A Revised Courtship
By Eliza Lawrence.
Two computer screens reveal the insides of each other’s room. Imran’s is near to empty, a hanging poster of Johnny English hangs from his bed. On his bed there are no sheets. March’s room is chaotic, there is no empty space.
March : 25 years old. British. Born in Putney. Was about to study Fine art at Camberwell.
Imran: 28 years old. British. Born in Camberwell.
Imran’s mother: 63. Smothering, loud.
Imran’s father: 69. ‘Conservative’. ‘Reads the newspaper in his armchair’ kind of man.
March: Can you?
March: Hello… yes, yes. I’m here, are you?
Imran: Hello? Hello? Are you out there…
March: Wait a sec, let me see if…yes, there we go… microphone on. Yes! Does that work now?
Imran: Ah…Hello. You are out there!
March: Hello. Here I am!
Silence for what seems like much more than a minute or two.
March: It’s funny. I can’t help but look at myself, I keep only seeing myself. How do you minimise that? Never have I ever had a mirror pushed up against me during a date. It’s enough to have YOU staring at me, now I have myself staring back at me!
Imran: Never have I ever… /
March: This is weird, right.
Imran: done this..
March: You haven’t?
Imran: No.. I haven’t. I guess there’s a few past family calls here and there.
March: Oman, right?
Imran: Yes. Families scattered all over the place, really. We would skype call during dinners. The classic chaos. One man in charge of sorting the video buffering, the microphone and then always my grandfather would be sitting, like ‘the Godfather’ at the end of the table…and then.. some other member of the family putting his hearing aids in. Then he would be saying…
Imran puts on a loud and low voice to impersonate his grandfather.
‘‘Is this Imran?’, ‘‘How did he get on the screen’’, ‘‘are you married yet’’, ‘’ I can’t hear you’’, ‘‘come to Oman, I’ll hear you better from there’’… blah… blah.. blah..
March: Oh my. That’s a lot.
Imran: But this. Yeah. This is new, yes.
March: It’s new?
March: Have you.. did you.. I mean was it big for you to use..?
March shifts in her chair
Imran: I have and I did, yes. Nothing specifically successful.
Imran: It would go from virtual to physical pretty quick though. This is more.. This is more valuable.
March: How are you feeling?
Imran: No dry cough. No chest pain. No lack of taste. Slight bewilderment and shock.
March: Then you are in company!
Imran: Did you prepare your..?
Imran: So.. tell me about your choices.
March brings into camera view a cocktail mixer, brown sugar and a peeled orange.
March: Old fashioned.
Imran: Old fashioned!
March: Old fashioned! It’s my ‘date drink’. It’s perfectly elegant, fairly niche and is a little firelighter for your soul to perform the best you possibly can.
March: Well…to a certain extent, if I chose wine, my date performance would be magnificently hindered. My eyes begin to bleed, my stomach opens up and I always give too much away.
Imran: I’d like that.
March: And yours?
Imran brings a bottle of red wine into the camera frame with a glass.
Imran: Well at least you can’t reach over and try mine. You’re safe !
They both simultaneously pour their glasses full.
March: Since all this began, I have always felt on the precipice between feeling safe and unsafe.
Imran: I know. Is unsafe a word?
March: I think.. Unsafe…. It sounds stodgy I know!
Imran: Sometimes the more you say it.
Imran looks down at his phone.
Ah.. you are in luck. It is a word.
March: Ah hah!
Imran: Pretending to be on a proper date. So… what are you going to order?
March: (laughing) Is that where you would normally go? A restaurant?
Imran: Mostly. Yes.
March: I’ll order the …uhmmmm…lemon sole!
Imran: And maybe some red wine?
Imran: I can’t seem to see the lemon sole. Weird to have lemon soul at the local Indian!
March: Haha.. weird to have korma at the local Indian.!
Imran: Ah yes, our national dish! Did you know it’s the most eaten in the UK. Passes mushy peas, fried mars bar…British cuisine is, urm…
Imran: Stodgy, yes perfect! Stodgy, haha, yes!
Shouting is heard in the background of Imran’s skype.
Imran’s mother: Imran! Imran! We have run out of toilet paper, can you run to the local Nisa please hunny bun?
March: No way! No way..
Imran: I am.. Can you?.. Just one sec.
Imran leaves the camera and closes the bedroom door. A muffled shouting match is heard from outside Imran’s room, meanwhile March applies blusher and stands one of her paintings up in her camera’s background.
Imran: Ma..I am in the middle of..
Imran’s mother: Oh yeah? It’s your day. Me and your father can’t..darling.. sweety.. What better things do you have to do?
Imran: I am doing that thing!
Imran’s mother: What thing?
Imran: I was telling you about it earlier. Please.. Give me a minute!
