Love Plays the Piano



CHARACTERS

ALISA TURNER Late 20s, (“Aleesa”), aspiring singer/songwriter, sufferer of Lyme disease, expectant mom

JAIME LARA Late 20s,("Himee"), Alisa's husband, dad-to-be

DR. KIRSHON (“Keershon”). Alisa and Jaime's obstetrician

NURSE Dr. Kirshon's nurse

ELAINE A neighbor


Playwright's Note:

Because this is an emotionally-heavy play, delivering each light and humorous line in the way it was written is crucial. Those lines are emphasized with boldface.



SCENE 1: DIAGNOSIS

(ALISA lies on a bed in DR. KIRSHON's exam room. JAIME is standing. ALISA has had two sonograms so far, but this is the first for which JAIME has been present. Because ALISA has lyme disease her body produces no hormones. The risk for complications is high. Neither of the previous sonograms has shown any abnormality, but the mood is a bit tense. DR. KIRSHON enters, takes ALISA's hand.)


DR. KIRSHON

How's my miracle girl? Bet you thought this day would never come.


ALISA

(Feeling happy and smug) Guess you doctors aren't so smart after all. Now who was it who said I couldn't get pregnant?


DR. KIRSHON

(Amused) I know, I know. So how are you feeling?


ALISA

I'm hanging in there. The nausea and vomiting are terrible, though. Everything sets me off: sitting up, even the slightest movement.


DR. KIRSHON

I'm not sure what else we can do. I'm afraid this is the way it's going to be.


ALISA

Is it the Lyme disease?


DR. KIRSHON

Perhaps. Or maybe Lyme is making it worse. Hopefully the new meds will help. Maybe the nausea will at some point relent on its own. Now, are you ready to see your baby again?


(ALISA smiles proudly and nods.)


DR. KIRSHON

Do want to know its gender?


(ALISA and JAIME are excited. DR. KIRSHON begins to scan ALISA's abdomen. An image forms on a monitor. A heartbeat sounds.)


DR. KIRSHON

Strong heartbeat.


(DR. KIRSHON looks over the image.)


DR. KIRSHON

It's a boy.


JAIME

How can you tell?


DR. KIRSHON

(Moves the wand around and then points to monitor.)

(Jokingly) Well, unless that is a third leg...


(Tension eases. DR. KIRSHON scans further and then a grave feeling comes over him. He tries to hide his alarm.)


ALISA

What?


(DR. KIRSHON says nothing, keeps scanning.)


DR. KIRSHON

Hmmm. Nothing. He... Excuse me for a minute, will you?

(DR. KIRSHON leaves to consult with another doctor.)


ALISA

Something's wrong.


JAIME

(Slips his hand in ALISA's. Slightly alarmed but trying to be brave.) You're just over-thinking it, babe. Everything'll be okay.


(ALISA and JAIME fidget during a long, uncomfortable pause. DR. KIRSHON reenters feeling grim.)


DR. KIRSHON

I'm so sorry. (Pauses to get his nerve.) There's a problem. The fetus's skull hasn't quite sealed. It has...a birth defect called anencephaly, which means that once--


JAIME

What does that--


DR. KIRSHON

Its skull didn't finish forming. Fetuses with anencephaly are healthy while in the womb, but once born they can't survive.


(ALISA and JAIME feel stunned and confused.)


DR. KIRSHON

This likely has nothing to do with your lyme disease. It's just one of those rare things that happens.


JAIME

Can we fix it?


DR. KIRSHON

(Shakes head.) No. I'm very sorry. There's nothing we can do. No baby has ever survived this condition. While in the womb it is safe, but I doubt it'd survive fifteen minutes after birth. But it could live for a few hours or a few days. We just don't know. Because the chance of survival is zero percent, most persons in your position choose to abort. But this is your decision. I suggest you take two or three weeks to think things through and then let me know what you decide, okay? Again...I'm so sorry.


(DR. KIRSHON exits. In shock, ALISA and JAIME sit staring.)


