Felice Bell and Jennifer Murphy are going to do an excerpts from their play "Other Women," which is created and directed by Monica L. Williams. So, please welcome Felice Bell and Jennifer Murphy.
Gambling. Quit your job. With no savings and a rough sketch of the rest of your life. Withdraw money from your 401K, pay the penalty, why wait? In this economy, everything you own is worth more than it will ever be. Cut your hair, call yourself "new," call your ex, call Robin, tell her you bought a ticket to the Bay. Paso Robles road trip, wine taste, buy a Malbec and a tight red tee, eat a cookie from an LA dispensary, chain-smoke around bed and breakfast hillside fire pit with San Diego newlyweds and vineyard view.
Go to the water with your girls and grease-stained bags of burgers. Sit on driftwood. Sunset. Remember you folded. Remember your place. Spend the night in Reno. Resent the safety of the slots, sit at the blackjack table, hand the dealer rent, retirement, pray God cares enough to pony up an ace.
Leaving. Lunch on Lake Tahoe, they say, is deep and cold enough to preserve a body whole. Railroad workers, mafia, military and possibly a monster like Loch Ness—no one can prove it. Ignore the math. Odds are a distraction. What matters is the chip count. The cards on the table, the cards in your hand. You must be willing to lose.
When the dream was a notion, it lived in the desert near Edwards Air Force Base, where NASA tested space ships. It fed on cactus and stars, but it kept being delayed. "It's not time," they said. The dream grew impatient, broke water, extracted from its mother in a bed of wrecked strawberries. As a teenager, it cried, took endless drives over the grapevine out of a town ripe with oranges and silence, "Get me out of here," it begged. It was so tiny and delicate, you feared for its life. It seemed a butterfly might land on its face and crush it. It frightened you to love something so much.
Later it rebelled, got drunk, handcuffed for urinating whiskey on your neighbor's rose bushes. The dream had issues, needs. "Don't ignore me," it screamed. It needed skyscrapers and nicotine, needed to stay home reading the "Easter Parade" instead of going to its job as a waitress at a restaurant where it could not afford the food. It was a dream, for Christ's sake, it had better things to do. It had to write, pray, dispatch fleets of messages to God about how to make itself known in daylight. All its life, the dream made plans. It planned to write, publish, get rich, publish, have sex with reckless, attractive men in the backseats of taxis, yes, that happened—no, it didn't. The dream argued with itself, with the truth. You didn't have the dream, the dream had you. Every single one of its plans fell through. "I give up," it cried, "I quit." Hid itself in the dark until finally it heard its name being called. Pondered the unspeakable miracle of sticking around long enough to be seen. Now it looks around for the ones who've waited years for its arrival. They always come for you, don't they, your girls? With their crossed fingers and belief in you, "No destination," they say, "No maps, no idea where we're headed." And even though you cannot believe this is happening, even though you are hallucinating with fear, you hear yourself say it, "I am ready, I am ready, let's go!"
Everyone always wants to know how we became sisters. "How did you two meet?" Like we're a married couple. I like to say we met online.
We met at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in 1999. Every Friday night of our young lives spent in the audience or on the mic. Miss one Friday, and you would hear about the poet who killed it. You should have been there!
I killed it.
The night I met Jen, she was sitting on the lap of my archnemesis. I swear we are never going to be friends.
Really? We are not going to be friends because I'm friends with someone you don't like?
Absolutely. Without a doubt.
Misdemeanor one: menacing. I love it when women size me up and spit me out before they've ever met me, before I've said one word. The phrase "dismissed before investigation" comes to mind. Misdemeanor two: fraud. Felice likes to claim she believes in science and math, that she proceeds through life with logic, like a man. Lot of logic in this example, lot of fairness and justice, real open-minded play. Felice is not a detective, she only plays one onstage. And when I say that, I say it as a private investigator, licensed in the state of New York.
Sherlock Holmes doesn't need a license. He solves crime. So do I. Using science and my intuition. Everything I know about detective work, I learned on TV.
Episode two. How we became sisters.
Right, so about a year later, Jen and I were invited to read poems in the basement of Two Boots pizzeria.
Our careers had taken off!
After the pizzeria reading, we have a slice. I don't know why, but I tell her something I hadn't told anyone. I spent the weekend in Reno with Nacho Velasquez. First thing she says—
Did you see Nacho's little nacho?
And we were friends.
That is not how I remember it. In my mind, we became friends after I was diagnosed with cancer. You came with me to Sloan Kettering, because my family wasn't handy.
OK, let's hear that version.
So, we walk into Sloan Kettering, and I have never seen my sister happier. Reminder: we are at the cancer hospital. There are people limping by with carved faces and missing ears.
This place has everything. There is a waterfall, there are orchids, little packets of graham crackers.
I am sitting in the waiting room, sweating through my dress, she's making herself a cappuccino.
I cannot handle you right now.
Six years after we first met.
My childhood best friend dies. The day of his wake there is a transit strike. Jen walks from Cobble Hill to Crown Heights so she can go with me. There are moments that bond, and this one is key. When there is no train, no car service, no bus, my sister will walk miles just to be by my side.
When a sister loves a sister. When she says, "It's time for bibimbap," she means, "I need to talk, I'm having a meltdown." And when she says, "Did you sleep with my man, Nacho Velasquez," she means, "I'm having trust issues around our friendship again. You are supposed to know this."
When a sister loves a sister, you are in Crown Heights and she is in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Or you're in Spain, sipping absinthe, and she is in Paris, writing. Or you are in your apartment, sun-glassed and hoodied, creating new choreography to the right soundtrack.
While you're home having flashbacks to 9/11, listening to the last call of your friend, a firefighter who perished in the North Tower. His last words, "Thank you." You find it difficult to say goodbye.
When a sister loves a sister, it is five o'clock in the morning, you are asleep and she is calling. You say, "Hey, sis, did someone die?"
You are sobbing, saying your boyfriend, the cop, got shot and straight away, her voice contains the depth and calm of a windless lake. For hours, she stays on the line and remains very quiet and very kind.
Whatever you need to get through this.
When she says, "Let's see each other this week," she means, "Let's cancel and talk on the phone instead." When she says, "This thing Tara Brach said reminded me of you," she means it reminded her of her and then you. It means she's been doing guided meditations again, is about to drop some spiritual-wisdom-type shit about radical acceptance, ergo—
The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle.
In the '90s, you fought with the constancy of dawn. It was entertaining, a sport, a pastime.
What is wrong with you?
What's wrong with you?
I'm not the one being aggressive.
I don't know what you're talking about. I'm relaxed.
I'm not doing this with you.
Your wide-eyed friends would raise their hands and say, "What is going on with you two?" One winter, when you had no money, you mailed her flowers from Paris because she was having surgery. One spring, in your deepest heartbreak, she stood with you in the rain on Fulton Street.
This isn't your dream, sis. You can leave him.
One winter, one spring, two decades, two women, one dream. Your mothers' names are Sheila. They quote the Bible, say—
"You are fearfully and wonderfully made."
"Boy, it's good you're done with that MFA."
You and your sister laugh, thank God that pesky dream is finished, now you can finally get back to peeling potatoes and shucking corn.
When a sister loves a sister, you want her in the audience when your play premieres at the National Theatre in Washington DC.
When a sister loves a sister, she cheers and screams when an agent agrees to send out your stories.
When a sister loves a sister, she celebrates your artistic, romantic and spiritual victories.
You are like young girls becoming what they always dreamed of becoming when they grew up.
When a sister loves a sister, you listen to her read, thinking—
As heaven to the gods is poetry to the beloved.