Twenty-Eight Octobers

by Lynda Crawford

CHARACTERS  
JACKIE, female, mid-40s
FELIX, male, late 20s

TIME: Early 21st Century
PLACE: College Office

JACKIE   Here we go. I knew I had an extra copy.
     (Handing him The Drama of the Gifted Child.)
Just remember to bring it to class next week.

FELIX   Thanks.
     (Looking at photos on JACKIE’s desk)
Is that your kid?

JACKIE   Yeah.

FELIX   Just one?

JACKIE   Yeah.  You?

FELIX   Have kids? Nah. Wouldn’t want to pass on any bad stuff. You ever think about that?

JACKIE   About how hard it is to be a good parent? Sure. But we’re only human.

FELIX   That’s no excuse.  I mean, you get a bad one, it can really mess you up for life.

JACKIE   Yeah, family of origin stuff leaves a scar, but we can still thrive if we get what we need elsewhere. Right? It doesn’t all have to come from the home. I try to give my students what they need here, in school: attention, respect, warmth, engagement . . . So you understand about the assignment? You might even interview your family members . . .

FELIX   Oh yeah. On it.

JACKIE   Great. Okay, well, I have to get ready for my next class . . . I’ll see you next week. (HE doesn’t budge.) Is everything okay, Felix?

FELIX   No. Not under the circumstances.

JACKIE   What’s going on? You want to talk about it?

FELIX   With you?

JACKIE   If you like. Or maybe the counselor?  Jordan. He’s a good guy to talk to.

FELIX   Oh. Passing me off, huh?

JACKIE   No.

FELIX   Again.

JACKIE   What?  I’m sorry, but—

FELIX   Are you really?

JACKIE   Okay . . . I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about here.

FELIX   No clue? Okay.  Here’s a big one . . . today!

JACKIE   Monday?

FELIX   October 14th—?

JACKIE   Yes . . . Okay. Um . . . (no idea what he means)

FELIX   New York Hospital.

JACKIE    . . .

FELIX   Doesn’t ring a bell?  (A few beats.)  Il bambino.

JACKIE   What? . . . (Something starts to crystalize) Are you saying . . .  (afraid to believe it)

FELIX   Do I look so different . . . after 28 years?

JACKIE   Wait . . . is this . . . (small laugh) What’s going on?  (After several beats, tentatively) Oh god . . . (softly) Jamie? . . . Is it you?

FELIX   What did you call me?

JACKIE   Jamie? No. Sorry—Am I wrong?

FELIX   Was that my name? Jamie?

JACKIE   Is it really you?

FELIX   Jamie, huh. Never expected that.

JACKIE   But I guess it’s Felix now.

FELIX   Yeah . . . I’m definitely more of a Felix.

JACKIE   How did you find me?

FELIX   That’s all you want to know?

JACKIE   No, of course not, but—I’m just . . . trying to . . . understand—Was it Spence Chapin?

FELIX   Where you left me? Oh yeah, I went there. For starters. They didn’t give me much to go on . . . But my moms—the one who brought me up, took care of me, loved me, not you—she knew I wanted to find out about it—about you—so she left me some money when she passed so I could hire a private investigator.

JACKIE   She died?

FELIX   Yeah. Ten years ago.

JACKIE   I’m sorry. (Several beats.)  You want to sit down?

FELIX   That’s okay. I’m good.

JACKIE   So how long have you—

FELIX   Been stalking you?

JACKIE   I guess.

FELIX   Since the day I was born?

JACKIE   I mean, how long have you known . . . who I was? Where I was?

FELIX   A few months. It took a while.

JACKIE   And that’s why you’re here, auditing the class?

FELIX   Yeah. I’m not really interested in “The Origins of Trauma.” Kind of got that figured out already. Guess I don’t have to keep comin’ now. So no more mommy and me time.

JACKIE   Maybe we can do that separate from class. If that’s what you’re after.

FELIX   What else? What—you afraid I want something.  Like money?  Or what . . . to hurt you?

JACKIE   No! . . . I hope not.

FELIX   Actually I do want something. The story. The one about why you gave me up.

JACKIE    . . .

FELIX   What happened to all that “attention, warmth, and engagement” shit?

JACKIE   (Beat.) I was just a kid when it happened.

FELIX   Me too.

JACKIE   Your father and I broke up before I realized I was pregnant.

FELIX   He never knew about me?

JACKIE   Well, not until after . . . after you were born . . . When I took you home. I had you home for six days.

FELIX   That’s all you could take of me?

JACKIE   No. I wanted something better for you.

FELIX   You can’t get away with that one . . . (ridiculing) “I wanted a better life for you.”

JACKIE   I did.

FELIX   So give me one. With you. Make one. Don’t pawn me off on someone else. Not that they weren’t outstanding for the most part, ‘cept for dying on me . . .

JACKIE   Both of them?

FELIX   Yeah. He went first. Made it harder for moms without him. But she didn’t give me away . . .

JACKIE   I was sixteen. Living at home . . . my mother, she was . . . she had problems—alcoholism. It runs in the family. You should be careful.

FELIX   23 and Me. Thank you!

