Title:
ALONE TOGETHER
Credit: Written by
Author: Marshall "Gripp" Gillson
Contact: marshall@glassEyeballs.com

INT. BATHROOM (NOEL'S APARTMENT) - DAY

Muted light shines in through one tiny, square window. The sky is heavy and overcast. Snowflakes begin to drift down onto the alley outside.

A slow, gruff VOICE pierces the silence.

VOICE (O.S.)

Pathetic.

The sound of a FAUCET RUNNING then WATER SPLASHING.

VOICE (O.S.)

You think that gon help?

NOEL (black man, around 30) lifts his face from the sink. Beads of water drip down his cheeks.

VOICE (O.S.)

You think you can wash it off? It's not dirty. It's broken.

Noel dabs his face with a towel.

VOICE (O.S.)

(disgusted)

Empty satchel of a body waving.

The voice snickers.

VOICE (O.S.)

You can't run you know.

Noel gapes at himself in the mirror above the sink. His reflection is fatigued. And above his shoulder he sees a second portrait of his face floating. The second portrait speaks.

VOICE

I can hear you thinking it.

The portrait isn't hovering at all. It belongs to another figure, who stands behind him. This is LEON. Noel turns to face him.

At a glance, the two look identical. They have the same face, the same features. But Leon's eyes bulge from his head. One of his eyelids droops. His clothes are ill-fitting. He looks dissatisfied.

Noel shakes his head.

NOEL

It ain't like that.

LEON (VOICE)

You gon tell me what it's like?

NOEL

That's the idea.

Noel pushes past Leon and leaves the room.

INT. LIVING ROOM (NOEL'S APARTMENT) - DAY

SIANA (black woman, around 30) sits on the couch, a pallor on the room. Snow accumulates on the ground outside. She stares blankly. Directly ahead.

In front of the couch is a coffee table and across from the coffee table is a chair. Siana blinks. In the chair sits a mirrored version of herself, shiny and translucent. Siana raises an eyebrow.

The apparition holds a horn, a circle of slides interwoven like fingers, the brass shimmering a peculiar blue. Siana is agog. The instrument fills her eyes stretched open with awe. The apparition lifts the horn to her mouth, inhales deeply-

A DOOR SLAMS and NOEL traipses back into the room, wiping his hands on his pants.

NOEL

Starting to snow.

He falls heavy into the chair, Siana's horn-playing specter disappeared. Then Siana arrives in the conversation.

NOEL

You okay? You look some type a way.

SIANA

Yeah. Just spaced out.

Noel is suspicious.

NOEL

You been drinking?

SIANA

(annoyed)

No. Not today.

Behind her, LEON leans against the wall, smirking. She doesn't see him, but Noel is shook.

NOEL

Okay. Good. Right. Good.

SIANA

(squinting)

Yeah.

Noel notices her irritation and his face melts.

NOEL

Sorry. Am I being anxious? I am, right?

Siana taps the seat next to her, trying to shake it off, but Leon won't have it.

SIANA

We good. Come sit by me, boo.

LEON

Nigga, you not anxious. You know the truth.


NOEL

(irritated)

Stop it.

SIANA

(put off)

What?

NOEL

Nothing. I just... I'm fine where I am.

SIANA

(disappointed)

Oh. Okay.

She thumbs through a stack of boxes.

SIANA

You wanna play mancala? I could play a game.

LEON

What a lovely opportunity to show her who you are.


NOEL

(snapping)

No.

Leon snickers.

NOEL

Sorry. No. Yeah. Let's.

Siana shifts forward in her seat.

SIANA

Yo I don't know what's up but-

NOEL

Nothing.

SIANA

You treating me like shit cause of nothing?

NOEL

I'm not treating you like shit.

SIANA

Seriously?

NOEL

Okay calm down.

SIANA

Don't tell me to calm down.

NOEL

No I know I just-

SIANA

If you know, then why did you say it?

NOEL

(forceful)

Relax.

Siana's lips contort.

SIANA

Y'know what?

NOEL

Come on.

SIANA

Fine.

NOEL

I didn't mean-

SIANA

Yeah you fucking did.

Leon mocks Noel's bewildered expression. Noel hangs his head.

NOEL

(stammering)

I- maybe I should take a pill.

SIANA

Just in time.

Noel is ashamed. He fumbles to lift a pill bottle from the table, pops it open, and dumps a few into his shaking hand.

Siana takes pity on him.

SIANA

(resigned)

Which ones are those?

NOEL

All of them.

