Forgiveness and Iced Tea

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EXT. A GAZEBO IN A VAST MEADOW— DAY

Whoopi Goldberg and Jeff sit in porch swings which face each other inside a beautiful white gazebo. The meadow around them extends infinitely in every direction and is filled with beautiful wildflowers of every color dancing in the gentle breeze. It is 72°. Whoopi wears a cream colored Muumuu with tiny appliqué flowers on the yolk. Jeff is in blue jeans, rolled up a few inches and a  white cotton t shirt with the sleeves cut out. Both are barefoot. The only sounds are of the breeze in the grass, insects, the squeak of the porch swings and the occasional passing bird. Whoopi and Jeff each have a glass of honey-sweetened tea with a large sprig of mint and crushed ice. Occasionally, when the swings swing at in just the right way, Whoopi and Jeff’s feet meet in a midair “kiss.”  Tight shot on this occurrence as the dialogue begins. 

JEFF: Mmmm this is nice. Thank you.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: (smiling) You’re welcome.

They swing for a few more seconds enjoying the sheer bliss of the moment. 

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Music?

JEFF: That might be nice.

Whoopi Goldberg snaps her fingers and Yo Yo Ma and his cello appear in the meadow at ten paces. He begins to play Edgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Opus 85. Whoopi seems pleased with herself but notices Jeff has been sucked immediately into the solemn mood of the piece. 

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: No?

JEFF: Maybe not.

Whoopi Goldberg snaps her fingers again and Yo Yo Ma, his cello and chair disappear in a poof of white smoke. 

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Something different?

Jeff listens to the symphony of the meadow kept in time by the rhythmic squeak of the swings. 

JEFF: Actually I think I kind of like the music we already have.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: (pleased with his decision) Suits me fine! (moving on to business) Now! Let’s see ‘bout these goals.

JEFF: Well, on September 1st of, well, what is now last year, I decided that this would be the last year of my life—

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Woah-woah, that ain’t the goals. Listen to me, I want you say something with me okay?

JEFF: Okaaaay.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: What y’feed, grows. Say it with me.

WHOOPI AND JEFF: What y’feed grows.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Right!

JEFF: What y’feed, grows.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: You see, energy follows thought. And the purposeful direction of energy is what creates a desired reality. If you’re not purposeful about the direction of that energy, it doesn’t mean that the energy’s not there, that it’s not creating reality, it just means that you are doing it in a very unconscious way— you trackin’?

JEFF: I’m trackin’.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: You’ve heard the old saying, “thoughts become things.”

JEFF: I have.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Well I can also say from experience that thoughts not only become things but they also become relationships, circumstances and even emotional states of being. You are created in the image of that which created you and that means you inherit the same creative power of that which created you— and by you, I don’t mean this kinda hunky bucket of hairy flesh I see sitting in this swing right here in front of me. I mean the you of you.

JEFF: You mean my mind, my brain.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Careful, they’re not the same thing. The function of your mind, the thinking that it does is accomplished where and how?

JEFF: In my brain?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Yes. But as with everything else, that which happens in the physical plane is directly connected to happenings in the metaphysical plane.

JEFF: “I think, therefore I am.”

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Hol’ up, don’t get Descartes before the horse. You’re brain thinks, yeah? So that’s like saying, “I have a brain therefore I am.” I’m talking about something different. And if it’s helpful for you to think about  it this way, let’s just go with the assumption that you exist beyond your body to include your brain. And as long as we’re playing the hypothetical game, let’s assume that that “you” that exists beyond the limitations of your body also exists beyond the limitations of the world in which your body lives. In fact, come to think of it, in that statement “I have a brian” there is the implicit idea that there is an “I” that has the brain— what is that “I” that has something if the thinking is limited to the existence of the the brain? Anyway— we gettin’ way too complicated here. Pretty soon we’ll be walking around in togas contemplating the dangers of pure democracy. Let’s get back on track with the goals. So when I asked you first about the goals, what did you say?

