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“Isabel” is my take on a realistic play. This story is set in a real (but imaginary to you) house, and the characters will walk around the house and you (the audience) will follow them room to room as the story unfolds. Basically, it will be a live rendition of a as-real-as-possible situation/conversation. So as you’re reading this, imagine watching this happen right in front of you, as if you were an invisible, uninvited guest.
Alright, are you ready? Here she is. Here is...Isabel.
The time of day is around noon. It’s snowing.
We start from the point of view of Ian. He appears to be in his late twenties. He is wearing a black suit with a white shirt. He knocks on the door to the house. ISABEL opens the door. She could be 30. Or 22. She is wearing a casual white summer dress with flowers on them. She looks like the kind of woman that doesn’t need make up. She is beautiful to all eyes.
ISABEL: (surprised) Ian?
ISABEL: I…what..what are you doing here?
IAN: I was just…I was uh…what are you wearing?
ISABEL: What? This? It’s a dress. You don’t like it?
IAN: It’s snowing.
ISABEL: Is it? Hmm. Right. I guess I don’t feel that cold.
IAN: You…(pauses) can I come in?
ISABEL: I...uh...yeah...yeah sure. Come on in.
IAN walks into the HOUSE. He looks around. The house is bright, with lots of lights and windows. The design is contemporary, rich. We are currently in the lobby area.
IAN: This place is..it’s nice. You’ve done well…good for you.
ISABEL: Oh..thank you. What uh..brings you to..here?
IAN: Oh yes, I’m so sorry to just drop in. I should have called. I should have. I’m sorry.
ISABEL: Oh please don’t apologize. I was…just..curious.. we haven’t seen..or talked..in..
IAN: ..years. 6 years.
IAN: Are you alone?
ISABEL: Uh yeah...right now...you were...I’m sorry you were saying something about..
IAN: ...Why I'm here?
ISABEL: ..I’m sorry I don’t mean to sound so…I’m being rude..it’s just a surprise..I wasn’t expecting..
IAN: It’s okay. You can say shock. I won’t be offended to hear to say you’re shocked to see me again.
ISABEL: I..uh..I am..surprised..and shocked..but it’s just you’re here..I wasn’t..I had no..
IAN: It’s my fault. I should have called first.
IAN: I mean I should have called. I even could have called. But it wasn’t really an option. It’s been so long and I didn’t have your new phone number so I...
ISABEL: I still have the same number.
IAN: ..you do?
ISABEL: Yea. Had it since the first day of college. When we met at that pizza place...what was it called? Something with a Simpsons character. Homer...
IAN: Homer's D'Oh. Yes. You remember.
ISABEL: Of course I remember.
IAN: That’s..nice..to hear. That you remember.
ISABEL: Why are you here?
IAN starts walking around, we see the living room, a glimpse of the kitchen, the backyard gardens. He settles on the living room.
IAN: (dismissively) I’m not sure..(points to the sitting area) what exactly is this?
ISABEL: It’s...a sitting area..couch..thing.
IAN: For humans?
IAN looks around. There are no cats. The house is quiet.
IAN: I was afraid you were going to say something like that. I almost forgot you were a cat person.
ISABEL: Did you come here to judge how I decorate my living room?
IAN: (laughs) Oh...no...I was just...curious. I was actually...I’m going to this thing tomorrow and I was thinking about it...and then I thought about you...and then I was magically in your driveway.
ISABEL: What...how did you even know where I lived?
IAN: What..you think I’m stalking you?
ISABEL: No..I’m just curious..I haven’t heard from you in six years..
IAN: And whose fault is that?
ISABEL is quiet, and slightly uncomfortable.
IAN: It’s okay. I didn’t come here to accuse you for what you did..or didn’t do.
IAN: It’s funny you know. When I was sending you all those letters you could just chose to ignore me and I would just wait...and wait...and you were probably hoping I would just give up one day. Which I did. But now...today...I can just show up and face you and tell you what I think and you can’t ignore me.
ISABEL: I thought you weren’t here to accuse me...
IAN: Haha...I’m not. I regressed...sorry…
The phone rings. ISABEL looks at her phone. And then at IAN.
IAN: Oh go ahead. Pick it up. I won’t mind. Must be your boyfriend. Or husband.
ISABEL picks up the phone.
ISABEL: (on phone) Hey honey. Yeah I’m at home. Oh you can’t? Is everything okay? (pause) Oh...no it’s fine. I’ll be okay…okay...yea I will...okay...see you soon...bye...(looks at IAN) love you too.
