Pleasure & Pain

Chantal Bilodeau

A small college town.

PEGGY ................ Mid-twenties to early thirties. Intense.
RUTH ................. Six or eight years older than Peggy. Small town girl.
ROB ..................... Peggy's boyfriend. Slightly older than her. Sweet.
THE DEAN ............. Mid to late forties. Mid-life crisis.
THE MAN .............. A dangerously sexy and playful man.

A woman. She's holding some papers in her hands.

PEGGY: A hot summer day.
Torture is what I have in mind.

(A man. In a cage.)

PEGGY (CONT'D): (To The MAN.) Take off your shirt. Please.

(A beat.)

PEGGY (CONT'D): OK, that wasn't very‪...Let me try again.
(With more confidence.)
Take off your shirt.

(He removes his shirt.)

He is glistening with sweat, attentive, docile.
(To The MAN.)

(He kneels.)

I tie his hands behind his back?

(He crosses his hands behind his back.)

PEGGY (CONT'D): He's mine.

(She delights in that concept.)

PEGGY (CONT'D): (To The MAN.) Now...
(To the audience.)
Anticipation written on his face.
Desire in his eyes.
(To The MAN.)
Tell me how you want to touch me.
(To the audience.)
A brief silence.
A suspension in time, like that moment before dawn where Nature seems to gather its strength for the impossible task of giving the world another day.
Then a sound.

(He whispers.)

PEGGY (CONT'D): Then another sound.
With my hand, I follow the road he traces for me.
Over my lips.
Down my neck.
Around my breasts.
Guided by his words, two fingers travel south and disappear into a jungle of tangled hair.
(To The MAN.)
Like this?

(He moans.)

PEGGY (CONT'D): Yes, like that.
Back and forth.
Like the swelling of the ocean.
A look at his own territory‪—thirty-nine degrees North, eighty-two degrees West‪—reveals some volcanic activity but there will be no eruption until I say so.
Under his eyes I give to myself what he is not allowed to give me.
And I watch him be both the driving force and the excluded element of my pleasure.

THE MAN: Let me touch you.

(The mood is broken.)

PEGGY: Who said you could talk?

THE MAN: If I don't talk, we'll never get there.

PEGGY: That's not the point. The point is how we get there.

THE MAN: Maybe but this is turning into a fairy tale.


THE MAN: I don't do fairy tales. Let me touch you.

PEGGY: (To the audience.) He asks again.
He begs.
Begs and begs and begs.
To touch me.

(She approaches the cage.)

PEGGY (CONT'D): (To The MAN.) A single point of contact.
No more.
(To the audience.)
In one sweeping motion, all my internal rivers converge to the anticipated point of impact.
His lips close around the engorged delta.
Slowly, dutifully, like a bee extracting pollen from a flower, he sucks all the desire out of my body to later transform it into honey.

(Just as he's about to touch her, she moves away.)

PEGGY (CONT'D): (To The MAN.) No.
(To the audience.)
Like a slap in the face.
(To The MAN.)
Are we far enough from fairy tales?

(A beat.)

THE MAN: Bitch.

PEGGY: (To the audience.) Oh my God.
(To The MAN.)
Say it again.

THE MAN: Bitch.

PEGGY: (To the audience.) The word turns to liquid and drips along my legs.
I close my eyes, ready to surrender to the most rapturous feeling‪—

THE DEAN (O.S.): Peggy?

(She freezes for a moment, then throws herself at the cage and rips off the MAN's clothes.)

PEGGY: The urgency increases, reality collapses. I gather all my strength and leap into the void, willing to die for a piece of infinity, for that split second where souls brush against one another in the most mysterious and exquisite of encounters‪—

THE DEAN (O.S.): Peggy?

(The DEAN enters. Lights out on the cage.)


THE DEAN: Did you make the copies for the meeting?

PEGGY: Uh, yes.

(She gathers the papers she was holding at the beginning of the scene and hands them to him.)

THE DEAN: Are you OK?

PEGGY: Yeah.

THE DEAN: You look a little flushed.

PEGGY: I'm fine.

