Stage right is set up as a living room. The stage is dark but a woman and a man sitting hunched on the couch can be seen. A boy sits in one of the two recliners, also hunched over. Everyone in the background is frozen. A man in his early 20s, dressed in casual clothes, enters from stage left and is followed by a spotlight. He bumps into an older man in black who seems to be coming from the living room. Older man exits stage left as young man begins speaking.]
[Mumbles, his head down] Sorry, man. [Pauses and looks up, confused and surprised at himself] Huh! Did you ever notice how much harder it is to say something when you really mean it? I mean, common sense tells you it’ll be easier to say something if you mean it; you don’t have to lie and try to keep a straight face. But when you really think about it and put yourself in a scenario ... like when you accidentally bump into someone and just reflexively say you’re sorry, you aren’t really sorry, it’s just as much their fault as it is yours. Is one little bump going to affect that person’s life? Or here, a better one.
[Smiles, remembering his childhood] Say you’re a kid and you fill your little brother’s hamburger bun with cat poo. As you’re watching him bite into it, your mom walks in and she realizes what’s going on [voice speeds up with excitement] and then she grabs your ear and drags you across the living room while you double over with laughter, and her crazed eyes glare [opens eyes wide] into your teary ones as she screams [yells in witchy voice] “APOLOGIZE TO YOUR BROTHER RIGHT NOW!” [chuckles] It’s pretty easy to say you’re sorry, isn’t it? All three of you know you didn’t really mean it, ’cause the next thing you do is sit in your room and laugh until you pass out. [Shrugs] Well, that was easy. All you had to do was say the words: [finger quotes] I’m sorry and everything was fine.
Another scenario: you’re a bit older and on your way to a wedding. So you’re walkin’ along [pretends to strut], all dressed up in your new black suit and then [stops in tracks, stands in awe with hands out in front, as if ready to pounce, speaking slowly and intensely] you spot a gigantic, glorious, oh-so-tempting mud puddle. And you’re bored ’cause your mom and all her friends are talking [finger quotes] adult talk so the next thing you know, you’re stomping in this heavenly pool of slime. You look, face and teeth splattered with brown guck, into the faces of your mother and her friends.
Well, it’s pretty easy to apologize to your mother when she tells you to. It gets you out of trouble! “Sorry, Mom,” you say, and then you go off and forget about it.
Ah, and then there’s that time at a pool party and all the hot girls are in their tie-up bikinis and you’re playing water basketball and guarding this girl with [puts hands in front of chest as if grabbing bosom] massive breasts ... and in the process of trying to steal the ball, you swiftly pull the string that holds her bikini top on. Believe me [shakes finger as if scolding audience], this requires many, many apologies. [laughs] And you don’t mean any of them! That split second you got to see her [grabs invisible bosom again] was worth all the crap you went through afterwards, a million times over. Okay, so do you see what I mean about how easy it is to say something when you don’t really mean it?
[Pauses, sighs, looks contemplative. Lights turn to blue. Speaks slower and with more emotion.] But when you have to drag your concrete feet up a walkway lined on either side with flowers, and after what seems like days you finally make it to the door and you raise your hand about fifty times [raises a floppy arm] to the doorbell until you finally press it, and then you slap yourself for actually pressing it ... and finally the door is opened by a boy about your age, and you’re led into a living room where a couple sits together, holding hands and crying [pause, light fills the stage and lights up living room. The boy in the recliner gets up and opens an invisible door near the man speaking, never lifting his eyes from the floor, and leads him into the living room. Man stops dead in his tracks upon seeing the couple on the couch, speaks slowly, as if in pain] and you have to apologize for speeding around that corner, and for [broken-up words] not seeing their daughter in the street on her tricycle [long pause] ... it’s a hell of a lot harder to say “I’m sorry” than it ever was before. You’ve said the words a million times, but you never really thought about them - because you never really meant them.
This time, when the mother looks you in the eye, [woman on couch looks up at man, still not able to hear him as man is talking to audience] your voice catches and nothing comes out, until you finally manage to squeak [pause, looks at the woman on the couch, winces and stutters, background people can hear him now], “I’m sorry.” [He quickly looks away, background actors hunch over, sobbing, then freeze again. They cannot hear the man speaking. Light changes to spotlight on the main character and he walks out of the living room to the other side of the stage as he speaks.] And this time, everyone knows you mean it. But this time it doesn’t fix everything, and you live with those words running through your head for the rest of your life. Not a day goes by that I don’t mean it, and not a day goes by when it becomes easier to say.
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to say something when you really, truly mean it? [Stage goes completely black.]
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.