Barbara’s first full length play won the New York Drama League’s 1989 Playwriting Award and was given its premiere production in London in 1991. Since then there have been more than 400 performances of her plays, monologues, and screenplays in 33 States, 13 countries, and on every continent except Antarctica. Besides being a playwright, Babs is an actress and creative writing teacher. She is a fifth-generation Californian now living just north of Seattle, WA, married to an amazing man, and ridiculously happy.
a play by Barbara Lindsay
THE MAN a former asshole
THE WOMAN a former mother
Here’s the thing about being an asshole, the main thing, maybe the only thing. You never look back. No matter what. You grab the purse off some old lady’s shoulder, you don’t look back to see did she have a heart attack or something, fall down, break a hip. No, you run, take the money, toss the purse, run some more. You jump a guy, smash his face in for no reason, you don’t step back and think, “Now, did I maybe go too far? Like maybe this guy has a family to support?” No. You kick him when he’s down, and then you run. But you definitely do not look back. You know, I was a kid once. Prob’ly okay, but who remembers? Some people grow up to be carpenters. I grew up to be an asshole. A petty asshole. Always running, like maybe I got a future to get to. Which I didn’t.
I can remember my life before, although I don’t think about it much. One moment it was just - life. Not very special, but good. And expected. And then suddenly one day, everything disintegrated. There were police and the money was gone, my husband was gone, and nothing was left but disgrace, and confusion. My father died soon after that and there didn’t seem to be anything to keep me there any more. So I got a job, in California. I do remember, I remember clearly putting Toddy and Leesha into the car and starting toward our new life. I was excited at first, but it was a long drive, it seemed to go on forever. Maybe it was too long to take with two small children. I don’t know. I don’t remember the accident at all. No one knows what happened. Only that I drove off the road. I may have... I might have fallen asleep.
So this one day, I’m driving along, tossing some back, Jimi Hendrix turned up loud. And I pitch a bottle half full out the window, really let fly. And the thing you have to understand is, I meant no harm to nobody. This one time, I swear to god, I did not mean to fuck anybody up. Just tossing a bottle out the window. Littering at worst. But it must have hit this car I didn’t see was there, ‘cause suddenly behind me I hear tires skidding and a crashing sound, this car going out of control and flipping over. And I can’t tell you, I cannot tell you why, but I did it. I did that one thing. I shoulda been disappearing like a puff of smoke, but, I don’t know, I guess it caught me by surprise or something. It’s crazy. A mystery to this day why I woulda done it. But I did. I looked back.
The first thing I remember is opening my eyes in the hospital. The room was very quiet, almost dark. Somebody was there next to the bed, a man I didn’t know. He was holding my hand. Or I was holding his. I couldn’t talk for a while, couldn’t stay awake. The nurses and doctors came and went, but he always seemed to be there. I heard someone say that he had been the one to find us after the accident. And when I was able to ask about Toddy and Leesha, he was the one who told me they were dead. I can’t imagine how he had the courage to tell me, and then to stay with me as I fell apart. My children... My children were gone. I had killed them. I believe I had to be strapped down for a long time. All I wanted was to slip away. I couldn’t stand the thought that I might have to look anyone in the face, ever. But still he held on, he kept pulling me back to the surface for air. And when I looked at him, his face was so sad, as though he could feel everything I was feeling, and understood, and forgave me. How could anybody be that strong? Who was he? Why wouldn’t he let me go?
I run back to look at the car. It was smashed pretty good, and the driver and these two little... Okay. So... I couldn’t see much. One of them, one of them had red hair. I couldn’t tell if it was a boy or a girl, but... Holy mother, I wanted out of there, I was this close to skipping. Only then the driver, this lady, opened her eyes. I don’t know if she saw me. But she looked right at me. So, anyway, I start flagging people down, got a guy with a cell phone, cops show up, ambulances, you know, the whole scene. And I’m practically standing there with my hands out, waiting to be cuffed, but everyone’s all over these hurt people, and when the cops ask me what happened, I say I don’t know - and they believe me! I had to’ve stunk of beer, but they treat me like some kind of hero just because I flagged somebody down. If they’da chased me, I’da run, but nobody chases, so I stand there like a fucking moron until they go to the hospital. That’s when I coulda run. Nobody thought I was involved. But I knew. I’d seen what I’d done, you see? So I went to the hospital, too. I think maybe I’m praying to get nabbed or something, because the sight of those kids on the stretchers... I think, I want to pay. Some things you just shouldn’t get away with. If I’da left, I’da had to drive off a bridge.
When I was released from the hospital, I couldn’t even think about where I would go. There was nothing for me. Everything I had ever cared about was gone. He had walked me outside and he led me to the parking lot, and opened his car door. Just like that. As natural as air. You can't imagine... Without thinking, I put my hand on his cheek, and I kissed him. And right there, right in the parking lot, he sat on the ground and cried, just like a little boy. I think he is someone who had not felt loved before. It made me so happy. I’d been burdened with thinking I had nothing to give him in return, and now I knew. I could love him. And so I did. And so I do. I will love him for the rest of my life, no matter what.
I sat there in the lady’s hospital room, waiting every second for the cops to come in. And when she comes to and she asks what happened to her kids, then I knew. The cops aren’t going to take me away. No. I’m not going to jail. I get to do this instead. I get to look into this mother’s eyes and tell her straight out that her kids are dead, and I did it. So I tell her. “They’re dead,” I say. And she puts her arms around my neck and holds onto me like I’m some kind of comfort or something. I mean, what the hell is this? “I’m an asshole!” I tell her. “I killed your kids! I almost killed you! You’ll never have kids again and it’s my fault! What the hell you doing?” But I guess I didn’t say it so she could hear. I shoulda. I know I shoulda. I wish I could. We been together now ever since.
There has never been a gentler man. Never, not once, has he spoken a single harsh word to me. Not when the troubles of the world seem to rest on his shoulders, not when he’s working day and night to pay the medical bills and make a home for us, not when I push him away because I’m too ashamed to let him look at me. I think he’s my guardian angel. Isn’t that funny? It’s a silly idea, I know, and I feel foolish saying it. But so much bad happened, I find myself believing that God sent him to protect me. How else can I understand this? He’s like all the goodness in the world wrapped up as a gift. And somehow, even though I don’t deserve it, my name is on the tag and the gift is mine.
Every morning I wake up before her and watch her sleep, thinking, “Today is the day she’s going to remember. Today is the day she’ll look at me and know what I did.” And every day she wakes up and smiles at me, and puts her hand on my face. And I let her. Because this is worse than anything. Seeing her every day, knowing what I know, and her not having a clue and treating me like I’ve got a decent bone in my body, now this, this is something all the cops and courts and jails in all the world got no equal of. I have to tell her. I know I have to tell her. I love her so much. I mean, look at her.
(HE turns to look at her.)
Look at him.
(SHE turns to look at him. They both turn back.)
It’s almost more than I can bear.
It’s almost more than I can bear.