Play: 'Hot Tea'

by Poppy Goad

MARTIN: I’ve brought you some tea. (Puts tea down on side table next to Alice)
Don’t drink it right away though because it’s hot. You might burn your tongue.
(M sits down on the sofa next to Alice who is in a chair next to him – he carefully sips his tea – he has a nervous agitation about him)
(A looks to the cup of tea next to her)
ALICE: Oh, you brought me tea. (She takes a sip)
It’s hot. You could have warned me that it’s hot. I’ve burnt my tongue.
(M does not respond, he just stares forward slowly sipping his tea)
M: (Still staring forward) Al.
(Looks at A)
Al I’ve got to tell you something and I want you to really listen, do you understand? Al? Do you understand what I’m saying?
A: (Does not look at M – seems in her own world) It’s so nice outside. The garden looks really lovely. We should get the sprinkler out for Hannah, she loves playing in it. Where is it, we should go and get it now.
M: Al, Hannah’s up in Manchester now. Do you remember? She’s a teacher now, she teaches history, just like your sister did. Do you remember?
A: (Looks confused for a second) Oh. Right.
M: Al can you look at me. Alice, could you look at me please?
(A turns to look at him)
M: I need to…Um, there’s something I need to, to, to tell you.
Do you remember last Christmas? Hannah came down, and she brought that girl she was dating who wouldn’t eat meat, or maybe she just didn’t eat turkey. And I’d made that huge turkey, and for some reason none of us really ate any of it. I think it was because she would stare at us like we were eating a puppy if we did.
(Laughs slightly uncomfortably) PAUSE
Anyway. We had all that turkey left over, and I said we’d give to the Colman’s. They had their daughter over, Ga –
(DOOR BELL interrupts him)
(Martin goes to answer it)
M: Hi.
G: I’m –
M: Gabi, no of course, I remember you.
G: It’s been a while.
M: You must be here for the Turkey.
G: Yeah, although I don’t know why you have spare. (She walks into the room)
M: Oh, er, we’ve had a vegetarian staying. (Goes and gets the turkey)
G: Ugh, they’re the worst aren’t they.
M: (Awkwardly laughs)
(Hands Gabi the Turkey)
G: Thanks. God, this place has not changed at all. I remember right there was where I hit my head after sliding down the stairs.
M: You were always the wildest of Hannah’s friends.
G: (Laughs)
M: No, I liked it. You were always talking and chatting. None of her other friends wanted to talk to me.
G: Well I like talking to you.
M: (Changing the subject) So, are you just staying down here for the holidays?
G: No actually. London got a bit too much, so I decided to just come down and stay with Mum and Dad for a bit, you know, clear my head.
M: Oh, that sounds good –
G: You know what they say, change is always good.
M: Right –
G: And who knows, maybe I’ll find something fun to do here.
M: Well they have just reopened the ice-rink.
G: (Laughs)
M: Well, thanks for taking that off our hands, we would never have eaten it anyways.
G: How is Alice?
M: Oh. She’s good. I mean there are some bad days, but… (His voice trails off)
G: Right.
It was great to see you anyway. And thank you, for the turkey.
M: Course, no worries. I hope you aren’t too bored staying round here. (Laughs)
G: I’m sure I won’t be.
(G leaves through the front door)
M: After that I thought about her a lot, just thought about her. About how her hair smelled like that cheap off brand shampoo you can get at the supermarket; how her nails where bitten down so that the skin around them looked raw; the sound of her laugh. I didn’t even care that I was thinking about her; I wasn’t doing anything wrong – just thinking.
We ran into each other all the time; at the post office; at the hardware store; saw each other putting out the bins from across the road. It was so silly; every time I saw her I could feel myself going red. Blushing, at 52! (Laughs)
It was like I was in school again, like when I first met you…It was those moments, I guess, well I’m not sure, I mean, it could have been…
But we started planning to see each other.
I would kiss her and my whole body would tremble.
(M seems to drift into his own world)
(G comes to him and starts kissing him on the cheek tenderly)
G: We should go away somewhere.
M: Hmm?
G: You and me, we should just pick a place and just drive, without looking back.
M: (Laughs)
G: I’m not kidding! Imagine going to France, or Italy. Oh, imagine going to Rome! (smiles mischievously)
M: (Laughs) Rome?
G: Yeah! We could eat Italian food, we could go sightseeing. Oh! Think of how much pizza we could eat –
M: You know Italian’s don’t actually eat that much pizza. Italian cuisine is much more pasta based.
G: You’re spoiling it!
M: No, it’s a nice fantasy.
G: It doesn’t have to just be a fantasy.
PAUSE (M doesn’t respond)
You know when I was living in London I was always going away somewhere on the weekend. I once ended up in Edinburgh singing Elton John with a dozen quilted men at this pub I just walked into.
M: Are you trying to make me jealous?
G: Maybe. (Tracing a finger up and down his arm)
M: I did crazy stuff too you know.
G: Oh really?
M: Oh yeah. I once went on a road trip round France and intentionally missed out Paris just to spite the travel brochures.
G: You’re crazy!
(They both laugh)

