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  • Writer's pictureCamilla Maccaferri

Sick Rose

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

Short play part of a collective work, A Sunday at IKEA, represented at the Connections Festival (Teatro Litta, Milan, 2008).

The scene is settled in a home depot store, like an IKEA. Johnny and Fabrizio are two young men in their late twenties. Johnny is dressed casually, Fabrizio has a more original and defined style.

Johnny: Faber, I must confess you something…

Fabrizio: What?

Johnny: I was about to break Andy’s lamp, while I was dismantling it…I haven’t told you this before, because I didn’t want to make you nervous…

Fabrizio: Are you nuts?! He wants to show it as the masterpiece at his exhibition and you broke it? I knew I should not have you touch it!

Johnny: And I knew I didn’t have to tell you! Nothing happened, after all, it was actually really funny, because…

Fabrizio: Doesn’t matter. I’m just terrified. Andy will kill me. And since we know how you handle things, let’s try to choose something unbreakable.

Johnny: You’re a pain in the ass. And your friend is a moron. He gives us that damned lamp, which I never liked, if you want to know, and then he wants it back for his exhibition. Let me tell you, it’s far from being nice.

Fabrizio: I guess you have a point. However, it gives us an excuse to take a look around and see if we find something else.

Johnny: But we don’t need anything else. Plus, on Sundays this place is packed. Why didn’t we come during the week?

Fabrizio: Because I have to work and I’m not a lazy-butt student as you are. And I’m sick and tired of that sad, naked bulb hanging down the ceiling.

Johnny: Ok, ok, but I can’t find where the lamps are and I’m already bored.

Fabrizio: You’re such a bore…wait, what is that? Please, Johnny, look at it! It’s obscene!

Johnny: What? Oh that yellow thing! (laughs) It’s real crap. Which kind of douchebag is gonna buy such a piece of shit?

Fabrizio: No way. This pouf is the opera of a genius. Close your eyes: see it in the house.

Johnny: You mean OUR house? What's wrong with you? Think of the guests. What if I have someone over, try to make her comfortable in the living room and tell her sit on that…thing?

Fabrizio: What are you talking about? It is perfect, absolutely methaphysical.

Johnny: Please, Faber…it even has a face! Wasn’t cheesy enough for the Swedish standard, they just needed to make it smile. My god, it’s just revolting. My aesthetic sense is dead.

Fabrizio: You don’t understand shit about arts and you want to talk about aesthetics. It's just making fun of limited people like you, who are not impressed by the sublimity of the grotesque. It’s a grinding monster proud of his deformity. It’s a Schiele.

Johnny: A... what?

Fabrizio: See? You don’t even know who’s Egon Schiele!

Johnny: Er...shoud I?

Fabrizio: He was the damn best Expressionist artist ever, for fuck sake.

Johnny: Still not sure. But it’s funny how you’re defending it. You’re almost making it look cool.

Fabrizio: That’s my goal! Because I want it and I’m going to have it! You can’t help it, I love it!

Johnny: Well, I don’t mean to make you suffer…but I don’t know where we could place it…and first of all, how much is that?

Fabrizio: Wait… (he goes and checks the price) What?! A hundred fifty?!

Johnny: That’s our budget for the lights…I guess you have to give up and kiss your yellow friend goodbye. After all, it’s just a chunk of plastic. If you like it so much, why don’t you ask to some of your friends to build you a similar…er….object?

Fabrizio (pretending to be desperate): But it’s not the same! I want HIM! Well, nevermind, if one day we’ll move, we’ll reserve a special place for it right in the middle of the living room, no, it will be the king of the house and we will buy all the furniture in order to make it glisten more and more. I want to see it rule.

Johnny: Are you done? (smiling) So, kiss him goodbye, forever, and let’s go see the lights.

Fabrizio: It’s no goodbye, it’s see you later, remember. I’ll be back honey! (They move from the yellow pouf and they get close to the lights department).

Johnny: A lot of stuff in here.

Fabrizio: Terrible stuff. Look at these lamps. Really ugly.

Johnny: They look better than the one in your room, built with “recycled materials” that are actually toilet seats.

Fabrizio: Shut up! That is art, but this one, what is this? Swedish “design”?

