Peca Ştefan

Illustration by Guillaume Gilbert



Silence. THE PHOTOGRAPHER could now be THE TRAINER. The WOMAN WHO SMOKES could be the GIRL.

THE TRAINER holds his class in front of the audience, who are seated around him in a square. Or a circle. It could be a practical course, a course at the University of Astronautics or a corporate team building, in the mountains. THE TRAINER has a kangaroo head in one of his hands.

THE TRAINER: It's all about trust. And faith. Trust and faith—you can write that down because they're essential to our job. The job we might be doing now, or the job we're preparing for. Soon enough, you'll understand what I'm talking about and why these things are so important.

(He realizes that maybe it's weird that he's holding a kangaroo head in his hand.)

THE TRAINER: This is didactic material. I'll get there in a second. Why a kangaroo, you might wonder. It's a very good metaphor with conflicting meanings. On one side, the maternal closeness of the pouch. On the other—the ferocity with which kangaroos use their feet to keep you at a distance. The Kangaroo means closeness and distance at the same time. My recent visit to Australia made me experience this myself. For two weeks in a Melbourne hospital. But that's not important. I mean, at the end of the day, a kangaroo can be easily you can see—but...the symbol behind this creature's curious existence is what we're aiming to achieve in this training course. The kangaroo has blind faith in defending its territory. And it won't let you be until it achieves its emotional comfort. Kangaroos are animals that perfectly balance these two concepts—closeness and distance. But more about this later...Right now I want to go back to the homework I assigned yesterday. An act of blind faith. (Takes out a small notebook.) Let's see, let's see...Walking through fire—Marius did that earlier and it turned out extremely well. Congratulations again, Marius. High wire walking, a nearly excellent performance by Simina. A B minus. Oh...levitation. In other words—flying. Who was assigned levitation? Ah, excellent—Daria. Daria? Is she here? Daria, please, step up. We all know you're a little shy—but that's what we're trying to achieve in this class. Overcome our fears.

The GIRL enters through the audience's entrance. She's in a nightgown. She also has a teddy bear, but she hides it behind her back.

THE TRAINER: So you made it.

GIRL: Yes, know—

THE TRAINER: What happened, Daria? Tell me. But please don't tell me your dog ate your homework—I won't believe that.

GIRL (fidgeting, nervous because of the group): Oh, no. I really did my homework...but...

THE TRAINER: Louder...I can't hear you.

GIRL (clearing her throat): I really did my homework...It took the whole night, I haven't had any sleep and...even worse...

THE TRAINER: Wait a moment—are you telling me you can't do it again? I don't believe you. I don't believe you.

GIRL: Yes, I can...I mean, maybe...It's just that I'd need a few hours of sleep...I have dark circles under my eyes, I look horrible...

THE TRAINER: But all you had to do was levitate. Just for a minute, not longer.

GIRL: I had a problem with that, too—I mean, that's the reason I couldn't get any rest.

THE TRAINER: How's that?

GIRL: I mean—yesterday, before beginning the homework, I thought a lot about it.


GIRL: I relaxed my body, just like you told me.


GIRL: I imagined my soul was a wing—just like you explained.

THE TRAINER: Wonderful.

GIRL: I placed myself in the sublime energy zone—and I convinced myself that my soul was close to...I mean, one with the sky and the stars.

THE TRAINER: Extraordinary.

GIRL: And then I took the leap of faith.

THE TRAINER: So far—everything by the book, Daria.

GIRL: It's just that I couldn't take off...Nothing happened...


GIRL: I don't know why, you explained everything very clearly.

THE TRAINER: I know I did. Well, to tell you the truth, I've never managed to fly. Not personally. I know others who have—but look, Daria, what we can all learn from this is that everyone has their own comfort zone. We can trust different zones in our...

GIRL: I only succeeded on the seventh attempt.


GIRL: Yes, I first had to find another spiritual space. Probably I couldn't do it in my room—it was all too close to me.

THE TRAINER: That's very possible. Well done, Daria. You can write that down. A very pertinent remark.

GIRL: So, after trying five times in my room with no success, I went to the rooftop of the building. The leap of faith just had to be...higher. To fly in the air, in the sky, in an open space. You know...

THE TRAINER: Wait a second—you jumped off a building?!