(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)


SCENE 2: DECISION

(Silently, ALISA and JAIME sit downtrodden in their apartment. JAIME fiddles with his iPhone reading jokes, chuckles lightly. ALISA holds the pictures from the sonogram, stares off into space. JAIME looks at screen and laughs, turns to ALISA.)


JAIME

Listen to this one: A reporter asked an old woman the best thing about being 104. "No peer pressure," she said.


(JAIME laughs. ALISA knows he's just trying to lighten the mood, but she resists by looking away. JAIME holds his phone up to her and tries to show her the joke to get her to laugh.)


Get it? 'No peer pressure.' (Laughs weakly.)


ALISA

(Morose, ALISA holds up a picture.) He's a boy.


(The photo causes reality to crash over JAIME like a wave. He melts down, loses it. ALISA holds him. Eventually his emotions calm to a whimper.)


ALISA

What are we going to do? (Pause.) I know we're both wrung out, but we're running out of time. Dr. Kirshon said we need to decide.


JAIME

Dad says the longer the pregnancy goes on, the more we'll get attached and the harder it'll be to say goodbye.


ALISA

I'm sure he's right, but this baby is going to be our son either way. Jaime, I already feel like a mom. What kind of mom wants to avoid getting attached to try to avoid pain and heartache? It's going to hard regardless, you know? Sure, if he'd die at ten years old we would be even more attached, but I'm already attached. Always will be.


JAIME

Your mom?


ALISA

We talked again. She still has no idea what she'd do. But she's worried about my health. Most everyone else thinks it's a terrible idea to try to carry him to term. They keep saying (parrots other people), "There's no chance he will live. Why would you carry a baby to term knowing it’s going to die anyway? It's not fair to the baby."


JAIME

Yeah, they'd think we are crazy, wouldn't they? (Feeling sarcastic) "Look at them. They've lost their minds. What are they thinking trying to carry a dying baby to term?"


ALISA

He's our son! This is OUR life!

(ALISA feels the need to vomit. She leans over a trashcan next to the couch.)

I don't care what other people think. Do you?

(Alisa vomits into the can. JAIME retrieves a washcloth, wipes her mouth, sits and holds her hand.)


JAIME

You okay?


ALISA

Yes.


JAIME

You remember what Dr. Kirshon said? He's very worried that the pregnancy or birth will cause your lyme to relapse. Remember: He watched you nearly die last year. (Suddenly feels panicked.) I can't lose you, too. I can't. You understand that? But you know I will support you. I just need to know what you want.


ALISA

(Pauses to think.) Whatever we do it's going to hurt. He's going to be our son either way. Jaime, I already feel like a mom. Why not be his mom for as long as I can?


JAIME

(Feeling a tinge of anger) Do you understand what you're saying?


ALISA

Yes. (Pauses, wipes her mouth, gains her composure.) Look at me. I've already dealt with a lot. I can handle it. I'll gladly go through more heartache to have more time with him, to get to know him, to enjoy him. Dr. Kirshon said he's healthy while in the womb. His skull didn't form all the way, but he has a brain. He can think, hear, feel. This is likely our only chance to be parents. This doesn't have to be about what is taken away. Why can't we look at it like a gift? (Pause.) I'm as certain about this as I've ever been about anything. Jaime, we wanted to be parents. We've been given the chance. What if we spend whatever time we have with him getting to know him, doing things with him like any parents would? Our time with him will be short. So what? Why don't we make the best of it?


(Exhausted, JAIME reclines, rests his head in ALISA's lap, and rests his temple against ALISA's abdomen.)


JAIME

What if something goes wrong?


ALISA

That's out of our hands. Everything is out of our hands.


JAIME

What, we take it to soccer games and birthday parties like he's eight or ten years old?


ALISA

We take HIM to soccer games. And to movies. I'll sing to him at night. He'll learn the sound of our voices, get to know us however he is able.


(The baby kicks.)


ALISA

(Surprised and happy). Did you feel that?


JAIME

(Incredulous.) Was that him?


