A Certain Amount of Depth





Text ©2008 The Angst Guy (theangstguy@yahoo.com)

Daria and associated characters are ©2008 MTV Networks



Feedback (good, bad, indifferent, just want to bother me, whatever) is appreciated. Please write to: theangstguy@yahoo.com


Synopsis: Quinn Morgendorffer and David Sorenson meet in Lawndale just before Quinn’s senior year, and they try to resolve troubling issues between them from the time when he was her tutor a year earlier (in Is It Fall Yet?).


Author’s Notes: The events in this one-scene script take place during the summer after the Daria TV movie, Is It College Yet? PSAT and SAT test scores for college entry have been converted to “P-STAT” and “STAT” scores, per the TV movie, Is It Fall Yet? Further notes are at the story’s end.


Acknowledgements: The beta-readers for this story did an excellent job and are commended here for catching some errors and making me rethink large parts of the story. The result has substantial differences from the earliest version. My thanks to: Brandon League, Cimorene, RedlegRick, Galen Hardesty (Lawndale Stalker), Robert Nowall, Crusading Saint, Steven Galloway, Thea Zara, THM, and Wyvern.










EXT = Exterior scene





It is a warm, cloudy summer day on Lawndale’s Village Green. Under a rustling oak tree, Quinn Morgendorffer sits on a park bench, drinking a diet soda and reading a paperback book. She’s dressed in typical teenage-girl summer wear—halter top, shorts, light walking shoes, all in designer styles. As she reads, someone walks by her on the sidewalk, but he stops after glancing at her. It’s David Sorenson, her tutor from the summer of the year before. He carries a few books and looks much as he did the year before (same hair and glasses), though with a different outfit: t-shirt, shorts, and sneakers with no socks. His face has a five o’clock shadow, as if he’s been up for a long while.


DAVID: [surprised] Quinn?


QUINN: Hmmm? [looks up, gasps] Oh, David! [uncrosses legs, puts book aside] Hi! How’ve you been?


DAVID: [hesitates] Fine. How are you?


QUINN: Great! C’mere, sit down a minute. [scoots over on bench, pats empty space on bench beside her] Small world!


DAVID: [hesitates] Yeah, sure is. [sits down on other side of the bench, well away from Quinn] I’m sorry I haven’t written much. Did school go well?


QUINN: Oh, it was okay. I did okay. I’ll be a senior this fall. How about you?


DAVID: [nods] I head back to Bromwell in a few weeks—my second year. I’m visiting family, working on a project paper. I had to get out today and take a break.


QUINN: [nods, smiling] Bromwell. I know someone else heading there as a freshman in a couple weeks, a friend of Daria’s. My sister’s going to Raft. Boston’s supposed to be a great college town. If Daria had any clue as to what fun was, she’d have it made there.


DAVID: Well, there are other things to do in college towns besides party all night. [awkward pause] How are your friends doing, the others that I tried to tutor?


QUINN: Ah . . . well, we had that Fashion Club thing, you know?


DAVID: [nods, looks pained] I’m afraid I do. [nods toward her book] Aren’t you afraid they’ll see you reading outdoors and throw you out of the club?


QUINN: [glances at book] Oh! No, they’re over that. See, we broke up. The Fashion Club broke up. I mean. We’re all still friends, the four of us, but the Fashion Club’s history. We all quit at the same time.


DAVID: [sad smile] I thought choosing eyeliner and nail polish colors would always be the rage with the brain-dead crowd.


QUINN: [quickly] Oh, no. I mean, fashion should be fun, but it shouldn’t be your whole life. The club was getting in the way of our being friends. It’s kinda strange, isn’t it? They’re still my friends, but we don’t go on and on forever about fashion stuff so much now. We talk about other things, important stuff.


DAVID: [sad smile fades] Probably not history or math or current events.


QUINN: Oh, no, except maybe for current events if there’s a sale or something. We just talk about life and stuff. We’re a little nervous, like, about the future and things like that. Lots of changes are coming up, being seniors and going to college and what are we going to wear to the prom, what are we going to do once we graduate, that sort of thing. [clears throat] So, how’ve you been since last year?


DAVID: Well . . . okay, I guess. Bromwell’s been a lot of work. I’m a history major with a minor in literature. I got engaged in January, but—


QUINN: [startled, but brightens] Oh, that’s wonderful! Congratulations! I mean, a guy as smart as you, that’s great!


DAVID: [painful smile] Great that someone smart could get engaged?


