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The Pain Inside

 

Cast of Characters

Andy:19, prisoner
Shades:30s, prisoner

Place
A dormitory in Rikers Island Correctional Facility, New York City

Time
An evening, early 1960s

SETTING: A bed stretches right from SC.  Other beds are dimly seen behind it.  The right wall has barred windows.  At the head of the bed, SR, is a small cabinet.  The feet of the beds form an aisle going US.  Across the aisle, SL, the feet of more beds are visible.  A chess board, thermos bottle and several books are on top of the cabinet.  The bed has been neatly made: the top sheet turned back over the blanket, leaving the pillow and bottom sheet exposed at head.
AT RISE:The windows are dark.  Light comes from ceiling fixtures.  Percussion mixes with a low prison dormitory din — bits of conversation, music and voices from radio, guards calling out names of inmates.  SHADES is lying on his bed, reading.  HE wears prison denims, and tinted prescription glasses.  ANDY is coming from US along aisle.  HE too wears prison denims.  HE carries an envelope and some aluminum-wrapped food.  HE stops at SHADES’ bed.

ANDY
Don’t you never take your face out o’ them books?

SHADES
Pue’ ya ve’.  It’s a deep book, pana.

ANDY
I got a letter to read.

SHADES
Catch me tomorrow, baby.  I wanna finish this chapter before lights out.

ANDY
No sea’ así.  This could be important.

SHADES
Wha’s the difference?  You can’t do shit about it right now.  It’s from the court or somethin’?

ANDY
I think it’s from my ace.

SHADES
Get someone else.  There’s a lotta dudes.  Go get Surdo or —

ANDY
Ain’t nobody put the feelin’ in like you, Shades.  And don’t matter English or Spanish.  C’mon —

SHADES
Gimme a break.  It’s like I got no free time anymore.  Everyone hittin’ on me, the minute I’m back from the yard.  Shee’t.  When you gon’ learn?  You a young blood.  Pull a Douglass.  You see I’m concentratin’ here.

(Returns to book.)

ANDY
You gotta break down that Douglass.

SHADES
Frederick Douglass.  Started out a slave.  Went through a lotta changes to learn to read.  Now you gon’ let me alone?

(Beat.)

ANDY
I got somethin’ for you.

SHADES
Tomorrow.  And you don’t gotta give me nothin’.  I don’t smoke anyway.

ANDY
I ain’t talkin’ bones.  I’m talkin’ arró’ con dulce.

SHADES
Like I’m believin’ you.

ANDY
En serio.

(SHADES turns toward ANDY.  ANDY hands aluminum wrap to SHADES.)

SHADES
¡Arró’ con dulce!

(opening foil)

You crazy bastard Andy!  Where the hell’d you get this?

ANDY
Zorra brought it last month.  My ol’ lady.  Tony kept it frozen.

SHADES

(taking thermos, getting plastic cups and paper towels from inside cabinet)

Good lookin’ out.

(HE pours tea from thermos, pushes one cup and a paper towel toward ANDY.)

ANDY
My abuela made it.

SHADES

(Puts the arroz con dulce between them.)

Mete mano.

(THEY taste the arroz con dulce with a mixture of eagerness and the care rquired for quality evaluation.)

Mmm.  ¡Qué delicia!

ANDY
My grandmother can cook.

SHADES
Yes!  My moms used to make it this way.  That’s many moons, pana.

(Sips tea.)

Tell your abuela thanks, if she comes here before you’re out.  You short, right?

ANDY
Three more weeks.

SHADES
If I’d’a got here sooner I coulda taught you.  I told you I used to be like you.

ANDY
Yeah, you told me.  And you used to do second story guisos too.

(Hands SHADES the envelope.)

SHADES
I shoulda stuck to that.  A piece just means a longer bid.  All right, what you got?

ANDY
It don’t look like from la Zorra.

SHADES

(Looks at return address on envelope.)

Villanueva, 611 East Eleventh Street.

ANDY
Tha’s Tito.  My man.

SHADES

(reading)
Dear Andy,
I hope this letter finds you in good health.  I have some things to tell you.

(ANDY moves closer to SHADES.  SHADES looks up from letter.)

Listen now.  Whatever he’s about to say, don’t be blamin’ me for it.

ANDY
Why would I —

SHADES
I’m just sayin’.  ‘Cause some chamacos. . . .  You know Angel in B Dormitory?  La jeva wrote she was quittin’ on him.  And he like to deal with me.  As if I put the idea in her mind.

ANDY

(Rises.)

You gon’ read me the fuckin’ letter or what?

SHADES

Not if you ain’t cool.

(Rises.  THEY face each other.)

You sit down.  I’m’a read it.

(ANDY sits down.  SHADES reads.)

