PRESSURE LEVEL, PULSE RATE
A play by Volodymyr Serdiuk
HE – unkempt playwright looking average.
SHE – a designer, a petty woman in sunglasses, in a T-shirt and sports pants. Both hands of her bandaged.
Scene: Kyiv, Ukraine, a living room of a city apartment, with a computer, sofa, and TV, which simultaneously serves as a resting place and a place of work for two creative personalities, a designer and a playwright during the wide Russian military invasion of 2022.
Sounds melody of the song “Singing in the Rain”.
The light is blinking. Flash sparkles outside the window are visible. In an instant, an explosion roared.
SHE: What is this?
HE: Another Russian rocket.
SHE: Where is it?
HE: Under the town of Brovary.
SHE: How do you know where?
HE: I look out the window.
SHE: Our World has gone crazy?
HE: A long time ago.
SHE: On the twenty-fourth of February, of the two thousand and twenty-two?
HE: No. As early as the twenty-third of February, two thousand and fourteen.
SHE: We were lucky the rockets haven’t fallen near here before…
HE: ..”You can write about pressure”?.. What kind of offer is that?..
SHE: They invite you to a festival competition again?..
HE: Yes. No. Some kind of creative competition without festivity. Someone came up with a theme: “Write a play on the topic of PRESSURE…”
SHE: And what?..
HE: “… and we will select the best works”, – they say, – “publish them in a separate collection, and the three main winners will receive awards…”
SHE: Amounts of the prize are..?
HE: Not specified.
SHE: Don’t write.
SHE: Don’t waste your time on nonsense.
HE: But it is a kind of competition…
SHE: What competition?! With whom do you need to compete?!
HE: I don’t know. The letter with the offer came to me personally. At my address, in my post-box.
SHE: But you don’t know the participants in this kind of so-called “competition”, do you?
HE: No, I don’t know.
SHE: You don’t know the reward amount for the winner, do you?
HE: No, I don’t know.
SHE: Don’t you know the organizers of this “God knows what”, do you?
HE: No, I don’t know.
SHE: Although you still know very well that the organizers of this so-called “competition” themselves will be announced as winners…
HE: Well, not necessarily that primitive way, I suppose?
SHE: Or the husbands and wives of the organizers of this “competition”…
HE: Yes… But it stimulates me…
SHE: What exactly motivates you such much?
HE: They came up with a theme and they are going to compete. To organize, I mean.
SHE: WHO are you going to compete with?
HE: I do not know… But Sherstiuk will definitely put something on of his own plays.
SHE: Shut up!
HE: Even so…
SHE: And what do you get out of that?
HE: I will write better than he can for sure…
SHE: And will you get the first prize?
HE: I will get it…
SHE: Without even knowing what the amount of the prize could be?
HE: Well, the situation in the country is very difficult now, it is hard with money – they could give at least something, and then, you know…
SHE: I would not let my husband be humiliated in this way!
HE: How do I suppose to BE HUMILIATED, dear?
SHE: You are ready to write anything for anyone, and even free all your days and nights!
HE: But… It is an exciting topic…
SHE: Which one?
SHE: Are you concerned about the topic of pressure?
HE: Not really am…
SHE: Can’t you come up with a theme for your next play by yourself?
HE: I can… But it’s always that hard, to find a topic, to come up with a name…
SHE: Of course, you’ve been neglecting my request to write an essay based on my mom’s biography for eight last years!
HE: …A play on the theme of a mother-in-law?..
SHE: My mother! She is the widow of a military man! Her husband – my dad – was a hero!
HE: Oh, about this kind of pressure…
SHE: And on which side do you feel the pressure: on my part, or on the part of my mother, in whose apartment we live now?!
HE: We live here temporarily…
SHE: Ha! There is nothing more permanent than all this kind of “temporary”!
HE: And so I will write. Decisively. Pressure is mine. Someone lives under pressure, and my pressure lives inside me. 147/100! …Half of the Captopress pill, a full Corvalment pill, and a… Wait…
HE (Continues.): … I will find it. Here. I found! That is Eureka! And still, once again, I immediately forgot the name of a play I had just invented…
SHE: This is because of me..?