QUINN: Sure! [backtracks instantly] No! I mean, that’s great that you’re engaged! You got lucky! [backtracks instantly] You got a lucky girl!


DAVID: [smile fades] Not really. We broke up a couple months ago. It didn’t—


QUINN: [look of horror] Oh, no! I’m so sorry!


DAVID: It didn’t work out. It . . . it’s not a long story. She liked the fun, I liked the studying, she found someone more fun to be with. Not worth going on about it.


QUINN: Oh! [puts her hand out to touch David’s arm, then realizes what she’s doing and jerks her hand back] Oh, I’m really sorry to hear that. Well, you know, there’s plenty of other fish in the barrel. You’ll catch someone else before too long, I’m sure, someone good. Is everything okay?


DAVID: [shrugs] I’m okay. [pause] How about you? Any good news in your life?


QUINN: Oh . . . well, my grades are okay, I’m about a B average. I won’t be going to Bromwell—[brief laugh]—but maybe I can get into Raft if I’m really lucky. [grins, looks away for a moment] I might tell Daria I’m going there just to tick her off. Sisters are like that sometimes. I’d rather go somewhere in California, somewhere near a beach. That would be nicer. My STAT scores were okay.


DAVID: [intrigued] What’d you get?


QUINN: Oh, um—[looks at sky, thinking]—I got a twelve-oh-four combined.


DAVID: [blinks in astonishment] Didn’t you have, like, a nine—


QUINN: I had a nine fifty-five on the P-STAT last year. I took the P-STAT when I had a really rotten headache, and between your tutoring and Daria finding some study books for me, I did okay on the STAT. It was hard.


DAVID: But—that’s fantastic! That’s wonderful, Quinn!


QUINN: [hesitates, then shrugs] Mmmm—yeah, it’s okay.


DAVID: [incredulous] What? You’re kidding! A twelve-oh-four is really good! I can’t believe you jumped that far.


QUINN: Well, it’s just a test score.


DAVID: [hesitates, deflating] Well, maybe, but it will do wonders for getting you into a good college. You said Raft? Raft’s pretty choosey.


QUINN: Yeah, but Boston’s a real party town. I heard a lot about it from Daria when she checked it out. I like lobster, too, so that would work. I used to hate it because it was so messy, but you can be fashionably messy, I think.


DAVID: [concerned look] You wouldn’t pick Raft just because of the lobster, I hope. Have you picked a major?


QUINN: Oh, mmm, business, I think, maybe whatever route you take to get into fashion design. I know loads about clothing and makeup, can’t let all that go to waste. A mind is a terrible thing, and all that. I might go into business on my own, be an enterpriser.


DAVID: Entrepreneur. Raft does have a good business setup. You’d have to study like crazy, though. College isn’t at all like high school.


QUINN: Oh, I know. I’ll study, don’t worry. I can do that okay now. You and Daria showed me how. I just want to go to college someplace where it’s fun. It’s important to keep some balance in your life—study, party, study, party, maybe party some more, study the night before the exam to make up for it, and so on.


DAVID: [pause, then a long sad sigh] Quinn, I can’t believe that . . . after all the work you did, and how excited you were about raising your test scores and bettering yourself, and reading more and learning about history and all that . . . I just can’t believe you—


QUINN: You can’t believe I’m not any deeper now than I was then. [shrugs, sad voice] I am what I am, David.


DAVID: [looks disturbed] I wasn’t going to say “deeper,” just . . . more serious, I guess. [looks down at the paperback book Quinn set aside] At least you’re reading. [nods head at Quinn’s book] You’re sure that the fashion morons won’t throw rocks at you?


QUINN: [looks down] Oh, don’t call them that. They’re not morons. [picks up book, holds cover up to David—it’s The Collected Works of Emily Dickinson] I read a little. This is pretty good. I bought it over at Books by the Ton, at the Mall of the Millennium.


DAVID: [surprised] You’re reading Emily Dickinson?


QUINN: [sighs] Yeah. [opens book, flips to a page] You know, I read some of this to the girls. Stacy got all teary eyed, which didn’t surprise me at all, but Sandi said maybe she should read some of it because poetry is fashionable in small doses, though I think some of what I read to her made her cry a little later on. I could tell. Tiffany . . . oh, well. [shrugs, reads book, quotes] “Your riches taught me poverty. / Myself a millionaire / In little wealths . . .” [flips a few more pages] I like how Dickinson writes. She has a way of putting things . . . [quotes] “If you were coming in the fall, / I’d brush the summer by . . .” [lowers book, looks at David] So, you like her, too?


