The Stint: The Conclusion

ACT III, Scene 3



Scene opens and it’s morning. Light raises

slowly outside the window. It is snowing.

Then lights raise on stage. Gemma’s bed is

empty. Gemma comes out of the bathroom in

the clothes she was admitted in (long dress,

jean jacket, slip on tennis shoes). She is

packing when her phone rings.



JOHN: Calling.


GEMMA:

Hi babe! I’m coming home today!


JOHN (off):

I know! I’m so excited. How did you sleep?


GEMMA:

I’m awake and dressed at 5am, so not great. They weren’t kidding about how much this

stent hurts. It burns when I pee. It also burns when I don’t pee.


JOHN (off):

So just constant burning?


GEMMA:

Yep. So that’s a fun addition to this nightmare. How did you sleep?


JOHN (off):

Good, good. Just worried about you.


GEMMA:

I know. But I worry about you, too.


JOHN (off):

I checked on your flights again this morning. The weather is showing that the snow has slacked off and the storm won’t be what they had predicted.


GEMMA:

Well, there’s a bit of good news.


JOHN (off):

Yeah, I’m really clinging to it.


GEMMA:

[Laughs] Well, for the first time in four days I’m actually alone.


JOHN (off):

Oh? Where’s your roommate?


GEMMA:

She left late last night.


JOHN (off):

Well there’s even more good news!


GEMMA:

Meh, she wasn’t so bad. And at least it was another warm body in the room. So, how are my angel babies this morning?


JOHN (off):

Still sleeping, of course.


GEMMA:

Oh. Right. Of course. Well, how were they last night? Tell me funny things they said. Or what they ate for dinner. Or how muddy Hannah got on the playground. Or if Millie is still wearing those awful cat earrings.


JOHN (off):

[Clears throat] Yeah. They are good. All is fine. I mean, Hannah didn’t get too muddy. Not sure about the cat earrings. I’ll check. But all is good. They are good. Everything is good.


GEMMA:

John?


JOHN (off):

Look, Millie’s fever turned out to be the flu.


GEMMA:

WHAT?!


JOHN (off):

It’s not a big deal. She’s okay. She’s home with me now.


GEMMA:

So you’re not going into the office? Wait, is Hannah sick?


JOHN (off):

[Clears throat]


GEMMA:

Goddammit John, do both girls have the flu?


JOHN (off):

Technically, yes.


GEMMA:

So you just didn’t think to tell me that?


JOHN (off):

What could you do? You were in surgery!


GEMMA:

I’m their mother! I’m supposed to take care of them. I need to know this stuff, John. [starts pacing, but with a slight hunch and limp] I just can’t believe you are doing this to me again. You always keep this kind of stuff from me.


JOHN (off):

Gemma. This isn’t a big deal. I’ve got your mother coming in to help me.


GEMMA:

You told Mom? You told my mother that MY kids are sick and didn’t think to tell me?


JOHN (off):

Please don’t be mad. There was nothing you could do and I needed you to focus on the surgery and on yourself.


GEMMA:

On myself? You want me to focus on me? As if I don’t feel enough like a selfish asshole and now I find out BOTH of my kids are sick.


JOHN (off):

Gemma, they’ve had the flu shot, so it’s the mildest case of the flu you’ve ever seen. Millie was doing cartwheels outside last night before bed. She just can’t go back to school until we get the fever down for 24 hours.


GEMMA:

And Hannah?


JOHN (off):

You know Hannah. She was milking it by lying on the couch watching Sofia the First.


There is silence for a moment.


JOHN (off):

Please don’t be mad at me. I was just trying to keep your worries to a minimum.


Silence.


JOHN (off):

Gemma, don’t shut me out. Talk to me.


GEMMA:

Yeah, yeah. Okay. I get it. But you do this all the time.


JOHN (off):

Do what?


GEMMA:

Decide what’s best for me. You do this all the time. Hold back information you think will upset me. YOU are the one who shuts ME out.