GIRL: Yes.

THE TRAINER: Listen, all of you—including yourself, Daria—I could never agree with such behavior. That's not the sort of thing I'm teaching here and there are certain safety rules that I will beg of you to respect. I mean, Daria...Do you understand that's enough reason for me to kick you out of this class? No, let me finish. Does everyone understand that because of a thing like this I could have my training license removed? Indefinitely?! That'll be that. Game over. I go back to advertising. Not that there's anything wrong with advertising—but why use a superior level of being and understanding for selling things people don't actually need?!

GIRL: But do you still need money? You survived for 50 days locked in a coffin 5 meters under.

THE TRAINER: The problem is what you do after the 50 days. Hmm...wait a second. Daria...What happened the sixth time?!

GIRL: What do you mean?

THE TRAINER: I said you had tried for five times when you went to the rooftop. And before you said you only succeeded the seventh time. What happened on the sixth?!

GIRL: Oh...I fell.

THE TRAINER: WHAT???? Sorry, uh...please turn off the camera for a second. And erase the past 5 minutes. Thanks. Daria...are you sure you're not...dead?

GIRL: Yes...I mean, no...

THE TRAINER: Yes, you mean no. Daria—you are killing me! Why are you doing this to me? Do you understand what you're doing to me right now?! My entire career, everything I've done so far is going to—

GIRL: But you are the one who told me I could fly. That I have to fly!

THE TRAINER: Yes. Here in the classroom. Fly here!!! Where we're all together—where we can all see you. Where we can help you if something happens. Here, where we have a team of paramedics. I didn't tell you to go home, jump off of a building and...die. And after that, come here, dead, and tell this story on camera so they revoke my license and I lose everything. No, Daria, this class is not at all about that—and there is student responsibility that—

GIRL: But you told me to have faith. To have faith in myself that I can do this. I could!

THE TRAINER: Alive! Have faith in yourself during this lifetime! Not after you're dead! Don't you understand that's cheating?!

GIRL (tears in her eyes): I haven't cheated...OK?! I haven't cheated for a second. I'm not like that!

(She cries.)

THE TRAINER: Daria...Please...

GIRL: I didn't even know I had died! Actually, I woke up downstairs, on the pavement. I was alright—I had just fallen. I climbed back up—and then I believed even harder that I could get close to that bird I had focused on in the sky. And the seventh time—yes, the seventh time I succeeded!

THE TRAINER (after a beat): Wait! This is phenomenal! Fantastic! Oh, my God, there is a chance you're not dead!

GIRL (wiping her tears): Yes?

THE TRAINER: But...of course! Why didn't I think of that? It makes perfect sense—you actually had blind faith in what I told you here.

GIRL: That's what I said.

THE TRAINER: You won't believe how many impostors don't give a dime for what I say. And they skip class too. (To the AUDIENCE) I'm talking about my experience with other classes—I'm very proud of what's happening with this particular group! But yes—it's logical! Your soul was so focused, so fixated on the idea that it will have to, that it will be able to, that it will succeed That the body blindly followed the soul's command. And no...I can see you haven't become a zombie...or anything like that. A walking spirit...

(He touches her shoulder. He puts one of his hands in front of her nose. Nothing. The GIRL is kind of puzzled.)

THE TRAINER: See?! You didn't bite my hand off! And you don't seem to think that human flesh is appetizing. Great...Roll the camera again, I actually hope you didn't turn it off in the first place. Oh, you didn't? Thank you so much, buddy, for letting me lose my job. (To the camera) Ladies and gentlemen, here, in front of us, we have a unique discovery that certifies the theories of the ancient Buddhists. I repeat, the ancient Buddhists! I want us to note that I was the one to make this incredible discovery! This girl—Daria—believed so much in herself that she managed to avoid death...and then even succeeded in flying!

GIRL (flattered): Thank you. Actually, I've never thought about it like that.

THE TRAINER: Many times—when a miracle happens—we don't even think we taken part in a miracle! It doesn't even cross our minds! We just...make it happen. And you, Daria, you made a miracle happen. You have all my respect and congratulations. Please, everyone, a round of applause for our colleague!

(He applauds. Hopefully, the AUDIENCE will applaud too.)