ALISA

(Baby kicks again) Yes. Your boy has a strong kick. Like his mom. (Laughs.)

(Both sit in silence for a moment taking everything in.)


JAIME

Okay.


ALISA

Okay what?


JAIME

Let's make the best of it.


ALISA

Are you sure you're okay with this? I want this to be our decision.


JAIME

No, I'm good. You're right. I'm with you. We might have months or weeks. Let's use whatever time we have.


(More silence.)


ALISA

Jaime? (Looks at him and smiles.)


JAIME

Yes?


ALISA

You're going to be a great dad.


(JAIME's face is still tight, but then he relaxes and smiles.)


JAIME

I have no idea how to do this.


(ALISA looks up and out the window, and see the moon, which makes her feel hopeful.)


ALISA

Look out the window. Full moon out tonight.


(JAIME looks out feels a bit hopeful, too.)


JAIME

Yeah.


(Lights very slowly begin to fade as piano begins playing.)


ALISA

I’ve been thinking. What do you think about the name “London?”


(JAIME thinks on it.)


JAIME

London? Hmmm…


(They hold each other while lights fade to black and then rise on the real Alisa Turner, who sings one verse and the chorus of her original song, "Goodnight Moon." At song's end the music fades into dead silence. Lights fade on Alisa and rise again on ALISA and JAIME.)


ALISA

(Feeling afraid) Jaime?


JAIME

Yes?


ALISA

There's one thing that keeps haunting me. (Pause.) How should we spend our time, saying hello...or goodbye?


(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)


SCENE 3: CONCERT

(ALISA and JAIME are sitting on the couch watching the end of a movie. JAIME is sleepy. He leans over and kisses ALISA's stomach, then gets up to go to bed.)


JAIME

I hope London likes Finding Nemo. How many times have we watched it with him, three?


ALISA

(Chuckling.) At least.


JAIME

(Imitating Dory from Finding Nemo, JAIME sings.) "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do?..."


(Takes ALISA's hand and leads her off of the couch and sweeps her around the room.)

"...We swim, swim. (Louder now, more demonstrative) Swim, swim, swim."


(ALISA feels happy. Then suddenly she has to vomit. She springs for the wastebasket then retches. Vomiting continues into dry heaving. JAIME eases ALISA onto couch.)


JAIME

You okay?


(ALISA nods. JAIME wipes her mouth, leans over and kisses her stomach.)


JAIME

Anything I can get for you?


(ALISA shakes her head.)


JAIME

Okay then. Goodnight.


(JAIME kisses ALISA on cheek. He stands and walks several steps away, turns around.)

I love you, babe. Love you, too, London.


(JAIME exits. Exhausted, ALISA moves to her piano, walks slowly up and down. Puts her hands on her belly.)


ALISA

(Talking to London) I wonder if you'll look like your daddy with his round face? If you will...would...be good at fixing things. Or will you be slender like Mommy, like a willow tree? (Runs hand over piano.) Would you be a mechanic like Daddy or be a singer/songwriter like Mommy?


(ALISA sits at keyboard.)


When I was a little girl I used to stay up late into the night banging on my little keyboard pretending to sing to people. When your grandfather wasn't looking I used to sneak into the sanctuary in his church and play that big old grand piano pretending ten thousand people were listening. (Stops. Feels wistful.)


I was living in Nashville trying to sing my songs when he died. I miss him so much. He would've loved meeting you. (Feels terribly sad.)


Your granddaddy was the best dad in the world. I adored him, London. When he died I missed talking with him so badly, you know what I did? (Chuckles.) Surprise, surprise--I wrote him a song. You want to hear it?


(The original song "Stuck on You" begins to play. Lights fade on ALISA and rise on Alisa Turner, who performs a verse and a chorus.)


(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)


SCENE 4: BIRTH & DEATH

(ALISA is dressed for surgery. DR. KIRSHON stands on one side of her bed next to JAIME. NURSE is on the other. Fearful and frantic, ALISA grabs hold of DR. KIRSHON's scrubs.)

