The Corniche: A Short Screenplay

I.

Setting: The scene takes place on the Doha Corniche. A MAN and a WOMAN are about to walk together.    

[MAN]
Ready to do this?  

[WOMAN]
Are YOU ready to do this, old man?    

[MAN]
Show a little respect for your elders. My generation gave the world Nirvana, Friends, Jurassic Park, and—  

[WOMAN]
Yeah, I learned about those things in a museum. How far are we walking?

  [MAN]
It’s 6.1 kilometers to the museum from here, whippersnapper.  However, I don’t think we should walk that far?  

[WOMAN]
Oh, why not?  

[MAN]
Because I wasn’t thinking when I planned this out. I wanted to go walking during the day. But it’s 11am now, and we’ll be walking during the hottest part of the day. We’ll get heatstroke if we’re not careful.

[WOMAN]
Do you want to do this later then? 

[MAN]
No. Let’s just walk and see how we feel. We’ll rest in the shade or get some water if we start to get too hot.  

[WOMAN]
Should we start walking?  

[MAN]
Yes.  

[WOMAN]
Ok, let’s do our part to celebrate Qatar’s National Sports Day!  

[MAN]
We are good residents!  

[WOMAN]
We are. Do you know what my students are doing today? Sleeping and relaxing!  

[MAN]
Really?  

[WOMAN]
Yeah, I asked them in class the other day. I told them that the Emir was going to be out biking the corniche this morning. Their Sheikha would be out at fitness events. But they didn’t care.  

[MAN]
Young people. Look at all the people out walking today. They’re all foreigners.  

[WOMAN]
Yeah. Doesn’t seem like National Sports Day has caught on with the locals.  

[MAN]
They’ll figure out what the day means to them eventually. After all, they went from pearl divers to Porsche drivers in a very short time.  

[WOMAN]
Pearl divers to Porsche drivers? You just come up with that?  

[MAN]
No. I’ve been working on that for a while.  

[WOMAN]
It’s good.  

[MAN]
Yeah, I came up with that because I have been explaining to a lot of people back home how suddenly Qatar’s country has developed. Everything’s so new.  

[WOMAN]
That’s true. When I went back to my country, I was a little taken aback by how shabby parts of my city were. I’m so used to everything in Doha being so new.  

[As the MAN and WOMAN are walking and talking a RUNNER comes up from behind them. The WOMAN steps out of the way into the MAN’s space. He reaches out and grabs her. She lingers in his grasp for a bit before pulling away.]  

[WOMAN]
Sorry. I lost my balance.  

[MAN]
I’m glad you did.  

[The MAN and WOMAN walk in silence for a while.]    

[MAN]
You were saying about your city?

[WOMAN]
Oh, yeah. No, I’m just used to things being new and so well maintained after living in Doha the past several months. It’s nice being in a place that’s growing in anticipation of a major event like the World Cup.  

[MAN]
Yeah, if I stay for the World Cup, I better learn to appreciate soccer—I mean football. I’m sorry, rest of the world!  

[WOMAN]
Uncultured savage!  

[The WOMAN playfully pushes the MAN. He smiles at her but looks away and takes a deep breath.]        

II.

Setting: The scene takes place on the Doha Corniche. A MAN and a WOMAN are sitting in the shade together. The MAN is messing with his phone. It does not seem to be working.  

[MAN]
I wonder what the temperature is. I forgot to charge my phone last night. Now it’s dead. Do you have your phone?  

[WOMAN]
No, it’s in your car. I need to get away from my phone for a while.  

[MAN]
Oh. Your ex again?  

[WOMAN]
Yeah.  

[MAN]
What does he want now?  

[WOMAN]
Can we enjoy this nice day and not talk about him?  

[MAN]
Sure.  

[The MAN and WOMAN sit in silence for a while.]  

[WOMAN]
He sent a string of messages last night. I heard my phone buzz, but I didn’t look at what he wrote.  

[MAN]
I see.  

[WOMAN]
He was probably drinking and listening to Adele again.  

[The MAN and WOMAN sit in silence for a while.]  

What did you used to listen to when you wanted to mope about your ex, or exes?  

[MAN]
We didn’t have Adele’s 21back in my day. In high school, I had a mix tape of my go to sad songs. Stuff like the Cowboy Junkie’s “Sweet Jane,” Mazzy Star’s “Fade into You,” or the Pharcyde’s “Passin me by.” In college, I had a CD of songs I burned for an ex. When my wife and I separated, I can’t remember what I listened to. But I took up chain smoking. Probably shaved 10 years off of my life.  

[WOMAN]
Wow, you could fill an iPod with music from your failed—  

[MAN]
Now, I remembered what I listened to when my wife and I separated!

  [WOMAN]
What?  

[MAN]
A friend had given me a burned copy of Van Morrison’s Greatest Hits. I remember listening to “Tupelo Honey” quite a bit.  

