Blue Skies at Home by Rae Binstock

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


Summary: In a grimy Massachusetts garage, two immigrant teenagers experience a moment of connection while teaching each other the way they dance.




CHARACTERS

ALLIE (Nathalia) — 18, from Madrid, soft, small, curvy, graceful
JUNIOR (Rutherford) — 18, Haitian, also small and compact, deep black skin, severely muscled.


SETTING

A mechanic’s fix-it shop in East Cambridge, MA. Two work-tables have been pushed to either side of the stage; on one of them sits a pile of two backpacks, on the other a clunky 90’s boombox in which a cassette tape is currently running.


(In darkness, the sound of crackling static.
JUNIOR and ALLIE are frozen in a beginning flamenco stance as they wait for the music to start. JUNIOR wears sweatpants, a tank top, and sneakers; ALLIE wears a sheer leotard, a wrap-around and tied flamenco skirt, and flamenco shoes.
Long pause. Then the music begins and they burst into action. They begin from the fast movement of the song, which is unusual, but this is rehearsal and they are starting mid-number. ALLIE is extremely deft and familiar with the style (she’s been doing it her whole life). JUNIOR is less sure, less graceful, but his natural talent for movement is so real that he can keep up and look good doing it.
They finish, backs bent, feet pointed. The music stops. They both relax, shaking themselves out.)


JUNIOR
(Laughing) Yo, you weren’t lying, that was fuckin’ brutal.


ALLIE
You should try in the shoes for women. The heel, see—sometimes they stomp so hard it cracks down the middle, breaks the ankle. Carmen Amaya, she used to put a foot through the stage.

JUNIOR
Yeah, that can’t happen. Jean-Paul says he won’t kick us out until midnight, but if we bust a hole in the floor he might change his mind.

ALLIE
I know what I’m doing.

JUNIOR
Nobody said different.

ALLIE
And you?

JUNIOR
Me what?

ALLIE
You follow me, yes?

JUNIOR
Well, I’m trying…

ALLIE
It’s not so hard, I taught you the steps—

JUNIOR
Yesterday! You taught me yesterday, aight, and the festival ain’t until Friday.

ALLIE
So it should be perfect by Wednesday. Stop complaining.

JUNIOR
I’m not complaining!

ALLIE
I thought you wanted to be my partner.

JUNIOR
I did—I do, but—

ALLIE
But what?

JUNIOR
But you got to let a brother breathe.

(A moment. She taps her foot and watches him. He pretends to tie his shoe, embarrassed.)

ALLIE
You breathe yet?

JUNIOR
Whatever?

ALLIE
Because I can wait while you breathe more.

JUNIOR
Whatever, girl, let’s do this. (She starts to pull him into a step.) Hold up.

ALLIE
What’s wrong?

JUNIOR
I got to do that whole thing over again before we try it for real. (She rolls her eyes.) C’mon, I haven’t been doing this since I was a baby.

ALLIE
You ever see a baby dancing flamenco, you let me know. Ugh, fine. (Back to opening pose.)

JUNIOR
Take it slow, I said.

ALLIE
All right, all right, slow. (Under her breath) Bitch.

JUNIOR
Hold up, what was that?

ALLIE
Nothing! Uno, dos, tres… (They begin to move very slowly, ALLIE guiding but mostly in sync.)

JUNIOR
So who taught you to call people bitches?

ALLIE
Nobody teaches me anything. (Pause.) I pick it up when I can.

JUNIOR
It was Darryl, wasn’t it?

ALLIE
You think I learn the word “bitch” from my boyfriend?

JUNIOR
I hope not, but…

ALLIE
When everybody talks at once I can’t hear who says what.

JUNIOR
Your English is perfect.

ALLIE
Shut up.

JUNIOR
Nah, I know the struggle. For real, it’s way better than it was.

ALLIE
Only because I have to fight for it. At school I am under the ocean and everyone talks in waves. Maybe you taught me to say “bitches”, Junior, who knows.

JUNIOR
I don’t got a dirty mouth like that. (Pause as they do a complex move.) When you leave you better represent.

ALLIE
Represent what?

JUNIOR
Us. Nobody need people in Spain being like, “Damn, she move to America for a couple years and come back all filthy and unladylike.”

ALLIE
I was never a lady!

JUNIOR
Aight, sure, I’ma let you say so, but that don’t make it true.

ALLIE
...know what Darryl says?

