"White City," Pt. 2
Scene III: The White Dormitory
(The sound of sleeping respiration bleeds in through the Dormitory from the last scene as the light rises to gray: an early morning.)
(Gray light rises to reveal a long, white row of sheeted beds in thin, steel frames, draped in thin, gauzy gray-white netting. )
(A row of sleepers lies, breathes deeply in their beds until the door clicks open. Left stage, NI and NII enter the scene. They carry a blood pressure cuff, a clipboard, and thermometer. Their clean white shoes shift, making firm, stiff, rubber-muffled sounds.)
(NI and NII stand over the first bed, looking down.)
NI: Good morning.
(The FIRST SLEEPER stirs and lifts his arm, reflexively. NI straps on the pressure cuff, then pumps. It makes a breathy, gasping sound, a different kind of respiration. It becomes a kind of anxious rhythm, mixing with the low, slow breathing of the sleepers.)
(NII takes note, verbal and written.)
NII: 147 over 92.
(Her pen scrapes, dots, then clicks.)
(The FIRST SLEEPER produces his tongue. NI produces and inserts the thermometer. NII reads.)
(Scrape, dot, click.)
(NI and NII move on to the next bed. They repeat the ritual with SECOND SLEEPER and THIRD SLEEPER and FOURTH SLEEPER. They read slightly different numbers, all in normal range. The pen scrapes, dots, and clicks. The shoes make sounds.)
(M’s is the fifth bed. She sits center in the line. She slowly stirs as they approach her. She does not raise up her arm.)
NI: Good morning.
NII: Raise your arm.
(M raises her arm. NI straps on the cuff.)
NII: 120 over 80.
(NI produces the thermometer.)
M: Am I sick?
NI: Not now.
NII: Open your mouth.
(M closes her eyes, opens her mouth.)
(M opens her eyes as NI and NII begin to leave.)
M: Today, may I please see my mother?
(NI and NII stop. They turn toward M. Their shoe soles make a violent rubber shriek.)
(NI half-smiles. NII half-frowns.)
M: Oh. Then, when?
NI: Then, what?
M: Then, when may I see my mother?
(NI shakes her head. Then, she moves on.)
(NII looks down at M.)
NII: You will know when.
(An overhead light blinks.)
(M looks up at the light. She sighs.)
(The gray light fades to black.)
(The scene lingers awhile in the darkness.)
(Sounds of sleeping respiration build, then fade.)