Please, DR. KIRSHON. Please. I've gotta wake up before he goes. Please.


DR. KIRSHON

I know. We've talked about this. I wish we didn't have to anesthetize you, Alisa, but we have to because of your Lyme disease. I promise: we'll wake you as fast as we can.


(NURSE wheels ALISA away. JAIME paces while C-section being performed. He keeps checking his watch. Finally NURSE comes in carrying baby London, places him in JAIME's arms.)


NURSE

Here's your son. (JAIME tries to take it all in.) He cried when he came out. And he peed everywhere. How 'bout that?


JAIME

(Feeling mock pride, joking) Just like his dad.


(JAIME stands for several seconds looking at his son in his arms. His face seems more astonished than happy or sad. Then slowly tears leak out and he wipes his cheek with the backside of his hand.)


(Neutral emotion, observational.) He's long like Alisa. And his lips are thin, too. Oh, but look: (astonished) His nose is wide like mine.


(JAIME pulls out ALISA's cell phone and hands it to the nurse.)


His mom recorded a video in case she didn't wake in time. Will you press play?


(NURSE holds cell phone up for London, Lights fade on actors and rise on Alisa Turner, who reads the note. Lights fade on Alisa and then rise on actors.)


(JAIME looks at nurse. He's suddenly alarmed.)

I can't tell if he's breathing.


(NURSE checks for heartbeat with stethoscope. Her index finger taps with each strong heartbeat.)


NURSE

His heart's still beating. Gotta have that heartbeat 'til mama gets here, right?


JAIME

That's what I've been praying for.


(NURSE steps out and wheels in ALISA's bed. ALISA is groggy, doesn't know where she is. She is crying, wailing softly. Disoriented, scared. She can barely speak. Her words are childlike, almost inaudible.)


ALISA

Where...is...London? Am I alive? (Pause. A little clearer speech but still not clear.) He's my baby.


(NURSE holds London next to Alisa's face so she can see him. Alisa is shivering. Her mouth is chattering as she speaks. Speaks in staccato.)


Can...I...kiss...him? Is...he...still...breathing?


NURSE

Yes. He cried when he came out.


ALISA

He..cried..when..he..came..out?


NURSE

And he peed everywhere.


ALISA

(Amazed. Feeling like a proud mother. He.peed.everywhere?


NURSE

Do you want to hold him? We can lay him next to you, okay?


(NURSE places London on ALISA's chest, checks him with stethoscope. A little slower, her finger bobs to London's heartbeat.)


ALISA

(Crying, almost like a little girl.) I want my daddy. I want my daddy.


NURSE

Can you feel him?


ALISA

Yes. He's so pretty.


NURSE

His heart's still beating.


ALISA

Is it getting shallow?


NURSE

Um...a little bit.


ALISA

Is he still breathing?


JAIME

Yeah, he's still alive. It's okay.


ALISA

Does he look like me or you?


JAIME

(Happy) He looks like us both.


(JAIME takes ALISA's hand. He sits with her and London. Silence. NURSE again checks heartbeat. Taps more slowly.)


ALISA

I'm a mom.


JAIME

You sure are.


ALISA

And you're a dad.


(JAIME takes a few seconds to think about this.)

Yes I am.


ALISA

(Proud) He's perfect.


JAIME

Uh-huh.


(NURSE's finger taps slower and slower until it stops.)


(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)


SCENE 6: AFTERMATH

(Carrying two bags of groceries, ALISA is walking up the sidewalk to her apartment building. Depressed and lost in thought she runs into a neighbor, ELAINE, on the sidewalk. Elaine drops one of her bags and a jar of something breaks.)


ALISA

Oh, I'm so sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going. I was--


ELAINE

It's okay.


ALISA

I was thinking about...well, I didn't mean to--


ELAINE

(Touches ALISA on her arm.) No problem. Really. (She picks up the broken jar, puts in a bag, then takes a good look at ALISA.) You know, I haven't met you before. My name's ELAINE. I live with my husband and son the building over.


