Episode 1: SEMANTICS AND MILKSHAKES
SCENE: A dive bar, night. MAN 1 is sitting at the bar with a morose expression. The BARTENDER approaches him.
BARTENDER: What can I get you?
MAN 1 [thinks for a moment]: White Russian?
BARTENDER: Are you asking me or is that some kind of impediment?
MAN 1: I would like a white Russian. Sorry.
BARTENDER: I’m just joshin’. Hold on. [He goes to prepare the drink and returns.] White Russian.
MAN 1 [holding the glass up]: Cheers. [Takes a drink.] Slow, eh?
BARTENDER: Weekday night vibes.
MAN 1: As the kids say.
BARTENDER: You have nothing better to do tonight?
MAN 1: I have nothing to do, period. Nothing better has come my way. I’d take something worse but that isn’t coming my way either.
BARTENDER: Something got you down?
MAN 1: Why, do I look it?
BARTENDER: Yeah, frankly speaking.
MAN 1: What’s my look?
BARTENDER: Troubled, if I had to guess.
MAN 1: If only I were troubled. [Deep breath and sigh.] Melancholy … is what you’re looking for.
BARTENDER: There’s a difference?
MAN 1: A subtle, little-appreciated, but crucial difference. You’ll find distinctions all over the melancholy family.
BARTENDER: That so?
MAN 1: Yeah. [Silence.] Would you like me to tell you the differences?
BARTENDER: Go right ahead.
MAN 1: Troubled is a disturbance over a very specific thing. Anyone can be troubled by anything at any time of the day. Though your deduction was a fair one as people are usually troubled at night. Late at night into the early morning just before and in the midst of dawn. Melancholy is more of a temperamental thing. You don’t need a reason to be melancholy, you just are.
BARTENDER: I’ve seen you in higher spirits than this.
MAN 1: Melancholics are still melancholic when they’re in high spirits. Sometimes being melancholic is quite rude. Like at someone’s birthday party or when someone else is troubled. So you have to put on a brave face. Now sadness is a whole other thing entirely. That’s more like an accessory. It’s something you put on when you know it’ll work. Depression is a sickness. It’s sort of like being troubled but it has its own agenda. You could be totally unfazed and wham, there it is out of nowhere. You could say, though I myself will not, that being depressed his like having the flu, and being melancholic is like having flu-like symptoms. Anxiety is sort of the other way around, where you’ve gaslighted yourself into being troubled.
BARTENDER: Are there other words?
MAN 1: I think so, but I can’t think of them right now. [Takes a drink.] This is good. I forgot how good this drink is.
BARTENDER: I don’t remember you ever ordering that here.
MAN 1: I tend not to, it’s like drinking a boozy milkshake.
BARTENDER: You know they have those. Adult milkshakes they call them.
MAN 1: Oh I know adult milkshakes.
BARTENDER: They’re fun.
MAN 1: I guess. But why mess with something that’s already good?
BARTENDER: That’s a take, I guess.
MAN 1: It’s wisdom is what it is. You should consider selling milkshakes. Real ones, I mean.
BARTENDER: Some bars do.
MAN 1: Do they?
BARTENDER: But not this one.
MAN 1: Oh.
BARTENDER: If you had one would it make you less melancholy?
MAN 1: No, not really.
Episode 2: TAT TALK
SCENE: MAN 2 and 3 sit at the bar with bottles of beer.
MAN 2: So I’ve been meaning to ask for a while …
MAN 3: Yeah?
MAN 2: What’s up with that tattoo?
MAN 3: Which one?
MAN 2: That one. [Points.] Your right forearm. What does it say?
MAN 3 [rolling is sleeve back]: Take a look.
MAN 3 holds out his arm; MAN 2 moves his head toward it and squints.
MAN 2: “Fuck … arraignment.” Fuck arraignment?
MAN 3: That’s right.
MAN 2: I don’t seem to remember you ever being arraigned.
MAN 3: That’s because I wasn’t.
MAN 2: Are you going to be arraigned?
MAN 3: Nope. I think if you were able to scour the area criminal records—or any criminal records anywhere—you will find none with my name.
MAN 2: Well … I can do an online background check.
MAN 3: Really?
MAN 2: Yeah, there are a bunch of those sites. Just put your name in and voila: I get a bunch of information. Not all of it, but a lot.
MAN 3: I hadn’t been aware.
MAN 2: I think you can do a “distinguishing characteristics” search too.
MAN 3: Huh.
