Days Without Nights- "Aladdin's Electric Lamp" and "Madelín de Rumba" | Arthur Meiselamn | Scene4 Magazine - November 2016

Arthur Meiselman

Aladdin's Electric Lamp

for Celíce


The scene is light, airy. The setting is suggestive: a suspended window frame with a piece of curtain draped over it, a free standing door-frame, scattered abstract shapes such as cubes, half-spheres, and small pillars. The actors move these objects at will for quick scene shifts. The lighting is direct: shafts of pale blue and pale yellow. The mood is urgent, shimmering.


(HE steps downstage and leans against a cube. He speaks to the audience quickly, with urgent excitement.)


HE: Listen...when I first saw her, I closed my eyes so fast that my teeth clamped shut and I bit my tongue. Then I opened them wide and she wasn't there. But I could hear her, moving somewhere behind me. I could hear the whisper of her dress and the sun was so warm. Look at me... I sat there with my eyes like little white balloons and my mouth open with a little sticky dribble on my lower lip... a Venus Fly Trap and that butterfly just floated around my leaves.


(HE laughs. SHE appears upstage, moving quietly, lightly.)


Then I said to myself: Wait a minute! What the hell's wrong with you? It's 7 a.m.... 7 a.m. in the morning. Here I am out in the park at 7 a.m.! Me... breathing clean Spring air. Me... a New York Night-Owl finally going bananas with all the little hustly-bustly going-to-work people, the cleaning ladies and the bank guards. I haven't been out in this bright-simple-just-keep-moving-along time of day in... months, years, decades. Why shouldn't I be crazy? Why shouldn't I go bananas?


(HE chortles like a monkey. SHE dances around him, smiles at him, plays an invisible flute which he hears.)


I'm telling you I didn't know what to say. What do you say to...? How do you do? Do I know you? I bet you're...!


(HE sits.)


I just sat down and scratched my neck and mumbled into my other hand: I'll just ignore her. Some kind of kook, high on something.


(Jumps up.)


No, no, you see, it wasn't like that. It wasn't like that at all. Because I could feel her... around me and on me... you know? So I just got up and walked away. I mean, what would you do? And she followed me.


(SHE does.)


HE: And I, uh... stopped and looked at her. And she looked at me and smiled. And I took off. I just sort of jogged off, over a little hill. And down there by the trees... there she was. I almost ran right up to her and... but I didn't. Because I haven't jogged like that in years. I just stood there, puffing, holding my pants up. That was pretty strange. I'm glad there weren't any cops around. So I closed my eyes again, got my wind back. Now my head was clear, I knew I could open my eyes. But when I did, she was standing right in front of me, looking at my face. And, and I was so shocked, I staggered off backwards and fell down.


(HE does. SHE comes over to help.)


Hey, no, no...I'm okay.


(HE stands.)


Now, just...why don't you just go on your way. Come on, let me...


(SHE begins to move around him in circles, gently touching him. HE turns with her slowly, becoming dizzy.)


What are you doing that for? Hey, stop that! Now look...


(SHE rubs up against him. HE moans.)


Do you know what she just did with her hand? Right up my back like a warm piece of fur. I had to sit down. I thought to myself: I'm having some kind of seizure. Cold sweat, can't breathe. I wish I could stand up and walk away. But I couldn't. I was shaking, my hands were wet. I thought... I'll talk to her. There's nothing wrong. I won't do anything. What'll I say? I can't get into trouble. I mean, it's a little strange just... hello?


(To SHE)



(SHE props herself next to him.)


What's your name?


(SHE smiles. HE laughs.)


Why are you doing all... all of this? I mean, I don't mind, but isn't it a little strange, dangerous to come to someone and just... take up with him?


(SHE smiles.)


You haven't told me your name. Can't you talk?


(SHE touches his face.)


Is there something wrong? Can I help?


(SHE touches his hair.)


HE: Where do you live?


(SHE hugs him. HE jumps up. SHE looks at him. HE sits down again.)


I'm sorry. I didn't mean to... uh, jump like that.


(SHE puts her head on his shoulder.)


You're very lovely.


(HE jumps again and walks down toward the audience.)


I don't know why I said that. I didn't know what was happening. Look at me! I'm as particular and precise and pragmatic as any of you. And my eyes, my eyes blink... because I hear her and feel her and watch her move... right through me like air into my mouth. I didn't know what was happening, so I said... goodbye!


(To SHE)



(HE walks away.)


And listen... she followed me.


(SHE does.)


All the way to my place. We walked 72 blocks. Can you believe it? That's 7 a.m. in the morning for you. Only a few people noticed us, but I didn't care. I don't really care.


