Please help the Black Earth Institute continue to make art and grow community so needed for our time. Donate now »

a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Maribel Apuya


A Saturday Morning in the Bay

TAGLINE

A Filipino American family sits down for breakfast when the news hits home.

SYNOPSIS

A Filipino American family sits down for breakfast on a Saturday morning during the COVID-19 pandemic. After breakfast, Jose, the father, goes to the grocery store and becomes a victim of racial violence.

CHARACTERS

RUTH BAUTISTA (30s, Filipino American) is the mother.
JOSE BAUTISTA (30s, Filipino American) is the father.
MICHAEL (8, Filipino American) is the son.
ISABEL (5, Filipino American) is the daughter.
ROSITA (50s, Filipino/African American) is a neighbor.
POLICE OFFICER (white male)
MORNING NEWS (a broadcaster reporting on the morning news)

 

A SATURDAY MORNING IN THE BAY

SCENE ONE.

[It’s Saturday morning in San Jose, California. The date is September 2020.]

[RUTH BAUTISTA (30s, Filipino American, mother) fries scrambled eggs and spam in the kitchen.]

[The local news plays as Ruth cooks.]

MORNING NEWS
President Trump held a re-election rally at the Dream City Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma reassuring the American people COVID-19, which has now killed 200,000 Americans, is well under control. He drew cheers from the packed congregation when he referred to the virus as Kung Flu. It’s true that China failed to contain the virus and is now trying to escape responsibility by blaming its spread on American soldiers.

[Ruth mutes the TV with a remote.]

RUTH
What an idiot president we have. [Calling.] Jose, Michael, and Isabel come and eat. I made breakfast. [She waits, but there is no response. She calls again.] Jose, get the kids and come eat. [She waits, but there’s still no response. She calls again.] Your spam and eggs are getting cold.

[A commotion is heard in the background. JOSE BAUTISTA (30s, Filipino American, father) comes in with MICHAEL (8, Filipino American, son) and ISABEL (5, Filipino American, daughter).]

[Michael and Isabel sit down at the dining table. Michael plays a game on his smartphone. Isabel looks over his shoulder and tries to watch the game.]

MICHAEL
[To Isabel.] Stop bothering me.

ISABEL
I just want to see.

[Michael extends a hand with his index finger sticking out.]

MICHAEL
Pull my finger.

[Isabel pulls Michael’s finger. Michael makes a fart sound.]

MICHAEL
What do you call a cheese that’s not yours?

ISABEL
Not my cheese…

MICHAEL
Nacho cheese! You were close. You can watch my game.

[Isabel watches Michael’s game.]

[In the kitchen, Jose gives Ruth a kiss on the cheek.]

RUTH
I knew the spam would get you.

JOSE
You got me, not the spam.

RUTH
It’s the spam.

[Ruth wheezes. She backs away from Jose and calms her breathing.]

JOSE
Your asthma is acting up again. Take it easy. Don’t work too hard.

RUTH
It’s the air. It’s hard to breathe.

JOSE
These damned wildfires. I wish they would stop. [Looks out a kitchen window.] The sky is dark. It looks like the apocalypse. [Beat.] Do you think we should build an underground shelter like in the movie Blast from the Past?

RUTH
These are wildfires, not a nuclear threat.

JOSE
You just never know…

RUTH
Will you stop being silly? [Beat.] Bring the spam, eggs, and rice to the kids. There’s already orange juice on the table.

JOSE
Yes, ma’am.

[Jose brings the food to the kids.]

JOSE
Put the phone away, Michael. It’s time to eat.

[Michael puts his smartphone aside. Jose and Michael eat. Ruth joins them.]

[Isabel zooms to the kitchen and comes back to Ruth with a pill bottle.]

RUTH
Thanks for my medicine, sweetie. You take care of mommy.

[Ruth places rice, eggs, and spam on Isabel’s plate and serves everyone orange juice. Everyone eats, except for Ruth who drinks green tea.]