ISABEL hangs up the phone and sits on the couch. The human one.
IAN: What’s wrong? You don’t believe his excuse?
ISABEL: He’s not making an excuse.
IAN: Oh please. It may have been years but I know you know your excuses from your BS.
ISABEL: Why do you care?
IAN: Has that not been clear? I care about you. I did care. You just stopped noticing.
ISABEL: Please Ian. I don’t need your guilt right now.
IAN: Really? Then what do you want me to say? That he’s telling you the truth and probably not getting his cock sucked by a 21 year old intern?
ISABEL is quiet.
IAN: Wow. This..this is amazing. Isabel, the queen of winning arguments is…speechless. I knew this was going to be worth it.
ISABEL: And what about you? What is so wrong with your life that you had the sudden urge to make mine miserable?
IAN: Ahh. There it is. The girl I remember. Come on. Lay it on me. I have waited 6 years to hear what you think of me.
ISABEL is quiet.
ISABEL: Why do you care, Ian?
IAN: Because I wanted to know. For months. (pauses) You know everyone told me it was because I was still in love with you. Even if I didn’t think about you for months. I dated, I had relationships, and poof you would be gone. And then I would leave them. And BAM! You were back. Does that count? If I think of you once every few months? Do I have to call it years now? Should I start believing what everyone around me has already stated as fact? You know what? Fuck them. And fuck you.
ISABEL: (upset) Ian…you’re…where’s all this coming from? I didn’t know this side of you. I had no idea…when we were together...I always got the feeling that you were always looking for something else…for someone else...
IAN: Don't talk about me. Don't talk about me and think you know me. The me you knew was 3 me’s ago. I have changed. I didn't know who I was until after you left me. And even that me took two years to cook. But you...
ISABEL: ...I'm the same.
IAN: ...You're the same. Why?
ISABEL: Isn't that what you wanted? To find me after all these years as the exact same person that you left? So you could confirm that you did the right thing by hating me for all these years?
IAN: I didn't leave you.
ISABEL: I think you need to set up a call with your previous “me” and get your stories straight. You ended it.
IAN is quiet.
ISABEL: What happened? Did he not answer?
IAN: (to himself, realizing it) I ended it...
ISABEL: Yes, you did.
IAN: (to Isabel)...because you broke my heart. And then you just walked away like it meant nothing.
ISABEL: Did I? I'm sorry I must have not noticed your broken heart at my feet while you were telling me you didn't want to see me ever again.
IAN: You cheated.
ISABEL: Oh...of course you're going to bring that up. And that's a funny term to give that act you know..."cheating". As if a relationship is nothing better than a game. A game with no extra lives. You cheat…and it dies. If it really works like a game, shouldn't cheating help you win?
IAN: I think you should have asked him that. He's the one who won.
ISABEL: I can. You want me to call him back?
She points to the phone. IAN just stares at her. He walks around. We enter the kitchen. ISABEL follows him.
ISABEL: Are you hungry? You want me to make you something?
IAN: You can’t cook.
ISABEL: (mockingly) I don’t know, Ian. A lot could have changed in the time we didn’t see each other.
IAN stares at her. A little too long.
ISABEL: Ian…make up your mind...
IAN is still quiet.
ISABEL: How about a drink then? You know I can make those.
IAN: (after a few seconds) If you offer me a scotch, I’ll drink a scotch.
ISABEL looks around her kitchen for a scotch bottle. She finds one in a cabinet.
ISABEL: (surprised) You’re in luck...
She pours him a glass.
ISABEL: Since when you do drink scotch?
IAN: Since the time I had my first sip. You’re not having anything
ISABEL: (confused) Hmm I don’t think I’ve ever had scotch.
IAN: No? Really…well I never thought you and I would share a first again…
IAN pours her a glass.
There is a “Cheers!” without the word being spoken. ISABEL sips it and makes the facial expression everyone does when they sip their first scotch.
ISABEL: That…is…worth another sip.
She finishes her drink in one gulp. They are both quiet.
ISABEL: So…in these moments that I would pop up in your head every few months…did you have any good memories?
ISABEL: Like what?
IAN: Does it matter? Whatever good memories we did have…you ruined them by giving me the bad ones.
ISABEL: I think they do matter. Life is full of good and bad memories. We even die with a bad memory…(jokingly) by dying of course…so it’s important to remember the good ones. Don’t you think?
ISABEL: You don't agree?