(To SHE)

Do you? Aren't you tired? I wish you'd say something. I wish I could hear how sweet your voice sounds. I wish you'd stop following me. I wish you'd go away!


(SHE stops and looks at him.)


No, wait a minute. I'm sorry. I don't know why I said that.


(SHE begins to dance around him again. HE moans.)


She's doing it again. I do know why I said it.


(To audience.)


You see, I'm a man of the world, an entrepreneur of life. I know why I do everything. I'm a thinker and a man of action.


(To SHE.)

Look! See, I'm home. I-have-to-go-in-now. Understand?
Ho-ome. This is where I live. You-have-to-go-ho-ome-now-too. Okay?


(HE moves upstairs. SHE follows.)


It was as if she were holding on to my coat and I was just floating into my apartment. So I closed my eyes again, unlocked the door, shot inside and slammed the door shut. Then I opened my eyes and looked around. Now wait a minute, don't laugh. You have to understand the mood. I really expected her to appear, to be right in my living room. She wasn't.


(HE laughs and sits.)


But I could still feel her warmth trailing across my lips as she danced around me. I could still hear her and smell her skin... her skin! So just for the hell of it I went back and opened the door. You're really still there.


(SHE is.)


You really don't want to go home.


(SHE runs into his arms, then dances into the room. HE quickly shuts the door and latches all four locks.)


You are very beautiful!


(Steps to the audience.)


There, see, I said it again. I couldn't help myself. Just think about what's happened and you'll understand the state of my mind. If you knew me well, you'd be amazed. Me...of the always-in-control-always-calculating-breed-of-successful-New-Yorkers with fingernails of steel and a tongue of ice. Help me, try to understand. It's clear isn't it? I was walking in a mist and the shadows were friendly and loving. I was standing naked in Central Park and only she could see me. I was a reflection in a mirror looking out at myself.   I thought... so what? I thought... what the hell! I said...would you like something? Coffee, or maybe tea, a nice, organic, herbal tea? She just smiles at me, and touches me, and I want to kiss her. Let's sit down.


(SHEcurls up next to him and helps him take off his coat.)


How about a drink?! A nice, easy, rosé wine.


(HE gets a bottle and glasses, pours the wine. SHE takes the glass and puts it to his lips. They laugh silently. Then SHE takes his hand and pulls him up. They begin to whirl slowly, holding the glasses high.)


It became delirious as if we were sipping wine from the moment we met.


(Singing out loudly.)


I know what's happening. I know what I feel. I know that you're taking me and I'm taking you. We're flying toward that bedroom...and soon that bedroom will be full of...


(HE stops.)


Mygod! The bedroom is already full!


(Steps to the audience.)


Did you know that the bedroom was already full of someone else? Full of Madeline! All-embracing, luscious, woman-to-be-mine Madeline!


(SHE is moving quietly in the background looking for him.)


No, don't worry. Wait for me. I have to tell them, explain to them while there's still time.


(To audience)


You see, Madeline is very satisfying for me and I satisfy her. There's always a kind of cup-runneth-over between us. I was married once before; she's never been married. She knows where I've been; I know where she's going. It's a meeting of the minds through the bodies, if that makes any sense to you. Let me tell it to you this way: I think it was the 17th night in a row we'd made love and I said to her... I hope we never have to talk about the way sex works with us. She said... There's nothing to talk about now, but we'll have to prove our compatibility as time goes on. I said... Well you don't prove it by talking about it.


(MADELINE appears at the side dressed in a robe.)


She said... Of course you do. You have to communicate. Do you realize that you never say anything when you're lying on top of... I shouted... There, you see, you've already started... to put it into words. She shouted back... There's nothing wrong with words...


MADELINE: If it means you can avoid tension, doubts and fears. There's nothing wrong with words if you can avoid arguments. It is communication that makes a relationship grow.


HE: We communicate, we communicate. I touch you, you touch me...


MADELINE: The problem with most people...


HE: Well we're not most people!


MADELINE: The problem with most people, Robert, is that they cannot talk to each other, explain their feelings, their desires.


HE: You know what my desires are.


MADELINE: No, I truly don't.


HE: Then lie down and I'll tell you again.


MADELINE: That is very crude.


HE: (to audience) I was very crude. So I said to her... I'm very crude.


MADELINE: (sarcastically) All right, then, tear off my robe and drag me around the room by the hair. Tie me to the bed and then tell me if you love me or not!


HE: Before or after?


MADELINE: Robert, who is that girl?


HE: (to audience) Another time, we were having a drink at a little club on the eastside, when she reached under the table and began squeezing my thigh.


(They pull some pieces together and sit down at a table.)


