Stones on the Water

This scene comes with a bit of back-story. Two years ago, a thoroughly decent chap named John O'Brien came to me with an idea. His theater company, Mill 6 Collaborative in Boston, was putting together a show to celebrate their tenth anniversary. He wanted to include live readings of material from Analog Nation, including a personal ad-slash-rant written in December 2007. His idea was to pair it with a new piece, an ad written from a girl's perspective. I was more than happy to oblige, and banged something out five minutes before deadline (as is my custom). Apparently it went well, because last month John had another idea. As part of a fundraiser for Mill 6, he wanted to re-stage the two personal ads, this time followed by a scene of the guy and the girl on a date. Five minutes before deadline, I started typing like a banshee. What follows is that scene, performed last night by Greer Rooney and Jonathan Michael Anderson. Wait, do banshees type?

Note: The scene won't make sense unless you've read the original personal ads, linked here and here.



The date is going surprisingly well. First dinner, now drinks. They have a good tempo. They're listening. None of the laughter is forced. Definitely hitting it off. They're in the middle of comparing which dating sites they've used.

Her: Spark.com?

Him: Yep. You?

Her: Yep.

Him: OKCupid?

Her: Oh yes.

Him: Same here. PlentyOfFish?

Her: Created a profile and looked around, never went out on any dates.

Him: Probably for the best.

Her: Yeah, I never did understand the appeal of a dating site whose name basically says, "Was that guy a train wreck? Well hey, we've got tons more!"

Him: If someone's giving you the "plenty of fish in the sea" line, you just had an epic fail.

Her: Cheers. Let's see ... Match.com?

Him: Well of course Match.com.

Her: Everybody goes to Olive Garden at some point, right?

Him: Exactly. Then there's Yahoo Personals.

Her: Meh.

Him: Meh. Pretty much. Does anyone actually use that thing? I constantly see the ads when I'm checking my email, but I don't think the people in those pictures are real. They're robots. And the pictures are Photoshopped.

Her: Photoshopped pictures of robots that never existed in the first place.

Him: Cheers.

Her: Ummmmm, True.com?

Him: Yep. Chemistry.com?

Her: Yep. JDate?

Him: No, actually. Why, are you ... ?

Her: No no, I grew up Methodist. But I mean, can't hurt to look, right? I never went out with anyone from there, though. I felt guilty about not being Jewish. Which I suppose is ironic.

Him: There's one we're missing ... Oh! eHarmony.

Her: Ugh. Like registering with the Ministry of Truth. The Foreign Service Exam has fewer hoops to jump through.

Him: They turned me down.

Her: No!

Him: Yes. Yes they did.

Her: (Overlapping) Oh my God!

Him: How's that for love, huh? I'm trying to find a nice girl and they won't even let me in the building. My brother and I used to call it Studio 54.

Her: Did they turn him down too?

Him: Nah, he married his college girlfriend. But he's probably the only guy I've felt comfortable talking to about, you know, online dating and stuff.

Her: Really? I don't have any problem at all, my friends are cool with it. It's 2010, those sites have ads on the nightly news.

Him: Yeah, I mean I guess ... I dunno, sometimes I feel kinda weird about the fact that I don't hit it off with more girls I meet offline. You know? Not to imply that we're hitting it off.

Her: Oh, of course not.

Him: But what if this was fifteen, twenty years ago? Would I just never go out with anyone? Would my Mom be setting me up on dates with her friends' nieces and girls from church?

Her: Nonsense. Listen, back in the day I used to look at dating sites the way everyone else did. As repositories of despair. But come on, people used to think that buying stuff on the Internet was a stupid idea too. You still have to be outgoing if you're online. You still have meet people. Dating sites are just ... catalysts.

Him: True. I suppose.

Her: Well hey, what you posted to FastCupid was awfully outgoing.

Him: Yeah. Some tirade, huh? Go out with a bang. I have to admit, I never expected anyone to answer. And I certainly never expected that she would be completely awesome.

Her: What do you mean, "go out with a bang?"

Him: You know ... "better to burn out than fade away" sort of thing. Big Broadway number, smash the guitars, then exit stage left. (Beat. She's not following.) That was my last online personal.

Her: What?

Him: My farewell to the genre. And kind of a middle finger at it on my way out the door. I thought that was obvious. Hell, it's practically a tirade.

Her: No, it wasn't "obvious."

Him: Sorry, I don't mean to imply you didn't get it or anything like that.

Her: (Overlapping after "get it.") No no, it's fine, it's totally fine. It's just ... it's fine.

Him: It's just what?

Her: So are you ... giving up? Is that what this is?

Him: Not giving up. More like moving on.

Her: Is there a difference?

Him: Wait a second, wait a second, what, what's the problem here?

Her: Ugh, there's no problem. Forget I said anything.

Him: You don't like the fact that I'm quitting online dating?

Her: This is, this is, I'm sorry. I feel like I've derailed things a bit and I didn't intend to.

Him: Okay.

(Beat.)

Her: Really though? Just ... that's it? No más?

Him: Oh, man. I would have thought you'd have found it touching. Shit, I skipped my last stone across the lake and it hit the Loch Ness Monster! Wow that came out wrong. Hit a mermaid? Still not great. What I mean is, is ... this was my last shot, and it was probably my most honest one, and the result ... well, so far it's better than all the others combined. Isn't that, Jesus I can't believe I'm using this word, but isn't that romantic?

Her: It doesn't change the fact that you're ready to hang it up. You looked at the options of trying and not trying, and you went for not trying.

Him: It's not like I'm becoming a monk. I'm just done with the Internet. I'm done with the dance.

Her: This has nothing to do with online or offline or dating or not dating or monk robes or whatever. This is about walking away for the wrong reasons. Not because you're satisfied with the experience, but because you're sick of searching for one. Look. I'm not ... I'm not saying the only acceptable outcome is to meet someone online, get married and have ten babies. But shouting in the darkness and then slamming the door behind you isn't the way to go either.

Him: Well what about yours? Yours was way crazier than mine, and that's saying something. I thought for sure you were at the end of your tether, same as me.

Her: No way. Mine wasn't a tirade, it was a statement, a manifesto. It was a challenge. Fuckity hell, it was performance art.

Him: Well bravo, I guess I fell for it.

(Beat.)

Her: I didn't mean it like that.

(Beat.)

Him: Things took a weird turn here, huh?

Her: Yeah.

(Beat.)

Him: Listen. Tell me something. And I'm serious. Why did you respond to what I posted? Honest to God, you were the only one who did.

Her: Because ... hm. Because you wanted something. Because you wanted something and weren't afraid to just say it. It was out there. "Here's who I want, doesn't make a damn difference whether she even exists." And it didn't matter that I'm not those things, that I'm not, whatever, I'm not a hockey fan, never listened to Nirvana, hate scary movies. I read it and thought, now here's a guy I can talk to. We both get that it's okay to want something from this weird-ass, convoluted, fucked up life. (Beat.) How about you? Parts of mine didn't even make sense, why'd you reply?

(Considerable beat.)

Him: Because I'm not a redhead.

(It's the right answer. She smiles, and so does he. Beat.)

Her: Mermaid, huh?