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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gauntlet

Early morning a man pauses at a city corner, panting he pauses, then bolts across barren streets of tall buildings that echo voices crying out, "you can't hide, you can't run forever, make this easy please for all our sake, come to us, maybe we can end this."
The man pauses again at another corner, looking round charges across the street and into a building.
A pedestrian looks back just as he disappears.
The pedestrian smells the air, inhaling deeply.   Pedestrian: he’s here!! I can smell him!  
Interior: apartment stairwell.  
The bloodied beaten man struggles up the stairs to the top floor of a run down tenement apartment building. There he comes upon a young woman standing at an open apartment door. They stare at each other a long while. He looks at her, then the door, then stands, leaning against the wall & stumbles into her apartment.  
Interior: Sparsely furnished apartment. Dark. Dirty  
The apartment is sparsely furnished: a couch backed to a large window looking out onto the street, a tall lamp & an end table.   The beaten man stumbles across the room & into the corner beside the large window. He listens. She listens.
Woman: You can't stay for long. You have to go before my husband comes home. If he sees you he'll beat you like the others.  
Beaten Man: I understand, I just need a minute.
Woman: Would you like some water.
Beaten Man: Yes.  
She leaves the room. The man closes his eyes, listening to the calls for him, from outside.   The woman returns with a glass of water that he takes & drinks.  
Woman: why do they beat you?
Beaten Man: Why don't you?
Woman: I don't know.
Beaten Man: Neither do I. Why would your husband want to beat me?
Woman: I don't know. But he will, I know that.
She steps up to him and kicks him in the side.  
Woman: There. I've done my part. How did it feel?
Beaten Man: Like a love tap.
Woman: I'm sorry.
Beaten Man: I’ve made my way through so many cities, beaten by strangers, hiding in condemned buildings, finding benevolent people to hide me, but who still hate me for what I’ve done. Why is this? I don't know. This has gone on for so long I can't remember why I’m tortured so. I imagine that I once knew why, but now most of my memories are gone. I’m not even sure that the memories I do have are mine and not just fabrications to placate my burden.  
She walks to the window & looks out.  
Woman: Where do you go from here?
Beaten Man: Nowhere in particular, just moving on, running, hiding, I never know where. It all depends on who's doing the beating and then I run from there in whatever direction will take me away from it.
Woman: How is it that you go on like this? Did you kill someone? Is that why they beat you? Because you've done something so wrong?
Beaten Man: I don't know for sure but I seem to remember having killed once a long time ago. I don't remember who or when or why. I remember losing all my strength,  realizing the magnitude of what I'd done. But now, I just can't imagine killing anyone.  
A sound at the door.
She turns & there stands a man at the door. Without saying a word, the man, wearing a worn pair of jeans, a dyed wife-beater shirt & a pair black work boots, struts over to the beaten man, stands over him for a moment, looking him over & then begins to kick him. The beaten man drops the glass of water on its side, recoils into the corner and cowers while trying to absorb the pain. The man continues to pound away at the Beaten Man.
The Woman turns away, holding back tears, a scream. The Beater tires quickly, each kick needing further exertion. The Beaten Man moves quickly between tired kicks, sliding over & away. The Beater turns to give chase & kick the Beaten Man but steps on the glass of water, rolls on it & falls hard on his back. The Beaten Man runs for the door & out of the apartment. The Beater stands, grimacing from the pain, turns to The Woman with a look of anger then runs out of the apartment screaming about the man. He chases The Beaten Man all the way down to the first floor & out of the building all the while screaming.
As The Beaten Man charges into the streets, pedestrians suddenly turn, pursue & capture the beaten man in a consuming swarm.  
The Woman watches from the apartment window.
The Man returns to the apartment. The Woman stands at the window, not looking out, not turning to see The Man.
The Man walks off screen, then returns with a handful of paper towel, drops to his knees, takes the glass and begins to wipe the floor.  
The Woman: what’s going to happen to him?
The Man: nothing’s going to change. He runs on, beaten wherever he goes. It’s the first time I’ve met him. I hope I don’t ever meet him again. I hope I don’t ever become him.                
The Beaten Man is being pummeled in the street by a crowd, each person; man, woman and child, taking their turn. Until one man grabs and holds Benito and berates him.
"You are the sorrow in our world. The agony. The pain and suffering you bring with your existence. Why? Why do we beat and pummel you like some soccer ball, and you don't go away? Why can’t you just die?"
"I don't know. I wish I did. I wish I could. But everywhere I go; everywhere I've gone, there has been someone there to beat me. There have been moments where I have found that place, where I am alone, but someone always comes along, as if summoned to beat me."
"Then kill yourself."
"I can't. I don't have the strength of body or spirit to beat another person, kill another, let alone kill myself."
"Then I will do it for you!"
The man pulls a gun out from his shirt and shoots Benito point blank in the heart.
The crowd is aghast.
"What have you done? He's going to die!"
He looks at them all, unaware of what he has done.
"What? I've done what we all wanted. To be rid - of him."
Benito laughs, a menacing snicker at first that develops into an all out choking guffaw. Blood dribbles and spits from his mouth, the redness coloring his laugh. He motions for the man to bow down close to him.
"What?"
"What is your name?"
"Orlando."
"Orlando?"
"Yes."                
"I am Benito."                
"Benito."
"Where are you from, Orlando?"
"Far away from here. The country. Why?"
"I remember where I am from now. For so long I could not remember where I was from, except to remember that I could not. But I remember now. I am from the city, from Brooklyn, NY. I lived in a small studio apartment near the bridge, with a beautiful view. I remember that now.  I remember it all now. Orlando? Do you remember where exactly it is in the country you come from?"
"That's none of your business."
"You don't remember, do you?"
Orlando just stares.
"I understand. I understand it all now."
Benito laughs, tears flow from his eyes. But it subsides as he dies.
A man slips in through the crowd, reaches down to grab Benito under his arms, and drags him away, out of the crowd.
Orlando is alone, surrounded by the crowd.
They look at him.
Someone grabs him from behind, clamping his arms; someone else takes the gun from him.
They all converge and begin to pummel him as they used to do to Benito.
He gets away and begins to run, and run.
And the crowd chase.