's find out, shall we? For one hour, next week, we will talk. In confidence. Also, I will have you take standardized tests. Then, if we decide that you'd benefit, we set up a series of appointments. Is that so bad? Meanwhile, perhaps we have a little chat about methods to make the advantage the young men have a bit less uneven?
BJ: You mean birth control? But it's against the law.
(Dr. Ohloff smiles and nods)
BJ: (steps out for monologue) I like her. But what if I AM crazy? Mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Mrs. C out to get me, Philip pawing me and then following me around, looking like death--. I can't wait till vacation, so I can talk to Madge. Her letters sound as if they're getting to her, too. I wonder if Rachel..? But Rachel's so feminine. And she married at 20, so how much could we have in common?
SCENE FIFTEEN (The Levine's. BJ walks into the scene where Rachel is in her nightgown, drinking milk and eating cookies. BJ gets into her bathrobe. )
BJ: Would you go to bed with a man because he wrote a poem about you?
RACHEL: How good a poem?
BJ: Gather ye rosebuds. He makes it sound as if a girl's got a lot less time than he does.
RACHEL: By 18 she'll be married. Barefoot and pregnant. (RACHEL wiggles her bare toes) Mommy is a 5-letter dirty word! (Giggles)
BJ: Should we lay off these cookies? The kids-
RACHEL: There's plenty! Eleven dozen.
BJ: I'm afraid I'm too selfish to have kids. Do you ever worry your sons will grow up to hate you?
RACHEL: Oh, no! They'll hate their father. Already David tries to protect me when Sy starts shouting. Nina's started taking over as boss-mother. I'm hugs-mother. I go off into a fog of Latin verse. But they'll never blame me.
BJ: I'm not close to my mother. We debate, sometimes. Mine's more of a boss-mother.
RACHEL: I'm not a great substitute, BJ. I"m schizoid.
BJ: I'd settle for a friend. It's so ironic! I thought I was deprived cause I grew up in a town full of hicks. But I was lucky! Back home I was a harmless eccentric. People would talk to me: maybe not about paintings or the opera, but they'd pass the time of day. Here, the girls in my dorm? If they see me coming they hide. RACHEL: You're popular enough at our house.
BJ: With guys! And God knows what they say behind my back.
RACHEL: Guys get pretty vicious. Not just about you! Women in general.
BJ: Philip took me with him drinking, with the science guys. Right in front of me, it's "Poon tang" and "snatch".
RACHEL: Aaron Howell was saying how some broads are just asking for it. "Need a good banging", he said, "like that uppity BJ". Sy laughed it off, but I think you should watch out for that young man.
BJ: Aaron? He offered to walk me home.
RACHEL: Better to walk with a girl.
BJ: Do you think Betty'd walk with me? I like Betty, we had a great talk about the Montessori method. But lately she avoids me.
RACHEL: Has Stefan made a pass?
BJ: Of course not! Stefan and Betty are engaged.
RACHEL: I know. But something she said--
BJ: Damn! RACHEL: I could use a friend myself.
BJ: You've got dozens. Your house is overflowing.
RACHEL: Those are Sy's. Sy's disciples. If any of them threatens to grow into my friend, Sy cuts him down. One or two have tried to get me into bed. But they don't really see me, it's some kind of homosexual thing for Sy.
BJ: We should stick together, Rachel.
RACHEL: Be careful. So far, you're an honorary man. If you bake cookies with Mommy, you lose caste.
BJ: Why should we let them make the rules?
RACHEL: We get to for the first 6 years, but never again.
BJ: Is that why you have so many children?
RACHEL: Partly. But I do it so well. They're beautiful, intelligent. Enough to fill a lifetime.
BJ: Is it? Really.
RACHEL: Really. I feel sorry for men. The only way they can get love is through us. Such pitiful little wee-wees. (giggles)
SEYMOUR:(enters) What are you up to in here? Sounds like a pajama party.
BJ: We're talking about kids.
RACHEL: BJ wants to know why we have so many.
BJ: More like HOW you have so many.
SEYMOUR: Easy. I don't believe in birth control.
BJ: But what about the population problem? What about Malthus?
SEYMOUR: Nobodaddy told us, "be fruitful and multiply!" Is that vulgar? Screw the tight-assed nay-sayers!
RACHEL: Couldn't we put up a more genteel defense? Henry James might say, one must have the courage. Throw one's self into the future.
SCENE SIXTEEN (The dorm room.)
JUDY: Belinda Jean, we want to talk to you.
BJ: What is it this time?
JUDY: Never mind, if you're going to take that attitude. You were right, Charlene. We'll have to take it to Mrs. C.
BJ: I'm sorry. I'm listening.
JUDY: I looked at my alarm clock when you came in last night and made all that racket. It was two am!
BJ: I cracked my knee! It's not easy to climb into the top bunk in the dark.
CHARLENE: Then you turned on your lamp. How are we supposed to sleep?
BJ: I try to be quiet, but I do my best work--
JUDY: You think because you call it studying you can stay up all hours, driving people crazy! Reading filth!
CHARLENE: That book you were reading--.
BJ: Lady Chatterley?
JUDY: Nobody assigned that book. It's banned.
CHARLENE: My parents would be very upset if they found out I was in the same room with a dirty book!
