1.3 The Bus Stop
written by Eli Barraza
directed & produced by Mischa Stanton
[[SFX: A fork scrapes against the bottom of a can. Peri sets down the can and fork.]]
PERI: Alright Mo. The Cheerios ran out days ago. This is the second to last can of beans and looking outside it seems we have finally landed in a place that might have a store. Can’t see any signs but where there’s a street, there's a bus stop and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from having a car breakdown is that bus drivers know the ins and outs of a city better than anyone. So. I am going to. Talk to them. Talk to someone. It’s really no big deal. I have spoken to many people before. Most of them people I already knew but that’s no big deal. I’ve been walking around outside, if I can do that I can talk to a person. And you know, the first person can just be practice. No pressure. I won’t ask for directions yet because I’ll get overwhelmed and forget them. Just. Go outside. And practice. Cool. Yeah. Alright then.
[[SFX: Peri closes the lighthouse door and locks all three locks.]]
PERI: Alright, today you are going to talk to someone. You can do this. This is happening. Just say hello. Hello and then they say hello and you ask how their day is and they say fine and then maybe they ask how your day is and you say “fine” or something along those lines.
[[SFX: Peri walks away from the lighthouse down the street]]
PERI: Let’s see, if they say fine I don’t want to repeat and say the same thing so I’ll say, “alright” or “not too shabby”, no that sounds stupid like I’m trying to be British or something. Um. Hm. But what if they ask something more? Like are you from around here? I can’t just say no, my house just popped in for a day, no idea where we’re going tomorrow but I’m really hoping it’s not under water because I don’t think I have any scuba diving equipment. I can’t tell them anything really because they might be a bad person who tries to steal the lighthouse and oh, now we’re spinning again.
[[SFX: She stops walking. A car passes.]]
PERI: Okay stop. The conversation will likely end at “I’m doing well, thank you.” And then maybe a bit about the weather but after that I can get up and leave and probably never see them again. What’s the weather? Right, sunny. Good, good, I’ll have to remember that.
[[SFX: Another car passes.]]
PERI: Oh. And there’s a bus stop.
[[SFX: PERI walks to the bus stop and sits on the bench. She hums to herself as birds chirps.]]
PERI: Can’t practice without people. Okay, wait for 20 minutes and then move on. If no one comes up--
[[SFX: Approaching footsteps. LENA sits down on the other side of the bench, dropping her bag next to her and letting out a sigh. She takes out her phone and types a message.]]
[[SFX: The typing pauses a moment.]]
[[SFX: Typing resumes.]]
PERI: How’s your day going?
LENA: Shitty, yours?
PERI: Oh. Ah. Okay I guess.
LENA: Lucky you.
[[SFX: Lena unzips her bag and takes out headphones. She plugs them into her phone and indistinct punk rock music emanates. She pops in an earbud.]]
[[SFX: Lena pulls out an ear bud and shifts on the bench]]
PERI: [mutter] I said I’m sorry your day’s shitty.
LENA: Yeah, well cars break down and there’s not a lot to be done about that other than listen to angry punk music and wait for a ride.
PERI: Got it.
[[SFX: Pause. A car passes by.]]
LENA: What are you waiting for?
PERI: Oh, um, the… bus.
LENA: The bus doesn’t run here.
PERI: I thought this was a bus stop. I saw the sign for a bus, there’s a bench and a little shelter thing, this is a bus stop.
LENA: Woah, chill. Yeah, this is a bus stop but the buses aren’t running this way. Budget cuts or whatever.
LENA: Yeah, I’m only here because it’s the only seat with shade in a 5 block radius.
LENA: My partner’s gonna pick me up.
LENA: Do you have anybody you can call?
PERI: No. I, um, my phone doesn’t work. Died, ran out of battery.
LENA: I got a portable charger.
[[SFX: Lena rummages through her bag and pulls out a charger.]]
PERI: I don’t have that type of phone.
PERI: And I wouldn’t have anyone to call anyway.
LENA: Well shit dude, you’ve got a worse day going than me.
PERI: It’s gone very off script, yes.
LENA: That’s one way of putting it.
[[SFX: A car passes by.]]
PERI: I came out for practice.
LENA: Practice? Are you on one of the softball teams or something?
PERI: No. I mean. I wanted to practice… talking… to people. And figured a bus stop would be a nice place to try.
PERI: Yeah. I now feel very embarrassed.
LENA: No, don’t dude, people are hard to talk to. Pretty much why I usually stay plugged in but it’s not always shitty. Like, like I’m happy I talked to my partner. Before we were partners, I mean, like I’m happy that initial social interaction didn’t totally blow up in my face. Obviously.
LENA: You’re doing a good job right now.
PERI: Oh? Cool. Okay.
LENA: Are you pretty much tapped out?
PERI: I might be.
LENA: We can just sit here, then. If you like.
LENA: Or... I can talk. Fill the silence while you recalibrate that brain?
PERI: Okay, yeah that’d be nice.
LENA: Uh, and of course I completely blank on anything to talk about.
PERI: It’s nice weather we’re having.
LENA: Ha, I dunno if I’d call the blistering hot sun nice weather but yeah, sure. It’s not like we’re in a blizzard.
LENA: Oh right! I’m the one supposed to be talking. Um, okay so the weather is nice but not really because the sun is really hot, the sun is a star.
