Gemmayzeh: A Short Screenplay

I.

Setting: A MAN is waiting at a coffee shop. A WOMAN shows up. He stands to greet her. They seem to be on a first date.

[MAN]
Hello!

[WOMAN]
Bonjour!

[MAN]
It’s nice to finally meet you. 

[The MAN and WOMAN shake hands. Then they sit down.]

[WOMAN]
You as well. Tell me, do you still think you are still being…how do you say…catfish?

[MAN]
(chuckling)
No. I don’t think I’m being catfished. You clearly aren’t a 40-year-old man.

[WOMAN]
When you asked me to send you a picture, I was at work. I was like, ok, he really wants a picture. So, I went outside and took a quick one. It was so bad.

[MAN]
It was fine. I just needed to know you were the same person as your Tinder profile. You clearly were and are the same enchanting person. 

[WOMAN]
Why were you so worried? Have you been scammed before?

[MAN]
Well, I don’t know how things work in your country, but I’ve been here less than 24 hours. When I match with someone in the morning, and she wants to meet me for a drink in the afternoon, I get a little paranoid.

[WOMAN]
Are you still paranoid? Did I make things too easy for you?

[MAN]
No, no. Things weren’t too easy. I just…You didn’t play any games. And I appreciate that. 

[WOMAN]
Well, you seemed like a genuine person in your Tinder pictures, and you told me you were only here for the weekend. So, I wanted to meet you. Besides, I’m too old to play games. 

[MAN]
Me as well.

[WOMAN]
Tell me. Are you really in your forties?

[MAN]
Yes. I thought my age was listed in my profile. Why would I lie about that?

[WOMAN]
You just don’t look like someone in his forties. 

[MAN]
Thank you. Might I add that I love your outfit, and you have an amazing figure. That wasn’t indicated in your Tinder profile.

[WOMAN]
Thank you. Do you mind if I smoke?

[MAN]
We’re sitting outside. Go right ahead.

[The WOMAN lights a cigarette.]

[MAN]
Marlboro Reds. That’s pretty hardcore.

[WOMAN]
I know. I usually smoke the blues, but they didn’t have any at the store.

[MAN]
When I used to smoke, I liked American Spirits Red. You know the brand?

[WOMAN]
No, I don’t. You used to smoke? How much did you smoke?

[MAN]
Yeah, after my divorce, I was under a lot of stress. I would smoke about a pack every two days.

[WOMAN]
You are divorced?

[MAN]
Yep. And I have a daughter and son.

[WOMAN]
Oh. How old are they?

[MAN]
My daughter’s in college. My son is 18 and will graduate from high school this year.

[WOMAN]
Oh. They’re grown!

[MAN]
What about you? Ever been married.

[WOMAN]
No. Almost once. But…it didn’t work out.

[MAN]
I see. 

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

[WOMAN]
So, tell me. How do you like my country?

[MAN]
It’s so relaxing. I spent the morning walking the corniche. People were running and jogging. I stopped for a beer at a café. The beer was local. Things are so different than the Gulf.

[WOMAN]
How long have you been there?

[MAN]
Almost three years now.

[WOMAN]
You know any Arabic?

[MAN]
A few words. Salam. Shukran. Inshallah. Halas.

[WOMAN]
Your American accent is cute. You speak any other languages?

[MAN]
I’m a dumb American. I only know English, ma’am.  

[WOMAN]
Comprends-tu un peu de français?

[MAN]
I don’t know what you are saying.

[WOMAN]
Pas même un peu?

[MAN]
I still don’t know what you are saying. But it sounds lovely, even if you are just making fun of me. 

[WOMAN]
I wasn’t making fun of you. I was seeing if you knew any French.

[MAN]
Nope. What about you? What languages do you speak?

[WOMAN]
French, Arabic, English. I know a little bit of Italian. I studied Latin.

[MAN]
Jesus. That’s great. Why Latin?

[WOMAN]
It’s nothing. Everyone here can speak three or more languages. I majored in History and Archaeology. It was useful for my studies.

[MAN]
I just want you to know—I love your accent. I would listen to you read entries from the dictionary. 

[WOMAN]
Thank you. You have a nice voice too.

[MAN]
I don’t believe you. I have been told that I have a serious voice. Also, someone once said that I am a low talker.

[WOMAN]
What’s that mean?

[MAN]
It means that my voice is low, and I am hard to hear.

[WOMAN]
Maybe. But I like that. You have a serious teacher voice. 

[MAN]
What else do you like?

[WOMAN]
I like your arms. I like your tattoos. I like that you are tall. How tall are you?

[MAN]
I’m 5…oh, I am sorry. I never figured out my height in centimeters.

[WOMAN]
That’s ok. I like your eyes. I can see the sincerity in your eyes.   

