White Baby

Characters

  • EVA (a woman in her middle 40s, the deputy prime minister)
  • HANS (a city planner, aged 50-55)
  • MARIE (a 35-year-old student)
  • LARS (40-45 years old, unemployed)
  • ESMERALDA (young woman in her 20s)
  • VIVI (around 25)
  • JAMILA (Hans’s boss, a woman, aged 25 years old)
  • THE GIRL (10 years old)
  • POSTAL CLERK (a woman, early 50s)
  • SOCIAL SERVICE WORKER
  • JOURNALISTS
  • BARTENDER
  • PHANTOM

1.

(It is evening. A man and a woman, both middle-aged, LARS and EVA, are having sex in a dark corner. They separate. Eva straightens her clothes.)

LARS
Thanks.

(Eva exits.)

2.

(Evening. MARIE, a woman in her thirties, is sitting at a table set for dinner. Candles and a bottle of wine. HANS, a middle aged man, walks through the door.)

HANS
Marie! I’m home!

MARIE
Hans!

(They embrace.)

MARIE
Where were you?

HANS
You know where I was.

MARIE
I thought you’d never come home!

HANS
I was at work. I go to work every day and every day I come home. You know that.

MARIE
I stand at the window watching for you and I say to myself, “Isn’t he ever coming home?” I’m standing there, watching. And I’m perspiring. I’m so wet. My sweat is running down every crevice of my body. I’m drenched with longing. I thought you’d never come home.

HANS
I missed you too. Oh did I miss you today! I thought the day would never end. By lunch time I wasn’t even sure if I could remember you. What does she look like?!

MARIE
You couldn’t remember me? Not my face? Nothing? Not even my body?

HANS
I sat there thinking, “I have to go home! I have to go home to Marie, to memorize her. What she looks like. Her body, her face, everything! Commit her to memory for ever and ever.”

MARIE
Hans!

HANS
Marie, I hope you always miss me as much as you missed me today.

MARIE
You came home!

(They embrace.)

3.

(Eva struggles up the stairs of her apartment building lugging a heavy paper bag. She enters her apartment. She shuts the door behind her and flops down into an armchair. She sets the paper bag down on the floor beside the chair. Eva kicks off her shoes and pulls a cigarette from the packet on the table beside her. The table is littered with bills and empty cigarette packets. She lights up, pushes herself up out of the chair and crosses the room in search of an ashtray. She collapses into her chair again and picks up the telephone. She shuffles the bills, looking for a telephone number scribbled on the back of one of them. With her foot she pushes the bag a bit further from the chair. The bag rocks gently. She dials the number.)

4.

(Hans and Marie’s place, later the same evening. Marie is flat on her back among candles and wine bottles. Hans is on top of her.)

HANS
I want you!

MARIE
I want you!

HANS
I’m going to get you. I’m going to…

MARIE
What? You’re going to get me and you’re going to do what?

(The telephone rings.)

HANS
I’ll get that.

MARIE
Don’t get that. Get me!

HANS
I am. I will. But I better get the phone first. It might be work… (Picks up the phone) Hello? Hans here.

(Marie gets up and stands beside Hans.)

EVA
(Into the phone) Hi. It’s me. (Eva is smoking. She flicks her ashes in the paper bag.)

HANS
(Into the phone) Yes?

EVA
It’s me! It’s Eva!

HANS
I know. I remember you. (To Marie) It’s Eva.

MARIE
Eva, Eva, always Eva. (Into the phone) Does she have to call here every Friday night? (Into the phone) It’s Friday night! Stop calling us all the time!

EVA
You cunt! I’ll call whenever I want to.

HANS
Don’t you call her cunt! It’s Friday night, Eva…

EVA
I’ll call her whatever I want, whenever I want.

MARIE
Stop calling me that!

HANS
This could go on all night…

EVA
(To Marie) I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to you. Hans? Hans?!

HANS
Yes!

EVA
Come over here and get your stuff.

HANS
What? I can’t. Not tonight.

MARIE
What does she want? What?

