Gridlocked

by Shayne Woodsmith

CHARACTERS

ANNA: Mid twenties.
GABRIELLA: Claire’s daughter, teenager.
CLAIRE: A doctor in her mid forties. Gabriella’s mother.
SAM: Late twenties. Anna’s boyfriend.

SETTING

The Lion’s Gate Bridge. There are railings with bars upstage and downstage, like a cage. The sounds of car engines and rush hour can be heard. The bridge is packed with cars, bumper to bumper. It’s gridlock and every driver is waiting for traffic to begin flowing normally.

TIME

Summer. Present day.

Act I

(On stage there are eight chairs, two sets of four. Two steering wheels, one in each set, are in front of two of the chairs. These are our cars. In one car sit CLAIRE, dressed professionally with her hair up and tidy, and her teenaged daughter GABRIELLA. There is a hint of her mother’s influence in GABRIELLA’s appearance, but she is not her mother.)

GABRIELLA

It’s just a sleepover. And it’s not like I’m gonna be alone with anybody. Me and Xavier probably won’t even sleep in the same room. And it’s just gonna be a fun sleepover. That’s all. And, you’d say yes if it were just girls going. And just because boys are gonna be there shouldn’t matter. I should still be allowed to go.

CLAIRE

(Annoyed)

GAB, I told you. I don’t think it’s a good idea, okay. I’m just not comfortable with you going to a sleepover when boys are going to be there. And that’s it. I’m sorry but that’s it.

GABRIELLA

(Crossing arms)

Dad would let me go. I don’t know why you won’t. And there’s seven other people sleeping over and all of their parents said it was okay.

CLAIRE

(Visibly angry, grips the steering wheel)

Of course your father would say that it’s okay. Why wouldn’t he? You don’t live with him. He wouldn’t be the one worrying about you, sitting up and wondering if you’re making the right choices. Or even caring about what choices you’re having to make.

(CLAIRE checks her rearview mirror, grips the steering wheel tighter.)

CLAIRE

And while it’s really great that your father would allow you to go and all the other parents are allowing their children to go to an orgy, I refuse to give you permission to go out and get impregnated. Okay.

GABRIELLA

God mum! It’s not an orgy. Why do you always think the worst? Why didn’t you add drugs and booze to whatever else you think we’re gonna be doing? God!

CLAIRE

Well I’m sure that’s not far off GAB. How am I supposed to know what you and your friends do when you’re unsupervised? You don’t tell me. For all I know you all get high, and drunk, and have unprotected sex and—

GABRIELLA

Oh my god. You’re so totally right.

CLAIRE

I am?

GABRIELLA

Yean. I might as well just say it ‘cause you’ll find out sooner or later anyway.

(She sighs)

This sleepover is really a drunken orgy. There I said it. Nothing but booze and unprotected sex. Maybe some drugs too. Keith said he was gonna bring some coke but you know how he is. He’ll probably just bring pot and think that’s good enough.

CLAIRE

Jesus GABBY.

GABRIELLA

And then later all of us strung-out sluts are gonna go to the clinic and have our fetal alcohol-syndromed babies aborted. Because that’s what all of us irresponsible teenage girls do nowadays. In fact, I think they’re having a two for one special at the abortion clinic next month so it’ll be prefect.

(CLAIRE and GABRIELLA stare at each other. CLAIRE with mouth agape, and GABRIELLA with her arms crossed, looking defiant and satisfied.)

(The car beside CLAIRE and GABRIELLA inches forward.)

(SAM and ANNA sit in the car. SAM is a t-shirt and jeans guy; ANNA is stylish but casual. SAM is drinking a 32oz slurpee. ANNA is drinking from a one-litre carton of chocolate almond milk. ANNA stops drinking then clips and unclips the plastic cap on the carton.)

SAM

I can’t believe you brought that.

ANNA

Why? There were only a few sips left. And I’m sick of wasting food. I get to the end of something and then I just leave it until it starts growing spores and smelling like a dead animal. No more! New leaf, turned over, now.

SAM

You look ridiculous.

ANNA

More ridiculous than drinking a gigantic slurpee?

SAM

What do you mean? There’s nothing weird about drinking a slurpee. They’re normal. Unlike that.

