ACT II Scene 1
Scene opens with both Gemma and Roommate sitting up in their
beds, a curtain between them. A TV is blaring the Cohen hearing
and slowly fades out. There is snow outside the window.
[On the phone]...and I’m still waiting on the doctor, but I’m convinced it’s something to
do with my brain. [pause] I dunno. Tumor, stroke, something. I can’t even explain it, it’s like I lost my words today. And I’m a civil litigation lawyer! Words are my livelihood! This is my third hospital stint in two weeks. But I am going to get to the bottom of this. [pause] I will, I will. But listen, the reason I called is because I need you to feed Archie. [pause] The cat.
Half wet, half dry. Pet him while you do or he will eat too fast. [pause]. Dead serious. Call me when he’s done eating.
GEMMA: I’m in my room...
but I have a roommate...
I’m not sure how much
I can talk.
JOHN: Who cares
about a roommate?
Hey babe...how’s the pain level?
[Whispering] Okay. A nurse gave me some of the good stuff a few hours ago. And it’s all just kind of hitting me.
It’s been a lot.
[Whispering] I still can’t even believe this happened. I mean, I’m not trying to be dramatic. But I just keep thinking about my suitcase.
[Whispering] I had just packed really well. Had everything for a week packed perfectly in your tiny little Samsonite.
Tiny? That’s a standard carry on.
[Whispering] Well, whatever. For me to not check a bag for a week long stint in New
York was downright heroic. I read so much online about how to pack efficiently. I had
my underwear rolled up in my shoes and my shirts folded inside dresses. It was
I know. I saw it. But why are you thinking about that?
[Whispering] Because I had just really prepared. Everything from packing well, to cramming vitamin C, to studying so hard for my exams, which are at 9 am tomorrow.
You’re not making those, you know.
[Whispering] Yeah, I got that.
I’m just trying to be funny.
[Whispering] I know. It’s just my whole thing is being able to plan and execute goals.
That’s your WHOLE thing?
[Whispering] Pretty much. My day-to-day is just a series of plans being carried out. Planning a class to teach, planning the lunches for the girls, planning our family vacation—should we ever take one.
You’re more than your plans, Gemma.
[Whispering] I’d like to think so. But this week’s plan is in the shitter.
You can’t help what’s happening.
[Whispering] I know, I know. It’s just, I feel so helpless. [pauses] This isn’t a good color on me. [pauses and turns up volume on the TV] Did you watch the Cohen hearing? I was able to watch the whole damn thing between telling medical professionals about my periods.
Yeah, I caught a highlight reel in the break room during lunch. Pundits are saying it’s not going to do much.
Can I not catch a break today? [sighs] So, tell me about the girls.
Oh! I should have told you! Hannah lost her tooth!
[Pauses, holds her breath a beat, whispers] Dammit. I really didn’t want that to happen while I was gone. [pauses] Tell me about it.
It was adorable. Truly adorable. She was so damn proud. It fell out in class and landed
in the carpet. The whole class looked for it, but they couldn’t find it.
[Whispering] Wait. We don’t have the tooth?
We don’t have the tooth! [laughing]
[Whispering] Was Hannah upset?
Not at all. She was so excited the whole class looked for her tooth, I don’t think she even cared that they didn’t actually find it.
[Laughing, whispering] God that makes me happy. I mean, devastated and happy.
Alright, you need rest. Call me first thing in the morning. I want to know the surgery
time. They expect before lunch, right?
[Whispering] Yep. Should be first thing. Kiss the girls. [pauses] I love you.
Love you. We all do.
Both women get ready for bed. Hair brushing,
fluffing pillows, taking turns in the
bathroom, and then roll over, and the lights
ACT II Scene 2
Lights raise on the two women. Gemma is
waking up upon hearing a group of (10)
doctors enter the room.
It’s about time! Look, I need answers. Yesterday I came in here because I was feeling numbness on my left side and I couldn’t form words. I mean, I could form
words, but not the specific ones I wanted, you know? It was like I was a thesaurus
stuck in default mode. No variety! And look, I’m a civil litigation lawyer. So I need to
be able to form words. All the words. Any words. I can’t just go about my day feeling
numb and lacking a good array of words. Words are my life!