JOHN (off):

It’s not shutting you out! It’s protecting you.


GEMMA:

From what? Knowledge? Awareness that my own children, who I created and birthed, are

sick? And their own mother can’t get herself home to take care of them? How is THAT protecting me?


JOHN (off):

Okay, wrong choice of words. I mean...What I meant was...I’m just trying to make your life easier.


GEMMA:

Easier? [snorts] Yep. Ignorance is bliss.


JOHN (off):

Gemma, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. But you were also in surgery, for Christ’s sake! I’m doing the best I can.


GEMMA:

Yeah, well do better.


Silence.


GEMMA:

Sorry. I didn’t mean that.


JOHN (off):

Look, you’re tired. It’s so early. You’ve been through hell. We need to get you home and then we can talk this all out.


GEMMA:

Great.


JOHN (off):

Okay, what is it? What’s going on?


GEMMA:

I don’t know. I guess I’m just cranky. I’ve had about 70 calories in the last four days,

I’m pumped full of IV fluids, and this stent is almost as painful as the stone itself.


JOHN (off):

It’s been a lot. We can talk it all through when you get home.


GEMMA:

Yeah.


JOHN (off):

What?


GEMMA:

It’s just, I dunno. I think I’ve had too much time to sit and think. You can get a lot of thinking done when you aren’t using time to eat, or work, or pee regularly.


JOHN (off):

And what? You think you’re not happy at home?


GEMMA:

God, no. Dammit John. Why would you go there? That’s not what I’m saying at all. It’s just, I dunno, our life is....


JOHN (off):

Chaotic as fuck?


GEMMA:

[Laughs] Yep. That’s pretty much the conclusion I came to.


JOHN (off):

Of course it is! We are both in high pressure jobs, we have young kids, and you know, Netflix is producing more content than we can keep up with.


GEMMA:

[Laughs] Yep.


JOHN (off):

But what else? What else were you thinking?


GEMMA:

I dunno. [pauses] I’m grateful for our life. For our marriage, for our kids, our jobs. I love it all.


JOHN (off):

But?


GEMMA:

But [pauses] I don’t know. It’s like it’s hard to hold everything in my hands or something.


JOHN (off):

Meaning?


GEMMA:

There’s just so much to keep track of. So many tiny little details and the second, I mean the second, we get a handle on it, I’m in the hospital thousands of miles away and you’re home with two sick kids.


JOHN (off):

I know. I know.


GEMMA:

And in the same moment I feel completely responsible to handle it all, I feel completely irrelevant.


JOHN (off):

Irrelevant? How do you possibly feel irrelevant?


GEMMA:

I’ve been in the hospital for four days and everything moved on without me. My classes are handled, faculty meetings still happen, my kids’ are fine, I mean, well, I know they have the flu, but now you know how to braid hair, so what is my purpose? [still slowly and painfully pacing] On the one hand I feel so fucking selfish for even doing this Columbia thing. And look, my selfishness lead to more selfishness. I went after something extra, something that would really only benefit me, and then wound up here, where it’s more and more about me, while my kids are at home sick.


JOHN (off):

We made the decision for you to go to Columbia together. And it was the right call. We couldn’t have predicted this. This isn’t selfishness, this is just bad luck.


GEMMA:

Maybe. Or maybe it’s punishment for not being more, I dunno, more of a martyr for our family.


JOHN (off):

Gemma, the more you invest in yourself, the more the girls will know the importance of investing in themselves. You do not need to do everything for this family.


GEMMA:

But that’s what you do!


JOHN (off):

I have my selfish tendencies.


GEMMA:

Name one.


JOHN (off):

[Sighs, pauses] Okay, fine. You know how I love taking the girls to school every morning?


GEMMA:

Yeah, I’m aware. Which is why the few times I ever do drop off the teacher makes a big fucking deal about it.