DAVID: [taken aback, softly] Yes, I do, very much. I haven’t read anything by her in a long time, though. Getting ready for exams and papers pushed the poetry out.


QUINN: I started reading her stuff earlier this year. [pause, quotes, looking at her closed book] “I lost a world the other day. / Has anybody found?” [pause] It’s good. Reading stuff like this makes me like reading a lot more. I mean, I wouldn’t want to live at the library like my sister would if she had the chance, but—[shrugs again]—eh. Like Sandi said, in small doses, poetry is probably good for you.


DAVID: [troubled look] I thought for a minute that you’d given up on literature and studying, that you were . . . still the same Quinn you were before I started tutoring you.


QUINN: [shakes head slowly] Oh. Well, yeah, I guess I am. I’ve always known what sort of person I was. Daria made a movie of me once for class, about me and my fashion life, and I’m still the same kid I was then. I do some things differently, though, since you and I were together. After we broke—[flinches]—after your last lesson, I read loads, just tons. I don’t know what came over me. I tried to read all kinds of things. I did it in secret, didn’t even let my parents know what I was doing. Hid everything under my bed. Poetry was best. I read a lot of that. [indicates her closed book, quotes softly] “Proud of my broken heart since thou didst break it, / Proud of the pain I did not feel till thee . . .” [taps book with fingernail] I like Dickinson a lot. She talks a lot about big things, but she makes them easy to think about, in a way. She makes big issues seem so simple, like the way you can fix your hair up so nicely and all you’ve really done is use a little scrunchie.


DAVID: [increasingly uncomfortable] Have you read any Shakespeare?


QUINN: You mean like Romeo and Juliet? [shrugs] I liked that one, we had to do it for class when Daria taught school during the teachers’ strike—[sees David’s surprised look]—oh, yeah, a lot’s happened since you’ve been gone—but anyway I had to read that Romeo stuff, like, four times to figure out some of the parts. It’s such a pain to get through the weird words Shakespeare uses and the really prehistoric way he writes. The way he wrote, I mean, since he’s been dead so long. It, like, bends your brain around to figure out what he was saying. Someone should clean it up a little so people could understand it better, like the way they turned the Bible into a comic book, so people could figure out what’s really going on.


DAVID: [smiles] I don’t agree with the comic-book idea, but I do agree that Shakespeare’s hard to understand sometimes. You have to work at it. I sure do.


QUINN: [look of disbelief] You can’t figure him out, either?


DAVID: Well, I can, but only because I’m used to reading what he wrote. I can follow him pretty well now. The English language has changed so much since he was alive, it’s hard to follow what he’s saying without a lot of effort.


QUINN: [nods] Too bad he wasn’t born in the Sixties or something. I tried reading some history, too, this book I got from Daria—[makes a yuk face]—A Journal of the Plague Year. That was awful. You told me about the Black Death, I remember all that, but reading about it just totally grossed me out. I could barely get through thirty pages of it; I skimmed the rest and gave it back. If that Daniel guy wanted to say that the Black Death was all sucky and everything, hey, I got the message. [pause] There was a little poem at the end, though, that reminded me of part of that poem you made me read, the, uh, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” I can’t remember the words to it now, but it was about one guy living through some big disaster. The words sounded the same. I should look it up again and see if they were alike.


DAVID: [pause, looks at Quinn] This . . . isn’t what I thought I would say, but you’re a lot smarter than I thought you were last year. I get this feeling that you act like you’re the same old Quinn, but you’re not.


QUINN: [stares at David a long moment, very low voice] No, not really. I mean, I’m still the same, just like that old song.


DAVID: [indicates her book] Well, I disagree. You’re reading Dickinson. You can’t find one high-schooler in a thousand who buys a copy of Dickinson just to read her.


QUINN: [shrugs, low voice] Reading it doesn’t make me any less shallow.


DAVID: [hesitates, taken aback] Doesn’t make you less shallow? Where did you get that?


QUINN: [sighs, tiredly] Oh, come off it, David. You told me to my face the last time we were together that I was shallow. At least you were honest.


