“Dying to See You Again”
© A play by Alexandria Haber
© Illustrated by Dennis Stillwell Martin
Cassidy Brown Smith, a young widow
Smith, her husband
Ben Wright, a doctor smitten with Cassidy.
LOCATION: Gogo Lounge, a hip retro bar
TIME: September 2003, Montreal
Cassidy and Ben are on their first date. They have just arrived at the Gogo Lounge. They are seated at a table facing each other in front of a large window.
Ben: Sleep. Sleep is the big one. Every single new parent… what am I
saying new! Not just new, new and old, the old ones are even a little more desperate, I mean they’ve been there before, they know how bad it’s going to get. They don’t expect you to have an answer but they still hope.
Smith appears outside the window, waves at Cassidy and keeps walking.
Cassidy stands up.
Ben stands up but continues talking.
Ben (continuing): There are two schools of thought on why some babies wake up and cry in the night. The first theory is based on a study done a while ago, God, back in the sixties…
Cassidy (very loudly both interrupting and startling Ben): Hey!
Smith disappears. Cassidy drops into her chair. Ben sits down as well.
Ben: Sorry about that. I must have been boring you to death.
Cassidy: No, no it’s not you. It’s just – I’m not sure about this place. I don’t know if I want – I thought we were going to a new place?
Ben: This is a new place. I think. I don’t hit the bars too often, but it is new. Relatively.
Cassidy: But I’ve been here. Lots of times. This is not new.
Ben: It’s not?
Cassidy (looking around, searching for Smith): It seems different though. I thought it was smaller. There was a movie theatre in the back.
Ben (relieved): Oh that place. I remember that place. No, it’s not that place anymore. It’s this new place now. That place closed and they made this place. This one. It’s a different place. It’s the same building but a totally different place. New and improved. With groovy chairs. A kick back to the seventies. If you’d rather go somewhere else we can leave.
Cassidy: No it’s okay.
Ben: Okay? Great!
Small pause. Cassidy is nervously checking around for Smith, who is nowhere to be seen. Ben tries to ignore it and carry on a conversation.
Ben: I’m glad you agreed to come out with me tonight.
Ben: It’s so difficult to meet people these days. I work so many hours. Not that I’m a workaholic or anything. Just have to work. Shortage of doctors, you know. What about you? Do you work too many hours as well?
Cassidy: I don’t work anymore. So no.
Ben: That’s right. You said you’re on a leave of absence.
Smith appears behind Ben’s shoulder. He waves at Cassidy.
Cassidy (attempting to ignore Smith): What hospital do you work at?
Ben: The Children’s.
Smith waves again. Cassidy makes a subtle motion for him to take off. Smith pretends he doesn’t get it. Cassidy tries to wave him off again. Ben is confused and turns to look behind him. He sees no one.
Cassidy: I ‘m just trying to get the waitress’s attention. I’d really love a drink.
Ben (getting up): I’ll get them at the bar. What would you like?
Cassidy/Smith: Just a beer.
She shoots Smith a dirty look. He has sat down in Ben’s chair. He smiles.
Ben: Any beer?
Cassidy/Smith: Anything but Boreal. I hate Boreal.
Ben: Gotcha. One beer coming up.
He heads to the bar. Cassidy stares at Smith.
Cassidy: I knew it was you.
Smith: You knew it was me.
Cassidy: What are you doing here?
Smith: That’s rich.
Cassidy: So I’m on a date. So what. You’re dead. I’m allowed to date.
Smith: Whoa Nelly. No need to rub my face in it. I’m just here to catch a flick. You can imagine my surprise when I saw you here. Standing around. Right as rain. Beautiful as the day. Just like the old days.
Cassidy: It’s not the same place anymore. They don’t have movies here now.
Smith: They do if you’re dead. There’s a whole group of us. (He points and waves at a group of people that only he can see.)
Cassidy: You’re lying! You still can’t lie. Your eyes just dart around in your face like they always did.
Smith: I’m lying. I wanted to see you.
Cassidy: I didn’t want to come in. Ben said we were going to Gogo. I haven’t been down here since. . . I didn’t come here on purpose. If I had known it was the same damn place I never would have agreed to come.
Smith: I know.
Cassidy: I never should have come in.
Smith: You can’t resist my fatal charms.
Cassidy: Listen. He’s nice. He’s very nice.
Cassidy: So leave him alone all right? Don’t get up to your old tricks.
Smith: You actually like this loser?
Smith: He’s nothing like me.
Cassidy: I know and he probably has a lot of flaws, but what he really has going for him is that fact that he’s still alive.
Smith: You just can’t let that go can you?
Ben comes back with drinks.
Ben (handing the beer to Cassidy): One non-Boreal beer.
