A bedroom. In the rear, center, a
door. A chair to left of door. In the left corner, a washstand. In the
left wall, center, a small window with a torn dark shade pulled down. On
the right, a bed. Ugly wall paper, dirty, stained, criss-crossed with
When the curtain rises, the room is
in darkness except for a faint glow on the window shade from some
street lamp. Then the door is opened and a woman's figure is silhouetted
against the dim, yellow light of a hall. She turns and speaks to someone
who is following her. Her voice is heavy and slow with the strong trace
of a foreign intonation, although the words are clearly enough defined.
A man's figure appears behind hers. The woman is fairly young. Her face,
rouged, powdered, penciled, is broad and stupid. Her small eyes have a
glazed look. Yet she is not ugly—rather pretty for her bovine, stolid
type—and her figure is still attractive although its movements just now
are those of a tired scrubwoman's. She takes off her coat, hangs it on a
hook, and removes her hat.
The man is Michael. He is
bare-headed, his hair disheveled, his eyes wild, his face has a
feverish, mad expression. He stands in the doorway watching each
movement of the woman's with an unnatural preoccupied concentration.
removed her hat and put it on the washstand, turns to him impatiently)
Ain't you comin' in? (He starts and nods stupidly, moving his lips as
if answering but not making a sound.) Come in! Shut the door. (He
does so and locks it mechanically—then looks from her around the room
with a frightened, puzzled glance as if he were aware of his
surroundings for the first time.)
a trade smile—with an attempt at lightness) Well, here we are,
dearie. (then with a sigh of physical weariness as she sits on the
side of the bed) Gawd, I'm tired! My feet hurt fierce! I been walkin'
miles. I got corns, too. (She sighs again, this time with a sort of
restful content.) It's good 'n' warm in this dump, I'll hand it
that. (a pause) I'd gave up hope and was beatin' it home when you
come along. (a pause during which she takes him in calculatingly)
How 'd you lose your hat? (He starts, passes a trembling hand through
his hair bewilderedly but does not answer. A pause—then the woman sighs
and yawns wearily—bored) Can't you say nothin'? You was full enough
of bull when you met me. Gawd, I thought you'd get us both pinched. You
acted like you was crazy. Remember kissing me on the corner with a whole
mob pipin' us off?
a start—evidently answering some train of thought in his
mind—with a wild laugh) Remember? (He sinks on the chair with his
head in his hands. There is a pause.)
Goin' to stay all night? (He glances up at her stupidly but doesn't
answer. The woman insists dully) Say, you got ear-muffs on? I ast
you, d'you wanta stay all night?
a moment's groping, nods emphatically again and again, swallowing hard
several times as if he were striving to get control of his voice—finally
blurts out in a tone of desperation) Yes—yes—of course!—Where else
would I go?
(indifferently) That's where most of 'em goes—afterwards.
a sudden burst of wild laughter) Ha-ha-ha. Home! Is that your
private brand of revenge—to go with men with homes? I congratulate you!
(He laughs to himself with bitter irony—then suddenly deadly calm)
Yes, I have a home, come to think of it—from now on Hell is my home! I
suspect we're fellow-citizens. (He laughs.)
You oughtn't to say them things.
dull surprise) Why?
might happen. (a pause) Don't you believe in no God?
believe in the devil!
Say! (then after a pause, forcing a smile) I'm wise to what's
wrong with you. You been lappin' up some bum hooch.
No. I'm not drunk. I thought of that—but it's evasion. (wildly)
And I must be conscious—fully conscious, do you understand? I will this
as a symbol of release—of the end of all things! (He stops,
shuddering. She looks at him stolidly. A pause. He presses his hands to
his forehead.) Stop thinking, damn you! (then after a pause—dully)
How long—? What time is it?
after two, I guess.
