The Towel by Mona R. Washington

The Towel by Mona R. Washington


Simon………………..30 years old, dark skinned Nigerian, Norah’s fiancé
Norah……………….28 years old, light skinned African-American, Simon’s fiancé
Mary Catherine….28 years old, brown skinned African-American, Norah’s friend  
31, brown skinned Nigerian, Simon’s friend


                        January 2016, MLK weekend. Early evening, the sun retiring
                        and the city preparing to rest. Norah’s loft. Philadelphia.  

                        NORAH’s half folded laundry is on the coffee table next to an
                        open bottle of red wine. NORAH moves around her living room--
                        packing, sipping wine, and cleaning. She wears a full face of
                        make-up, with pink lipstick. Skirt and tunic. Casual chic. Miles
                        Davis’ ‘So What?’ plays very softly in the background. MARY
                        CATHERINE steps out into a soft spotlight, stage left, and speaks
                        to the audience.

MARY CATHERINE:  I love her to pieces, but Norah has a tendency to embellish. I think it went down like this.

                        MARY CATHERINE leans against the wall and watches with the
                        audience. The spotlight fades to black. SIMON enters through the
                        front door with his key, and walks toward the couch. Norah sits
                        as she folds laundry.

NORAH:  You’re late. 

SIMON:  It took me an hour just to get through the Lincoln Tunnel. Let’s get a
move on. I thought we were going to get out of here tonight.

NORAH:  I forgot to turn on the dryer. I’m running a little late. 

SIMON:  OK. So what time are your parents expecting us?

NORAH:  Not before midnight tomorrow. I left a message.  

SIMON:  Good. We have some time. I’ve missed you baby.  

                        SIMON walks to NORAH and kisses her lightly. 

SIMON (CONT’D): I love that pink on you. 

                        SIMON leans toward NORAH and nuzzles her neck, kisses
                        her all over, then sits beside her. 

MARY CATHERINE:  Simon always likes that shade on her lips; it reminds him
of her va-jay-jay. They’ve only been apart two weeks, but just about anything
soft and even semi-pink reminds him of Norah’s va-jay-jay, though he’d
disagree if you ever asked him. That brother is whipped.

NORAH:  Simon, let’s grab some dinner. 

SIMON:  Let’s not.

NORAH:  We can order in while I finish packing.

SIMON:  What’s the point in being engaged if I don’t get any benefits? Next
thing I know you’ll start having headaches. 

NORAH:  Simon, I---

SIMON:  I’ve been thinking about you all day. Full stop. Mmm…..            

MARY CATHERINE (Faux English accent):  Horny bugger. 

                        NORAH gives in to his kisses. The music crescendos. NORAH and
                        SIMON prepare to do the Wild Thing, and feverishly disrobe one
                        another. The lights dim slowly to black. The music stops abruptly,
                        and screeches loudly like a needle swerving off a record.

                        Bright lights up. SIMON’s shirt is unbuttoned and his pants are
                        draped over the back of the couch. He straddles a disheveled,
                        skirt-less NORAH.

NORAH:  What’s wrong?

SIMON:  You know I don’t do that.

NORAH:  Oh Simon. 

SIMON:  You should have told me.

NORAH:  I started to, and--

SIMON:  And? 

                        SIMON puts on his pants, then sits on the end of the couch. 

NORAH:  And nothing. I wasn’t the one who changed the weekend. 

SIMON:  That’s what this is about?

NORAH:  Well it’s not about my period.  

                        NORAH begins to look for her clothes. Lights dim on NORAH and
                        SIMON as they move quietly in the background.

MARY CATHERINE:  Simon has a point. I’m not into sex then either. Don’t tell
my progressive friends, but blood…with my boyfriend? There are times when
I just like to cuddle.  Don’t look at me like that. I’m being honest. 

                        A spotlight shines on ADE as he steps out from stage right.

ADE:  You want applause because you’re honest?

MARY CATHERINE:  What are you doing here?

ADE:  Same as you.

MARY CATHERINE:  I doubt it.

ADE:  I can have my say. You really can’t stop me love, can you?

MARY CATHERINE:  I’m telling the story.            

ADE:  Then you should be accurate. Tell the truth.      

MARY CATHERINE:  I have been. You’re the Johnny-Come-Lately.

ADE:  I had second thoughts, but you called Simon ‘whipped’, and then this
situation with the towel. I felt compelled to say something.

MARY CATHERINE:  Thank you Ade.

ADE:  No need for thanks.  

MARY CATHERINE:  I was being facetious. 