Johnny: OK, but they’re cheap. You always have a stick up your ass when we come to these things. They’re not so horrible, they’re just normal, but maybe you have a problem with the concept of normality itself.

Fabrizio: What do you mean? If your idea of normality matches with the idea of trivial and ordinary, then yes, I have a problem with that.

Johnny: The next roommate I choose, is going to be a miner. Sick and tired of artists.

Fabrizio: Oh, you're such fun. Then maybe I should ask my artist friends for help.

Johnny makes a disgusted face.

Fabrizio: Stop it with that face… I was thinking of something brighter that our now naked bulb, like for examples these spots…if you place them in the corners…

Johnny: Are you kiddin’me? I don’t want to rebuild the living room to expose your paintings and all the crap your friends bring along…and then…these spots?! The lights is so bright it will make me blind.

Fabrizio: What are you talking about?

Johnny: Yes, it bothers me.

Fabrizio: Since when? That’s a new one.

Johnny: Whatever you think , I was thinking of something softer.

Fabrizio: What do you mean with “softer”?

Johnny: Don’t know…something like warmer…got it?

Fabrizio: No. What do you want? A chandelier, like the Addams Family?

Johnny: Of course not, you idiot, just something warmer, know...

Fabrizio: Got it. Strip-bar style. How sad. I hate half-darkness. It gives me the idea of something perverted. Or like the old auntie house, you know that kind of old lady with a moustache, with all her furniture still wrapped in plastic and smelling like boiled cabbage.

Johnny: Why are you always overreacting? I haven’t said half-darkness, I only want something to create a little bit of romance, when needed.

Fabrizio: Let alone the fact that I pay a high bill, so I’d like to fully use my electricity, it doesn’t sound smart to me to invite girls in an openly equivocal environment, what do you think? To declare your lusty intentions right away.

Johnny: Why should I hide them? Your spots, instead, would turn the room into an operating room, so that whoever is going to sit on the sofa will feel ready for surgery.

Fabrizio: First of all, I don’t see who else, except the two of us, should lay on the sofa. Remarking that the sofa is also mine. Can’t you think of something else for once, or it must be all about women to bring home?

Johnny: Well, I think it’s one of the first factors to consider! When you have to invest money, what else do you need to think of? I guess you see the point.

Fabrizio: Speaking about seeing, what can you see when you’re in the dark? I like to look at you, I mean, at the people, right in the face. I don’t want to hide in Plato’s cavern and cast shadows on the walls.

Johnny: Faber, you’re turning into a paranoid. We see each other all day long, it’s more than enough,even without spotlights.

Fabrizio: Of course, you’d rather keep your business in the dark, well hidden, bring your girls home secretly.

Johnny: What are you talking about? It’s clear that if I have to bring someone home, I’d rather not having you around and I guess you do the same. But I don’t see the problem. We never had problems with bringing home people, your friends are always around for dinner or the stupid artistic shit you do or whatever.

Fabrizio: Right. Because you always know when I bring home someone, I don’t do things behind your back, when you’re not around!

Johnny: But it’s none of your business. And I don’t either care if you bring home someone, especially if I’m not there!

Fabrizio: See, it’s your mentality that drives me nuts. Because we live together and we should be clear with each other, while you always hide, otherwise people could see who you really are!

Johnny: Are you totally out of your mind? What the hell are you talking about?

Fabrizio: Shut up, please! Better pretend you’re like the others, right? Better pretend not to have anything strange, so you don’t have to be afraid of what other people think.

Johnny: What other people? I just didn’t know it was a problem for you if I bring someone home when you’re not there.

Fabrizio: You know what? You can’t have anything you want. You can’t be so hypocritical and have my esteem as well. Have your warm lights, if you want. But keep them low, Johnny, so that other people won’t see your real face. As for me…I’m tired of living in the shadows, I want my spotlights right in the face, and I want you to look at my face, so maybe you can eventually see what everybody has seen, what everybody knows. With the exception of you, of course.

Johnny: Faber…

Fabrizio: No, let me finish. I can’t go on, you understand? Don’t make me go back home and start from the beginning with this…insanity. If you care about me, let me tell you.

Johnny: I…I don’t follow you. Tell me about what? We were talking about the lights, weren’t we? I had no idea they were so important for you, and I didn’t know you were bothered by the people I brought home, that’s it. Well, I’m sorry. You want the spotlights? Cool. Just take them, and let’s go home, ok?

