A short play by Bernard Weiner
Staged-reading premiere by The Playwrights' Lab 2012 (copyright by the author)
In a small hot pool at a Northern California spa. PAUL is in his late-40s or so, EVIE is in her mid-40s. Both are wearing swim suits. PAUL is somewhat gun-shy, and hardly ever looks directly at EVIE.
At start, PAUL is in the pool reading a book. After a moment, EVIE enters, a towel around her shoulders.
EVIE: Do you mind sharing the hot pool? The sun's going down and it's getting a bit chilly out here.
PAUL: (beat) Uh...Oh, sorry, please come in. I'll just clean up the place. (HE mimes cleaning crumbs off the surface of the water, moves a few pieces of "furniture." SHE smiles and lowers herself slowly into the hot water, exhaling as SHE reacts to the heat.)
EVIE: What are you reading?
PAUL: It's a new release. "Intuition: Exploring the Ocean of Communication."
EVIE: Sounds like a heavy, academic slog.
PAUL: Maybe. But it reads well. The author seems to know how to write for the average reader.
EVIE: Maybe you'd let me look at it later?
PAUL: (beat) Uh, OK. (beat) I'm surprised there aren't more people in the hot pool, given that it's winter.
EVIE: My family used to come here to Calistoga every year in winter. Not as crowded and the hot pools feel even better.
PAUL: Is the rest of your family not joining you here?
EVIE: How did you...? The kids are out on their own by now: one working back east, one finishing up college in San Francisco.
PAUL: (beat) When did the divorce become final?
EVIE: (beat) What makes you say that? Aren't you being a bit presumptuous?
PAUL: I just put two and two together — no ring on your finger, no pale ring on the skin, no mention of your husband when you described the family, just a guess.
EVIE: You're right, and I'm impressed. Kind of ties into the book you're reading — intuition.
PAUL: Yep, even though I think intuition, in large part, rests mostly on paying attention.
EVIE: On what does the smaller part rest?
PAUL: (beat) Wild guesses?
EVIE: I know what you mean. One of my avocations is reading palms.
Now please don't give me "The Look." I agree that most so-
called psychics and fortune-tellers are charlatans, posers who
exploit people for money.
PAUL: So what's different in your approach?
EVIE: For one thing, I don't charge. I do it because I like helping people.
PAUL: How does it work?
EVIE: I take the person's hand in mine and start looking seriously in it while tracing the lines on his or her palm, and—
PAUL: What are you looking for in those lines? What are you seeing?
EVIE: Nothing. I get direct hits on people, on their concerns, their anxieties, their insecurities, their joys and passions and so on. But if I were to download all that on them, they'd be spooked and might close down. Instead, I might say something like
"This line indicates a deep sadness about someone you care about."
They might reply "Yeah, that's true; it was pretty awful," which
indicates to me that I can dig deeper, though I still have to be
careful how much I say and when I say it. Their responses and
body language provide the guideposts and help set the pace.
PAUL: And they think you're "reading" the lines in their palms.
EVIE: Yes. Or at least they're choosing to accept the fiction. Over the years, I've learned how to calibrate, pause, wait for clues to move the conversation forward. When it works, we get into some deep issues.
PAUL: So, with your technique, you're not scaring them and you're not scaring yourself. Cool! Maybe I should learn from your system.
EVIE: You read palms, too?
PAUL: No, no. But there have been some remarkable, and nerve- wracking, instances in my life where my intuition about people I didn't really know led me to just go for the direct "hits."
EVIE: Sounds to me like you might have a real skill there.
PAUL: (quick look at her) I was mentoring some student artists at a conference. This young guy, really interesting, sat down for his session, and I said to him quietly:
"You know, Patrick, your work is wonderful technically but doesn't feel really connected to
your inner creativity. Something's missing. I think you should
acknowledge your gayness and move on. The tension from
hiding it is getting in the way of your art." Next up was a young
woman, a fine sculptor. She sat down and suddenly I heard
myself saying: "Your being an identical twin, Emma, is
something you need to deal with: the anger, the intimacy, the
loss, the resentment."