ALISA

Oh, hi. I'm Alisa. We live up there in 212-B.


ELAINE

Nice to meet you, Alisa. I see your ring. Are you married?


ALISA

Yes, my husband's JAIME. He sells tires down at Tire Factory.


ELAINE

Kids?


(ALISA pauses. She's heard this question many times before. She's doesn't know what to say that will not make ELAINE feel awkward.)


ALISA

We have a son, but now he lives in heaven.


(ELAINE's face goes blank.)


ELAINE

Oh...I'm sorry...I just...


ALISA

It's okay.


ELAINE

I was thinking about...well, I didn't mean to--


ALISA

(Touches ELAINE on her arm.) No problem. Really.


ELAINE

(Flustered.) Well, it was nice to meet you. Maybe we can get together sometime.


(ALISA smiles and nods. ELAINE goes awkwardly on her way. ALISA enters her apartment and flips the light switch, but the power has been turned off again. Frustrated, she drops the grocery bags and sits on the couch. The phone rings and rings.)


ALISA

(With overly-chipper tone.) Hi, this is Jaime and Alisa. Leave your message after the tone. Have a beautiful day.


(JAIME walks in carrying armfuls of bags from various stores, sees Alisa sitting in the dark. Flips switch. Looks embarrassed. Knows he didn't pay bill. ALISA sees all the purchases.)


ALISA

(Frustrated.) JAIME, how many times have we talked about this? What are you doing? You can't keep buying all this stuff.


JAIME

(Defensive.) I just bought a few comic books. (Enthusiastic, trying to convince.) And I needed a new iPhone charger. Look. Did you know they make it in yellow? I won't lose this one! And they had this new kind of waterproof case. It--


ALISA

(Intense, angry.) Stop it! Jaime, you don't need another iPhone charger.


JAIME

I didn't have one in yellow. I lost my other one.


ALISA

You already have one in every color! You can't keep buying all this stuff, Jaime. Our credit card was declined at the grocery store. (Angrier) And you didn't pay the power bill, did you? I found it hidden in the dresser. (Furious now.) Now take all this stuff back right now! (Snatches bags but a couple fall. Kneels and starts to gather everything up.)


JAIME

(Embarrassed) What are you doing?


(ALISA stops gathering and then plops down. She's so angry, frustrated. JAIME sits, too. They both sit for a few seconds.)


JAIME

You're right. I'm sorry. I--


ALISA

I can't take this anymore, Jaime! I'm about ready to get out.


(Lights fade on ALISA and JAIME and rise on ELAINE, who has re-entered on far side of stage. ELAINE answers her cell phone.)


ELAINE

Hi, Susan. (Pause) Yes, we’ll be there seven. Say, you’ll never guess who I bumped into today. (Pause.) You remember that woman who lost her baby last year? You know, the one who had that baby with a birth defect or something? (Pause.) Yeah, the one from the link you forwarded me on Facebook. She wrote about the whole thing. (Pause.) I know, they carried it to term even though they knew it was going to die. For the life of me, I have no idea why someone would do that. Can you tell me why someone would do that? If I remember right, it didn't even live a day. (Pause.) Something to do with the brain. (Pause.) During the pregnancy Julianne saw them at her child's soccer game. She asked them if they had a child on the team and they said no, they thought their son might enjoy attending a soccer game. Isn't that crazy? Bringing a fetus to see a soccer game? (Pause.) She was nice, though. She looked so lost. I felt sorry for her. I mean, if we lost Justin and Brenna I think I'd just die. But they're in middle school. That baby didn't even live a day. They didn't even know him yet. It was a year ago. You'd think they'd get over it, move on, you know, put the past behind them and try again.


(Lights fade on ELAINE and rise on ALISA and JAIME.)


JAIME

You wanna get out? (Stammering.) I don't know why I do this. It's just that--


ALISA

(Breaking down) I feel so...abandoned. (Takes JAIME's face in her hands). Our son is dead, Jaime. Where are you? I know you're hurting, too, but you can't just keeping shutting down and buying stuff. We're going broke. I need you. I NEED you.