ADE:  Don’t rationalize. Manners become you Mary Catherine. I was
beginning to think you were hopeless.

                        SIMON moves toward NORAH. She sits on the couch.

SIMON:  Let’s not argue. I was just surprised. 

NORAH:  You were angry. 

SIMON:  Norah really, I’ve been looking forward to this road-trip. 

NORAH:  So have I.

SIMON:  I’ve never been to New Orleans.  

NORAH:  I know. You’ll love it.

SIMON nuzzles her neck. He kisses her gently.

SIMON:  I bet I will.

                        SIMON reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small envelope. He
                        gives it to her as he settles on the couch. 

SIMON (CONT’D):  Baby, I brought you something.

NORAH:  You did. So, I have a chance to do a little shopping when I get home?
This is so sweet. Thank you.

SIMON:  I can be sweet you know.

NORAH:  This is such a nice surprise. You were thinking of me, weren’t you,
even with your schedule last week. How did you manage to find the time to
encourage a little shopping spree?

                        NORAH opens the envelope. Her face falls.

NORAH (CONT’D):  A gift certificate!

SIMON:  Yes.

NORAH:  ….from Whole Foods!

SIMON:  What were you expecting?

NORAH:  Oh this is fine. Really, it’s nice.

SIMON:  I thought it would help you with your budget.

NORAH:  It will. 

SIMON:  I don’t know what I was thinking. 

NORAH:  It’s fine. 

SIMON:  Fine.

                        The lights dim on NORAH and SIMON.

ADE:  You see, Simon’s not whipped. He loves her, but he can’t win. Norah
wants a fairy tale, not a budget. 

MARY CATHERINE:  You do have a point, a little point there. Tiny. A teeny tiny

ADE:  A gift certificate is a nice gesture. 

MARY CATHERINE:  I think she was expecting something a little more

ADE:  In addition to that two carat engagement ring? I think putting food on
the table is romantic.

MARY CATHERINE:  Norah isn’t hungry.

ADE:  Of course not. Simon’s being thoughtful. He knows she likes that store,
but it’s expensive. He’s practical. Should she expect jewelry and champagne

MARY CATHERINE:  I can’t speak for her there, but expectations count for a
lot in a relationship. ‘I got something for you baby’---I wouldn’t expect a
grocery gift certificate either.

ADE:  He told me to mind my own business when I asked him about her, but
he’s already complaining.  ‘She’s demanding’ and ‘she pouts’ when she
doesn’t get her way. Does he really think things are going to get better? I told
him before he proposed that Norah is high maintenance.  

MARY CATHERINE:  I wouldn’t use that description.

ADE:  What would you say?          

MARY CATHERINE:  I think she has high expectations, like most women.

ADE:  Your words sweetheart, not mine. But I’ll keep that in mind.


                        The lights fade out on MARY CATHERINE and ADE, as they
simultaneously rise on NORAH and SIMON.

SIMON:  I don’t understand you. We‘ve talked about your finances. I’m trying
to help you. And you were lying there, ready to-- 

NORAH:  Are you trying to make me feel dirty?

SIMON:  I didn’t say that.

NORAH:  You didn’t have to. You’re a master of silences, Simon.

SIMON:  ‘Master of silences’? I see this weekend is going to be filled with
drama, with your passive-aggressive nonsense. 

NORAH:  At least I’m passive-aggressive, and not aggressive-aggressive like
you. You make me-

                        The lights dim, and a spotlight focuses on MARY CATHERINE. 
                        SIMON and NORAH fight silently with body language in the

MARY CATHERINE:  Simon is fine, but that brother is too intense. The last
time I saw Simon, he was cocky as usual, which isn’t a bad thing in a Black
man in my book. He doesn’t like most of Norah’s friends, but I blame at least
part of that on his Nigerian mojo. They get here, put us down like other
immigrants do, and say we don’t do this and that right, when it’s their
relatives who probably gave us away to begin with.  Questioning us. Offering
advice. All the while, whenever he can, he’s chasing after redbones with long
hair–-extensions welcomed, like most of the African guys. 

                        ADE stubs out a cigarette as the light comes up on him. He moves
                        toward MARY CATHERINE.


ADE:  You’re so American. ’You smoke? Oh my God!’ No--I have peculiar eating
habits. What does this look like? Of course I smoke.

MARY CATHERINE:  Wow. So you can smoke, and defend yourself and your
buddies at the same time?

