Stories of a black woman misunderstood.
SYLVIE and her MOM are sat on the sofa eating spaghetti dinners with their plates resting high atop their similarly sizable chests. It’s a tastefully decorated large living room, with artwork indicative of Caribbean culture. With mirrored body language, both SYLVIE and MOM glare at the TV whilst eating and conversing. MOM is an eccentric hippy. She has a hybrid English/Jamaican accent – which gets increasingly Jamaican the more she gets miffed. (It’s clear that she’s putting it on)
Sylvie: It’s a market stall, just a normal market stall.
Mom: Is this how you ask for money?
Sylvie: Nope. Don’t need any money.
Mom: Well, why are you talking about a market stall then?
Sylvie: You asked me.
Mom: I was harrrrsking you about work.
Sylvie: That is where I work.
Mom: On a market?
Sylvie: Yesss! God.
Mom: Hexcuse me?
Sylvie: I mean, yes, Mom. Yes.
Mom: What happened to that date line, business? You know the date line business?
Sylvie: Stop it. I left there months ago.
Mom: You never told me you were leaving. Where are you working now?
Sylvie: The market, Mom, I’m a market trader.
Mom: What do you mean by “market”, hexactly?
Sylvie: Is it really that hard? I applied for a stall, my application got approved, now I have a market stall. I trade on a market.
Mom: The stock market?
Sylvie: Mom, please! Are you high right now?
Mom: Ay! Watch your mouth, missy! I and I just don’t hunderstand. Why would you go from a good hoffice job to selling fruit and veg in the cold?
Sylvie: Can you go back to pretending you’re a Buddhist? I can’t deal with thisss. (Trying – and failing – to supress aggitation) It’s not a fruit and veg market, it’s crafts and shi… I can’t be arsed to explain. (Pause) Alan Sugar started out on a market stall!
Mom: Only because he hadn’t invented the internet yet.
Sylvie: (Annoyed) Alan Sugar didn’t invent the internet! (Pause) Did he? I don’t want to be like Alan Sugar anyway. He looks like teddy bear. It’s stupid.
Markets are fashionable places now. Cool people go there. Cool people with a shit load of disposable income.
MOM slaps SYLVIE square on the mouth with the back of her hand – gently, but it caught her by surprise so she didn’t block it.
Sylvie: My lip!
SYLVIE broods over her slapped lip for a moment.
Mom: What do you know about what’s cool, anyway?
Sylvie: As much as y… More than you!
Mom: As much as me, exactly.
Sylvie: I wish you’d stop acting like we’re the same person. I’m not a mini-you. It’s not cute. We have zero things in common.
Both take a slurp of spaghetti.
Mom: You do know that you’re black, right?
Sylvie: Shut up, Mom!
MOM slaps SYLVIE square on the mouth again. She saw it coming this time, but still didn’t block it.
Sylvie: My top lip!
Mom: You can’t go around doing the same foolishness that your white friends do, you know that. It’s not the same for you.
Sylvie: What would you know?
Mom: I know more than you! Don’t nobody want to buy from no teefin’ black woman’s market stand.
Sylvie: I’m not a teef!
Mom: I know that, but they don’t know that.
Sylvie: You’re talking rubbish now.
Mom: You look guilty, you know that. You’ve always had a guilty face.
Sylvie: No I haven’t! Have I? I haven’t. You’re talking out of your arse, now, Mom, seriously.
MOM goes to slap SYLVIE again, but SYLVIE blocks it.
Sylvie: (laughing) Yes!
Mom: You can’t move back home, Sylvestine.
Sylvie: You said you won’t call me that anymore! God!
Mom: Hit is your name!! Do not hoffend your father now, you ‘ear? It is the name ee gave you. Deny yourself, but do not deny your name!
Sylvie: Why do you always have to be so extra!? I’m doing the opposite of denying myself. You don’t know me at all, woman. I’m gonna go.
MOM gives SYLVIE a sharp look for the “woman” comment. SYLVIE gets up quickly and starts putting her coat, hat and shoes on.
Mom: Sylvestine! Sylvie, come on. Come on, Sylvestine. You know I worry about my little baby girl.
Sylvie: I’m 30!
Mom: OH! So you do know your age?
Sylvie: I’m outta here.
Mom: Text me when you get home then, ok? With your “flatmates,” or whatever it is I’m supposed to say now.
Sylvie: You can still say flatmate! Sam is still one singular person, they just doesn’t gender define. Don’t be ignorant.
Mom: But…I just…She…I mean, they… Them? Who they is?
Slyvie: Sam! “They” is Sam. Just Sam.
Mom: Well, they make we feel so confused… I…We
Sylvie: I’m going.
Mom: I’m trying, Sylvestine. I know he’s your best friend.
Sylvie throws Mom a look.
Mom: Sorry, darlin’. Don’t look pon me so.
I love Sam like it’s the daughter I always wanted, you know that, even if I don’t understand thee.
SYLVIE, now with her coat, hat and shoes on, puts on her backpack and goes to the front door.