DAVID: [pained look] Quinn, look, when I said that a year ago, there was some truth to it, but you’ve really changed. There’s something about you that—


QUINN: [mildly irked] No, David. Just be honest with me, okay, instead of making nice like everyone else? You really opened my eyes about the real me. I used to think that being smart was just geeky and awful and gross, just for people like Daria, and I was happy with that, pretty much. I knew that being pretty but not very deep was the real me. It was okay. Then I met you, and suddenly I realized it was sort of fun to be smart, if you knew all the fun stuff that smart people knew. You get taught all the boring stuff in school, but you showed me all the stuff that was great to know, and where to find it, and that was the best. But—that was just, like, gossip and stuff—funny little bits, but not really deep bits. You told me all the nasty tricks some presidents tried to get away with, and what the British really thought about the American Revolution, and how America got named for that sort of a nobody from a long time ago, but none of that was deep stuff. That stuff didn’t make me any less shallow, and you even said so yourself, the last time we were together. Don’t you remember?


DAVID: [slowly] I guess I thought you’d remember the really important things we talked about—bettering yourself, reaching for higher goals, changing the inside you. I thought—[Quinn starts to laugh]—I thought that—what are you laughing about?


QUINN: [still laughing a little] Oh, David. You were the first guy I ever knew except for my dad who didn’t look at the outside me, and Dad’s a little sort of, “Heh-LO-oh!” so he doesn’t count. You were the first guy who ever really looked at the inside me, and you told me it sucked. Well, not in so many words, but it sucked. And you were right. You didn’t treat me like most guys do, you know?


DAVID: [confused] Quinn—


QUINN: Hey, let me talk for a while. This is your big chance to find out if something you did as a teacher had any effect on your student, right?


DAVID: [pause, concerned look, low voice] Okay, but—


QUINN: I was saying that you didn’t treat me like any other guy would. Guys just look at me, the outside me, and they think, whoa, Quinn’s got great hair and a cute face and a great body and I want her for my girlfriend—oh, yeah! That’s all that’s going on upstairs with them. [pause, stares at David] You looked beyond that. You saw the real me, and you didn’t like it. [pause] It hurt, but I think I needed to hear that, David.


DAVID: [concerned] Quinn . . .


QUINN: What?


DAVID: Where are you going with this? Something’s way off here. You just told me that you knew the real you, you knew what you were like, and now you say I told you the very same thing, but it hurt to hear it from me? Is that what you mean?


QUINN: [irritated] Look, you wanted to know how things were going for me, and I’m trying to give you the four-one-one. [calmer] What I meant was, I’m doing okay. I just don’t have the illusions about myself I once did. [sighs, looks off in the distance] I had the illusion that not being deep was okay, and now it isn’t. It took a while to sink in, though. At first I was stuck on all the wrong issues. So like me. For a few weeks, I hoped you’d change your mind and call me for a date, but no, you—


DAVID: [angry] Is this still about going out with me on a date? Is that it?


QUINN: No! Listen, I know I’m not explaining this well, but just listen. Okay, I sent you e-mails, asked how you were doing, what was going on, and you sent me a couple lines if you wrote at all, and finally I got it. It wasn’t the dating that was the point. The point was that you gave me a chance to be less shallow, and I tried to get there. [pause] I didn’t make it, but I did try. I tried really hard. I’m glad for the chance you gave me, anyway, but now I know that smart deep people just don’t go out with shallow less-smart ones.


DAVID: [disbelief] Quinn, that wasn’t the point at all! You’re still talking about us dating! I wasn’t trying to seduce you!


QUINN: David—


DAVID: Let me finish! Dating you would’ve been unethical. I was your tutor, you were underage—you know what I mean?—and it just wasn’t going to happen! What I liked about you was that you were the only one out of your brain-dead group who ever had any potential upstairs! It was never an issue about the two of us going out together!


QUINN: [soft voice] Oh, it was an issue for one of us, at first. You know it was. [sad smile] I was really out of place, wasn’t I, when I asked you out?


DAVID: [taken aback, angry] Hey! Cut it out!


QUINN: [evenly] Hey, cut what out? You said we were from different worlds, and I’d never like your world or fit into it. I couldn’t believe you’d even say that. I mean, everyone’s different, even my friends and I are different, more or less, and what would be the use in dating someone who was exactly like you? You may as well stay home, then. I didn’t think I was that out of place to at least ask you out.


DAVID: [angry] Quinn, that’s not the point! When I said we were totally different, I meant we have nothing in common. I wanted to find someone who . . . well, someone with—


QUINN: [low voice] Someone with depth, you said. Someone with a certain amount of depth.