ADE:  From what? I got here just in time. Mary Catherine, what does anything
you just said have to do with Simon and Norah’s relationship?  His ‘Nigerian
mojo’? What’s that, your catchall phrase for whatever it is you don’t like about
Nigerian men?  You seem more caught up in what Simon was wearing months
ago, than what he’s doing now.  

MARY CATHERINE:  You missed my point.

ADE:  And you’re a fine one to talk about appearances. I’ve known you long
enough to know that you think your outfit is some sort of Bohemian chic,
when it looks --eccentric at best. If I’m going to date someone, then I prefer
her well dressed, and ladylike.  

MARY CATHERINE:  You’re not dating me.    

ADE:  Not yet. I can do without the lace-and-combat boots look. 

MARY CATHERINE:  Spare me. And I don’t need a fashion critique from you. 
And you? You look like Silicon Valley meets Abuja, and they fight.

ADE:  Darling, do you have something else in mind?

MARY CATHERINE:  You’re always so cock sure. 

ADE:  And you love it. 

MARY CATHERINE:  I’ll bet you don’t even have a plain pair of jeans.        

ADE:  You’re wrong.  But I do find jeans overrated. 

                        MARY CATHERINE shakes her head.

ADE (CONT’D):  I work for myself. I dress for me. And by the way Mary
Catherine, why can’t we have our choice of women? 

MARY CATHERINE:  You and Simon?

ADE:  Black men. White men get to do whatever they want.  Why’re you
giving ‘the brothers’ as you say, a hard time? Too much competition?

MARY CATHERINE:  Hardly. And why do you want to do what white men do?

ADE:  Why not? And as for dating between other folks, what does that have to
do with you?

MARY CATHERINE:  You seem more interested in putting me down than
taking up for Simon.

ADE:  I don’t need to take up for him. I’m watching his back. 

MARY CATHERINE:  You do that Ade.

ADE:  Admit it, you’d rather spread gossip and reinforce stereotypes than
actually talk to us.   

MARY CATHERINE (to the audience):   Anyway, it doesn’t matter what Simon
says, or Ade. I know what they think. Simon’s stares always put me in the
‘flaky African-American-who-blew-her business school degree category.’     

ADE:  How about simply ‘flaky American’?

MARY CATHERINE:  There’s nothing simple about you Ade, even the way you
say ‘American.’

ADE:  My dear, what are you going on about?

MARY CATHERINE:  I was about to say---

ADE:  Continue, continue--

MARY CATHERINE:  I was going to say…. that I may be a bit ‘flaky’, but at least
I didn’t get through B school using bank my father, Minister of Fill-in-the-
Blank, stole and tucked away in England. Or that my Mom got screwing some
Minister who did that. 

ADE:  You shouldn’t talk about peoples’ mothers.

MARY CATHERINE:  Maybe not. But some of you act so above us, when you’re
only three generations removed from the bush, just like we are from the
plantation. My friend Femi told me you can buy a chief’s title in Lagos now.                 

ADE:  Femi is clueless. Simon was sent abroad to school, through his father’s
honest efforts. Surgeons get paid well, even in Nigeria. But you wouldn’t
know about that. And you don’t want to know about that, do you? Don’t
believe the hype. Of course, you think all Nigerians are crooks.  

MARY CATHERINE:  That’s not true. But the only people who send me those
‘let me use your bank account’ fake emails are Nigerian. Same thing with the
pure bred puppies.

ADE:  And the people who reply are overwhelmingly Americans. Do they have
guns to their greedy heads? It’s like with that silly corruption index. It states
which countries take bribes, but is there an equal emphasis on the country or
companies paying them? 

MARY CATHERINE:  It’s different when someone is--

ADE:  My father is a businessman, self-made, and my mother teaches at
university. People like you have a hard time conceiving of Nigerians like us.

MARY CATHERINE:  Nigerian? Ade you’re more like the Brits than you know. 

ADE:  I suppose you get to define me, and tell me what my nationality is? OK
Mary Catherine. Nigerians are what?

MARY CATHERINE:  You’re like the Brits. I’m not into that essentialistic crap.
The King of England isn’t better than anyone else, and neither is the King of
Swaziland or some chief in Yorubaland. Blood is blood is blood. 

ADE:  I’m not an essentialist, for the record. But, we finally agree on
something: you are American, sizing up the entire world and race
relations in a few sentences, like a sound-bite.  My dear, you are very

MARY CATHERINE:  I guess I am. 

ADE:  ‘The world in three minutes or less.’ Simon tolerates that nonsense better
than I.

MARY CATHERINE:  Simon can be gracious, unlike some of the uncouth,
competitive assholes…. 