[WOMAN]
Never heard of it.  

[MAN]
Sorry. I forget that music was banned in your country when you were growing up.  

[WOMAN]
Shut up. We have lots of good music in my country. Do you know Korki Buchek? Number one song “Bing Bang”?  

[MAN]
Ok, Borat. So. Everything go well on your trip?  

[WOMAN]
I guess so. Got my divorce.  

[MAN]
I’m sorry.  

[WOMAN]
Don’t be. I’m just glad it’s over. Hallas!  

[MAN]
We accept her, we accept her. One of us, one of us. Gooble-gobble, gooble-gobble.  

[WOMAN]
What?  

[MAN]
Nothing. It’s just a line from a movie.  

[WOMAN]
Your references are so strange sometimes.    

[MAN]
They can be. No, I’m sorry about your divorce. How are you holding up?  

[WOMAN]
I’m fine—most of the time. Work keeps me busy, but if I think about things I get sad or angry. Thought I would have a family at my age, not starting over. I went from a bad marriage cliché to a bitter divorcee.  

[MAN]
Oh, that’s too good. There’s no way you just came up with that!  

[WOMAN]
You’re right. I read it on a social media post the other day.  

[MAN]
Divorce sucks. At least you don’t have kids.  

[WOMAN]
That’s true. How are you kids doing?  

[MAN]
My daughter’s good. Messaged her the other day. She’s really enjoying her junior year of high school. My son’s ok. Doesn’t say much to me, but what can you expect from a 13-year-old?  

[WOMAN]
You miss them?  

[MAN]
I do. But what can I do? Wasn’t able to stay in the US. Things are hard for divorced academics there. What was I supposed to do? Cobble together three part-time teaching positions so that I just afford my rent and bills? I wouldn’t even have health insurance or any retirement benefits! It was a good thing that the Qatar teaching opportunity came along.  

[WOMAN]
Yeah. Things were tough in my country too. I was teaching 32 hours a week. Just teaching! On top of that, I had to do private tutoring and schedule times to meet with parents.  

[MAN]
Of the people in my Master’s Degree cohort who didn’t go on for PhDs, I’m the only one with a fulltime teaching position. The others are adjuncting or grading papers online. Can you believe that? We have been out of school for 10 years now and some of them are just scraping by.   

[WOMAN]
That’s not good.  

[MAN]
I’m sorry. I don’t mean to rant. My kids are good. Work’s good. We are able to enjoy this beautiful day in Doha. Hamdullah.

[WOMAN]
Hamdullah. You learning more Arabic?  

[MAN]
No, just what I hear over and over.Inshallah. Hamdallah. Wallah. Yanni.Things my students say repeatedly.  

[WOMAN]
That’s still good. Congratulations, you’re almost at false beginning level.  

[MAN]
Funny.  

[WOMAN]
No, things are tough in my country, but they’re even tougher in other parts of the world. My office mate was very upset the other day. Her contract was only renewed for one year, not three. She’s Syrian. She can’t go back to her country and teach. She can’t even go back to her city and live.  

[MAN]
That’s really sad. As an American, I know that if things don’t go well for me here, I can just go to China, Japan, or South Korea and teach English. I could still make pretty good money.   

[WOMAN]
If you’re not a native English speaker, you don’t necessarily have that option. Good luck teaching English elsewhere.In order to teach English, I have had to work so hard to prove that I am competent. Otherwise, the preference is for a native speaker from the US, the UK, or Australia. YOU just have to show up and talk to your students with your native accent and teach them about a slang word or two. How’s it hanging, bro? What’s up, my man?  

[MAN]
That’s not true!   

[The MAN is a little hurt. The MAN and WOMAN sit in silence for a while.]  

Also, your slang sucks.   

[WOMAN]
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply you don’t have to work hard to be a good teacher.  

[MAN]
That’s ok. I didn’t mean to HAVE A COW.  

[WOMAN]
What?  

[MAN]
I should just CHILL OUT and HANG LOOSE.  

[WOMAN]
Ok, I get it. I’m sorry.  

[MAN]
Hey, SHORTY, don’t get your PANTIES IN A BUNCH. Just let me KICK MY GAME for a minute. I just WANNA HOLLA ATCHA, GIRL. LET ME GET DEM DIGITS.  

[WOMAN]
OK! I’M SORRY! Knock it off. Talk normal!  

[MAN]
HEY HOME GIRL, I CAN DIG IT. KNOW AIN’T GONNA LAY NO MO’ BIG RAP UP ON YOU, MOMMA!  

[WOMAN]
Shut up, shut up, shut up!  

[The WOMAN pushes the MAN, and they laugh.]          

III.

Setting: The scene takes place on the Doha Corniche. A MAN and a WOMAN are walking together.  

[WOMAN]
Oh, that girl is wearing a “Daddy’s Lil Monster” shirt! I wonder where she got it? Do you think that they sell them here in Doha?

