Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Rehearsing lines

Catalina Florina Florescu
Hoboken, New Jersey, United States


Image of an aging woman against a gold background with a coffee cup on her head
Coffee Queen. Iulia Şchiopu. Permission granted by artist.




Now, here. Two women are seated on a bench. That’s all you need to know. Plus that their name is a palindrome. Mirrored names. Make what you want out of this.


EVE: What is the taste of water, dear?

ANA: Excuse me?

EVE: Hard of hearing?

ANA: What?

EVE: Hard of hearing?

ANA: No! Stop that. (She takes off one of her hearing aids and shows it to the other woman) I hear fine. I mean. You see . .  Aging is no fun.

EVE: How old are you?

ANA: Don’t you know that a woman should never reveal her age?

EVE: Well, if a man asks, that’s when a woman shouldn’t reveal her age.

ANA: What’s the difference?

EVE: Don’t know. That’s what I heard.

ANA: I’m 60. Today is my birthday. I am waiting for the bus to take me places.

EVE: You’re funny.

ANA: Hysterical.

They look at each other. Maybe like observing each other for the first time.

EVE: Am I real?

ANA: Do you mean like if I can see you? That would be the second stupid question you asked.

EVE: Thanks, what was the first one?

ANA: I believe you sat down, looked at me, sighed, and then asked something about the taste of water.

EVE: Oh, I see, you studied me.

ANA: Not really. I’ve been on this bench for 3 hours. I have this ritual on my birthday.

EVE: What ritual?

ANA: To meet strangers.

EVE: How many?

ANA: How many what?

EVE: Today, how many did you meet?

ANA: A few. It must be the weather.

EVE: What’s wrong with the weather?

ANA: They said there would be a storm later today between the hours of 2:15:32 and 3:45:07. (Adds as if that could disambiguate:) PM.

EVE: My, my, precision, precision, precision.

They giggle.

ANA: Look at the sky, though. It’s baby blue. Which reminds me . . .

ANA looks for something in her purse. Takes a phone out. Starts typing one letter at a time. Very slowly. The other woman is curious but keeps her cool. Not for long, though.

EVE stretches her legs and arms. Yawns voraciously. The other gives her a look but goes back to her typing.

EVE: Are you done?

ANA: With?

EVE: I don’t know. That memoir.

ANA: Ah. It’s just a reminder to myself to buy something.

EVE: What, a dream house? Judging by the many letters you typed it’s something quite exact.

ANA: If you must know, my husband died on my birthday. He loved baby blue and he made me promise that I should try something that color every year. Buy a dress, drink something with blue Curaçao. You know, simple things. Do them, keep a diary, and think of him.

EVE: Nice.

ANA: This is why I sit on this bench. At some point someone has a crazy idea. You just helped me.

EVE: Thanks. (Perplexed) Like, how?

ANA: You asked if I knew how the water tasted. Towards the end, my husband was . . . Well, I’ll spare you the details. Imagine a body dying in the same bed where the man made love. He could not taste water. I tried to be supportive. I used to go into the kitchen and drink water from my palms. I couldn’t say I knew what was the taste of it. It did not feel special. Why did you ask that?

EVE: Oh, it’s nothing.

ANA: Please.

EVE: Well, I have had this cough and nothing that I do helps. I have had so many lozenges, teas, honey, cough syrup, mint drops, chewable vitamin C, soups that, if I have a sip of water, I can’t taste it anymore. And I LOVE water.

ANA: Sorry, I just don’t get what’s so special about it.

EVE: Aqua vitae. (Beat) I know this cough cannot last forever.

ANA: Have you seen a doctor?

EVE: Yes, a doctor, a pharmacist, and now you.

ANA: Excuse me?

EVE: I don’t know why I said that.

ANA: It happens. Words get out of us and we can’t delete them.

EVE: I guess.

ANA: Like the other day, I said to this man who was sitting exactly where you sit right now, “Excuse me, do you have the time?” And instead of answering me, guess what he did.

EVE: What?

ANA: He gave me his wristwatch. And I said, “What am I supposed to do with it?” And he said, “I thought you wanted to have the time.”

EVE: I don’t get it.

ANA: Me either. So, I asked him. And he said, “Relax, it’s just a joke. I thought you wanted to have the time.” Like, really, who can HAVE the time? Silly, right?

EVE: Ah, he meant in the literal sense of the word.

ANA (Gestures): To have the time. Whatever!

EVE: Look, it’s coming.

ANA: What?

EVE: The bus.

ANA: Ah, that’s not the one I am waiting for.

EVE: That’s the only one that stops here.

ANA: Nope.

EVE: Yes, look over there. It says “Timeline for 123.” That’s the only bus that stops here.

ANA: I’m waiting for bus 321.

EVE: I don’t know what are you waiting for. It does not stop here.

ANA: Yes.