Smith remains where he is. Ben moves to sit down, but Cassidy grabs his hands and holds onto him until Smith gets up.
Cassidy: Thank you! Thank you so much for the beer.
Smith gets out of Ben’s chair. Ben slides in. Smith stands behind.
Ben: So where were we?
Cassidy: You were telling me about work.
Ben: I was still talking about work? I’ll have to stop that immediately. Let’s talk about you.
Cassidy: Okay. Me. Let’s see. I’m a Pisces. I studied fine arts at school. Always wanted to be a painter. Settled for teaching arts and crafts to kids. Got married. Husband died. Quit my job. Saw nobody, did nothing except lie around on the floor in front of the washing machine, curled up in a little ball, crying for days and days because it was the only place I could think of to go where he had never been. I never actually witnessed him doing the laundry, so I figured I was pretty safe there.
Cassidy: I know. Sounds ridiculous now. All I can say is at the time it made sense.
Ben: It doesn’t sound ridiculous. I’m sorry for your loss.
Smith: God. Who is this guy? I’m sorry for your loss?
Cassidy: Shut up.
Cassidy: Sorry. Did I say that out loud? I was talking to myself. I’m so stupid sometimes.
Ben: I don’t think you’re stupid.
Cassidy: I don’t usually talk about him so much, especially on a first date. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I’m no longer grief-stricken.
Smith: No longer grief-stricken?
Cassidy: It’s just this place – coincidentally enough is where I first met my husband.
Ben: I’m so sorry.
Cassidy: It’s not your fault. Technically it’s not even the same place and anyway I’m sick of avoiding whole sections of the city just because we were once there together. You know how after someone dies, for a while some part of you keeps hoping that it was all a mistake? And sometimes you catch a glimpse of someone from the back or the side and they look just like the person who died. The way they are standing or the colour of their hair or their shirt is the same as one he used to love and your heart does this crazy leap of joy because you’re certain that it’s them, that they aren’t really dead after all. That sort of keeps happening to me. I keep seeing him.
A small pause. Cassidy sighs.
Cassidy: I’m sorry but I don’t think this is going to work out.
Ben: No, wait. I think we’re doing okay. Apart from boring you catatonic in the first few minutes with my inspiring thoughts on crying babies. I don’t care if you talk about him. Honest. I mean I care, but not in a bad way. It doesn’t bug me – what I mean is I understand if you talk about him. He was the other half of your world for a while. How can you not talk about him?
Smith: Whoa. That was pretty smooth. I almost want to date him now.
Cassidy: Do you think that people who have died come back again?
Ben: Like ghosts? To haunt you?
Smith: I prefer visit.
Cassidy: Something like that.
Ben: I don’t know. Nobody ever came back to see me. My mother died when I was a little kid and every night I used to pray to her to come back and see me or at least to give me a sign that she was okay somewhere else, wherever she was.
Cassidy: I know what you mean. I did that too. I would lie in bed and say okay, if you’re really there make the door open or make the picture fall or bring me the bottle of gin I left on the coffee table. Nothing happened for the longest time.
Smith: Okay well. You’ve never been dead have you? It’s a brave new world. All the rules are different. I was doing my best.
Ben: Me too! Well not the bottle of gin. But other stuff like you said, move the picture. The truth is though if anything ever had happened I would have been completely freaked out.
Cassidy: I thought I’d be freaked out but when I finally did see him it didn’t scare me at all. And now I see him everywhere. At the grocery store. Walking down the street. Behind your shoulder.
Ben turns and looks but sees nothing. Cassidy points to the other shoulder. Ben turns to look, Smith waves; Ben sees nothing. He starts to laugh. Cassidy laughs as well.
Cassidy: I see him more now then I did when he was alive.
Smith (laughing as well): I’ve got more free time.
Ben: Listen, everybody has the ghost of an old relationship hovering around.
Cassidy: In fact, I can’t get rid of him.
Ben: Of the feeling, you mean, you can’t get rid of the feeling of him being around, right? I know what you mean. After I broke up with my ex I felt like I’d run into her everywhere. I had to stop going to a lot of places. I’m over her now. It’s been a good healthy six months since we broke up. It takes time to get over somebody.
Cassidy: How long were you together?
Ben: Three years.
Cassidy: Smith and I weren’t even married three years.
Ben: And you first met here?
Cassidy: In the movie theatre at the back. He was sitting with a bunch of friends and clearly they had stumbled into the wrong theatre
Smith: It was suppose to be an art film. We assumed wrongly as it turns out that it would contain very varied sex scenes…
Cassidy: It was an art film!
Ben: I really enjoy films.
Smith: I really enjoy films as well but this was some boring old black and white film with two old ladies sitting beside the sea and knitting.
Cassidy: The significance of the film was obviously lost on them so they proceeded to ruin the experience for everyone around them. They laughed and talked and threw popcorn.