Siana raises an eyebrow.

SIANA

You keep all your pills in the same bottle?

Noel nods and holds his hand out. Three pills.

NOEL

SSRI daily to temper it long-term and that's basically a Xanax.

SIANA

What about that one?

Siana points at the third pill.

NOEL

That one's a Flintstones vitamin.

Siana looks again. Oh yeah. Betty. Noel pops it into his mouth.

NOEL

I need a glass of water.

Siana nods and Noel exits toward the kitchen. Leon tiptoes after him.

Siana listens for the FAUCET RUNNING. She bends down to rummage through her handbag, which leans against the leg of the coffee table. From it, she produces a flask. She unscrews the top, furtively takes two large gulps with a slight wince, and stuffs it back in her bag.

The FAUCET TURNS OFF and Noel reenters the room with two glasses of water, pills still clenched in his palm, Leon in tow.

NOEL

I got you some, too.

SIANA

Thanks.

Siana takes one of the glasses. With a swig of water, Noel downs the two remaining pills and takes a seat beside Siana on the couch. He wraps an arm around her, leans his head on her shoulder, and sighs.

The two sit for a moment, quiet and contemplative. Leon rolls his eyes.

NOEL

Would it help if I told you I'm working on it?

SIANA

Nope.

NOEL

It's a process?

SIANA

Nope.

Noel nods. He pauses just long enough for Siana to shift in her seat, just long enough for her to hope against hope that he is letting it go.

NOEL

I just need you to know I didn't mean to hurt you. Like... that's not me. I know you got a history of-

SIANA

Are we gonna play mancala?

Noel, stymied.

NOEL

Yeah. Sure.

He smiles sheepishly and mutters under his breath.

NOEL

Sorry...

He stands to set up the game board and Siana gawks absently at the room. A fog begins to saturate the air, clouding her vision. She blinks and it disappears.

INT. LIVING ROOM (NOEL'S APARTMENT) - DAY (LATER)

The street is powdered with snow. Reflected light gleams into the apartment. The WIND WHISTLES.

NOEL sits in the chair and SIANA on the sofa. They are divided by the coffee table, a mancala board, a game already in progress, cups filled with assorted beads.

Noel examines the board closely as he blathers.

NOEL

My coworkers want to do an escape room.

He scoops up one of the cups...

NOEL

Why would I lock myself in a room with a bunch of crazy white people?

!...and distributes the gems. Plunk. Plunk. Plunk.

NOEL

I don't want to be locked in a room with my coworkers unless it's a bar.

Noel looks up from the board at Siana. Her eyes are beady and distant.

NOEL

Oh. Sorry. I guess I shouldn't...

A fog drifts slowly over the room. Siana watches a projection of herself sway out of it, cradling a horn. The projection runs her hands over the instrument's valves, admires its blue tint, even as she fades into translucence.

Siana's eyes snap back into focus.

SIANA

Huh? My turn?

Noel's brow is furrowed.

NOEL

Yeah.

He leans back as Siana ponders the board and counts beads.

NOEL

It just feels like such a fire hazard.

SIANA

What does?

NOEL

The escape room.

You for real not paying attention at all huh?

SIANA

I'm thinking about the game.

Noel is unconvinced.

NOEL

Okay.

Siana scoops up a handful of beads and distributes them. Plunk. Plunk. Plunk. Plunk.

SIANA

Then I get these.

She reaches down to collect beads, but Noel leans back in to protest.

NOEL

Which ones?

SIANA

This cup here.

NOEL

What did you move?

Siana's hand moves to her temple. She points.

SIANA

I moved five from there.

NOEL

Then how come this cup's empty? It was only four in there.

SIANA

Okay.

NOEL

You skipped a cup.

SIANA

Okay. Fine. Move it back.

Siana gets up and grabs her bag.

SIANA

I'll be right back.

She shuffles off to the bathroom.

Noel lifts the misplaced bead smugly and moves it back a cup.

Plunk.

He leans back in his chair. Behind him, slumped down on the floor against the wall, gagged and bound with duct tape, sits LEON. He looks pissed.

INT. BATHROOM (NOEL'S APARTMENT) - DAY

SIANA raises her face from the sink. Beads of water drip down her cheeks.

Fog starts to gather. Panicked, Siana turns to her handbag sitting on the toilet, rifles through it, and retrieves her flask. She opens it and swallows a few times. Not enough. It is empty.

Getting desperate, she lifts it back to her lips. Still nothing. The fog thickens until the room is clouded and dim. A silhouette of Siana clutching her horn dissolves into haze.