JUDY: You were still at it at 4 am, I timed you! If you need more study, why don't you get up at six? That's what I do. BJ: I'm not a morning person.
CHARLENE: Or maybe you're doing something besides study. In and out of bed, climbing up and down.
BJ: Going to the bathroom!
CHARLENE: Nobody goes to the bathroom five and six times a night! Unless you have a disease. Or a drinking problem. What's in that flask?
BJ: V8 juice.
CHARLENE: I don't believe you. BJ: Check it out yourself.(JUDY climbs up, gets flask and sniffs)
JUDY: Charlene. It's V8 juice.
CHARLENE: Yuck! You do it on purpose! Why can't you act normal? Pick up all these papers and make your bed! What good does it do the two of us to decorate, if you never make your bed?
BJ: Up there, you can hardly tell--
JUDY: If your dates could see this mess, you'd never get married.
BJ: I don't want to get married! And I don't have dates!
CHARLENE: That's a laugh, if it weren't such a lie. The beatnik, and the T.A., and that crazy physics major who's letting his hair grow long like a girl.
BJ: They're friends. Male friends. What are you doing up there? Leave it alone--! ( JUDY hauls debris out from the covers.)
JUDY: Look at this stuff! Books, papers, typewriter, coffee cups, even a shoe! What's this thing? (holds up case for a diaphragm)
CHARLENE Judy! If that's what I'm afraid it is, we don't want to know. JUDY: It's what?!
BJ: I think some things are a matter of privacy. As you can see, it's a medical prescription. It-- (JUDY, horrified, drops it)
JUDY: Charlene's right. We don't want to know!
BJ: (to audience) Birth control is supposed to make it simpler, isn't it? But it's not. I thought carnal knowledge worked like the rest: the more you find out, the easier it is to see what's happening, to make distinctions
SCENE SEVENTEEN (the woods. BJ pushes PHILIP away)
BJ: Philip, I don't want to make love.
BJ: I don't want to have intercourse. Not today.
PHILIP: It's that time of the month?
BJ: That's not the reason.
PHILIP: Something I've done?
BJ: No. Although I wish you wouldn't drink. The smell bothers me.
PHILIP: I use Listerine.
BJ: Listerine's worse!
PHILIP: I think you're making a mistake about booze. Creative minds all use some drug or other. Look at Huxley! The doors of perception-
BJ: That's not the problem. PHILIP Something is keeping you from -- .
BJ: Oh! I thought you didn't notice. You went right on.
PHILIP: I noticed. But I thought, when there's love--
BJ: If you weren't in the mood, we'd respect that. We'd be forced to.
PHILIP: Is it so terrible? You can't stand it? At least so-- I mean, I want it enough for both of us. Unless you're repulsed.
BJ: I'm not repulsed, exactly. Just cold.
PHILIP: Frigid? Christ! We both know you're a hell of a way from frigid! Do you have to do this?
BJ: No, I don't have to! I can pretend. I can tell you what I think you want to hear, be a good girl--.
PHILIP: I never should have started. I was better off alone. My mother, Susan, my brother, all of them rejecting-- BJ: I'm not rejecting you. At least, I don't think so. I just want to back away from the physical for long enough to figure out what's going on.
PHILIP: I know what's going on! You've found someone else. You went home with Allen Trisk.
BJ: I don't care about Allen Trisk. If he were the pain that you are, I'd drop him! Look, we never said we'd be exclusive-.
PHILIP: You never said you'd be a whore!
BJ: Thank you, Philip Van Dyke. That's what I came to college for, the unvarnished truth. (turns to go)
PHILIP: No, wait! You know I didn't mean it! Things come out. All that shit floating around, it's leftovers, it's not the real me. My mind's OK, the thinking part anyway. I respect you. I'm not trying to put you in chains. Not consciously. But all the garbage stuff is leaking out, you can see it, it's disgusting.
PHILIP: That's why my breath stinks. And my nose is peeling. Flaking. My skin cracks, all the hydrotherapy, it feels like bugs. No wonder you don't want to touch me-. BJ: Philip, don't. I want to reassure you, but since we've been lovers we've been growing apart. We don't talk, we don't play--
PHILIP: You resent me because I was the first.
BJ: What? I could hardly wait. I picked you.
PHILIP: You pretended to be just a little upset, but actually it was rage, murderous rage. Now it's coming out. This happens in marriages all the time. As soon as the honeymoon is over, rage. In some Melanesian tribes, the shaman has to deflower all the brides, because the shaman's the only one powerful enough to stand up to female malevolence.
BJ: Where'd you find that? You must have the biggest psychology collection outside of the Library of Congress. Well. Maybe there's something to your theory. Does it come with a cure?
PHILIP: There is no medicine for a mind diseased.
BJ: Then leave it alone, it'll fix itself.
PHILIP: Alone? Oh God, BJ, please, give us a chance. You don't know, you can't imagine how when I'm alone sometimes I hate everyone. Everyone sitting together in bright warm rooms. Vacations especially. Everyone going home to family, and I'm left here, to rot. Peeling, growing mold. Do you realize the physics lab and the math department are both underground, in the basement? For machinery there's some excuse: the weight on the floor. But why math? Not one window! Aren't we human? Small animals that live out of the light. No, not animals, slide rules. Adding machines. Great glowing globes of forehead. Bodies are excrescences. Especially females, rounded, soft-. BJ, when you made love to me, you gave me back my body! If you don't want it any more, what am I going to do with it? It'll die!