GIRL: You don't have to...Actually...this is what I was trying to say at the beginning...that I didn't manage to do it exactly how we discussed in class...

THE TRAINER: you mean?

GIRL: I mean...something unexpected came up. That's why I'm now this.

THE TRAINER (almost through his teeth): Don't tell me everything was a dream. Including this moment. And that it's all your dream. I'll be very disappointed.

GIRL: Oh, no...I was just saying that my homework didn't turn out exactly as planned.

THE TRAINER: And...why?

GIRL: I couldn't actually manage to fly...

THE TRAINER (blocked): What?!

GIRL (progressively carried away, precipitated, illuminated): ...for only a minute. I couldn't actually manage to fly only for a minute. The truth is I could barely stop—and I was lucky I hit a tree because I wouldn't have made the class otherwise. I flew all night, and all morning, and all afternoon. But I can only tell you that it's the most beautiful feeling in the world—and there, up there, you can actually understand people. Really see them. And you feel so close to them, though you are so far. I can only add that I'm now convinced that I've learned what love towards others. When I managed to fly—I felt proud. I mean, I told myself "See Daria, you are a human...And as a human...As a human being...You can fly too! This means others like you can do it..." I don't know...It was awesome...

(GIRL stops. THE TRAINER takes a beat.)

GIRL: I'm sorry...I am really sorry...

THE TRAINER: Daria, you have a big problem...

GIRL: Yes, I know.

THE TRAINER (enlightened): You are not yet aware of and confident in your own powers. You do amazing things, and still you can't control the most basic of powers. But don't worry; we'll fix this right now!

GIRL: Really? How?

THE TRAINER (shouts): I need my didactic material. (Nothing.) The didactic material, I said! Where is my assistant?

(A KANGAROO enters, carrying a bunch of blindfolds.)

THE TRAINER: Thanks for not falling asleep, buddy—I can see you're as prompt as always. Throwing me a curveball with that camera too.

(THE KANGAROO lowers his head, in shame.)

THE TRAINER: Daria, many times one has to feel that somebody else believes in you. Do you understand? That's why I—and your colleagues—will now participate in an act of blind faith. Profoundly blind. We'll all have absolute you Daria!

GIRL: Yes, but I...

THE TRAINER: You must trust...we'll all trust you. Alright?

(He looks at the AUDIENCE.)

THE TRAINER: Alright? Will we all trust Daria? Let's all shout enthusiastically: "Daria! Daria! Daria!" C'mon!

(THE TRAINER encourages THE AUDIENCE to shout "Daria!" Until he succeeds.)

THE TRAINER: I'm proud of you. All of you! Listen, Daria, I will trust you so much that I will do something I have never done before. I will entrust this course to you.

GIRL: But I...

THE TRAINER: Have faith, Daria. Do you have faith in me?

GIRL: Yes!

THE TRAINER: Very good. That's what I want to hear. So, my assistant will now blindfold all of us—including me. We will all place our trust in your hands, Daria. And you will take our hands and lead us to the rooftop of this building. And up there you will teach us to fly. Alright?

GIRL: Alright!

THE TRAINER: I'll ask you to be perfectly quiet and let Daria focus. (To THE KANGAROO) We can begin. Me first!

(THE KANGAROO blindfolds him, then everyone in the audience. THE TRAINER will say "Quiet!" when people inevitably talk. When everyone is blindfolded, THE KANGAROO will inform the trainer.)

THE TRAINER: Daria, are you ready? Here we!

Blackout. Total darkness.



Darkness. Throughout this scene, all sound effects will be played live by the MUSICIAN. Some other sound effects will be produced live, by the actors, as in the radio of the 1930s. The audience will stay blindfolded throughout the scene.

It's raining. We can feel the rain drops, or the presence of raindrops. It is wet. There is a light flickering somewhere—though bright, we cannot make out where it is coming from. Sometimes it is close, sometimes it stays farther away. There are peanut shells on the floor and we can hear footsteps.

The MAN lights up a cigarette. Smell of tobacco in the air.

SECURITY GUARD/KANGAROO (through a megaphone): Put that out, sir. You're not allowed to smoke here. We're inside.

MAN (to himself): Fuckers!

