Character Conversations #1: Hazel & Warren

A telephone conversation on New Year’s Eve between a 70-year-old woman in a retirement home and her mentally ill, closeted homosexual son. This is written (very vaguely) in the style of a screenplay, and it’s actually a part of a larger manuscript centering around the character of the son, Warren, most of which is written in standard prose. Warren’s dialogue is written in bold print in order to make reading the piece less confusing. —


“Warren, sweetie, is that you?”
“Oh hey Mom, you’re awake! Yes, it’s me! [laughs.]”
“Of course I’m awake,  Warren. Everybody’s awake. [laughs.] Most of us, anyway. A few of us pooped out early. How are you doing, sweetheart?”
“I’m doing… I’m doing… I’m doing okay, Mom, thanks for asking. I’m not doing a whole lot for New Year’s, but I’m feeling fine nonetheless.”
“I’m glad.”
“How are you doing? They treating you alright at that place? They better be, you know? 
“Gosh, Warren, it’s a retirement facility, not Guantanamo Bay.”
“Oh, I know, Mommy. You just hear things, you know? In the news, in the media.”
“Turn off the news, Warren.”
“I know, Mom. It’s like what you always used to say, they should give you the benefit of a disclaimer and call it ‘the bad news,’ because that was all there ever is.”
“I don’t remember saying that.”
“Well, you used to, Mom. Maybe not all the time, but a lot.”
“Well Warren, to answer your question, I’m actually doing great. Have I told you about Clarence? I don’t remember. Your memory doesn’t work so great when you’re seventy, but growing old sure beats the alternative.”
“Hmmm, no, no, I don’t think so. Who’s Clarence?”
“He’s the nicest man. He’s such a gentleman, he’s always tipping his hat and calling me ‘ma’am.’ I think hats on men should come back into fashion. They’re very appealing to me for some reason.”
“Do you think I should wear a hat, Mom?”
“Oh, absolutely, you’d look wonderful. Every time I see Clarence, he’s wearing an Irish cap his late wife gave him. He’s black; Warren, do I say black or do I say African-American? I’m just not sure anymore.”
“You can say either.”
Anyway, he’s very handsome. He does card tricks, and  he used to be a door-to-door briefcase salesman. He went to a lot of civil rights protests during the 1960’s, he said he almost got the chance to see Martin Luther King, Jr. speak; I wish I had gotten to do interesting things like that, what a life! He invited me to go swing dancing next week. Swing dancing! I’ve never done it before, but it sounds exciting, doesn’t it? We just need to get one of the nurses to drive us to the dance hall downtown. I’ve been reading up on it, but I think it’s something you just need to do, not read about, you know? It’s not like baking a cake, you don’t follow a recipe.”
“Mommy, I’ll drive you and Clarence to the dance hall. I’m absolutely dying to meet him.”
“Really? Oh, sweetheart, you don’t have to do that. Sweet, sweet boy. I’ve been telling Clarence a lot about you and Hannah. I think he might be getting kind of sick of it. He has a daughter, but they’re not in contact. She’s recently divorced, and I thought about trying to set you two up, but Clarence said they hadn’t talked in over a year, which I think is so sad. Her name is Joy, isn’t that a pretty name?”
“Oh, I know what you’ll say, that I’m interfering. But I never see you with women. I know you’re busy with your two jobs and your science stuff, but you must get terribly lonely. I know you’re very shy, but I think you need to find someone who makes you happy.”
“Mom, I love you.”
“I love you too, Warren, so much. You and your sister are the two best things that ever happened to me. Baby, you’re voice seems a little slurred, I don’t know if it’s just the telephone… honey, you haven’t been drinking, have you?”
“I had a few drinks. Mom, It’s New Years. I just want to tell you I’m happy for you, you sound like you’re having so much fun and…  I love you, and I want to tell you something else. I don’t think I’m ever going to be getting married and having kids. I’m sorry.”
“Are you alright, mashed potato? You sound absolutely miserable.”
“[sobs] Yeah, yeah, I’m alright.”
Warren, don’t cry, baby. you’re thirty-four years old. Give yourself a chance. People are getting hitched later on their lives these days, and I was way too young when I got married, not because I was in love, but because I got pregnant. And if you’re… happy without getting married, than don’t get married. Marriage isn’t a requirement, and it’s certainly not something that needs to be forced. I thank God every day for my kids, but my marriage to your father wasn’t so hot, you know that. Don’t be sad, and don’t think for one minute I’m ashamed of you, because you’re dead wrong.”
[Crying over the other end of the line]
“Oh, hon. Ssh, ssh. It’s New Years, you’re lonely, and you’ve been drinking, and things seem like, well, dog crap to you right now. Did you get the leather-bound King James Bible I sent you?”
“Yes, I did, Mom. Thank you.”
“Did you see the little card I put in there for you?”
“I think so.”
“Well, I told you not to lose hope and that the Lord God works in mysterious ways. That I knew from the moment you were very young and already so, so smart that things were going to work out for you.”
“Yes, I think I did read it. Thank you. Thank you so much.”
“Well, I know you’ve fallen off the path a little bit in recent years, but try to take the time to read it. It’s provided me with so much comfort over the years.”
“I will, mom. I’ll try to read some of it. Mom, you’re so good to me. I’m sorry I treated you like absolute dog shit for so long.” 
“You didn’t, ever. You were an absolute joy to me. Your father loved you too, in his own way. In his later years, when he was dying, he regretted the way he sometimes treated you.”
“Why didn’t he tell me that, then?”
“I don’t know. It just wasn’t his way.”
“What, honey?”
“Nothing. Never mind. I hope I didn’t ruin your New Years, and I love you so much, and I hope Clarence takes you swing dancing and you have lots of fun. I love you lots. [loud noise.] Fuck!”
“What is it?!”
“Nothing, Mom, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Some moron setting off fireworks. That one sounded like a goddamn rocket launcher.”
“Warren, watch your language.”
“Sorry, Mom. What I’m trying to say is… that I love you, and I’m happy for you, and I don’t deserve you, I never did, and neither did Dad.  I took you for granted, and I guess I can’t take that back, but basically thank you so, so much for everything you’ve done for me. I hope you’re living your life the way you always wanted to, because you deserve at least that. [laughs] You’re right. I’m drunk. I’m sappy and melancholy and drunk and I think I need to hang up this phone before I do any more damage. [choked sob.] I guess I’m just a sentimental fool. Well, I’m definitely a fool, at least. God, I love you, Mommy. I’m sorry. I love you. Dad was right. I was always a miserable excuse for a son.”
“Warren? Hello?”

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