ANNA

(Disagreeing)

Huh. “Normal.” Is there really such a thing?

(ANNA finishes off the carton.)

sam

Of course there is.

ANNA

Ahhh. There. I won’t be drinking it when we pull up to your parents’ house. Okay?

(ANNA clips and unclips the plastic cap.)

SAM

It’s not that, it’s just …

ANNA

I wonder who makes these caps. I bet they make a lot of money off of them. Who do you think designed them?

(SAM sighs, sucks on his straw, and swallows.)

SAM

(Matter-of-factly)

NASA.

ANNA

(In disbelief)

NASA?

SAM

Yep. NASA.

ANNA

NASA designed them?

SAM

Yep.

ANNA

(Pointing)

These ones, right here.

SAM

You betcha.

ANNA

NASA designed these caps?

SAM

Uh huh.

(ANNA stares down at the cap for a second, clicking it open and shut a few more times.)

ANNA

No way! NASA doesn’t make these. It’s probably just the same company that makes the carton.

SAM

And who do you think that is? … NASA.

ANNA

Really?

SAM

I have no idea.

(ANNA hits SAM in the arm and they both start to laugh. ANNA grabs the magazine on her lap and flips to a marked page. SAM keeps glancing from the magazine to the car in front of him.)

ANNA

(Turns the page)

Hey, what do you think of this one?

SAM

Are you really going to buy one?

ANNA

If I can find one for under five hundred. But it looks like any good bikes are twice that. I’ll have to check out some secondhand ones I guess.

SAM

What about when it rains?

ANNA

What about it?

SAM

Well, are you going to ride in the rain?

ANNA

Sure, why not?

SAM

The other day, when it was pouring, I saw this drenched cyclist riding while road water was spraying all the way up his back in a long poop-smear of filth.

ANNA

That’s why you need fenders. I used to ride in the rain all the time. Fenders protect against the poopy look.

SAM

Why not just get a car? I love my car.

ANNA

‘Cause it’s cheaper. No gas. No insurance. No oil changes or mechanics. And I’d be getting some exercise too.

(Flipping through the magazine)

Besides, it’d feel a lot better riding a bike while the icecaps are melting and smog is starting to talk to me it’s so thick.

SAM

Smog’ll be yelling in your face if you start biking. You’ll be practically sucking on tailpipes.

ANNA

We’re sucking on tailpipes now. At least I’ll be breathing heavy and working it out of my system.

SAM

Bikes are slower though.

ANNA

If I were on a bike right now, I’d already be at your parents’ house instead of stuck in traffic.

SAM

(Worried)

You think you’d already be at my parents? Hmm …

(SAM shifts in his seat. Smiles awkwardly and rubs the back of his neck.)

ANNA

(Bites a nail anxiously.)

What time’s dinner?

SAM

In about an hour … Are you sure you still wanna go? I mean, it’s okay if you’ve changed your mind. It’s not going to be the funest time in the world.

ANNA

(Unsure)

Yeah. I mean, if you still want me to.

SAM

(Lying)

Of course. I just thought …

ANNA

(Convincing herself)

It’ll be nice to meet your family.

(ANNA looks ahead at the gridlock.)

ANNA

We didn’t have to make a special trip you know. I could’ve just gone with you on Sunday one time.

SAM

Well, Sunday’s kind of an all day thing. It, it might have been too much for you. And boring.

ANNA

I don’t know about that. It’s just family time. What do you guys do on Sunday that’s so boring?

SAM

Um …

(A car honks. SAM and ANNA glance back.)

(CLAIRE glances in the rearview mirror. GABRIELLA looks back over her shoulder. CLAIRE and GABRIELLA inch forward.)

CLAIRE

Is this how you and your friends talk to each other and to your parents? Because keep it up GABRIELLA and we’ll see how likely I am to let you go to any party ever again if this is the kind of influence your friends have on you.

GABRIELLA

Well, God mum. You just think the worst all the time. Like I’m always about to do the wrong thing. And like going to one sleepover is gonna ruin the rest of my life.

CLAIRE

Some of the choices you have to make now are the most important in your life because they can affect the rest of your life. And maybe even determine it. What you think are little things that don’t matter are actually extremely important, GAB. So you shouldn’t just shrug them off with jokes.