Yes, we understand the concern, we’ve read your file. Plus...you know...we were here
yesterday. So what we are going to do is attach a special helmet to your head with
hundreds of sensors and when you start to feel the symptoms, you will write them down
in this journal [holds up journal, then lays it down on the rolling tray in front of
Doctors apply a helmet to the patient that
has dozens of wires coming out of it that
are connected to a massive machine behind
the bed. Beeping, lights, and various
adjustments are made.
So you’re thinking stroke then?
Not necessarily. We aren’t sure if this is neurological, spinal, gastrointestinal. Your
symptoms don’t point us to a specific diagnosis, so we are going to start with
neurological and go from there.
You know, I had chicken pox super late in life.
[Pauses before responding] Okay, so wear the helmet and write down your symptoms at what
time you feel them. We will check you again in 24 hours and see what we know.
Doctors file out. Gemma and Roommate are
alone in the room. There are a few moments
of silence. Adjusting on the bed. Flipping
through magazines. Fidgeting.
JOHN: Good morning
and happy Thursday!
I’ve got the girls up
and dressed. Are you
GEMMA: Yes, my
woke me up. Fitful night
sleep. I miss the girls
JOHN: We miss you!
Let me get them to
school and I’ll call
you after. My first
meeting isn’t until 9.
[On the phone] Brenda, it’s me. Have I got a story for you. I’m in the hospital. [pauses]
Yeah, again, but different one this time. I’m in Westchester Medical. Hopefully one of
the quacks can finally figure out what’s going on with me. [pauses] Yep. Same symptoms. Leg went numb and I lost my words. And you know as a civil litigation lawyer I have to have my words!
GEMMA: Good news.
I just figured out
the name of the
JOHN: You didn’t
know the name
of the hospital?
GEMMA: Nope. And it’s
not printed anywhere.
Not on the walls,
or pens or anything.
JOHN: It’s not a bank.
Nurse enters the room and crosses
to Gemma’s side. Nurse adjusts machines,
pillows and medicine while she talks to
Good morning, Gemma. How’s your pain level?
We are going to give you some more of the good meds. You made it all night, so you’re fine to have more.
NYT BREAKING NEWS:
to Cohen hearings
“95% lies. Fake hearing.
Okay. Is there an update on the surgery time?
Nope. And you can’t eat anything until the surgery. But they are hoping for it to be this afternoon.
MOM: Hello!! We’ve
been keeping up with
you through John but I
need to hear from you!!!!
How are you????
Are you in pain????
Yesterday they said it would be before noon.
Did they? Mmm... Well, can I get you anything while you wait?
reacted to your
Just some water, thanks.
ALLISON: Hey, sorry
to bother you, but I
need the agenda for
the faculty meeting.
Does Cindy have it?
Also, did you finish
up season 2
Can’t. Not before surgery.
You said nothing to eat...
Eat OR drink.
It’s just water.
But like, you understand there’s already water in me, right? I’m not asking for coffee or a beer. I’m asking for a cup of something I’m made mostly of. A glass of something I regularly produce.
Okay, ice chips?
Absolutely not. We don’t want you throwing up during surgery.
Throwing up ice?
Exactly. Just lie here and be patient. Surgery will be right before dinner.
Ba-ba-ba! I’m leaving. Ring the nurses station if you need anything.
Nurse turns on her heel and leaves. Lights
dim. When they raise, Roommate is reading a
magazine with her helmet on in bed. Gemma is
pacing by the window pushing her IV cart
around. They dim again. When they raise
Gemma is sitting in the guest chair beside
her bed and Roommate is watching TV. Lights
dim. When they raise, both women are sitting
up in bed staring out at the audience.
Lights dim. When they raise again there is a
knock at the door. A nurse comes in with a
tray of food that is billowing with steam.
Knock, knock! I’ve got lunch! [sits steaming tray down on Roommate’s rolling tray]
Gemma throws up hands in frustration.
Roommate begins to eat. Lights dim.
ACT II Scene 3
ALLISON: This is unlike
you not to respond.
Hey! I was starting to worry.
Well, actually, I’m in the hospital.
Ok, Gemma. I get that you’re busy...
Not kidding. I was at my thing in Columbia and had a sudden attack and passed out in
class and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. It’s kidney stones and I’m having surgery tomorrow.