BJ: (to audience) I decided Philip should come home with me during vacation. Back to Grey Center, Ohio. There's a spare room, my parents won't mind. We'll be chaperoned, so we'll have plenty of time to talk.
SCENE EIGHTEEN (BJ's house. BJ and MADGE are in bed, whispering)
MADGE: Six?! You're ahead of me already, and I started two years ago!
BJ: Shh!! You want to wake the whole house? Sometimes I scare me. Last month I was seeing three different guys, different nights of the week--
MADGE: One-night stands--
BJ: No! Serious, extended relationships. Three! It's terrifying. Of course, in a way it's also safer, because any one person, you start thinking of yourself as his. Do you know what I mean?
MADGE: The class president's girl, the architect's.
BJ: Or in a pair, you're the messy one, or the gloomy one, or -- . Do you suppose that's why Frenchwomen want both a husband and a lover? To be at least two, out of all that you could be? What happens in polygamy? Or group marriage?
MADGE: People hate each other! Aren't you worried? If these guys get together and compare notes-?
BJ: There's that, yes. But what's really got me shook--and you are absolutely sworn to silence about this!-- do you swear? Because if my mother ever found out!
MADGE: Cross my heart.
BJ: One of my lovers is black. And it is so surreal, because nobody knows and we're never together except--
MADGE: You mean colored? A Negro? My God! How do you get away with it?
BJ: We're incredibly careful. Jake says that we're really in the South in lower Ohio. In public, we put on this stranger act.
MADGE: So what's happened? Somebody saw you?
BJ: That's not it, although sometimes I get this feeling --. But the shock was, one night something came up, and I couldn't meet. So I went to the phone to call Jake at his dorm to warn him off, and I suddenly realized-- I couldn't remember his last name! I'd been having sex with this man for two months, and I couldn't remember his name!
MADGE: My God.
BJ: Is that scary?
MADGE:(giggles) So, is it true?
MADGE: About Negro things?
BJ: I haven't had that much to compare.
MADGE: Come on. Six is a reasonable sample.
BJ: It is one of the larger ones. Not the largest. But Ron--! He's uncircumcised! Have you seen that?
MADGE: Sure. All my cousins.
BJ: It looks so strange. It goes in and out.
MADGE: They all go in and out! (stifled laughter)
BJ: Shh! You'll have my mother in here!
MADGE: I'd rather have your Dad! Woo-ee!
BJ: You are so wicked!
MADGE: That's why you love me.
BJ: I do, you know. Better than any of them.
MADGE: Still, something's lacking. And now--? What's your opinion? Is it worth all the fuss? BJ: Intercourse? Oh. It's great.
MADGE: Just great? Great, how?
BJ: Great all different ways! The mental part is very confusing, but the physical--. Jake got me so excited I thought I'd pass out. But with Milton Thomas--! I think I had my first orgasm.
MADGE: What do you mean, you think?
BJ: Well, I thought I had before, but this was so much bigger.
MADGE: Maybe the others were whats-it. Clitoral.
BJ: Isn't the accent on the "tor"?
MADGE: In Latin it'd be on the "clit".
BJ: "Sexual Surrender" doesn't have a very clear explanation. Anyway, Milton Thomas is a whole new dimension.
MADGE: What kind of a name is Milton?
BJ: A goofus. But bliss by any other name--! It goes on and on and I can't tell where I stop and he begins. Like Plato says, like finding the other half. I want to peel off my skin, or turn myself inside out, or die, turn into a marble body on an Etruscan tomb, embracing forever. It feels like -- falling downstairs, bump, bump, bump. And then your suitcase falls down after you! --(a noise) -- shh! (Enter Philip)
PHILIP: I can hear your giggles all the way down the hall.
BJ: Girl talk.
MADGE: You'd better go away.
PHILIP: Why? I'm harmless.
BJ: If the parents find you, out comes the shotgun.
MADGE: Compared to mine, BJ's parents are liberals.
BJ: Sex is a fine and holy thing. Just not for their daughter.
MADGE: I bet they love Philip's hair.
BJ: It drives them crazy.
PHILIP: Both of them? Your father's made it clear enough. If sarcasm were scissors, I'd be shorn. But your mother hasn't said.
BJ: To you! God forbid she should criticize a male to his face. But boy, has she been after me.
PHILIP: What does she expect you to do?
BJ: Heaven knows. Prune you, I guess.
MADGE: Does it curl like that naturally, or do you put it up?
PHILIP: It's natural.
MADGE: Funny to think of a guy with long hair as natural. The opposite of what you expect.
PHILIP: Like two women in bed.
MADGE: Oh oh. I think we're being insulted.
BJ: We deserve it.
MADGE: Want to crawl in too, and even things up?
PHILIP: It is cold out here.
MADGE: All right. We'll have pity. (pats bed)
PHILIP: (gets into bed between them) Warm under here.
BJ: Madge, if my mother--
MADGE: Shh! She won't. Phil, if you think you're playing footsie with BJ, you're mistaken. Otherwise, it's nice.