RUTH
I love Saturday mornings. We can hang out without daddy having to leave for work and without having to rush you two to school. [To the kids.] How’s the spam and eggs?

JOSE, MICHAEL, AND ISABEL
Good.

RUTH
[To Jose.] I was talking to the kids. But I suppose that includes you.

JOSE
That may be true, but I pay the bills.

RUTH
And that’s why I love you.

JOSE
Ouch, the truth comes out. [Beat.] Aren’t you eating?

RUTH
No, my stomach feels queasy.

JOSE
I’ll go to Vietnam Town and get your favorite Pho. That’ll make you feel better.

RUTH
Oh, no need. I’ll be fine. The air is too smoky outside. It’s not safe.

JOSE
Nonsense. It’ll make you feel better. Besides, I’m the man of the house. I make the decisions around here.

RUTH
Uh-huh.

MICHAEL
Knock knock, Isabel.

ISABEL
Who’s there?

MICHAEL
Jollibee.

ISABEL
Jollibee, who?

MICHAEL
[Sings this like Magic!’s Rude song.] Why you Jollibee so rude? Don’t you know I’m human, too.

ISABEL
That’s cheesy.

MICHAEL
Nacho cheesy!

JOSE
It’s cheesy funny. Good one, son.

[There’s a knock on the door.]

JOSE
That’s a real knock, Ruth.

RUTH
Yes, I know.

[Ruth goes to the door, peeks on the peephole, and opens it. ROSITA (50s, a Filipino/African American neighbor wearing a mask) enters with a bag of apples.]

ROSITA
Hi Ading, how are you? We have so many apples. Our tree is bountiful. I brought some for you and the family.

RUTH
[Takes the bag of apples.] Thank you, Manang Rosita. We’re having breakfast. Do you want to eat with us?

ROSITA
Oh no, it’s okay. Your Manong and I just ate.

JOSE
Please join us, Manang. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen you.

ROSITA
I know. This lockdown is keeping us all at home.

RUTH
Please stay, even for just a little while.

ROSITA
Oh, sige. I do miss you all. But I’ll just socially distance myself, okay? Don’t be offended.

RUTH
It’s okay. I would put my mask on but I’m having a hard time breathing today.

JOSE
Oh Manang, we’re not sick. But do what makes you feel comfortable.

[Rosita sits with the family but slightly physically distances herself. Ruth starts to make Rosita a plate of spam, eggs, and rice, but Rosita shakes her head. She keeps her mask on.]

ROSITA
No need, Ading.

RUTH
Are you sure?

ROSITA
Yes. [Beat.] Oh my god, did you hear about the Chinese grandmother they robbed and set on fire in Chinatown? Be careful. They’re attacking all Asians. They don’t even know how to tell us apart if we’re Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, or whatever. To them we’re all the same. Not that I wish harm on the Chinese. I’m just saying America doesn’t care to know who we are. To them we’re just the enemy.

RUTH
[To Jose.] That’s why I’m telling you not to go out. It’s safer to stay home.

JOSE
Relax. Those people are targeting Asian immigrants and the elderly and women who are vulnerable. I’m strong and I’m an American. I speak perfect English. They’re not going to mess with me. Besides, the police are probably on high alert.

ROSITA
I don’t rely on the police. Just last month, someone tried to break into the house when I was home alone. I reported it but they didn’t even investigate. I had to tell your Manong to call and speak to them. And each time your Manong and I drive to LA, we’re always stopped by the police like we’re criminals. It’s unreal.

JOSE
I’m sorry, Manang. If someone tries to break in again, call me, okay?

ROSITA
Oh yeah, you are a veteran. You served in the Air Force. [To Ruth.] Jose’s even decorated, no? Didn’t the military give him a Medal of Honor for the rescue mission he served in Afghanistan?

