ONE 9 • TheatreSpace: 45 and a Half Miles

45 and a Half Miles
by Edward Neville
[excerpted and edited for ONE]
ACT IV
Café Bastille
(The cafe is in ruins [from the bomb blast]. Tables and chairs [litter the scene.] Rubble and a fine layer of dust cover everything. Yellow police tape covers the door. […] Bodies [lie covered with blankets.] A Gendarme flits between them, checking each for identification. Henry enters, ducking under the tape. The Gendarme sees him.)
Gendarme
Hey, you! You can’t be here! This is a crime scene!
Henry
Please! Please! Sil vous plait! My friend was here tonight. I need to know what happened to him.
Gendarme
I can’t comment on an on-going investigation. What’s more, we cannot give out details until families have been notified. Please leave.
Henry
Sir, please. I have to know.
Gendarme
I have a selection of names. What was his name?
Henry
Arouet,
Francois-Marie Arouet.
Gendarme
A Frenchman?
Henry
No… yes. Yes, he was.
Gendarme
I don’t have that name from the list of identification so far. […] Description?
Henry
White male. Twenty. Well dressed. Brown hair.
Gendarme
Height?
Henry
Sixfoot… 182 centimetres. (Aside) Sixfoot… But his horizon was a lot more than only three miles away.
Gendarme
One of the bodies matches this description you have given me.
(Henrycrouchesdown and cradleshishead in his hands.)
Henry
Oh, shit.
Gendarme
Would you be willing to make an identification?
(Henry breathes […] heavily. Behind him, Alice appears in the doorway, looking through.)
Henry
Yes. Yes, I’ll do it.
(The Gendarme indicates to one of the bodies and the two of them step towards it.)
Henry
Yes.
(The Gendarme crouches don and pullsback the blanket, revealing Francois’ face. Henry
chokes, grabbing his mouth, fighting the urge to throw up. He turns away.)
Gendarme
This is the man?
Henry
Yes. Yes, that’s him.
Gendarme
Sir, I understand this must be a difficult moment for you, but I will need you to provide me with contact details for his family. I need to inform them.
(Henry can do nothing but nod. The Gendarme notices Alice in the doorway. […] She ducks under the tape. The Gendarme retreats tothe doorway, unwilling toleave the scene, yet allowing Henry his grief.)
Alice
Henry? I’m so sorry.
(He doesn’t reply. She reaches out and touches his shoulder. He reacts to this by spinning around and slapping her in the face. She cries out and recoils. Behind them, the Gendarme starts forward.)
Gendarme
Sir!
Alice
No, no, it’s all right. I deserved that.
Henry
You deserve worse than that.
Alice
I know.
Henry
You say you’re afraid you’re going to lose your Dad. I think you fucking deserve to.
Alice
I—
Henry
What do I do right now, Alice? Knowing what I know. What do I do right now?
Alice
Please.
Henry
Why? What do I owe you? What do I owe him? What do I owe you? Do I have loyalty to you? Why? Why, when theone man I know who had loyalty to… to… to humanity above all else. Above a flag, above a person, above everything, he saw the futility of what people do to each other. Why, when my best friend is dead because of you and your fucking cause, do I have loyalty tothat cause? What do I owe that cause? What do I owe you?
Alice
Nothing.
Henry
What does it mean? What does it accomplish? Vindication? Pride? What’s it for? We get independence tomorrow? We rejoin Britain? We get to call ourselves British. We get the Union Jack flying over Westminster again. My best friend is still dead. My life won’t be better for a Union Jack flying over Westminster. Not with Francois dead. My life was better this morning than it is now. The world was better this morning than it is now.
Alice
Henry, my Dad wasn’t—
Henry
No? But this is what he stands for. Why shouldn’t I walk over to that Gendarme and tell him everything he needs to know. I walk over there and tell him everything. Everything about you and your Dad and […] give the government everything they need to discredit the BNP so much that they won’t recover for twenty years.
Alice
I won’t let you.
(She pulls a gun out of her pocket and points it at Henry.)
I won’t let you.
Henry
Did you know you placed every person on the planet equidistantly from each other, there’d be 45 and a half miles from you to the next person?
Alice
What?
Henry
Francois was six foot tall. That means if he stood at the beach and looked out to the horizon, that was three miles away. The horizon is three miles away, and the nearest person would bemore than 42 miles further away than that. 42 miles further than the horizon. But we kill each other over what we want to call that 45 miles. Do you want to kill me over what you call your 45 miles? You’d kill me for the distance between you and the next person. We’re all alone in the world Alice. There are so few of us and we’re killing each other. We’re killing each other for the name of the distance between us and the next person. We’re killingeach other for 45 miles of isolation. Everyone of us has walked 45 miles to find each other. If we kill each other, we have to do it again. We’ve come together, you and I. Are you going to kill me?
Alice
I don’t know what to do.
Henry
Neither do I.
Gendarme
Excuse moi? Madame, monsieur, tres desole, however I am going to have to ask you to vacate the premises. This is a crime scene, I cannot risk you contaminating it. My apologies.
Henry
Yes officer.
(Henry and Alice begin to leave. Suddenly, Henrystops and addresses the Gendarme.)
Excuse me, sir. But might I ask where you’re from?
Gendarme
Where I am from?
Henry
Yes.
Gendarme
I was born in a small town called Saint-Omer. It isabout 40 kilometres from Calais.
Henry
About 45 miles from Dover.
Gendarme
Um… yes. Yes, that is about right. Pour quoi, monsieur?
Henry
Something my friend once said. Thank you sir.
Gendarme
Bon soir, monsieur. I am sorry for your loss.