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BALTIMORE, A MAP OF A CITY (Excerpt)

Baltimore was developed chiefly with Masrah Ensemble in Beirut, Lebanon, and Page 73 in New Haven, Connecticut, in 2014. Fadi Tofeili translated a version of the play into Arabic. Fragments have been performed at Little Theater, Hearth Gods, Alwan for the Arts, and a living room in New York. Clare Barron, Daniel Balabane, Emily Hoffman, and Eyad Houssami have been essential collaborators at various stages.

 

Masrah Ensemble (مسرح انسمبل) is a nonprofit theatre company and organization that makes, develops, and fosters research and criticism of theatre with a focus on the Arab stage. Based in Beirut, Lebanon, the Ensemble aims to reconfigure audiences and to encourage transcendent, riveting theatre.

 

Administrative Council: Eyad Houssami, Founder, Theatre Director; Jowe Harfouche, Filmmaker; Nagham Abboud, Actor, Filmmaker; Najah El Jamil, Development Officer, Cultural Manager.

 

A text for performing. The performer might be a man in a series of dresses, with a little bit of chest hair poking out the top.

 

I'd like to tell you something now:

 

I have a voicemail from the boy that summer, still on my phone:

 

My boyfriend just broke up with me. And I just wanted to call¼

I'm not a bad person, am I?

When we're old, you'll come find me, and we'll get to make out, won't we?

You'll make out with me then, won't you?

I have good qualities, don't I?

You'll find me when we're old?

 

When I was tired I slept under the expressway, past the end of Falls Road. When I wasn't I'd walk the city, north and south, east and west.

 

Do you have a passion for cups and pencils and little kitchen things in drawers? I am passionate about these things.

Because I can hold them in my hand

The wood, or the metal,

It is very tender.

These spoons and little kitchen things,

They can be very passionate.

 

I have just told you something very private about my desire.

 

One morning I heard a woman outside a bank say they were shooting a movie downtown

 

Who are the stars?

Maybe I'll see them

And the woman said the name of someone I knew

 

And just then I felt a flicker of a desire to be held, like a pencil or a teaspoon. It was the first flicker of desire I'd felt in a long time.

Maybe it would call back my old self.

 

I have a note here to tell you:

 

We are always opening and closing to each other

 

So I said So long to the bank woman,

And put on this nice dress,

 

And I began walking downtown.

 

I hoped my friend the movie star would see me

I wanted him to come out of his trailer and shout my name

I wanted him to carry me in his arms back to his dressing room

Where I would drape myself across his threshold in this nice dress

And he would hold me.

 

Downtown around the movie lots of people have gathered

 

There are big trucks

And thick cables slung across the sidewalk like snakes

 

This is the part of town where the tourists go

A promenade along the water, a science center, a bar and grill with outdoor seating

Mostly only tourists go here

I suppose it has its attractive points

 

I do not see my friend on the set

I see men and women looking stressed and exhausted, looking around, checking in.

 

Then I see Magic Marvin

Glum, sitting, on a concrete block

He has not shaved, he's watching the bustle rather mournfully

But it is him, it definitely is, Magic Marvin

 

Sam Goldstein's birthday party

Judy Green's birthday party

HonFest

ArtScape

Opening day at the Walters

Countless street fairs and festive gatherings and public events

Magic Marvin

 

You're my friend You're my friend

You're my friend

You're my friend

My friends, friends, 1-2-3

All my friends are here with me

 

At Judy Green's eighth birthday party

I sat close enough to see the black hairs on his knuckles

It felt very intimate

It is maybe my first sexual memory

 

I sit beside him, folding my dress under me. I whisper his name:Magic Marvin.

 

He looks at me.

I remember you, I tell him.

You were important to me.

 

Which one do you wanna see?

Oh, I

Which one do you wanna see?

 

Which one do you wanna see?

It takes me a second to realize he is talking about his tricks.

I don't really want to see any of them, but I say, Oh, I wanna see the one where

 

And Poof! He does it.

Just like that.

Poof! There it was, he did it.

 

Then he is doing another one.

I don't want to see another one.

 

His hands are a blur of silver and blue.

 

Poof. Poof.

 

Poof.

 

He looks at me again:

Now which one do you wanna see?

 

I don't want to see anything.

So I ask him, How's business?

 

He looks away.

 

I don't know anymore why I've come down to the harbor

I don't know why I've put on my dress

I am tired already of this reminder of desire

I am tired of myself

Tired of desiring,

I am tired and despairing

I am tired of despairing, in whatever desirous way

I am despairing of ever desiring again.

 

Then someone calls my name.

 

My friend is stepping past the people with the clipboards, climbing over a barricade:

 

You're here! Amazing! I can't believe it! This is crazy! What luck! Come! I have to show you my ridiculous hotel room!

 

On our way across Fleet Street I look up

And see a formation of geese, heading out towards the water.

...

 

You have to understand, I haven't stepped under a proper roof in several weeks.

 

His boyfriend is a lawyer and seems bored and annoyed

He flew all the way out here to be with me!

That's very sweet, I say.

 

The lawyer goes in and out of the bathroom

He is impatient and polite

He lets me ask him questions about the law

 

Soon my mouth is full of my friend's tongue.

 

He and his boyfriend are both very verbal.

They describe the things they want to see and do.

And then they do those things.

 

I should tell you that I am not very verbal.

The way a spoon or a pencil is not very verbal.

Mostly it is the two of them talking to each other about me.

 

Do you want to see him fuck me? Yes.

He wants to see you fuck me.

Okay.

Put your dick inside me.

Fine.