RUTH
[To Rosita.] Be careful. You’re going to make his head big.

JOSE
[To Ruth.] You crushed any chances of that, honey.

RUTH
It’s my job to keep you in place.

MICHAEL
A boy in my class called me Kung Flu.

RUTH
What?!?! Why didn’t you tell me?

MICHAEL
I just told you.

RUTH
Oh my god, I’m going to speak with the principal.

MICHAEL
No, Mommy. I don’t want my classmates to hate me.

JOSE
Michael is right, Ruth. Don’t embarrass him by talking to the school. [To Michael.] Were you sick that day? Maybe they thought you had the flu. Sometimes kids don’t know what they’re saying. Don’t take it too personally.

RUTH
[To Michael.] Kung Flu is like a racial slur. I will not tolerate them calling Michael that.

ISABEL
They’re bullying Michael, Daddy.

JOSE
No, they’re not, Isabel. Maybe they’re giving your brother a hard time but it’s not bullying. Boys play rough, that’s all. [To Ruth.] Kung Flu isn’t a racial slur. It’s more like a pun. The president is just taking a jab at the Chinese. Don’t take it so seriously.

ROSITA
When they attacked the Chinese grandmother, they called her Kung Flu. Even if it’s a pun like you say, it’s killing people. You know, this is how racial violence is justified. It begins with calling us names to dehumanize us. Then, when they don’t see us as people anymore, they think it’s okay to kill us.

ISABEL
That’s terrible, Auntie.

ROSITA
I know, Isabel. But don’t be scared. I just want to tell you the truth.

RUTH
Manang Rosita is right, Jose. We need to take action. [To Michael.] I’ll protect you, sweetie. Things will get worse if we don’t say anything.

[Michael looks scared.]

JOSE
You two, stop scaring the kids. Michael looks terrified. He doesn’t want his classmates to hate him. Ruth, just let it go, please.

[Ruth doesn’t know what to do. She turns to Michael.]

RUTH
Do you want me to talk to the school, Michael? I will if you want me to.

MICHAEL
It’s okay, Mommy. I’ll be okay.

ISABEL
You should talk to the school, Mommy.

MICHAEL
Shut up, Isabel.

RUTH
[To Michael.] I’ll let it go this time. But promise you’ll tell me if it happens again.

MICHAEL
Yes, I will.

RUTH
Are you sure?

MICHAEL
I said yes.

ISABEL
I’ll always be your friend, Michael.

MICHAEL
Thanks, Isabel.

RUTH
[To Michael and Isabel.] This is why you both need to work hard in school so you can have a good job and make a living. America thinks of us as foreigners. I don’t know if this country will ever see us as Americans.

MICHAEL
But I was born here. I don’t know any other home.

JOSE
[To Michael.] You’re an American. [To Michael and Isabel.] Both of you are.

RUTH
They need to hear the truth that this country isn’t fair to Asians or any people of color.

JOSE
The truth is they’re Americans. Period. Oh, lighten up. This is all probably a misunderstanding. There’s nothing to worry about. It’s Saturday morning. Let’s just have fun. [Beat.] In fact, I think I’ll head out now. I’ll buy groceries and get you some Pho. You’ll like that, right?

RUTH
Don’t go out. We have enough food to last until tomorrow.

JOSE
I’d rather get it done now so I don’t have to go tomorrow. I can spend my Sunday sleeping.

RUTH
I don’t want you to go.

JOSE
Ruth, you’re being crazy.

RUTH
Okay, fine. Just hurry up.

ROSITA
Oo nga, Jose. Be careful. If Ruth loses you, no one will pay the bills.

RUTH
[To Jose.] You know I can’t work because of my asthma.

JOSE
Nothing’s going to happen to me. [To Ruth and Rosita.] Oh my god, you’re both driving me crazy.

[Jose gets up and kisses Ruth on the cheek.]

JOSE
I’ll be back before you know it.