JEFF: Well, I started to tell you the story of how I came around to making this particular—

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: No, no— well, yeah, okay, but see that story includes the part about you being so sad and confused and wanting to off yourself on your fiftieth birthday and all that. What would happen if when somebody asked you about your goals, you let go of—

JEFF: Here we go again—

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: What?

JEFF:  If I could simple “let go” of certain thoughts, believe you me I would have done it by now.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: (after a moment, thoughtful) Okay, okay fair enough. I will grant you that there are such things as habitual thoughts— but like all bad habits, thoughts that don’t serve us are habits that can be broken. But it ain’t gonna happen by— hmm, I was gonna say it can’t happen by willing it so but I’m not sure that’s the best way to put it. I do know this— what you resists, persists. Say it with me.

JEFF AND WHOOPI: What you resist persists.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: My guess is that you’ve had some struggles with this.

JEFF: Very recently.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Tell Mamma.

JEFF: Well I— wait a minute, I thought you didn’t want me to talk about the past.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: No, you miss the point. Lemme think.  Okay, you know the quote, “we neither regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it but see how our experience can benefit others?”

JEFF: I do.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: And what’s the number one reason you wanna go through all this, all of what we’re doin’ here together?

JEFF: I wanna help others.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: No, no, I mean at the top of the list.

JEFF: (after a moment) That’s it.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Take your time now I don’t want you to—

JEFF: Whoopi, honest to God, that’s it. I’m not saying that to try to make myself look good. Hell yeah, I want to feel better. I want to change the shit in my life that’s fucked up. But I’m nearly a half-century old now and if I know anything, I know that I am happiest when I feel like I’ve helped somebody else!

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Okay, okay, calm down. I just wanted you to be sure because the next thing I’m going to tell you is very important. When you find yourself thinking about the past, especially about the times in the past when you got hurt, I want you to ask yourself this question, “Am I thinking or talking about the past so that my experience can benefit others?” It’s a simple question and you’re gonna know immediately if that is the case. If it is the case, you go right to work on how thinking about the past is going to allow you to share your experience to benefit others. BUT— and this is a big “but”— if you find that you are ruminating over past injury and it is not so that your experience can benefit others, something else is at play. Resentment and self-pity trying to fuel themselves most likely. So you were about to say—?

JEFF: Yeah, okay, of late— and I mean like so much more than last year at this time— I have been thinking about Adam— about the marriage, everything that happened during the marriage, the divorce, what I imagine his life is like now— and I really don’t think— hell, I not only don’t think my thinking about all that unpleasant shit can benefit others, I also don’t think it can benefit me!

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: So what do you do in a case like that.

JEFF: Well, I prayed.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: What did you pray?

JEFF: I prayed, “Dear God, please take away these thoughts. I want to move on with my life. I feel like it’s killing me and I don’t think I can go on like this. I feel like I’m going crazy. Please, please, take these obsessive thoughts away.”

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: So what happened?

JEFF: I continued to be plagued by the thoughts, especially the money stuff. I just keep thinking about how I was—

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Hol’ up, hol’ up— don’t even go down that road. If this works out like I think it’s gonna, you’ll have more money than that son-of-a-bitch ever dreamed of. You focus on what you do want and stop focusing on what you don’t. Capiche?

JEFF: Capiche. But what about the prayer?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: What do you mean?

JEFF: I mean I straight-up ask God, “Please help me stop having these thoughts” and the thoughts still come.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: So what do you think that means?

JEFF: (growing irritated) Well it seems like God answered “no” to my prayers.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Honey God only has three answers to prayers, “Yes, Yes but not right now, and no but I have something better for you.” And since I’m pretty damn sure it’s not God’s will for you to be having to deal with these recurring thoughts of something that was so painful for you for the rest of your life— I’m guessing the “answer” if you want to put it that way—because I know you know that we both have some pretty unconventional ideas about God or Divine Mind or whatever— I’m guessing the answer for you sweetie is “yes, but not right now.”