Holy shit! I don’t even know what to say. I’m so sorry! Oh my god, I was texting you
about the faculty meeting nonstop. I’m so sorry, I’m just trying to get ready for the vote.
Not a deal. I just called to tell you where the file is. It’s on the R drive. There’s a folder marked AGENDAS and it’s named by the date of the meeting. It’s ready to go. I think Cindy already printed them but if you want to make changes go ahead.
But, you won’t be there. Right?
Well, I’m currently wearing nothing but socks and a hospital gown. [pauses] And I’m 3,000 miles away.
Right, right, right. Okay, so what can I do to help you?
I need you to find someone to cover my classes next week. When we hang up, I’ll
forward you the syllabus. I’m okay if not much gets done, but maybe Browning can take Thursday afternoon and do his usual lecture on governance? And then see if Todd would take Friday and run the policy simulation?
Yes, I’ll tell them. And if they can’t, I’ll cover it.
I can’t ask you to do that. You’re swamped as it is.
Don’t give class another thought. We will take care of everything.
Tell the guys I’ll handle the next student orientation alone if they step up.
Bullshit. This isn’t asking for a favor while you go get drunk in Mexico. You’re in the fucking hospital! They will step up with no incentive other than to not be total dicks.
[Laughs] Okay, okay. Final thing, I had said I’d give a talk at Rotary about my findings on the city ordinance data. Can you find a student to cover it?
Totally. I’ll tap one of your grad assistants. That one with the beard. What’s his name?
Ethan. It’s Monday at noon at the downtown Methodist church. He’s been working with me
on the presentation so he should be somewhat prepared, but he might also freak out. So
can you coach him through it?
Yep, yep, yep not a problem. I’ve written everything down. Consider it done.
I’m so sorry you’re having to help me so much. And I had worked so hard to get everything tied up in a neat little bow before I left.
Fuck your bows.
Yeah. [pauses] Fuck my bows.
I’m hanging up. We’ve got you covered. Just rest and heal and crap out that stone you're packing.
I need to hear
Gemma! Oh my god, I’ve been so worried! I’ve talked to John about a thousand times in two
days. He’s brought me up to speed but I just needed to hear your voice and know for
myself. I just can’t imagine what you’re going through. I mean you passed out in
class? Have you talked to the doctors? Do they know what caused the stone? How many
are there? You know your dad had kidney stones when you were just a baby. We were
getting ready to go swimming and I already had you loaded in the car—I mean, there
wasn’t much in the way of car seats then—and we were all ready to go to the public pool
and your dad was taking forever. I honked and honked the horn and finally went back
into the house to find him passed out in our bedroom with his swim trunks around his
ankles. Pain was that bad! So needless to say, we know—we UNDERSTAND—how much pain you are in. So tell me, what does the doctor say? What do we know? Your dad wants to know
the chance of you passing this on your own. He never could pass his on his own—not that
that means anything of course, but just tell me, what are the doctors saying?
Oh you sound like hell! Absolute hell! What have they done to you?!
I’m in a lot of pain, on a ton of drugs, and very hungry.
They aren’t feeding you!? Baby! You have to eat! Are they giving you warm blankets? They have those warmers so you can just ask for as many of those as you need. Do you have a
morphine drip? Those are quite lovely. If you don’t have one, ask for one. And ask for
those warm blankets. I’m telling you, they will help.
I will. Look, John’s being his typical self and not acting like anything is hard or a
burden, but I need you to make a few meals and take them over to him. I don’t want him just going through drive-thrus out of ease and desperation.
Oh I absolutely will! I’ve already taken him two lasagnas and a big Tupperware bowl full
Oh, okay. Then he’s probably set—
Ba-ba-ba-say no more! I’ll make some muffins and a cobbler and take it over there
tonight. And don’t you worry about the girls. They are just wonderful! Hannah looks
adorable without her little front tooth. Did John tell you they couldn’t even find the
tooth!? Oh we all had a good laugh. But they are good. Millie is preparing for the recital and confident as they come. Both are happy as ever.
Yes! John is doing great, really. He even told me he YouTubed how to braid hair and
gave both girls braids yesterday. So you don’t need to worry about a thing. Just sit
back and relax and know that we’ve got the girls all taken care of and they are happy. Barely even notice you’re gone.
Hey Mom, my doctor just walked in. I’ll call you back later.
Text me after and tell me what you know!