JACKIE   When did they tell you . . . that you were adopted.

FELIX   I feel like I always knew. But there was that night when they sat me down and did it formally, I guess I was maybe eleven? My moms used the words “your real mom” . . . “you’re real Mom couldn’t take care of you anymore, so we were the lucky ones who got to have you in our family. And we are so happy about that.” But I couldn’t stop wondering what horrible thing happened to my “reals”—who they were . . . and what was I? The kids would always say that, “What are you?”  I never knew. Obviously I was different from them. Darker. What am I? You look rosy white—So I must take after my Pops right?  What was he? Black.

JACKIE   Puerto Rican.

FELIX   A Rican, huh.  Tiano. I kinda figured as much.  What was his name? Jamie?

JACKIE   No. That was my father’s name. James. Named you after him. Your father was . . . Gilbert. He was a singer.

FELIX   Cool. I do that.

JACKIE   You do?

FELIX   Yeah, got a band. (Beat.) So were you in high school together or something?

JACKIE   No, he was older. Maybe 18, 19?  He was singing somewhere, with this group. I got in with phony proof. I guess I was with a friend, but somehow ended up with Gil . . .

FELIX   A one-night stand?

JACKIE   No, we saw each other for a month or two, but it just didn’t…I was young and…

FELIX   He ever record any CDs or anything?

JACKIE   No, not as far as I know. But they were good, the group. There was this one song they did I will never forget.. “So Much in Love.” By the Tymes?
 (SHE starts it . . . HE knows it and sings a little.)
Yes! Yes . . . You sound just like him.

FELIX   Is he dead?

JACKIE   I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to him since . . . back then.  I called him, after I took you home.  He came over, saw you . . . I think he had some doubts if , you know . . . if you were really his. But once he saw you, he knew.

FELIX   And he just let you give me up?

JACKIE   It wasn’t up to him.

FELIX   He could have offered to marry you, take care of us.

JACKIE   He did.

FELIX   What?

JACKIE   He asked me to marry him. That day. I didn’t want to do that.

FELIX   So you let me go.

JACKIE   To give you a good life.

FELIX   Bullshit! To pass me off—

JACKIE   No. To give you two parents . . . who wanted you . . . who had money enough to adopt . . . who weren’t crazy or drunks. (Thoughtfully) Well, I guess there is no way of knowing that. (To FELIX)  Were they?

FELIX   Nah.

JACKIE   That’s a relief.

FELIX   Oh yeah. I’m sure you were just holding your breath—worrying night and day—and that’s why you did nothing. The Origins of Trauma—damn. Your area of expertise alright.

     (A few beats.)

FELIX   What was his last name. My pops. Maybe I’ll look him up.

JACKIE   (She tries to bring it back.) I don’t remember.

FELIX   Shit.
     (Looking at photo on desk)
Does she know about me? Your kid? Your husband?
     (She shakes her head.)
Wiped clean out of existence. All of us.

JACKIE     No. I will tell—

JACKIE   Whatever. So I got the family interview, teach. Did my assignment. Won’t be bothering you no more.

JACKIE   (As he turns to go.)  I tried to find you.

FELIX   What’s that mean?

JACKIE   I gave my info to the adoption agency. I let them know, if you came looking for me…

FELIX   Yeah, well, what about you come looking for me? Do what I did. You’re not sixteen any more, mommy.

JACKIE   You’re right. Can we . . . try . . . to . . . start over?

FELIX   I don’t think you have anything I need now. I used to need you, think about you, imagine what you looked like. Imagine you were thinking about me too, somehow watching over me, that they made you give me up, but you couldn’t bear it, and so you were secretly looking out for me all the time, watching me in the playground . . . I’d look around for you there, imagine you could see me on my skateboard, or how well I could lift myself up on the bars; or when I got to school and the kids would say shit . . . I’d imagine you out there somewhere, loving me. But I was so wrong . . . You weren’t there. You weren’t ever there.

JACKIE   I did think of you. Do think of you. Every year. On your birthday.  I just didn’t realize that’s what you were talking about when you said the date. I never expected—I thought of you today, before all this…this morning, and every time this date comes up.

FELIX   So what is that then . . . twenty-eight times. Twenty-Eight Octobers . . . happy birthday kid.  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming—

JACKIE   It was too painful.  I couldn’t think about you more than that. It hurt beyond words.  I know it is unthinkable, unforgivable . . . to give up your child. How cold hearted must I be to . . . ?  I’ve asked myself that many times. But then, back then, I really thought it was the most loving thing I could —

      (Bell rings. A few beats pass in silence.) 

FELIX   You’re late.

JACKIE   I am.  (SHE doesn’t move.)

FELIX   (After a beat)  Go on then. I’m outta here.

JACKIE   Can we make a plan? Find another time to talk? Or you could wait here. It’s only 40 minutes.

FELIX   (After a beat) Come find me.

(HE exits.)

(Blackout.)

Comments
  1. nwolitzer says:

    What I love about this is that I like both Felix and Jackie and feel for them both. Jackie comes across to me as more easier to like yet I get them both. After reading this I left wishing to be able to have this same attitude in my life toward people I meet.

    Like

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