EVA
Get over here and get your stuff. I’ve got bills that are yours and clothes and a goddamned tennis racket and God knows what else littering my domicile.

HANS
Marie and I…

EVA
I don’t want your stuff here. Get over here and get it now or I’ll toss it out! Your clothes and your bills and God knows what else and it’s all going in the trash.

MARIE
What’s going in the trash?

HANS
Eva! Those are my things.

EVA
Then come and get them!

(Eva slams down the phone, lights another cigarette and flicks the match at the paper bag.)

EVA
I don’t want anything to remember you by. I don’t want to remember anything about you. I don’t want to be reminded of anything at all. Just go! Go!

(Eva dumps some bills and a sports jacket into the paper bag.)

MARIE
So, another Friday night, and I’m supposed to sit here now, all by myself?

HANS
I’m just going over there to get my things.

MARIE
I don’t want us having any of Eva’s stuff at our place.

HANS
Marie…it’s not Eva’s stuff…it’s my stuff.

MARIE
Don’t leave me for Eva, Hans! Don’t leave me for Eva on a Friday night!

HANS
I’m not leaving you.

MARIE
One Friday night you leave Eva and you come to me and now this Friday night you’re leaving me.

HANS
I’m not going back to Eva. If I ever leave you, it won’t be to go back to Eva. I promise. But I’m not leaving you. Ever. I wasn’t saying that.

MARIE
I never know where I have you, Hans. First you’re here and then you’re there.

HANS
Here. I’m here. Your feelings might change every two hours but there are other people whose feelings don’t. I can keep the same feelings for someone for decades, Marie. I’ve inherited feelings that my father had before he had me, and from his father before him.

MARIE
Where will we put them? All your things.

HANS
Here.

MARIE
We don’t have room here for all your things. Hans? Weren’t we only going to have things in our house that we acquired jointly? Didn’t we decide that?

HANS
We’ll have them here for a while.

MARIE
Don’t leave me Hans.

HANS
I’ll be right back.

MARIE
They all say that. But who knows where they really go when they’ve said farewell and shut the door? Not all roads lead to home.

HANS
I’ll be right back. If I take the same road back that I took going there, then I can’t get lost. I’ll be right back.

(Hans leaves Marie who stands watching him at the window.)

MARIE
Nothing here. Nothing there. Gone. And here I am, all alone on a Friday night…I guess I always knew it would come to this. He’s gone.

5.

(Same evening. Hans at Eva’s door. Eva opens.)

EVA
Hans.

HANS
Eva.

EVA
Well, you certainly look worn and torn.

HANS
So do you.

EVA
Maybe you’ve always looked that way. I guess I just never noticed.

HANS
No. You never could really see me. I’ve seen how weary and worn you’ve been looking; I just haven’t said anything. I thought, well, you’ve probably noticed yourself.

EVA
Take your stuff.

(Hans picks up the paper bag.)

HANS
Thanks for everything, Eva. Thanks for all those years.

EVA
All those years that are gone and never coming back. Thank you for taking all those years from me. (Sarcastic.) Imagine all the things I could have done with all those years.

HANS
Yeah. Well, thanks.

(Hans looks into the paper bag.)

HANS
Whoa. How did this happen?

EVA
Don’t ask me.

HANS
Who else am I going to ask?

EVA
Get out of here.

HANS
I have to work on Monday. There’s no way…

EVA
I haven’t been to work for a month. I have to go in on Monday. I told them I was at a conference. But conferences don’t carry on for months, do they? Just take your things and go.

HANS
But what am I going to do?

EVA
Like I said, don’t ask me, Hans. There’s no point in asking questions like that. Nobody can answer them. What do you want from me?

HANS
It takes two, Eva.

EVA
It doesn’t take two. That’s just what they say. What they want you to believe. Maybe it was true, once upon a time, but there are forces out there that are changing things forever. There is no “we” anymore, Hans. There’s a “them” and there’s a “me.” We know that. Both of us do.

HANS
(Staring into the bag) So this is it. It’s not much, is it? I guess I’d better go.

EVA
That’s it. Go. Go home to Marie.

