(The stage has only minimal blocking, with a lawn chair or bench center stage right. If possible, a bush is to the left of the chair, between the chair and center stage. A cane is hidden behind the bush or chair, unseen by the audience. JOEY is seated in the chair, dressed in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, eyes closed and head tilted back. Lights are slightly dimmed—the scene takes place outside, at night, and it would be dark enough to have trouble seeing very far. CECELIA enters from stage left, carrying a telescope, dressed in warm flannel pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt. JOEY sits up and turns his head sharply towards the sound of her footsteps.)
Joey: (warily) Who’s there?
Cecelia: (almost dropping the telescope in fright before it setting it down) Oh! I didn’t know anyone was out here! (flustered) I didn’t mean to intrude—I come out here a lot; normally I’m by myself.
Joey: That’s fine, whatever. But who are you?
Cecelia: (even more embarrassed) Oh, I’m so sorry. My name’s Cecelia, I live in the house just over there. (gestures towards stage left, Joey doesn’t react) You must be one of the people who just moved in next door…?
Joey: Yeah, I did. I’m Joey. (pause) You said your name was Cecelia?
Cecelia: (fiddles with the telescope as she speaks) I know, right? It’s an awful name, it’s so old-fashioned and stuffy. It sounds like I’m someone’s grandma. You can call me Cece, most people do.
Joey: (slowly) I think it’s a gorgeous name. It sounds so pretty, like music. (trying out the sound of her name) Cecelia. (tilts his head towards her to better hear her)
Cecelia: (laughing) Well, that’s an awfully nice thing of you to say. Welcome to the neighborhood, I guess. Why are you out here at night, anyways?
Joey: (slightly defensively) Sometimes I just need some fresh air, a place to think. Before we moved here, we lived on a farm. The suburbs seem so crowded now—I’m trying to get used to the new sounds.
Joey: Why are you out here?
Cecelia: (airily) Oh, I’ve always loved the stars. (more seriously) I just like looking at the night sky. My grandparents bought me a telescope a couple years ago for my birthday—nothing special, but still, a telescope—and ever since then, I’ve loved coming outside at night and just… gazing at the sky.
Joey: Right… that’s cool, I guess.
Cecelia: It’s like the constellations are my old, dear friends now. See, over there are the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper, but of course everyone knows those. (Joey lowers his head slightly, no longer angled towards her) But then there’s Scorpius (playfully makes ‘pincers’ with her hands), and there’s Cygnus, the swan—the graceful bird. (arabesques and flaps her arms, pretending to be a bird; loses balances, sits down on the ground, and laughs) Is it really true that the stars are more visible out in the country?
Joey: (silent for a moment) Yeah, I mean, everyone says that. Less light pollution, you know. (pauses, then, guardedly) I never really spent much time looking at the stars.
Cecelia: (disbelieving) How could anyone not want to look at the stars, especially on a night like this? On a night when they’re so beautiful?
Joey: (quietly) Yeah, how could anyone not want to look at them?
Cecelia: (slightly pretentiously) I mean, I just can’t believe that you could just look up at the night sky, scattered with stars looking like--like diamonds!, and think to yourself, “Meh, it’s okay.”
Joey: (even more softly, to himself) I never said that I thought that. I… never said that.
Cecelia: (wistfully, half to herself) Oh, I’d just love to see the stars way out in the country someday!
(There is a pause as both sit, wrapped in their own thoughts. CECELIA looks up at the sky, a smile on her face. JOEY unconsciously angles slightly away from CECELIA as though to protect himself. After a few moments, CECELIA jumps to her feet and laughs.)
Cecelia: Well look at us, all down in the dumps! Time to put a stop to all this melancholy nonsense. (takes a step towards her telescope, then pauses) Would you like to look through my telescope?
Joey: (silent for a moment) Cecelia… (stops for a moment, seeming to struggle internally; then, equal parts distant and desperate, seeming both to thirst for and fear some unidentifiable knowledge) Why do you like to look at the stars so much?
Cecelia: (caught off guard) I don’t know… they’re just beautiful.
Joey: (softly, reflectively) Beautiful…
Cecelia: (slowly, a slightly dreamy smile on her face) I guess… when I look at the stars, there’s just something about their twinkling, like everything will be all right.
Joey: (puzzled) What do you mean?