JOHN (off):

I know, I know. I’m sorry she does that. But I truly love taking the girls to school. And not just because I love getting them settled into the classroom and all the hugs and kisses during the goodbye. But the real reason I love drop off is because once I say goodbye, I get seven glorious minutes all alone as I walk back to the car.


GEMMA:

That makes no sense. You’d have that much time by yourself if you didn’t take them.


JOHN (off):

Not the same.


GEMMA:

How?

JOHN (off):

If I just leave the house and am alone on my drive to the office, I’m thinking about work, I’m caught up in the grind of thoughts, I’m tensing up in preparation. But if I’ve dropped off the girls, I’ve got this, I dunno, [pauses] relief. Relieved they are safe, and happy, and where they are supposed to be. So my mind is full of pride at what I just accomplished, not anxiety about all I need to accomplish. So while I love dropping the girls off because it’s just a sweet experience, I love it more because it allows me to feel relief, rather than dread.


GEMMA:

Damn.

JOHN (off):

I know.


GEMMA:

I mean, saying that’s selfish is a bit of a stretch.


JOHN (off):

The point is just that it’s okay that we sometimes need to feel like individuals. That we have selfish tendencies. That we feel the need to be alone with calm feelings. And that we will do whatever it takes to get it. And that responsibility and freedom are intertwined. You had to take on a big, challenging adventure, and fly several states away just to get a little

freedom. I have to drop our kids off, make sure their backpacks are zipped and hung up in their lockers, and pay for their lunches before I can get seven minutes of feeling the freest I’ll feel all day.


GEMMA:

[Pauses] That may be the most depressing and most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me.


JOHN (off):

I’m as selfish as they come, babe.


GEMMA:

So watching YouTube videos to learn how to braid the girls hair was....?


JOHN (off):

The act of a selfish prick.


GEMMA:

Uh-huh, uh-huh.


JOHN (off):

Look, we are all selfish in our own ways, Gemma. But you are a wonderful mother. And none of us are fine without you. We are only handling your absence well as a way to show support. And as far as your job, just be glad you have colleagues who respect you enough to step up and help.


GEMMA:

[Pauses]. I know. God, I’m a spoiled brat.


JOHN (off):

Stop it. Gem, you’re fantastic.


GEMMA:

You’re fantastic.


JOHN (off):

So’s your mom.


GEMMA:

[Laughs] Okay. But the thing is, I still feel like we need to change some things.


JOHN (off):

Okay. Tell me what needs changing.


GEMMA:

Well, that right there.


JOHN (off):

What?


GEMMA:

I don’t want to be isolated.


JOHN (off):

How is that isolating you?


GEMMA:

Because, we are partners. I want you to see the chaos, not just hear me tell you that there is chaos.


JOHN (off):

Okay, point taken.


GEMMA:

I dunno. I wish there was more us. More time to sit and be together in person. Our life tends to play out through text messages. Or reminder notes on the kitchen counter. Or quick phone calls to try and schedule the kids’ activities. Or me, cracking under stress and you coming to my rescue.


JOHN (off):

Okay, so where does that put us on all the pampering you want when you get home?


GEMMA:

Oh, that still stands.


JOHN (off):

So then will you pamper me back?


GEMMA:

No, no. I think you’re missing my point.


JOHN (off):

Or am I understanding it too well?


GEMMA:

[Laughs] Okay, okay. This is too early in the morning and I’m too high on drugs to talk about such deep topics.


JOHN (off):

Gemma, I hear you. This has been a lot. It’s been a hard year.


GEMMA:

It’s March.


JOHN (off):

Exactly.


GEMMA:

Okay, well, I’m dressed and ready. Just waiting on the doctor. Then I’ll be on my way out the door. Then to CVS. Then to Newark. Then home to you.


JOHN (off):

Have they given you breakfast?


GEMMA:

Of course not. I’m not even sure this hospital has a cafeteria.


JOHN (off):

That’s a strong working theory.