MAN 2: Yeah. [Pause.] So what’s it mean?
MAN 3: I just think it’s a very good attitude to have. It inspires me. I look at it every day. Like in the shower or something. Drinking coffee or pulling into work. It makes me feel like I can take on whatever comes my way.
MAN 2: Yeah but how did you come up with that exact phrase.
MAN 3: It’s a guy. I got it from a guy.
MAN 2: Just some guy?
MAN 3: Yeah. I was at a house party in Old Bridge a few years back and this guy was there. No idea who he was but he was on fire, man. He was lit. He was going around yelling and pounding beer after beer. In every corner of the house he’d yell “Fuck arraignment! Fuck arraignment!” and chug his beer and repeat. Some people cheered but most seemed annoyed. I don’t think he cared and he liked it that way. He was so defiant. It was like he was saying it to me. To us. To the world and the world’s procedures. Fuck our procedures! Hell yeah. [Drinks his beer.]
MAN 2: So he was being arraigned?
MAN 3: I would say so yeah.
MAN 2: Never thought we’d get personal affirmations from criminals now.
MAN 3: Look around you, bro. Criminals are the new heroes, the new outlaws, the new supermen.
MAN 2: I think that’s falsely accused criminals you’re thinking of.
MAN 3: Pretty sure it can be both/and.
MAN 2: So you must wear a lot of long sleeve shirts to work.
MAN 3: No.
MAN 2: No one cares about that tattoo?
MAN 3: I don’t work in the kind of industry that has those kinds of hang-ups.
MAN 2: I don’t know, I imagine if I had a tattoo like that and someone saw it at my work they’d say, “Hm, that guy takes moral cues from degenerates. I never noticed that before. I will look upon him in a different light,” yadda yadda yadda.
MAN 3: That’s because where you work sucks.
MAN 2: Be that as it may, what if you were on a date or something—like at a summer carnival, you couldn’t very well cover it up then, could you?
MAN 3: Again, I don’t date women who have those … issues.
MAN 2: I find that hard anyone wouldn’t have an issue with that.
MAN 3: I think maybe you need to hang with a more liberal, forward-thinking crowd.
MAN 2 [chuckles]: I suppose. [Peers at the tattoo again, has a realization.] Or you need better editors.
MAN 3: What?
MAN 2 [taking out his phone]: I don’t think that’s how you spell “arraignment.” [Types.] Yep. It’s autocorrecting. “Arraignment” has two R’s.
MAN 3: Are you kidding?
MAN 2: And no H.
MAN 3: Fuck, man. [Places his head on the bar.] Fuck, fuck, fuck. [Raises his head back up.] I asked the guy at the parlor if it was kosher, he said it was cool. I trusted him. You can’t not trust the tattoo artist.
MAN 2: But even tattoo artists are subject to hubris from time to time. It just affects them less directly. So maybe they live in self-denial.
MAN 3: So now what the fuck do I do?
MAN 2: Own it.
MAN 3: How?
MAN 2: Say it’s part of the joke. Like an ironic misdirection. Or like a reproduction of some crude graffiti you thought was really profound. That one is closer to the truth.
MAN 3: And those will work?
MAN 2: Well, you can’t really afford for them not to work.
MAN 3: Fuck.
MAN 2: Did the other guy have any tattoos?
MAN 3: Come to think of it he did. [Holds up his arms.] “Change my pitch up” on the left back bicep, “Smack my bitch up” on the right one.
MAN 2 [typing on his phone]: I’ll make a note of it and look it up later.
Episode 3: DOCTOR-PATIENT PRIVILEGE
SCENE: MAN 1 is sitting at the bar with a beer, scrolling on his phone. MAN 4 enters and takes the stool next to him.
MAN 1: Hey.
MAN 4: Hey, how’s it hangin’?
MAN 1: Not bad, all things considered.
MAN 4 motions for the BARTENDER who enters.
BARTENDER: What can I get ya?
MAN 4: Bud is fine.
MAN 4 [thinks a moment]: Actually, make it a Miller … High Life.
BARTENDER: You got it. Want a menu, too?
MAN 4 declines and the BARTENDER exits.
MAN 1: So how’s shit?
MAN 4: Shit’s good, more or less.
MAN 1: More rather than less, I hope.
MAN 4: Ideally. I guess you could say I’m in a grey area between more and less.
MAN 1: Could be worse.
MAN 4: You bet.
MAN 1: It’s a good night to be out for a bit.
