Blind Date by Mario Diament

This Play is the copyright of the Author and may not be performed, copied or sold without the Author’s prior consent

    Scene I
     
      The plaintive notes of a melancholic tune, preferably one of
      Piazzolla’s tango compositions, fills the stage, followed by the
      chirping of birds. 

      A bench in Plaza San Martín, Buenos Aires.  THE BLIND MAN,
      approximately 65 years old, with thinning hair, is sitting at the
      right end of the bench. Sitting upright, very still with both hands
      holding on to a cane, he is impeccably dressed in a suit and a tie. 
      Enter THE MAN, 50 years old, formally dressed in a business suit and
      tie. His very short, punky hairstyle is at odds with the rest of his
      appearance He is carrying a briefcase. He looks nervous, jittery.  He
      briefly looks at THE BLIND MAN without really seeing him. After a few
      moments of hesitation, he takes out a handkerchief and wipes the
      opposite side of the bench. He sits, at first a bit fidgety, cradling
      his briefcase in both hands.  He then leans back, trying to relax.  He
      loosens his necktie, reaches for his cell phone, but after a few
      moments of self-doubt he turns it off.  He looks around.  Something in
      front of him draws his attention. 
     
      MAN: (After staring intensely at the distant object.)  Excuse me…
      Would you by any chance know what kind of tree that is? 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Are you talking to me?
     
      MAN: Yes. I’m sorry. I was asking you if you knew the name of that
      tree. 

      THE BLIND MAN Which tree?
     
      MAN: That tall tree, in front of us… 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: That’s a jacaranda. In spring it blooms into
      beautiful mauve flowers.  You must have seen them… 
     
      MAN: Yes, now that you mention it, I’m sure I’ve seen them.
      Thanks… 
     
      The MAN turns to thank him.  At this point he realizes that THE BLIND
      MAN’s eyes are closed.
     
      MAN: (Shyly.) I’m sorry. I hadn’t realized.  You’re blind… 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Me? No.
     
      MAN:  Aren’t you? (Confused.) I’m awfully sorry. I thought you
      couldn’t see.
     
      THE BLIND MAN:  I can’t see, but I’m not blind. 
     
      MAN: (Puzzled.)  I’m not sure I understand. 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Some people are blind even when their eyesight is
      intact.  Others can’t see, but they’re not blind. 
     
      MAN: (Smiles.) I see…
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Are you sure?
     
      MAN: (Unsure.)  What do you mean?
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Well, lots of people say they see when they don’t.
      Haven’t you noticed?  Even I often say “I see” when I actually
      can’t see… 
     
      MAN: (Chuckles, intimidated.)  I can see you like to play with
      words… 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Well, unfortunately in my condition I don’t have
      many options…
     
      Pause.
     
      MAN: (Observes THE BLIND MAN with curiosity.)  Excuse me, but
      aren’t you the writer? 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Who? Me?
     
      MAN: Yes, the writer. Aren’t you?
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Well, to tell you the truth, people say I look like
      him.  But, as you can well imagine, I have no way of finding out… 
     
      MAN: (Hesitant.) You’re pulling my leg!
     
      THE BLIND MAN: No, it’s the truth.
     
      MAN: (Admiringly, in awe.)  Now I recognize you perfectly.  Of course
      it’s you!  I saw you once on TV.  I can’t remember who was
      interviewing you… It was one of those talk shows… You were talking
      about one of your books… I can’t remember which… But I kept
      watching because the things you said were very interesting… 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Well, thank you. That is definitely a compliment. 
     
      Pause.
     
      MAN: To be honest, I can’t say I’ve read any of your books.  But
      I promised myself I would as soon as I found the time. 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: You probably have plenty of time now…
     
      MAN: (Surprised.) What makes you say so?
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Well, I assume, since you’re sitting on a park bench … 
     
      MAN: Oh, no! As a matter of fact, I was on my way to the office.
      It’s not far from here.  But, since it’s a beautiful day, I decided to walk. 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: So what happened?
     