PHILIP: What is your foot doing on her side?
MADGE: Enjoying itself. So. Tell me, Philip, about your hair. What's it mean?
PHILIP: There are two aspects, the spiritual and the sensual-.
MADGE: Sensual? You mean attractive to the opposite sex?
PHILIP: I mean in itself. Sensual pleasure in fluffing and combing. Don't you get that from yours?
MADGE: Once in a while. But mostly it's bother. I fuss with it because people expect me to. BJ: Mothers nag. (with MADGE) "Do something with your hair!" (giggles)
PHILIP: I took an inventory of my parts, and I decided that my hair was the only good one. Why should I cut off my one physical asset?
MADGE: Because it isn't an asset if people don't think so! Suppose you had one beautiful big full breast, like mine? It'd be repulsive! You'd want surgery!
PHILIP: That's a false analogy. Biologically, men don't have breasts. Short hair's a convention. Jesus wore his long. MADGE: I thought you said Philip was an atheist?
BJ: Last month. This month he's the Second Coming. Philip, nobody knows what Jesus looked like.
PHILIP: Hair's a symbol. The Sikhs never cut theirs.
BJ: The Sikhs only mate with each other!
PHILIP: Are you joining the conformists, too, now?
BJ: I'm sick of the whole subject! People-- faculty, even--are coming up to me and telling me to ask you to cut it. Or cut it while you're asleep-- Alicia Gormann offered to lend me scissors.
PHILIP: Delilahs! Bad as the army! First thing, shave the poor slob's head, reduce him to a number.
BJ: Bullcrap! Your hair is a symbol, all right! A symbol of an obsession with symbols! (VOICE from outside the door)
BJ: Mother? (BJ's mother sticks her head into the room. The girls hide Philip under the covers)
MOTHER: Keep it down in there, will you? Even if you don't need sleep, the rest of us aren't on vacation!
BJ: Sorry, Mom. We'll keep it down.
MADGE: Good night, Mrs. Northrup.
MOTHER: Good night, Madge dear. (They are very quiet, stifling their laughter. At last the giggles break forth. They whisper.)
BJ: I don't believe it! MADGE: She didn't notice!
BJ: We've got to get you out of here.
PHILIP: But I-- (MADGE gets up and goes to the door)
BJ: Shh! Not a word!
MADGE: The coast is clear.
BJ: Out! Go! (PHILIP leaves)
MADGE: Oh, God! He had an erection. The whole time, he had an erection. I thought I'd die!
BJ: We were awful to him. We ought to be ashamed.
MADGE: Do you think we're lesbians?
BJ: I don't think so. But we are wicked. I am, at least. I just want to kick him. (leaves scene, to audience) How can I be like that? Go from thinking Philip's a genius and the most wonderful thing ever to happen to me, to wanting to kick him? And the worst of it is, Philip trusts me. He expects me to love him enough to save him!
STEFAN: I hear you and Philip are breaking up.
BJ: We're friends.
STEFAN: Not sleeping together?
BJ: Are you and Betty?
STEFAN: Isn't "engaged" the euphemism?
BJ: Unless "friends" is.
STEFAN: The essay you showed Rachel. Are you submitting it to the Blob?
BJ: Rachel says it's too risky. I didn't listen when she warned me before you published my poem. Last week in the library a Greek asked me some trumped-up literary question, and before I realized what was happening he'd backed me up against the stacks and was unzipping his fly. Just put your hand on it, he says. It feels so good, he says.
STEFAN: He wants to believe that. Look at Marilyn Monroe. What makes her such a goddess?
BJ: You mean besides being beautiful?
STEFAN: Monroe's not beautiful! Betty's better looking than Monroe is. No, really. When Marilyn goes without makeup, nobody notices her. Unless she's projecting, "lascivious, salacious". Old, young, fat, stupid, it doesn't matter. Marilyn enjoys, Marilyn comes from hot air, from a subway grate! A woman climbs to the top, over the laps of all the ugly guys she's made feel sexy. That's my advice to you, BJ. You could marry an Arthur Miller. Or a Vincent Gorman.
BJ: Alicia's a talented poet--
STEFAN Sure she is: but how does she get what she wants? Sex.
BJ: That's just rumors. You don't know that.
STEFAN: Don't I?
BJ: You -! And Alicia?
STEFAN: Why are you shocked? I know Alicia very well, yes, - in the Biblical sense.
BJ: But you make gross jokes about her-,
STEFAN: Smokescreen. Protecting her reputation.
BJ: You're a friend of Dr. Gorman's-
STEFAN: Yeah. I imagine the two of them in bed, acting out their lovers. Must be exciting, as long as the college doesn't sack him. As for the rumors, a bad reputation can be a girl's best friend.
BJ: It's funny you'd say that, because I met this guy - an engineer--, and I was really nasty to him at first, because I know he called me when one of his buddies over at the lab told him I was a hot number. But I went out with him for three weeks before he even tried to hold my hand.
STEFAN: So you're, like, dating? An engineer? How quaint!
BJ: I am not! Dating is disgusting! I refuse to let Milton pay for things, not even a movie. We go for walks.
STEFAN: Oh? What do you figure that entitles you to? Make the first move? Be on top?