DAVID: [less angry but uncomfortable] Well . . . exactly. Someone who had seen something of the world, knew what was going on in the world, someone who understood what suffering and pain were all about, not—not some fluffy—oh, you know what I mean!


QUINN: [glum look] I do know what you mean. And I don’t have it. [stares at David, low voice] God, do you know how much that hurt to realize that?


DAVID: [stares at Quinn, calms over a long pause, soft voice] Sometimes . . . most of the time, we get wiser only from experiences that hurt.


QUINN: [nods slowly] I can see that. Now. [long pause] You know, I read something in a book last year I got from Daria. She was going to the library and I asked her if she could get me a book that was fun to read, but one was intelligent, too, and she got me this book called, um . . . The Forgotten . . . Monsters . . . no, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. Yeah, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. It was by a lady named McKillip.


DAVID: [pause] I’ve heard of that one. Haven’t read it yet.


QUINN: [tired voice] You should. It’s good. I don’t remember too much of it now, except for this one little part. There’s this talking pig, I forget his name but it wasn’t Babe, and he tells this really short story about a giant who gets hit in the eye with a rock—sorry, this part’s sort of gross—and the rock, when it hits him, turns one of his eyes around so his eye is looking into his head, into his mind, and the giant drops dead from what he sees there. [pause] Do you get it?


DAVID: [pause, stunned] Yeah. I get it.


QUINN: I got to that part and stopped reading for a while, because I knew that the giant was me. See, I was fine, walking along, having my fashion life, esteeming myself like I always do, for all the wrong reasons, and this rock—you—came along and hit me and got me to look inside myself, and—well, what I saw there just about killed me. I mean, there was nothing there. You know, if I were an ocean, you know, some really Atlantic-sized swimming pool, you wouldn’t even get your feet wet wading across me. [deep sigh]


DAVID: [shakes head] I think you’re guilt-tripping me, and you’re being too hard on yourself, anyway.


QUINN: Maybe you’re being too nice on myself. I tried reading some other books. I thought maybe I could read a book that was really deep, that maybe I’d learn something from it and be a little more like you, so I asked Daria and she got me this book by a guy named Olaf someone, I think he was from Minnesota. The book was called Star Maker. [rolls eyes] Whoa, that was weird. I had a lot of trouble with that one.


DAVID: [frowns, though he seems relieved for the change in conversation] I don’t think I’ve heard of that one.


QUINN: Yeah, it was way out there, science fiction. It was really hard to read. It about this guy who goes outside at night and lies down on the grass, and all of a sudden he’s flying through space like Superman, flying from planet to planet, and—how do I put this—he starts meeting all these aliens who are like him, sort of like super ghosts or something, and they decide they want to meet God, and wooo, I didn’t know what was going on after that. Time-traveling, I think. I think they did meet God, sort of, but God wasn’t at all what they thought. I skipped a lot where it got like really dense and I read the ending, to see what he learned, and I guess he was happy just to be who he was, and he was glad to be a part of it all, part of everything. I’m not explaining this very well, but—you know, I felt like I liked who I was and I liked the world, too, so there must have been something else in there that I missed. I don’t know what it was. I gave up trying to read really brainy books after that. I thought you were right, you were in your world and I was in mine, and if I thought I was climbing out of my world into yours, my brain was in a frying pan on drugs or something.


DAVID: You’re sure you’re not talking about being pissed at me because I wouldn’t go out with you?


QUINN: [quiet anger] I’m talking about trying to climb out of myself, David. I’m talking about me being one big pit, a hole in the ground, and me trying to get out of it. [pause, looks away] I kept reading, anyway. Daria went to the library a lot because she had a lot of papers to write, and sometimes I’d ask her if she could get me a book, and she’d find one for me. I asked her once to find me a book where someone shallow has some good stuff happen to her, something happy to read, and she said I should read this book called Candide, which I don’t know anything about, but all the copies were gone so instead she got me The Princess Bride. Somebody Gold wrote it, Golding, Goldstein—


DAVID: [after a pause, low voice] Goldman, I think. William Goldman. I’ve heard of that one. I saw the movie.


QUINN: Whatever. That book started off great, but there was this part in it where, um, Buttercup, she’s the really shallow girl, really pretty but she’s dumb as a rock, and there’s this cute guy who works on her farm, Westley, and one morning she tells Westley that she loves him, and he shuts the door on her. She goes a little crazy after that, thinking he doesn’t love her back, but it turns out that he shut the door on her so he could get ready to seek his fortune overseas and come back and marry her, or something like that, and he really did love her. He loved her loads. You got this so far?