[Jose grabs his keys from the counter and leaves.]

ROSITA
[To Ruth.] Your husband takes care of you.

RUTH
I guess he does.

MICHAEL
I’m done eating, Mommy. Can I watch TV?

RUTH
Yes, you can.

[Michael goes to the living room and watches TV.]

ISABEL
Mommy, can we make apple lumpia since Auntie Rosita brought apples?

RUTH
Yes, that’s a great idea. [To Rosita.] Do you want to stay and make apple lumpia with us, Manang? You can bring some home.

ROSITA
Yes, Ading. That sounds like fun. And I’m sure your Manong will like some, too.

[Michael turns up the TV volume with a remote. Everyone freezes as the morning news plays.]

MORNING NEWS
The Asian American community is reporting about one hundred attacks per day. They’re calling the attacks racially motivated hate crimes and part of an ongoing historical pattern. It is unclear if the attacks are rooted in bias and can be classified as hate crimes.

SCENE TWO.

[Ruth, Isabel, and Rosita make apple lumpias on the dining table. They place a spoonful of apple filling on a lumpia wrapper and fold it into what looks like a spring roll. They put finished rolls on a rectangular pan.]

[Michael sits in front of the television. A cartoon plays on screen but he’s busy playing a game on his smartphone.]

RUTH
Michael, come here and help us make lumpia.

MICHAEL
No, thank you.

RUTH
I wasn’t asking, Michael.

[Michael walks to the dining room.]

MICHAEL
Can I just watch you make lumpia while I play a game?

ISABEL
How are you going to watch us make lumpia if you play a game?

MICHAEL
Be quiet, Isabel.

RUTH
Your sister has a point. And you’re always on your phone. Please put your phone away and help us make lumpia. [A beat, Michael doesn’t respond.] Pretty please?

MICHAEL
Yes…

[Michael puts his phone aside. He goes to the kitchen to wash his hands and comes back to make apple lumpias.]

RUTH
[To Michael and Isabel.] Wrapping lumpia used to be our family tradition when I was growing up in the Philippines. I’m happy to pass it on to you.

ISABEL
I like these more than the meat lumpia.

MICHAEL
Me, too.

RUTH
It’s nice to see you agree on something. But well, this is mommy’s original recipe so I’m not surprised. Haha.

ROSITA
This is relaxing, Ading. I miss doing this with my kids. They’re old now and don’t even have time for cooking! They just order take out.

RUTH
Oh, I know. If I weren’t a stay at home mom, I don’t know if I would cook. It’s time consuming.

ROSITA
It’s not like before when cooking is all I did. Now I have Facebook and all kinds of movies and things to watch on Netflix. It’s never ending.

RUTH
Jose should be home by now. What’s taking him…

[There’s a loud knock at the door. Ruth goes to the door, peeks at the peephole, and opens it. A Police Officer (white male) wearing a mask comes in.]

POLICE OFFICER
Are you Ruth Bautista?

RUTH
Yes…

POLICE OFFICER
Ma’am, I’m sorry to inform you… Your husband is dead.

[A moment while this lands in the room like a dream or a nightmare.]

RUTH
What… What do you mean… He was just… No, he’s coming home any minute now. He just went to the store.

[Rosita and Michael’s smartphones ding. They watch a video showing a visual of…]

POLICE OFFICER
He was attacked coming out of the grocery store by a group of teenagers. Three teenagers came out of their vehicle and slammed him to the ground. His head hit a brick. The impact was too hard.

RUTH
They got him.

ROSITA
Ruth, you need to see this…

RUTH
Because he’s Asian.

POLICE OFFICER
He was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

SMARTPHONES
[The teenagers’ voices are heard in synchronous tone.] Go back to China!

MICHAEL
Daddy…

[Isabel starts to cry. Ruth walks back to the dining table and collapses on a chair. She wheezes.]