Fabrizio: Johnny, do you remember the poem I painted you on the t-shirt? “The sick rose” by William Blake. The rose is sick because the worm is eating it from the inside. It still looks beautiful, but it’s dying. “And his dark, secret love does thy life destroy”. This is my life, since I know you. Routine outside and death inside. A dark, secret love I wanted to hide, but I also wanted to take it out of my chest. I had to. You can’t imagine how much it cost me to pretend nothing had happened during all the time we have lived together. Now I’m telling you, Johnny. It cost me my blood.

Johnny: Why, the t-shirt? I didn’t even remember it, I think I lost it in Berlin…

Fabrizio: Listen to me, Johnny. Every single day, for one year and an half, I promised myself I would have told you, and I’ve delayed it every day, hoping that…I don’t know what I was waiting for. Maybe that you could understand …but it didn’t happen. It was not possible.

Johnny: Can you stop it, please? Happen…what? Would you stop your drama queen show right here, in the middle of this fucking store? What did you drink for lunch? What’s wrong with you, man?

Fabrizio: I just can't have you near anymore. You are talking all the time about the girls you want to bring home, and I had to pretend to listen and shrug, when I only wanted to shout that I...

Johnny: You what?

Fabrizio: That I wanted to be with you.

Johnny: What…what do you mean? We’re friends, you’re a friend…you are my friend! It can’t be…you can be…like…this.

Fabrizio: I just couldn't lie anymore. (Softly) It’s ok, Johnny. It’s over.

Johnny: Over.. what?

Fabrizio: I desperately want to be with you. But it’s not possible, because I’m not what you want. I’ll never be what you want.

Johnny: But it makes no sense. We’ve been together for a long time, I mean, not always together, but we often have dinner together, right? We’re good friends, friends do it often, not always, but often, and then we hang out, what’s wrong with that?

Fabrizio: Please, Johnny. You’re making it harder. I…you know what I mean.

Johnny: Are you tell me that you are...I mean, like, gay?

Fabrizio: This is not the issue, but I guess so. And now I'm also homeless.

Johnny: You mean we are living the place?

Fabrizio: Do you see other options?

Johnny: I don't think so.

Two years later. Same place.

Rose, a beautiful girl in her mid twenties is observing with curiosity a yellow pouf. The same pouf. Johnny is also there with a group of people. He notices the pouf and approaches it: he checks the price and smiles at the girl.

Johnny: Oh no, I hoped at least it was discounted. I was sure it would still be here, anyway. Who the hell could buy such a piece of crap?

Rose: Actually, I was about to buy it.

Johnny: Er…impossible! I was going to buy it, too.

Rose: Yes, sure. Nice try..

Johnny: No, no, you don’t understand! Really, it’s a funny story, you have to hear it. (He starts speaking without letting her the time to reply). I had a roomate. Believe me if I tell you it has been an unforgettable experience. He was really great, smart and talented. He was a brilliant painter and he had a lot of artist friends who thought he was meant to become someone. He was always ready to listen to me and he was so funny. I really miss him.

Rose: Oh. Ok. But what does this have to do with this pouf?

Johnny: Wait a second. I’m heading to it. He liked it a lot. He said he was a masterpiece of ugliness. You know, those artistic nonsense. I didn’t get it, but we laughed a lot about it. Anyway, we didn’t have room enough and it was too expensive. He moved out soon after and the story was over.

Rose: So why did he move out, if you got along so well?

Johnny: Well, nothing special, we just argued about some things, you know how it is…

Rose: I can imagine. I also used to share a flat with a friend and it was perfect, until I decided to move out.

Johnny: Really? Can I ask why?

Rose: You know how it is.

Johnny: Maybe. And maybe not.

Rose: Let’s say I’d wanted to have him closer, but he disagreed.

Johnny: What?! He must be nuts.

Rose: You think so?

Johnny: Yeah, I're great, how can a guy...unless he was...

Rose: Unless he was what?

Johnny: Well, nothing, I was just wondering that if a guy likes girls…then…he must like you, that’s it.

Rose: Oh no, he wasn’t gay or something. He just didn’t like me.