Then ANOTHER VOICE cuts through the gloom.

ANOTHER VOICE (O.S.)

All out?

Siana cringes. She turns to find ANAIS. Though they share a face, Anais grins, snide, leaning against the wall. Anais wears calamity as part of her outfit, casual turbulence that you might not notice until too late.

But Siana knows better.

SIANA

Oh fuck off.

ANAIS (ANOTHER VOICE)

That ain't no way to greet an old friend.

SIANA

We are not friends.

ANAIS

Then the rooster crowed. And she went outside and wept bitterly.

Siana is unimpressed. She does her best to ignore Anais, shoves the flask back into her handbag.

ANAIS

Something you wanna talk about?

SIANA

No.

ANAIS

You sure? Cuz you hiding in the bathroom with an empty flask.

Siana turns to glare at Anais.

ANAIS

Don't shoot the messenger.

Siana scowls.

ANAIS

I could help.

SIANA

No.

ANAIS

Come on. Just let me talk to him.

SIANA

No.

ANAIS

I could prob'ly get him to-

SIANA

No!

Anais rolls her eyes.

ANAIS

Then what you gonna do?

Siana shakes her head.

SIANA

Well first I'ma take a piss.

Anais reeks of ambivalence. Siana drops her underwear and squats to the toilet. She glares angrily at Anais until finally Anais sighs.

ANAIS

Fine.

Siana is alone again. She drops her head into her shaking hands.

INT. LIVING ROOM (NOEL'S APARTMENT) - DAY

Plunk. Plunk. Plunk. NOEL finishes distributing his beads. In the warmth of the living room, he barely notices the drifts piling up outside.

LEON struggles against his duct tape restraints. Noel ignores him, scoops up a cup and drops its contents into his mancala. FOOTSTEPS from behind.

NOEL

You let me get that cup with six.

He turns to look. Siana enters the room. No. It's ANAIS.

ANAIS

(snide)

I bet you cheated.

Noel doesn't detect the difference.

NOEL

(smug)

You know I don't need to.

Anais leans down to smother Noel with an embrace.

ANAIS

(syrupy)

That's so cute. You still don't realize I be letting you win?

Noel fawns at being coddled.

NOEL

I love you, Si.

ANAIS

Mm-hm.

Duplicity glints in her eyes. She rounds the table and takes Siana's seat on the couch.

NOEL

(playful)

Whatever. Your mancala game been trash since we met.

ANAIS

(sharp)

Yo fuck you.

NOEL

Woah what?

ANAIS

Fuck you. You been on some bullshit all day.

NOEL

Woah. I was just-

I thought we was playing around.

ANAIS

Yeah. Always a fucking game.

NOEL

I was talking about the game...

ANAIS

Can you quit being a fuck nigga for two seconds?

Noel clenches.

NOEL

Please calm down.

ANAIS

Take some fucking responsibility.

Noel's breath is hurried.

NOEL

I'm not trying to duck you.

Just... you're shouting.

He closes his eyes.

ANAIS

You gonna take your little pills?

NOEL

(panicking)

Just in time...

ANAIS

Nope.

She grins.

ANAIS

Too late.

Noel's eyes snap open. Anais nods toward the wall behind him. Eyes wide with horror, he turns to look. Only shredded strips of duct tape. Leon has escaped.

NOEL

Fuck.

He takes flight. He dashes to the door and exits into the snow.

Satisfied, Anais sinks back into the couch.

INT. BATHROOM (NOEL'S APARTMENT) - DAY

The TOILET FLUSHES. SIANA washes her hands, smooths her hair in the mirror, and turns back to the door.

INT. LIVING ROOM (NOEL'S APARTMENT) - DAY

SIANA traipses in from the bathroom. But she stops, stunned.

ANAIS lazes on the couch, nonchalant, alone. The front door hangs open. The mancala board is abandoned.

SIANA

What did you do?

Anais shrugs.

SIANA

Ugh.

Siana rushes to pull on her boots and her coat and scrambles out the door.

EXT. CITY STREET - DAY

The street is carpeted by several inches of heavy, wet snow. The storm shows no signs of letting up. Cars are rendered useless, buried. The block is desolate and barren.

Except for NOEL. He lumbers up the street, struggling against the blizzard. His arms hug his torso and still he shivers. He didn't think this through.

LEON appears, skipping ahead of him, unaffected by the squall.

LEON

So what's the plan here? Suicide by snowstorm?

NOEL

Could you just give me a minute?