                        MARY CATHERINE turns to the audience, and her back on ADE.

MARY CATHERINE (CONT’D):  ---I tolerated for two years in that
Cambridge cold. I thought I was getting away from them in New York, but
too many of them like the arts. They keep popping up everywhere.  Like

ADE:  Be gentle when you talk about me. I am the Best Man you know.

MARY CATHERINE:  You’re not.

ADE:  Oh, I am.

                        MARY CATHERINE looks pointedly at ADE. The lights
                        immediately black out on them. 

                        Lights very gradually, softly come up on SIMON and CATHERINE.
                        SIMON reaches for the red wine on the coffee table, and the
                        bottle tips over onto some laundry, and the black rug. He grabs
                        NORAH’s towel on the coffee table and begins to blot the rug.

SIMON: Damn. I’m sorry.

                        NORAH rises, and wiggles into her skirt.

NORAH:  About what?

                        NORAH fixes her hair. The lights lower, so that we partially see
                        NORAH and SIMON dress. 

                        The lights come back up and shine brightly on ADE and MARY
                        CATHERINE.  ADE stands beside her, extremely close. 

ADE:  You see that? Simon apologizes and Norah wants to keep fighting. And
about what? He said he was sorry, but that’s not enough for her. She wants to
nit-pick. I’m glad I told Simon to wait, even if he didn’t listen to me. Simon
loves her, even with that smart mouth. I hope she doesn’t lose her looks.

MARY CATHERINE:  She won’t. Norah doesn’t skimp on her facials or the
hairdresser. Her 401K might be small, but she always looks put together.
She’s like Barbra Streisand with the nail thing. 

ADE: Who?

MARY CATHERINE:  Barbra Streisand. You know. 

                        MARY CATHERINE begins to sing, badly.

MARY CATHERINE (CONT’D):  ‘Memories--light the corners of my mind….’

                        ADE shrugs non-recognition.

MARY CATHERINE (CONT’D):  ‘People--people who need people. Are the luckiest--

                        ADE holds up his hand, shaking his head. 

ADE:  Is there a point to your screeching?

MARY CATHERINE:  Norah doesn’t play, and your friend Simon likes that
prissy veneer, including nice nails. Like Barbra’s. He just didn’t count on ‘the

ADE: Who does? No man wants to deal with that.  

                        The lights come back up on NORAH and SIMON. MARY
                        CATHERINE and ADE watch.

SIMON:  How can you drink that swill? 

MARY CATHERINE (to ADE):  After Norah gets her hair together, she’ll have a
comeback like--

NORAH:  It’s the same wine we had last week at your place.

SIMON:  I doubt that. 

NORAH:  Aren’t you going to wet a sponge and clean that up?

SIMON:  It’s black. It’ll be fine. 

NORAH:  That’s rich coming from you.

ADE (to MARY CATHERINE):  Norah is addicted to confrontation.

SIMON:  What?

NORAH:  You heard me. Black is fine with you, huh? But you won’t set-up
Mary Catherine with your friend.

                        SIMON stops blotting the rug and tosses the towel onto the
                        coffee table.

SIMON:  I did already. Don’t you remember I set her up with Kofi last year
around the holidays?  It didn’t work out.

NORAH:  Kofi is married. 

ADE: (to MARY CATHERINE):  Norah’s like a manic cruise director, always
trying to match up everyone.  

MARY CATHERINE:  We all have different skills. For example, yours is being

ADE: I didn’t know you dated Kofi.

MARY CATHERINE (to ADE):  There’s a lot you don’t know about me. Besides,
I never wanted a blind date. That was Norah’s idea.

                        ADE makes an exaggerated ‘hands-off’ gesture.

MARY CATHERINE (CONT’D): (to the audience) And she knows Simon and his
boys only like light, bright, and almost White women. 

ADE: Not true. But I’m starting to think you have some issues Mary Catherine,
and I don’t know why. You’re OK.


ADE: I date across the board, and even if I didn’t, what’s wrong with my
dating light skinned women?

SIMON: I’m a businessman, not a matchmaker. Don’t start that tonight. You’re
being silly. 

NORAH: Stop projecting because you’re not getting your way.           

SIMON: Maybe it’s cultural.

NORAH: That’s what you said the first time I asked you to go down on me.
You got over it. 

                        ADE and MARY CATHERINE look at one another, then turn back
                        to NORAH and SIMON.

SIMON:  Here you go with every bloody detail! 

NORAH:  Every ‘bloody’ detail, Simon?

SIMON:  You know exactly what I’m saying. That was different.                