BARTENDER brings MAN 4 his beer.
MAN 4: Thanks. [Turns to MAN 1.] Cheers then.
Both hold up their bottles.
MAN 1: Cheers.
MAN 4: To nights out, I guess. [They awkwardly clink their bottles and drink.] Looks slow tonight.
MAN 1: It’s steady, I’d say. A lot of people coming in as others are coming out.
MAN 4 [looking around]: Don’t seem to be many women around.
MAN 1 [looking out to a specific area]: No, there are some over there. Those two.
MAN 4 [looking over]: So there are.
MAN 1: There are some men with them, though.
MAN 4: Yeah.
MAN 1: Husbands by the looks of it. So it might not be what you meant.
MAN 4: You can tell that?
MAN 1: I can hazard a guess. It’s the safe guess. I’m certainly not going to make inquiries. Would you?
MAN 4: There was a time when I’d consider it. Being honest here.
MAN 1: Sure.
MAN 4: Back to a time when consequences were sort of in the back of my mind. Now that I’m getting on in my years that kind of thrill-seeking has lost its edge.
MAN 1: Do you think about it sometimes? Consequences, I mean.
MAN 4: I know my actions have had them, but I’d be lying if I said I knew what they were.
MAN 1: Sorry if it brings up bad memories.
MAN 4: No, no, no, don’t worry. I get the impulse. Some people are haunted by their past actions. I’m not one of them. [Pause.] You seem like the haunted type.
MAN 1: I suppose I am, but I try not to be.
MAN 4: You try not to let it get to you, you mean? You either are haunted or you aren’t. Anyway, I guess you could say I’m haunted by something else.
MAN 1: What’s that?
MAN 4: I guess the future. [Drinks.] A possible future, maybe. The desire to settle down. To be … less alone. It used to tear me up inside, loneliness. Now it tears everyone up inside.
MAN 1: I read about it in The Atlantic.
MAN 4: Ironic, really.
MAN 1: Sign of the times. [Drinks.]
MAN 4: Loneliness will be a thing of the past soon enough.
MAN 1: You think?
MAN 4: I know. [Drinks.] Been seeing this therapist for a while. My last appointment she had this insight that really struck me. Like, it hit me right here. [Taps his fist over his stomach.] In the gut. She told me that there’s a gash in every one of us.
MAN 1: A gash?
MAN 4: A sliz.
MAN 1: Oh.
MAN 4: And it’s waiting to reveal itself. To tear us up from the inside outward. So we have to bring it out just right so we can get the best use out of it. [Drinks.] And it’s the same for women. They have, like, a whole auxiliary one for the same purpose. It’s amazing … amazing.
MAN 1: So, it’s … metaphorical or …
MAN 4 [drinks]: Oh, I don’t know. I thought maybe at first, but she never quite clarified. It felt wrong of me to even ask.
MAN 1: So your therapist … told you all this?
MAN 4: Not exactly word for word; but thematically that’s the long and short of it.
MAN 1: Guess it’ll be interesting to see what it means.
MAN 4: It’ll come when you least expect it. Like the coming of Christ.
MAN 1: So says your therapist?
MAN 4: So say I. Verbatim, too. [Finishes his beer and signals the BARTENDER.]
BARTENDER: Another High Life?
MAN 4: No, I’ll have a scotch and soda, I think.
BARTENDER: You think?
MAN 4: Huh.
MAN 1: He lives for this.
MAN 4: Yes, scotch and soda, please.
BARTENDER [to MAN 1]: Another Sam Adams for you?
MAN 1: Ah ye—
MAN 4: Come on, man you gotta change it up with me.
MAN 1: Uhm … [Thinks for a minute.] Stella, please.
BARTENDER: Scotch and soda and a Stella.
MAN 4: Oh and I will take a menu.
BARTENDER: Gotcha. [Exits.]
MAN 4: I may not be young, but the night sure is.
Episode 4: YOUTH IS WASTED ON THE YOUNG
SCENE: MEN 1-4 are all at the bar sharing a pitcher with plastic cups. The bar is crowded, they are sullen at being surrounded by young people.
MAN 4: What the hell is this all about?
MAN 2: What?
MAN 4: I was asking what the hell was this all about!
MAN 3: It’s a nightmare!
MAN 1: What?
MAN 3: This sucks!
MAN 1: This sucks!
MAN 3: I know!
MAN 1: I’ll see what’s going on! [He waves the BARTENDER.] I don’t think he saw me!