[MAN]
Wow. That was nicest thing that anyone has ever said to me. Do you charm all American men this way? 

[WOMAN]
You’re the first. 

[MAN]
Really?

[WOMAN]
Yes. I have only been on Tinder for a little while. Mostly, I talk with men from my country, but I don’t go on dates with them right away. You’re the first. 

[MAN]
The first American?

[WOMAN]
And the first I went on a date with the day we matched.

[MAN]
Wow. Now I have to make a good impression.

[WOMAN]
You better. 

[MAN]
How am I doing so far?

[WOMAN]
Jusqu’ici tout va bien

II.

Setting: The WOMAN is waiting at a Lebanese restaurant. The MAN shows up.

[MAN]
Long time no see.

[WOMAN]
I know. How long? 30 minutes?

[MAN]
About that. I was at my Airbnb brushing my teeth, and I got your WhatsApp message. What happened to dinner with your friend?

[WOMAN]
She wasn’t able to get any gas at the station. There was a shortage. So, she was unable to meet me for dinner.

[MAN]
Really? Does that happen a lot here?

[WOMAN]
Sure, there’s lots of problems with my country. No electricity for three hours a day, so people have to run generators to keep their power on. Every day, when you drive, there’s a nice surprise waiting for you in the road. Maybe there will be a new hole for you to avoid. People begging in the streets and using their children for sympathy. Three years ago, there was a garbage problem.

[MAN]
What was that like?

[WOMAN]
There was garbage everywhere. No one was picking up the garbage. The city smelled terrible. 

[MAN]
Well, I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s gas problems, and the problems with your country. But I’m glad that we have the opportunity for a second date.

[WOMAN]
I know. Two in one day.

[MAN]
Mashallah. 

[WOMAN]
Mashallah, un beau.

[MAN]
So, what are you ordering?

[WOMAN]
Not sure. I think I’m going to get some chicken. You?

[MAN]
Probably the falafel salad.

[WOMAN]
Really? I never heard of that before.

[MAN]
It’s right here on the menu.

[WOMAN]
Do you eat a lot of Lebanese food in the Gulf?

[MAN]
Yeah. I get hummus with meat and fattoush all the time. I eat falafel for lunch at least once a week.

[WOMAN]
Ah, hummus bil lahmeh! But it’s not the same as the Lebanese food here. The food here is the best.

[MAN]
Everyone everywhere says that. I’ve heard that in every country I’ve been to. And, they’re all right. The food in their country is the best. 

[WOMAN]
Do you think you will like the food here?

[MAN]
Of course, but the context is key.

[WOMAN]
What do you mean?

[MAN]
About this time last night, I was somewhere over Iraq on my way here. When I landed, I got on Tinder and was swiping right and left the entire Uber ride from the airport to my Airbnb. I wasn’t even paying attention until the Uber dropped me off at my Airbnb. As soon as I connected to the WiFi in my room, a woman messaged me. She was very nice, but very Christian, and she wasn’t looking to meet divorced men. I told her that I was indeed divorced, and she told me that we could be friends. She then gave me some very nice recommendations for enjoying the city. Then this morning, as I was walking along the corniche to the Starbucks that the Christian woman recommended, you messaged me. We had a wonderful date already, and now we are on our second. I find you incredibly attractive and charming, so I imagine that this falafel salad will be the best falafel salad that I’ve eaten. Context.

[WOMAN]
So, you don’t go on Tinder dates in the Gulf?

[MAN]
No, Tinder is terrible in the Gulf. Unless you want to date Filipina maids and cleaners—which I don’t.

[WOMAN]
What do you want?

[MAN]
I want to meet foreign women that are my age.

[WOMAN]
There are no women your age in the Gulf.

[MAN]
There are, but they’re usually married. 

[WOMAN]
So dating is hard in the Gulf?

[MAN]
Look. Men outnumber women three to one where I live. So, the odds are already stacked against me. On top of that, most of the foreign women that I could date are usually in their early to mid 30s. However, they are looking to get married, which I would be ok with, but they also want to have children, which I am not ok with. This mismatch further stacks the odds against me. The women in their late 30s and early 40s come with husbands and kids, so they’re out of the picture. I would love to date a single mother, but those really don’t exist in the Gulf. The society is not really conducive for them. Better to go home and raise your kids. Long story short: dating isn’t hard in the Gulf, it is next to impossible for me.

[WOMAN]
I’m sorry to hear that.

[MAN]
Don’t be sorry. What’s dating been like for you?

[WOMAN]
I don’t know. I haven’t been on a date in three months.

[MAN]
Really? How come?

[WOMAN]
That’s when my last relationship ended.

[MAN]
What happened?

[WOMAN]
He was a pilot, and he had to move to another country for work because there was no work here. We broke up, and then 24 hours later he was gone.

