PLAY #171: THE TERRIBLE LONELINESS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI (MAY 28)

New York, the future.

NATASHA, a young executive, stands on two enormous stilts that are designed to look like high heels.

Water laps at the bottom of them, over a foot deep.

WILL, a young prostitute, clings onto NATASHA’s stilts, licks her toes.

 

WILL

The other?

 

NATASHA

Oh yes.

 

WILL moves to the other stilt, an act of custom.

 

NATASHA

Don’t come too far.

 

WILL

I know.

 

NATASHA

I could have you shot.

 

WILL

Yes.

 

NATASHA

Go on then.

 

WILL licks NATASHA’s toes.

 

WILL

You want…

 

NATASHA

Not yet.

 

WILL

Okay.

 

NATASHA

I could have you skewered with these too, you know?

 

WILL

I heard.

 

NATASHA

They’re the latest stiltettos.

 

WILL

A lot of folks would kill for them.

 

NATASHA

But they wouldn’t have a clue how to wear them. Takes work to wear heels, you know?

 

WILL

I don’t, actually.

 

NATASHA

You know who invented heels?

 

WILL

Who?

 

NATASHA

Catherine de Medici.

 

WILL

Who?

 

NATASHA

She was a French Queen in the 16th Century. Brilliant, but short. She invented heels so she could tower over everybody else. So people would respect her.

 

WILL

Didn’t think queens needed to be tall.

 

NATASHA

Then you’ve never been a short queen.

 

WILL

I guess there’s no end to the things rich people will worry about.

 

NATASHA

I think she’s a hero. She was the most powerful person in 16th century Europe. Knew all sorts of things about poisons.

 

WILL

Did she kill people with her heels too?

 

NATASHA

Probably. No. Too obvious. She was too classy for that, no knives hidden in heels for her. She was terribly misunderstood, you know, a woman with that kind of power. She did what she had to do to survive.

 

WILL

Story of the world.

 

Pause.

 

NATASHA

There’s something I want you to do.

 

WILL

Okay.

 

WILL starts to climb up the stilt, towards NATASHA’s crotch.

 

NATASHA

No. Not yet. Not now at least.

 

WILL

Your money.

 

NATASHA

Exactly. I want you to go into the water.

 

WILL

Okay.

 

WILL climbs down to the water: it is almost up to his waist.

 

NATASHA

What’s it like?

 

WILL shrugs.

 

NATASHA

Cold?

 

WILL

Sure.

 

NATASHA

I want you to tell the truth. Not what I want to hear.

 

WILL

Do you want it to be cold?

 

NATASHA

Is it?

 

WILL

Sure.

 

NATASHA

Dirty. It’s dirty, isn’t it?

 

WILL

I guess.

 

NATASHA

Not supposed to be in it.

 

WILL

Not much choice for most.

 

NATASHA

Scary?

 

WILL

It’s water. How it’s been since-

 

NATASHA

Right. I want you to sit down.

 

WILL

My-

 

NATASHA

Don’t worry about your clothes. There’ll be extra credit for this.

 

WILL sits down.

 

NATASHA

Put your head under.

 

WILL hesitates.

 

NATASHA

You can swim, can’t you?

 

WILL

Course.

 

NATASHA

Then…

 

WILL puts his head under, comes back up.

 

NATASHA

I want you to pretend to drown.

 

WILL splashes about a bit.

 

NATASHA

Like you really mean it. Use your imagination. Or your history. Haven’t you ever felt the terror of the sea crashing through your door? Haven’t you stood on a table and waited as water rose higher and higher until it’s cupping your chin?

 

WILL thrashes about harder, puts his head under, comes up.

 

NATASHA

Good. Now cling to my stilts. Beg and weep. Promise to sell your own mother for a job at my factory. Tell me how desperate you are. Tell me what it’s like outside of here: fights outside the walls, sun burning your skin, shit piled upon shit. Tell me how much you need me. Tell me what you’d give up to work for me.

 

WILL stands still, thinks for too long.

 

NATASHA

It’s okay. I’m not in the mood now. Just go.

 

WILL

I can-

 

NATASHA

Go.

 

WILL

I can come back up if you like. Do the toes again. My tongue’s all dirty now-

 

NATASHA

Leave!

 

WILL shrugs, wades off.

NATASHA is alone on her stilts, water lapping around her.

 

 

 

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