EVE: No.

ANA: Yes.

EVE: No! No!

A moment.

EVE: Calm down. Where do you want to go?

ANA: I don’t know.

EVE: Take a deep breath, it’s your birthday, be a good girl.

The 123 bus stops. No one gets off. It leaves.

ANA: Wasn’t that your bus?

EVE: It’s fine. I’ll take the next one.

ANA: There is no next one.

EVE: Of course there is. It’s not midnight. Then they stop.

ANA: But the storm . . . the storm is . . . is coming.

EVE: No, it’s not. It’s 4 pm. The sky is baby blue. Are you okay?

ANA: The storm is coming. I forgot to feed the cat. I left the window open. The cat may escape. (No change in her tone) The cat! The cat! Oh my God, the cat is dead.

EVE: I don’t think you are okay. Give me your phone.

ANA: Why?

EVE: To call . . . Could someone come to pick you up?

ANA: My cat.

EVE: Be serious.

ANA: My cat. But my cat is dead.

EVE: Fine, don’t give me the phone. I have to wait for the bus anyway.

ANA: Where are you going?

EVE: I’m going to see a play.

ANA: Lovely. Which play?

EVE: Romeo and Juliet.

ANA: Will it ever end?

EVE: Excuse me?

ANA: This play. There’s nothing new. They die. Like idiots. Not like my cat. Someone should write a play about my cat. How my precious cat died.

EVE: Do you even have a cat?

ANA: Had.

EVE: Did you have a cat?

ANA: Maybe. (A bit childish) I don’t want to tell you. I don’t know you.

EVE: True. You did tell me it was your birthday and that your husband . . .

ANA: Did you meet my husband?

EVE: Oh my God! You are batshit (gestures crazy).

ANA: I am perfectly fine. Everybody knew my husband.

EVE: Is that so?

ANA: Of course.

EVE: What was his name?

ANA: Pete.

EVE: Pete Jr, the great, the mighty. . . , Pete what?

ANA: Just Pete.

EVE: Never mind.

ANA: He was a star.

EVE: I’m sure.

ANA: He serenaded all beautiful women of the city.

EVE: Lucky me, I am not.

ANA: Yes, of course you are. All women are beautiful!

EVE (Trying to play her game): Well, let’s just say I met Pete.

ANA (Excited): Yes!

EVE: What do you want to know?

ANA: How was he?

EVE: How was . . . ?

ANA: In bed, silly.

EVE: Oh, he was the best. Sorry for my indiscretion.

ANA: Did he bring you flowers?

EVE: Always.

ANA: Which kind?

EVE: Roses.

ANA: That son of a bitch! He never brought me flowers. He said they would die too soon.

EVE: Why did he die?

ANA: How should I know?

EVE: Didn’t you say. . . ?

ANA: I don’t know what you heard. (Turns her head in the opposite direction. After a few seconds,) Do I know you from somewhere?

EVE: No. I am not famous.

ANA: My name is Ana. So nice to talk to someone.

EVE: I’m sorry, but my bus is coming.

ANA: I see no bus.

EVE: Well, that’s fine. I’ll walk.

ANA: Too bad. We could have kept each other company.

EVE: Another time.

ANA: What are the chances to meet again?

EVE: Slim. Like today’s storm.

ANA: Exactly. Stay. Please.

EVE: I gotta go. I am late.

ANA: Late for what?

EVE: Theater.

ANA: Ah, forget about theater. It’s going to be there tomorrow.

EVE: I have nonrefundable tickets.

ANA: Tickets? Are you going with someone?

EVE: Yes. I’m late.

ANA: How lucky. To have someone. Go, hurry up.

EVE: Bye. Eat cake.

ANA: Why?

EVE: It’s your birthday, isn’t it?

EVE leaves. It becomes foggy. Like in a dream. Like on stage. Like in who wants to get old and lonely?!

ANA: The taste of water. (Takes her phone. Dictates to it:) What is the taste of water? (Puts the phone back in her purse) That’s a good icebreaker. I should use it next time. How do I look? (Takes a mirror out of her pocket. A lipstick. Sings something. Stops because she forgot parts of the lyrics. Resumes from where she interrupted herself. She still can’t remember the lyrics but, instead of stopping, she ad-libs)

End of play.



CATALINA FLORINA FLORESCU holds a PhD in Comparative Literature (Medical Humanities and Comparative Theater). She teaches at Pace in Downtown Manhattan. She is the curator for the New Plays Festival at Jersey City Theater Center. She is working on several projects, one of which is under contract with Routledge, Female Playwrights Intersectionality in Contemporary Romanian Theater. More here: http://www.catalinaflorescu.com/ 

For Mom who could not pass over 45, The Show Must Go on with Radetzky March, mom’s favorite. I am 45.


Fall 2020  |   Sections  |  Personal Narratives

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