A Beautiful Place

[A guy and a girl are sitting on a bench next to the Delaware River, looking at the Philadelphia skyline. The Sun is setting. The girl has her phone out.]

Guy- Do you know what’s beautiful?

Girl- What?

Guy- When you’re staring at… like the horizon or something… thinking about something specific, but then you forget.

Girl- Forget what?

Guy- What it is you’re thinking about.

Girl- How is that beautiful?

Guy- I don’t know.

Girl- I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

Guy- Like, when you are so deep in thought that you don’t even think, you don’t even really remember what you were thinking about, you just exist. I love that. I wish we could all just exist, without thinking…

Girl- So you’re saying thinking is a bad thing?

Guy- Yes.

Girl- I disagree, thinking is what makes you exist, without thinking, you could never say anything, or do anything.

Guy- Oh… It’s hard for me to explain what I’m trying to say… never mind… I think some things are just impossible to say.

Girl- Maybe.

Guy- …Maybe.

[A few minutes go by in silence, she starts texting on her phone, he lights up a cigarette and begins to smoke.]

Girl- Why do you do that?

Guy- Do what?

Girl- You know very well what.

Guy- I hate when people are ambiguous.

Girl- I hate when people use the word hate.

Guy- Well that’s kind of hypocritical of you.

Girl- Shut-up, you know what I’m talking about. You should really stop smoking, it kills you, and it kills everyone around you, do you really wanna carry that responsibility?

Guy- I don’t give a shit. I’m gonna die anyway, we’re all gonna die anyway, I’m not responsible for anything, let me do what I want.

Girl- Being a fatalist doesn’t make you sound cool.

Guy- I don’t give a shit about sounding cool.

Girl- It doesn’t make you sound like an intellectual either, it’s just plain dumb.

Guy- Well maybe I’m “just plain dumb”.

Girl- Well you aren’t.

Guy- You just said I was.

Girl- I didn’t really mean it.

Guy- What does that mean you didn’t really mean it? You just said it. Why can’t you be more definitive? Why do you have to be so fucking ambiguous?

Girl- What the hell is your problem?

Guy- You wanna know what my problem is? You really wanna know what my problems are?

Girl- Yes I do.

Guy- No you don’t.

Girl- I just said that I do.

Guy- Everyone has problems, and I hate when people publicly bemoan their problems to the entire world, boo-fucking-hoo. “Fuck my life, my life is so terrible.” Fuck you. No one fucking cares, sure people sympathize with you so that they can wait their turn to complain about their own dumb bullshit, but nobody really gives a shit. Give me a fucking break.

Girl- You certainly have some issues.

Guy- No, I don’t have any issues.

[There is a few more minutes of silence. She texts more and more, and then looks up from her phone and sighs.]

Girl- It’s cold out.

Guy- Yeah, I know.

Girl- I should have worn more than just a sweatshirt.

Guy- Probably.

[The Girl shifts around awkwardly and shivers.]

Guy- Hey you know what?

Girl- Yes?!?

Guy- Wait, never mind I forget.

Girl- Oh, I thought you were gonna give me something.

Guy- Oh yeah, remember when that one girl was crying in front of everyone in high school about how depressed she was and all that made-up bullshit, and then she dropped out because she said she was going crazy but it was really because she was fucking retarded and failing out of every class? What was her name?

Girl- I don’t know.

Guy- Oh, damn I wish I’d remember her name.

Girl- Right…

Guy- I think we could just sit here forever and nobody would come around and bother us.

Girl- I know, I love that, it’s very peaceful.

Guy- Are you kidding me? It’s fuckin eerie as shit that’s what it is. Instead of looking out in front of you, why don’t you turn around and look behind you. Tell me what you fucking see.

Girl- I see some condos, a bar, a clock tower, a couple of people…

Guy- Really? Because I see a post-apocalyptic urban waste land.

Girl- Not everything is bad, just because there’s a lot of drugs and crime doesn’t mean that it can’t be fixed.

Guy- You’re absolutely right.

Girl- I know I’m-

Guy- Except for the fact that no one is doing anything to fuckin fix it.

Girl- Sure they are, you can’t say that. Look at the campus, it’s getting bigger, and the hospital too. Those are creating jobs, and now there’s some condos and stuff being built-

Guy- Yeah that’s the fucking American idea of urban renewal right? Neglecting the working-class, kicking them out of their neighborhoods -building up condos and colleges and concert stadiums and-

Girl- What the hell are they supposed to do? Isn’t that bringing money and jobs into the city?

Guy- They’re building a fucking golf course in the middle of Camden. An eighteen hole beautiful fucking golf course. They’re knocking down Kramer Hill- A perfectly fine working class neighborhood with not that much crime or abandoned houses compared to the rest of the city- and their building a fucking golf course.

Girl- Whatever, that might be a stupid idea but you’re fixating too much on one thing.

Guy- Just look at all those abandoned high rises… those are concrete skeletons from half a century ago looking down on us… and, and, God forbid you walk three blocks that way, because the streets aren’t even fucking paved.

[The Girl looks up from her phone.]

Girl- What?

Guy- You heard me, there are entire blocks of decrepit, rotting row homes, concrete lots that would be empty if it weren’t for weeds, trash heaps and decomposed corpses that are strewn about; I mean, the fucking tallest buildings that aren’t abandoned in the city are the projects- it’s, it’s third-world America.

Girl- Whatever, if those people wanted to get out of poverty they could get an education and a job, and if they don’t want to they can just mooch off welfare.

Guy- That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard anyone say. The “American Dream” is fake. Those kids drop out of school because their education fucking sucks. It’s a lot harder than you think, and it’s a lot easier to start dealing crack at sixteen than to get a good SAT score. Your arguments are fucking idiotic. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are fucking retarded. This whole political system is bullshit.

Girl- You’re an asshole.

Guy- Who the fuck wants to play golf in Camden, New Jersey anyway?

Girl- You’re an idiot.

Guy- Maybe I am.

[The girl goes back to texting.]

Guy- Would you stop fucking texting all the time while I’m trying to have a fucking conversation with you?

Girl- You’re having a conversation with yourself.

Guy- You should have that thing glued to your eyeballs like fucking Cyclops, it might make things a little bit easier for you.

Girl- Okay I’m going back to my dorm so that you can finish having your man period by yourself.

Guy- Sure, go ahead, leave.

[He takes out another cigarette and lights it up.]

Girl- You’re hopeless.

[She walks away.]

Guy- I know.

3 replies on “A Beautiful Place”

I’v e been trying to get through the wordpress procedures to post a comment. I talked with you about this piece in the bookstore. I think it would play. The dialogue is good, and the details–the smoking, texting etc., would reonate with young people. In a way, it’s a dialogue that good take place between any boy and girl, or any man and woman.

I can’t speak much for other cities, but with Camden it goes well beyond that. The cyclical oppression and destruction of most things good in a community. It’s sad but in a strange way kind of beautiful how dilapidated Camden is.

That was interesting. The sad thing it is mostly true. Tear down the trees and put up a parking lot…that song is playing in my brain.
Joni Mitchel
don’t it always seem to go
that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
they paved paradise put up a parking lot

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