I wrote “Deleting Discontent” in 2011 while I was living in China. I stayed there five years but not a semester passed that I wasn’t looking to live somewhere else, usually another foreign country. It will be included in our next project here in Oaxaca, being translated and performed in Spanish.
Synopsis: a man questions his place in the world.
BENNY, white male, 45
DEB, black or Hispanic female, 40
TIME: The Present
PLACE: New York City and China
(Lights up on BENNY sitting at a table. He’s handsome and looks at least 10 years younger than his age. On his table is a laptop, a glass of beer [almost empty], peanuts, ashtray and cigarettes. On the floor next to the table are five empty half-liter beer bottles [Chinese Beer].
DEB, a naturally beautiful Black or Hispanic woman sits in a comfy chair or sofa. She is drinking bottled water.
BENNY types and we hear the SOUND of a Skype call)
BENNY: Hello? Can you hear me? Deb? Deb?
DEB: Hey, Benny. I can hear you. Can you hear me?
BENNY: I can. And we have video, too.
DEB: For now.
BENNY: For now. You’re lookin’ good. How do ya feel?
DEB: Tired as hell. I really should slow down.
BENNY: Yes, the life of an actor slash director slash stand up slash blogger slash girl looking for a boyfriend. Did I miss anything?
DEB: No. And I may complain but I’m enjoying every bit of it. Like to find more sleep time, but…
BENNY: I need your advice.
DEB: Why? You never take it?
BENNY: I listen to it.
BENNY: I have three days to decide if I’m coming back to teach next year.
DEB: Stay. Why wouldn’t you? You love the country, the cuisine, your students—
BENNY: There’s lots of other reasons. Well, maybe only a couple, but conundrums they are.
DEB: What’s your friend, the universe, saying about all this?
BENNY: I’ve put it out to her.
DEB: She’s not returning your calls?
BENNY: Go ahead and laugh but if you’d just open your mind a little…
DEB: I am open-minded.
BENNY: Yeah, well, not about everything.
DEB: You’re right. No threesome with my sister.
BENNY: Now, there’s an open-minded—
DEB: Slut. Listen, if the universe works for you.
BENNY: Let’s talk about my problem, okay? Hey, where’re you going?
DEB: I gotta pee.
BENNY: Take your laptop.
BENNY: C’mon, for old time’s sake.
DEB: You forgot what it looks like?
BENNY: Hell no. Well, maybe the image is getting a little fuzzy. You know, my memory ain’t what it used to be.
DEB: (from off-stage) Use your imagination.
BENNY: (Louder) Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, know what I mean? You used to be more compassionate. You know how long it’s been since—
(The sound of a toilet FLUSHING. DEB enters and sits)
DEB: You lost your viewing rights when we split.
BENNY: Just wanted a little peek.
(DEB unbuttons two buttons of her blouse)
BENNY: That’s all I get? A little cleavage?
DEB: Take it or leave it.
BENNY: I’ll take it, I’ll take it. But, can you hold your computer above your head, looking down, like this? Give me a little better angle?
DEB: No. Pig.
BENNY: So, anyway, do you remember St. Louie Lucy?
DEB: Vaguely, although why you thought I’d be interested in hearing about all your –exes…
BENNY: She’s the one I really, really liked but never pulled the trigger on because I’m an idiot.
DEB: Duly noted.
BENNY: So, I found her on the Net. After twenty years. Can you believe it? We’ve Skyped a ton of times and she’s more beautiful than I remembered and it’s like everything I want it to be.
(BENNY waits for a response. None arrives)
We’re both available and we agree on all the important things, except one. Unless I move back to the states…
BENNY: She’s set in her law career, even though there’s a teacher here that gave up his practice to—it doesn’t matter. She’s forty and just made partner. My situation is a bit more fluid, although as my students are fond of saying, “Every coin has two sides.” I really like living here, the food is great, the people are friendly, I’ve traveled to five countries in three years and I’m doing three weeks in Europe this summer. Someone told me teaching is my part-time job.
DEB: And America’s not an option because…
BENNY: You got all day? (Beat) Ok, yes, I could go back and teach English to immigrants, but if I’m going to get Guatemalans to say ‘My name is Pedro,’ I want to do it in Guatemala, not Queens. And how long would anyone be my friend if every time they saw me I bitched about not living overseas?
DEB: Not long. (beat) Think back to when we were together.