GABRIELLA

See that’s what I mean. Everything with you is so, dun dun dun, soap opera close up, soap opera close up. But you don’t have to worry. I’m not gonna fall in love with some guy who hates me and loves my best friend and then drug him so that I can get pregnant with his baby and force him to marry me only to find out that he’s actually my brother.

CLAIRE

Jesus, GAB. It’s like you’re actually thinking about doing these demented things. And where do they even come from? Has one of your friends actually done that to a guy?

(GABRIELLA rubs her face with frustration.)

GABRIELLA

No, mother. That’s from a soap opera. What kind of friends do you think I have?

CLAIRE

Oh thank God. But it’s probably based on real life. Well, at least you’re an only child and don’t have an estranged brother who might come along and … impregnate you.

GABRIELLA

Mum, two things: learn how to take a joke and stop saying impregnate.

CLAIRE

Well, if you want to be an adult, GAB, you need to get used to adult words … And I know how to take a joke.

GABRIELLA

Right.

CLAIRE

I didn’t get that particular joke because I don’t watch the same shows as you. That’s the problem.

GABRIELLA

That’s not the problem.

(CLAIRE looks in the rearview mirror.)

CLAIRE

Then what’s the problem, GAB?

GABRIELLA

You think my life is a soap opera. You’re the melodramatic parent, and I’m the crazy, nymphomaniac daughter that can’t control herself.

CLAIRE

I never said that you were a nymphomaniac.

GABRIELLA

You practically did. You don’t trust me.

CLAIRE

I do it’s just—

GABRIELLA

If you did, you’d let me sleepover tonight without thinking the worst.

(SAM is looking absentmindedly out the windshield, and ANNA is looking past SAM at CLAIRE and GABRIELLA arguing.)

ANNA

(Trying to suppress her chuckles)

Whoa, check out the car beside us.

(SAM looks over. They both stare.)

ANNA

There’s all kinds of crazy teenaged angst goin’ on in that car.

SAM

I wonder what they’re saying. Do you think they’re discussing whether or not NASA makes the little caps on tetra packs?

ANNA

Maybe they’re arguing about why bikes are so much better than cars. Or maybe the teeny weenie wants breast implants so she doesn’t have to feel so teeny weenie anymore.

(They start impersonating what’s being said.)

ANNA

(Impersonating a teenage girl’s voice)

But mom. I need ‘em and I want ‘em and I’ve gotta have ‘em.

SAM

(Impersonating a woman’s voice)

Can’t you just get a tattoo instead or a nipple ring?

ANNA

A nipple ring? For what? So I can show off the boobs I don’t have? God, mom, you just don’t understand.

SAM

You’re right. I don’t. Why on earth do you suddenly just have to have breast implants? Is it that blasted Babe Watch show with all those big-breasted women running up and down the beach in slow motion with their breasts practically hitting them in the face?

ANNA

First of all, it’s Baywatch. Hello. Not Babewatch. And it’s been off the air for like, ever.

SAM

Well, what is it then? Some other TV show? A boy? Is it a boy?

ANNA

Well, not that it’s any of your business, but I want to be on magazines and in music videos. And I want Dane to stop dating Stephanie just because she’s got big ones.

SAM

Maybe Dane really likes Stephanie and her breasts are just an added bonus, honey.

ANNA

Mum, she has a mustache.

SAM

Well, I guess he’s not kissing her face then is he?

(ANNA laughs.)

SAM

How about I buy you a car instead?

ANNA

I don’t want a car. I want boobs. Why don’t you want me to be happy? If you loved me, you’d let me get ‘em.

SAM

Okay honey, okay. We’ll get you implants okay.

ANNA

Really?

SAM

Yes.

ANNA

And a nose job too.

SAM

And a nose job too, dear.

ANNA

And will you get a mummy makeover so you can look all hot like me and can we strut around the mall together showing off our goods?

(SAM breaks off the pretending and returns to his own voice.)

SAM

Whoa, what’s a mummy makeover? Is that even a real thing?