Cecelia: (slowly, trying to think aloud and be understood. As the monologue continues, she speaks more quickly and becomes more animated, caught up in the idea) They’re up there in the sky, and they seem so distant to us, and we can think that we’re so important. We think that we’re the whole universe, and everything revolves around us. But it’s just the opposite, really. The stars are so huge, and they’re practically eternal, and unbelievably radiant. And we’re just little specks of nothing in a great big universe of beauty. Who are we, when faced with the heavens, to say that our trivial little worries really matter? That’s how I know everything will be all right, when I look at the stars. Those little things, they don’t matter—and yet somehow here we are, each of unique. And we matter, even if those other things don’t. It’s such a beautiful, impossible truth. (pauses, then, almost sheepishly) And that’s what the stars remind me of.
Joey: (laughs softly; admiringly) You’re something else, Miss Cecelia.
Cecelia: (playfully) Oh, it’s Miss Cecelia, now, is it? (flirtatiously) Well aren’t you just the perfect picture of a gentleman?
Joey: (softly, wistfully) Not quite.
Cecelia: (laughing) And what’s that supposed to mean?
Joey: It doesn’t matter. (tilting his head towards her; earnestly) But I meant it. You are something else.
Cecelia: (smiling self-consciously) How do you mean?
Joey: Most girls… they don’t think like that. It’s rare, to understand the world that deeply.
Cecelia: (plays with her hair) Well, you’re sweet to say so. (pauses; quietly) Most people don’t compliment me…
Joey: Well then, most people are crazy.
Cecelia: (turning away) I’m not really… pretty. (tries to laugh it off, but it falls flat)
Joey: (tenses up almost imperceptibly) And is that really so important?
Cecelia: (beat of silence; then, awkwardly) No. No, of course not.
Joey: (bitterly) You don’t mean that.
Cecelia: I just… I just want to be like everyone else, you know? Have a boyfriend, go to parties. Not be so different.
Joey: (harshly) Why is being different such a bad thing?
Cecelia: It’s not! It’s not, really it isn’t. It’s just that all my friends have boyfriends, and here I am, the only single one, never having dated. I’m not book-smart enough to fit in with the nerds, not cool enough or pretty enough to hang with the populars, not an athlete. I’m just… average.
Joey: (more softly) No, you’re not. Just thinking that proves that you aren’t. You’re better.
(Both have become quieter and angled themselves back towards the other, seeming to have inaudibly agreed to let the tensions of the last few moments dissipate—both wanting to cling to this illusion for a few seconds more.)
Cecelia: (tries to smile, but fails) Well, thanks. (pauses, then, almost wonderingly) You know, it’s crazy, isn’t it, that I’d confide all this in you? We don’t even know each other, really, yet here I am, spilling all my deepest secrets. But there’s something about the darkness, about not being able to see the face of the person you’re talking to—it makes you braver. Like right now, I could tell you anything.
Joey: (freezes in place; then, guardedly) I suppose so.
Cecelia: It’s as if the darkness, instead of separating us, is kind of binding us together, you know?
Joey: (suddenly aloof) Darkness doesn’t do anything of the sort. It cuts people off.
Cecelia: (laughs) I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, then!
Joey: (heavily) I guess we will.
Cecelia: Don’t let’s venture into the dark places of the mind! (looks up at the sky; then, attempting to lighten Joey’s spirits) You know, I’ve always dreamed of waltzing into the night with my Prince Charming, just like a heroine in a book. I strongly suspect it would be… incredibly wonderful.
Joey: (amusedly) And I strongly suspect that you’re an incurable romantic.
Cecelia: (flirtatiously) Come and waltz with me then, right now.
Joey: (freezes, seeming about to say something, then stops. When he finally speaks, his voice is tense) Life doesn’t work like that, you know. It’s all illusion.
Cecelia: (seriously) But is illusion really such a bad thing?
Joey: Maybe sometimes. They’re lovely, illusions. But someday you have to wake up. You could be lucky enough to leave the darkness behind, Cecelia. Don’t give up on that opportunity for fantasy.
Cecelia: But sometimes dreams are all you have. The only beautiful things left in the world. When everything else seems to be falling apart, it’s the beautiful things that you seek out. (pauses) That’s why I like the stars, okay? Because looking at something beautiful makes me feel better about myself.
Joey: (chuckles disbelievingly) Right. Because you don’t believe that you’re beautiful.