HE: No, darling, I forgot it all by myself. Because I haven’t approved this topic to myself, I haven’t experienced it, I haven’t gotten along with it.
SHE: With her…?
HE: With the subject… (Rummaging through his pockets.)
The same. In the previous place.
(The light flashes. A flash sparkles outside the window. A roaring of an explosion.)
SHE: Oh, God?!
HE: No, it’s not Him. It’s another Russian missile.
SHE: Where did it fall?
HE: Somewhere near Vasylkiv.
SHE: How can you be sure of that?
HE: It can be to the South of us, somewhere near the Odessa Highway.
SHE: They’re idiots?
HE: They’re beasts.
SHE: They say Putin deceived by his advisers.
HE: Hardly. If so, all the Russians are fooled.
SHE: I’m afraid of explosions.
HE (Rummages in his pockets): Lipstick..? Why is there lipstick in my pockets?!
SHE: Oh, dear Mother, where am I?!
HE: What’s that?
SHE: Don’t make me laugh.
HE: Aha, it’s not lipstick – it’s the fudge! Okay.
SHE: And you don’t have to hint to me that I’m not preparing dinner.
HE: But what were these pills called – the third ones? I have to consume three of them.
HE: Who calls the pills this way? Recollecting the name of your pills you can have a stroke from that tension.
SHE: Nobody dies here pronouncing the name of the drugs.
HE (Swallows his pills. Drinks some water. Rests a bit.)
HE: (Continues.) Actually, I was previously writing another play, but I noticed the announcement: “The playwrights’ theater could be your chance for opening. Send us two pages of your text written specifically to the Playwrights Theater – for the PRESSURE presentation. Then you can be a new discovery! Why not give it a try?”
SHE: Are you asking me? Oh! I’m shocked. At last, I’m being consulted on creative issues.
HE: “Dear Playwrights Theater, do you understand that you are my first customer?” And… E… AE. AE. The pressure increases. I’m trying to navigate how many years…
SHE: “Darling, how many years in a row does my creative inaction last?”
HE: Brigade contracting, sole proprietorship, Joint Stock Company, LLC, DERZHUPR, Private customer…
SHE: “… my beloved, or the girl I would like to fall in love with, my boss, the doorman in front of the restaurant door, the policeman who led me somewhere… But anyone could ignite me with some idea, and I followed them like a little calf…”
HE: When was it that someone would come to me with a suggestion?
SHE: I approached you with an offer!
HE: Why so that I would take you to my apartment?
SHE: Well… Is this a suggestion, is it?
HE: Pancake is gleeful! Don’t give me sugar!
SHE: Where do you have sugar? I drink your coffee without sugar for the third day in a row, but it turns out, in fact – you do have sugar!
HE: Full of sugar is Vermouth.
SHE: What is Vermouth?
HE: That’s what you drink!
SHE: It’s “Martini.”
HE: …Let it be… (He sits down in a “lotus” pose, and exposes his fingers in front of him, trying to calm down.)
HE: Okay. I’m a marten – and you’re a seagull. PRESSURE!!!
SHE: What is “pressure”?
HE: It needs to be knocked down.
SHE: Are you an anti-aircraft gunner?
HE: No. I am hypertensive.
SHE: Oh, come on, are we all just going to calm down?
HE: I’m calm. I’m trying to get into this new play of mine.
SHE: And I’m calm. Where’s your sugar?
HE: This way I was referring to my pressure!!!
The same. Ibid.
(The light flashes. A flash sparkles outside the window. A roaring explosion.)
SHE (Covered with a blanket.): So what was that? Did that Russian rocket hit us?
HE: No, it did not hit us.
SHE: Why are you so sure of that?
HE: If it hit us, we would not have heard anything, and we would not have felt anything.
SHE: And where did it hit?
HE: It looks like it hits some building near the Central Railway station.
SHE: Do you think so?
HE: I see this directly through the glass of our window.
SHE: Mother of God, when will this stop?
HE: They say they have two thousand similar missiles.