THE DEAN: Are you sure?

PEGGY: Yeah. Thanks.

THE DEAN: You're not getting sick I hope?

PEGGY: No. I'm never sick.

THE DEAN: You're really red.

PEGGY: It must be the moo shu. It was too spicy. I'm not used to spicy food.

(The DEAN keeps staring at her.)

PEGGY (CONT'D): Well uh...I better get back to work.

At home. ROB assembles invitations. PEGGY enters.

ROB: So?

PEGGY: It went well.

ROB: You like it?

PEGGY: I love it! But I don't think they're going to keep me. I don't even know why the Dean hired me. Maybe Ruth didn't tell him I never finished my undergrad.

ROB: You don't need a fancy degree to be a good secretary.

PEGGY: An administrative assistant.

ROB: I'm sorry. An administrative assistant.

PEGGY: It wouldn't hurt. I mean‪—this is the College of Fine Arts. I'm supposed to know about opera and post-modernism and—

ROB: Peggy, he hired you. If he hired you, it's because he thinks you're qualified. Plus, look at me. I didn't go to college but I'm still the manager of my store.

PEGGY: That's true.

ROB: Come on. Help me with the invitations.

(She does.)

PEGGY: But what if I mess up?

ROB: Mess up how?

PEGGY: I don't know, like‪...Mess up.

ROB: Sweetie, you're the most reasonable and together person I know. You couldn't mess up even if you wanted to.

PEGGY: You don't know that.

ROB: Yes, I do.

PEGGY: No, you don't.

ROB: When is the last time you drank too much? Or spent too much money? You have way too much control to allow yourself to mess up.

PEGGY: That doesn't mean I couldn't. I'm capable of being something other than reasonable, you know.

ROB: It's a compliment.

PEGGY: Picasso wasn't reasonable. Mozart wasn't reasonable. What kind of person am I if I'm nothing but reasonable?

ROB: You're someone people can count on. And that's why I like being with you.

PEGGY: Don't change the subject.

ROB: I'm not. I'm being sincere.

PEGGY: You're just trying to make me feel good.

ROB: Is it working?

PEGGY: No. And that's not how it goes. The response card goes inside the invitation under the translucent paper.

ROB: It's not that big a deal.

PEGGY: Yes, it is. If we're going to get married, we should do it right.

(A beat.)

ROB: Come here.

PEGGY: What.

ROB: Isn't today a nice day? You have the job you've always wanted, you just finished your first day and everything went well, no?

PEGGY: Yeah.

ROB: Then why don't we celebrate instead of arguing?

PEGGY: I'm not arguing. I just‪—

ROB: There's a bottle of sparkling wine in the fridge. Would you like a glass?

PEGGY: You got sparkling wine? For me?

ROB: Not for you. For the new Administrative Assistant of the College of Fine Arts.

PEGGY: Rob, you're so sweet...

ROB: I know.

(She kisses him.)

And I'm sure you're going to do just fine. Even without a degree.

PEGGY: If I don't mess up.

ROB: You won't mess up.

PEGGY: I hope so.

A moment in the future.

ROB: When I‪...
At first, it was like the information was there but it wasn't registering in my brain.
And then suddenly, it hit me.
Right here, bang.
Like a punch in the stomach.
Like a gigantic explosion and I wondered if my organs were still there because it felt like my feelings had swallowed them.

We were together for four years.
Can you imagine?
Four years.
We were supposed to get married.
The invitations were sent and everything.
My brother is in a band.
He was going to do the music.

I still don't understand.
It's stupid, I tell myself it's like that, move on, but I can't, it's eating me up inside.
What's the point of hurting yourself like that?
What's the point?
It can't be just for fun.
Peggy is‪...she's an intelligent woman.
A woman who feels things.
You know what I mean?
She feels things.
With a lot of intensity.
And it's important to feel things.
As important as being able to cook an egg or balance a budget.
It's a great quality.

So obviously, it's me.
It's me who didn't understand.
It's me who doesn't understand.
But what is it that I don't understand?
Do you know?
Because if someone knows, you have to tell me.
What don't I understand?

At the office.