[Everyone freezes as the smartphones continue to say…]

SMARTPHONES
Go back to China! Go back to China! Go back to China!

END OF PLAY.


A Good Life

SYNOPSIS

A Good Life is a seriocomic play about Clarissa (late 20s, woman of color) who must persuade an angel that she has lived a good life so she can return to Earth and be with her dog, Miko.

CHARACTERS

Clarissa (late 20s, woman of color) is a nurse.

White Angel (they) is a lawyer or judge-type angel being who interrogates Clarissa.

 

A GOOD LIFE

[Time: December 2020, yet another spike in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles.]

[We’re at the Astral Plane—the world inhabited by souls in transition, or spirit beings just going on their way. It is neither Heaven or Earth, neither good or bad.]

[CLARISSA (late 20s, woman of color) wears nurse scrubs and finds herself sitting on a Trial Chair. A WHITE ANGEL stands before her like a judge.]

CLARISSA
Whoa, are you an angel? You’re beaming with light. You look beautiful and majestic.

WHITE ANGEL
Why, thank you. I must say, I kinda get that all the time.

CLARISSA
Where am I? Oh, dear Jesus, am I dead?

WHITE ANGEL
You know, you’re the fifth soul who said that to me recently. Years ago souls in between who found themselves in the same situation just thought they were dreaming. But now, I guess as the idea of the “beyond” has been realized more, souls can actually decipher they’re somewhere in between worlds.

CLARISSA
So, it’s true? I’m dead? [Surprisingly relieved.] I’m dead…

WHITE ANGEL
Not quite yet. You’re in a coma. Your body is in a hospital but your soul… [gestures with its hands] voila, is here.

CLARISSA
Oh… for a moment there I thought I was free from life. What happened to me?

[The White Angel motions with its hands and a holographic screen appears.]

[The audience doesn’t see the screen or what’s on display. Only Clarissa and the White Angel do.]

WHITE ANGEL
Look closely at the image in front of you.

CLARISSA
That’s… me… I’m in a hospital bed. Alone.

WHITE ANGEL
Due to the pandemic, you can’t have visitors.

CLARISSA
I remember now… I was tending to a lot of patients and had been wearing the same mask. You see, there’s a shortage of masks in Los Angeles hospitals. I was working long hours and didn’t have time to clean my mask, sometimes my scrubs.

[The White Angel looks at Clarissa sternly.]

WHITE ANGEL
Well, isn’t it your job to take care of yourself?

CLARISSA
I mean, that’s the ideal, but it isn’t always possible. My supervisor said he needs me fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. [Beat.] Oh no… I can’t die. I have a dog. His name is Miko and he’s like my son. I need to take care of him. Bring me back!

[The White Angel checks its file. It shakes its head.]

WHITE ANGEL
I don’t know… I’m looking at your file here and it looks like you haven’t lived a good life.

CLARISSA
What? What do you mean? I’ve done everything I was told. I’ve been a good daughter and a good worker. I go to church on Sundays. I donate three percent of my income to my church or the Petco charity—while being a single woman living in over-priced Los Angeles. If that’s not a good life, I don’t know what is.

[The White Angel looks at her with judgmental eyes.]

WHITE ANGEL
You let your supervisor take advantage of you. You let him make you work long hours without a day off. Why did you do that? Did he offer you a raise or job growth?

CLARISSA
No…

WHITE ANGEL
Did you try to stand up for yourself and show your worth? Because if you don’t know your worth—your value as a human being, which is really what this whole Earth experience is about—how can I justify giving you another chance?

CLARISSA
Okay, yes, I let my employer take advantage of me. He told me I was disposable, you know, from the Third World. That I don’t really have a place here. That he was kind enough to give me an offer.

[The White Angel makes a note on Clarissa’s file.]

CLARISSA
What are you doing? Are you giving me a demerit?

WHITE ANGEL
It’s just that I hear too many excuses.

CLARISSA
Well, it’s true.