NORAH:  How? And, what did you mean by ‘cultural’? I make you fufu. That’s
‘cultural’, very culturally specific in fact. You made suggestions. I made
adjustments, and now you like my fufu. At least you say you do. 

ADE:  I can’t see Norah making fufu. Not good fufu that is--

                        MARY CATHERINE puts her fingers to her lips in a sshhh gesture.

SIMON:  Fufu isn’t the same thing as this.  Every Nigerian man--

NORAH:  So now you’re going to conflate your ‘cultural’ tastes with every
other Nigerian man’s tastes? 

SIMON:  What does that mean?

NORAH:  ‘Conflate’ means---             

SIMON: I know what ‘conflate’ means. What about ‘other Nigerian men’?

NORAH:  That’s what you do. You make yourself the Nigerian standard when
you want to hide behind culture, whatever it is you want to do---or not do. 

SIMON:  That’s not true.

NORAH:  So sex during my period is ‘culturally taboo’ for you---but going
down on me isn’t? Are you telling me that all Nigerian men like to give oral? 

                        Spotlight on ADE.

ADE:  Norah is going to be his life partner, right? The mother of his children,
his parents’ new daughter…with that nasty mouth on her?  I know you think
I’m sexist, but isn’t there a more respectful way to talk to the man she
supposedly loves so much?  

MARY CATHERINE:  I’m sure you have your very own deportment manual.

ADE:  When I first came here for university, I remember having conversations
with some of the Black American guys. They kept saying that Black women in
America can be hard. I laughed. I thought they were exaggerating at first, but
now, I know what they mean. 

MARY CATHERINE:  Save the insults.

ADE:  You can be honest, but I can’t? My friends appreciate an educated
woman, even someone forthright, but Norah’s something else. No discretion.
She just throws everything out there, so explicit, and graphic. She’s so--           

                        Spotlight shifts to MARY CATHERINE.

MARY CATHERINE:  Heartbreakingly direct?

                        Spotlights on ADE and MARY CATHERINE, slowly fade to
                        black. Lights up on SIMON and NORAH.    

SIMON:  Culture, culture. There’s no real culture in this country.

NORAH:  Excuse me?

SIMON:   What has the United States given the world? It’s like a five-ton baby
every other country has to pacify.                

NORAH:  It’s treating you well. 

SIMON:  I’m here for the job.

NORAH:   And the lifestyle--

SIMON:  And the bullshit these damn white people dish out. That’s American

                        As NORAH moves toward him slightly, SIMON retreats.

NORAH:  You know I wasn’t talking about that. 

SIMON:  I don’t know anything anymore Norah. I come here, and you start
attacking me. Sometimes I think it’s difficult for you to be civil. 

NORAH:  I disagreed with you. You--

SIMON:  I’m sure your arguing is ‘very culturally specific.’ And speaking of
culture, we’ve been dating for over a year, and engaged a month. How is it
that I’m just now meeting your parents? 

NORAH:  I’m not going to introduce someone who’d yell in my parents’ house.
That would be disrespectful. 

SIMON:  What are you going on about? You’re saying I’m disrespectful
because I sometimes raise my voice, and that’s what’s been keeping me from
meeting your parents?

NORAH:  You have a temper.

SIMON:  Doesn’t everyone?

NORAH:  Not like yours.

SIMON:  Look Norah, I’m getting tired of this nonsense.                

NORAH:  You don’t have sex when I’m menstruating. Right, maybe that’s
fucking cultural. You remind me of Dele.                

SIMON:  ‘Dele’. Very familiar. If Ayodele’s your standard, maybe you should
enlighten me. You sound like you know him very well, like you’ve been doing
a personal survey on Nigerian men and their sexual hab--

                        NORAH slaps SIMON across the face.

MARY CATHERINE:  Ow. He had something coming, but not a slap. She must
be really angry. I told her, fine as hell, Black or not, Simon is more Nigerian
than anything else. 

ADE:  What does that mean? Is she going to slap him every time he speaks his

MARY CATHERINE:  I don’t care where Simon went to college. She needs to
see him around his family, preferably in Nigeria. I keep telling her that, and
that goes for all guys. After six months, I went to see Lars around his people
in Sweden. Who knew he played piano? That’s another story. Anyway, after
the first time I said that about Simon and Nigeria, Norah started sniffling and
crying, saying I didn’t understand. Drama queen. Major waterworks. Like now…

NORAH:  You don’t have sex when I’m menstruating. Right, maybe that’s
fucking cultural. You remind me of Dele.                