DAVID: [very pained look] You’re not going to ask me if I love you, are you?


QUINN: [looks surprised, bursts into nervous laughter] Oh, my gosh! Oh, no! No, I’m not! How—oh, I get it! I see how—no, David, I’m not going to ask you that. Oh, no.


DAVID: [grimaces] I’m sorry. Maybe that was a stupid thing for me to say.


QUINN: [waves it away] Oh, forget about it. I know that you . . . that . . . anyway, that’s not the point. Buttercup waited for Westley to come back to her, but one day her parents told her that Westley had been killed by pirates, and she sort of lost it and locked herself in her room for days, and when she came out, she was very sad but very wise, and she was the most beautiful woman in the whole world, but she made up her mind that she would never love again.


DAVID: [after a long pause] Quinn, I really hope you’re not telling me this because you’ve decided to do the same thing. You would—well, you’d be crazy if you did, really. The book does go on after that part. She does learn to—


QUINN: [makes dismissive gesture] Yeah, but I didn’t read anymore after that. That was enough. [pause] I’ve had a whole year to think about what you said, the last time you were over. You said I paid you a big compliment when I asked you out, but it was . . . oh, I guess it was like one of those Epsilons asking out an Alpha, you know, from that book, New World Order—no, wait, don’t tell me—Brave New World. I read only a little of that one. I asked Daria to get me a book about smart people and stupid people trying to live together, and she must have misunderstood me because I wanted a romance, and she got me that one. I read some of it but gave up because it was too weird. Epsilons—hmmm, I guess actually I’m more of a, um, Gamma, a good-looking Gamma. I could see where you’d be flattered by me asking you out, but it would be, oh, sort of like a bug with mold on it asking me out. Different worlds.


DAVID: [shocked] Quinn, damn it, that’s not fair! That wasn’t what I meant at all! You’re all hung up on you and me, and I want you to knock it off!


QUINN: [leans forward toward David, intense expression] You don’t get it. This isn’t about you and me. I’m trying to tell you what’s gone through my head for the last year, and you aren’t getting it. This isn’t about you, David. It’s about me, me and my future. I mean, sure, you’re the only guy I wanted to go out with who didn’t want to go out with me. You counted, David, but—[sees David about to protest]—wait! It’s not about me dating you! None of this is about me dating you now! It’s about me hooking up with anyone in the future who’s worth being with! [agonized look] Don’t you get it?


Quinn and David stare at each other. David calms, looking uncertain.


DAVID: [low voice] Go on.


QUINN: [agonized look] See, you wanted someone you could talk with, someone with a certain amount of depth. How are you—or anyone else who wants that—going to find any of that in here? [points to her head] I should be grateful to you, and I am a little, even as much as it hurt to hear what you said, because you gave me the chance to change, to make more of myself. [angrier] I wish to God it had worked. I’m still the same old Quinn, inside and out. I’m like Buttercup, maybe not quite as dumb as she is, but—[pause, stares at David, sighs]—there’s no Westley. I finally realized I’m not smart enough or deep enough to have the kind of partner I really want. I don’t mean just you, David. I mean someone who’s smart and good with kids, someone who’s patient and strong inside and funny and sweet and doesn’t just look at the outside me, but can see the inside me, too. I want someone who loves the inside me! [long pause] And that’s—[voice cracks, but she clears her throat and recovers]—that’s the problem, David. There’s nothing inside me to see or to love. I don’t have a chance of finding a smart, sweet guy who helps other people be more than they think they are, someone really nice, someone like you. Not a chance.


DAVID: [pause, dry mouth] Quinn, good God, that’s not true. That’s just—


QUINN: David, you’re such a sweet guy, you really are, but you’re not being honest anymore with me. I still like you, but I don’t like like you, like I did. [pause] You know, you’re the only guy that I ever said that to. I still can’t believe I really said that to you, you know? I don’t even slow dance until the fifth date, and for a long time I didn’t let anyone have more than three dates with me, because none of them could see the inside me—[angrier]—but what’s the point of all that now? Why bother? If anyone could see the real me, the inside me, they’d laugh, or they’d walk off, like you, or else they’d drop dead from what they saw in me, just like that giant. Just like I did. And you know what? I don’t care anymore. I give up. [holds up paperback] I can read Emily Dickinson all day long, but being smart in knowing stuff isn’t really like being deep. I guess I mean wise when I say deep. You’re right, people who are deep know what it’s like to be hurt, but you have to have had something inside you to begin with, don’t you? It’s like math, isn’t it? Zero times anything is still zero. You have to go with what you’ve got, David, and what you’re looking at is all I’ve got!