SHE: And how many have they already shot to us?
HE: I do not know. They shoot in many cities, not only in Kyiv.
SHE: Is there anything you can do to prevent the Russians from shooting at us?
HE: We need to put international pressure on Moscow. Maybe then Russians could stop their war against Ukraine.
SHE: Do you have a weapon..?
HE: No. I do not have a weapon.
SHE: You must buy yourself some guns.
SHE: To kill the Russians when they come.
HE: There are a lot of them…
SHE: I know, but only a few Russians will come through our door inside with their desire to kill you and rape me, and eventually kill me too.
HE: The government does not allow us to own guns.
HE: The government believes that with weapons in our hands, we will take to the streets and kill each other mostly.
SHE: Why would we have to kill each other when at this time Russian missiles are destroying our cities? After the Russian tanks rush into our cities and destroy the remains of our houses, Russian soldiers come after their tanks to kill all of us.
HE: I do not know. The government governs us and relies on its advisers’ advice.
SHE: Is our government protect itself the same way?
HE: Yes, our Government is guarded by enough quantity of armed men.
SHE: Then some of us here obviously went crazy.
SHE: The Russians. Our Government. Their Advisers. Maybe you and me?
HE: You reason logically. I understand your logic. I suppose, you and I so far are definitely not crazy.
SHE: So, are you going to buy a gun?
HE: Do you really want me to buy myself a weapon?
SHE: I want to.
HE: I do not think one should spend money on weapons.
SHE: Having our limited financial resources, they say, we must not.
HE: I’ll wait for the time when automatic assault rifles are wallowing in the streets.
SHE: And could that happen even here?
HE: Maybe, though, it’s not guaranteed that it’s bound to happen.
SHE: And how are we supposed to live in those wild conditions?
HE: In order not to scramble against the machine guns on the sidewalks, people will push them aside with their feet, making room for themselves to pass.
SHE: And you…?
HE: And I’ll pick up a couple of guns for myself, and bring them home.
SHE: And then our apartment..?
HE: Be turned into a long-term firing point.
SHE: We will defend ourselves against the Russians! We will shoot from our balcony, we will shoot from the windows in the living room and from the window in the kitchen!
HE: I’m afraid, darling, that instead of that we’ll be sitting in the bathroom without a hitch for a while.
SHE: Holding the defense?!
HE: No, waiting for the end of the Russian air ride.
SHE: You have to provide our family with weapons!
HE: Against whom?
SHE: Against our enemies!
SHE (Continues): … Are you hesitant?
HE: No. Weigher never hesitate.
SHE: Hesitant weigher.
HE: Could be this and that.
SHE: Do you want to offend me again? I am not too fat. I am slim.
HE: I will weigh that issue, but you don’t put pressure on me, okay?
SHE: What does the pressure have to do with it? Don’t distract my attention – you just said: that you have sugar.
HE: Yes. Sugar.
HE: And when the percentage of sugar in the blood continues to rise, it provokes high blood pressure.
SHE: So what?
HE: And it puts dark in my eyes.
SHE: I already see everything through the twilight here.
HE: It is blue.
SHE: And I see it gray.
HE: Because you walk around here having your sunglasses on.
HE: Because you were skiing in Protasiv Yar on your snowboard. And after that you returned home all wet, having your sucks around your neck. Without a hat! You wore the other man’s ski pants, and when I informed you about it, you replied that you could not go home in underwear because you were in undercover!!! Because of the glitter of the too white snow, you got “night blindness”!
SHE: And you! (Bites her tongue.)
SHE (Continues.): And I got “snow blindness”! Not a night one!!! You are an annoying chauvinist man! There are other individuals next to you here. Individuals with a different vision of the world, with a different position, with different inclinations, with a different orientation! There is nothing funny about that!!!
HE: I’ll remember that.
SHE: Write it to yourself somewhere!
HE: About whom?
HE: Can’t you write it down for yourself?
SHE: Because my hands are bandaged.
HE: That is because I put bandages on you, and I advised you to wear sunglasses.
HE: And you haven’t dumped them since then.