BJ: I don't know! But at least I'm not bought, not with money or favors or publication! I'm free!
STEFAN: Uhhuh! But is that free as in free and equal, or no charge and not worth much? (STEFAN kisses BJ)
BJ: What was that for?
STEFAN: You're certainly not beautiful. But you've got something. My advice is, trade on it. Think, "lascivious, salacious." Maybe I'll write you a poem.
BJ (BJ steps out for monologue): A poem. Immortalized as Stefan's Coy Mistress, or La Belle Dame Sans Merci. I wonder how they felt, all those hollow women whose poetical portraits tell even less than their mirrors? Christabell may have decided she was Coleridge's indigestion. John Donne at least had a precision: you can't feel the lady's own mind, but he has laid out her effect on his quite scientifically. One would feel honored. But today? Poets lecture, it's not hard to imagine walking into the Taft Hall lounge and seeing T.S.Eliot, Old Possum himself, chatting with Dr. Taversson and sipping tea. Or better, even, Dylan Thomas, drunk on words and dying of bitches. A poet who has invited me into his mind, where I can look out again at myself as a slut or a schoolmarm. How can any woman dare to walk up to one, and speak? Even to Stefan? No. Stefan is not a good idea. I could get a disease, or shot in a jealous rage-. If Betty'd seen us, or Philip -- . I'm afraid Philip is watching me. Hanging around the coffee shop and the library to catch me coming in. Philip doesn't make demands, not in words, but he can feel me drawing back, and the unhappiness is rolling off him in waves.
DR. OHLOFF: Come in, sit down. I have here the results of your tests.
BJ: Oh. So-- what do they show?
DR. OHLOFF: That you are normal. No, let me rephrase. Of sound mind. At the lower end of the scale on femininity, but in my opinion that is an asset. Zo, to answer your questions: no, you aren't crazy; and yes, many of the people who make the rules are probably what you call full of bull crap.
BJ: I guess that's good news.
DR. OHLOFF: Just zo. Although another way of looking is regret, as it is much easier to change one person than the world. Nevertheless, the conclusion is that our conversation is at an end.
BJ: Just like that? I was beginning to look forward. I mean, I do have problems. I'm in Dutch at the dorm, I'm hurting someone--
DR. OHLOFF: Do not confuse mental illness with normal unhappiness. Pushing against the limits hurts. It is to be expected. But dealing with this not my job. To earn my salary here, I must devote myself to the depressed and the suicidal. You are not suicidal?
BJ: No. But I'm worried about my friend. I told him I didn't want to sleep with him any more, and he seems destroyed. He's drinking, and he is having nightmares--
DR. OHLOFF: Do not tell me this. If your friend has a problem, send him to me. I don't treat patients by proxy.
BJ: But if I'm his problem-?
DR. OHLOFF: You are not his problem. You are a healthy young woman who has been kind to him.
BJ: I keep getting in trouble.
DR. OHLOFF Good! Stir them up, trouble is a sign of life. But try to do it with some tact, no?
BJ: I can't believe I'm hearing this!
DR. OHLOFF Because I am Authority? With degrees? So, then, perhaps even as you learn, but not precisely what it is "they" want you to learn, perhaps I also advise with a difference. I tell you to choose your battles carefully. You live strongly, you will make enemies. The Bible says, "fear is the beginning of wisdom." But only the beginning: after that, courage. So-- we are running out of time. You feel a little bit rejected, yes? I could take you on as a private patient. We could spend years, analyzing your dreams, your lover's nightmares, talking philosophy. Would your parents be willing to pay for that?
BJ Never. Even if they would, I wouldn't ask. (cross to next scene)
DR. OHLOFF: Then take with you my oracles: all I can give you without making smaller. You see, I do know you. Maybe I have even been you. You have it in you to be someone extraordinary. I don't say you should-- extraordinary people are ruthless, those who care for them get hurt. But if you do, and some man says it is his problem: beware. Most likely that is melodrama. Old stuff. A woman who finds her own life would be something quite new.
SCENE TWENTY-ONE (Jakes's car, night)
JAKE: Baby, great news! A whole weekend together. I've got this musician friend in Cleveland who's going on the road, given me the key to his pad. Is that heaven?
BJ: I can't do that. JAKE: Why not?
BJ: The dorm's watching me. The last time I signed out, Mrs. C called up Rachel to check. I could be expelled, and the Levines could get in trouble, too.
JAKE: If you're expelled, we'll go to New York! Hey, isn't it worth the risk? To get to know each other? Walk down the street in a mixed part of town, where nobody gives us the evil eye?
BJ: I wish I could. I'm flattered, really-- but it's too late. The truth is, I ought to stop seeing you.
JAKE: Because a bunch of frustrated old biddies are on the watch? We can outmaneuver them, girl--
BJ: That's not it. I'm-- I'm engaged. Or I'm going to be.
JAKE: You're what?
BJ: Milton. The grad student from engineering? He's asked me to marry him, and I've pretty much decided.
JAKE: Where the hell did this come from? Marriage! Does he know about me?
BJ: No. I swore to you I'd never tell anyone.
JAKE: Maybe I should tell him. How'd he react, you think?
BJ: I don't know. He might break off. Do you want to do that?