Smith: This is what I’m talking about. What kind of a person refers to watching a movie as an experience?
Cassidy: I really liked the film. It was a very interesting…
Smith: A very interesting pile of pretentious crap is what it was.
Cassidy: Anyhow I’m not going to sit here and debate the many fine merits of the film.
Smith: Good idea. You’d have buddy here running for the door in about five seconds.
Cassidy: Usually I’m not very aggressive in public situations, but they had just made me so mad that as soon as the lights started to come up I walked straight over to them and said, you know some people enjoyed the film and many of them would have enjoyed it even more if you hooligans hadn’t been talking all the way through.
Ben: Good for you.
Cassidy: But Smith, well he just thought it was hysterically funny, my saying anything and especially calling them a bunch of hooligans – well he could barely stop laughing. I really don’t know why I said hooligans. It just popped out of my mouth. It’s something my dad would have said.
Smith: You were so cute all self-righteous and upset and then calling us hooligans like we were in an episode of Happy Days.
Ben: So did he apologize?
Cassidy: No, he asked me out on a date to — get this — discuss the film.
Ben: He didn’t!
Cassidy: He did. So I said, I hardly think we’d have anything to discuss since you didn’t even watch the film, and he said, hey, I’m flexible, if that’s how you feel let’s just get a drink and not discuss the film.
Cassidy: And I went for the drink. I figured after ruining the film the least he could do was buy me a drink. Isn’t it funny how you almost never realize the defining moments in your life? I was so flippant about going for that drink.
Ben: That’s a good story.
Cassidy: The beginning of the story is better than the end.
Ben: How did he die?
Cassidy: He got sick. He got sick on our honeymoon. He tried to brush it off, tried to pretend that he felt fine that it was just something he had eaten. I believed him. I think that was when he first suspected something was wrong with him. (Pause) That’s not true. I believe he suspected long before that. I believe he knew long before that.
Smith: I didn’t know. I suspected, but I didn’t know.
Cassidy: When we got back home he seemed better. We both went back to work. Some days we only saw each other for about five minutes in the morning and another five at night before we collapsed into bed. You know what it’s like. You get so used to someone you just don’t even notice them anymore. Until one day, probably about a month after we got back. The St. Laurent streetfest was going on and we always spent at least one full day walking around during it because it was kind of our thing. We didn’t have a song or a movie, God knows, but we had the streetfest so there we were, eating sausages and ice cream, shifting through the piles of clothes on tables, picking out books for a dollar when he just dropped. Passed out cold. One second he was beside me trying on a pair of sunglasses and the next he was lying on my feet. He died six weeks later. Turns out I was the only one who didn’t know he was dying.
Smith: I wanted you to be happy. (Pause) It’s not my fault I got sick.
Cassidy: I wish he had told me.
Ben: Maybe he thought he’d get better.
Smith: I did.
Cassidy: If I had known he was sick I might not have felt so ambushed by his death.
Smith: I was afraid if you knew you’d leave me.
Ben: Maybe by not telling you he allowed himself the possibility of a future. He could believe what you believed and not what he knew to be true.
Cassidy: I want to be able to let him go. I want to be able to walk down the Main during the street sale and buy cheap underwear without it reminding me of Smith dying. I want to be able to sit in this bar and drink a beer and not see him wearing his favorite shirt behind your shoulder. I don’t want to forget anything about him or us. I just want to not remember everything all the time. And I don’t know how to do that.
Ben: You’ll learn.
Cassidy: You really are a nice guy.
Ben: I’ll pay up and take you home.
She leans in and kisses Ben on the cheek.
Cassidy: I don’t want to go home yet.
Ben: Me neither. (Pause) How about another beer?
Smith stays where he is watching Ben leave. He sits down in Ben’s chair.
Smith: I think it’s time for me to blow this Popsicle stand.
Cassidy: I still wish you were here.
Smith: Three’s a crowd, baby.
Cassidy: Believe me. I do.
Smith: I do.
He lays his hand on the table next to hers for a few seconds then he gets up and walks away. Ben brushes by him as he returns to the table with two more beers. Smith stops and watches as Ben sits down and hands Cassidy a beer.
Smith: Catch you on the flip side. (He exits.)
Ben and Cassidy clink their beers together.
Alexandria Haber is a playwright based in Montreal.
Dennis Stillwell Martin is an artist, musician, and teacher; he is also a longstanding contributor to Artsforum Magazine.
Text © 2003 by Alexandria Haber.
Illustrations © 2009 by Dennis Stillwell Martin.
Illustrator’s note: In the first picture, Smith waves at Cassidy. In the second, Cassidy pays attention to the living. And, in the third, Ben brushes past Smith as he returns to the table.