(JAIME is broken-hearted over hurting ALISA. He breaks down, and Alisa holds him. Both sit quiet for an uncomfortable amount of time. Lights go down on actors and rise on Alisa, who sings the first verse and chorus of original song, "The Kind That Won't Let Go." Lights fade on Alisa and rise again on actors.)


JAIME

I'm so sorry. I don't know what to do.


ALISA

We need a new start. I think it's time.


JAIME

Time for what?


ALISA

We've been talking about it ever since we married.


JAIME

What?


ALISA

Nashville.


JAIME

Now?


ALISA

We need a new start. You know that I had to leave Nashville when Dad died, that music has always been my dream, that I've wanted to take another shot. We always said we would go. Finally my lyme disease is improving, and I might not get another chance. We're parents now. No one can take that away from us. (Pleading) But we have to make some changes because what we're doing isn't working.


JAIME

(Taking it all in.) I've lived here my whole life. All my friends and family are here.


ALISA

Maybe it'd be too much change for you right now. Everyone thinks so.


JAIME

You know I've always wanted to go with you. I just wasn't thinking now.


ALISA

Yes, it's only been a year.


(JAIME sits pondering.)


ALISA

But maybe it'd be good for you, good for us both. We're stuck, Jaime. Maybe this is a chance for us to grow.


JAIME

(More thinking) A fresh start?


(ALISA nods.)

Is this want you really want?


(ALISA nods.)

Okay. Then let's go.


(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)


SCENE 7: STUDIO

(Returning from a day of recording in a Nashville studio and waving a cd in her hand, ALISA enters her and JAIME’s new apartment.)


JAIME

Did you lay down vocals today, babe?


ALISA

(Very chipper.) Yes.


JAIME

How’d it go?


ALISA

Awesome. I’m starting to get pretty excited about this record. Can’t wait to hear the roughs when the tracking is mixed in.


JAIME

(Referring to cd) What’s that? Vocals?


ALISA

(Beaming) No. This is it. Remember my song that was being considered for movie soundtrack? It not only made the record, but it made the film. It’ll play during the film!


JAIME

Oh my gosh! You know what that means? Thousands of people who see the movie will hear your music. This could be the boost you need.


ALISA

(Excited, but not as much as JAIME would expect.)

I know, I know.


JAIME

What’s wrong?


ALISA

Nothing…Well, you know me, “Ms. Believe-It-When-I-See-It.” I just can’t help thinking something else is going to come out of nowhere and—


JAIME

You can’t talk like that. You can’t talk like that.


ALISA

I know, but Jaime, it’s happened so many times. Just when I get a little traction—


JAIME

(Pulls ALISA close)

I know, babe. First time you’re in Nashville making a go of it and the music biz people love your music but don’t understand it and don’t know what to do with you. But despite all that, you’re making headway when your dad dies. Then Lyme disease and London and…I know it’s hard to believe that something’s not going to pop up. But look: You’ve overcome a lot and you’ve never given up. We moved here for you to try again. You’re going to make it this time. And look what has happened: You’re finishing a new record and your song was chosen for a movie!


(JAIME pulls ALISA close, looks in her eyes to reassure her, and kisses her.)


Hey: Of all people, you know there are no guarantees in this business. This could be a small step or something huge, but it doesn’t really matter because you’re doing what you love. I am so proud of you. (Pause.) I bet your dad is proud of you. I know London is.

(JAIME opens his hand and reaches for the cd.)

Now can I hear it?


ALISA

(Excited again.) Yeah.


(JAIME puts the cd in a player. The first notes of the original song "Breathing" start to play as lights fade on actors. Lights rise on Alisa Turner, who performs the song live while a video of Alisa, Jaime, and London plays on screen. Song and slide show end, and lights fade.)


(BLACKOUT)

(END OF PLAY)

© 2020 by Jayme Feary, Teller of Stories