JAKE: No. Hell no, I wouldn't do that. But I can't believe you'd give us up. Oh, I know you've been getting jumpier and jumpier. 'Fraid Momma will find out--
BJ: A weekend? Going to New York? You've never talked like that. All you've said implied we had no future.
JAKE: Sure, we had. Well, maybe I haven't said so. A lot of things I've thought I haven't mentioned. Oughtn't to rush you, I thought. And now you say it's too late? If we go to New York-.
BJ: How would we live? What would my parents say?
JAKE: Christ's sake, little girl! You're supposed to be grown up. Old enough to get married. Your parents would shit bricks, if their baby was living in sin. Let alone with some dinge, down in Greenwich Village! But we could make it, if we got the hell out of here.
BJ: You wouldn't get your degree.
JAKE: I don't need degrees. I can make some money with photography, and no piece of paper is going to help me sculpt.
BJ: What would I do?
JAKE: Be my model. Wait tables. Write. Why marry an engineer? Come out and live in the world-- you'll have to deal with it eventually.
BJ: Maybe by eventually I'll be strong enough.
JAKE: You could get a job in an office.
BJ: I can't type.
JAKE: You can learn.
BJ: And cook, and clean up the pad, and admire the men while they drink and joke and tell each other what geniuses they are. Oh, I don't mean you, Jake! I never thought about being your muse, because I didn't think you'd want me! But I've been watching those geniuses at the Levines, imagining what it'd be like--
JAKE: What you'll do, with your engineer? Move to the suburbs?
BJ: Stay in school, transfer to wherever Milt gets a job. I'll be out of the dorm. Done with backseats and the golf course. Legal!
JAKE: OK, you've found Prince Charming. But the wedding won't be for a while yet. If he doesn't know--
BJ: No! And we can't be "friends", either, Jake. Then I would have to tell him.
JAKE: You've got a lot of nerve. Don't I count too?
BJ: Sure you do. And I'm sorry. If I could be your friend, or your lover, out in the open, I--. But I don't think I could face it. You could, you'd have to, part of the Village art scene--
JAKE: I don't see there's a choice. The Harlem Renaissance is over.
BJ: I'm an awful egotist, but if enough people look at me like I'm dirt, I fall apart. The biddies at the dorm have worn me down.
JAKE: You're saying you're a coward.
BJ: I didn't know. When we started it felt right, all brave and rational. But now I'm in too deep, I'm thrashing around, and I'm scared. Is that so terrible? I seems as if whatever way I go, I'm bound to do something wrong.
JAKE: Unhuh. So you're gonna run off and play doll's house? It's too late for innocence, baby. Too bad you haven't got the guts to grow up and live.
BJ (to audience): You want to know, don't you? The story I'm telling myself. Do I see myself a villan or a heroine? Truth is, I don't know. I'm panicked. Things pile up, I react, there's no one I can tell everything and I haven't time for reasons or theories--
SCENE TWENTY-TWO (SY and Rachel's, before the party.)
BJ: The dorm mother called me in to ask me if I were pregnant. No, I said, I'm not pregnant! But what if I were? They're really accusing me of not being a virgin. If I were honest, if I stood up and shouted that freedom in sex is my birthright, they'd throw me out! Throw me in jail, if they could! Not that they need bars, if the object is to make me feel guilty. They've done that, dammit. I feel guilty. And ashamed.
RACHEL: It seems horrible now, but by the time you're a senior-
BJ: I won't last. I'm scared. I'm more scared than I'm angry, which is what really has me scared. I sound like a crank, but--
RACHEL: I'm glad you came here. I thought you'd be with your boyfriend.
BJ: Oh, he's past boyfriend, now. My guardian angel, my passport out of prison and into paradise. My fiance. Why does that sound so stupid?
RACHEL: I'd have thought you'd want to be with him.
BJ: He's busy. He has an exam.
RACHEL: He seems to work awfully hard.
BJ: Engineers do.
RACHEL: BJ, can you really be happy with an engineer? I've tutored a couple, and... of course I don't know Milton, really.
BJ: Invite us over. Just the two of us. He'll come. I know Milton likes you. It's the rest of the gang he can't stand.
RACHEL: I noticed he doesn't seem comfortable. BJ: Bunch of phony intellectuals, Milton says.
RACHEL: If he's such a Philistine, how will you manage? You're so--?
BJ: All is forgiven. Don't give me that "how can you" look! I don't know! Milton seems reasonable, he's a good person, but it doesn't matter: this is not logical. Whatever it is Milton wants from me, it's something I can give him without tearing myself apart. He makes me happy.
RACHEL: Marriage is for a lifetime.
BJ: I know. 20, 000 nights, 20,000 breakfasts! Milt'll read the financial section, and I won't mind! I'm sure with Sy you're never bored. On the other hand, Sy yells and smokes cigars and his feet stink. I could as soon cling to a worm-eaten corpse as embrace a man who smokes cigars.
RACHEL: Cigars are phallic.
BJ: I don't see men insist that women suck on them.
RACHEL: I suppose I want to be wedded all over again, vicariously. I want you to marry someone as extraordinary as Sy, but more Romantic. Someone like Robert Lowell.
BJ: Dark Lady, White Goddess. I'd have to be either a drudge or unfaithful, --
SEYMOUR: (entering) Who's unfaithful?