RUTH: Do you understand?

PEGGY: I type the number in the right field, then I click next.

RUTH: No hyphen, no comma.


RUTH: Otherwise when you do a search, it won't show up.


RUTH: I'll do a few to show you. Ina Cassano.

PEGGY: 738-996.

RUTH: You see?

PEGGY: Yeah.

RUTH: Michael Chang.

PEGGY: 545-110. Hey Ruth.

RUTH: Yeah?

PEGGY: Do you ever wish you could be unreasonable?

RUTH: Unreasonable how?

PEGGY: Just unreasonable.

RUTH: What, like not showing up for work?

PEGGY: Something like that.

RUTH: Not really. If I don't show up for work, I'll get fired so what's the point?

PEGGY: Mmm...

RUTH: Your turn.

PEGGY: Anne Cofell.

RUTH: 981-475.

PEGGY: Sometimes I wish I could be unreasonable.

RUTH: Don't tell me you're already tired of this job.

PEGGY: No, it's not—

RUTH: It took me months to convince the Dean to get me an assistant.

PEGGY: I love it here. I've always wanted to work for the university.

RUTH: Then what?

PEGGY: Well, that's the problem. I want to be unreasonable but I don't know how. I thought about not paying my credit card bill to see what that would feel like. But it won't feel like anything because it's planned. If you're trying to control being out of control, then you're still in control.

(The DEAN enters.)

THE DEAN: Good morning.

RUTH: Good morning.

PEGGY: Good morning.

THE DEAN (To PEGGY.): Everything going well?

PEGGY: Yes, thank you.

THE DEAN: Ruth is not too hard on you, I hope.

PEGGY: No, she's very patient.


(A beat.)

RUTH: Anything we can do for you?

THE DEAN: Uh‪...Are there any messages?

RUTH: The Provost called, you have a meeting at ten and the guy in IT is sick.

THE DEAN: Thank you.

RUTH: Anything else?

THE DEAN: Is that uh‪...Is that the student list you're working on?

RUTH: Yes.

THE DEAN: You know, you can get it from the Registrar's Office.

RUTH: I know.

THE DEAN: It would save you a lot of time.

RUTH: I appreciate the suggestion.

THE DEAN: Very well.

(He turns back to PEGGY.)


(A beat.)


(He exits.)

PEGGY: Should I call the Registrar's Office?

RUTH: Don't listen to him. He doesn't have a clue. (Back to the list.) Ron Curtis.

PEGGY: Uh...174-339. But we could‪—

RUTH: Betty D'Amico.

PEGGY: 663-982. Because he said‪—

RUTH: Alison Davis. You know what? I tried once.

PEGGY: What did they say?

RUTH: No, to be unreasonable. A few years ago, I tried dyeing my hair orange. It got all over the pillows. It was a complete disaster.

PEGGY: I tried something too. This morning.

(PEGGY giggles.)

RUTH: What?

PEGGY: It's really silly. I‪—

(She giggles again.)

RUTH: Tell me!

PEGGY: I tried to masturbate while I was driving.

RUTH: You masturbate?

PEGGY: Yeah. I mean, sometimes...


PEGGY (CONT'D): I got a speeding ticket.


PEGGY (CONT'D): Well anyway... (Returns to the list.) Who's next?

RUTH: There's something else I've always wanted to try.

PEGGY: What's that?

RUTH: Don't tell anybody though. If my husband knew, he would kill me.

PEGGY: I won't say anything.

RUTH: I've always wanted to smoke pot.

PEGGY: You've never smoked pot?

RUTH: I was going to but we got caught.

PEGGY: Do you want to try?

RUTH: Now?

PEGGY: After work. We'll go to my place.

RUTH: I don't think‪...

PEGGY: Come on.

RUTH: I just said it like that. I wasn't‪—

PEGGY: It'll be fun.

RUTH: I wouldn't even know where to get that stuff.

PEGGY: I'll ask the guy in the film department. He's British. He'll know.

translated from the French by Chantal Bilodeau

Click here to read Asymptote's interview with Chantal Bilodeau, also in the July 2013 issue.