Two sisters, Hannah (65) and Esther (63) enter an upscale hotel room. After dropping her bags, Hannah collapses onto the bed, facing upward.
Hannah. I am exhausted. You?
Esther. I feel great, actually. Energized. How are you still wearing that coat?
Hannah. It feels comfortable. Besides, who knows what’s on these beds, you know? The shower in a place like this is even worse, I bet.
Esther. That doesn’t matter to me—or at all. In fact, I think I’ll shower now—get the day off me.
Hannah. Do you still—
Esther. Yes! Cold water only.
Esther goes into the bathroom, leaving the door open a quarter of the way. We hear the sound of the shower running. Hannah remains lying on the bed.
Esther. You love to ask that every time! (from behind the door) So tomorrow, are you going to wear your nice clothes in the morning when we drive, or change once we get there? Will we have time to change?
Hannah. I’ll just wear what I’m wearing all day. I don’t think we have to leave here first thing. We made good time today, so we can take it easy.
Esther. I think I’ll change when we get there. Did you see what I brought?
Hannah. No. What?
Esther. Don’t worry. It’s a nice black dress.
Hannah. You know what I’ll be wearing.
Esther. Yes, I do. Pants and a blazer. Muted tones. Pearls.
Hannah. What? No. No, not at all.
Hannah. Yes, really. I’ll be in a skirt with a sweater.
Esther. Oh, well that’s different, isn’t it?
Hannah has sat up and is staring at the room’s vanity mirror from the edge of the bed.
Hannah. Well I don’t care what you think. I’m just honored that they’re giving me the award.
Esther. Sheesh. Could you sound any more rehearsed? You’ve got something better than that for tomorrow night, I hope?
Hannah. Do you think I’m supposed to speak? I just thought they would hand it to me and—well that that would be that.
Hannah begins to pull her long hair which hangs down like a young girl’s. She stares at herself in the mirror all the while, and then she yanks on her hair with enough force to pull her head back a several inches. And then again.
Hannah. You don’t think so?
Esther. Hannah, they will absolutely be expecting you to say something. I can’t believe you, of all people, are showing up to a school function unprepared!
Hannah. (to herself) Yes. I suppose you’re right. (to Esther) Maybe I’ll talk about my year in Kenya?
Hannah pronounces this last word as KEEN-yah. Esther makes a response, and, though we cannot make out the words themselves, it is clear that her tone is one of disrespect. Meanwhile, Hannah has begun to wind her long hair up into a tight bun.
Hannah. Look, I know you don’t think much of my time in Kenya, but we really were trying to respect their culture.
Esther. That’s not even what bothers me about—oh, forget it!
The shower has stopped. After a moment, Esther comes through the door into the main room. Her body is covered by a towel and she has another wrapped around her head like a turban.
Esther. Listen: nobody gives a shit about “KEEN-yah.” Honestly, I don’t know how you convinced Warren to take part in something so ridiculous.
Hannah. Warren? What do you mean? He wanted to go—it was both our idea.
Esther. Yeah, I’ll bet!
Hannah. He would be proud to know that our work was being honored.
Esther. Proud? He would’ve hated going to this thing. Honestly, why are we even going? We haven’t been back since we graduated. You haven’t prepared a speech. What’s the point?
Hannah. Why are we going back? Because I am being honored. And speak for yourself. I’ve been back several times over the years. And Warren and I always give at the end of the year—and how dare you talk to me about my husband and what he would’ve wanted?
Esther. Hannah, he would’ve hated this.
Esther has put on a white robe with red trim and sits facing the vanity mirror as she combs her hair. In the mirror, she can see herself and her sister, who remains seated on the edge of the bed behind her.
Esther. How are you still in that coat?! And what is with your hair?
Esther. I’ve never seen you pin it up so tightly—or at all.
Hannah. Oh, stop it.
Esther. What? Did you finally take the McGovern pin off your vanity?
Hannah. What is that supposed to mean?
Esther. Nothing. There just aren’t many women our age who wear their hair down all the time. (she pauses and then makes a wide-eyed face at herself in the mirror, lowering her voice to a whisper) “KEEN-yaaah.”
Hannah looks furious, but she says nothing. She rises and walks to the closet, finding another robe like Esther’s. She smells it skeptically and then, with a frown, removes her coat and pulls the robe on over her clothes.
Hannah. Listen, Esther. I want to go back to our alma mater and accept this award because it means that something I did was worthy of attention. Right? I mean, something I did must have mattered for them to think of me for this honor after all this time.
Esther. (looking at herself in the mirror as she combs her hair with a quick wrist)Yes, you’re right. I’m sorry for making fun.
Hannah. Did you really not vote for McGovern?
Esther. You know the answer to that, too. Are you not going to shower?
Hannah. No. I’ll just wear this to sleep.
Esther. (laughing) Whatever you want to do. You’re the distinguished alum, after all!
Esther reenters the bathroom, and we can hear her brushing her teeth.
Hannah. Yes, I am, aren’t I? The Distinguished Alumni Award. Someone who makes decisions finally rewarding an idealist. (she reaches for a pen and the hotel pad) In fact, I’m going to make sure to thank Eleanor Roosevelt in my speech. (she walks to the bathroom door so that she is looking directly at the back of Esther’s head) It’s nice to be recognized. I mean, if we just keep chipping away at the establishment, things have to change eventually, right?
Esther. So they say. (after a pause) How close are you to being ready?
Hannah. I’m ready.
Esther. Do you want to watch something, or just go to sleep?
Hannah. Can we just lie in the dark and talk for awhile?
Esther. Fine with me.
They both get into bed and Esther turns out the light.
Hannah. Let’s get up early and watch the sun come up.
Esther. I thought you said we could sleep in!
Hannah. I know. We can, but it might be nice to start the day early—get a jump on things.
Esther. You go ahead. I’d rather sleep through it.
They lie in silence for a moment.
Hannah. Let’s just get up early and make it a fresh start. The award is nice, but I’m ready to get back to work. I just keep thinking about changing things—hope for the future. It can always be different next time, right? So they got Bobby. Nixon beat McGovern. Mondale. And now— (after a pause) Well. I’m still a believer. (another pause) Why didn’t you ever want to be one? (Esther does not respond) Esther?
Esther says nothing, and Hannah realizes that she has been talking to herself. She sighs, and then narrates her own ending.
Hannah. “But Esther had already fallen asleep. She would not and could not listen to her Distinguished Alumna sister. (pause) And it would be several more hours before Hannah would fall into her dream, only to awaken the next morning just before sunrise, refreshed, alert, ready to face the challenges of a new day. Ready to remake civil society. Ready for acceptance and progress.”
She lies there in silence, noticing the moonlight coming through the window. She thinks to herself that it looks as though it will rain. She does not cry, and the curtain falls.