BJ: Nobody, yet.
RACHEL: We haven't got past the wedding.
SEYMOUR: Are you really going through with it?
RACHEL: Milton's given her a ring.
SEYMOUR: Pretty small. shouldn't hurt much to give that back.
SEYMOUR: Milton Thomas is a B student, BJ. I asked old Kramer, who had him for Comp. And he says, "hmm, Thomas? Solid B student." How can you marry that? It's not right! What will you talk about?
BJ: Solid B subjects! Weather. Milton doesn't bully me, or score points. Milton listens. If he hears a good argument, he changes his opinion. Common sense, common courtesy, grade B. But who does that around here?
RACHEL: Milton thinks intellectuals are phonies and snobs.
DR TRAVERSSON: (enters with Betty and Jake.) They are. Who are we talking about?
SEYMOUR: BJ's euphemism.
JAKE: I didn't know Milt was an intellectual. Is he here?
BJ: He's not. Either.
SEYMOUR: Intellectuals are phonies and snobs.
BETTY: Some of them.
SEYMOUR: Aha! Milton has a defender from elementary education.
BJ: You see, you're doing it to Betty!
BETTY: I like Milton. He's so good-natured.
RACHEL: He's always smiling.
BJ: I think that's his overbite.
BETTY: He was very kind to me that night at Gormann's, when the Professor made me cry.
DR. TRAVERSSON: A perfit gentil knight. (During SY's speech Philip enters and listens unnoticed. He is drunk.)
SEYMOUR: Well, BJ, if you persist in your folly, we'll offer a toast. To marriage. Wonderful institution, marriage. It's been the making of me--but then, I'm dominant. I lead. I won't say you're throwing away your talent--
DR.TRAVERSSON: Seymour, you're out of order--
SEYMOUR: Because women never accomplish, talent's wasted on them. But you could hitch up with somebody first rate! Between you, you could--
RACHEL: Sy, stop.
SEYMOUR: Peace, peace. To marriage. The haven from the storms, the one place where there's nobody to impress, nothing to achieve. The ultimate tenure. Sacred and permanent, or what good is it? No divorce! Absolutely. There are hundreds of people out there smarter, richer, better looking. But when you settle, you settle.
BETTY: I never thought of it quite like that.
DR.TRAVERSSON: Perhaps if you had, you might tell Stefan you've reconsidered.
BETTY: Not a chance. I've ordered the wedding dress.
RACHEL: Betty and Stefan have set a date, too, Sy. In July.
SEYMOUR: Hymen, hymenia! Epithalamiums!
PHILIP: BJ! Is it true?
BJ: Philip! I didn't know you were here. When did you come in?
PHILIP: Just answer me, will you please?
BJ: Yes, I'm getting married.
Dr. TRAVERSSON: So are Betty and Stefan. It's almost epidemic.
PHILIP: You can't do that.
RACHEL: People get married every day, Philip.
JAKE: Sometimes other people are disappointed, but--
PHILIP: If you can't manage to stand on your own, I'll marry you. I've got an apartment already. My family has money. They'll help us. They'll be glad!
BJ: I'm not auctioning myself off, Philip. I'm in love.
PHILIP: In lust, you mean! What do you have in common? That- Milton - won't even protect you, he left it to me. You know when I mean. What would have happened to you, if I hadn't come back that night at Chuck's? And they were all bigger than me! I risked my neck to get you out of there.
BJ: Those creeps were supposedly your friends! Maybe you even put them up to it!
PHILIP: You don't believe that! You couldn't!
BJ: No, I don't. On the other hand, I don't really believe that you had no idea what might be in the back of their dirty little minds
PHILIP: I did not. Never! Chuck's a drinking buddy, is all! And the rest of them, three I'd never even seen before! You believe me, don't you? I'm not like that, I couldn't --
BJ: Philip. I don't know what to say to you. I'm sorry you're upset--
BJ: Hurt, brokenhearted, betrayed, --whatever it is, if I've caused it, I'm sorry. I never intended--
PHILIP: Is that his ring?
BJ: Yes. Are you going to make a cheap crack about it? It doesn't matter, you know that--
PHILIP: You should be ashamed. To sell your soul for a hunk of junk. Take it off--
DR.TRAVERSSON: Why don't you talk this over quietly, tomorrow afternoon, say-?
JAKE: Let her alone, man. Go home and sleep it off.
BJ: Let go Philip, you're hurting-- (He struggles with her, finally pushes her down and runs off with the ring.)
SEYMOUR: Take it easy--
BJ: Philip! Come back with that! (He exits) Damn.
RACHEL: Are you all right?
BETTY: He actually took it? Your ring?
BJ: I don't believe this.
SEYMOUR: He'll bring it back. After he sobers up.
BJ: It doesn't matter. The symbolism's wrong, anyway. I mean, Milton bought it for his first fiancee. She met somebody else, and returned it, and Milton volunteered for the army. He asked me if I minded second-hand. Why should I mind? I'm second-hand too.