DAVID: [very upset] Quinn, this is . . . you can’t be serious about what you’re saying! You’re smarter than this!


QUINN: [with emphasis] Smart isn’t deep, David. I’ve known smart people who were pretty stupid about life and stuff, smart people who were really shallow. It’s not stupid, really, but that’s not the point. If there was a way I could be more than me, maybe not smarter but a lot deeper, I’d try it, but I can’t believe it would work. I’d be like that guy—oh, see, I asked Daria to get me a book about a stupid person who got really smart, and she got me, uh, Flowers for Algernon. I read that and cried for hours. That was the saddest thing ever. He got smart and wise and it killed him, sort of like that giant in the pig’s story. I knew then that I was stuck forever being who I was. I can push the plastic envelope a little here and there, but I’m still going to be me. Zero times anything is zero. [pause, stares at David] You’ve got to see it all now, David. What’s the use? Tell me, what’s the use of trying?


DAVID: [agonized look] Quinn, I don’t know if you’re guilt-tripping the shit out of me, or if you’re serious, or you’re all messed up or what, but what you’re saying is wrong! You’re just wrong, damn it! People suffer everywhere on this earth, and what makes you any worse off than them? Do you think you’re the only person ever who thought she was shallow and wasn’t going to find anyone to love her? What the hell do you think I’ve been through? I found someone who was everything I thought I ever wanted, the greatest woman on earth, and she dumped me for some guy who drinks too much and screws around on her, someone who’s—[with angry emphasis]—more fun than I am! Someone who doesn’t study as hard as I do, so I can get good grades and get a good job and have a good life to share with someone else! What the hell did she want? Why the hell did she ever go out with me? Was it me or her, or both of us, or what? [throws up his hands] I don’t know, and I don’t give a damn anymore, either, and now you tell me that I screwed up your whole life because I told you something you already knew, that you were shallow—and you were, a year ago! You’re sure as hell not shallow now, reading your damn Dickinson and books I haven’t even read, and tearing your heart out and bleeding all over me because you want to be loved! You think you’re the only messed up person in the whole world? You’ve been messed up for just a year, and there are some people out there who’ve been messed up their whole damn lives! You have it made! [sighs] Jeez!


David pauses, out of breath, and runs a hand through his curly hair. He and Quinn sit forward on the bench, half facing each other.


QUINN: [looks up at David, faint smile appears as she speaks] So . . . you’re saying that I’m not only shallow, but I’m an amateur at being messed up?


DAVID: [coughs, relaxes, doesn’t look at Quinn] Yeah, you’re an amateur. You don’t have any real experience at being messed up, suffering, all that. You got the wind knocked out of you, but—


QUINN: [smile fades, serious look] You’re making fun of me, my getting hurt. Don’t do that. I’ve been hurt before by other things.


DAVID: [tired] I’m not making fun of you. I’m sorry. I talk before I think sometimes.


QUINN: That why your fiancée left you?


DAVID: [looks at Quinn, pained, then looks away] Ouch. [pause] Yeah, that was—that was part of it. I said some things, and she got pissed, and she found someone else, and that was it.


QUINN: [eyes David carefully] So, are you seeing anyone now?


DAVID: [suspicious look at Quinn, sighs] No. I’ve been studying. It keeps me going.


QUINN: I’ve been dating three or four times a week minimum for the last three years. That’s my average. You wouldn’t go out with me, but in the last year, I’ve gone out with, um, about a hundred different guys, from my school and two others.


DAVID: [looks at ground, depressed] Thanks. You’re being a big help.


QUINN: [thoughtful] However . . . in the last year, I’ve been thinking a lot about all that dating and who I date. I like nice guys, guys who like how I look, but I’ve started to think that I’ve . . . I want to say that I’ve not been myself when I go out. I worry about people seeing me as, um, who I really am, you know? And I notice that I only date shallow guys. [laughs] There aren’t many guys who aren’t shallow, not at my school, but I notice that I avoid the ones who might not be shallow at all. Except that those guys are total nerds, no social skills, won’t even open the door for you. [makes a face] You see?