      MAN: What do you mean ‘what happened?’
     
      THE BLIND MAN: What made you stop?
     
      MAN: Well, I don’t know. Nothing in particular… It’s just that
      all of a sudden I thought: I never sat in a park…  You’ll
      probably think it’s ridiculous, but it’s the truth… I’m fifty
      years old and I never took the time to sit on a park bench
     
      THE BLIND MAN: So you decided to do it… 
     
      MAN: Yes.
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Bravo! And how do you feel? 
     
      MAN: Geez, I don’t know… A little guilty, perhaps … Right now I
      ought to be in my office.  I have a very important meeting at 11. (He
      looks at his watch.)  I didn’t call my secretary. (He smiles
      mischievously.) I even turned my cell phone off… (Pause.)
      I’ve never done that before. I don’t know what came over me.
      I’m surprised at myself… After all, you don’t get to be in my
      position by being irresponsible. 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: And what is your position?
     
      MAN: I am a vice president at an investment bank.  A small bank,
      mind you.  But in the last few years we’ve really taken off… 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: What do you do precisely?
     
      MAN: Real estate banking… Construction projects… high rises…
      commercial malls… office buildings… that sort of thing… 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: (Without much conviction.) Sounds important…
     
      MAN: The way you say it… sounds almost sarcastic. 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Not at all, believe me, quite the contrary. I know
      nothing about banks.  I’ve never had a passion for money. Of course
      I like to spend it, like everybody else, but I never really think
      about it.  That’s probably why banks intimidate me.  All those busy
      people counting bills… 
     
      MAN: (Smiles.) Nobody counts bills anymore…
     
      THE BLIND MAN: (Surprised.) Is that so?
     
      MAN: Most of the money that circulates in the world is virtual. 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Virtual? How amazing! But tell me, how is money virtual?
     
      MAN: Because no one ever actually sees this money. It’s intangible,
      just transactions on a computer screen. Numbers added or subtracted,
      debits and credits that circulate through electronic systems.
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Well, that’s somehow the way it works for me.  When
      I go out for a walk my housekeeper puts money in my pocket, but I
      never know how much. And when I have to pay for something, I tell
      people to take whatever I owe them. In that sense I’ve become
      virtual myself, don’t you think? 
     
      Pause.
     
      MAN: Excuse me for asking, but… how do you know that that tree over
      there is a jacaranda? 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Well, I can still remember it from the days when I
      used to see.  Besides these trees have a very peculiar fragrance.
      Haven’t you noticed? And that other tree, the one with the enormous
      branches, right here in the middle (He points.) It is a ficus.  It
      must be over a hundred years old.  It is the largest tree in the city.     
     
      MAN: Amazing!
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Those are very aggressive trees, you know…
     
      MAN: Really? I never thought trees could be aggressive. 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Oh, yes! These, for instance, spread like tentacles
      over neighboring trees and end up killing them. 
     
      MAN: How come?
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Well, no one ever asked them.  But it is supposedly a
      matter of territoriality.
     
      MAN: (Admiringly.) Fascinating! (Pause.) Do you come here often?
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Almost every day, weather permitting of course.
     
      MAN: So, what do you think about?
     
      THE BLIND MAN: (Astonished.) What do I think about what?
     
      MAN: I mean, what do you think about when you come to sit here.
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Well, I think about many things, as you can imagine.
      I think about fantastic stories… or books I have read.  Sometimes I
      think about things that have happened to me… or things that have
      never happened to me… At times I think about death. 
     
      MAN: And today, for instance. What were you thinking about? I mean,
      before I came… If you don’t mind telling me, of course… 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: I was thinking about a woman… As a matter of fact,
      more precisely, about a missed encounter…
     
      MAN:  (Interested.) A missed encounter?
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Well, you see, a missed encounter is a riddle… It is
      essentially a twist of fate.  It’s what could have been but never
      was… The vector that changes the course of history.  Just think, if
      Napoleon hadn’t met Josephine; or if Lenin haddn’t encountered
      Krupskaya … The history of the world would have been different…
     
      MAN: (Overwhelmed.) Well, yes. I guess so. 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Have you ever stopped to think about the complex web
      of coincidences that a simple encounter entails?  For instance, you
      and I meeting here, today… What were the odds that you and I would
      run into each other? In fact, what are the probabilities for two
      complete strangers to run into each other in a city of ten million
      people: one in a billion? One in ten billion?
     
