In the Dark
I’ve been doing a summer arts challenge called #30for90 with three of my closest friends. The idea was to have 30 prompts to inspire us for 90 days. Most of mine have been done solo, but I wanted to try collaborating on one of the prompts, long distance.
I messaged my friend Miles, with whom I’ve been Internet-friends for years and have met in person exactly once, and he wanted to try the “In the Dark” prompt. The task we gave ourselves was to describe the other person as though we had to describe them to a blind person. Once we shared our results, though, we thought it sounded like the beginnings of a play.
Due to schedules and life, we haven’t gotten much farther than what you’ll see below, but we have a rough draft of a “scene” based on the text we provided each other.
Two people, a man and a woman, each sitting in a chair facing the audience. Both sit very still, hands in their laps. They are holding flashlights. Throughout the following, when each character is being spoken about, they turn on their flashlight and hold it under their face. They click it off when the line ends.
Let me start by saying you don’t need to worry about how Mandy is going to look. She’s got two of all the things you’re supposed to have two of, and even if in the dark you can’t see them, rest assured that in the light her nose and forehead and chin are exactly where and what they’re supposed to be.
Miles is the type of handsome that makes you get butterflies in your stomach because his style is very bad-boy-accountant-hipster. You don’t know how to react to that, do you?
They’re fine…cute, but not in a way you have to despise, so don’t get anxious. Not yet.
Like, you can tell there are tattoos underneath the dress shirt and tie and his eyes twinkle — literally twinkle, and crinkle up at the corners — beneath hip frames and he’s got more product in his hair than his colleagues do.
If I say we are going to talk about her eyes, you might start feeling anxious, say, if we talk about how she looks back at you.
His salt-and-pepper beard gives him a Bon-Iver-meets-Brooks-Brothers vibe. It’s disconcerting — in a good way! — and if you saw him on the train, probably reading Kerouac or something about sustainability, you’d wonder what was playing in his headphones or what he listens to when he runs.
Remember the day when you first knew you were right and someone had done something wrong in front of you?
Does he run? I bet he runs.
Maybe it was littering, or riding a bike without a helmet, and you said “Hey, knock it off, jerk” without fear of being wrong?
He seems strong. Scrappy. Is he tall? I can’t say, and it’s because of the way he looks at you.
What about another time, when you knew just as surely that you needed to speak up but the jerk this time had a mean vibe, maybe bigger than you, but you did it anyway? “Jerk.” Not as sure, but driven, somehow. Is there a kind version of that feeling?
When you talk you feel like you’re on the same level. He listens with his eyes and mirrors back everything you’re saying in a way that convinces you. Validates you. (beat) Exposes you.
That’s the confidence in her eyes. She looks at you, unflinching, not assured about you, but…sure. Not cocky, not pushing itself on you, but firm. Rooted. It makes her eyes flash a little.
I remember the first time I heard his voice. It was higher than I expected it to be…but somehow still warm.
Are you anxious? You don’t need to be. She smiles a lot, and…it’s a good one. When she smiles you can put your suitcases down and sit, wherever you are, and let’s have a great talk. So. Do that.
Her light stays on.
The kind of voice you’d want to hear in the dark if you were afraid or lost…It’s okay. You’ll be okay.
His light stays on. Both wait 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 seconds. Both lights off.
End of scene.