I liked it, so I began reaching up her leg. She pushed my hand away, then shoved both her hands under the table and began squeezing both my thighs. I liked that too! So I swallowed the rest of my drink, pushed in closer, and loosened my belt. I figured I would body-language her into a hot sweat. She almost lifted the table right off the floor.


MADELINE: Don't move! I don't want you to do anything or say anything. This is all mine!


HE: I said... Hey, baby, gimme a break...and then she screamed at the top of her lungs... Robert!




HE: A lot of people looked around, but I didn't care. She was stapling me to the table like a paper poster.


MADELINE: (whispering) I want to give you a fantasy come true. Here is this very public place, with you very nonchalant. And me, me, Robert, fulfilling your wildest, lustiest dreams.


HE: (whispering) This is your dream, not mine. (to audience) Now do you see what was happening to me?


MADELINE: (purring, her eyes closed) I can see you, Robert, and I can feel you.


HE: I mean, look at the picture. Here I am, frozen in my chair, staring at mad Madeline...


MADELINE: Can you feel how softly I sing to you?


HE: ...with her hands trying to bring the hot blood down between my legs.


MADELINE:Can you hear my fingers reaching into your bowels!


HE: Too much! Too much! I simply had to yell out to her: MADELINE DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE FIRST THREE LETTERS OF YOUR NAME STAND FOR?




HE: We got up and streaked out of that place, down 73rd street, me strutting in front, she keeping pace right behind.


(They do.)


MADELINE: Robbery, Robert, theft, grand larceny. You steal from me the greatest moments I find to share with you. You will not let me satisfy myself... Robert, who's that girl?


HE: (to audience) Was I wrong? Oh I sit there smug, scarred, clucking your tongues, all-knowing in your lives full of disappointment. Just another half-baked man, shallow, emotionally stunted, still squeezing his adolescent pimples. Join us, you say. Give in, stop fighting, accept your fate. This is what it's all about, you say. I say, to hell with you!


(HE walks away. MADELINE drifts to the side brushing her hair. SHE remains upstage.)


HE: (turning back to audience) I'm sorry, please forgive me. There's so little time. I need you to understand, at least to know enough to understand that this wasn't a question of gender issues, of male versus female or any of that dope that keeps us sucking at the pipe of hope until our breath runs out. This was a question of First Times... the glory, the sweetness, the intoxication of a first encounter, a first kiss, a first seeing yourself in someone else's eyes.


(SHE comes down and puts her back up against his. As he moves, she moves with him, back to back.)


HE: (turning slowly in a circle) She mirrors my heartbeat. She makes everything I feel new and alive. She isn't becoming just part of me, she's! And I'm! For the first time...why does it have to change?


MADELINE: Who is she, Robert?


(HE steps to audience. SHE moves upstage.)


HE: Did I tell you about my first time with Madeline?


(MADELINE  comes down and puts her back up against his. As he moves, she moves with him, back to back.)


HE: It was electric, like two pieces of metal welding together in a hot arc. I said to her... you make all the fluids in my body bubble and boil. she said... You make all of my hair melt. I said... I want to explode all over you. And then she said... Shhh! Don't tell me what you want to do...


MADELINE: Tell me what you are doing. Tell me what you feel, what you smell, what you taste. Tell me what you see and I'll tell you...


HE: Let's not talk!


(They clasp hands over their shoulders, turn in a complete circle until they are face to face.They stand for a moment staring at each other, shivering. Then they lunge in a loud slapping embrace and collapse on to a conveniently placed, bed-shaped piece. It is all grunting, munching and breathing. As he tries to pull her on top of him, she pulls back and tries to force him on top of her. They struggle this way for a moment. Finally, she stiffens her arms and holds him at an angle over her.)


MADELINE: We have to decide.


HE: What?


MADELINE: What is right and what is wrong.


HE: I don't care!


MADELINE: What is best and what is worst.


HE: I don't care!


MADELINE: Who is the top and who is the bottom.


HE: Let me top your bottom.




HE: Rude!




HE: Drop!


MADELINE: Robert, who is that girl? What is she doing here?


HE: Her name is Celia.


(Stunned, HE jumps up and steps down to the audience.)


HE: Oh, oh, oh...I don't know how I knew that. It just came to me. Her name is Celia!


(SHE moves down and dances around MADELINE.)


I tried to pretend if I stood in front of her, SHE couldn't be seen. As a matter of fact, I pretended that if SHE stood in front of me, I couldn't be seen. But Madeline sees everything. Celia is her name!


MADELINE: So? What does that mean?


HE: A lot of people ask that.

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November 2016

Volume 17 Issue 6

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