      Pause.
     
      MAN: (Intimidated.)  Sorry. I’ve never been good at statistics …     
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Naturally, one has to factor in all the variables that
      affect probability: age, social status, range of interests, the
      geographical parameters within which two persons orbit… Take me, for
      instance; I lead a very predictable life, but you, on the other hand,
      had never sat on a park bench…  Therefore this encounter had even
      less probability of happening than an encounter between two people who
      have a similar routine, right? In any case, even when all the
      parameters have been established, the probability for two people like
      us to meet by chance is still extremely remote. Don’t you think? And
      add to all this the component of love … 
     
      MAN: (Smiles.) You make it sound really very difficult… 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: But it is! Every chance encounter has the complexity
      of the universe. Just think of the infinite number of trivial details
      that could have conspired against this encounter between you and me…
      If the day had been colder or rainy, for instance, I wouldn’t have
      come… A button missing on my coat jacket could have delayed me…
      I’m very obsessive about my appearance…  Interesting, isn’t it?     
     
      MAN: Absolutely.
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Look, once in Paris, long ago, when I was young, I was
      riding the Metro escalator up, at the Boulevard St. Michel station,
      when I noticed a young woman coming down in the opposite direction. 
      I can’t describe the impact she had on me… It wasn’t just her
      beauty, which was considerable, or the freshness of her youth, but the
      exquisite simplicity of her demeanor…  I can still remember her…
      She was wearing one of those brown pleated skirts that were
      fashionable then, and a pastel color cashmere sweater…  She was
      holding a book to her chest, the title of which I was able to
      decipher… It was Flaubert’s “Sentimental Education…”  Which
      was remarkable, because upon my return to Buenos Aires I was scheduled
      to give a lecture precisely on Flaubert…  She also noticed me… I
      remember she had huge, intense eyes that reflected great
      intelligence… And at that moment, believe me, I knew with all
      certainty that this woman was the inevitable love, the one which I had
      been waiting for all my life… All this, as you can imagine, happened
      in a flash, because my escalator was going up and hers was going
      down… I had the impulse to jump to the other side and talk to her,
      but because of a moment of hesitation I didn’t do it.  And when I
      reached the exit, I knew that I would regret it for the rest of my
      life.  I spent that night in a terrible state of agitation and
      anxiety…  The next day I went back to the same Metro station, at
      the same hour… I retraced every step, exactly at the same time… I
      waited but she didn’t come… I returned every day for a week …
      The week after I started altering the sequence… One day I’d take
      the earlier Metro, the following day I’d take the next…  But it
      was useless… I never saw her again… I think there isn’t a day
      that goes by without my thinking about her… Who was she? What was
      her name?  What did her voice sound like ? What was the ring of her
      laughter? What was the warmth of her body like?  Who was the lucky man
      who had the privilege to love her and be loved by her?  What direction
      would my life have taken if we had met?  Did I also leave her with an
      indelible memory?  What a cruel and unfathomable mystery! Don’t you
      think? 
     
      Pause.
     
      MAN: (Moved.) Was it her you were thinking about?
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Yes. And what makes it even worse now, since I can’t
      see, is that I wouldn’t be able to recognize her even if she stood
      in front of me.  She has gotten irretrievably lost in the fog of my
      blindness. 
     
      Pause.
     
      MAN:  Excuse me for asking… You don’t see at all? 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Shadows… Sometimes I see shadows… And one
      color…
     
      MAN:  Just one?
     
      THE BLIND MAN:  Yes, just one.  Yellow… Apparently it is the last
      color to vanish from the retina. 
     
      MAN:  I find blindness hard to grasp. 
     
