Splatter Paint, Scene Three: The Office
ELLE and BOBBI are seated at high stools around their worktable. ELLE holds a bowl of popcorn. BOBBI has a stack of photos in front of her; she holds them up one by one for ELLE.
ELLE: Crap. (Throws a few pieces of popcorn into her mouth.)
BOBBI: Okay. How about this?
ELLE: Not quite as crap as the last one.
ELLE: Shittiest of them all.
BOBBI: Do you ever like anything you shoot?
ELLE: No. (Tosses a handful of popcorn at BOBBI.) If I was a happy artist I’m not sure I could call myself an artist.
BOBBI: You gotta choose one.
ELLE: They’re all shit.
BOBBI: Even this one?
ELLE: Oh God, put that away.
BOBBI: We have to choose one. Maybe if we go back through –
ELLE: Nooooo. Let’s take a break, okay?
BOBBI: Okay. (Pause. Stares at ELLE. ELLE throws more popcorn at her.)
ELLE: You going to keep staring at me or are you gonna ask?
BOBBI: Ask what?
ELLE: Ask me.
BOBBI: I don’t –
ELLE: Ask me about what you saw yesterday.
BOBBI: Elle, I… I didn’t…
ELLE: I know. But you saw, so ask. Seriously – I don’t mind.
BOBBI: I’d rather not.
ELLE stares at her, obnoxiously chomping on her popcorn. BOBBI gets more and more nervous as her stare bores into her. She tries to busy herself going through the photographs on the table but ELLE never drops her gaze.
BOBBI: It looked very private.
ELLE: It was private. That’s why the door was shut.
BOBBI: (Pause.) I’ve never seen you like that before.
ELLE: Well, that’s because I don’t paint topless in the center of the break room.
BOBBI: That’s not what I meant. That… possessed. No not, possessed – obsessed. No, I… I’ve never seen you look that happy.
ELLE: I wasn’t aware that I look happy when I’m embarrassed.
BOBBI: Before you realized –
BOBBI: You aren’t that absorbed when you work.
ELLE: I photograph Lotus Blossoms and Sun Salutations all day. After awhile, I can only get so excited about it. (BOBBI stares at her. ELLE breaks into fake smile.) I love my job.
BOBBI: And everyone knows it. Why don’t you quit?
ELLE: I can’t quit.
BOBBI: Why? Go take pictures of children in the park, or real lotus blossoms in India, or Orville Redenbacher… something you like.
ELLE: How old are you, Bobbi?
BOBBI: Why not?
ELLE: Tell me how old you are and I’ll tell you.
BOBBI: I’ll tell you how old I am when – you know what? No. This is ridiculous. You hate your life – fix it. Don’t you listen to what they tell you at the end of each class?
ELLE: It’s kind of hard to focus when everyone’s sprinting out the door to avoid the rush.
BOBBI: Take time for yourself – renew, refresh, all that crap? They say it for a reason.
ELLE: Seriously, how old are you? Twenty?
ELLE: Come back to me in five years and tell me how easy it is to change up your life and do something you love. I gave up on that a long time ago. I have bills to pay, a husband, we support each other – I can’t just pick up and leave this job because I’m bored. I think we all have a grace period where we get to figure it out… I didn’t figure it out soon enough. And here I am.
BOBBI: I know that this is impolite, you being wiser and older than me, but I think that’s pathetic.
ELLE: Excuse me?
BOBBI: Pathetic. You looked happy yesterday, Eleanor. Genuinely happy –
ELLE: I’m happy with lots of things.
BOBBI: You spend forty plus hours a week doing something that you hate. That’s so… senseless! So you what, paint on the side to make yourself happier?
ELLE: What’s wrong with that? You think all of the computer analysts and accountants out there do nothing to complement their work lives?
BOBBI: I think that if you have a marketable talent – you shouldn’t use it to do something you loathe.
ELLE: I don’t loathe working here.