[MAN]
I’m sorry to hear that. How long had you been dating?

[WOMAN]
We were good friends before we started dating, but we dated for a year. The hardest part was losing the friendship. I wasn’t too interested in dating after that. Since then, I mostly hang out with my family and friends. 

[MAN]
No, I understand the need to mourn the end of your relationship. My last relationship ended three months ago too.

[WOMAN throws her napkin at the MAN in feigned anger.]

[WOMAN]
Vous salaud! I thought you said dating was impossible for you in the Gulf. I felt bad for you.

[MAN]
It is almost impossible, unless the woman takes an interest in me. My last girlfriend pursued me. That’s how we started dating. Are you really mad at me?

[WOMAN]
No, but why did you break up?

[MAN]
She was much younger than me and her life was a mess. I didn’t feel like it was my job to help her clean up her mess, so she found someone that would.

[WOMAN]
Her loss.

[MAN]
Indeed.

[The MAN and WOMAN look into each other’s eyes and smile.]

[WOMAN]
I think I’m ready to order.

[MAN]
Me too.

III.

Setting: The MAN and the WOMAN are sitting on the Saint Nicholas Stairs. They are sitting close together having a conversation.

[WOMAN]
Tomorrow you fly out?

[MAN]
Tomorrow, I do. I fly out at 1pm. I have to work for two more months before my next vacation.

[WOMAN]
What do have to do when you get back?

[MAN]
Just work. But let’s not waste our last night together talking about work.

[WOMAN]
No, let’s not. What should we talk about?

[MAN]
Anything. How about you tell me what you want out of life?

[The MAN puts his hand on the WOMAN’S leg and pulls her closer. She turns and rests her back against him. He puts an arm around her.]

[MAN]
This ok?

[WOMAN]
This is ok.

[MAN]
We won’t get in trouble?

[WOMAN]
No, we’re just two people talking. Why are you so paranoid?

[MAN]
Because where I am from, there are laws against PDA.

[WOMAN]
Not here.

[MAN]
So then, what do you want out of life?

[WOMAN]
I want to meet a nice man. I want us to develop a friendship first.

[MAN]
Is attraction important?

[WOMAN]
Of course. But it isn’t the most important. I want to travel. I’ve never left this country.

[MAN]
Really?

[WOMAN]
Really.

[MAN]
Why not.

[WOMAN]
I don’t know. Maybe because there’s countries where I won’t feel safe as a woman by myself. My friends are all married and have children now. They can’t travel with me. Who can I travel with?

[MAN]
I didn’t think about that. Where would you want to go?

[WOMAN]
I always wanted to go to Thailand and ride an elephant. Maybe Dubai. I know it’s all artificial, but I want to see the spectacle.

[MAN]
I’ve been to neither. Is there anything besides meeting the right man and traveling that you want to do.

[WOMAN]
Yes, I would still like kids.

[The MAN is silent.]

If I wasn’t able to have kids, then I would like to start a fund to pay for the education of kids without parents. How do you say—

[MAN]
Orphans.

[WOMAN]
Yes, I would like to pay for the education of orphans from kindergarten to secondary school. I think that it would good for the world if these children received education.

[MAN]
That’s very noble of you.

[WOMAN]
What do you want out of life? You have already accomplished the big things. Marriage. Children.

[MAN]
Yes and no. I got those things out of the way, but I would be happy to get married if I found the right person. I just don’t want to have children again at my age.

[The WOMAN is silent. She moves her head to the MAN’S chest.]

I want to continue working and saving my money. I want to continue traveling and seeing the world. 

[WOMAN]
Any places that you specifically want to visit? Any things that you want to do?

[MAN]
Not really. I just want to keep traveling. The more I travel, the more I realize that the best experiences are the ones that find me, not the ones that I try to find. 

[The MAN turns the face of the WOMAN to face his.]

When I arrived in your country, I didn’t know on the night before I flew out I would having my third date of the weekend with a captivating woman. I thought I would probably having a drink by myself at a bar editing photos on my phone.

[WOMAN]
That could be fun.

[MAN]
This is better.

[The MAN and WOMAN stare at each other.]

Can I kiss you?

[The WOMAN turns her head.]

[WOMAN]
I’m not ready for that.

[MAN]
That’s ok. That’s why I asked.

[The MAN and WOMAN sit in silence.]

[WOMAN]
Is there anything else that you want to do during your last night in Lebanon?

[MAN]
No. I just want to enjoy this a little longer.

[WOMAN]
Un tout petit peu plus.


This screenplay is the spiritual sequel to “The Corniche” which I posted about a year ago. “The Corniche” was a walk and talk dialogue, whereas “Gemmayzeh” is a sit and talk.

Saint Nicholas Stairs

2 thoughts on “Gemmayzeh: A Short Screenplay”

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