      THE BLIND MAN:  Really? Why?
     
      MAN:  I don’t know… I wouldn’t know how to live… 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: And now you do?
     
      MAN: (Taken aback.) What a strange question!
     
      THE BLIND MAN:  Why do you think it’s strange?
     
      MAN:  No… well… You’re obviously a man of extraordinary
      intuition… The truth is that, these days, I’m going through some
      sort of a crisis… A midlife crisis! Supposing that I’m going to
      live 100 years… (He laughs.)  The fact is that, lately, I have the
      feeling I don’t quite understand my own life.  I mean, suddenly,
      even the simplest things have become inordinately complicated… My
      job, for instance… It’s been twenty-five years I’ve been at the
      bank.  A quarter of a century! Half of my life! Eight hours a day…
      frequently ten.  No one has ever asked me if I like what I’m
      doing… Don’t you think it’s odd? No one. Not my wife, not my
      children, nor my colleagues or my friends… Nobody! They all take it
      for granted that this is what I do, and, consequently, this is what I
      am.  But it hasn’t crossed anybody’s mind to ask me, for
      instance, if I like the people I’m working with… There are a
      hundred employees in that bank!  I spend more time with them than I
      do with my family… But to be honest, I don’t care about them, they
      mean nothing to me. If I saw them in the street I’d avoid them.  In
      there, no one has dreams. Only petty ambitions.  The other day, one of
      the vice presidents, Palmieri, had a heart attack. He collapsed on the
      rug in his office, next door to mine. When I saw him waxy, gaping
      mouth, bulging eyes… do you know what I thought? I thought:
      ‘Palmieri is dying.’ That’s all I thought. And I’ve known him
      for over twenty years. We almost started together.  I’d never been
      to his house, or he to mine. And he was lying there, dying, and I
      didn’t care. I mean, all I felt was curiosity.  To see death coming
      is quite horrid, particularly when you know the person. It makes you
      put everything in perspective…  But if it had been me lying on the
      floor, he wouldn’t have cared either.  His office has been empty
      since, but no one seems to notice. It makes no difference. (He raises
      his voice.) Do you realize what I’m trying to say? It makes no
      difference! 
     
      THE BLIND MAN:  I’m sure that, with time, you’ll have another
      perspective… 
     
      MAN: No, because until then, until Palmieri’s death, I was like
      everyone else, do you understand? I wasn’t paying attention… Not
      anymore though… I’ve taken the big leap… Now I’ve learned. 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: (Curious.) What did you learn?
     
      MAN:  I’ve learned to see … that’s what I learned. A big
      improvement. I learned to look around, to discover things.  Like this
      tree… Well, maybe for you it’s a minor detail, but believe me, in
      the milieu I’m in, people aren’t used to probing into existential
      issues… They’re too busy making money.  I was like that too.  My
      entire life revolved around money.  Everything I’ve ever learned had
      to do with money.  My father was an immigrant.  He arrived in this
      country without a penny.  Money was always very important to him… At
      home, money was the only subject of conversation…  He used to say:
      “Either you’re born into it, or you make it.”    That was the
      extent of his philosophy…  So, for me, making money was sort of a
      mission.  There was no alternative. Do you understand? That’s why I
      was so moved by Palmieri’s miniature trains… Much more so than by
      his death…  (Pause.) You know? I was wondering about something you
      said before….
     
      THE BLIND MAN: What about?
     
      MAN: The inevitable love.
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Did I say something about inevitable love?
     
      MAN: Yes, you said “She was the inevitable love.” I mean, when
      you were telling me about that girl in the Paris Metro … 
     
      THE BLIND MAN:  Really? I wasn’t aware of it. What were you
      wondering about? 
     
      MAN:  Nothing… Just a coincidence… Some time ago I met someone
      who said exactly the same words… A woman…
     
      THE BLIND MAN: I see… 
     
      MAN: (Amazed. He smiles.) There you are!  You said it!…
     
      THE BLIND MAN: What did I say?
     