There is a little more incoherent sound coming from Imran’s mother as Imran comes back into the room.
Imran: Well that was/
March: No it really wasn’t…I am also living with them.
Imran: My parents?
March: No! Yeah I moved back into my parents house. Can’t pay rent. Jobs have been cut off.
Imran notices the painting.
Imran: It’s beautiful.
March: What is?
Imran: The canvas.
March: Oh. wow. Yes. Thank you. This is a new one.
Imran: You said you were a painter. I didn’t think.
March: I painted?
Imran: ( laughing ) Now I see that painter means that one has painted. What is it?
March: That’s for you to decide.
Imran: Oh no!
March: Maybe you will know at the end.
Imran: At the end of what?
March: Lets drink!
They slowly pour their respective drinks.
Imran: The service is bad here right? No tips given at the end of this one! Never have I ever had to pour my own wine glass at a restaurant.
March pretends to catch the pretend waiters eye.
Imran: Oh is that your way!
March: Yes the beedy, ever watching eyes.
She pushes her eyes closer to the lense
Imran: They are beautiful.
They both take a sip.
March: Oh no!
March: Where are our manners? Just because this is a virtual date doesn’t mean that we must lose our ways.
Imran: I entirely agree.
March: You have got some wine…on your.. Here let me..
She leans to the screen and pretends to get wine off his face.
Imran: Oh dear me, I’ve lost both my manners AND physical appearance!
March: I don’t ever mind.
Imran: That’s refreshing
He has another sip and purposefully gets the wine on the top of his lip again.
March: No! Cheers!
Imran: Oh God! Yes. Cheers!
They both touch their glasses to the screens.
Imran: The foods taking a while too huh?
Imrans dad begins to shout now.
March: No way. Again!
Imran: Oh my. This doesn’t normally../
March: I thought this was your first…
Imrans Dad: Your ma told me you’re doing something in your bedroom and can’t go and do us a favour. If it’s what I’m thinking you’re doing. Don’t do it in my house please. Get yourself a wife. I’m not coming in, but please be downstairs in ten minutes and go get us some supplies. And if you have toilet paper in there and are using it in the… in your… then I’m…
His voice gets more muffled until you can only hear angry spouts as he goes down the stairs.
March: Lets just pretend ../
Imran: I don’t exist?
March: That the waiters are really not on our sides.
Imran: Thank you. You are..
March: Don’t worry. My mum and dad would be doing the exact same thing, only I don’t need toilet paper to do it.
Imran: To do what?
March: What you’re dad is referring to.
Imran: I don’t..
March: The act.
Imran: I’m sorry, I don’t…
Imran takes a huge glug of his wine.
March: Why is your bed so stripped?
Imran: Well we can’t exactly.. there is no expectation of..us
March: You are very cheeky. No really, why is it so unmade?
Imran: Unmade. Unsafe. Stodgy stodgy stodgy.
March: Cheeky and funny.. why though?
Imran: I don’t quite want to admit that I am on lockdown with my parents I guess.
March: Yes. I think it’s probably hard for them too huh?
Imran: Harder for me.
Imran purposefully turns his video off but not his microphone and finishes his glass and then fills it up to where it was before. He then hides a packed bag in the background and exchanges it for his vinyl collection. He turns the microphone and video back on.
March: Well maybe we keep things light on our first date huh?
Imran: Yes please.
March: Although I have already kind of met your parents.
Imran: Yes, you have.
Imran’s mother: IMRAN… IMRAN.
March: Go. It’s fine. I have all the time in the world now. I can wait.
Imran: No. Thats.. It’s awful. I’m really sorry.
Imran’s mother: IMRANNNNNNN.
Imran: Okay. bloody waiters!
He starts shifting from his chair. March is completely still.
March: The painting behind me is for you, Imran. I wanted to draw a picture for you so I could give it to you when we first met.
Imran: You did.. Thats/
March: You told me the other day your bedroom walls were bare.. And I can see that now.. Apart from you’re ..
He looks back at his Johnny England poster and blushes.
And if you now have decided to stay, maybe it’s good to have some beauty around you huh?
Imran: But how do I receive it?
March: That bit is tricky. I can sterilize it.. bring it to your door..say hi to your parents through the window.. nod to you in your bedroom….
Imran stays very still, gazing at her.
Imran: Your just.. Very.. I have really enjoyed this.
March: Shall we get the bill? You get toilet paper?
Imran: Yes! Thank you March.
March: It was lovely meeting you Imran.
Imrans mother: IMRANNNNNNNNNN. This is the last time.
March: ‘Till next time.
Marchs’ camera and microphone turns off and we are left with silence and darkness on her side. Imran holds his hand to the screen and then turns his skype off too. We are left in darkness and silence.