EVIE: Wow, that's pretty impressive. I'm guessing you probably picked up clues during the conference.
PAUL: No, that was the freaky thing. They had revealed none of these inner secrets to anyone at the conference. Somehow, my intuitive radar picked up on them and I just started talking. They were shocked at first, of course, but my gamble led to really important communication — and major changes in those two. But I was lucky: It could have been disastrous.
EVIE: But it wasn't. So why are you talking about borrowing my techniques? Your way works, why risk messing it up?
PAUL: It takes too much out of me: I'm a nervous wreck, emotionally and physically depleted after these interactions. I like your idea of an objective intermediary between the intuitive and the person opposite — the palm. Others have tea leaves, a crystal ball. I don't have anything. I'm walking on a greased highwire, with no net.
EVIE: You're not totally without tools, you know. It seems that you're quite adept at making people feel comfortable. The point is that you could really see your students and were able to help them so quickly. I'm still having trouble understanding what the problem is here.
PAUL: A few days after I returned from the conference, I couldn't remember their names. It was as if I had somehow found the on/off switch for reaching somebody, used techniques from therapy or somewhere and was simply operating on automatic pilot, almost outside myself. I had figured out the technique, but where was the intimate relationship with these people, the real connection? I forgot their names, for crissakes!
EVIE: It's totally normal. Actually, in many cases, it's necessary!
PAUL: Oh this water feels great. (HE takes a big breath and sinks below the water. When HE comes up:) Would you mind if I try a little palm-reading on you? Even if it doesn't work, at least I'll be holding your hand — not bad after just a few minutes, yes?
EVIE: (beat) OK. (SHE offers him her hand. There's a very slight frisson — an inner shudder of anticipation— as HE touches her hand.)
PAUL: (awkwardly peering into her palm, and tracing some lines) I see you've been disappointed in relations with men over the years.
EVIE: Very "perceptive," but every woman I know could relate to that. If it were me doing the reading— no, I won't go there. This is your tryout.
PAUL: I hear you. I'll try to be more subtle. (traces another line) I'm seeing that you're dealing with a recent tragedy in your family. (EVIE nods and grunts her assent.) I'm so sorry for you. Losing a father is never easy, and never over with.
EVIE: (gives him a "look") He died three months ago. Hey, you could be really good at this.
PAUL: I think I could pick it up. Of course, as you said, the palm doesn't provide any information. Wait! No, I didn't mean that; I need to keep holding your hand or I'll lose the connection. (THEY laugh.)
EVIE: I think this should be a two-way street. Let me try reading your palm. (SHE turns over his hand and starts mapping it. But SHE remains silent. THEY sit there in silence, eyes closed, enjoying the experience.)
PAUL: A very pleasant electrical charge.
(THEY laugh. But where do they go next and how do they get there?)
EVIE: (tracing a line on his hand) I don't see any indication of a ring on your finger.
PAUL: She died four years ago. Cancer.
EVIE: I'm so sorry. (slight pause; tracing his hand) I think I see the possibility of a new woman in your future.
PAUL: (HE lets her hand go in order to trace a line on his own hand) I think I see me not being so scared at that prospect.
EVIE: Nice to meet the author.
PAUL: You knew?
EVIE: Two seconds after you mentioned the book.
PAUL: You read me early. So much for trying to fool an intuitive.
EVIE: We're in that weird space: Like we already know each other.
PAUL: At least we know each others' hands. I'm Paul. (HE holds out his hand to shake.)
EVIE: (SHE reaches out her hand) I'm Evie. Nice to finally meet you, Paul.
PAUL: Nice to finally meet you, Evie. (For the first time, HE takes a long look into her eyes.) I don't think I will forget your name.
(Lights fade as they stare into each others' eyes and smile shyly and warmly.)
END OF PLAY