WHITE ANGEL
Listen, kid, life is as hard as you make it. If you don’t speak up for yourself or even try, no one’s gonna do it for you. See, this really riles me. I hear prayers every day and I do respond. I whisper solutions, but it goes in one ear and out the other.

[The White Angel throws its hands in the air out of exasperation. It writes another note on Clarissa’s file. Clarissa is now vexed.]

CLARISSA
You’re standing there like you know it all. But seems to me like you’re the one who’s not seeing things straight. If I speak up, I could lose everything and end up on the streets. Me and Miko. [Beat.] Okay, maybe not. My parents would take me in, but then I’d be the shame of my family. And I’d rather be homeless than be my family’s shame. [Beat.] Where are you from? Are you so privileged that you don’t understand these things? Perhaps you’re right that I should aspire for better. That I shouldn’t let society define me. But it’s not that easy. People look at me and automatically categorize—there goes a woman of color—who has historically done the laundry, sewed clothes, and worked as a maid. Then as things got better, maybe she’s fit for a secretarial job, or a caretaker, or a nurse, like me. If I go against that, I get pushback. I need you to understand—I have to play by the rules to survive.

[Lights blare in the background. So many lights. Clarissa is almost blinded and has to cover her eyes. After a moment, the lights stop blaring.]

WHITE ANGEL
Okay, you have a point.

CLARISSA
What was that blinding light?

WHITE ANGEL
It’s the cosmos telling you, you scored one point.

CLARISSA
How many points do I need to get back to my body?

WHITE ANGEL
That’s not important. What matters is we continue to have this conversation. [Beat.] Hey, can I ask you a personal question?

CLARISSA
Do I have a choice?

WHITE ANGEL
No, but I thought I’d ask to be polite.

CLARISSA
Yes, you may. It strangely feels good to have someone finally interested in my life.

WHITE ANGEL
I’m interested in your life. I really want to be helpful.

[The White Angel is sincere. Clarissa softens.]

CLARISSA
Okay…

WHITE ANGEL
If you want to improve your economic situation—you know, single woman living in Los Angeles with a dog…

CLARISSA
His name is Miko. I told you, he’s like my son. Miko is short for Michael. I named him after St. Michael.

WHITE ANGEL
Ah yes, the Archangel Michael. He’s up there with the higher ups.

CLARISSA
And what are you? Are you just starting out?

WHITE ANGEL
No… no! I’m middle-management. I just got promoted. [Beat.] Don’t worry. You’re in good hands.

[The White Angel looks self-conscious.]

WHITE ANGEL
I’m sorry for calling Miko a dog. I see he means a lot to you. Back to my point, wouldn’t it be helpful if you had a boyfriend or husband to help you with money? That would lighten your load, wouldn’t it? It could be a lot of fun, too. We, angels, don’t get to have “sexy” fun, if you know what I mean.

[Clarissa is suddenly shy.]

CLARISSA
Well…

WHITE ANGEL
Oh, don’t be shy. Dish! Think of me as your bestie. Tell me about the man in your life.

CLARISSA
Okay, I did have a boyfriend. And he was… I mean, is tall, dark, and handsome just like the ideal. And, oh dear Jesus [whispers] we had sexy fun. So much… really it was too much… Oh, it was heaven.

WHITE ANGEL
[Getting excited and intrigued.] And what happened? By the way, I’m not insinuating that a relationship has to be with a man. I just had my inclusion training, and I want you to know I’m okay if you like females, non-binaries, transgender, pangender, genderqueer, or any combination of these…

CLARISSA
I like men.

WHITE ANGEL
I just want to make sure everyone is represented. These are trying times. [Beat.] So getting back to sexy talk. The sex was great and…

CLARISSA
And that was really the highlight of our relationship—good sex. When we weren’t having sex, we had to talk. And sometimes we would get into debates, such as does systemic racism really exist? Since I work at the hospital, it became clear to me that people of color were getting the virus more and were dying more frequently. You know, they’re doing the kind of labor work that puts them at risk—bagging groceries, driving cabs, and caretaking. But he didn’t buy it. [Imitates him.] “Ah, that’s just their luck. It has nothing to do with race.”

