Monday, February 4, 2019

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: A Short Film

FADE IN:

INT. COFFEE SHOP – DAY

A WOMAN in her thirties sits at a table, a half-eaten croissant on a plate next to her. She is staring blankly at the laptop screen in front of her. Sitting next to her is a man in his twenties, leaning on the woman’s shoulder. This is BB.

BB
So, what are you going to write?

(The woman ignores him and places her fingers over the keyboard.)

BB
(poking her arm) Oooh ooh you could suck at screenwriting again!

WOMAN
Ssshhh.

BB
Or you could suck at poetry. You haven’t tried writing a poem in a while.

(BB begins chewing on the Woman’s arm, speaking as he bites her. The woman attempts to type, trying to ignore BB.)

BB
You used to be such a prolific poet. (with a dramatic sigh) Truly. You used to write poetry all the time. Remember the days when you would have at least a dozen drafts of poems on your computer? At any given time? (BB starts poking the woman in addition to biting her.) Can you even really call yourself a poet if you haven’t written a poem in months? How often do you have to write poetry to call yourself a poet?

WOMAN
(pushing BB away) I’m trying to work.

BB
On what?

WOMAN
I’m…writing.

BB
(imitating her) “I’m…uh…writing.” “I’m uh…BIG PAUSE…writing.” Why the big pause, sister?

WOMAN
You’re distracting me.

BB
La la la.

WOMAN
I’m writing an essay.

BB
Oh, like Lena Dunham? She’s an essayist. What are you writing about?

WOMAN
The confusion of dating in your twenties.

BB
Oh. (sympathetically—breaking the bad news) I think Lena Dunham already wrote about that. And kind of…better? Like she was better at it? Than you?

(The Woman sighs)

WOMAN
(almost a rote recitation, a mantra) I don’t have to be Lena Dunham. I can have my own perspective. It doesn’t matter if someone else already wrote about something. The thing that’s unique is my voice.

(BB shrugs and puts his hands in the air, as if to say “your funeral.” The Woman types in silence for a few minutes, while BB attempts to entertain himself. But BB’s attention span is short. He watches the laptop screen, and can’t keep quiet.)

BB
I thought you said this was about dating in your twenties.

WOMAN
It is.

BB
Then why are you writing about being a teenager?

WOMAN
I’m setting things up. You don’t understand what the events in my twenties mean unless you have the teenage stories.

BB
But won’t people not understand the teenage stories unless they have the childhood stories?

(The Woman glares at BB, then glares at her laptop screen. Then she deletes everything. Time to start over.)

BB
Ooh ooh ooh! Get it girl, I love that attitude. You write that play! I just love it. You suck at playwrighting SO BAD, and you just do it anyway. You don’t even give a damn. You just do it. (thoughtfully) You know, it’s funny. You love theatre so much. You’ve dedicated so much of your life to it. It’s so funny that you can’t write a good play. Like, at all. Isn’t that funny? You’ve spent those 10,000 hours gaining all this expertise and you’re still shit at writing plays.

WOMAN
I’m ignoring you.

BB
(snuggling the woman aggressively) That’s okay. I’ll just be here.

(BB distractions gradually build—pulling her hair, licking her face, chewing on her arms, flicking her fingers, trying to close the laptop. BB is a toddler demanding attention. The Woman does her best to ignore BB’s distractions and tries to type, but it becomes increasingly difficult.)

BB
I don’t even know what you’re trying to write, but I can tell you right now, it’s not going to be as good as some of the other stuff you’ve written. But it SHOULD be. You really have no excuse. You should be improving all the time.

WOMAN
Be quiet.

BB
Every thing you write you should be better than the best thing you’ve ever written. That’s how growth happens, right?! What else is a $70,000 graduate degree in writing for? You know how to do this now, so there’s no way you can get away with failing.

WOMAN
Shut up!

BB
Write, girl! You’ve got to be the best! Hey, maybe if you write something good, your parents and teachers and friends will wish they were as good as you are.

(The Woman tries to cover her ears, but BB is prying her hands away so he can keep assaulting her with words)

WOMAN
Shut up!

BB
Keep trying harder. Write. Be the best writer. Be the best and no one will leave you. Your boyfriend doesn’t want to be with a failure. Your bosses don’t want you to suck. If you aren’t good at things, what reason do people have to love you? Be the best and no one will leave you. Be the best and no one will leave you. Be the best and no one will leave you. Be the best and no one will leave you.

(The Woman is reaching her breaking point, and BB’s assault reaches a fever pitch as he repeats:)

BB
Be the best and no one will leave you. Be the best and no one will leave you. Be the best and no one will leave you. Be the best and no one will leave you.

WOMAN
Hey!

(BB is startled out of his monologue. The Woman looks at BB for a long moment. He returns her gaze.)

WOMAN
Hey. We’re going to be okay.

BB
But what if someone leaves you?

(The Woman gives a small smile, then turns back to her laptop. BB makes a few attempts to distract her, but every time he does, the woman gives him a small gesture of affection—a pat, a squeeze, an acknowledgement.)

(And then she keeps typing.)

THE END