ANNA

Oh yeah. I can’t believe you’ve never heard of it. It’s when they turn mothers into Barbie dolls. Tummy tucks, liposuction, breast implants, anything to hide the fact that you’re a mother.

SAM

That’s messed up. Where did you hear about that?

ANNA

I saw an ad for it in some magazine. It said something like, “You’ve had to give up so much for your children. Why not take something back. Mummy Makeovers. Because the age on the outside should reflect the age within.”

SAM

That’s, something.

ANNA

Tell me about it.

(SAM leans over and tries to see what’s going on down the bridge.)

ANNA

Are you worried we’re gonna be late?

SAM

Not really. Are you nervous about meeting my parents?

(ANNA shrugs indifferently.)

SAM

Because there’s nothing to be nervous about. They’re perfectly normal.

ANNA

(Looks down the bridge)

Can you see what’s going on? It seems weird that no cars are passing us going the other way.

(A car honks. SAM and ANNA glance back.)

(GABRIELLA glances back at the car behind her.)

CLAIRE

Well I’d hope you’d come to me if anything like that ever happens. Before any other doctor. I’d hope that you would come to me as your mother and a doctor. Because I believe in your right to choose what you want to do. You know that don’t you? Choosing what’s best for you and the baby would be my highest priority.

(The car honks again. GABRIELLA looks back and glares.)

GABRIELLA

What’s with that guy?

CLAIRE

(Glancing in the rearview)

I think he wants us to move up. Are you listening? Did you hear what I said?

GABRIELLA

How could I not? You’re right beside me talking right into my ear.

CLAIRE

Well?

GABRIELLA

Well what? I’m not pregnant. Okay. Is that what you wanna hear? Can you relax now? I’m not going to get pregnant. Okay. Nothing’s gonna happen, okay. It’s not a big deal. No impregnations in my near future.

(CLAIRE stares at her daughter for a moment, sizing her up.)

GABRIELLA

What?

CLAIRE

Are you sexually active?

GABRIELLA

(Squirming)

What? Jesus mum.

CLAIRE

I’m just asking because I want to know that you’re being safe, using two different methods of birth control, condoms as well as the pill, because the pill doesn’t protect against STI’s, GAB. You know that don’t you?

(The car honks again.)

GABRIELLA

Please stop. I hate it when you treat me like one of your patients.

CLAIRE

Okay. But you went on the pill to manage your menstrual cycle and to lessen your craps. But you’re also protected from pregnancy.

GABRIELLA

I know. You’ve told me a thousand times. Okay. I know. Quit doctoring me.

(GABRIELLA wants to jump out of the car. She feels trapped.)

CLAIRE

It’s not one hundred percent effective though, GAB. Two out of every hundred women get pregnant while on the pill. That’s why you …

(GABRIELLA sinks down in her seat.)

GABRIELLA

Okay! I get it! God!

CLAIRE

Are you?

GABRIELLA

(Embarrassed and annoyed)

What?

CLAIRE

Sexually active right now?

GABRIELLA

(Plugs her ears)

La, la, la, la, la, la.

(CLAIRE pulls GABRIELLA’s finger out of one ear.)

CLAIRE

This is serious. Are you?

GABRIELLA

No, okay. I’m not. Okay. God.

CLAIRE

Okay, good.

(The car honks again.)

GABRIELLA

(Sits up and looks back)

What’s that guy’s problem?

CLAIRE

(Glancing in the rearview)

I’ll move up.

GABRIELLA

What? A foot. Is he gonna get home faster if we move up a foot?

(The car honks again. CLAIRE prepares to inch forward.)

GABRIELLA

Don’t move mum.

CLAIRE

I’ll just inch forward to calm him down.

GABRIELLA

Don’t do it. You can’t give in to dicks like that.

CLAIRE

(CLAIRE prepares to move forward)

And you shouldn’t call people you don’t know dicks. You shouldn’t be calling anyone names for that matter.

GABRIELLA

I do to know him. He’s the type of person who stands all close behind you while you wait in line at the grocery store. Close enough that you feel his breath on the back of your neck. And he glares at the two-foot gap between you and the person in front of you. So you step forward to get away from him, but he steps closer too. So you step again and again until you’re squished between him and the other person. And you feel like screaming because you were forced into claustrophobia by a guy who thinks he’ll get through the checkout faster if everyone stands crotch to butt.

