CAN I BORROW THIS, a Short Play, by Brad Vance

CHARACTERS

NEIL, male, 20s, cerebral type

LIZ, female, 20s, same

LOCATION

Neil’s apartment

TIME

Late evening.

NEIL and LIZ enter NEIL’s apartment. LIZ is carrying a purse.

NEIL

Wow, that was good, I’m surprised.

LIZ

Yeah, so much better than The Force Awakens. Which, I hope it doesn’t offend you, was kind of crappy.

NEIL

Actually, I agree. I didn’t buy Kylo Ren, you know? I mean, Anakin Skywalker was always a psycho. He cared about his mother, sure, but so did Norman Bates.

(LIZ laughs)

He cared about Padme, but more because he couldn’t face how he would feel if he lost her, than how she would feel, you know, dying.

LIZ

Yeah, “I won’t lose you the way I lost my mother.” That’s all me me me, what I lose if you die.

NEIL

Right. But where was Kylo Ren’s conflict, you know? There was no journey to the Dark Side, we don’t see that character flaw like in Anakin, that the Sith exploited to turn him. They just say “something happened” and he’s just… evil now. Even in the first Star Wars, we know Darth Vader used to be good, the greatest Jedi became the worst Sith.

LIZ

Totally. That’s really perceptive.

NEIL

Thanks.

LIZ

And thanks for buying the ticket.

(Gestures to her purse)

That was so awkward when I had to say, “I left my purse in the car,” it felt like such a gold digger move.

NEIL

No, no, I totally get it. You can buy next time.

(They have a Moment as they realize there will be a next time.)

LIZ

Yeah, okay, that sounds good.

(Looks around)

Wow, you have a lot of books. You know how depressing it is to go to someone’s house and they don’t have any?

NEIL

Or worse, they have the books you don’t want to see.

LIZ

Ayn Rand.

NEIL

Bill O’Reilly.

LIZ

Newt Gingrich.

(They laugh)

At least Ayn Rand wrote her own books.

NEIL

Well, they probably would have been better if someone else had.

LIZ

Or they don’t have books at all, they’ve spent all their money on shit, on knick-knacks and tchotchkes.

NEIL

I know, and they’re all fondling them.

(Creepy whisper)

“Here is my collection of all my nice things.”

LIZ

(Same creepy whisper)

“Here’s my favorite Hummel figurine of a shepherd and a shepherdess. It’s very rare.”

NEIL

Thank God.

LIZ

I know! And what do you say when you’re just cringing inside?

NEIL

As little as possible.

LIZ

Omigod, you have like the complete works of Doris Lessing. Oh, shit, the whole Canopus in Argos series.

NEIL

Yeah, that first one, Shikasta, really changed my life, you know? It was the first time I read science fiction that wasn’t just, you know, space monsters, eek, pew pew!

LIZ

Yes, I loved Shikasta, the whole colonial metaphor. Omigod, The Making of the Representative from Planet 8. Did you know that Philip Glass…

NEIL

Made it into an opera, yeah. Wow, you really are a fan.

LIZ

Yeah… I never read that one. Can I borrow this?

NEIL

Umm, yeah, see, this whole series is out of print. And these are all first editions.

LIZ

Oh, I’ll take good care of it, I promise. I’ll read it in a few days and bring it… I mean, you know, if we go on another date. If you want to do that.

NEIL

Yeah, yeah, totally, it’s just, you know, my experience with loaning books isn’t… hasn’t… well, you know how it goes.

LIZ

No…

NEIL

So, you loan books to people and you always get them back?

LIZ

Well, I guess I don’t really think about it. I suppose if I went through my shelves I’d find holes here and there but…

(She shrugs)

NEIL

So you don’t really care if you get them back.

LIZ

I guess not. I guess I’d just buy another copy if I needed to.

NEIL

You don’t collect books, then.

LIZ

No, I just love them for what’s in them. And, besides, you can get an old book for a penny on Amazon plus shipping, it’s what, four bucks to replace it?

NEIL

But that’s not the point. The point is that if you borrow a book and don’t bring it back, then I just gave you four bucks. And these are firsts, so they’re more like ten bucks.

LIZ

Well, if you replace it, yeah.

NEIL

Why wouldn’t I?

LIZ

(Laughs)

It’s a book, not the crown jewels. I don’t think I’d feel the pain of losing ten bucks.

NEIL

I see. It doesn’t change your opinion of someone, if they borrow a book and don’t bring it back? You don’t think to yourself, how inconsiderate is that, or at least, man, what a flake?

LIZ

I’d say my opinion of a person goes up if they want to read a good book.

NEIL

But if they never bring it back, how do you know if they even read it? Maybe it was just an idle “Wow, I should read a book sometime” kind of thing?

LIZ

I don’t have any friends who think they might read a book, sometime.

NEIL

And when you ask them to give it back, they’re all either “Oh, I’m gonna start that tonight,” or worse, “Oh yeah I’m sure it’s around here, I’ll look for it.” Like it’s a pair of old socks they don’t have to keep track of, and it’s buried in the shitstorm of stuff in their house somewhere.

LIZ

I guess I don’t measure the value of my friendships by who has my stuff and when they’re going to bring it back.

NEIL

(Hardly listening anymore)

And I don’t know about you but, I’ve gone on some first dates that went really well, and then, you know, I got totally ghosted. So then not only am I, you know, disappointed or whatever, but then I’m out the book I loaned that person.

LIZ

So you think I’m going to ghost you.

NEIL

I don’t know. You might. But that’s the point, because I don’t know you, I can’t say that…

LIZ

(Over “I can’t say that”)

But what you’re most concerned about, right here, is that you don’t want to take the risk of losing your first edition. If I didn’t call you back, that’s what you’d think about, is that what you’re saying? All you’d think is, damn, she has my book.

NEIL

That’s not… that’s not what I meant. I just don’t want to end up…

LIZ

(Over “end up”)

Well, that’s how it came out.

(Pause)

You know, it’s late. I think I should go.

NEIL

Why?

LIZ

I’m really tired.

NEIL

What, are you mad because I think people should respect my property?

LIZ

No. That’s a perfectly fine thing to think.

(Fishes in purse )

And speaking of which, here’s ten bucks for the movie ticket.

NEIL

So you’re saying there won’t be a next time for you to treat me.

LIZ

(Pause)

You know, no, I guess not.

NEIL

Well then.

LIZ

Yeah.

LIZ leaves. NEIL picks up the book in question, fondly, then shakes his head, and sits down to read it.

BLACKOUT

2 Comments on CAN I BORROW THIS, a Short Play, by Brad Vance

  1. Heh, a very worthy Seinfeld episode!

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