JUNIOR
What he say?

ALLIE
He says you’re whipped.

JUNIOR
Whipped?

ALLIE
What does it mean?

JUNIOR
…nothing. It don’t even make sense, Carmen and me aren’t…nothing. (Pause.) Who he says got me whipped?

ALLIE
Nobody.

JUNIOR
Who?

ALLIE
Kathy.

JUNIOR
(Stopping abruptly) He says what?!

ALLIE
¡Ay! ¡No se detienen! (She smacks his arm.)

JUNIOR
My sister ain’t got me whipped. Your boy Darryl can come at me whenever he wants, I’ma take his skinny ass out like the garbage—

ALLIE
Ey ey ey! (She grabs him) Where do you think you’re going? We have to get this by tonight.

JUNIOR
You tell him I ain’t playing around.

ALLIE
Shhh. Of course you’re not, now—yes? Please.

JUNIOR
Why you even tell me that?

ALLIE
To get you back for calling me a lady.

JUNIOR
…Darryl, man. You smack him around every day, damn.

(He returns to her, pouting; she laughs. They begin to dance again, now faster, playfully.
ALLIE attempts a turn that JUNIOR forgot; they bump into each other and break the spell.)

ALLIE
Ah—no, wait—then you—

JUNIOR
You’re not supposed to move / yet—

ALLIE
Me, I go first! We are practicing and if you don’t try to remember then there’s no point. I don’t want this stupid show to be the last thing everybody sees before I’m gone a Madrid, not if it’s all wrong! And you have, shit, you are—if you are going to fuck it around like this, then there is no, no, no point! So don’t do this, don’t do it like that! (Pause. ALLIE takes a breath.) I’m sorry.

JUNIOR
... you okay?

ALLIE
Yeah. Yeah, I just already...Papa is excited for his new job, this is good, it’s all right but it is also… happening now. Too much now. I miss you all before I even leave. (Pause.) You dance perfect, I went too fast.

JUNIOR
Yo, Allie, it’s cool.

ALLIE
Remember my first festival, freshman year?

JUNIOR
I remember you was really quiet, in that FOB way.

ALLIE
The big parade, with all the music, and the dancers? Those dancers, they were so…and the food? Corn dogs, spring rolls, and the water guns, and Darryl on the tra...trum...bouncing.

JUNIOR
Trampoline.

ALLIE
I had fun. I didn’t think fun could happen in English.

JUNIOR
I didn’t used to either. (Pause.) We gonna be great. Just need to relax. Let’s try it again.

(JUNIOR rewinds the boombox a little, then rejoins ALLIE. Music starts, they whirl into action. They come to the same point as before, but when the music cuts, instead of relaxing, they stay taught, breathing hard. A long pause of static.
Suddenly, a hip-hop dance song begins mid-song. JUNIOR quickly breaks away and turns it off.)

JUNIOR
Yo my bad.

ALLIE
Was that yours?

JUNIOR
Yeah, um, I must’ve recorded over it, don’t like to waste the tapes.

ALLIE
What is it?

JUNIOR
What? The song? It’s nothin, I’m just workin’ on…nothin’. It’s chill.

ALLIE
Okay, come on, let me see.

JUNIOR
Girl, we do not have time / for that.

ALLIE
We have time, until midnight! I give you everything I have, share with me something of yours.

JUNIOR
C’mon... (ALLIE hops up on one of the work tables.) You serious? (She raises an eyebrow.) Aight, aight, you want it, I’ma give it to you.

(He rewinds the tape a little and starts it again. The dance music stops, and when he finds his beat he begins krumping. His energy and precision are unbelievable; he is fluid and sharp at the same time. ALLIE’s breath is taken away a little. The song ends and JUNIOR relaxes, doing an awkward little bow. ALLIE waits a second too long before applauding.)

JUNIOR
Anyway that’s yeah, / so now we—
ALLIE
(Cheering) Olé! Guapa! Ey, olé!

JUNIOR
You like it, huh?

ALLIE
You amaze me. You are beautiful, the way—(She mimics his arm movements.) I wish I could.

JUNIOR
All it takes is practice.

ALLIE
Did you learn here?