Only that? (She nods.) Only two hours—? (a pause) I
remember streets—lights—dead faces—Then you—your face alone was alive
for me, alive with my deliverance! That was why I kissed you.
up at him queerly) Say, you talk nutty. Been dopin' up on coke, I
an abrupt exclamation) Ha! (He stares at her with unnatural
intensity.) You seem to take it quite casually that men must be
either drunk or doped—otherwise—! Marvelous! You,—you're the last
depth—(with a strange, wild exultance, leaps to his feet) You're
my salvation! You have the power—and the right—to murder love! You can
satisfy hate! Will you let me kiss you again? (He strides over to
a stupid state of bewilderment, feeling she has been insulted but not
exactly knowing by what or how to resent it—angrily, pushing him away)
No! Get away from me! (then afraid she may lose his trade by this
rebuff) Aw, all right. Sure you can. (Making a tremendous visible
effort he kisses her on the lips, then shrinks back with a shudder and
forces a harsh laugh. She stares at him and mutters resentfully)
O'ny don't get so fresh, see? I don't like your line of talk. (He
slumps down on the chair again, sunk in a somber stupor. She watches
him. She yawns. Finally she asks insinuatingly) Ain't you gettin'
wild scorn) Do you think I—! (staring at her) Oh—I see—you
mean, what did I come here for?
same tone) It's gettin' late.
with no meaning to his question—like an automaton) A little after
(She yawns.) You better let me go to bed and come yourself.
staring at her with strange intensity—suddenly with a queer laugh)
How long have you and I been united in the unholy bonds of—bedlock? (He
chuckles sardonically at his own play on words.)
a puzzled grin) Say!
thousand years—about—isn't it? Or twenty? Don't you remember?
her forced grin) Tryin' to kid me, ain't you?
lie about your age! You were beside the cradle of love, and you'll dance
dead drunk on its grave!
only twenty-six, honest.
a wild laugh) A fact! You're right. Thoughts keep alive. Only facts
kill—deeds! (He starts to his feet.) Then hate will let me alone.
Love will be dead. I'll be as ugly as the world. My dreams will be low
dreams. I'll "lay me down among the swine." Will you promise me this,
offended—impatiently) Sure, I'll promise anything. (She gets up
to start undressing. She has been pulling the pins out of her hair and,
as she rises, it falls over her shoulders in a peroxided flood. She
turns to him, smiling with childish pride.) D'you like my hair, kid?
I got a lot of it, ain't I?
sardonically) "O love of mine, let down your hair and I will make my
shroud of it."
pleased) What's that—po'try? (Then suddenly reminded of something
she regards him calculatingly—after a pause, coldly) Say, you ain't
broke, are you? Is that what's troubling you?
with bitter mockery) Ha! I see you're a practical person. (He
takes a bill from his pocket and holds it out to her—contemptuously)
from the bill to him, flushing beneath her rouge) Say! I don't like
the way you act. (proudly) I don't take nothin' for nothin'—not
from you, see!
and ashamed) I'll leave it here, then. (He puts it on top of the
washstand and turns to her—embarrassedly) I didn't mean—to offend
face clearing immediately) Aw, never mind. It's all right.
at her intently—suddenly deeply moved) Poor woman!
Hey, none of that! Nix! Cut it out! I don't stand for that from nobody!
(She sits down on the bed angrily.)
unnatural intensity) Do you know what you are? You're a symbol.
You're all the tortures man inflicts on woman—and you're the revenge of
woman! You're love revenging itself upon itself! You're the suicide of
love—of my love—of all love since the world began! (wildly)
Listen to me! Two hours ago—(Then he beats his head with both
clenched hands—distractedly) Leave me alone! Leave me alone, damn
you! (He flings himself on the chair in a violent outburst of dry
Say! Say! (Then touched, she comes to him and puts her arms around
his shoulders, on the verge of tears herself.) Aw, come on, kid.
Quit it. It's all right. Everything's all right, see. (as his sobbing
grows quieter—helpfully) Say, maybe you ain't ate nothin', huh?
Maybe soup'd fix you. S'posin' I go round the corner, huh? Sure, all I
got to do is put up my hair—
hysterical laughter—huskily) No—thanks. (Then his bitter memories
rush back agonizingly. He stammers wildly) She confessed! She was
proud of her hate! She was proud of my torture. She screamed: "I'll go
too." Go where? Did she go? Yes, she must—! Oh, my God! Stop! Stop! (He
springs up, his face distorted, and clutches the woman fiercely in his
arms.) Save me, you! Help me to kill! Help me to gain peace! (He
kisses her again and again frenziedly. She submits stolidly. Finally
with a groan he pushes her away, shuddering with loathing, and sinks
back on the chair.) No! I can't—I can't!
her lips with the back of her hand—a vague comprehension coming into her
face—scornfully) Huh! I got a hunch now what's eatin' you. (then
with a queer sort of savage triumph) Well, I'm glad one of youse
guys got paid back like you oughter!
dull impotent rage) I can't! I can't. I'm the weaker. Our love must
live on in me. There's no death for it. There's no freedom—while I live.