HANS
I’m going. I’m going home to my Marie, the kind of woman you want to go home to. You know where you have her. At home! So stop calling us! And stop drinking.

EVA
Don’t worry.

HANS
Friday nights are our nights. On Friday nights we make up for all the time we’ve been apart.

EVA
Get out of here!

HANS
I’m going.

EVA
Don’t come back!

(Eva closes her door. Hans takes the bag.)

HANS
(To the bag) So this is it. This is the sum total of those years.

(Eva lights up.)

HANS
What am I going to do?

(Hans exits, carrying the bag.)

6.

(A bar. Hans walks in and up to the bar. He sets the paper bag down beside him. A few feet away, VIVI, a girl, is standing by the bar with a beer.)

HANS
Beer, please.

(Bartender gives Hans a beer.)

HANS
Thanks.

(Hans downs the beer and starts to walk out leaving the paper bag at the bar.)

BARTENDER
Hey! Wait a minute! Your bag!

HANS
It’s not mine. (Goes towards the exit.)

BARTENDER
It is your bag! I saw you come in with it!

HANS
My bag? It’s not mine. It was there on the floor when I walked in.

BARTENDER
No way, buddy. That bag is yours.

HANS
It’s not mine. It was on the floor.

VIVI
I saw him come in with it. (To Hans) It’s yours.

BARTENDER
It stinks, man. What you got in there that stinks?

HANS
(Takes the bag) Okay. It’s not mine…but I’ll take it. I don’t know whose it is…but I’m taking it anyway.

(ESMERALDA enters. She walks up to stand beside Vivi. Vivi pulls her close.)

ESMERALDA
(To the bartender) Bring us another beer.

VIVI
Not another one. I want to go home.

ESMERALDA
I don’t want to go home. There’s nothing to do at home. What would we do at home?

VIVI
I know something we could do.

ESMERALDA
Yeah? And what would we do after that? I want another beer.

VIVI
Not another beer.

ESMERALDA
(To the bartender) Something here stinks.

BARTENDER
It’s that bag.

VIVI
It’s his bag.

ESMERALDA
(Notices Hans for the first time) Hans?

VIVI
No, him.

HANS
Esmeralda? It’s not me.

ESMERALDA
Hans it’s me. It’s Esmeralda.

HANS
I know. I just meant that it wasn’t me. Stinking.

VIVI
You two don’t know each other.

BARTENDER
It’s his bag.

VIVI
The stink.

HANS
It’s not my bag. But I’ll take it! I’m taking it!

ESMERALDA
Yes we do know each other. Don’t we know each other, Hans?

HANS
We? Yes. I just meant…

VIVI
I don’t know any Hans. Give me another beer. You never tell me anything about your life. Hans? The name means nothing to me.

HANS
Give me another one, too. Esmeralda. It’s been ages.

ESMERALDA
Yeah, it sure has. (She points to the bag.) What you got there?

HANS
Stuff I had left at Eva’s. She wanted to get rid of it. It’s just like her. Out with the old stuff, out with me, out with anything that’s mine, out with everything we had together.

ESMERALDA
You mean the two of you aren’t together anymore?

VIVI
Eva who? I don’t know any Eva. I guess I don’t know anyone!

HANS
You mean she never told you? She didn’t tell you about me leaving her?

ESMERALDA
I’ve hardly seen her at all since the last time I saw you. (To Vivi) My Mom. Eva Jonsson, the deputy prime minister.

VIVI
Why haven’t I ever met her?

ESMERALDA
Because I never meet her! Vivi, please, I’m talking to Hans.

BARTENDER
Hans.

HANS
I met someone else. Well, it felt better leaving her for another woman, I mean instead of just leaving her…for nothing at all…

ESMERALDA
You weren’t leaving her for nothing. I mean, you can’t live with Eva.

HANS
Because everything is just Eva, only Eva, twenty-four hours a day. In the end it’s too much. But with Marie it’s just Hans, Hans, all the time Hans. And that’s something I can deal with.

ESMERALDA
We had some good times together, you know, living together, when I was a kid.