WHITE ANGEL
You didn’t try to change his mind?

CLARISSA
It’s no use. He’s set in his ways.

WHITE ANGEL
And so what happened?

CLARISSA
One day, he told me the Earth is flat. Of course, I disagreed. But he really believed it. And he expected me to believe it, too. I couldn’t dumb myself down to that level. So, I left him.

[Lights blare in the background. Clarissa covers her eyes to protect her from the glare. After a moment, the lights stop blaring and Clarissa is all smiles.]

CLARISSA
I scored another point, didn’t I?

WHITE ANGEL
Yeah… yeah… you’re doing okay, kid.

CLARISSA
Prod me some more. C’mon, give it all you got. I’m going to get back to Miko and my life.

WHITE ANGEL
I’m delighted to see your self-confidence.

CLARISSA
It looks like I have it in me to succeed after all.

WHITE ANGEL
I’m proud of you for leaving your ex-boyfriend. [Beat.] You know, I’m beginning to understand you. You’re just doing your best to survive.

CLARISSA
That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to tell you!

WHITE ANGEL
Except here’s the thing. If you’re focused on trying to survive, that’s what you’ll get.

CLARISSA
What other choice do I have?

WHITE ANGEL
How about happiness, peace, and abundance?

[Clarissa laughs, lightly at first, then slowly crescendos into hysterics.]

CLARISSA
Now, I really know you’re privileged. Only fancy people come up with that kind of fancy-schmancy stuff.

[The White Angel looks hurt.]

WHITE ANGEL
I was trying to make an important point. One that could set you free from merely surviving.

CLARISSA
What if I feel like surviving is all I deserve? I don’t know why I feel this, but I do. I hear it inside of me like a recording.

WHITE ANGEL
I’ve heard the same thing expressed by other souls. You’re listening to a recording taught to you by those who raised you or teachers who taught you or institutions you’ve been a part of—old recordings that have been passed on to them, too. And somewhere along the way, you internalized these recordings.

CLARISSA
I can’t make it stop. [Beat.] I know why people jump off bridges or overdose on pills or do horrible things. It’s the recording. The recording makes people do things. I’d do anything to make my recordings stop. That’s why I love Miko. When I’m around him I don’t hear these recordings. I just feel love and joy.

WHITE ANGEL
You found one solution through Miko. There are more.

CLARISSA
Like what?

WHITE ANGEL
The fancy-schmancy stuff like meditation, yoga, and stopping and smelling the roses.

CLARISSA
Stopping and smelling the roses?! I witness people dying of this disease every minute. When I have time off, all I can do is collapse on my bed trying to forget the horror of what I see…

WHITE ANGEL
These things can help you imagine a better life!

CLARISSA
Aren’t you supposed to look after me? The priest at my church says angels are always at our service. I don’t see angels at the hospital where the medical staff is so overworked we don’t have time to think about our well-being. Where are you and the other angels? You stand there “judging” me on whether I’ve lived a good life, but couldn’t you have taken better care of me?

[The White Angel is stupefied. A light blares in the background. Just one, hesitant. After a moment, another comes. And then, another. It’s as if the system is realizing its own flaw.]

WHITE ANGEL
Well, I am here telling you…

CLARISSA
Yes, you are, after I’m about to die. And when so many already died in vain—and without justice!

WHITE ANGEL
Perhaps I haven’t done a good job of looking after you.

CLARISSA
Because from where you’re standing, it’s easier to judge.

WHITE ANGEL
That’s correct.

CLARISSA
And from where I’m standing, it’s easier to allow myself to be judged.