IAN: What if the memories you remember - the good ones - what if you forget the way they happened and replace them with a better version? One where the person was even better than they were. What if you do this over years and years? What if...
ISABEL: But isn’t that good? You don’t have to remember the real person. You can make them better in your memories. They don't have to change. They don’t have to grow old. They'll always look at you the way you want them to. They won’t disappoint you.
IAN: Well, I tried hating you. I didn't know how to. So yeah, I tried to remember the good times.
ISABEL starts walking up the stairs. IAN follows her.
ISABEL: (without looking back at IAN) Tell me.
IAN: Well, I always loved the night before graduation. You were trying on the dress you were going to wear...you looked so beautiful. We were getting late to meet my friends. But you didn't try to get ready any faster. I was getting furious...and you knew I was. But then you gave me that look of yours...the one where you tilt your head and smile...
ISABEL turns around, and gives IAN the look.
ISABEL: This one?
IAN: (smiling) Yes.
ISABEL: Still got it.
She walks in her bedroom, and stands next to the window, facing the mirror, checking herself out.
ISABEL: Tell me more...
IAN leans against the doorway and stares at ISABEL.
IAN: Spring break. Senior year. We were supposed to go to Cabo, the tickets were bought, the rooms were booked, everyone was really excited. You were ecstatic. And then I got sick. I told you guys to go without me. But you stayed. You took care of me. I was such a idiot, so shocked and angry at being weak, but you tolerated me. You were there. You were nice.
ISABEL walks over to IAN and holds his hand. She walks him to the bed and makes him sits down. She stands in front of him, and leans forward, with her lips just a couple inches away from his.
IAN: (Still on his thought) ...You were nice to me. You loved me. And then you...
ISABEL kisses IAN.
ISABEL: Shhhh. You still don't know when to shut up.
ISABEL pushes IAN on the bed and gets on top of him. She slowly kisses his neck, then his face. IAN puts his hands on her waist. He pushes her dress up. She takes off his jacket. She unbuttons his shirt...
IAN: ...and then you stopped.
ISABEL opens another button and kisses him on his chest.
IAN: Stop it.
ISABEL: (kiss)...Isn't this what you want?...(kiss) Isn't this why you came here?
IAN stops her and holds her by her arms.
IAN: I don't know.
ISABEL: What do you want, then?
IAN: I...(faces away from her)
ISABEL: Why did you come here?
IAN gets up from the bed. ISABEL stays on the bed.
ISABEL: Don't you want me anymore?
ISABEL: Why not?
IAN: (angry) Because of what happened on that graduation night. Because of what you did.
ISABEL: (angry) Not this again! How many times will we have to talk about that night? How many times must I apologize? Why can't you just let it go?
IAN: (shouting) BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T GIVE ME A CHANCE! YOU QUIT! One day you care about me more than anyone else ever has, and then the next day poof! it's done. It's gone. You're done. You're gone. Do you know what that feels like? When someone raises you so high, and you're on top of the world...of everything...and then they leave your hand. And you're falling. And it feels like you'll stop falling. There is no ground anymore. You just keep falling. (pauses) You didn't just cheat on me, Izzy. You betrayed me.
ISABEL: But I'm not that Isabel. I'm the Isabel you loved. The one from that spring break. The one before that night.
IAN walks over to the window.
ISABEL: Why can't you forgive me?
IAN: I tried, Izzy. I really tried. But I realized something. I couldn't forgive you because I wasn't mad at you. I don't blame you anymore. You cheated because you stopped loving me. You didn't want to be with me anymore. I was driving you away. I pushed you to that edge. I can't blame you...(faces her) because it's my fault too.
ISABEL is quiet.
IAN: I can't be in this bedroom. All I see is what I saw that night when I saw you with that guy. And I don't want to remember you like that. Let's go downstairs. I need another drink.
IAN takes her hand and they walks downstairs to the kitchen. They both get another drink.
ISABEL: What's tomorrow?
ISABEL: You said that there was this thing tomorrow, that you were thinking about it, and then you thought of me.
IAN: Oh. Yeah. It's...
ISABEL's phone rings again.
ISABEL: Do you want me to get that?
As soon as he says "No.", the phone stops ringing.
ISABEL: Okay. I'm all yours.
IAN walks over to the backyard. ISABEL follows him.
IAN: It...it was snowing...wasn't it?
The backyard shows no signs of any snow. It's completely sunny and bright, like an August afternoon in California. IAN sits down on a chair in the sun. ISABEL joins him.
