Sometimes our silence speaks louder than words.
The third scene of this play explores the power of silence. I attempted to showcase the pause – give it power. By giving silence an equal share on the page, I hope to show rather than tell how each character feels about the situation, so that when they do speak – even without pause – the silence still runs between them as an undercurrent.
I would love to know which pauses spoke to you most.
By Vic Briggs
ACT I/ SCENE 1: SMOKE…
ACT I/ SCENE 2: SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2
ACT I/ SCENE 3
The same room. Emma (thirty-two) sits on the bed, covered by a blanket. She looks worn out. Margaret (twenty-four) is occupying the only chair in the room. Emma’s approach to the conversation is direct and unhesitant. There is determination inscribed in her every feature. Margaret appears uncertain, discomfited by her presence in that room. There are long pauses before most of her lines.
Emma. What do you want?
Margaret looks away, fiddles with the handle of her purse, clearly struggling formulate what she is about to say.
Margaret. You know what I want.
Emma. I want you to say it to my face.
Margaret makes eye contact for the first time. She appears to be staring Emma down.
Margaret. You don’t think I can?
Emma. (derision in her every word) No. I think you are quite capable of it, but I want you to do it. Say it.
Margaret. Breathes in deeply and then exhales.
Emma. Not as easy as it seems, is it?
Margaret gives her a look. Breathes in and tries to get it over with as quickly as she can.
Margaret. I don’t want you to have Fred’s baby.
Emma. Stands up from the bed. The blanket falls to the floor. She does not look heavily pregnant, but there is a small bump, just noticeable. She looks triumphant and defiant.
Emma. And what do you propose that I do about it?
There is a long pause, when Margaret finally speaks, her tone is subdued to nearly a whisper. It sounds as if she is trying to persuade herself as much as her opponent.
Margaret. That is not my problem.
Emma covers the distance between her and Margaret in a few paces.
Emma. Then why the fuck are you making it yours?
Margaret. Fred never wanted your baby. You trapped him. You got pregnant on purpose!
Emma. (smiling) Fred never wanted anybody’s baby. He fucked me [over]. Sometimes women get pregnant when that happens.
Margaret. (standing up from the chair to face Emma) You trapped him. You trapped him! You… You…!
Emma. I what? What is that your little posh mouth can’t get out?
Margaret. (shaking her head) I won’t be brought down to your level.
Emma. I’m not the one asking a desperate woman to kill her unborn child.
Margaret. (horrified) That’s not what I said.
Emma. That IS what you meant.
Margaret begins to pace back and forth, every now and then looking up at Emma, who stands still, a protective hand over her bump.
Margaret. (pacing) Fred will not acknowledge your child.
Emma. That’s Fred’s business.
Margaret. You will have to bring it up on your own.
Emma. That’s my business.
Margaret. He will never change his mind.
Emma shrugs as if to indicate she does not care, or perhaps that she is not as sure of it as Margaret seems to be.
Margaret. (sounds desperate) I love him!
Margaret. I’m going to marry him.
Emma. That’s your business.
Margaret. Oh, for Christ’s sake! Is that all you can say?!
Emma. What do you want me to say?
Margaret. Shrugs. Sits down on the chair.
Emma. If that’s all, I’d like you to leave now.
Margaret. (standing up) I will. (pause) I will, but… you must promise that you will never contact him again.
Margaret. walks towards the door. Emma follows her. Margaret turns around, looks at Emma one more time, hesitates
Margaret. And you must promise that your child won’t either.
Emma. You’ll have to ask her.
Margaret. You must promise.
Emma. I’ll make no bargains on behalf of Fred’s daughter.
Margaret. It is not Fred’s, it’s yours.
Emma. Not ‘it’ – her. And no. I won’t promise you that she won’t try to contact her father.
Margaret. Fred will never acknowledge her.
Emma. That’s his business.