HANS
I guess we did. I don’t really remember…well, no. I do have a few good memories…yeah, kid. Sure.

ESMERALDA
Maybe, I don’t really remember…

HANS
Yeah, me neither.

ESMERALDA
I didn’t have anyone else. Just you.

HANS
I know. (Pause) Listen, I gotta go. Marie is waiting.

ESMERALDA
I’d love to meet her.

(Hans starts to move away from the bar, leaving the bag.)

ESMERALDA
Hans. Your bag.

HANS
Oh yeah, my bag. Yeah.

(Hans retrieves the bag and leaves the bar.)

VIVI
Hey, I never knew all that about your mother.

ESMERALDA
What do you mean? Like that I had one?

VIVI
That was kinda the thing I always liked about you. That with you there was no looking back, because like there wasn’t anything back there, no background—there was just me. That’s what I thought anyway. But I guess there was your Mom.

ESMERALDA
Yeah. So?

VIVI
So I don’t have anyone but you. You want another beer?

(They stay sitting in the bar.)

7.

(Later the same evening. Hans comes home to Marie. He’s got the paper bag. Marie is sitting at the dinner table, candles still burning, bottle of wine. He sits down at the table with the paper bag on his knee.)

MARIE
(Softly) Would you like me to take that?

HANS
(Softly) I can have it on my knee.

MARIE
I can take it. Hans?

HANS
Thanks. I can have it here. Wow, delicious. It’s so good to finally eat.

MARIE
I’ll take it.

HANS
I told you. I can have it in my lap.

MARIE
Is it warm enough? Your food? Maybe it got cold again? I heated it up. But then it got cold. So I heated it up again and then it got cold again so I heated it up again.

HANS
It’s not cold.

MARIE
Maybe I should warm it? Don’t you think I should…

HANS
It is warm. It’s wonderful.

(Hans continues eating with the paper bag in his lap.)

HANS
Eva…

MARIE
I can’t sit and eat and talk about Eva at the same time. I’ve had Eva up to here (Marks the level on her throat.) So, either we eat or we talk about Eva.

HANS
We’re not talking about Eva. I wasn’t going to talk about Eva. I was just thinking…

MARIE
I can’t eat!

HANS
Okay. Let’s not talk. Let’s just eat.

MARIE
Okay. Let’s eat. I’ll just take that thing and put it way.

HANS
It can be here, on my knee. I told you that.

MARIE
Let me have it.

HANS
I can have it here.

MARIE
Well you can’t sit here with me and be reminiscing about Eva.

HANS
I’m sitting here and I’m eating. I’m not reminiscing about anything.

MARIE
Can I sit in your lap and eat?

HANS
In my lap?

MARIE
Please, can I?

HANS
Ooooh baby, come right on over here and sit on my lap, my pretty little girl.

MARIE
Am I your pretty little girl?

HANS
Come here.

(Marie goes and sits in Hans lap. He shifts the paper bag.)

MARIE
So. Now we’re going to keep stuff that’s only yours at our place. I wasn’t aware of that.

HANS
Where else am I going to keep it?

MARIE
I just never realised that we were going to keep stuff here that’s only yours.

HANS
Well, we are. I don’t have anywhere else to keep it. More wine?

(Hans sets the bag on another chair. He gets up and goes after a new bottle of wine. Marie approaches the bag.)

MARIE
Hi. It’s me. It’s Marie.

(The paper bag cries.)

MARIE
Well I don’t know you, either, but you don’t see me crying about it. I just wanted to say hello.

(The paper bag cries.)

MARIE
Yeah, well guess what. Maybe I don’t like you either, but I’m not crying about it. I’m reaching out a hand. (Pause) I don’t like you either. Stop crying. I was here first. He wants me. And I can cry a lot louder than you can!

(Hans comes in with a bottle of wine.)

HANS
Marie!

MARIE
I didn’t do anything!

HANS
Give it to me! It’s screaming.

MARIE
It wasn’t me. It doesn’t like me. I could see it in its eyes. Its eyes were saying “I don’t want you here.” (Pause) It’s over.