(He puts out the cigarette. We can hear heels walking around nervously—sometimes close, sometimes far. THE MAN turns on a portable radio—you can hear static. A sort of song can be discerned at one point, but it fades away. A lantern is turned on and off. A car passes by. More footsteps.)

OLD LADY: Here's something for you.

MAN: What?!

OLD LADY: For you. Take it. Bless your soul.

MAN: I don't need anything.

OLD LADY: You seem like you do.

MAN: Lady, go away.

OLD LADY: But I thought the hat—

MAN: Beat it!

OLD LADY: Take this coat, at least. You might need it.

MAN: Don't touch me. Leave me alone.

OLD LADY: There's no reason to be ashamed. This can happen to anyone—

MAN: Has it ever happened to you?

OLD LADY: No, but—I once had a son who—

MAN: I don't give a shit about your son. Go away!

OLD LADY: God bless your soul. And hers.

MAN: No, I bless God's soul.

OLD LADY: May you find your righteous way home! The home of the Lord.

MAN: Get lost. Now!

(The footsteps fade away. A metallic sound. Someone pulls a heavy lever. It sounds like a huge door being opened. A draft from outside.)

(The sound of a Zippo lighter being flicked again and again. A woman moaning.)

MAN: Are you up? (Sound of liquid.) Here you go. What—you forgot how to do this?

WOMAN: No. I'm just tired. It hurts.

(Sound of liquid in a metal bottle. Someone drinks. Zippo again—the MAN is about to light a cigarette.)

WOMAN: Don't even think about it. I'm allergic to smoke.

MAN: I know.

(The MAN lights another cigarette. Footsteps coming closer.)

SECURITY GUARD/KANGAROO (through megaphone): Sir, I'll have to remove you from these premises if you don't stop this activity at once.

MAN: You're such a killjoy, man! Two hundred years ago you would've offered me a light.

(The MAN puts out his cigarette.)

MAN: Now buzz off.

SECURITY GUARD: This is the last time I'm warning you. And I'm not gonna turn a blind eye to this either. Do you need any help, miss?

WOMAN: I'm fine.

MAN: I said buzz off. She's fine.

(Footsteps walking away.)

WOMAN: Come on. Let's go.

MAN: I don't want you to move yet. I want you to stay still for a second. OK?

WOMAN: I can't stay still.

MAN: I can look at you if you stand still. You've changed.

WOMAN: You've changed too.

MAN: It's better if you drink. Energy. That's an ugly bruise. Not fatal though. Drink, I'll pour.

(Sound of liquid on flesh. The WOMAN screams. The sound of a picture being taken. A FLASH.)

WOMAN: What are you doing?

MAN: I just need proof this actually happened. Proof that you've actually been here. (Pause). It's gonna be okay. I'm gonna tell you a story. Do you want to hear a nice story?

WOMAN: I want to sleep. I want to go back to sleep. In a room.

MAN: That wouldn't be advisable. I'd have to carry you. Again. And I don't know how to tell you this, honey—you're heavy.

WOMAN: And you're a moron.

MAN: Yes. But if you scratch my arm with your nails again, I'll kill you.

WOMAN: You deserved that.

MAN: No, I earned it.

(Something is moving. The ground.)

WOMAN: What's happening?

MAN: Nothing. Here, maybe a song will cheer you up.

(Static on the radio turns into a song. Maybe Tom Waits.)

WOMAN: Where are we?

MAN: You're going to be fine. Just fine. You're with me now. But listen, if you want to stay alive you have to keep playing. No matter what! Do you get it? You have to keep playing with me.

WOMAN: It took me about 125 streets to understand, but now I finally do. Poor me. You're so mighty and tough. And I'm so lost without you.

MAN (sarcastic): Good. I'm glad you get it.

(A beat. The song goes on.)

WOMAN: I like this song. Can you come closer? I want to tell you something.


MAN: That's a classic. I wanna tell you something and then bang—my ear's off.

WOMAN: Do you think I'm that horrible?

MAN: I don't think. I know. I still have two broken ribs to prove it. Your birthday present.

WOMAN: I'm not the one who started this.

MAN: You mean I started this?

WOMAN: Yes. Don't you want to come closer?

MAN: I don't trust you anymore.

translated from the Romanian by Peca Ştefan