Helen Mirren Looks In



Jeff lies supine on an antique fourposter bed. He wears dark boxer-briefs and a Marine Corps t shirt. He is somewhere between asleep and awake. The room is furnished in 19th century antiques. A celling fan whirrs overhead. The room is lit entirely from a desk lamp with cream colored “Tiffany” shade and a lamp on the bedside table— not the porcelain Oriental lamp which has a short in the wiring but the chrome medical lamp substituting while the Oriental waits to be fixed. The bedside table is still cluttered  with medicine from last week’s head cold. 

Jeff’s belly rises and falls with short, shallow breaths. He is so still he could almost pass for dead. 

A gentle rap comes at the door. The knob turns and Helen Mirren sticks her head in. 

HELEN MIRREN: Are you receiving?

Jeff answers with a closed lip smile, barely opening his eyes. Helen Mirren enters and sits on the edge of the bed. She gently strokes Jeff’s hair.

HELEN MIRREN: How we doing?

JEFF: (a whisper) ‘kay.


JEFF: Just tired. Very, very tired.

Jeff sits up against the headboard. 

HELEN MIRREN: (of the hair stroking) I’m sorry was I—

JEFF: No, it’s fine.

HELEN MIRREN: Are you sure? Because I know you—

Jeff takes her hand. 

JEFF: It’s fine.

He continues to hold her hand, resting both theirs on his thigh. 

JEFF: I heard y’all had a little meeting last night. How’s it going?

HELEN MIRREN: How do you think it’s going?

JEFF: You mean all of it— so far? Because I couldn’t begin to guess how things are going on your end.

HELEN MIRREN: All of it.

JEFF: (sighs) I don’t know. I mean I feel hopeful. The blog is helping— if nothing else I’m moving my fingers on the keyboard everyday. I hope that continues to grow. I feel like I’m trying to build momentum by— it’s like trying to move a cruise ship in the water by swimming behind it and pushing.

HELEN MIRREN: I suppose if you kept trying and didn’t give up it would eventually move.

JEFF: It be much easier if I had some help.
HELEN MIRREN: Well that’s what we’re here for.

JEFF: Thanks. It also makes it less lonely. I mean, there’s audience— but I’ve forbade them from giving feedback. It feels a little unfair to them. I’m a dick sometimes.

HELEN MIRREN: Well, maybe you should reconsider that.

JEFF: What? That I’m a dick?

HELEN MIRREN: No, we both know you can be— well, abrasive at times— but you were the one who taught me not to use that term in that way. “It’s man-hating” you said.

JEFF: It is. It’s just too bad that there’s just not another word that seems to fit there as well.

HELEN MIRREN: Well, if the dick fits… God, I’ve become so crass hanging around you. I was actually talking about reconsidering taking feedback from the audience. Some of them might really have some help to offer.

JEFF: Oh God, Helen. You wouldn’t believe some of the inane bullshit that seeps through, even with the edict. “Bathe in broccoli soup. Chant the names of the Seven Principle Fairies.” Christ!  But in all fairness I have gotten a couple of good suggestions that I feel pretty confident would work if I’d just implement them. But if I lift the edict, it’ll be open season and I’m not sure I can— well, I don’t read very fast and— I mean I’m missing emails and messages already because my brain—

He’s starting to get agitated. 

HELEN MIRREN: (calming) It’s okay. None of that’s important tonight. I just wanted to peek in and check on you. We are working on some things that we think will get things moving in the right direction but I just have to check in and know that we’re not— well—

JEFF: Up against any deadlines?

HELEN MIRREN: Well, we are actually— one that you imposed— September 1, 2015.  But I mean other than that— is there—?

JEFF: You want to know if I’m going to off myself before anybody can get anything done.

HELEN MIRREN: Well I’m supposed to ask— are you having thoughts of suicide? Are you a threat to harm yourself or anyone else?

JEFF: I hurt people all the time. With my words. But I don’t mean to. And if you mean if I’m going to go out and start mowing people down— no. I’m done with killing as a solution to conflict. I can’t say I wouldn’t use violence if I came up on a rape or something like that but, no, none of the people that I often think about killing are in any danger of my doing so.

HELEN MIRREN: There are people you think often about killing?!

Jeff’s look indicates his genuine surprise that this isn’t the case for everyone. 

HELEN MIRREN: And the suic—

JEFF: I can contract for safety. That’s the best I can do.  But to be honest, there haven’t been two days— with the exception of when I was in boot camp— that I haven’t thought about it since I was like twelve. Isn’t that strange? About boot camp? The only time in my life I went any substantial time without wanting to take myself out was during one of the most hellish times in my life? Hellish and awesome. God, I’m insane— and tired.

HELEN MIRREN: I’m going to let you get some rest. We’re meeting in the morning tomorrow so you won’t be so tired. The goal is to start the week with some real practical plans and some support that can help you move pass some of the resistance.

She pats his hands and removes hers from his. She stands to leave. 

Jeff’s mother and niece burst into the room holding some sequined articles of clothing.

JEFF’S MOTHER: (very loudly) Okay Unc, we need your opinion!

She leans over the bed holding a sparkly sweater and sequin scarf in front of his face. He chews the inside of his mouth. 

JEFF: (very sweetly) Okay but I am working, okay?

She shoves the garments a little closer. 

JEFF: What? Does it look okay together you mean?


JEFF: Yes, it’s fine.

Jeff’s mother, annoyed that he was annoyed by the interruption huffs toward the door. 

JEFF: Y’all mind pulling that door to?

Jeff’s mother does so without further comment.  

Jeff buries his face in his hand consumed with guilt for having been curt with his poor, sweet , ailing mother. The words “cut yourself” flash across the screen. 

HELEN MIRREN: It’ll be alright. Get some rest.

JEFF: Was there something else you were gonna—

HELEN MIRREN: Oh! Right! Just a quick question about— well, no thoughts of drinking or drugging have you?

JEFF: (pause) Well, as before, I can tell you I’m not going to. And I know what to do before I got to that point. But to tell you the truth— as far as thoughts go, yeah, I actually have said the words “bourbon and coke” about five times this week and I’d just about give a testicle to be able to take a few rips off a bong without giving up my sobriety date— but that’s just not the way it works now is it. Yes, Helen, I’d loved to be baked out of my gourd right now but just for tonight, I’m not going to do it.

HELEN MIRREN: That’s m’boy. Okay, get some rest. Want me to get the desk lamp?

JEFF: No, I still have to brush my teeth. Thanks Helen.

Helen opens the bedroom door to leave, turns to him once more and smiles.

HELEN MIRREN: It’s going to be alright you, know. Better than alright.

JEFF: (a polite smile) See y’all tomorrow.

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