SIMON:  ‘Dele’. Very familiar. If Ayodele’s your standard, maybe you should
enlighten me. You sound like you know him very well, like you’ve been doing
a personal survey on Nigerian men and their sexual hab--

                        NORAH slaps SIMON across the face.

MARY CATHERINE:  Ow. He had something coming, but not a slap. She must
be really angry. I told her, fine as hell, Black or not, Simon is more Nigerian
than anything else. 

ADE:  What does that mean? Is she going to slap him every time he speaks his

MARY CATHERINE:  I don’t care where Simon went to college. She needs to
see him around his family, preferably in Nigeria. I keep telling her that, and
that goes for all guys. After six months, I went to see Lars around his people
in Sweden. Who knew he played piano? That’s another story. Anyway, after
the first time I said that about Simon and Nigeria, Norah started sniffling and
crying, saying I didn’t understand. Drama queen. Major waterworks. Like now…

                        Lights are dimmed, so the audience can see the outline of the
                        characters’ bodies, but not necessarily their faces. All characters
                        speak in order in the section below. SIMON and NORAH address

                        one another and the audience, and ADE and MARY CATHERINE
                        address one another and the audience.

ADE: What the hell do you expect?

NORAH: Not one fucking thing.

SIMON: Must you use the ‘F’ word? I hate it when you curse.

NORAH: I hate it when you act like a Neanderthal.

MARY CATHERINE: I expected sympathy. Maybe empathy. Would it be that
hard for him to bend?

SIMON: What do you want from me? Am I supposed to ‘act like’ some bloody
American? I’m not.

ADE: There’s bending, and there’s breaking. He has backbone. He’s Nigerian.

NORAH: You know I’m not talking about nationality.

MARY CATHERINE: Everything about their differences isn’t nationality.  

SIMON: I’ve lost track of what you were saying. 

NORAH: What if we used a towel?

SIMON: It’s not going to happen. Didn’t happen in October. Won’t happen
tonight, and not ever with---

NORAH: With……….

MARY CATHERINE: It’s a situation with--

SIMON: Some fucking towel.

ADE: You expect a man to ‘bend’ as you say, because of a towel? Sweetheart,
that hardly solves the problem. 

NORAH: It’s a harmless towel, Simon. 

SIMON: How many times do I have to say I don’t do that? You keep on and on.
You’re the one with the temper.

NORAH: A towel, like you use everyday after you shower. 

SIMON: And you keep on pushing and pushing. I don’t do that. Full-stop.        

NORAH: ‘That.’ You can’t even say it.    

                        NORAH moves to touch him. SIMON pulls away.

NORAH (CONT’D): So now my hands are dirty too? You have nerve. The beach
in Seychelles with sand up our cracks was fine, but a little blood and you cringe. You
are a piece of work.     

SIMON: Don’t be crass.

NORAH: You liked crass last month when I had you in my mouth. You even asked
me to be crass, or does your memory fade in the vicinity of a menstruating wom-

SIMON: Knock it off. I mean it. I’m tired of your childishness.

NORAH: You’re always picking and choosing which things you want to do,
especially if it takes any kind of emotional effort. 

SIMON: You say the silliest things. Do you know that? Who in their right mind
doesn’t pick and choose what things they want to do, Norah? You act like we’re
puppets. Everyone picks and chooses, don’t they? You certainly don’t have a
problem with that. You change your mind three times a week, like with your ring.

NORAH: What about my ring? You picked it out.

SIMON: I did indeed. Twice.

NORAH: You didn’t like the sapphire.

SIMON: I’m supposed to adjust everything, because you changed your mind.
Again. If I don’t, then you freeze me out. You want me to beg--

NORAH: I’ve never asked you to beg for anything.

SIMON: No, you just roll over and turn your back on me.

NORAH:  If anyone is begging, that’d be me. You didn’t even give me a chance
to tell you I had my period. ‘Hello, haven’t seen you in weeks, but so what.
Let’s hit it, Norah. Right now.’

SIMON: And you would have been happy to lie right there, and stain your
couch with your--

                        NORAH picks up the towel soaked in red wine and throws it
                        at him. He ducks.


ADE:  She’s violent.

SIMON:  Don’t be juvenile.

NORAH:  Relax. That’s only wine on the towel.

SIMON:  Don’t take that tone with me. Are you mad?

NORAH:  So now I’m untouchable and insane.

SIMON:  Please. You sound like your ditzy friend Mary Catherine. You’ve both
been ruined by those white men you’ve dated, all that perversion. 