Cecelia: (defensively) What did you say?
Joey: (slightly angrily) You know, physical beauty doesn’t really matter. It’s arbitrary. It’s shallow. And maybe you should move on.
Cecelia: I just said that I like looking at the stars! I find beautiful things comforting, is that such a crime? (scoffing disbelievingly) I would have half-expected you to say something about how deep that is.
Joey: (growing defensive, now almost pleading) Why should appearance matter so much? It’s such a small facet of a fact. Who are you to say it matters? Why should it, when there are a million things that should matter so much more— (quietly, pleadingly) …that I need to believe matter more? Why should appearance matter so much? Why?
Cecelia: Because it does, okay? There’s a world, a whole society, that tells me incontrovertibly that appearance does, in fact, matter! Jobs are awarded, relationships begun, fame granted, based on appearance. So forgive me if I— (voice breaks; in a whisper as she turns away from him) wish I were pretty.
Joey: (softening, truly wanting to comfort her) You are. Of course you are. Inner beauty is—
Cecelia: (begins walking angrily towards him, stumbling slightly in the darkness) Inner beauty?! That’s what you’re going with? Fat lot of good that does me! If I’m so wonderful, then look me in the face and tell me that I’m beautiful!
Joey: (desperately) I can’t! Please just… just drop it, Cecelia. Go back to your telescope and stare at the stars now, please!
Cecelia: (stops walking) No! If you think I’m such a catch, then why can’t you just look at me and tell me I’m pretty? (growing louder and more distraught) Why would that be so hard? Do you really find me so repulsive—without even ever having seen me—that you refuse to even look at me?
Joey: (tries to rise but stumbles, gropes around for something in the dark, but is unable to find it in his panic. His voice raises in desperation and becomes rougher and rougher) You are beautiful! Your voice is beautiful; your name is beautiful; your words and thoughts are beautiful. Your soul is beautiful. (voice catching) Isn’t that enough?
Cecelia: (laughs hollowly) Not in this world. It might be nighttime, but it’s time to stop dreaming. Time to stop lying ourselves and say good-bye to fantasy. (harshly) Time to wake up, Joey.
Joey: (shocked and hurt, he gives up on locating the object he had been searching for; rises and tries to leave, but stumbles and falls; now getting angry) Just leave me alone! (voice breaks) Leave me alone! (in a whisper) Can’t we just forget this, and spend a few more hours deluding ourselves? Just be two people, talking to one another in the dark, without fear of judgement? Would that be so horrible?
Cecelia: (sighs) Yeah. It would be. I think you’re right—I’ve spent enough of my life living in a dream. (walks the last few steps towards him, her anger gone now, weariness having set in) Now please, just look at me.
Joey: (turns away from her) I can’t.
Cecelia: (bitterly) Yeah, so you said.
Joey: (turning towards the sound of her voice, lifting his head towards her. There is a beat of silence. When he speaks, his voice is heavy) No, I really can’t.
Cecelia: What do— (breaks off, spotting something in the bushes.) What’s this? (bends down and picks up a long, thin white cane. Joey sighs, knowing what she has found. She stares at it for a moment, making the connection. When she speaks again, she is shocked) Joey…
Joey: I’m blind! I’m blind, okay? So there you go! There’s my big secret! And I’ve spent my lifetime on the outskirts of everyone, because I will never fit in, however much I want to. (emotionless) I’m blind.
Cecelia: (softly) Joey…
Joey: (coldly) I don’t care. (beat) You were going to say you were sorry. I know. Well, I’ve heard that plenty. It won’t make any difference, and I. Don’t. Care.
Cecelia: (desperately forcing the words out) We could still talk to each other sometimes!
Joey: No. You say that now, but I know the way you’ll… (spits out the word) look at me now. You’ll see me differently. We can’t ever recreate what we had here, when we were just two normal people. Now we would be someone normal… and someone who's blind. (silence; then, quietly, heavily) Now give me my cane.
(Still in shock, CECELIA silently hands JOEY the cane.)
Joey: You were wrong, you know. (bitterly, mockingly) You thought the darkness led to easy secrets and camaraderie. But it doesn't. The only thing that the dark is good at is isolating. Still, I guess you were right about one thing—however wonderful illusion is, it’s over now.
(JOEY walks away, cane in front of him. CECELIA watches him go, stock-still, as the lights fade to a black-out.)