Doña Vicenta is keeping Margarita now.  She said la Zorra was not taking good care of the baby.  Margarita is healthy.  No more addict signs.  Would you believe Hector is in college?  Willie got sent back inside.  Zorra still stays sometimes at Zulma and Chalequín’s house.  Sometimes Zorra looks ok.  But last night she was sick bad.  The ambulance took her to Beth Israel.

ANDY
What you tellin’ me?

(Rises.)

What are you sayin’ that for?

(HE is moving toward SHADES, about to lose control.)

SHADES
Sit down!

(ANDY sits. SHADES continues reading.)

We think they got her in time.

(ANDY slams fist down on cabinet.  Beat.  SHADES puts a hand on ANDY’s shoulder.)

How long she been juqueá’?

ANDY
Since way back.  Her sister’s old man wouldn’t let her live with them no more.  She started shootin’.

(Beat.)

The only girl I ever loved.  The only one that ever loved me.

(Beat.)

Read the rest.

SHADES

Me and Jíbaro will try and see her later today — I was working last night.   I will let you know how she is.
Your ace,
Tito

ANDY
They don’t understand her!  If I was there. . . .  She looked ok when she come to visit.  Maybe not clean, but at least ok.  I coulda done somethin’.  It wouldn’ta happened.

SHADES
I felt the same way with my kid brother Juan.  That’s the toughest part of the inside.  That’s when it chops up your soul.  Someone that’s part of you is goin’ down the tubes . . . and you’re here.

(Beat.)

Oyeme.  You know what you do?  When you get the streets, if she ain’t —  See, you got a shot with her.  She loves you.

(Folds letter, puts it into ANDY’s shirt.)

When you get the streets, you put her in a program.  Tha’s what I was gon’ do with Juanito, but he got killed while I was still in Greenhaven.

ANDY
The pain you must’ve felt. . . .

SHADES
¿Que si qué?  That’s all I had, was pain.  His face . . . I would see his face . . . he’d be like around your age now.  And those eyes . . . staring at me . . . like flashing a question . . . and always the pain inside.

ANDY
Shades, where did this tecata shit start?

SHADES
I’d like to know that myself.

ANDY
‘Cause I’m’a tell you somethin’.  This here is like a war.  Go in any neighborhood — how many people dead or fucked up?

SHADES
One false move, you show any weakness, and they get you.

ANDY
So who brought the drugs?

SHADES
I’m tellin’ you, I don’t know.  You think I wasn’t lookin’ for something like that?  Somethin’ to help Juanito.  Then later, I just wanted to understand . . . what happened to him.  To us.  How many books did I read about narcotics?  But nobody knows.

ANDY
It don’t happen on its own.  Somebody gotta know somethin’.

SHADES
There’s a lot of theories.  One dude had a famous line: Religion is the opium of the people.  But the way I see it, he got it backwards.  What they tryin’ to do is make opium the religion of the people.

ANDY
Either way, you know what I think?

(A guard’s voice is heard from the guard area, offstage right: “On the count!”)

I think reading is a waste of time.  You tellin’ me do a Douglass.  What the fuck for? I always thought they was smart — the ones that write the books.

SHADES
Authors.

ANDY
Ain’t they supposed to have the answers?  But they don’t know shit.  Nothin’.

(The sounds of the prisoners talking while lining up are heard.  SHADES motions with his head for ANDY and HIMSELF to go to line up.  THEY walk single file into aisle.)

Like a war.  But you can’t see who’s the enemy.

(Blackout.)


Carlos Jerome’s is assistant professor at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, Department of Business and Economics.  Hisplays have been produced in New York City by Around The Block: Age of Discovery (also produced by Metropolitan Playhouse); Evening Interview; The Pain Inside (also selected for and performed at the 2004 Samuel French Short Play Festival); The Reading Lesson (originally produced at the 2002 Jersey Voices Festival, a finalist for the 2002 Arts and Letters Prize, performed at Love Creek’s 2003 Autumn One Act Festival, selected for Mill Mountain’s 2004-2005 CenterPieces repertoire and performed at the 2005 Samuel French Festival) andSemicontinuos.  Love Creek produced his Savvy or Silly.   His play Booked won 2nd prize in the 2002 Chicano/Latino Literary competition (University of California -Irvine).  A member of the Dramatists Guild, he is currently President and Playwriting Workgroup Director of Around The Block / Al Doblar La Esquina, a New York City arts and technology organization.  He teaches playwriting at Rutgers University Writing Center and for Latin American Theatre Ensemble at the Museo del Barrio.  He studied acting with Anne Allen and playwriting with Mark O’Donnell, Stewart Spencer and Allen Davis III. He has been a member of workshops at Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, American Playwrights Theatre, New York Play Development, Neighborhood Playhouse, and Around The Block.  He was a member of the editorial team for the Simon & Schuster International English-Spanish Spanish-English Dictionary.  © Carlos Jerome 2004 and 2008.



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