(Steps out of the scene for monologue)
BJ: Milton and I were married at the end of the term. We couldn't afford a trip. We honeymooned in our tiny flat, rented courtesy of the G.I. bill and furnished with orange crates and a big old brass bed. No rules, no curfew, no spies --except sometimes the phone would ring and nobody would be on it, or I'd hear footsteps coming up behind me. And once, at midnight, I thought I saw Philip peeking in our window. But I didn't worry. I was secure, I was settled, and being half of a pair was so - absorbing. We had our little nest to arrange, and our whole lives to exchange. Milton told me what it was like to grow up fatherless during the depression, to serve as a GI in cold-war Germany, and I told him-- everything I thought he'd understand. Then one day a package arrived. I ran into Betty in the grocery, and asked her advice.
BJ: Philip sent my ring back. Do you think I should write and thank him?
BETTY: Sent it? When did it arrive?
BJ: Day before yesterday. Do you think it means he's forgiven me?
BETTY: Philip couldn't have sent it, BJ. Philip's dead. He's been dead for two weeks.
BETTY: Alcohol and pills. The school tried to keep it quiet, list it as an accident. But it wasn't. He left a note.
BJ: I guess nobody had wanted to be the one to tell me. As soon as I started asking questions, though, everybody was eager to fill me in. Philip lay there in his room for 5 days. A few people missed him, the lab did, but he'd been depressed and drinking a lot so they figured he was maybe in the infirmary, until the landlord--. His brother Bruce claimed the body. His brother packed up one briefcase, and threw the rest of Philip's belongings out in the trash. His friends argued about what they should take-- would taking Philip's things be ghoulish, or what Philip would want? Professor Lee searched for Philip's notebooks, on the hunch that there was something in them he could publish. Chuck took the liquor, and Philip's hi-fi. The mysterious phone calls had stopped, but I kept expecting one more. I kept listening for somebody to tell me it was my fault. By the next month I was pregnant.
SCENE TWENTY-FOUR (Rachel is talking to Madge. BJ "puts on her pregnancy" and joins the other two visibly pregnant women.)
RACHEL: The point about Walden Two, Madge, is that you can't earn all your work credits doing clean jobs or being boss. Cooking, baby-tending, all that is figured into the economy, not part of a personal relationship--
MADGE: Like Communism, Mrs. Levine? Are relationships allowed?
RACHEL: Oh, yes, just not regular families. In Skinner's Utopia, the biological parents mostly just play with their kids. So the best time's at 17 or 18, like you.
MADGE: So in Walden Two, I wouldn't have to hide out with BJ until I can go into the Crittenden and give it up for adoption.
RACHEL: I think that's very brave.
MADGE: If I were brave I'd have had an abortion.
RACHEL: Don't think I haven't thought about it! But if something went wrong, if I died, who would look after the rest of them?
BJ: You mean you don't want this one?
RACHEL: I wanted to stop at three.
BJ: But all that stuff about courage to throw oneself into the future-
RACHEL: Oh, don't get me wrong, I'll love it when it comes. From about the fifth month I talk to it. I could never give it up, after that. But before, if I'd had a choice--
MADGE: You'd give it up if you were alone, and poor.
RACHEL: We are poor. Assistant Professors make zilch. I don't mind, as long as they let me have a pass to the library. But Sy's not popular with the Department. If he doesn't get tenure, what then? Can you imagine Sy selling shoes?
MADGE: Don't you use birth control?
BJ: Look who's talking!
MADGE: I was careless. I guess I was hoping Jeff would carry me off to Shaker Heights. Sit around the pool and plan Walden Three. For one brief moment, a chance at the son of an orthodontist looked like a better deal than three more years of Mary Immaculate.
RACHEL: I got a diaphragm, but Sy found it. He didn't confront me, he just threw it away. I was afraid to ask the doctor for another one -- what if Sy reported him?
MADGE: Would your husband do that?
RACHEL: If he thought it was a moral principle.
MADGE: But contraception's legal if you're married.
BJ: When Dr. Ohloff sent me to the g.y.n. for my diaphragm, I told him I was Mrs. Leopold Bloom.
RACHEL: Anyway, I've convinced Doctor Robbins to tie my tubes. One last love bundle, that's my Magnum Opus right there.
BJ: So I'm going to be a mother, about the time I turn nineteen. Ironic, isn't it? I used to say that by the time a girl's mature enough to raise a baby, she'll have better sense than to want one! But -- and I feel like a perfect dolt to say this, I know that scientifically it's impossible! -- I felt the actual moment of conception. I reached for Milton from the inside, and in that instant I knew. A voice said: "baby"! And to tell the truth, I love pregnancy. I haven't been sick, just peaceful and sleepy. Yesterday a painter stopped me on my way across campus, and asked if I'd pose for him. He said I looked like a Madonna. Can you imagine? Not Mary Magdalene, but a madonna. Well, why not? I can afford to be generous, I'm expanding to fill the universe! For once my appetites seem normal. I mean I have these cravings, for pickles or hugs or ice cream. But I truly believe that they come from the baby, that she's asking me to get her what she needs to grow strong. Yes, she. I'm sure. I call her my darling girl when I say poems to her, and I can't wait to tell her everything. Intercourse, for instance, and the long conversation, and the woman who finds her own life, and is something quite new.
END OF PLAY
bio | resume
| contact GL Horton
monologues | one-act plays | full-length plays
reviews | essays | links | videos