LEON

Not sure you got a minute.

Not sure you want a minute.

You not too bright. I told you already.

You can't run from it. You carrying it.

You tryna run from a backpack? Hm?

Water wells in Noel's eyes. He stares Leon down grimly.

LEON

Is you cryn? Is your tears frozen?

Nigga, that's dramatic.

You hollowed out. Gutted like a fish.

Cored like a fruit.

Ain't nothing left 'cept me and you and-

SIANA comes bounding up the street.

SIANA

Noel!

She wraps a blanket around him.

SIANA

What happened? What happened?

Noel is still dazed.

NOEL

I uh... I panicked.

SIANA

We need to go back inside. Like right now.

Siana hustles them back toward the apartment. Leon trails, annoyed.

LEON

Oh come on! Just like that?

Noel shivers and glares defiantly.

INT. LIVING ROOM (NOEL'S APARTMENT) - NIGHT

SIANA sits in the chair overlooking the coffee table. NOEL has changed out of his wet outfit and into pajamas. He huddles on the couch under a blanket.

Just the two of them.

Noel swallows, places his glass of water and his pill bottle back down on the table. He nods toward the unfinished mancala game.

NOEL

I think it's your turn.

An exasperated sigh from Siana as the tension breaks. She picks up one bead and moves it over one cup.

Noel nods.

NOEL

Pretty crap move.

SIANA

I don't know what to do, Noel.

NOEL

Well that cup there would have got you-

SIANA

Not what I'm talking about.

Noel pauses.

NOEL

I know.

SIANA

I been drinking.

NOEL

Today?

Siana nods.

NOEL

How much?

She reaches into her bag and tosses her flask to Noel. He catches it and weighs it in his palms.

NOEL

Empty.

Her jaw is clenched.

SIANA

You were not being gentle.

NOEL

Ah. I make you drink.

SIANA

I make you want to kill yourself?

Noel glares.

NOEL

I didn't say that.

SIANA

Today.

NOEL

(quietly)

You lied.

SIANA

To avoid your lecture.

NOEL

Drinking destabilizes-

SIANA

Yeah that one.

Noel grimaces.

SIANA

I get that you're hurt, Noel.

Or hurting or whatever. Anxiety. Voices in your head.

But that don't give you permission to hurt me. It's not an excuse.

You can't just fuck me up and then blame it on me and my past and my drinking.

I get that you're going through shit. We both are.

But I'm not always taking my crap out on you am I?

NOEL

(coldly)

Yes.

Siana's head droops. When she looks back up, her eyes are sharp.

SIANA

Then we both have work to do.

Noel nods.

NOEL

Do-

Do you want-

Should I-

SIANA

No.

All the words Noel can muster.

NOEL

Okay.

I'm sorry.

Siana sighs.

SIANA

Yeah.

She gets up from her chair, joins Noel on the couch, and lays her head in his lap.

SIANA

We can't do it alone, Noel.

NOEL

I know.

SIANA

Neither of us.

NOEL

I know.

SIANA

We gotta talk.

NOEL

(solemn)

I'll try.

SIANA

And listen?

Noel nods.

NOEL

I'm trying.

SIANA

Okay.

Okay. Me too.

The two drift into silence, reluctant but insulated at least from the flurries pounding on the window.

INT. BEDROOM (NOEL'S APARTMENT) - DAY

The morning is cloudy but wan light meanders through the window, amplified by the blanket of snow but dulled by half-drawn curtains. From up the road comes a LOUD SCRAPING SOUND. A body jostles in bed. SIANA sits up, shakes off her disorientation, looks around. She is alone. She grabs at her phone on the bedside table. One text from Noel: "went to get groceries. bbs. love you"

The SCRAPING SOUND gets louder. Siana leans forward to watch as a snowplow pushes by outside. The street is nearly clear already.

The SCRAPING GETS QUIETER and quieter as the truck drives off, leaving Siana alone with her thoughts.

She notices her handbag hanging from the knob of the closet door. She stands from her bed and approaches slowly, reaches out to it, and pulls back.

The door swings open.

On the closet floor is a boxy black briefcase. She flips open its two large snaps and swings the top up.

Inside, a horn with slides intertwined like fingers across its circular body. Its metal is tarnished and worn, but still glints with an unmistakable blue undertone.

Siana takes the instrument from the closet and regards it carefully, marvels at the hue. She takes one last look around the room. A smile curls her mouth as she lifts the instrument to her lips and exhales.

TITLE CARD: ALONE TOGETHER