Fred showed up at the play reading sweaty and irritated. He had slept poorly the night before, and it showed on his face and his roughly cut beard. His clothes were strewn together in a way that said “fashion.” His diet had taken a sudden turn: the week before he had watched his carb intake, avoided dairy, and ate a lot of raw protein all the while running 2 to 3 miles a day. This week started the same… he made a salad of lentils, kale, and quinoa – that would last him the whole week of rehearsals, but instead ate the entire bowl while watching reruns of the bachelorette — which wouldn’t have been so bad except for the buttermilk dressing he added to every serving (of which there were six). And except for the ice cream. And the Chips Ahoy with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. He felt like a fat piece of shit, and instead of reading over the play and breaking it down into scenes, breaking the scenes down into units of action, breaking the units of action down into into beats and moments — he knocked on his neighbors door.
“We don’t have anymore pot.”
“That’s not what I wanted.”
“What did you want, Fred? The only time we see you is when you want pot.”
“Or, when you run out of coffee.”
“Or, when you come home drunk and knock over our garbage cans.”
“All right, can I buy some pot off you?”
“Can you smoke me out?”
“This is the last time.”
Fred spent the next twenty minutes watching Deadliest Catch with his lesbian neighbors on their grey Jennifer Convertible couch while their Jack Russell Terrier (Ezra) watched him in silence.
“Ezra’s a very strong name.”
“It’s from the Bible.”
“Oh, yeah?” said Sandra, lowering the volume. “Who’s Ezra?”
“You know so much about the Bible. Who is it?”
“Ezra was the blacksmith.”
“There were no bakers in the bible.”
“Well, we have matzah. So—”
“That didn’t exactly bake.”
“Someone made an effort to heat up food.”
“Well he’s not the fucking baker.”
“Ezra the banker.”
“Ezra the Sheik. The prophet. The scribe.”
There was a pause and Sandra turned Deadliest Catch back up to full volume which Fred thought signified he got the correct answer.
“I don’t like smoking pot with you.”
“Thanks,” said Fred, standing up.
“Can you take out our recycling on the way?”
Fred went back to his house and noticed his roommate sitting at the table outside smoking cigarettes with some girl. This guy always has different women over. He picked his head up a bit and watched how this woman threw her head back and laughed. Her blonde hair stuck to parts of her face, and as she put the cigarette into her mouth — pieces of her hair were sucked into her lips. Fred took out his key.
“Have you met my girlfriend?”
“Hi. My name is Bernadette.”
“Bernadette is unsure what she wants to do with her life.”
“Don’t tell him that.”
“She just got here ten minutes ago. She was over on H Street. She marched.”
Fred didn’t say anything.
“The Ferguson march. For the guy that was shot. That was fucked up.”
Bernadette didn’t say anything.
“That’s cool that you walked.”
Fred wished he was dating Bernadette. He would be so good to her. He would give her space to grow, and not pressure her about the future. She would blossom like a flower. She would bloom out of the concrete and their children would be polite and well spoken and—
“Do you want me to take that for you?”
Fred looked down and saw his neighbors recycling bag in his hands.
“Fred, stop staring. You’re going to make her uncomfortable.”
“I wasn’t staring.”
“It’s okay if you were,” said Bernadette.
“No, I just smoked pot. I was spaced out.”
“You weren’t just staring at me?”
You weren’t thinking about me?”
“What? Definitely no.”
“You don’t want to sit with me? Have coffee with me sometime? Get to know me. Live with me in a house and watch me play with our children, and make salads for them — and then for us all to go on a run and say ‘dad, you can do it. We believe in you. I believe in you. You’re not a nobody. You’re a —’
Fred woke up in his bed with an opened bag of Doritos and a copy of his play folded roughly under his side. He then went to sleep, and was now sitting at a square table in a rehearsal room with the entire cast and crew — sweaty and irritated.