HANS
Over? What’s over?

MARIE
It’s all over between the two of us. This is my home.

HANS
This is my home!

MARIE
This was your home. It’s not your home anymore. It’s mine. Get your things and get out.

HANS
Fucking hell! You don’t know which way is up! It’s Friday night. I have nowhere else to go.

MARIE
You can go to the garage.

HANS
There’s no heat in the garage!

MARIE
Then warm yourself with your memories.

HANS
Fuck you!

(Hans clutches the paper bag to his breast and goes.)

MARIE
He walked out on his pretty little girl. I knew it. I just knew it. He left me. What am I going to do? Am I just going to sit around here and wait? Life doesn’t wait. Am I going sit here waiting until my time has come? (Marie lifts the telephone and dials.)

MARIE
(Into the phone) It’s Marie…I’m sitting here, all by myself.

8.

(Same evening. Hans enters the garage holding the paper bag. He finds an old beach chair and sits down, pull out his cell phone and dials.)

HANS
Fucking hell. Doesn’t know which way is up. (Into the phone) Hello Eva? It’s me.

EVA
Unh-huh?

HANS
It’s me. It’s Hans. I’m in the garage.

EVA
Unh-huh?

HANS
Marie and I—me and Marie—I want to come back.

EVA
I told you never to come back.

HANS
But it’s cold in the garage!

(Eva hangs up.)

HANS
I want to come back. Eva? Eva! You cunt!

9.

(Eva is surrounded by journalists who are pointing microphones in her direction.)

EVA
We, the government intend to keep our promise. Schools, medical facilities and childcare will continue to top our list of priorities. These areas will be targeted for major investment during the coming years. Families with children will qualify for benefits unavailable to other sectors of society. These people are carrying a great burden…a burden so great that one could ask oneself…in the entire history of humanity, how was it ever possible…for a family…

JOURNALIST
Children are the most important thing we have!

EVA
It goes without saying that children are our most valuable asset. Children cost money. But as soon as the children themselves begin to earn, they start to return the investment. This is why schools are so important. We need to make a return on every penny we invest in our children. Parents however, can never expect full compensation for their investment, maybe a hug once in a while and a new cutting board for Christmas.

JOURNALIST
Parliament is considering a motion to cut foreign aid to developing countries. Which are more important: our children or theirs?

EVA
All children are equally important, but it is clearly easiest for us to care for the children on our own doorstep, so to speak, those you call “our” children. But children are an asset in every country, possibly the most important natural resource a country can possess. Every single child is a child of our world, and potentially a world resource. Children are like oil, or pulp or any other resource. Having children is like drilling for oil; some holes are rich in oil; most holes are dry. So keep drilling because our country needs oil-bearing holes that will support us in years to come.

JOURNALIST
And how have you managed to combine children and career?

EVA
I made a conscious decision to sacrifice family and devote myself to my work. The work I do demands such a sacrifice. Most of us would do the same thing, at least those of us whose work is satisfying. I don’t need to have a family around me to feel needed. I don’t need a mob to come home to every night, to create the illusion that I am worth more than my actual value, speaking from a purely socioeconomic point of view. I know what I’m worth.

JOURNALIST
Wait a minute! Did she just call her family a “mob?”

JOURNALIST
Hey, I chose to sacrifice myself on the home front instead of going off to become a war correspondent which is what I always wanted to do ever since I was a child. I sacrificed the frontlines, the ammo whistling over my head. I want to go to war! But I stayed at home! I chose my family! Was I wrong? I sacrificed myself for my family!

EVA
Sacrifices are necessary on all fronts. Which ever front you choose, you chose it yourself. Some people choose the supermarket and other people choose the stock market.

(Eva exits. The journalists talk among themselves.)

JOURNALIST
Who is she to criticise me for taking care of my family?

JOURNALIST
She never took care of her husband, that’s for sure. He walked out on her. Her very own daughter walked out on her!

JOURNALIST
She had another daughter too, didn’t she?

JOURNALIST
No, just the one.