(struck by a sudden thought) Then, why—? (a pause) An end
of loathing—no wounds, no memories—sleep!
a shudder) Say, you're beginning to give me the creeps.
a forced laugh) Am I? (He shakes his head as if to drive some
thought from his mind and forces a trembling, mocking smile.) That's
over. The great temptation, isn't it? I suppose you've known it. But
also the great evasion. Too simple for the complicated,—too weak for the
strong, too strong for the weak. One must go on, eh?—even wounded, on
one's knees—if only out of curiosity to see what will happen—to oneself.
(He laughs harshly and turns with a quick movement toward the door.)
Well, good-by, and forgive me. It isn't you, you know. You're the
perfect death—but I'm too strong, or weak—and I can't, you
understand—can't! So, good-by. (He goes to the door.)
Say! What're you goin' to do?
on in the dark.
better beat it home, that's what.
Aw, forget it. She's your wife, ain't she?
do you know? (He comes back to her, curiously attracted.)
Aw, I'm wise. Stick to her, see? You'll get over it. You can get used to
anything, take it from me!
anguish) Don't! But it's true—it's the insult we all swallow as the
price of life. (rebelliously) But I—!
a sort of forlorn chuckle) Oh, you'll go back aw right! Don't kid
yourself. You'll go back no matter what, and you'll loin to like it.
Don't I know? You love her, don't you? Well, then! There's no use buckin'
that game. Go home. Kiss and make up. Ferget it. It's easy to ferget—when
you got to! (She finishes up with a cynical, weary scorn.)
pale—stammering) You—you make life despicable.
Say! (then with groping, growing resentment) I don't like your
talk! You've pulled a lot of bum cracks about—about—never mind, I got
you, anyhow! You ain't got no right—What'd you wanter pick me up for,
anyway? Wanter just get me up here to say rotten things? Wanter use me
to pay her back? Say! Where do I come in? Guys go with me 'cause they
like my looks, see?—what I am, understand?—but you, you don't want
nothin'. You ain't drunk, neither! You just don't like me. And you was
beatin' it leavin' your money there—without nothin'. I was goin' to let
you then. I ain't now. (She suddenly gives him a furious push which
sends him reeling back against the wall.) G'wan! Take your lousy
coin and beat it! I wouldn't take nothin', nor have nothin' to do with
you if you was to get down on your knees!
at her—an expression comes as if he were seeing her for the first
time—with great pity) So—it still survives in you. They haven't
killed it—that lonely life of one's own which suffers in solitude. (shame-facedly)
I should have known. Can you forgive me?
separate ways love has brought us both to this room. As one lonely human
being to another, won't you—?
with herself—harshly) No!
Not even if I ask it on my knees? (He kneels before her, looking up
into her face.)
with hysterical fierceness) No! Git up, you—! Don't do that, I tell
you! Git up or I'll brain yuh! (She raises her fist threateningly
over his head.)
Not until you—
Aw right—aw right—I forgive—
up and takes her face between his hands and stares into her eyes—then he
kisses her on the forehead.) Sister.
a half sob) Nix! Lay off of me, can't you?
I learned that from you.
What?—loined what? (She goes away from him and sinks on the bed
exhaustedly.) Say, you better beat it.
going. (He points to the bill on the washstand.) You need this
money. You'll accept it from me now, won't you?
Sure. Leave it there.
the same gentle tone) You'll have to give it to him in the morning?
he'd beat you?
(then suddenly grinning) Maybe he'll beat me up, anyway—just for
the fun of it.
you love him, don't you?
(after a slight pause) Why did you smile when you said he'd beat
was thinkin' of the whole game. It's funny, ain't it?
You got to laugh, ain't you? You got to loin to like it!
makes an intense impression on him. He nods his head several times.)
Yes! That's it! That's exactly it! That goes deeper than wisdom. To
learn to love life—to accept it and be exalted—that's the one faith left
to us! (then with a tremulous smile) Good-by. I've joined your
church. I'm going home.
a grin that is queerly affectionate) Sure. That's the stuff. Close
your eyes and your feet'll take you there.
again) Yes! Yes! Of course they would! They've been walking there
for thousands of years—blindly. However, now, I'll keep my eyes open—(he
smiles back at her affectionately)—and learn to like it!
Sure. Good luck.
(He goes out, closing the door after him. She stares at the door
listening to his footsteps as they die out down the stairs.)
(The Curtain Falls)