Waiting For You

by Orit Ackerman

Stageplay


 

CHARACTERS:
IRIS: Early 20s, but wise beyond her appearance. Dressed in a shabby hospital gown and slippers.
BETTY: Late 40s, wearing clothing appropriate for work in an office (wearing heels as high as the actor can stand) in the present time.

 

BETTY
Where am I?

IRIS
Heaven.

BETTY
Heaven? Heaven! Does that mean I’m… I’m…

IRIS
Dead. Yup.

BETTY
But, how? I don’t understand.

IRIS
You were born. You lived forty-eight lovely years. You got in your car to drive home…

BETTY
There were lights.

IRIS
Yup.

BETTY
And noise.

IRIS
Yup.

BETTY
The kids…

IRIS
Are fine. They weren’t with you, remember?

BETTY
Oh, right. David…

IRIS
He’s fine too. Well, physically anyway.

BETTY turns around to look at IRIS for the first time.

BETTY
How do you know so much? You look familiar.

IRIS
(Putting down her reading material)
Oh, so you remember, do you?

BETTY
Remember?

IRIS
Before you put all my pictures away when the kids started asking who I was.

IRIS gets up, crosses down to BETTY and sticks her hand out to shake.

IRIS
Iris. David’s first wife. Nice to finally meet you.

BETTY
You’re… Iris? But you’re so young.

IRIS
Well, I was twenty-three when I died, remember. So here I’ll stay, forever twenty-three. Stuck in this horrible hospital gown. People don’t realize whatever you’re wearing when you die is what you’ll be in forever. Bet you’re wishing you had worn flats today.

BETTY
What about people who die naked?

IRIS
Ah, the shower accident crowd. Not a very social group.

BETTY
So now what?

IRIS
Now we just wait. We watch their lives and we wait for them to die and join us.

BETTY
But I never knew you in life.

IRIS
No, but we were both married to the same man—so we’re both waiting on him.

BETTY
Sounds kinda male-centric.

IRIS
I know, right?

BETTY
And my kids?

IRIS
They might join us too, when their time comes, or they’ll be with their spouses and kids if they get that far. The way it works is you’ll have access to everyone you ever met in life, but your core group is whomever you consider your immediate family at the time of death. My mom has been up here a few years now waiting on my dad.

BETTY
Right. I remember when your mom died. David took the kids to her funeral. Your parents are wonderful people. The kids miss their grandma a lot.

IRIS
I see her pretty regularly, but generally speaking I’ve been alone, waiting for David for twenty-two years already. And now, I get to wait here… with you.

BETTY
And we just watch them?

IRIS
Yup. Well, I can only watch David. You can watch him plus your kids. Though, I advise you to think about when you want to watch them. Like… not on dates… I learned that the hard way.

BETTY
You… watched us?

IRIS
Yeah. Aruba was fun. And he lied. He has done that before.

Pause. Embarrassment. BETTY starts to pace.

IRIS
Listen, it’s not so bad. Time moves pretty quickly. Look, he already told the kids and your parents. That part is hard to watch, but you should watch your funeral. It’s helpful. Come. Sit.

IRIS and BETTY go sit on the two chairs facing the audience in silence for a few beats.

BETTY
Lilies. My favorite.

IRIS
He picked out irises for mine. I don’t even like irises but when you’re named after a flower everyone just assumes you love that flower.
(Notices BETTY is crying.)
Hey, hey. They’ll be ok. He’s a great guy and they’ll be ok. Look, those are your parents, right? Man your mom is pretty.

BETTY
My kids are going to grow up without me. How could I have done this to them? I was in such a damn hurry. Now, instead of being fifteen minutes late to Cameron’s basketball game, I’ll never be at another one. I won’t be at high school graduation or their weddings or any of it. It’s all gone, just like that because I was in a hurry.

IRIS
It wasn’t your fault, you know.

BETTY
What?

IRIS
There was a drunk driver. David was at work when the phone call came in. You were still alive in the ambulance, but by the time you got to the hospital… and then it took awhile to identify you. That’s the disconnect you’re feeling. I didn’t know you were coming until he got the call, ’cause I can only watch him. I watched him tell the kids. You’re so lucky.

BETTY
What?

IRIS
I’m sorry. I don’t mean you’re lucky to be dead. I just meant you’re luckier than me. I only got four years with him and you got seventeen and you got kids. I always knew he’d be an amazing father. We wanted kids so much. I had their names all picked out.

BETTY
I know. He told me. Cameron and Sarah. That’s how Cameron got his name.

IRIS
I know. Thank you.

Pause.

BETTY
I didn’t mean to erase you. We all have our past, but I pushed him too hard at first to talk about you. I wanted to prove I wasn’t jealous.

IRIS
But you were.

BETTY
Of course I was. You two went straight from the honeymoon phase of marriage to death-do-us-part. You got to skip all the sleep-deprived nights where you just want to be anywhere else in the world. The stupid fights about laundry and dishes and carpool.

IRIS
And now you want a thousand of those fights back?

BETTY
Yes.

They sit in silence for a few moments watching the funeral.

BETTY
Who picked out that dress? That’s not my dress.

IRIS
Your mom went out and bought it. The funeral director suggested it.

BETTY
Suggested that dress?! I’d never wear anything like that.

IRIS
Well, he suggested something… modest. People have this weird idea that we’re so serious in death. I mean, yes, absolutely at first you spend a lot of time thinking about your life and all the things that you won’t be able to participate in anymore… but after awhile it becomes like a soap opera. You’re able to disconnect a bit more. At the same time, because you can watch them whenever you want, you get to know people in a way you never did when you were alive with them.

BETTY
Like what?

IRIS
Like you probably don’t know that David gives himself pep talks every morning after his shower. I never knew until I died. Maybe he didn’t do it when I was alive? It’s sweet, but it’s also so sad. I don’t watch you two all the time, but enough that I’m pretty sure it’s stuff he’s never told you. When I first died he talked to me a lot. Told me things he never told me in life. That pissed me off and I expect it’s going to happen to you too.

BETTY
I heard him talking to you once. It was when we first got married. He didn’t know I could hear him.

IRIS
Yeah?

BETTY
Yeah. He… umm… he was apologizing to you. For me. For marrying me.

IRIS
I remember. You were pregnant. He felt rushed, but at the same time he was happy for the first time in a long time.

BETTY
I always wondered if you and I would get along.

IRIS
Well, now we have the rest of his life to find out.

End of Play.

 


Orit Ackerman, a native Minnesotan, lives with her husband, two children, and three cats. She has written for TC Jewfolk, Kveller, and The Mighty. With a background in theater, writing plays is both new and familiar at the same time. After her first attempt at NaNoWriMo in 2017, she is now in love with writing fiction and is currently working on a book that may never see the light of day. She likes to spend her time reading, drinking coffee, and cooking for her blog, www.mostlyicookfood.com.

Back to Vol. III: “Orbit”