BENNY: I never should have left you.
DEB: You had to leave. Or I would’ve. We both thought we could morph into someone we weren’t.
BENNY: I didn’t try and change you.
DEB: Do you really listen to me? Your life is all about change, adventure.
BENNY: You know my track record with relationships. It sucks.
DEB: It’s not about—arrgghh!! Okay, another example. My first time around doing stand-up I was opening for the biggest R&B acts in the biz. I was playing Vegas.
BENNY: Was what? You’re breaking up. Can you hear me?
DEB: Yes. Should I call you back?
BENNY: No, you’re back. So, you were playing with yourself—
DEB: I said I was playing Vegas.
BENNY: Let’s go with playing with yourself, cuz you know it’s been a while since I’ve had a woman.
DEB: You’re a sick man, Benny. I was playing Vegas and making very good money. I was happy as hell, but not content. I kept nagging my manager, where’s my three-picture deal; where’s my sitcom? All that discontent started eroding my happiness. I gave it all up. I was heading for my 19th nervous breakdown.
BENNY: So, it’s all about contentment?
DEB: It’s about maximizing both. (Pause) Oh, oh, you’ve got that deep thinker look.
BENNY: Doing a quick inventory. (short pause) Searching for my discontent.
DEB: Maybe you don’t have any.
BENNY: I can hear you.
DEB: Personally, I have very little of it.
(BENNY enters with another beer)
BENNY: Wouldn’t it be great if we could just delete our discontent and anything else we didn’t like about ourselves? You know, like on a computer?
DEB: Is that another beer?
BENNY: My second.
DEB: How many empties on the floor? You always liked to keep track.
BENNY: None. One. So, the way I see it, nobody is absolutely content. Not even animals. Birds always want a bigger worm. Squirrels want bigger nuts.
(DEB laughs loudly)
To eat, I mean. You know what I’m saying.
DEB: I know. And all I’m saying is that life’s a balancing act. Increase the happiness by decreasing the discontent to find a livable balance.
BENNY: For a creative type, Deb, you’re pretty damn logical.
DEB: We can’t all live on our feelings, Benny.
BENNY: I think things through.
DEB: Name the last time.
(BENNY lights a cigarette)
BENNY: I’m lonely. I need physical contact. Not sex, necessarily, although that would be nice. You know it’s been so long.
DEB: So, find somebody. You never had a problem over here.
BENNY: Maybe, but it’s a little different in this culture. First, there are my students. Beautiful, sexy, intelligent and fun…Do you think twenty-five years is too big a gap? Then there are the recent graduates working in the city. Beautiful, sexy, intelligent and fun. Do you think twenty years is too big a gap? Divorcees. Not as beautiful or sexy because they’re older and have had children, but still attractive. The problem is finding them. They work and go home to the kid. Foreigners are teachers, mostly. My choices are limited as they’re mostly white chicks, but a few are from the Pacific Rim. I’d have to go to the ex-pat bars to find them though and I did that for decades. Look for chicks in bars in the states. No thanks. And many of them are also under thirty. So, you see, I’m not exactly in an enviable position.
DEB: But, you don’t look your age.
BENNY: Babe, it doesn’t matter if I look twenty, the fact is I’m old and most of these women eventually want to get married and have a baby. Do I? I don’t know. There’s this one student. I’m afraid I’m falling in love, silly as it sounds. She’s twenty but only a freshman, so I’d have to stay here another three years. I haven’t even kissed her, but I can’t remember the last time a woman made me feel so content. So, there’s your word. My contentment lies with a twenty year-old.
DEB: How much do you still like Lucy?
BENNY: Maybe a lot.
BENNY: She smokes.
DEB: Oh, please.
BENNY: Yeah, but I’m a once a week social smoker. She’s a perennial all-star hall-of-famer. She’s the bloody Michael Jordan of smokers.
DEB: So, wait. The universe will provide, right?
BENNY: It always has.
DEB: Listen, I gotta run. I have an audition this morning. Off-Broadway with a decent contract.
BENNY: Good luck. And thanks for listening. Love you.
DEB: Love you, too.
BENNY: Come visit me.
DEB: You got the money?
BENNY: Wanna hear my new theme song?
DEB: I really gotta go, Benny.
BENNY: It’s short.
DEB: Let’s hear it.
(BENNY PLAYS “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” as he drinks his beer. Lights fade to black)
You can request the Spanish translation by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.