DAVID: I think I see. I think. You’re saying I’ve ruined you again.


QUINN: Oh, duh! No, that’s not it. [pause] You know what I want to believe?


DAVID: [exhausted] I haven’t a clue.


QUINN: [looks away, softly] I want to believe that somewhere out there, there’s a guy who isn’t shallow, and this guy can see the real me, and this guy might like the real me inside me, if he could see it. That’s my dream. It’s pathetic, but that’s what it is. [long pause] I need to change who I go out with, the whole dating thing. I’m tired of everyone around here. If I don’t do something and climb out of the pit that I am, I’m going to end up dating Kevin Thompson this fall. You wouldn’t know him. He was a football player held back after he flunked his senior year, so he’ll be in my classes now. He’s a quarterback who doesn’t know a thing about poetry or art or literature or history or anything, not even who’s president, much less what a pedagogue is. You see?


DAVID: [groans in total defeat] I see. You’ll be his main squeeze if something drastic doesn’t happen real soon to get you out of your pit.


QUINN: [nods] Yeah. You were paying attention after all.


Quinn stares at David, who stares at the ground. Neither says anything for a long while.


DAVID: [exhausted monotone] What time do you want me to pick you up tonight?


QUINN: Seven.


DAVID: Formal or casual?


QUINN: Mmmm, casual. I’m going to try things a little differently. I’ll wear something like what I have on now, but with long pants. Slacks for you, shirt—don’t wear silk—and something besides sneakers. And wear socks. I’ll trust your judgment on color.


DAVID: [finally looks up] You want to tell me the place, or surprise me?


QUINN: Actually, I think pizza would be fine. We can sit in the booths and talk for hours. I think I’d like that. Just talk. Find out a little more about each other, you know? I’m not going to worry about making myself up so much, and just be more like . . . me.


DAVID: [nods] Okay. Is there any way I can keep my dignity?


QUINN: Oh, silly, of course not. I mean, I won’t make you be cute or anything, but everyone’s going to see you with me. I promise, though, not to let them laugh at you or call you a geek or anything. [smiles] You’ll have fun. You’ll manage.


DAVID: [sighs, looks at the ground] You really scare me.


QUINN: Good. [reaches for nearest of David’s hands, gives it a squeeze] If depth doesn’t work, fear will do. You’re a quick learner. Plenty of hope for you yet. [lets go of his hand]


Quinn quickly collects her diet soft drink and book, and she gets up from the bench.


QUINN: You remember where I live, right?


DAVID: [looks up, nods once, points in the distance] You’re a block over that way, the red brick house on Glen Oaks.


QUINN: That’s it. [brightly] See you, David! [starts to walk away toward her home]


DAVID: [calls after her] Quinn?


QUINN: [stops, looks back] Careful, David. Don’t spoil the moment.


DAVID: [sighs] You were waiting for me here, weren’t you? I mean, you weren’t just sitting here and I happened to walk by, and . . . you know . . . because I sometimes walk through here going from the library to my parents’ house, or . . . [runs out of things to say, gestures briefly, stares at Quinn]


Quinn looks at David for a long moment. She takes a step toward him.


QUINN: [quotes Dickinson from memory] “Who never lost, are unprepared / A coronet to find; / Who never thirsted, flagons / And cooling tamarind.” [pause, stares at David, then breaks into a smile] Seven o’clock! [waves, walks away]


DAVID: [sags back in his seat, soft voice] Bye.


Quinn doesn’t look back as she leaves the park. David watches her go until she is out of sight, as he sits beneath the oak in the warmth of the day.










Author’s Notes II: Literature that Quinn mentions is named below.


“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

A Journal of the Plague Year, by Daniel Defoe

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, by Patricia A. McKillip

Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon (an Englishman, not a Viking)



Poems by Emily Dickinson:


“Your riches taught me poverty”

“If you were coming in the fall”

“I lost a world the other day”

“Proud of my broken heart since thou didst break it”

“Who never lost, are unprepared”



The poem at the end of A Journal of the Plague Year goes:


A dreadful plague in London was

In the year sixty-five,

Which swept an hundred thousand souls

Away; yet I alive!



The stanza from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” of which Quinn was thinking was:


The many men, so beautiful!

And they all dead did lie:

And a thousand thousand slimy things

Lived on; and so did I.






Original: 8/14/02, modified 1/20/03, 06/18/06, 09/22/06, 10/02/06, 11/05/08