 

I should tell you that Magic Marvin had these red banners with pictures of monkeys,

rabbits, lions

He had blue and yellow boxes with openings in the front and false panels in the back

 

I did not know much of what I wanted then

But I knew I had a longing for boxes just like that

 

I want to see you inside of him.

You want to see me inside of him?

They're talking to each other about me.

He wants to see me inside of you.

And I want to be inside of you.

I want to see me inside of you.

Fine.

 

The lawyer has bristly blond hairs on his chest. He has an enormous dick.

 

The lawyer verifies:

Are you inside of him?

My friend affirms: I am.

 

I don't remember what Magic Marvin's banners stood for.

 

All men and beasts, lions, eagles, and quails, horned stags, geese—

 

Which one do you wanna see?

 

I wanna see him inside of you while I'm inside of him. I wanna see you inside of me while he's inside of you.

I wanna see those inside of us while we're inside of you.

I wanna see you inside of me.

I wanna see you inside of me while

I wanna see him inside of you while

Okay.

 

My friend is ravenous.

But his dick keeps getting soft.

When it gets soft it slips out of me.

But he is determined and stuffs it back in.

 

The veins swell on top of his enormous muscles.

I feel small, and pale, like some blinking wormy thing grubbed up from under a rock.

A red flush rises under my friend's caramel skin, like sunburn.

 

I have asked him about his childhood and he says it seems quaint to him now. Like an unpleasant room he was glad to leave.

He laughs about it but I know he never forgives anyone.

 

We unstack and restack.

We're in a different order now.

 

I should tell you this also:

 

Once I let Miranda Silverstein draw a picture on my arm with a blue marker. I was madly in love with Miranda Silverstein.

Whenever the marker would touch my arm I'd jump like I was being electrocuted.

I was giddy, overjoyed.

Eventually she stopped and looked at me mournfully:

"Why do you always jump when I touch you?"

 

I look up at my friend.

I hit him gently across the face.

 

He hits me back immediately, twice as hard.

 

I wanna see him suck your dick while I'm inside you. I wanna see him suck your dick while I'm inside you.

Is he sucking your dick?

Is he sucking your dick?

 

I want to cry.

 

"Why do you always jump when I touch you?"

 

I have rolled out to the side for a moment. I am tending to my very sore asshole.

I am watching my friend and the lawyer.

 

I do not feel inside of this moment.

I do not feel inside of this moment at all.

 

I am watching them behind glass.

 

They are staring in each other's faces, flushed, baring their teeth, with nasty grins, half growls.

Two men, all muscle and will - their chests are red from all the pressing, tearing, twisting.

They tear at each other

They wring usefulness out of each other and the world.

 

I touch the lawyer's chest but he does not jump.

 

He does not even look at me.

 

I am not sad anymore. I am bored.

The way I was bored with the tricks and the scarves and the boxes.

I do not want to be here.

 

But I realize that in this World of Desire now is not a moment to be bored.

So I set about doing something. I reach over. I use lips, fingers. I am game, I am practical, I am brisk, like someone rolling up his sleeves, approaching the sink, and asking if he can do the rest of the dishes...

 

I will see it through.

 

Friends.

After all, you are here with me tonight.

 

This is

 

All of this

 

This is a very simple story, really.

 

 

We are always opening and closing for each other.

Do you see what I mean?

 

Do you see what I mean

About pencils and little kitchen things,

and scarves and bright boxes,

and my friend,

and his boyfriend,

and his movie,

and his dick,

and the blue marker,

and Miranda Silverstein,

and my nice dress?

 

About bike rides,

and requests,

and hilltops,

and gunshots,

and fingernails on nipples,

and roast chicken,

and gravestones,

and the Void?

 

I have been wanting to ask you—

Because I am not joking,

You are here,

And thank you for finding me—

 

Will there be a time when it is easy for us to open for each other? I am out of practice at opening. My asshole feels busted.

 

*

 

On the thirtieth floor of the Marriott is a small heated pool. At seven in the morning I am the only one there.

I am swimming in my undies.

 

I am washing off the lube and cum, tasting the warmish chlorine, which feels like all the people of this city. Like children, like tourists, like retirees and invalids and businessmen and nurses and professional comedians, all of this city's 600,000 people, the chlorine tastes like all of them and I let it lap in and out of my mouth.

 

Ten laps, I have told myself. Just ten.

I make my slow progress back and forth

With my whole city milling, lapping in and out of my mouth

 

I had wanted to be held. Just...

held.

Like a pencil

Or a medicine spoon.

 

My mouth becomes a big bright box

My lips like scar tissue

Purple and red and white and yellow

I usher all my people in one end,

Out a false panel in the back

 

And they're gone.

 

I walk home through empty streets with my underwear in a plastic bag.

 

Teacups and spoons have many purposes, really.

They can be used over and over again with any number of soups or hot drinks,

With any number of liquids, really.

 

Friends,

I have not wanted to be this forward until now:

 

Would you be okay with a little consensual touching?

Don't worry. I'll ask your permission every step of the way.

 

Is it okay if I sit by you?

Is it okay if I lean in close?

Is it okay if I put your hand on my chest?

Is it okay if I put my head on your shoulder?

 

Now we can both close our eyes.

 

Thank you. Thank you.

 

 

We are almost at the bottom of my very simple story.

 

Contributor
Alexander Borinsky

Alexander Borinsky is a playwright and performer, born in Baltimore, now living in Brooklyn. In spring 2014, he and Yasser Abu Shaqra were Masrah Ensemble's playwrights-in-residence in Beirut. Alex's work has been supported in the U.S. by Target Margin Theater, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Page 73, and Upstream Theater. He has made work in bedrooms, backyards, bars, basements, tents, and theaters.

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