(The car honks again. GABRIELLA reaches over her mum and lays on the horn while glaring back at the other car.)

GABRIELLA

Shut up asshole!

CLAIRE

(Pulling GAB’s hand from the horn)

Stop it. And watch your mouth. What’s wrong with you? Why are you so angry?

(

GABRIELLA sits back down looking defeated.)

GABRIELLA

Why do you take everybody else’s side huh? Why can’t you ever take mine?

(

GABRIELLA undoes her seatbelt and opens her door.)

CLAIRE

What are you doing?

GABRIELLA

What does it look like? I’m getting out to see what’s happening.

(GABRIELLA gets out of the car.)

CLAIRE

Get back in the car, GAB.

(GABRIELLA shuts the door and walks downstage right towards the railing.)

CLAIRE

(Leaning and yelling out the passenger window)

You better be back in here before we start moving again.

(GABRIELLA ignores CLAIRE and grabs hold of the railing. She looks down the bridge. She thinks about walking home. She looks over the railing and thinks about jumping.)

GABRIELLA

(Angry)

I can’t be stuck here all night with her. I’ll fucking kill her or myself if I’m here, missing the sleepover, and stuck in traffic all night with her.

(She closes her eyes, tilts her head back, and sighs.)

GABRIELLA

I just wanna be alone in my room, with the door shut and locked.

(GABRIELLA opens her eyes and kicks the railing. She then pulls a knife from her back pocket. She flips the blade up and down before scratching her forearm. Then she looks down over the railing.)

(SAM gets out of his car and stands beside it. He strains to see down the bridge.)

(A few random horns honk.)

ANNA

(Leaning over)

Do you see anything?

SAM

Just endless break lights.

ANNA

Can you see an accident or anything?

SAM

(Looking harder)

Not really. I don’t think there’s an accident.

(SAM stands on the car’s doorframe to get a better look.)

(CLAIRE pokes her head out her window.)

CLAIRE

Is it an accident?

SAM

Maybe. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. But it looks like a cop car is blocking the bridge way up there. I guess that’s why no cars are coming towards us.

ANNA

I bet they’re filming a movie just to piss everybody off.

CLAIRE

They’re not allowed to film movies on the bridge. The city won’t let them.

ANNA

The city might let them if they flashed enough cash.

SAM

If it’s a movie, it better be something good and not some stupid made for TV movie that’ll be aired once and only watched by a bunch of old people in a home who don’t have control of the remote.

ANNA

It’s probably a movie about a flying, talking dog. They’re probably filming the climax right now. Superdog is fighting Megasparrow, a giant bird that only eats cars.

(Glancing up ahead)

Or maybe a cop is just giving someone a ticket.

SAM

I don’t think so. There’s an ambulance, oh and a few more cop cars. It might be an accident actually.

CLAIRE

Well, at least they’re all on the scene and cleaning it up. It shouldn’t be too long now. Do you see any tow trucks?

SAM

No.

CLAIRE

They’re probably on their way.

GABRIELLA

This really sucks. I can think of about a thousand things I’d rather be doing.

SAM

(Secretly happy)

We might be here a lot longer. There’s a fire truck driving up.

(SAM discreetly pulls a tiny crucifix on a chain from his pocket, kisses it, and then mouths a thank you to the sky.)

ANNA

Are you serious?

(SAM, paranoid, shoves his chain back into his pocket.)

SAM

(Worried she saw him)

What?

ANNA

Are we really stuck here?

SAM

(Hiding his relief)

It looks that way. We might not even make it for dinner.

ANNA

Well, I guess you should call your parents.

SAM

I will in a bit.

(SAM and ANNA settle back in their seats.)

(SAM finishes his slurpee.)

(CLAIRE stretches her neck to see down the bridge. Then she leans over the passenger seat.)

CLAIRE

GAB! GAB! You should really get back in the car. We’re going to be moving soon. GAB!

(GABRIELLA keeps her back to her mother, stares out over the railing, puts her knife away, and scratches her forearm beneath her sleeve. She then gets back in the car.)

(End of Act I)