                        ADE and MARY CATHERINE move to the side of the stage. The
                        light fades on NORAH and SIMON.

MARY CATHERINE:  So obsessed with white men and my sex life. Neither is
any of Simon’s business.  People who’re into other folks’ sex lives scare me.
That crap isn’t germane. Hell, it’s not LaToya, Tito, or Randy either. 

ADE:  Someone’s randy?

MARY CATHERINE:  Not that ‘randy’. I mean Randy, like Marlon? Michael?
Forget it.

ADE:  I’ll try.

MARY CATHERINE:  You do realize Norah dragged me here with her Lifetime
Movie dramatic account of her love life. I know Simon didn’t like seeing me
with Lars. Norah told me as much. But why should he care? What’s up with

ADE:  I have no idea. I don’t even know who Lars is.

MARY CATHERINE:  He’s the guy I date. Sometimes.

ADE:  Lucky guy.

                        MARY CATHERINE does a double take. Beat. Beat.

ADE (CONT’D):  Did you ask him?

MARY CATHERINE: Did I ask Lars? 

ADE:  Did you ask Simon?  Did you ask him why he cared so much about your
love life?

MARY CATHERINE:  That’s not my place. Norah agreed with me, but she’d
never say that to Simon. She’s going to register for gifts next week. Maid-of-
honor or not, I already told her I’m not going with her to pick out casserole

                        NORAH snatches the towel from the floor as she stalks past
                        SIMON on her way to a club chair. She sits.

NORAH:  Yes, I date across the board.  What the hell does that have to do with
white men? Or Mary Catherine for that matter? 

SIMON:  We don’t have any privacy Norah. I keep telling you that, and you
insist on telling her everything.

NORAH:  I don’t, but she is my best friend.

SIMON:  She’s a flake.

MARY CATHERINE (to audience):  Told you.

NORAH:  She’s an artist.  

SIMON:  Then we’re all artists. She doodles. She draws comic books.           

MARY CATHERINE:  Actually, they’re graphic novels.

ADE:  I didn’t know you were into graphic novels? Do you like anime?

MARY CATHERINE:  Absolutely. You?

ADE:  Love it. There’s a conference in Japan at the end of the year. If you’re a
nice girl, I might take you.

MARY CATHERINE:  Before you ask me?

                        John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” begins to play very softly.

ADE:  I think you’d like Kyoto. It’s really beautiful. Don’t stare like that. It’s
unbecoming. You think because I’m some--what did you call me--oh a ‘geek’,
you think I’m too narrow to appreciate Japanese aesthetics?            

MARY CATHERINE:  I didn’t know you were interested in anime, or Japan.

ADE:  There are a lot of things you don’t know about me.

MARY CATHERINE:  So you don’t think I’m a flake?

ADE:  Not at all. I think you’re lovely.

                        “My Favorite Things” blares, then quickly fades away.

NORAH:  Just because Mary Catherine’s not like your Afropolitan, ex-pat
social climbing friends you get nasty. 

SIMON:  My friends aren’t social climbers.

NORAH:  Ade is. If I hear one more time about how successful his family is.
How his father and uncle started their business in some little village and now,
now they’re titans of industry. I’ll…….

SIMON:  You’ll what Norah? What will you do?

NORAH:  Don’t worry Simon. I’ll mind my own business, unlike you. You’re in
charge of everyone else’s sex life? Save it. You’re here in the states now, not in
some little—

SIMON:  ‘Some little’…again? ‘Some little’ what Norah? C’mon. Out with it. You
think it more than you know. I can smell it. I can feel it, like you’re doing me a

NORAH:  That’s your own insecurity you’re feeling.

SIMON:  I’ve invited you to Lagos twice, and you made excuses both times. But
you moved heaven and earth to get to Seychelles and Barcelona. You didn’t
hesitate for a minute. I’m from some ‘poor little African village’ with flies buzzing
around kids’ mouths, aren’t I? That’s all you see on the news here. No wonder
Americans are so ignorant.

NORAH:  You think I’m ignorant?

SIMON:  You’re smug Norah. You can tell your parents that I’m educated, and
thank God for that, right? Tell them we have indoor toilets, and nice restaurants.
Fancy cars. 

NORAH:  But no reliable electricity, unless you have your own generator.
Isn’t that what you were complaining about last week? Your cousin’s
generator broke and his kid had an asthma attack and almost died because
he couldn’t charge his nebulizer? His machine needed a simple charge. 

SIMON:  I never should have told you that. It would obviously be too much for
you to inquire about my cousin’s health instead of harping on the
government’s failures.             

