The Platonic Friends Society
by Charles C. Cole
A meeting space meant for kids, with a small round table and “grade school” chairs in a circle, facing away from each other. DOC, dressed like a prairie minister, stands behind a formal wooden podium, welcoming the others as they arrive, each embarrassed and somewhat resistant: ARIANNA, PHIL, and LOUKAS.
DOC: Welcome back, Loukas. So glad you decided to give me another try, Phil. Arianna, there are simply no words.
ARIANNA: Don’t make me regret this.
DOC: If everyone could take a seat and mute your phones, we won’t waste anyone’s time.
PHIL: Waste his time, he means.
ARIANNA: Shouldn’t the chairs be facing each other?
DOC: (Ignoring her.) We all know why we’re here. This is the Platonic Friends Society.
LOUKAS: Also known as the “Keep Your Clothes On” Society.
DOC: If everyone could hold hands. (LOUKAS reaches for ARIANNA.) Your own hands. Sorry.
LOUKAS: I always forget that part.
DOC: (Clasping his hands like a self-congratulating boxer.) Old habits die hard, but we’re here to break them. And break some self-made barriers along the way.
PHIL: Whatever you’ve been drinking, Doc, I sure could do with some.
DOC: Funny you should consider that option.
PHIL: I don’t mean to be funny. I was thinking more along the lines of Desperately Seeking Intimacy.
DOC: You’ve all tried other programs. You’ve tried coaching yourselves in the mirror. At least one of you has tried hypnotism.
ARIANNA: You suggested it.
DOC: Success is really just trial-and-error won by attrition. We have real possibility tonight. (Joking.) In fact, it’s right there in the printed agenda, so it must be true.
PHIL: I didn’t get an agenda. Did anybody else get an agenda?
DOC: If you just reach under your chairs, you’ll find an elixir especially brewed for tonight.
ARIANNA: Have we stooped to parlor tricks, Doc? Are you getting us drunk so we’ll let go our inhibitions? If that’s all it took, I could do this without you.
DOC: I assure you, it’s not alcohol, but it has similar effects. It’s a hormone cocktail of a sort, heretofore only used in controlled, government labs. But I’m willing to chance it.
ARIANNA: Because you’re not having any.
PHIL: It’s not like steroids, is it? If it’s going to shrink my male parts, I have to say, finding my inner Don Juan at the expense of my Don Johnson is like winning a 60-inch flat screen TV that only shows black-and-white religious programming.
DOC: No part of you will be altered by this one experience, except that you will finally have a moment to look back on proudly and say, “Yeah, I’m a sexual hound dog. Good for me.”
ARIANNA: I’m not removing any clothes. I’m telling you right now.
DOC: You’re not doing anything at all, not here. This isn’t about doing it, this has never been about doing it; this is about letting yourselves let go because that is the first step to freeing your passions. So drink up. Don’t hesitate. There will never be another moment like this in your lives.
(Cautiously and skeptically, they do.)
ARIANNA: It’s sweet, really sweet.
PHIL: Mine tastes kind of sour.
DOC: I’m not surprised, Phil. It’s different for different palates, so I’m told. Squeeze your nose; it may help dull the taste. But drink up you must and quickly. We’re burning daylight.
PHIL: Is that what that smell is? I thought it was my love life.
DOC: How is it, Loukas?
LOUKAS: It tastes bland, flavorless, you know, like a watered-down, flat soda.
DOC: Don’t overthink it, son. Swallow. Don’t think. Don’t doubt.
ARIANNA: I feel tingly and warm. Is that supposed to happen?
DOC: I think it might be best if you stood up on the table for this next part.
ARIANNA: Why? Am I in danger? Did you drug me?
DOC: Arianna, my dear, you are the drug. Everything else is make-believe. And that’s the God’s truth.
ARIANNA: (Stepping up on the table.) I suddenly feel invisible. Does that make any sense?
PHIL: (Standing.) I have the urge to stand. May I stand?
DOC: Don’t ask me, Phil. This isn’t primary school.
PHIL: (Sitting.) Okay.
DOC: I mean, follow your impulse, son.
PHIL: (Standing.) Right! Can I stand on the chair?
DOC: You don’t need permission. Treat me like I’m not here.
PHIL: Okay. (Standing on his chair.) I’m king of the world! Can I howl? What am I asking you for? You’re not even here. (Howls.) I’m a hound dog. And I like it. (Howls.)
DOC: (Pointing off stage.) I believe I see a girl admiring you! Very impressive. Go introduce yourself.
DOC: In the hall. Over there. What have you got to lose?
(PHIL howls and exits.)
DOC: Appearances aside, that dog don’t hunt. (Beat.) Loukas, you’re very quiet tonight. What’s going on?
LOUKAS: I feel strangely... masculine.
DOC: You have a funny way of showing it.
LOUKAS: I don’t show it, ever. That’s why I’m here. That’s why we’re all here.
DOC: I know, son. Let me ask you a question. Do you see Arianna standing in the center there? The invisible girl looking longingly at you right now. I know you know her. I know you two are an item. She told me.
ARIANNA: A platonic item.
LOUKAS: We’re friends. Is that so hard to believe?
DOC: But you want to be more, don’t you? Look at her. Loukas, I have only to whistle and that colorful canine of a human being in the hall will come running in here like a bloodhound on the scent. Is that what you want?
LOUKAS: No, sir, not at all.
ARIANNA: Why doesn’t he see me?
DOC: You’ve heard of conduct unbecoming. He sees you. He wants you, but he’s afraid he won’t respect himself in the morning. He’s afraid of violating you.
LOUKAS: I want to touch you, Arianna, but I’m afraid.
DOC: (Calling.) Phil, here boy. Phil, come on back now.
LOUKAS: Wait! Wait!
PHIL: (Racing back.) I couldn’t find her, the girl. I thought maybe she was hiding, but there was nobody there. She must be real fast, that’s all I can say.
DOC: (Indicating.) She’s right here. What are you waiting for? Go get acquainted.
PHIL: (Suddenly, self-aware.) Sorry, Loukas. He’s making me. It must be in the drink. I don’t usually act like this. (Steps forward.)
LOUKAS: Don’t you dare! (LOUKAS decks him. ARIANNA screams.) Sorry, Phil. I had to. You were being a jerk.
DOC: How’s your hand?
LOUKAS: Sore. Wow, that stings. (Woozy.) I’ve never punched anyone before. Sorry, Arianna.
ARIANNA: There’s no need to be sorry. You were trying to do the right thing.
DOC: Arianna, why don’t you take Loukas home and put some ice on his poor hand? I’ll tend to Phil.
LOUKAS: I feel like I messed up.
DOC: It was very normal: textbook. Congratulations, you’re a man. Forget about it.
(ARIEL wraps an arm around LOUKAS’ waist and helps him out. They exit.)
PHIL: (Groaning.) For a guy who’s never punched anyone before, that boy’s a natural.
DOC: (Helping him up.) You all right?
PHIL: I’ll recover. Mission accomplished.
DOC: You were a little over the top, but I think you got him out of his shell.
PHIL: Next time, I play the love doctor and you play the drugged-out hound dog. What was in that stuff anyhow?
DOC: Grape juice. Loukas brought all the important ingredients: desperation, a desire for change, and someone to make it all worthwhile. Yep, I’ll bet she fixes him right up. I wish it was always this easy. Sometimes love just needs a little push.
PHIL: Or, in this case (feeling his new ache) a punch.
DOC: Amen, brother, amen!
Copyright © 2014 by Charles C. Cole