PERI: I like stars.
LENA: Everyone likes stars.
PERI: That’s not true.
LENA: Alright, not everyone but most people. My favorite star winked out recently. Bit of a bummer really. Probably some supernova that went black hole or however that works. Do you have a favorite star?
PERI: The sun. It’s under appreciated.
LENA: Yeah, you’re right. Here I am complaining about the heat when the sun is the reason we have life in the first place. Perspective.
[[SFX: Peri does not respond.]]
LENA: I’m gonna level with you, I have exhausted my knowledge about the stars and the sun.
PERI: Tell me... about your partner.
LENA: My partner.
PERI: You like them?
LENA: Well yeah, I like them, it might actually go a bit further than liking them though I don’t think either of us are quite ready to admit that to each other’s face yet.
PERI: Why did you start talking to them.
LENA: Because I thought they were cool.
[[SFX: Peri is silent.]]
LENA: Okay, I’ll give you the spiel. It’s not an actual spiel it’s just like… I’ve never really said any of this out loud but I’ll tell you because you’re a stranger and we’re probably never gonna meet again, cool?
LENA: Um, I think… I think I forgot how to breathe years ago. And I swear this’ll make sense in a second
[[SFX: Lena pauses as a car passes by.]]
LENA: I’m not sure when it happened but I finally realized that breathing on autopilot… it didn’t quite work. I never felt… I still don’t feel like I get enough air sometimes. I have to consciously suck in until my lungs feel like bursting, and then hold it until they tingle and then let it out in a whoosh. Like [loud sigh]. Like that. And that’s barely enough. Everyday I pull in air and I let it out. And everyday I gotta prepare myself for the inevitable question of why I sigh all the time. Are you bored? Are you irritated? It’s like dude, I’m just trying to keep this hunk of meat flesh alive. I am trying to hold onto what’s mine, I’m trying to claim my right to being a living thing but... everyday it gets worse. I draw in deeper knowing that soon I won’t be able to inhale anything. And my breathing will be done and my rights as a living creature… stripped. Well, that was my every day, uh, until I met them.
[[SFX: Someone walks by with a dog.]]
LENA: Cute dog, man.
DOG WALKER: Thanks, his name’s Fido and yeah that’s literally his name. Blame my little cousin.
[[SFX: The dog barks at Peri who inhales sharply.]]
DOG WALKER: C’mere Fido! [to LENA] Have a good one!
LENA: You too!
[[SFX: Quiet again]]
LENA: You know the phrase “they took my breath away”? Hate it. Garbage. Absolute trash. My entire adult life, I have been trying to catch my breath but with them, it’s like they just handed it over. And they SMILED about it. “Saw you were after this, figured I’d grab it for you.” Cheeky a-hole. That’s what love did for me. Shit dude, I’ve never said that out loud but there it is. Love allows me to breathe. And I mean this in a literal physical sense. I’m not an anxious person. I roll with the punches, my thoughts don’t race and nothing freaks me out. My body just like, subscribed to the sensations of a constant asthmatic. And let me tell you, no amount of medication ever helped. Most of it tastes nasty as hell. But when I met them, it was like… like you know those cheesy preflight videos? The plane is going down! The cabin’s losing pressure! But there they were to help me with my O2 mask. I know I’m mixing metaphors, um, and circling around but like wow my brain is finally processing this shit. Like, imagine your lungs finally being able to breathe right!
[[SFX: A plane flies overhead. Lena laughs.]
LENA: I, uh, I tried to nickname them Al once, after Albuterol. It’s an emergency inhaler medication. It didn’t really fit them so we went with Ollie, Albuterollie. Using the end, rather than the, than the beginning. It’s dumb, I know.
PERI: It’s not dumb.
LENA: Ha, thanks.
[[SFX: Quiet again.]]
LENA: I think I’m all used up dude. Like, that was a lotta shit I probably would never have said to anyone but a stranger. So. Uh. Thanks?
PERI: You’re welcome. And thank you for helping me practice.
LENA: You’re better than you give yourself credit for.
[[SFX: Peri laughs.]]
PERI: Thanks. Again.
[[SFX: Text pops up on Lena’s phone.]]
LENA: Rad, they’re almost here. Not rad that they’re texting and driving but I’m not their mom. You sure you don’t need a ride?
PERI: I’m, um, I’m good.
[[SFX: A car pulls up to the curb. The window rolls down and Lena takes a deep breath.]]
OLLIE: Get in dork, we’re going shopping.
LENA: Shut up.
[[SFX: Lena gets up.]]
LENA: Good luck out there, dude.
PERI: Thanks. Good luck with your car.
[[SFX: Lena opens the car door and gets in.]]
[[SFX: The car pulls away and drives off. Peri sniffles.]]
PERI: Ollie. Ollie ollie oxen free.
[[SFX: She gets up from the bench and walks away.]]
PERI: Hm. Nap now. Groceries later.
The Far Meridian.
Created and written by Eli Barraza, directed and produced by Mischa Stanton.
Performed by Eli Barraza as Peri, with Kristen DiMercurio as Lena, Lauren Shippen as Ollie, and Briggon Snow as the Dog Walker. Special thanks to Boba. Music by The Album Leaf and by Social Anxiety.
For more information and links to support the show, go to TheFarMeridian.com, or find us on social media @TheFarMeridian.
We’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, may you always find your way.