JOURNALIST
I heard she had another one, this summer. There was this doctor I met…She checked into the hospital…said it was gas…

JOURNALIST
So what did she do with this other daughter?

JOURNALIST
Maybe she needs to do a little duty on the home front herself for a change? What do you think?

JOURNALIST
Yeah. Take care of her own family. The way I did. If she can find them.

10.

(An office. Hans is sitting in a chair, the paper bag on his lap. In front of him, at her desk, sits Jamila, his 25-year-old boss.)

HANS
Jamila? Is this a bad time?

JAMILA
I always have time for you, Hans. Come in.

HANS
I need to ask for some time off for awhile. I have some things to take care of.

JAMILA
Things? What kind of things?

HANS
Just…things. Someone else could take over my projects. Amir could.

JAMILA
Could he?

HANS
You’ll hardly know I’m gone. Amir can do all the things I can do.

JAMILA
I see.

HANS
And me taking time off will give Amir the opportunity to prove that to you.

JAMILA
This taking time off of work thing seems very “real” to you. Is it, Hans?

HANS
Real? I guess so.

JAMILA
For me the following things are real: one—the project, two—the office, three—being your boss and all the planning we’ve done as a team. This is the only reality I have. I have no idea where you go the minute you leave this office. You walk out that door, you cease to exist. In that sense, I am exactly like a child. Ball rolls under the sofa—ball gone. You are the ball. I guess you don’t want to be here, with me, with your colleagues, in this reality. You want to be with others, in a reality all your own. Where we don’t exist.

HANS
Well, yes. I mean no. I’m coming back. It’s just…

JAMILA
Don’t come back. We’ll hardly know you’re gone. You said so yourself. We have Amir.

HANS
Listen, that stuff I said about Amir…

JAMILA
Thank you, Hans.

HANS
Thanks. I…

(Hans exits the office clutching the paper bag.)

Bios

Sofia Fredén

Sofia Fredén was born in 1968 in Göteborg, Sweden’s second largest city. She studied writing for film and theatre in Dramatiska Institutet, graduating in 1995. Since graduation, she has written prolifically for the theatre and also managed to write for film and radio. Her plays have been produced in most of the city and regional theatres in Sweden, as well as the Royal Dramatic Theatre. In 2005, Sofia received the critics prize for Children and Youth Theatre, for three plays that played simultaneously at three different theatres: Bara Barnet (Only a Child); Ruttet: a princess liv (Rotten: The Life of a Princess); and, Solapan (The Sun Monkey). Several of Sofia ‘s plays are translated into other languages; French, German, and English primarily. Sofia is playwright-in-residence at Stockholm Stadsteatern and lives in Stockholm with her boyfriend, her baby daughter, and two stepchildren.

Edward Buffalo Bromberg

Edward Buffalo Bromberg, born in 1955, is a stage director and translator living and working in Stockholm, Sweden. He studied acting and archaeology at the University of Pittsburgh, dropping out after his junior year to tour Europe with The Living Theatre. Finding the free market socialist society of Sweden quite agreeable, he decided to wait there for the beautiful anarchist revolution, working with a number of independent theatre companies in Sweden, but also in Norway, Poland, Spain, and San Francisco. The serious side of life caught up with him in The Basque Country in 1988 with the birth there of a brain-damaged son, Aengus. Back in Sweden, he got serious about the theatre, studied directing at Dramatiska Institutet in 1994, met his life partner, a Finnish set designer named Annika, and got on with life. He now lives with Annika, Aengus, and his two daughters Rebecca and Ellinor, in the wooded suburban outskirts of Stockholm. Productions he is particularly proud of having directed include Shneider and Shuster (J. Sobol), The Lonesome West (M. McDonaugh), Kvarbo (B. Ohlsson), Below the Belt (R. Dresser), The Head of Red O'Brien (M. O'Halloran), Rut and Ragnar (K. Lugn), and White Sand, White Snow, a play for children about cultural identity and climate change. He has translated over a dozen plays and numerous articles about the theatre.

White Baby. Copyright (c) Sofia Fredén, 2005. English translation copyright (c) Edward Buffalo Bromberg, 2007.