[MAN]
I dunno. Maybe? You like Harley Quinn?  

[WOMAN]
I love, love, love Harley Quinn? Why do you ask?  

[MAN]
I want to know what you like about her first before I say what I think.  

[WOMAN]
I guess I like that she seems free. She’s strong, she does what she wants, she’s a little crazy. Nothing seems to frighten her. I just think she’s cool.  

[MAN]
Do you think there’s anything wrong with her relationship with the Joker?  

[WOMAN]
What do you mean?  

[MAN]
Doesn’t it seem a little abusive?  

[WOMAN]
He’s not good for her, but I don’t focus on their relationship. I just like her.  

[MAN]
Well, I don’t think that they showed the Joker beating Harley Quinn in the movie. But she was a respected psychologist, who fell in love with her patient and threw everything away in her life to embark on a life of crime with him. Isn’t that a little problematic?  

[WOMAN]
But that’s why I like her—she doesn’t care! I wish I could be that brave.  

[MAN]
Brave to behave in a reckless manner? Abandon your 10 years of education, your years building your professional status. All for what? For Jared Leto’s Joker?  

[WOMAN]
Not for Jared Leto’s Joker, maybe Heath Ledger’s Joker.  

[MAN]
Ugh. This is the problem. Women falling for the guy that’s completely bad for them. But because he’s a “bad boy,” somehow, it’s more interesting. It’s hotter.    

[WOMAN]
Take it easy. Sounds like you’re jealous of the Joker. So who would be better for Harley Quinn?  

[MAN]
I dunno. Batman?  

[WOMAN]
Ugh. How boring!  

[MAN]
Why is Batman boring?  

[WOMAN]
He has no personality. He’s all about work, work, work. He’d probably just want to fix Harley Quinn.  

[MAN]
That’s bad?  

[WOMAN]
Oh, save me Batman! Save me! SAVE ME! Screw that. That’s not what Harley Quinn is about. She does what she wants. And, yes, her relationship with Joker is not good. But it’s what she wants for the moment. Maybe she won’t always want the bad boy. Maybe she’ll want someone else in the future.  

[MAN]
But she won’t ever Batman?  

[WOMAN]
Women like Harley don’t want a man to save them. It’s like someone always telling you that there’s something wrong with you, and you need to change. Let me help you. Let me fix you. That type of relationship is about the woman always doubting herself. Ugh.  

[The MAN and WOMAN walk for a while in silence.]  

So which Batman character do you see yourself as?  

[MAN]
Not Batman.

  [The MAN and WOMAN walk for a while in silence.]  

Maybe I would have wanted to be Batman when I was younger. However, now that I am older, I see myself more as Commissioner Gordon.  

[WOMAN]
Oh? Why is that?  

[MAN]
Commissioner Gordan is just trying to maintain order in a storm of chaos. He’s got a family, he tries to do his job, he has to work within his limited means. He doesn’t have the Wayne fortune. He didn’t spend years training to become the world’s greatest detective. He doesn’t have Batman’s gizmo and gadgets. He’s just a man trying to be decent, but he’s tired.  

[WOMAN]
And what does the Commissioner think about Harley Quinn?  

[MAN]
He probably sees a smart, beautiful, dangerous woman who he feels lost her way. Yeah, she made some dumb choices. Maybe fell for the wrong guy, maybe fell in with the wrong crowd. However, deep down inside she’s a good person. She just needs to remember that. Maybe he thinks that he can help her find her way.  

[WOMAN]
And what does the Commissioner get for helping Harley find her way?  

[MAN]
I don’t know. Maybe just a chance.   

[WOMAN]
A chance at what?  

[MAN]
A chance to do some good. A chance to feel as if he matters in a world of superheroes and supervillains who are more powerful than him. A chance to be close to someone who stirs something in him. Something that he hasn’t felt in long time.   

[WOMAN]
And what if Harley Quinn doesn’t want to be rescued? Not by the Joker. Not by Batman. Not by the Commissioner.

[MAN]
Then Gordan needs to accept that and just continue to do his job.  

[The MAN and WOMAN walk in silence.]  

[WOMAN]
Maybe Harley’s not ready to be rescued now. She needs to deal with things on her own. She needs to be a little crazy because things have been so crazy for so long. And, the last thing she needs is some do-gooder to be watching and waiting for her to let her guard down. Wanting her to be something she’s not—something maybe she’s never been—and then being disappointed or mad at her when he doesn’t get the desired result.  

[The MAN and WOMAN walk in silence.]


I have been sitting on this short screenplay for a while. I wrote it this past spring and have been waiting to see if my collaborators would move forward with our film project. It sounds like we might try to film this on our own guerrilla-style using an iPhone. If you are interested in reading my screenplay, feel free to share your feedback or questions in the comments section at the end. Enjoy!

Doha Corniche
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