BOBBI: Then why do all your photos suck?
ELLE: Excuse me?
BOBBI: If you loved taking these it would show. Those photos suck because you hate taking them – and you know what the sad thing is? If you were any other person, I’d say, “hey that photo isn’t so bad.” But for someone with as much potential as you, these photos are awful. I’ve seen your shows, Elle.
ELLE: I haven’t done a show in years.
BOBBI: I looked you up.
ELLE: (More flattered and shocked than angry.) You looked me up? Where?
BOBBI: The Eveson Gallery has a file on you. I saw your stuff… and it’s really good. And I think you’re wasting, well, pretty much everything by working here.
ELLE: Which collection did you see?
BOBBI: Generational Gaps.
ELLE: (Laughs.) Oh god.
BOBBI: If you even say its crap –
ELLE: No. (Pause.) I know. If possible I try to think about that show least.
BOBBI: It’s your best one.
ELLE: Compared to what?
BOBBI: I looked through all of your stuff – it was the best by far.
ELLE: I was a kid.
BOBBI: Okay, first of all – you’re not that old –
ELLE: I grew up fast.
BOBBI: So that means you block it out?
ELLE: You saw a couple of crappy shows I put together years ago. They’re about stupid emotional crap I was going through at the time. They’re past and they should stay past. (Pause. BOBBI awkwardly stares back at ELLE.)
BOBBI: I saw something I liked as an artist and I thought I’d share. Look, I know I’m just your twenty year old assistant or whatever, but I’ve seen a few photographs in my twenty years and I know what moves me and what doesn’t and those old photographs– they moved me.
ELLE: Lotus postures aren’t supposed to move you. They’re supposed to sell yoga classes.
BOBBI: Then why does it matter if they’re crap or not? Pick one and be done with it.
ELLE: I still have to sell the classes.
BOBBI: So you do care.
ELLE: Bobbi, this is my job. It’s enough – it pays the bills, I usually don’t want to kill the people I work with.
BOBBI: So you care enough – but not too much. Should I be looking at a pie chart or something?
ELLE: Bobbi –
BOBBI: (Mimicking) My job is 40% income, 25.8% standing the assholes I work with, 12.2% the dental benefits, and maybe trying to squeeze in LIKING IT IN THE LAST FIVE PERCENT!?
ELLE is silent.
BOBBI: Tell me you’re happy. Say out loud that you’re happy living this artist’s life of quiet desperation, so quiet in fact that you won’t even admit to yourself that you’re desperate.
ELLE: I am NOT desperate. How dare you –
BOBBI: Then why do you sit behind closed doors and paint pictures of yourself on your lunch break? Why do you come in here in the mornings looking like you’re about to walk to the scaffolding? No one thinks you’re happy Eleanor.
ELLE: I’m happy. I’m fucking happy. Don’t you dare tell me I’m not happy.
BOBBI: Then tell me you are.
ELLE: I’m happy enough.
BOBBI: Oh I’m sorry. I was wrong. You’re not leading a life of quiet desperation, you’re leading a life that’s FILLED TO THE BRIM WITH ADEQUACY!
ELLE: Get out.
BOBBI: (Starts to grab her stuff.) Maybe you should take your own advice. Get out.
ELLE: (Knocks the popcorn bowl violently to the ground.) GET THE HELL OUT.
BOBBI: There. Right there? That’s what I saw when you were painting. You were alive. That painting was alive. It’s not about size or exposure, or the kind of camera you use. It’s about heart. A photo taken with heart. You can take it anywhere, of anything. If you love it, it’ll be the best photo you’ve ever taken. These photos are dead. Call me when you quit.
BOBBI exits and ELEANOR is left standing in the middle of the stage. She throws the collection of photos on the ground in fury. Pauses, stares at them, selects a random three out of the pile, puts them in a manilla envelope, drops it in a box labeled “Final Prints” and walks out.