JEFF: (increasingly frustrated) But why?! Especially after, well hell, I was doing a helluva lot better a year ago living in Brooklyn and playing rugby and going the theatre and—

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Fucking a lot of hot New York guys—

JEFF: Actually, no. I really, amazingly enough, was kind of just giving myself time to heal and— I mean don’t get me wrong, when some little hottie hit on me on the subway there was a good chance I’d grant him the pleasure of my company but— I mean I really wasn’t putting that much sex energy out there— I was writing RUTH and—

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: What’s RUTH? 

JEFF: (excited to tell her) My play! It’s a Jazz musical set in New Orleans during Katrina. You should read it, it’s brilliant.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: I’d love to.

JEFF: So I— really? You’d really love to read my libretto?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Of course! I’m not crazy! Honey I’d love to have a Tony as a producer!

JEFF: (taken aback) Awesome, I’ll have a copy to you tomorrow!

Whoopi has stopped swinging and is just sitting back looking at Jeff, smiling.

JEFF: What?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: You should see yourself right now.

JEFF: What? What do I look like?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: You look like a man on fire with a passion for what he loves.

JEFF: (settling in to what he’s just heard) I am. I am a man who feels passionately about what he does. The only problem is I haven’t been doing a lot of it over the past year. And the farther out from it I get, the more distant it seems.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Bullshit.

JEFF: Excuse me?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: You heard me, I said bullshit. That fire—that fire I just saw in you just when you just— I mean, just— when you MENTIONED the name of your play and told me a teeny bit about it, you just lit up. That’s something inside of you and that is something that can never be separated from you. You are never separated from the world of the Theatre because you are part of that world and by “the world of the theatre” I mean to include all its incarnations including film and television and whatever else. Your spiritual path is inextricably connected to your Art and although you may not be able to see it now, every single bit of everything that has happened to you—especially in the past year, two years, eight years— is going to prove useful to you in your career and your path as an artist and activist in ways you can’t even imagine!

JEFF: And about the thoughts, the intrusive thoughts about Adam and all?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: You’ve prayed for them to be removed?

JEFF: I have.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: And they remain.

JEFF: They do.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Then all I can think is that God still has use of them— you’ll stop having the thoughts when the work is done. You know, to my way of thinking it’s okay to ask why. What does God tell you when you ask “why do I have—“ Okay let’s try this, right now say out loud, “Why do I continue to have these thoughts.”

JEFF: Why do I continue to have these thoughts?

Jeff stops swinging, takes a deep breath, seems to be pained by the answer he receives. 

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: What? What’d you get?

JEFF: (sad) For the same reason I married him in the first place.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Which is?

JEFF: Because I didn’t— and I guess don’t— (tearing up) believe that I deserve anything better. (stops crying abruptly, angry) God! That is so pathetic!? I mean I can see how ten years ago maybe— especially since I was still reeling form the war, and— and that I— I can see where when I met Adam I might be willing to do something so stup—

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Hol’ up again. Let’s not get into any self-flagellation. Deep breath. Talk.

JEFF: I don’t want to hurt Adam. I really don’t want anything but joy for him. That never changed. Even though I hope never to see him again, I really do love the crazy fucker and I hope he doesn’t kill himself. Even my momentary lapses into wanting revenge and all— in back of all that is just hurt. He told me he was going to protect me. He made me promise I’d never leave him— a promise I broke by the way.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Wait a minute, I think we may have stumbled on something. Are you telling me that you still think you should have stayed with him even after everything he did to you?!

JEFF: I said “for better or for worse, till death do us part.”

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: (epiphanic) Ooooooh I see what’s going on here, Sugar.

JEFF: You do?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Honey, no wonder  you keep having those thoughts! You haven’t forgiven yourself yet— for your part in all of it, you are still holding yourself emotionally hostage over all your perceived wrongs from beginning to end with your marriage. And on top of all that, you haven’t forgiven Adam.

