Friday, July 1, 2011

I Do, You Don't - Screenplay & Prose

As Lauren Barbato describes in her interview (be sure to read it here!), she often writes prose that further explores scenes from her screenplays. Here is a scene from Lauren's feature screenplay I Do, You Don't, followed by accompanying prose.

Excerpt from I Do, You Don't

Please note: Any screenplay format that looks slightly "off", such as the way the dialogue is centered, is due to limitations of the blog format, not Lauren's original script.


Through the POV of TWO SMALL CIRCULAR VIEWFINDERS we see the glittering Manhattan skyline. Stationary only for a moment, then swiveling slowly, left to right.

Elle presses her face against a TOURIST TELESCOPE on the edge of the brick pathway overlooking the Hudson River.

Mike approaches, stumbling a bit. Elle hears him, but swivels the telescope in the opposite direction.

He takes the other telescope only a few feet away, swivels it to face Elle. And through these two telescopes, they talk.

So. Is there still a Sky?

Elle pulls the telescope up to the sky.

Looks like it’s still there.

Is there still a person named Sky?

It’s not exactly at the top of the
list of baby names, but I’m sure
there’s a few out there.

Mike straightens, peering at Elle over the top of the telescope.

How many questions is this going to

It’s 3 a.m.

Elle fully swivels the telescope to face Mike.

Too late for questions.

Mike hops off the telescope stand, stumbles to the BENCH across the way.

When I have kids--


If I have kids, I’m going to name
them Sky, Moon, and Sun.

Why not Earth, Wind, and Fire?

I think those might be copyrighted.

Elle straightens, removing her eyes from the telescope.

I heard about your parents.

Your mom’s got a big mouth.

You know how Catholics are. They
live for death.

Of course. The more rosaries they
have to say, the better.

Elle jumps off the telescope stand. Graceful, even after a night of drinking.

How’d they pass?

It’s 3 a.m. Too late for questions.

A beat, as they gauge one another. It’s too quiet. Nothing but the waves rippling softly.

I never thought I would be an

That’s not really something you
think about.

But we probably should. Save us the
trouble now.

Elle turns to the railing, raising her heels to get a better look of the city that sits so plainly in front of her.

You miss it?

Elle shrugs as she reaches into her purse, digs around.

Of course you don’t. Why else can’t
we keep you out of Jersey for eight

You know what happens when I come
back to Jersey.
(lighting a cigarette)
I quit smoking and start believing
in God.

Mike laughs, nodding to the cigarette as Elle takes a seat beside him.

That right?


And that’s why I like you.

Because I’m a hypocrite.

Because unlike everything else, you
never change.

It’s too much — Elle needs to look away.

So much for the city that never

I haven’t been able to sleep in a
long, long time.

Yeah. Me neither.

Mike lightly rests his head on Elle’s shoulder. They watch the gentle waves of the Hudson.

I Do, You Don't Prose - "Revisited"

   They walk along the brick promenade overlooking the Hudson, which glistens in the late-day sunlight. Barely a foot apart, the backs of their hands graze one another’s, a continual gesture that lends itself to be deliberate. She offers him a cigarette and he complies; he only smokes when she’s around, though he never could explain why that was.
   She motions to the railing and they pause, watching the life on the river’s placid waves as the George Washington Bridge stands guard over it all—it was more than a pause, really. They had this peculiar way with silence, letting it follow them like a peripheral member of their company. He did not feel the need to speak, for he felt there was nothing left to say. She, on the other hand, did not know where to begin.

