2.6 Too Heavy to Fly
[[SFX: Peri and her parents walk into a movie theater. Popcorn pops. Soda machine hums.]]
TOMAS: You two grab the goods and I’ll grab us seats?
MONICA: Any requests?
[[SFX: He calls back as he walks away.]]
TOMAS: Just the classics!
[[SFX: An awkward silence as they approach the counter.]]
CASHIER: What can I get you ladies?
MONICA: Large popcorn, Red Vines and two cokes please. Peri, did you want anything?
PERI: I dunno, I’m looking. There’s a lot going on here.
[[SFX: Music cues in. Light piano.]]
MONICA: The movie’s gonna start soon.
PERI: Aren’t there always trailers?
MONICA: I’d rather not crawl around in the dark.
CASHIER: How ‘bout I get your order started and you can tell me what you want when I get back?
PERI: (sighs)Yeah, thanks.
[[SFX: Peri and her mother make their way to their seats.]]
Monica: Oh where’s your father?
PERI: Oh I think I see him.
MONICA: Oh excuse me.
PERI: I’m so sorry sorry, oh watch out, watch out!
[[SFX: They sit and distribute the goods.]]
MONICA: Here' you go baby.
TOMAS: Perfect timing, it’s just starting.
[[SFX: Soundtrack music plays as the sounds of a major city come to life on screen. The footsteps of two characters, ARIANNA and NAOMI run up from a subway into the night of the scene.]]
ARIANNA: And then you were like, take another step and you’ll get my fist in your face!
NAOMI: I didn’t say that!
ARIANNA: Okay fine, you were like “go away” but the way you said it was like you were gonna punch him.
NAOMI: I was just there for the music not for some old man to hit on you!
ARIANNA: Yeah, yeah, whatever, I’m still calling you my knight in shining armor.
[[SFX: Mother inhales sharply at the line, shifting in her seat.]]
NAOMI: Yeah, yeah, just gimme a horse ‘n sword and call me Lady Naomi. Or is it Dame Naomi? Whatever, I’m just in it for the sword.
[[SFX: The continue walking. Monica struggles to breath.]]
NAOMI: It’s nice, walking around at night.
ARIANNA: Yeah, wish we could do it more often.
NAOMI: You sure you left the window unlocked?
MONICA: I need to go to the bathroom.
[[SFX: Monica stands up, trying to maintain steady breathing. ]]
ARIANNA: And I paid off my brother to let us in if I didn’t, it’s gonna be fiiiine.
PERI: Mom, are you okay?
MONICA: I’m fine!
[[SFX: She leaves.]]
NAOMI: Hey, wanna cross the street? That guy in front of the apartment building is wigging me out.
ARIANNA: I thought you were a courageous knight!
NAOMI: Yeah but there are some dragons this knight would like to avoid.
ARIANNA: He’s leaving anyway, see? Just stopped for a smoke and flicked his cigarette.
PERI: I’m gonna go check on mom.
[[SFX: Peri gets up.
PERI: I’m so sorry, excuse me, I’m just going to the bathroom, I’m sorry, excuse me.
[[SFX: The characters on screen continue walking but NAOMI stops while ARIANNA keeps going.]]
NAOMI: Ugh. Stupid shoelace.
ARIANNA: Wanna stop by Sal’s and grab some ice cream? Naomi?
[[SFX: Peri opens the theater door just as an explosion rips across the screen. She shuts it behind her.]]
[[SFX: Peri opens the bathroom door.]]
PERI: Mom? You in here?
[[SFX: She opens three stall doors. Nothing.]]
[[SFX: Peri approaches the concessions cashier. Popcorn pos in the background.]]
PERI: Um, hello. This may seem like a weird question but did you happen to see the woman I was with, getting the red vines? She said she’d be in the bathroom but she’s not.
CASHIER: Oh, ummmmm, I think I saw her leave actually? Figured she hated the movie or something.
PERI: Cool, thanks!