M: Can I ask you something?
G: Sure.
M: Why did you ask me out?
G: Do you wish I didn’t?
M: No! I just…I mean…
G: Come on Martin, we have fun together. Don’t we?
M: Yes, of course!
G: Do you want that fun to end?
M: No. No, I don’t.
G: (She smiles like a child who’s got their way) Then let’s go away together.
M: Gabi…
G: No, come on. Let’s do it. Let’s leave this crap whole and just drive.
M: Gabi don’t. You know that’s not fair. You know I have to stay here, I have to –
G: (Her patience snaps) Please don’t give me that bullshit!
M: What?
G: Martin, your life does not just have to stop because hers has.
M: Excuse me?
G: Look –
M: No my wife is not dead! Don’t you dare say that! You don’t know anything about –
G: Your wife? Is that what she still is to you? A wife? She is an empty shell Martin – a ghost! Her body might still be here but her mind isn’t, it died a long time ago –
M: My wife is not dead!
G: Yes she is! Don’t you understand, you’re living with a corpse, a corpse that you need to put to rest! Martin – both our sakes.
M: Gabi you need to stop.
G: No! Why should I! Why should I pretend to care for the feelings of someone who doesn’t recognise my face, who has let go of her mind so that she can live like a queen being waited on hand and foot by a man she doesn’t even recognise.  Martin she doesn’t know who you are, she doesn’t know who anyone is. She lives in a fantasy world that what is left of her mind has created so that she is kept safe in her own fairy tale. She doesn’t want to be part of reality now Martin. Your world is not the one she wants.  
She made her choice.
Now you make yours.
M: You can’t say that. You can’t just ask me something like that. God Gabi, this is the woman I have spent the last 30 years of my life with; who has raised my children and been my partner, my…
To leave her. To give up my life. Our life.
G: You’re such a hypocrite, you know that! You’re bloody arsehole.
You kiss me. Make love to me. And yet you still want to share a home with this woman; a bed.
I am standing here. Asking you to come with me, to live and enjoy life with me. Me: a woman of both flesh and mind; a woman who wants you.
M: Gabi you are child. You’re a little daddy’s girl that runs back home when things get tough. Who starts an affair with their childhood friend’s father; just to amuse yourself in this stupid town.
So what the hell do you think you can know about commitment? Of the responsibility of an adult; of a husband?
You have no idea.
(M sits down with his head beneath his hands)
G: I’m going to go.
(Turns to go and then stops)
I might be a child, but you are a coward.
And do you want to hear the worst part. I still want you.
I’m going to leave tomorrow night. I don’t know where for.
You can still come.
(G leaves)
(M stays where he is sitting)
(M looks back at A where she has been sitting in the chair the whole time)
M: Al please speak to me.
Al. I don’t know what to do. I have no idea. So I guess, I’m asking you. I want you to tell me what to do, and whatever you say I’ll do it. I promise. Al, just please say something.
A: I always liked Gabi. She was loud but she always had something worthwhile to say. It wasn’t like she was being loud for attention, I think she just wanted everyone to hear what she was saying, because she knew it was important, or knew that if they didn’t hear it then it would have to be repeated. She never liked to repeat what she’d said. I liked that about her.
She’s blonde; your type.
(A takes a sip of her tea)
It’s hot. You could have warned me that it’s hot. I’ve burnt my tongue.