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An Assignment for Student Playwrights by David Wagoner

I miss going to school.

An Assignment for Student Playwrights
David Wagoner

I told them to go listen to people talking,
To write exactly how some people really
Talked to each other, and one young man
Came to the next workshop, looking bewildered,
Holding his notes by thumbtip and fingertip
To avoid contamination. He said, “This
Is how they talked. They weren’t actually
Having a conversation, just interrupting
Each other and saying whatever it was
They wanted to keep on saying. They had to decide
Today, here and now, like whether to go on
With this, this whatever-it-was they couldn’t
Think of a name for. They kept looking
This way and that way, even at me (I wasn’t
Anybody, just some student scribbling),
But never at each other. You could tell
They felt bad. They were making up their minds
About something important enough to change
Their lives maybe forever. But what was coming
Out of their mouths wouldn’t have passed even
Junior high school English. They were both trying
To say what hurt, what was disappointing, what wasn’t
Even common courtesy, let alone love.
If they’d been actors, good ones, they’d have been making
Contact. They’d have been improvising something
More interesting than shoving their chairs back
And standing up and trying to split the bill
But dividing it wrong, dropping it, picking it up,
And arguing all the way out. Now what the hell
Am I supposed to make out of this crap?”

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