SHE: Because I have my right!
SHE: Don’t put your pressure on me!
HE: What pressure can I put pressure on you?
SHE: You looked at me after snowboarding in such a way if I owe you!
HE: No, no, no. Wait. It’s my pressure.
SHE: Which one?
HE: Blood pressure.
SHE: Which group?
HE: I don’t know. It is pressing – and that’s it.
SHE: It’s you who put pressure on me!
HE: I can’t put pressure on you. I meet you for the first time in my life just two hours ago. You came to me wet and I invited you to dry your clothes…
SHE: I know these tricks! Undress, dear, we will dry all your clothes. And then – bam! I’m already wandering somewhere in the middle of the city, having wet men’s ski pants on!
The same. Ibid.
(The light flashes. A flash sparkles outside the window. A roaring explosion comes.)
SHE: Are we still alive..?
HE: Yes, you heard the explosion.
SHE: That is, “not ours”…
HE: This Russian missile hit someone else.
SHE: And where did that someone else live?!
HE: It looks like it happens somewhere behind Vyshgorod.
SHE: Is Kyiv so small that we hear explosions of the Russian missiles falling all the way somewhere in the suburbs of the city?!
HE: No. It is just the missiles are so powerful that their explosions are heard from afar.
SHE: And what are they called?
HE: Differently. But I imagine that each of them is “Satan.”
SHE: Some a diabolical name…?
HE: The Russians are aware that by killing Ukrainians they are doing the job of the devil.
SHE: Put a cross on you.
SHE: You’ve uttered bad words twice.
HE: Which of them?
SHE: …Satan and devil…
HE: Now you have to put a cross on you.
SHE: I am not a churchgoer.
HE: Russian rockets do not care.
SHE: Then I’ll put a cross on me.
(Both impose on them cross signs.)
HE: I understand you. You need to lower the pressure too.
HE: Okay, martini. There’s still one in the locker.
SHE: And coffee must be with sugar!
HE: I’ll look out.
SHE: What were you doing here when I came?!
HE: I wrote a play…
SHE: Are you a scribe? Are you no longer an anti-aircraft gunner? And you are already not a tank destroyer?!
HE: No, dear. I’m not a fighter. You entered…
SHE: Appeared. Ladies show up.
HE: Yes, yes, wonderful, amazingly appeared…
SHE: So what?
HE: I wrote another play all by myself then. Lonely.
SHE: And now?
HE: Oh! Now I am writing a play with you.
HE: Oh, sorry, about you. You finally showed up…
SHE: As a genius of pure beauty..?
HE: Absolutely. Can I lie down a little bit..?
SHE: What did you write?
HE: That was the play: “A UFO does not fall twice into the same place.”
SHE: Who is the author?
SHE: Who am I?
HE: Well, it depends…
SHE: From what?
HE: From whom? From the Author.
HE: This is a play by Volodymyr Serdiuk.
SHE: With the characters?
HE: Yes, there are several actors out there.
SHE: What characters?
HE: Well, if from the outside of the alien starship – then: Taxi Driver, Policeman, Beauty from the Bar…
SHE: It’s me.
SHE: It’s you.
HE: And inside the alien starship – there: Female alien…
SHE: It’s me.
HE: Male alien…
SHE: It’s you.
HE: Alien leader…
SHE: What kind of bullshit is that?! Where on the other planet do you find a leader? Cheerleader, maybe?
HE: A Tiger Cub…
SHE: Oh, the Tiger Cub is good.
HE: A Living iguana…
SHE: That is me again.
HE: Dead iguana with two bitten-off legs…
SHE: It cannot be!!!! (Looks at her bandaged hands.) WHERE am I?!!
(The next Russian missile explodes. The light goes out.)
A LOUD VOICE SOUNDS OUT OF NOWHERE: “The pressure is rising! Please dredge the hatches! Until the next solar system – the flight will last the next two hundred years. Good night!”
(A nice tune heard. A theme from the movie “A 2001 Space Odyssey.”)
© Volodymyr Serdiuk. Kyiv, Ukraine. February 2022.