GEMMA:

Tell the girls I love them and I will be home very soon to take care of them.


JOHN (off):

I will. I hope you know how loved you are.


GEMMA:

Say it with pampering.


JOHN (off):

Roger that.


GEMMA:

Sorry I'm so cranky today.


JOHN (off):

You're just cranky because of the stent. And the lack of food. And your roommate. And the nurse who seems like she might smuggle you in your sleep.


GEMMA:

Well, many things make me cranky. But not being with you is solidly in the top five.


JOHN (off):

Come home to me.


GEMMA:

I’m trying!


JOHN (off):

Try harder.


GEMMA:

Love you.



Gemma sits on the side of her bed holding

her phone and looking out the window at the

snow. The lights dim.



ACT III, Scene 4


The light raise on Gemma looking out the window in her hospital room.

Her bed is made and bag is packed, sitting on top of the bed.

There is a knock at the door. Dr. Singh,

enters.


DR. SINGH:

Wow.


GEMMA:

What?


DR. SINGH:

Most patients wait until after they talk to the doctor and fill out their discharge papers to get out of bed and dressed.


GEMMA:

I’m not most people.


DR. SINGH:

Which has been really fun for us all.



The doctor walks to sit in a chair by

Gemma’s bed and motions for Gemma to take a

seat on the hospital bed.



DR. SINGH:

Dr. Fulkerson sent me with his surgical notes. I was in the operating room, as you know, but he performed the surgery. He also wanted me to make sure and send you his regards.


GEMMA:

His regards? The man was inside me and he sends his regards?


DR. SINGH:

We surgeons have a reputation, I realize.


GEMMA:

I actually really appreciate all that was done to accommodate me. Truly.


DR. SINGH:

Don’t mention it. I know this has been rough. You’re away from your family, you’re not from here, you’re in lots of pain, and now, even after surgery, you’re in more pain.


GEMMA:

Yeah, wow. Now my gratitude is starting to wane a little...


DR. SINGH:

But, the good news is, the surgery was successful. And we’ve sent a referral to [looks at paperwork] Tulsa. So you should get a call in a few days and get your next surgery scheduled within the next two weeks.


GEMMA:

God. I just don’t know if I have the energy for this.


DR. SINGH:

For taking care of yourself? Tell me about it. I gave up shaving above the knee about ten years ago.


GEMMA:

You were shaving above the knee?


DR. SINGH:

I know, right?


GEMMA:

So, are kidney stones just a thing that happens without warning? I mean, I drink so much water.


DR. SINGH:

Yeah, it's not always an issue of dehydration. It can also be about your body’s makeup or your diet. In your case, it was both.


GEMMA:

What does that mean?


DR. SINGH:

When Dr. Fulkerson was placing the stent, we realized that your ureter—which is the tube that connects your kidney to your bladder, has a kink in it. So, imagine bending a straw and trying to get water through it.


GEMMA:

What would have caused the kink?


DR. SINGH:

We actually checked both ureters to see if the kink was genetic, but it was just on the left side. [Refers to notes] And given the trauma you experienced in your youth with the car accident, and your left hip, and the eventual hip replacement, the theory is that your ureter actually got mangled up in that whole mess of things.


GEMMA:

But that was nearly twenty-five years ago. How is it just now a problem?


DR. SINGH:

Well, the kink isn’t bad on its own. For two decades you were able to function just fine

with the kink. If all you’re running through a bent straw is clear water, no problem. But

try to run a milkshake through a bent straw and stuff slows down.


GEMMA:

I think this metaphor might be breaking down for me. What’s the milkshake in this image? Is my urine thick?


DR. SINGH:

[Laughs] No, no. I’m just saying this is where diet comes into play. Sediments can build up and stones form. With a kink, sediments have a place to build up quickly.


GEMMA:

So what in my diet caused the problem?


DR. SINGH:

Well, this is kind of funny...


GEMMA:

I highly doubt it.