NORAH:  Oh please. Stop romanticizing. Your country isn’t poor, but it doesn’t
even provide electricity 24/7 to its citizens. 

SIMON:  No it doesn’t Norah. And you wouldn’t know anything about that
unless I told you. Pick up a newspaper once in awhile. 

NORAH:  I can’t say anything critical about Nigeria, but you and your friends tear
it down whenever you want. 

SIMON:  We know what we’re talking about.

NORAH:  You were in Lagos last year for what, two whole weeks? And, by the
way, Seychelles and Barcelona were both your picks.             

SIMON:  Maybe so. I knew you could tell your parents, whom I’ve never met,
about how your Nigerian fiancée has all of your requisite taste, and social graces.
They won’t have to worry that I’m dragging you to some ‘little village’ in the
wilds of Africa.

                        ADE and MARY CATHERINE shake their heads as they stare at
                        SIMON and NORAH.

MARY CATHERINE:  Simon doesn’t know the half of it, yet. Her folks are big
time bourgie. 

ADE:  And are yours?

MARY CATHERINE:  Not like hers. His money can’t buy him class in New
Orleans, not with those Negroes.    

                        NORAH lowers her head.            

NORAH:  Don’t put words in my mouth.

SIMON:  You talk so much there’s no room. You just can’t stop, can you Norah?
You have no idea how you sound. My God.

                        NORAH and SIMON sit silently, as Johnny Hartman begins to sing
                        John Coltrane’s “My One and Only Love”. Beat. Beat. The music

MARY CATHERINE:  They’re always avoiding the cliff.  Whenever Norah tells
me about their fights, no their ‘rows’, as Simon calls them, I feel like they’re
channeling Albee. Martha and George have nothing on those two. 

ADE:  Are Martha and George like Barbra Streisand?

                        MARY CATHERINE smiles broadly.

MARY CATHERINE:  You do know who Barbra Streisand is.

ADE:  I wanted to hear you sing, at first. But darling, I really don’t know who
Martha and George are.

MARY CATHERINE:  Do you like theatre?

ADE:  I don’t not like theatre. Would you be there watching a show with me?

                        ADE and MARY CATHERINE look over at NORAH and SIMON.

MARY CATHERINE:  I give them three years, five with kids.

                        NORAH picks up a menu from the far side of the coffee table.

ADE:  Mary Catherine you’re too pessimistic, for an American.

NORAH:  You still want to--- 

                        SIMON shrugs and paces.

NORAH (CONT’D):  So you don’t. That’s it. Just like that. You’re ready to--

SIMON:  Sure. I’m hungry. I worked through lunch…….What did you think I

NORAH:  Do you feel like Thai?

SIMON:  Take-out?       

NORAH:  They deliver.

SIMON:  Good. I’m going to freshen up.

                        Miles Davis’ “Someday My Prince Will Come” begins to play softly
                        in the background. SIMON lightly touches NORAH’s shoulder as
                        he exits. NORAH peruses a delivery menu.

MARY CATHERINE:  Norah bent my ear for three hours last night, with every
friggin’ wedding detail. We’re picking out bridesmaid dresses. No detail will be
left to chance. We didn’t even have time to argue about strapless dresses,
which I’m for by the way. They make me, my boobs, look bigger. 

ADE:  Then I’m all for strapless dresses too.

MARY CATHERINE:  Norah thinks she’s the only one who’s ever dated a West
African guy. She says Nigerians are in a class by themselves--  

ADE:  --and so we are.

MARY CATHERINE:  I’ll be here for her regardless. 

ADE:  How about a bite? 

MARY CATHERINE:  I’m not kinky Ade.

ADE:  A bite to eat, Miss America.          

                        Together, ADE and MARY CATHERINE begin to exit. MARY
                        CATHERINE pauses, then turns back to the audience.  

MARY CATHERINE:   And maybe Norah’s right, but that’s my story, and I’m
sticking to it. 

                        As ADE and MARY CATHERINE exit, the lights slowly dim on
                        Norah looking at the delivery menu as she prepares to dial. 




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Contributor Notes

Mona R. Washington is a graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and Harvard Law School. She is a proud member of Voices of Our Nations Arts (VONA). Her plays have been performed and read in New York, Philadelphia, Rome, and Paris. She's been awarded fellowships at The Dora Maar House (Provence, France), The Ucross Foundation, and The Jack Kerouac House, amongst others. She blogs micro-plays for the Huffington Post and other publications. Queries regarding performance rights for "The Towel" may be directed to"