[[SFX: Peri leaves the theater. Walks over to her mother sitting on a curb.]]
PERI: Hey mom. You okay?
MONICA: Go back inside, Peri. You’re missing the movie.
[[SFX: Peri sits down next to her.]]
PERI: Wasn’t really my kind of movie anyway.
MONICA: Was there… an explosion?
PERI: I think I heard one, yeah.
MONICA: Mmm. Good to know. You should really go back inside, sit with your father.
PERI: I can keep you company.
MONICA: I-I think I need some air. Walk around a bit. I’ll… I’ll meet you by the truck after.
PERI: I think I need some air too.
MONICA: Aren’t you cold?
PERI: It’s not so bad.
MONICA: When you were little, you always wore this big purple sweater that belonged to your grandmother.
[[SFX: They fall quiet. A car drives by. Peri responds, quietly.]]
PERI: I don’t remember that.
MONICA: We always patched up for you until you taught yourself to do it.
PERI: What happened to the sweater?
MONICA: You came home from school one day and you just didn’t have it anymore. You said that another kid was cold so you gave it to them and told them it was extra warm because it was stitched with love.
MONICA: We found out that another kid took it from you. You didn’t want to get them into trouble so you lied. It was around the time you also asked if we could speak to you in only English from then on so you could do better in school. You said the words were getting mixed up in your head and it was making it hard.
[[SFX: Her mother’s tone is gentle.]]
MONICA: Always sorry with you. Ever since you could talk, you’ve said I’m sorry.
[[SFX: Peri quiets, thinking.]]
PERI: I just… always feel like I have to apologize to you.
[[SFX: They’re both quiet now.]]
MONICA: It’s a night for strong coffee. Pity that this theater doesn’t have any.
PERI: Yeah, I suppose.
MONICA: You were never much of a coffee drinker.
PERI: I only liked it when you made it.
MONICA: I tried to teach you.
PERI: Never stuck I guess.
[[SFX: They’re quiet for another beat. Her mother hums the lullaby. The hurtful tone rings over it. Peri can’t help the soft wince.]]
MONICA: What is it?
PERI: It just sounds… weird. Sorry.
MONICA: You used to love that song.
PERI: I know.
MONICA: Hesperia, what happened? I know your father tried to talk to you and I know… I know I’m not always the best person to be around but--
PERI: I don’t want to talk about it. Right now.
MONICA: Alright. You don’t have to talk.
[[SFX: A car passes on the street.]]
MONICA: Do you remember what I did, before the tailoring business?
PERI: Mm… not really.
MONICA: Do you know why I became your dad’s partner for it?
MONICA: When I was young, much younger than you, I knew I wanted to help people. There were so many ways to do that but eventually I decided I wanted to fight fires. I wanted to help people during one of the worst possible moments of their lives.
The hours were tough on you and Ace. I won’t deny that. But between your father and I, we took care of you both, made sure you had enough to eat, clean clothes, all the love in the world.
And then… and then something happened. On the job. A backdr-- an explosion.
PERI: I didn’t know that.
MONICA: You and Ace were so young at the time. That’s probably why you don’t remember.
[[SFX: She pauses, collecting her thoughts. Another car passes.]]
MONICA: There’s this terror, see. No, not just terror. But rather… horror at the terror, at the way the it takes hold of you. And, it isn’t until later when you look back and realize that no, horror isn’t the right word either. It’s shame. Shame for letting that terror take hold. And it was only for a moment but the thing is, when… when you do the kind of work I did, a moment is everything. A moment decides who lives and who dies and who’s left to deal with the outcome. And I...
You have to be able to trust your team. There is no room for doubt, there is no room for hesitation from anyone about anything especially when it comes to your team.
But within that moment was the eternity of an event that happened when I was a teenager.
[[SFX: Quiet. Uncertainty in what to say next.]]
PERI: Oh. Was that...