Johnny: I don’t see it to be possible.

Rose: But you don’t even know me. I could be an horrible person, how do you know?

Johnny: Let's say I’m very good at judging people at a first glance. You look like a sweet person.

Rose: I wonder how can you be so sure. I could be nasty.

Johnny: I’m sure you aren’t. But I’d like to find it out by myself.

Rose: If you say so. I'm Rose, by the way.

Johnny: See? Even your name is sweet, I wasn’t wrong.

Rose: How do they say? Every rose has its thorns.

Johnny: But a rose is a rose is a rose! I'm Johnny, nice to meet you.

Rose: Hi Johnny. So, are you letting me buy this pouf?

Johnny: Why do you want it so bad? Any interesting story to tell me?

Rose: Not really. I just liked it.

Johnny: This is totally weird. You can’t really like it. If you don’t consider my story, it's just hideous.

Rose: Au contraire. I totally agree with your friend. It’s awesome.

Johnny: What? My friend? Or the pouf?

Rose: Me, I mean, your friend. The pouf. Both.

Johnny: You?! That was what Fabrizio said.

Rose: Don’t mention him.

Johnny: What?

Rose: It’s been a while but you haven’t changed. You still don’t want to understand things.

Johnny: I…don’t follow you…what the hell…?

Rose: Fabrizio is gone. Now there’s Rose.

Johnny: I don’t really understand but I don’t think…

Rose: Fabrizio is gone forever. I know you loved him, but he had to go. It’s me but it’s another. It’s weird, I don’t know how to explain.

Johnny finally realizes what is going on. He stares at the floor, speechless. He doesn’t dare to look at Rose but he feels attracted at meantime.

Rose: It’s ok, no worries. I understand you feel weird.

Johnny: I….I just don’t know how…

Rose: When I went away, I felt like I was dying. I tried to tell myself it was the best thing also for me, that I couldn’t go on like I did until that day, but I was torn. I started to put the blame on me, to think that you could have loved me if only I was…what I am now. I decided to change. I admit you’ve been the main reason, but, once I started this way, I understood it was what I really wanted. Now I’m happy with myself, like I’ve never been before. And I have to thank you for all this, in a certain way.

Johnny: Oh. I see. Now I really…you know, my roommates are waiting for me and…

Rose: Please, Johnny. Look at me. I feel great. I’m happy. And you seemed pretty happy too, a few minutes ago. What’s wrong, now?

Johnny: No, nothing, I just…it’s just…

Rose: Weird, for sure. But it’s me. I’m both your friend with whom you happily lived together and the girl you wanted to ask out.

Johnny: Well, it’s not easy, I…I don’t know what to say…

Rose: I can help you. We can’t discuss serious matters right in the middle of a depot and we have a lot to discuss after so much time. At least, I have a lot of news, as you see. So, let me buy you a drink.

Johnny: Well, I’d love to, but I really can’t, see, my roommates and I were here to buy something and…

Rose: I’m sure they're gonna survive.

Johnny: Sure, but…

Rose: Come on. We’ve lost contact for two years, I’m sure you can share some of your precious time with me, now. Let’s leave the pouf here, for the posterity. It could help us to meet someone else, in the future.

Johnny: Really Faber…I mean, Rose…I don’t know if it’s the case…

Rose: You’re not comfortable, I don’t understand why. I feel good with myself, and consequently, with you. Come on, Johnny. You perfectly know me. Plus, there’s a lot of new me to meet.

Johnny: Yes…but…don’t you maybe…

Rose: I’ll be a good girl and I’ll bring you back home safe and sound. Come on. It was the destiny who helped us today and it’s not wise to ignore it.

Johnny: Er… I don’t believe in destiny.

Rose: No way. Karma's a bitch, but you you should listen to it. When you're ready I'll show you my new place. With spotlights. It's a house that looks a lot like me.

Johnny: Alright. It’s really weird but…ok. I’ve been knowing you for a while and…I guess we can have that drink.

Rose: Well, thank you! I see you’re getting through it!

Johnny: It will take a while to get used to...this..

Rose: Do you remember that movie I showed you where they said: ‘We started to change the world and we only succeeded in changing ourselves?”

Johnny: Yes. Well, all I can say is: “better than nothing”.

They exit.

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