JUNIOR
Nah, from my cousin. (Pause.) I was still back in Port-Au-Prince, he used to come visit from the States and we practice out back, under the coffee trees. Used to steal cardboard from down the road, so I’d have a flat to break on, even when he left and it’s just me and Granpapa Pyè in the yard—my uncle’s pig, he twice my size, snort and shit every time I fell over. Then I show up here and I ain’t askin’ why my cousin showed me what he did, ‘cause it makes me special. (Pause.) Hubens and Kathy, they wanna learn but I ain’t teach them yet. May never.

ALLIE
If their big brother won’t teach them, who will?

JUNIOR
Y’know. Just, what if I don’t do it right?

(Pause. ALLIE stands and rewinds the tape a little.)

ALLIE
Teach me something.

(JUNIOR hesitates, then moves past her and starts the tape. They find the beat and he does small, short moves, which she copies. Their eyes are locked.
The tape ends and static fills the room. They are shaking themselves, eye contact broken, when another hip-hop songs starts—but this one is slower, sexier, immediately awkward. They are both embarrassed for a moment, then decide to laugh.)

JUNIOR
Sorry, it’s just... (He starts to freestyle a little.) Gotta have a little stress release some days.

ALLIE
Oh yeah? (She begins freestyling too.) In Madrid they play music like this in the Plaza Mayor.

JUNIOR
Oh yeah?

ALLIE
Tourists like it.

JUNIOR
Where they play flamenco?

ALLIE
Real flamenco is under the earth. Little cafes and restaurants, you have to hear from a friend. I was brought, my first time, ten years old, a very small room, the lights kept going out…but I could hear the feet. I could hear them speaking to me, shouting, laughing, the woman had her arms tight, like this—I hear her feet cry out and carry her away.

JUNIOR
Like they her partner, not part of her.

ALLIE
Yes.

JUNIOR
Sometimes…

ALLIE
What?

JUNIOR
…You gonna be happy to go back? To Madrid?

ALLIE
Oh yeah. I miss my sister and my old neighborhood...my nephew Javi has a birthday…my friends. Blue skies.

JUNIOR
Blue skies?

ALLIE
They’re different from the ones here, at home. In Madrid the sky glows.

JUNIOR
I thought Madrid was home. (She stops, turns off the music. Pause.) I’m sorry, I...you know I know how it is. I go back to Haiti now and it feels like vacation. Hubens don’t even remember our house. The backyard under Mama Mountain, trees stare down at us, and I remember, but…I don’t know if I got it all. Some of it might just be how I wish it were.

ALLIE
(Turning, staring at him)...I forget words in Spanish. Just for a second.

JUNIOR
Don’t dream in Creole no more. I tried. Something in me won’t turn back around.

ALLIE
I told Carmen and Ro—I told my friends in Madrid about the show at the festival tomorrow and nothing. Just old words. They forget me.

JUNIOR
I won’t forget you, when you go.

(ALLIE approaches him and puts his hands on her in the opening pose. They begin the routine again, very slow, more tender now, no music. They come to the end of the routine and there is a brief moment of hesitation; then ALLIE keeps going, slow and deliberate, guiding JUNIOR through the new moves. He follows in a concentrated trance. They do a new dance without music, bigger movements, more emotional, faster. A turn; they collide and grab each other. They are shocked to find each other there. JUNIOR cups her face.
ALLIE reaches up and cups his face back. Very gently, she kisses one cheek, then the other. Another pause, then a slow release. They move away like flamenco partners do, slow, deliberate, facing away from each other.)

SCENE


Rae Binstock was raised in Cambridge, MA. She earned her BA in Anthropology and Theatre from Columbia University, where she co-wrote the book for Columbia’s 120th Annual Varsity Show and served on the board of student groups dedicated to producing original work. Rae's work We Are The Light Of The World was selected from more than 500 submissions as the winner of the Red Theater's 2015 Playwriting Competition, which included a staged reading in Chicago. Her plays have been staged and workshopped by groups such as the National Theater for Student Artists, March Forth Productions, and the Riant Theater. Rae has received the Sherwood-Collins Playwriting Award, and Columbia's Seymour Brick Memorial Prize for Playwriting. She attended the Powerhouse Theater Training Program as a Playwriting Apprentice and works as a script assistant for artists such as David Henry Hwang and Ellen McLaughlin. Most recently, Rae's play Watch Me Burn can be seen at New York's Fresh Fruit Festival, a premiere LGBT theatre event in July 2016. She is represented by Allison Schwartz, Paradigm Talent Agency; for more information, please visit her website, raebinstock.com.