   In the growing shadows of the day, they look ten years older than what they truly are. He has dark circles under his eyes and acquired a mid-section predestined for middleage men. She is thinner than he remembered, her hair hanging limply from her crown to just below her sharp shoulders, fraying at the ends. If he looked closely enough, he thought he could see her natural hair color peeking through.
   As he smokes, a glint of gold catches her eye for barely a moment before it’s gone with the ash accumulating on the tip of his cigarette—a moment, however fleeting, that she could not claim as an illusion.
   Across the river, Manhattan is winding down its day. Traffic builds on the GW’s neatly stacked decks, one car halting to a stop after the other, the persistent honking coming to a hover over the promenade. Their silence dissipates as quickly as it solidified, leaving the pair entrapped in the sounds of foreign conversations. It was always then, compressed and claustrophobic, that they felt obliged to add to the world’s ceaseless cacophony.
   How many people live in Manhattan? she asks, pressing her hips against the railing and rising on tip-toe to get a better view of the city that stood so plainly in front of her.
   “I think a million or so.”
   “There should be more for such a ‘dream city.’”
   “It’s not such a big island.”
   “But you think they would have expanded it by now. Maybe claim parts of Jersey.”
   “This isn’t L.A.”
   “No. Thank God it’s not.”
   She finishes the last of her cigarette, much more quickly than he, and flicks it over the railing. They watch as it’s swiftly enclosed by a wave. He makes it a point to flick his into a nearby metal tray.
   “You always litter like that?” he asks when he returns.
   “There’s no difference.”
   “One’s in an ash tray, the other’s in the sea.”
   “It all gets to the same place eventually.”
   It was that loosely-threaded philosophy by which she lived her life. As a young woman, she wandered, driving mapless along the coastline and interstates only to discover that she was tracing her haphazard paths. She experimented, using her body as an absorbent for substances, both pharmaceutical and street bought, before gradually returning to her sober state, her organs healed and skin refreshed as if she were still that flawless teenager. And after years of spreading her legs for questionable men, she now found herself standing beside the first man to ever press into her. She knew he always felt guilty about possessing that honor—it was a heavy guilt that hung like a veil overhead. As two excommunicated Catholics, religious expats, they knew this guilt well, although it did not make him any less questionable.
   “Do you miss the East Coast,” he asks.
   She scans the skyline, all the way from Uptown to Battery Park, and says, “Not as much as I should.”
   She was flying again tomorrow. He would be at work when her plane would be taking its place on the runway. At his desk, sipping his triple shot latte—nonfat, because he was upholding his New Year’s resolution to uphold New Year’s resolutions. He would be in the middle of a phone call, throwing around statements about mayors and advisors and constituents that would later be quoted in the Times. She would be ordering a gin and tonic, smiling politely at the stewardess (or steward, she makes a point to add) and his (or her, she insists) disapproving glare at her ordering alcohol so early in the day. There would be a book resting on her lap but she would not open it; ear buds tucked in her ears but she would not turn on the radio. She would not look out the window and, despite being in his inaugural office-with-a-view, neither would he.
   “The Times?” she asks.
   He slips his wallet out from his back pocket and removes a cluster of newsprint clippings held together with an orange rubber band. She carefully relinquishes the clippings from the band and begins to shuffle through them, one by one.
   “You’re like my grandmother,” she says, squinting to read the miniscule lettering on the yellowing paper. “She always kept newspaper clippings in her purse, everything from my mother’s engagement to my uncle’s obituary.” After a moment, she returns the clipping to her lap, nestling it between the others. She averts her eyes now when she speaks, focusing instead on the worn rubber band, wrapping it into figure eight’s around her pointer and middle fingers. “You sound very intelligent in some of these.”
   “You’re that surprised?”
   “I guess I never thought of you that way.”
   “Then how do you think of me?”
   The rubber band snaps, leaving a thin pink line on her palm. He moves to take her hand—her right and his left—and that glint of gold, that new addition to his being, teases her again. She places the loose clump of clippings into his open palm. They flutter freely and he lets them. 

   “It was so easy when you were gone,” she says.
   “I never went very far.”
   She stares at him now and he notices her eyes, what he always swore were a deep brown, spiked with green.
   “Would it have mattered if I stayed?”
   Five years his junior, she was his Lolita, standing in one strapless sandal beneath the neon glow of the aging marquee at the local cineplex. Laughing at midnight in the park beside the police station, she was his student, and then, when their playground trysts turned into multi-hundred dollar affairs, she was his equal, their experiences varied yet matched. As a grown-up Lolita, he didn’t think she would have the same attraction, that same sense of danger. But here, the first time they’ve been exposed in the daylight, the scenes before the park and hotel room they’ve so often skipped, the curves of her body indiscernible in the waning sunlight, no longer naive, no longer coy, no longer lost—she just was.
   “Do you want to go to the bar tonight?” he asks.
   “You know what would happen.”
   “But it’s your last night.”
   “That’s the problem.”
   They were supposed to be water under the bridge. That’s what he said once, in the harshness of the night only insomniacs witness, and she agreed even though, truthfully, she didn’t know what it meant. Very quiet water, like a shallow stream passing through a forest at midday, he said as they waited, huddled beneath the sheets, for their room service meals. It was the easiest thing for them to do—they convinced themselves so well. But it was never as easy as they liked to believe, leaving each other there, locked in a time they are forbidden to mention not even in a letter, not even in a metaphor. Water under the bridge, an empty phrase that is exemplary in thought yet falters when taken literally.
   “So here we are,” he says.
   “Yes,” she says. “Here we are.”
   They had their moments years before—a time where they were overcome with capricious notions—and in a way, none of that has changed. He formed several wrinkles in the center of his forehead; hers were etched at the corners of her eyes. Their joints were tighter, stiff with work and age, and though they may have appeared older, they were not a mere thought wiser.
   “If we do this,” he starts.
   “It won’t ever end,” she finishes.
   Darkness has fallen now, the lights of the skyscrapers flickering off in an indecipherable pattern. Businessmen and women crossing the Hudson to return home to their spouses, the others lingering in the draining city, prolonging arrival to their empty quarters. The promenade, too, is thinning, save for couples retreating to the benches for a bit of privacy and romance. He, like the others, motions to the nearest bench—a neglected one hidden among some shrubs—and she shakes her head.
   She pulls another cigarette from her purse and places it between her lips, smoking and speaking simultaneously, out of habit.
   “Lets go to that bar,” she says.

© Lauren Barbato

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