LIGHTS FADE UP ON:
10:35 on a lonely Friday night. Why? Because stories about love have to begin with lonesomeness, that’s why. LOIS, lonely Lois, slightly older than 30, looks like’s she’s 40. Sits at a table for two in a Chinese restaurant that’s about the size of a closet in the east village. It is Valentine’s Day, and she’s trying really hard not to give a fuck. She busies herself with things she brought along to busy herself. In walks LESTER a strapping young man, of 39. He walks over to the counter and without waiting for anyone to show up he starts viciously ringing the bell on the counter. A young but tired looking Asian man named JIN walks out. He knows this fucker.
JIN: Udon and ox tail.
Jin disappears to the back. Lester meanders around as if he hadn’t been there a thousand times. He decides on the seat directly by Lois at her table. He makes himself comfortable by moving her shit.
LOIS: There’s another table over there.
LESTER: I know.
Lester goes in his man bag and takes out a disreputable news paper. Probably the New York Post.
LOIS: So why don’t you go sit at it.
LESTER: Because I don’t want to.
Lois watches him read for a spell then …
LOIS: I don’t want any shit outta you. I know what this is. It’s Valentine’s day, we’re in this intimate place and you are trying to strike up some convo and maybe make some type of connection. Hell, maybe I’ll take you home and fuck you on the sofa real quiet like as to not wake Mother out of her opioid coma. You’ll make promises in hushed tones about calling me the following Friday only you won’t, I’ll have to spend the evening watching Wheel of Fortune with Mother and her group of degenerate Senior Citizens. So save your rap buddy. I don’t wish to connect with you or any one else with a penis or a vagina for that matter. I’d like it very much if you would take yourself and your trashy fucking newspaper and relocate to the table that is sitting in dire need of someone to occupy it.
Lester turns the page in his newspaper.
Lester folds his paper up and sits it on his lap.
LESTER: I don’t want to. There is a large disgusting garbage can directly to the right of that table. The thought of a discarded bit of typhoid leaping from the trash in to my Udon is simply too much to bear. If you’d like, you can displace yourself over in yon sewer, but I, don’t intend to move.
Lester unfolds the paper as Jin arrives with Lois’s order. Jin, btw, does not have an obnoxious Asian accent. He was raised in East Orange, NJ.
JIN: Shrimp fried rice, with a side of tartar sauce. Enjoy. Let me know if you need anything else. Your udon will be out in a sec.
Lois organizes herself before she begins. This is pure OCD ritual. Fork cleaned and organized, rice arranged around the plate, shrimp plucked out and set neatly on the side, the whole nine. Lester lowers his paper and watches. He’s captivated by this shit and when she’s done, right before she takes the first bite …
LESTER: That’s why.
He lifts his paper again to read. Lois sits her fork down.
LOIS: That’s why … what? From behind the paper.
LESTER: You’re single.
Lois sits her fork down.
LOIS: Excuse me?
LESTER: I mean you’re not terrible looking, a little fleshy, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for most men these days.
LOIS: You’re a real bastard. I suppose you know that though.
LESTER: I do, and I also know the reason why you’re single is your freakish habits.
LOIS: No freakier than you sitting down next to a complete stranger when it’s clear that they don’t want you there.
LESTER: Good. We’re both weirdos with freakish habits.
Jin enters. He sits Lester’s food down with far less costumer service zest he offers him not a damn thing else and is trying to walk away when.
JIN: Jin. My name is Jin.
LESTER: Right. Jin. Jin, can you please get me those nice plastic chopsticks that you have?
JIN: We’re out of them.
LESTER: Well that’s awful.
JIN: I guess so.
Jin attempts exit again.
LESTER: Jin, I’ll take a diet cola.
Jin exits. Lester puts his paper away, grabs one of the napkins Jin gave him, places his hands in his lap on top of the napkin and watches Lois eat. Her eating is laced with as much ritual as the set up for her meal. This goes on until Lois chooses to notice him watching.
LOIS: Fuck off.
LOIS: Move then.
LESTER: We both know I’m not.
Jin comes back out.
JIN: We’re actually out of diet cola.
LESTER: Really? That’s unfortunate. Water will do then. Bottled water.
Jin exits again.
LOIS: What do you do?
LESTER: I do a lot of things.
LOIS: Your work.
LESTER: I’m independently wealthy. I don’t work. My job is to observe and participate in life.
LOIS: Yes … Hmn.