WHITE ANGEL
That’s possible…

CLARISSA
It looks like we both have work to do.

WHITE ANGEL
It looks like we do…

CLARISSA
Did those blinking lights mean I scored another point?

WHITE ANGEL
Yes. It means you can go back to your body and live your life.

CLARISSA
I’ll get to be with Miko…

WHITE ANGEL
You’ll have to get better first, but eventually you will.

CLARISSA
Does this mean I lived a good life?

WHITE ANGEL
I don’t want to be the judge of that anymore. Look, kid, I agree life can be tough. [Beat.] From now on, I’ll do a better job of looking after you.

CLARISSA
Do you pinky swear?

WHITE ANGEL
I pinky swear if you promise to listen to my whispers.

CLARISSA
I can do that.

WHITE ANGEL
Then, it’s a deal. [Beat.] I know I’m not perfect.

CLARISSA
Hey, that’s a start…

WHITE ANGEL
Yeah… yeah… Time to go. Are you ready?

CLARISSA
Beam me up, Angel.

[The White Angel motions with its hands and Clarissa disappears. We hear the sound of her rocketing back to Earth.]

END OF PLAY.


Philippines

Conquest, calamities, poverty broke my mother home.

I was twelve years old when I left home.

 

In my native land, I slept on grass huts on bamboo floor

covered by banig, a grass mat, with twenty others. That was home.

 

Nanny cousins put me and my siblings to sleep, then reigned as queens.

They thought my home was their home.

 

The community awakened at night. I sat with the elders,

ran with the boys until my mother called me home.

 

The geckos’ click, click, click held me restless.

Sometimes I dreamt the ghosts of my ancestors visiting home.

 

I spent summer days walking on rice paddies

following dirt roads that lead nowhere and then home.

 

Philippines, you are to Maribel a past out of reach.

She holds pieces of you in memory. That is home.


Pu‘uhonua O Hōnaunau

The long road from Hilo to Kona stretches before me and Marilyn. It is our first time on the Big Island of Hawai’i, where Kilauea volcano spouts lava that either burns or expands the land. In our economy rental, the scenery shifts from ocean to mountains and lava rocks. The two-lane road is narrow, and one could easily slip through to the other side.

After five hours we reach Pu‘uhonua O Hōnaunau, a national historic park on the coast of Kona.  Marilyn and I walk along a sandy path. Two wooden Tiki statue guards greet us at the entrance. There is an eeriness about this place. It’s as if we walked through another vibration. Marilyn held my hand. What is this place? I don’t know.

Right by the coast is a fenced reconstructed heiau, a Hawaiian temple, built of grass and bamboo with more Tiki gods guarding the entrance. Our path leads to a large rectangular stone wall, and here we stop. It is a place where many had been sacrificed. We say a prayer.

We wander farther towards the shore. Marilyn lays on a flat rock. I marvel at the scattered twigs and fallen coconut branches that look like works of art on the ground. I don’t know what this place is. I gaze at Marilyn, and she back at me. Stillness.

I drive back along the long road from Kona to Hilo; this time we can’t see the ocean, no highway lights, just a dark road.

Rocks still
Illuminated by the night
left unturned

Share: 

Maribel Apuya (she/her) is a Filipino American screenwriter, playwright, filmmaker, and interdisciplinary artist. Her work centers on Filipino Americans, Pacific Islanders, and People of Color. She is the creator of The Sakada Series, three documentary shorts highlighting the life stories of the Sakadas–Filipino contract workers who worked as laborers on Hawaii’s sugar and pineapple plantations between 1906 and 1946. The Sakada Series won a “Silver Award” from Spotlight Documentary Film Awards (2018) along with other recognitions. Maribel earned her MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts at the University of California, Riverside, where she was a Gluck Fellow and granted the Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellowship Award.


©2022 Black Earth Institute. All rights reserved.  |  ISSN# 2327-784X  |  Site Admin