PLAY #342: KNOCK KNOCK, THE DEAD ARE CALLING (DEC.2.2015)

Paris Climate Conference, 2015.

KHADIJA (40s; Iraqi; female) sits at a registration desk.

JAMES (30s; Chinese; male) enters.

 

They are both ghosts, though very corporeal ones.

 

KHADIJA

Who’s there?

 

JAMES

This is the-

 

KHADIJA

Knock Knock. That’s your line.

 

JAMES

Is this the right place for the Coalition of the Dead?

 

KHADIJA

Lines are important here. They must be followed.

 

JAMES

There’s so many tents and people and-

 

KHADIJA

Who’s there?

 

Pause.

 

JAMES

Knock Knock.

 

KHADIJA

Who’s there?

 

JAMES

James.

 

KHADIJA

James who?

 

JAMES

Zhang, James.

 

KHADIJA

Good.

 

KHADIJA searches through a pile of lanyards.

 

JAMES

Or Ju-long. It might be that.

 

KHADIJA searches.

 

KHADIJA

Here.

 

KHADIJA hands JAMES a lanyard.

 

JAMES

Thanks.

 

KHADIJA

Make sure to wear it.

 

JAMES

I didn’t think there would be so much bureaucracy.

 

KHADIJA

It’s the United Nations.

 

JAMES

Yes, but even in the Division of the Dead. I don’t know why we have to be searched.

 

KHADIJA

Lining up is good for the soul. It brings a sense of calm and purpose.

 

JAMES

But we seem to be lining up to join other lines.

 

KHADIJA

Did you have somewhere else to be?

 

JAMES

No. Actually, I was looking for somebody here. A friend of mine, Isaiah-

 

KHADIJA

This isn’t a networking site.

 

JAMES

I know but I thought you could look.

 

KHADIJA

Not my job.

 

JAMES

But isn’t that what you just did for me?

 

KHADIJA

This is different. I have to be ready for delegates.

 

JAMES

But nobody else is here right now and-

 

KHADIJA

There are procedures to be followed: nothing is swift around here.

 

JAMES

I know. He’s on the map too. Of climate casualties. He was a soldier in Iraq and-

 

KHADIJA

We all have stories. There’s a special line for telling yours. And another line for telling somebody elses. Neither of those lines ends here.

 

JAMES

No. I’m also looking for my boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend, I suppose – Delicious Drag-On, she’s performing in the Climate Generations tent I think-

 

KHADIJA

That is another list altogether. We cannot concern ourselves too much with the living.

 

JAMES

Isn’t that why we’re here?

 

KHADIJA

I cannot speak for all the Coalition of the Dead. We all have our stories. We are all on the map for reasons we may not wish. We have all not been heard.

 

JAMES

But now we will be.

 

KHADIJA

That is the idea.

 

JAMES

But even with all of us, crammed together, shouting, do you think they’ll feel it? People are so good at forgetting. My Dad runs a coal company! They extract in Southern Mongolia. Nasty stuff – there must be several herders here who’ve been killed trying to protect their lands from the diggers, you probably have their names there, but no…

 

KHADIJA

No.

 

JAMES

Father never listened to what I said, no matter how many times I told him what I thought of what he was doing, so why should strangers?

 

KHADIJA

This is not the time for storytelling. I too have shouted at skies that have not heard me. I have opened my mouth in prayer only to make it the wider for bombs to drop in. I have live ones pulsing outside this tent that I long to search for too. There are girls whose cheeks I long to pinch again. There is a table I long to sit and wonder across one more time. There are roads I ache to walk along.

(beat.)

But this is not the time for that. This is the time when we, the dead, knock at the door between worlds with such force that nobody can fail to listen.

 

Pause.

 

JAMES

No. I will line up. Get in line.

 

KHADIJA

That’s the line of action, yes.

 

JAMES

Thank you…

 

KHADIJA

Khadija.

 

JAMES

Thank you, Khadija.

 

KHADIJA nods.

JAMES exits.

KHADIJA waits.

A long time – wind, tumbleweeds, a circus of delegates, a parade of business cards, a hundred bouncing reusable cups – but KHADIJA remains focused and resolute until…

 

KHADIJA

Who’s there?

 

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