MAN 4: Let me try! [He waves over the BARTENDER.] Nope! Nothing doing!
Pause. The BARTENDER enters.
BARTENDER: You fellas need another round?
MAN 2: What?
BARTENDER: A refill?
MAN 3: What’s the deal?
BARTENDER: College night!
MAN 2: What?
MAN 4: College night!
BARTENDER: New policy, I’m afraid!
MAN 1: We’re nowhere near a college, though!
BARTENDER: I think it’s for kids on break mostly!
MAN 3: What a crock!
MAN 1: What?
MAN 2: I’m going outside!
MAN 4: You don’t smoke!
MAN 2: I can’t hear myself think!
MAN 4: You think entirely too much!
MAN 2 exits with his cup.
MAN 3: What?
CUT TO front exterior of the bar. A young WOMAN is smoking. MAN 2 comes out and sits on the curb.
WOMAN: I don’t think you’re allowed to do that.
MAN 2 [looking at the cup]: Oh … yeah. I wasn’t thinking. I couldn’t hear myself think in there.
WOMAN [going through her purse]: Hold on. [Takes out a prescription bag and hands it to him.] Just put it in this.
MAN 2 [reading the bag]: This is for Bupropion.
WOMAN: So you’ve heard of it.
MAN 2: I might have.
WOMAN: Anyway it’s for an old prescription.
MAN 2: Hey, no judgment here. [Silence.] Those are elaborate nails.
MAN 2: Optics or defense?
WOMAN: The first. The second hadn’t occurred to me before.
MAN 2: Far be it from me to tell you how to apply a pedicure.
WOMAN: No harm in a constructive suggestion. And it’s manicure. Pedicure is feet.
MAN 2: Defensive pedicure seems impractical.
WOMAN: Only in winter, and most of fall and spring.
Enter MEN 1, 3, and 4.
MAN 3: Hey, this place sucks now, we’re changing venue.
MAN 2: Where?
MAN 3: We found a place nearby that’s open ‘til three. [Turns to WOMAN.] No offense of course.
The WOMAN shrugs and stomps out her cigarette.
CUT TO a diner. MEN 1-4 and the BARTENDER are all sitting at a table. Christmas music is playing. A WAITER wearing a Santa Claus hat enters.
WAITER: My name is Kent I’ll be your server tonight. Can I start you off with something to drink?
MAN 3: Coffee, black.
MAN 4: Decaf, cream and sugar.
WAITER: We only have milk now, is that okay?
MAN 4: It’s fine.
BARTENDER: I’ll have coffee.
MAN 1: Root beer float.
MAN 2: Coffee, please. And can we get some disco fries, too?
WAITER: Not a problem, I’ll be right back with your coffees and root beer float.
MAN 4: I’m the only one who got decaf?
MAN 2: My ears are still ringing, I’m not getting any sleep tonight no matter what.
MAN 1: It’s a lost cause.
BARTENDER: Some nights I wear earplugs.
MAN 1: Really?
MAN 3: How do you …
BARTENDER: Lipreading is a trade secret, my friend.
MAN 4: I bet you get all sorts of eavesdropping dirt.
BARTENDER: It only really helps for repeat drink orders. I’d say it’s for the best but I sometimes wonder if anyone really talks in bars anymore. [Pause.] Present company excluded.
MAN 1: Who says we talk about anything?
MAN 2: Shouldn’t you be at the bar right now?
BARTENDER: Yes, technically.
MAN 2: What do you mean technically?
BARTENDER: I’ll tell you another trade secret. [Gets down.] But it can’t leave this table.
The MEN all hunch down.
MAN 3: What is it?
BARTENDER: There’s actually no use for a bartender. It’s all for show, and maybe for keeping things tidy—cleaning off the suds and spillage and whatever. Technically, if you’re of age, and have good credit, you can just hop over the counter and, technically, you can serve yourself, and maybe others if they so choose.
MAN 3: Whoa.
The WAITER enters with the coffees.
WAITER: Okay, black coffee, decaf milk and sugar, two more coffees, and your float and the disco fries are incoming.
MAN 1: Thanks.
The WAITER exits.
MAN 2: Wait, I’ve lost track of all the technicalities.
MAN 4: Is that for real? I could have been self-serving this whole time?
BARTENDER: No. You’ll get self-serve gas before you get self-serve beer. [Sips from his coffee.] Shit that’s hot! [Pause.] I’m sure it’s fine over there, it usually is.