IAN: Give me a second.
ISABEL is quiet.
IAN: (few seconds later) I'm getting married tomorrow.
ISABEL shows no reaction.She just stays quiet, waiting for him to say more.
IAN: She's great. She's...just perfect. I love her...so much. I didn't think I could love someone. After you...but she...when I met her, I didn't remember anything before her. Everything was just gone. I got to start over.
ISABEL: That's good, Ian. I'm happy for you.
IAN: (faces her) All these years I thought I loved you. That all those things I felt for you had to be love. Because it just hurt so much. So it must have been love right? But it wasn't. I'm sorry, Isabel, but I never loved you. I was just hurt. And I missed you. I still miss you.
ISABEL: We both thought it was love. Sometimes that's enough.
IAN: (smiles) I guess so.
ISABEL: Why did you come here?
IAN: (looks into her eyes) I wish you could come tomorrow. I wish I had my friend there. You were a good friend. No matter what happened, you were a good person. You had a big heart. And I wish you could see her. You'd like her.
ISABEL: But I can't. I'll never see her. I'll never see you happy.
IAN: I...I can't believe you're gone.
ISABEL: (holds his hands) It's okay, Ian.
IAN: I'm sorry, Isabel. I'm sorry for what happened to you. And I'm sorry I didn't know. I was just so angry with you. I should have been there. I shouldn't have stopped being your friend. And before I could...
ISABEL: What, Ian?
ISABEL: I need you to say it.
IAN: You died.
A tear slides down IAN's face. ISABEL wipes it away. She holds his face in her hands, tilts her head, and gives him the look.
IAN: Memories are a funny thing, you know. Aren't they just what moments become when they end? Dead moments, that's what they are. But here's the funny, cruel part - when you're living these moments, you don't know which ones are going to be important...which ones are going to matter...which ones will make you happy...which ones will make you regret...and which ones you're going to want to remember forever. Life doesn't give you a warning. It just keeps moving, and you just try to grab on to as many moments as you can along the way, so that one day they'll be the memories you want to keep with you. But...
Another tear drops from IAN's eye. He looks away. ISABEL turns his face to look at her.
ISABEL: But what?
IAN: What happens to those memories...those moments...when too much time passes by...do you forget them?
ISABEL: I guess...I guess they just become someone's stories.
IAN: I...I don't want to forget you, Izzy.
ISABEL: You'll be okay, Ian. You're happy. I can see it. Just keep the good memories. And if one day, I become just another story, then make it a good one, will you? And try to remember how good looking I was. Because, damn, I was hot.
They both laugh.
IAN: (looking at her) I...just remembered...I bought you that dress! (laughing) You were so surprised by how good my choice was.
They hold each other's hands.
ISABEL: Be happy, Ian.
IAN: I will.
After a few moments...
ISABEL: I think it's time for you to go.
ISABEL: You can't stay here forever.
IAN: Just...just give me a few more seconds. I want to see you. One last time.
ISABEL: (smiles) Alright.
They sit there for a few more seconds. Staring at each other. Holding each other's hands. IAN kisses ISABEL's hand, and says ---
IAN: Good-bye, Isabel.
IAN puts his head down. ISABEL gets up. She walks towards the end of the backyard. The sun is gone. It's night. She disappears into the darkness.
IAN gets up. He doesn't look back. He walks into the house, which is in complete darkness. Except one wall. On one wall, there is a picture of ISABEL. In her dress. The one he bought her. The one she was wearing. The white summer dress with flowers. He looks at her picture, just for a second. He opens the front door. He doesn't look back.
Author's Note: This story was originally published on January 23, 2015. It was part of a five-part series I did where I would write and publish a new short story every Friday throughout January. So if at any point you didn't like something in this story or were confused by certain choices, you can blame my disinterest in editing due to the arbitrary conditions I created for myself. And yes, this is probably the saddest story I've ever written. But I guess sometimes it's important to write about sad things as much as happy things...just to know the difference.
Here are the other four stories I wrote as part of this series. While the stories are unrelated in plot, you will notice the underlying theme to be love and loss. I didn't know this back then, but this series was the beginning of my intellectual obsession with modern romance. Hope you like them as much as I do ---
A hindi adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" (1927)62
I’m back to writing… with a twist. Presenting an old story in a new way, 5 years in the making.164
The text exchange between a bride and the groom on the day of their wedding.289
Part of the Love collection
Published on October 09, 2016
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