STRANGER and MAN at a table. STRANGER eats. MAN is drinking wine.
STRANGER: I don’t understand it. I really don’t. Every time the same thing. Every time — shock. It’s like they don’t — They don’t even think. How else can you explain it? The other day, I sit down with this guy in his cafe. He’s had it thirty years he tells me, and it’s so close to being the place he wanted it to be. (Pause.) I mean, it’s a dump! He’s been opening in thirty, forty-five minutes, an hour late for years now — years! — every person who walks through the doors hears how bad he has it and how no one’s making a penny in this town anymore and if this continues he’s going to have to close the old girl down, but now “Oh, it was just about to turn around.” (Pause.) Saddest part is he probably believed it his whole life. You know? (Pause. MAN remains impassive.) And it’s not just the ignorant. It’s every one of them. (Pause.) Really. Help me understand this. This lady, taught at a University. Ethics — Marginalizing of Underprivileged Urban something or other — almost eighty years old. And this is herfield. This is her life. You know what she says to me? I’m not done yet. I’m not done yet. I’m thinking, what have you been doing for the past sixty years? (To MAN) Explain it to me please, will you? How does someone like that — she writes about it, she talks about it. I mean, sixty years! (Long pause.) Doesn’t matter when or how either. Some of them they’re in horrible pain near the end, still it’s a surprise. You were just begging to get here. You were praying. Aching. On your knees if you could have gotten out of bed. (Pause.) It’s absurd. (Long pause.) The way they go on if anyone else’s involved. You get on a train, you have to get off. Maybe you meet people — it’s packed. Maybe you strike up a conversation with a stranger, you make a friend, learn about the kids, the wife, here’s what we did for our vacation last year. But at some point one of you is getting off first. Maybe you wonder who does first, but surely you know — one of you has to. I understand when they’re sad — who wouldn’t be? But surprised? That I don’t understand. Every stop people were getting off, you saw that right. Every stop! And you’re surprised. (Still no response from MAN.) Parents are the worst. (MAN bristles. STRANGER notices and slows down.) Did you know that some of them actually askfor their kids to come with? No, strike that. Not ask. Beg. They beg. Timmy, Timmy, why can’t he come too. Oh Timmy, I didn’t do enough, I didn’t say enough. And I tell them, yeah, I’ll take them if you want. I can do that. (Rises to leave.) Of course I never do, but just to see them grovel there, trying to make their minds up — Yes? No? Do you want me to or not? (Pause.) It’s outrageous. (Feeling he’s finally mastered MAN, STRANGER rises.) Well. Time to go. (MAN looks at STRANGER slightly defiant. During the preceding MAN has finished his wine.) I said let’s go.
HEATHER enters stage left. STRANGER is startled. TED, JIM, CINDY, and several other unknown people slowly enter to stand beside MAN, who has risen from his seat. All stare unafraid at STRANGER, who is increasingly perplexed and horrified. Finally, GIRL enters stage, unafraid and stops a few feet from STRANGER staring at him.