LESTER: My name is Lester … should you care to know.
LOIS: I shouldn’t. I could have died without knowing actually.
LESTER: And you are?
LOIS: None of your business.
LESTER: Suit yourself.
Jin comes out and sits a bottle of water on the table.
JIN: Are you still working on that?
Lois looks down at the plate of neatly dissected food and decides she wants to go a couple more rounds.
LOIS: I am.
Jin exits then re-enters.
JIN: Oh, we’re gonna be closing in the next 10 minutes. Don’t rush, but I’m just gonna be locking the door then … the holiday.
Jin doesn’t wait for a reaction, he’s out.
LESTER: It’s funny what constitutes a holiday for some people.
LOIS: I told you, no Valentines Day talk. If you’re looking to “hook up”.
LESTER: Madame, even if I wanted to hook up, you would be the last person on earth that would happen with.
LOIS: Gee thanks.
LESTER: This is not to insult you it’s just that I’m a homosexual and therefore have no interest in you sexually, although I do find your meticulous habits fascinating.
Lester finally starts to eat.
LOIS: You’re queer?
LESTER: No, I’m a homosexual.
LOIS: There’s a difference?
LESTER: There is for me. Being homosexual means that when I am sexually aroused there is a 99.9% chance that attraction to a man caused it. Queer is an identity, a political one used to seek a certain status within society. All the labels are Black, White …, I choose to not identify in that way. I seek no level of status in society. I choose to merely exist. Exist and observe.
LOIS: Aren’t you fancy.
LESTER: No, but I am at peace which is more than I can say for you. I’m not the one sitting in a hole in the wall Chinese joint on Valentine’s Day night trying to forget the fact that there’s no one who is going to have meaningless sex with me and give me a card.
LOIS: But you’re here, just as here as me. Why come out at all on a Valentine’s day night? Why not order in and find a hot twink on Grinder.
Lester pushes out a minor giggle.
LESTER: Where do you get this stuff, reality television?
LOIS: I have gay friends, I know how this works.
LESTER: I don’t dabble in Grinders or twinks. I am for lack of better wording asexual. Anal sex is a messy affair that I want nothing to do with, and love is far worse than that. A human being needs only food and shelter to survive. Nature vs. Nurture is a myth.
LOIS: And this is why you’re single.
LESTER: By choice. By a very deliberate choice. One I don’t think you’re making right now. You have friends? Why aren’t you out with them empowering your singleness.
Lois drops her gaze. You already know what it is.
LESTER: They’re all out on dates aren’t they?
Lois sits down her fork, picks up her purse.
LOIS: Sir!? Jin!?
LESTER: I’m not picking on you.
LOIS: Of course you’re not. Jin enters.
Lois fumbles through her bag and reaches a credit card to Jin. In her haste, she drops it. Lester picks it up, looks at it and hands it to Jin.
LESTER: Lois. That’s an interesting name.
LOIS: Are you gonna tell me that’s the other reason why I’m single?
LESTER: No, I’m not. Actually I was going to tell you that there is no need to feel … down or anything about today or any of supposed things that are supposed to go along with it.
LOIS: You’re just on top of it all aren’t you? You float just above the level of feeling and look down on those who have the audacity to want anything. Like your ability to “choose” to be and stay single is something that makes you a superior breed of human. You’re just a pathetic as I am only you don’t know it. The day will come when you are old and all you will want is someone to hold your hand while you’re dying. Not only will you not have someone to hold your hand, you won’t so much as have a name to call out when you draw your last breath. I’d rather be in shitty relationships for all eternity than to be like you …
Jin enters with her credit card receipt. Lois signs it with the quickness.
LOIS: … at least I’m alive. At least I’m living.
Lois slams all her shit in her bag and heads out the door. Lester watches. A long while passes as he pics over then abandons his food. Jin enters.
JIN: I need to … I need to ring you up. I gotta get out of here.
LESTER: I see.
JIN: Uh … You want a box?
LESTER: No. No, I’m good.
Lester goes in his wallet and leaves exact change on the table. Jin disposes of his plate and disappears to the back. Lester rises and stares through the front door of the shop. Jin comes back out with a dozen roses and a gift bag.
JIN: I’ll … I’ll be here later tomorrow. It’s just today –
LESTER: I understand.
There’s an awkward moment when Jin does everything but tell Lester to get the fuck out.
LESTER: I understand.
Lester steps out and takes off to the left. Jin heads off in the opposite direction.