MONICA: A friend and I were walking home late after some concert. Vanessa, that was her name. We felt safe enough taking the subway home in pairs. We got off at our stop, laughing about the music and sneaking out late. And walking back, we saw this guy. They stood out in front of this apartment building, smoking. Vanessa and I, we slowed down, hoping they’d get going. I was about to ask if we wanted to cross the street when the person tossed their cigarette pack and walked away. Vanessa kept walking but I… something felt off. When the person flicked the box, it went further than I expected, y’know? It seemed too... heavy to fly that far. And that didn’t sit right with me but I followed my friend away because it was late and what did I know? And just as we passed the building, the stoop where the cigarette pack landed, my friend bent down to pick up something on the ground. I kept walking, I didn’t realize she had stopped for a few moments. Then I turned around to see Vanessa straighten up and she opened her mouth, probably to say she found a wallet but then… but then….
[[SFX: Mother struggles to breathe.]]
MONICA: Sorry, Hesperia. I need a moment.
[[SFX: She composes herself.]]
MONICA: Then there was... I remember the sight but not the sound. An explosion, it was brilliant in the night. I-I remember feeling the strain in my vocal chords as I yelled for my friend and I couldn’t hear it. There was this… intense heat and I turned to the smoking person, to see if they would help but… they kept walking. I remember seeing other people rush all about. People coming out from other buildings, some of them running to help, others yelling to call the fire department. But the smoking person?They never turned, never wavered. After that I lost track. I-I think I ran to Vanessa to see if I could help. I think I was screaming, the-the next day my throat was raw. But that person… walking away...
That night was what led me to the job. And it was also the reason why I left. After the episode that brought me back to that night, I requested time off to spend with you and with Ace. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I thought that being away, that resting was all that I needed.
I never went back. Every time I thought to go back I could feel that same terror and horror and shame and I knew that it would be dangerous to have those feelings on the job. You and Ace were so young and you didn’t understand what was happening to your mama. Your dad tried to protect you from what I was going through but you kids were so smart. You knew that mama was sad and scared all the time and you tried so hard to make me feel better and I never meant to put that on you. (sniffs)
PERI: I don’t remember any of that.
MONICA: You were very young and… this, um, family has a way of choosing to forget painful memories. But those memories have a way to revisiting us, of demanding recognition.
[[SFX: The two women sit quietly another moment.]]
PERI: I’m kind of like those memories, huh. Is that why you’re so angry with me? You’ve been trying to hide it but...
MONICA: You are more than a memory, Hesperia, you are… my incredible daughter who exists in the here and now. I am telling you this because… because I want you to get help if you need it. And I want you to know that whatever happened to you before you got here, you are not alone. It’s difficult to live with painful memories but it is so important to remember that there is more than the pain.
PERI: How come… how come you and dad don’t talk about what happened with Ace?
[[SFX: Monica stands up.]]
MONICA: We should go check on your father.
PERI: Please, mom, don’t change the subject this time.
MONICA: Your father is sitting in there all alone, and this is movie night, we should be watching the movie.
PERI: I just… I don’t understand why you and dad are like this and if we’re going to talk about painful things then I want to talk about this.
MONICA: Hesperia. That’s enough. Not today. Maybe tomorrow but… not today. Please.
[[SFX: She walks inside. The door quietly shuts behind her. End music plays. Violins going into light piano.]]
The Far Meridian
Created by Eli Barraza. Produced by Eli Barraza & Mischa Stanton.
This episode was written by Eli Barraza and directed by Eli Barraza & Danielle Shemaiah.
Performed by Eli Barraza as Peri, DG Watson as Tomas, Karen Sours Albisua as Monica, Ishani Kanetkar as The Cashier, Sierra Shay as Naomi, and Larianny Perez as Arianna. Sounds Design by Mischa Stanton. Music by Masato Abe.
For more information and transcripts, visit TheFarMeridian.com, or find us on social media @TheFarMeridian. You can also help support us on Patreon, Patreon.com/TheFarMeridian.
Until next time, may you always find your way.