Esme Vs. Hunger

(Esme glances up as the coffee shop bell rings. Her expression hardens somewhat, then smoothes almost imperceptibly. Nu strolls in languidly, his face breaking into a grin when he sees her sitting down at a table, notebook lying open with a capped pen beside it.)

Nu.
Esme! (clasping her hand) How are you today?
Esme.
Fine. Just fine.
Nu.
Have you ordered anything yet? I’m starving.
Esme.
No, I’m not hungry, thank you.
Nu. (raises eyebrows) It’s just as well. (Goes off to order food and returns with a receipt. Esme fiddles with her pen while she waits.) You’re trying to change, I suppose.
Esme.
(shuts her eyes tightly, like she is trying to force something from her mind)

Shh. You know that I AM changing.
Nu.
No, you’re not. Face it, Esme: You are still exactly the way you used to be. I’ll prove it to you. (He is leaning back in his chair, checks his watch.) Are you hungry now? It’s four hours till dinner.
Esme.
(wearily) Go away. I’m not sure why I agreed to meet you here.
Nu.
(pretending to think) You mentioned something about needing to face your fear.. Does that ring any bells? Cause you lost me. (grinning) What is taking them so long with my food?
Esme.
(seemingly against her better judgment) What did you get?
Nu.
A panini with basil pesto, tomatoes, and roasted turkey with a side of potatoes. And a large latte. Why?
Esme.
Nothing.
Nu.
Watching me eat isn’t going to give you any satisfaction, you know.
Esme.
I don’t like coffee.
Nu.
And there aren’t other things a conflicted young woman could eat? Come now, Esme. I dare you.
Esme.
(focusing hard on something in the distance) I’m done talking to you.
Nu.
I’m not going away.
Esme.
(squinting harder) Leave me alone. (picks up her pen and scribbles in her notebook)
Nu.
Don’t make me angry—
Esme.
Good-bye, N—
Nu.
GET A DAMN CUP OF COFFEE!
Esme.
(quietly looking up from her notebook) You can’t make me.
Nu.
(menacingly satisfied; softly) And you said you’re changing. You’re weak, Esme. And you will never outgrow me.

(Silence)

Nu.
Esme… (leans forward and taps on the invisible glass between them)
Esme.
(suddenly slumps forward, looking defeated and worn) Go away! You are not real.
Nu.
I am very real. Why else would you be listening to me?
Esme.
I am not listening to you.
Nu.
Please! Don’t be offended when I say I don’t believe you. Tell me: do you talk to me to make yourself feel better? I know I find our conversations very stimulating, but they are becoming very one-sided. Whenever you talk, you know you don’t believe a word.
Esme.
I believe what I want.
Nu.
And right now, you’d give anything to tune me out. But you can’t, right?
Esme.
(gasps like someone coming up for air) Yes.
Nu.
Some honesty at last! I was getting worried, Esme. (reaches over and pats her hand) There now, sweetie. It’s hard not to be in control, isn’t it.
Esme.
(looks up through half-lidded eyes) Don’t you have better things to do?
Nu.
(raises his hands in mock protest) Don’t look at me. You’re the reason I’m here.
Esme.
This is somehow my fault?
Nu.
Ooh, the blame game. Do let’s play. I’m good at that.
Esme.
You sicken me. All you do is torture people all day long.
Nu.
Hunger is a feast, I must say. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say I torture everybody. I just torture you all day long. It’s enough for me to live on for a while.
Esme.
Excuse me while I throw up.
Nu.
One question, while we’re here. How do you propose to get rid of me?
Esme.
The same way I got landed with you. Incrementally.
Nu.
(confidently)
Let me know how that goes.
Esme.
(staring straight at him for the first time, stands and places her hands on the table, leaning forward) I will surprise you. I am stronger than you know.
Nu.
You can’t outgrow a habit. You, of all people, should know.

(No response. Esme packs up her notebook silently, but it’s eerily quiet.)

Nu.
(calls after her) I am not finished with you. You can’t walk away from me!

(Silence.)

Nu.
(grumbles) She might as well cut out her own heart and feed it to the wolves.—

(After a moment of thought) What am I saying? I AM the wolf.





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