JEFF: But I’ve done all kinds of ritua—

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Uh-uh. If you were done with the work, the thoughts would be gone. You’ve still got more work to do. It comes in layers and waves sometimes.

JEFF: Like the molestation.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Huh?

JEFF: Like the molestation. I kept the secret for many years before telling a small group of my friends— many more before telling my family and several more before speaking publicly about the abuse. I’d done the therapy and the rituals and the prayers— hell, I even wrote the man a letter!

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Wow.

JEFF: Yeah, wow. And I thought I’d put all that behind me— but years later, all these new layers of grief and rage surfaced. I guess I only thought I was done.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Oh Babydoll, anybody who’s ever been the victim of that kind of abuse can tell you, that is process and not an event. We do the work as it comes up. Does that mean we can’t go on with our lives? Absolutely not. But—

JEFF: Well what about all these people who tell me “let it go”,”you’re playing the victim”,”forget it and move on?” Talking about Adam, I mean.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: People tell you that?

JEFF: They do.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Hmm. Look at their lives. Do you want what they have? If you do, then do what they do. But if you think that they are living in ways that act out self-destructive patterns based on passed issued they simply are too afraid to face, I’d think twice before trying to emulate them or take their advice. Yes, you gotta move on— and you will. And those intrusive thoughts are going to come a lot less frequently once you’re back in New York and busy getting RUTH to Broadway. In the meantime, when the thoughts come, I want you to try something different. When you find yourself thinking about Adam and his new pack of husbands, you just hit your knees like you been doin’. But I want you to try something different. Go on praying for Adam’s wellbeing like you have been but I want, instead of praying just for God to take away any and all thoughts of him et al, I want you to pray that you be shown whatever else you need to learn from those thoughts and from the marriage and anything else to do with it all so that you can be of greater service to God and your fellows, got it?

JEFF: Whatever else I need to learn— yeah, got it.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: And then I want you to do something else for me, okay?

JEFF: What’s that?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: I want you to pray for a husband.

JEFF: (rolls eyes) I’m not rea—

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: I didn’t ask you if you were ready did I? I said I want you to pray for a husband! I want you to pray for the right and perfect husband for you for an equal amount of time that you’ve just spent praying for Adam’s wellbeing — I want you to pray like a muthafuckah for God to send you a husband that will knock your socks off with how complete crazy-wonderful and great—

JEFF: Uh-UH!!  I already did crazy!

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: (laughing)  I said crazy-wonderful.  And what else?

JEFF: Mad sexy!

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: And—?

JEFF: Honest!

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: What else?

JEFF: Funny! Loves sports, supports my goals, readily accepts my support and adoration.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Anything else?

JEFF: Spiritual. Adam always made fu—

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Aih-aih!! Focus on what you do want, not what you don’t.

JEFF: Okay, spiritual.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Go crazy!

JEFF: A tiger in the sack, very masculine, goal oriented, successful, intelligent! Oh my God, I can’t believe I almost forgot that! Into outdoors stuff like me, we can go camping and rock climbing and skiing and fishing and all kinds of other fun shit with our BOYS— I want him to have kids or want to get some together and—

Quickly changed from the elation of his list, Jeff is suddenly very serious— seems to be remembering something painful.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: (softly, tenderly) What? What is it? Anything else? Remember— focus on what you do want.

JEFF: (after a pause) I want him to be kind to me.

Whoopi and Jeff exchange a look of deep understanding. 

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Well that may have made the list last but in my estimation it belongs at the top and I for one believe beyond the shadow of any doubt that that is what you deserve and that is what you are going to have.

The sun is setting in the distance. 

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Would you look at that.

JEFF: Beautiful.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Wha’s say we meet back here tomorrow and pick up where we left off?

JEFF: Yeah. Yeah. I’d like that.

CARD: “See y’all tomorrow


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