DR. SINGH:

See, kidney stones form when there’s an excess build up of calcium.


GEMMA:

But I don’t even eat that much dairy.


DR. SINGH:

No, but to prepare for your trip out here you were cramming down vitamin C tablets to keep from getting sick.


GEMMA:

Yeah?


DR. SINGH:

High levels of vitamin C cause calcium to build up, which can lead to kidney stones. Given the fact that you were cramming such a high dose of vitamin C in such a short amount of time, coupled with the kink you didn’t know you had, well, Gemma, your attempt to keep yourself well made you very, very sick.



Gemma stares at the Doctor for a few

moments.



GEMMA:

I’m sorry, how is that funny?


DR. SINGH:

[Clears throat] Oh, right. Well, maybe it’s just funny to us. Irony of this profession, I guess. So much of our work comes down to something people either couldn’t control, or caused while trying to prevent something else. It just makes medicine a twisted game.


GEMMA:

Yeah. I mean, I guess that’s kind of funny.


DR. SINGH:

You’ll see the humor in all this one day.


GEMMA:

I’m guessing it will be after this stent comes out.


DR. SINGH:

Oh, yeah. Those really are the worst.


GEMMA:

Am I just here to amuse you?


DR. SINGH:

No, no. Of course not. It’s just, well, Gemma this was a nightmare for you I’m sure. In medical school we learn about levels of pain and it’s pretty standard knowledge that

kidney stones outrank childbirth and, I dunno, decapitation.


GEMMA:

You’re damn right they do.


DR. SINGH:

And for you, this has been a huge event. A huge inconvenience. A huge scare. But for us, we look at the smallest evidence, the tiniest abnormality, the slightest increase or decrease in levels. For the patient, everything is enormity. For the doctor, everything is minuteness. So sometimes it’s just funny to think about the broader implications of our diagnosis.


GEMMA:

And in this case that is...?


DR. SINGH:

That everything is a connected system and trying to alter anything within that system will cause another part of the system to alter, too. Had you not had the kink from a wreck decades ago, you probably would have been fine with all that vitamin C you were taking to prepare for this trip. When your past caught up with your future, there was a collision in your here and now.



A beat of silence.


GEMMA:

What are you? A doctor of philosophy?


DR. SINGH:

[Stands] Point is, Gemma, you’re fine. The stent will straighten out the kink and you should probably just lay off the vitamin C. You’re officially free to go. Take these papers for your records and the nurse will be in soon with a wheelchair to get you to the lobby. Safe travels.



Doctor exits and Gemma picks up her bag as a

nurse enters with a wheelchair.


NURSE 4:

Well, well, well. Your day has finally come.


GEMMA:


Man I am not going to miss you.


NURSE 4:

The feeling is mutual. But I’m glad to hear your surgery went well. Heard you pulled Fulkerson off the golf course.


GEMMA:

Apparently that’s been more impressive than the size of my kidney stone.


NURSE 4:

You’ve really been the talk of this place, Oklahoma.


GEMMA:

It’s always good to leave a legacy.



The nurse wheels Gemma out of the room.

Lights dim and rise on the front doors of

the hospital. Gemma is standing center stage

(outside the hospital) texting.



GEMMA: Alright

babe, I busted

out of this joint

and the Uber is

on its way!



JOHN: Wahoo!

We’re over the

hump. Now just

get your meds

and get home

to me!



GEMMA: You got

it. I’m officially

on my way.

Finally!


There is a moment of silence and the screen

is dark. It illuminates one last time:


SOUTHWEST AIRLINES:

Your flight has been cancelled.


Gemma looks out at the audience.

The lights cut out abruptly.



THE END




Act 1; Scene 1

Act 1; Scene 2 & 3

Act 1; Scenes 4, 5 & 6

Act 2; Scenes 1, 2 & 3

Act 2; Scenes 4 and 5

Act 3: Scenes 1 & 2



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