Sylvie: I’ll see you when I’m richhhhhh!
She exits, slamming the door. Seconds later, she re-enters.
Sylvie: I didn’t mean to slam that so hard then. Sorry. I’ll see you Sunday for breakfast. Text you later. Love you, bye.
SYLVIE exits, closing the door overly gently behind her. MOM just kisses her teeth, then picks up her pipe from down the side of the sofa and lights up.
EXT.BUS STOP.THAT EVENING
SYLVIE is sitting alone in a bus stop texting. Her backpack is on the floor next to her feet. A man enters the bus stop and starts urinating in the corner.
Sylvie: Do you mind!?
Man: Shut up, bitch.
SYLVIE gasps. She looks like she’s about to burst out crying, but she swallows it, trying to be “brave”. The man finishes and walks away. SYLVIE stands and watches the man until he reaches a distance far enough that he can’t hear her.
Sylvie: You filthy…prick! How disg… How rude! I’m outraged! Somebody…! Somebody help me!
She paces, agitatedly, for a moment, looking for a witness, then eventually goes to sit back down. She notices that the man’s urine has trickled across and pooled around her backpack.
Sylvie: NO!! Fuck’s sake.
She hurriedly picks up her bag and holds it aloft as urine drips from it. A bus pulls up and she gets on. Disgruntled, she sits downstairs. The bus pulls away.
An elderly woman, sat behind SYLVIE, leans forward and sniffs.
Woman: You stink of piss. She stinks of piss!
SYLVIE turns around and addresses no one in particular.
Sylvie: Sorry, it’s my bag. It was… I was attacked. By a man’s urine. But I’m ok. I’m getting off in two stops. Sorry.
Woman: Bagpiss! She’s Bagpiss!
Sylvie: Yeah, sorry.
Sylvie: I know…piss on my bag. I’m getting off…
Woman: (pointing) You! You’re Bagpiss! Bagpiss!
Sylvie: What? Oh. Yeah, very funny. You can stop saying it…
Woman: Bagpiss. She’s Bagpiss.
SYLVIE sits, grumpily, looking out of the window, trying to ignore the woman’s relentless repetition of the word “bagpiss”.
EXT.STREET.A SHORT WHILE LATER.
SYLVIE is walking down the street, holding her backpack by her side, lifted just enough so that it doesn’t touch her legs. She turns and watches as the bus she just departed passes by. The elderly woman points and laughs.
Sylvie: Yeah, whatever! Stupid cow. Stupid, old…(thinking)..dumb, dickhead!
SYLVIE tuts and continues walking down the street until she reaches a small, almost empty, bar called Turner’s. She enters and stands at the door with the bag extended just outside. Her flatmate SAM and SAM’s new girlfriend are sat at a table in the corner.
Sam: What are you doing?
Sylvie: Hey, Sam. Where’s Mark?
Sam: Out back. Why are you standing there like that?
Sylvie: Is he busy? Would you mind getting him for me, please?
Sam: You get him.
Sylvie: I would, but I can’t. I’ve got a thing.
Sam: What thing?
Slyvie: Kind of a situation, actually. It’s fine, can you just tell him I’m here?
Sam: You tell him.
Sylvie: I can’t, can I!
Sylvie: Cuz of the thing…the situation!
Sam: What is the situation?
Sylvie: Does everyone have to question me? Just get him! Please!
Sam: No! And why are you still wearing that hat? You look like a tit.
Sam’s New Girlfriend: Or a cupcake.
Sylvie: (Sarcastic and impatient) Errrm, hello, nice to meet you, stranger.
MARK enters the bar from the kitchen and walks over to SYLVIE.
Mark: Hello, darling.
Mark: What’s the matter?
Sylvie: Nothing, I just… This man pissed on my bag at the bus stop.
Mark: Oh, my goodness! Oh, my… Are you hurt?
Sylvie: No, I’m not hurt, Mark, it’s ok.
Mark: Ok, phew. I was very worried just then. But nothing to worry about.
MARK kisses her forehead and turns to go back into the cafe.
Sylvie: Can you help me, please?
Mark: Help you with what, my angel?
Sylvie: (gesturing to her bag) This! Can you fix it for me?
Mark: How am I supposed to “fix” it? To fix it would imply that it’s broken, but I can see quite clearly that it’s not broken.
Sylvie: Just fix it. Please, Mark. Take it.
Mark: Urine cannot enter the dining area of the premises.
Sylvie: I know, babes, just take it somewhere else.
Mark: I cannot leave the premises while on duty.
Sylvie: (Defeated) Forget it then, Mark. Just forget it.
Mark: Should I really forget it, or is this another one of those situations you explained?
Sylvie: Just put some cleaning stuff out the back for me. Can you do that?
MARK kisses her on the forehead and turns and exits through the kitchen door. SYLVIE looks like she’s about to cry again, but, like earlier, suppresses the tears and slumps off down the side of the building exterior.
– End of Extract –