      MAN “I see.” You said “ I see”.
     
      THE BLIND MAN (Laughs.) Did I?
     
      MAN: Yes.
     
      THE BLIND MAN:  I told you…
     
      MAN: If you hadn’t told me I wouldn’t have noticed.  (Pause.) Do
      you think that what happens to us is inevitable? 
     
      THE BLIND MAN:  Well, the inevitable implies determinism, the
      decision of a higher will, and, naturally, in some cultures, this has
      been a manner of interpreting human destiny. Of course, it’s a
      fascinating concept… I even wrote a story about that. A man
      inexorably walking towards his own destruction!… The interesting
      thing, however, is that, lately, science has made some extraordinary
      discoveries that challenge us, at least in theory, to think that what
      we call fate is perhaps not, as we’ve always thought, the doing of a
      higher will,  but it is, on the contrary, the very nature of reality.     
     
      MAN: What do you mean?
     
      THE BLIND MAN:  I mean that, perhaps, the world in which we live may
      not be the only one but, instead, one in an infinite number of
      parallel worlds where, eventually, every probability actually happens.     
     
      MAN:  I don’t get it. What do you mean by parallel worlds? 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Well, imagine that it is possible to live more than
      one life, to live events with more than one outcome; like a play with
      multiple endings… 
     
      MAN: But that’s impossible!
     
      THE BLIND MAN: Do you really think so? The theory is not new. Already
      Democritus believed that the world was composed of a succession of
      similar worlds coexisting in time and space, like an image infinitely
      reflected in opposite mirrors. But it was only recently, once science
      was able to look inside the atom, that the notions we had of reality
      literally collapsed.  Because what they discovered utterly challenged
      rationality. (Draws figures on the ground with his stick to
      demonstrate his theory.) They discovered that all the little particles
      of matter that collectively form our world, as they move inside the
      atom, have no specific position or direction. They may appear in one
      place, or they may appear in another, depending on how or what they
      interact with. In other words, they are in a latent state in which all
      possible outcomes coexist simultaneously. All of which has led
      physicists to conclude that the world, what we call reality, behaves
      similarly. It means that, confronted with a number of choices, the
      world branches out into other similar worlds, where everything is
      identical, except for one different outcome. Like when we flip a coin.
      It can be heads or tails, right? But what happens if you get both at
      the same time?
     
      MAN: You can’t.
     
      THE BLIND MAN: That is precisely the point. The same coin that falls
      heads in one world will fall tails in a parallel world. Once these
      worlds bifurcate, they progress independently, so that those who live
      in one world don’t know what’s happening in the other.  What is
      “present” for us, may be “past” or “future” in any of
      these other parallel worlds, and vice versa…  But the most
      important thing is that all that could possibly happen, does happen
      somewhere. For instance, you and I are talking here, at this moment,
      but, perhaps, in a parallel world, you and I haven’t even met. You
      went straight to work, and now, you’re probably in your office, at
      one of your meetings; and I am sitting here, alone, pondering on my
      story of missed encounters… 
     
      Pause.
     
      MAN: (Perplexed.) Do you really believe in all this?
     
      THE BLIND MAN: No.
     
      MAN: What then?
     
      THE BLIND MAN:  But I don’t discard it either. Let’s say that
      I’ve suspended judgment until better evidence emerges… Or that, in
      fact, I am both persons at the same time: I am the believer and the
      disbeliever. Yet, I am still the same person, do you understand? 
     
      Pause. The chime of a distant clock is heard. 
     
      MAN: (Looks at his watch.) God! It’s already ten thirty.  I really
      should go… I have a meeting at eleven. (He stands up, undecided. He
      again looks at his watch.)  Well, five more minutes… I’ll tell
      them …. Something… I don’t know… that I was stuck in traffic.
      I’ll find an excuse…  (He sits down again.)  It’s not everyday
      one has the opportunity to talk with someone like you.  I hope I’m
      not disturbing you… 
     
      THE BLIND MAN: No, not at all. As you can see, I have nothing much to do.

[end of extract]

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