(Two young men sitting on an empty Chicago beach)

(Two young men sitting on an empty Chicago beach, passing a cigarette back and forth; one a redhead and the other brunette. Mid-October, 5:30 p.m. The unforgiving Chicago wind buffets them both, but they are bundled up against the cold in heavy winter jackets, gloves and hats. The redhead is SAM, and he is empty and blank as he stares at the black lake, his apathy a result of his depression. The brunette is JESSE, quiet and sad, weighed down with burdens that aren’t his to bear. He is SAM’s boyfriend of two years.)

JESSE: (a heavy sigh, shoulders slumped) My dad’s getting out of jail soon.

(SAM, the redhead, stares blankly out at Lake Michigan and takes a drag off the cigarette before passing it to JESSE.)

JESSE: Did you hear what I said?

SAM: (shrugs) I heard you. What do you want me to say?

JESSE: I don’t know, but maybe you should act like you actually give a shit instead of pretending it doesn’t scare you. Because it scares the shit out of me. (He snatches the cigarette and takes a drag.)

SAM: There’s nothing we can do about it, Jess.

(He stares out at the lake again. The sky is pale and gray and the water is nearly black. There is a moment of heavy silence.)

JESSE: You know he’s gonna kill us.

(SAM gives no reaction.)

JESSE: (insistent) He will literally get his gun and shoot us both in the head.

SAM: (smirks halfheartedly) Good. Then he’ll get 20 to 60 years. That’s the rest of his miserable shitty life.

JESSE: Fuck you. Can you be serious for a second? He’s being released in two days. What the fuck are we supposed to do? (panicked, eyes nearly tearing up)

(SAM turns. His eyes are hazy and far away, a side effect of his mental illness. He feels nothing, and he hates it, because he wants to feel things with JESSE, especially when JESSE needs him to feel. Like now.)

SAM: I don’t know. (shakes his head. He takes his hat off and runs his hands through his red hair, then hangs his head in his hands like he can’t hold it up.) I don’t know.

(JESSE watches him helplessly for a few moments before he scoots over and puts his arm around SAM, pulling him close.)

JESSE: We’ll leave. Get out of the city.

SAM: My family would never let me. (He lifts his face to the sky to let the wind dry his eyes.) We’ll stay with them.

JESSE: He’ll find us there.

SAM: (throws his hands in the air in defeat) Then we’ll call the fucking cops. What else can we do? We can’t leave, and we can’t stay in your house as long as your dad’s around.

JESSE: (hesitant, thinking) I’ll get my brothers and sister to help.

SAM: Help with what?

JESSE: Beating his ass.

SAM: (rolls his eyes) You’re not gonna beat up your dad.

JESSE: Why not? He beat the living shit out of me more times than I can count. The asshole deserves it.

(For one blissful, painful moment, SAM does feel. He feels righteous fury towards JESSE’s abusive father. He feels torment for every bruise and mark left on JESSE that he couldn’t stop. He feels love for JESSE, and that is the blissful part. Sometimes, he doesn’t remember what it feels like to love at all. JESSE brings it back to him in quiet moments.)

SAM: (roughly) He deserves worse than what he did to you. Just don’t kill him.

JESSE: (with a half-formed smile) No promises.

(SAM smiles for the first time in weeks. JESSE smiles back, and SAM feels the world brighten. This is what it feels like to love – this sunburst in his chest, however fleeting, this rapid flutter in his heart with JESSE’s name attached to it. SAM leans forward to rest his head on JESSE’s shoulder. He closes his eyes.)

SAM: We’ll figure it out. Your dad’s not gonna touch us. It’s against his probation, and if he breaks it he’ll go back to jail. The worst he can do is threaten us and kick us out of the house. (shrugs) We’ll just move in with my family. We’ve already got six people. What’s one more?

JESSE: (thinks quietly for a moment, biting his lip. He takes SAM’s hand and squeezes it.) Or we could get our own place.

SAM: (doubtful) With what money?

JESSE: You’ve got a ton saved up from working at the corner store, and I can talk to my uncle about picking up a few shifts at the body shop.

SAM: (looks at JESSE, eyes half hopeful, indulging the idea) Okay, but where are we gonna find an apartment cheap enough?

JESSE: (eyes bright, excited) My aunt was visiting the other week, and I overheard her talking about someone who just moved out of her building. She lives in one of the cheapest places in Chicago, and she said the landlord wasn’t strict with rent. It’s not too far from here, so we could still see your family as much as you wanted.

(SAM looks at his boyfriend for a second and then smiles again, the second time in weeks, the second time in a day. This is what it feels like to love, to feel. This is why he loves JESSE. JESSE makes him happy, even when he isn’t.)

SAM: Really? You want to get our own place?

JESSE: I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but at least we won’t have to be around my dad anymore. (He squeezes SAM’s hand again.) He won’t be able to hurt us again.

(The boys sit in silence for a moment. SAM stares out at the lake, contemplating the possibility of this new life. JESSE watches him carefully. He worries about the complications SAM’s mental illness will bring them, but he is more than ready for the ride, as long as it’s with SAM. SAM thinks of being happy again, truly happy, not the pale imitations of happiness he clings to. He thinks of a life with JESSE and time spent trying to feel.)

SAM: (after a while) Okay.

JESSE: (eyes wide) Okay?

SAM: Yeah. Let’s do it. Let’s just do it. (He grins and shakes his head.) God. Let’s get out of here.

JESSE: (smiles and leans forward to kiss SAM, placing his hands on either side of his face) We’re doing it.

(SAM smiles and pulls JESSE closer.)

JESSE: (quiet, hopeful, in love) We’re getting out of here.

(Two young men sitting on an empty Chicago beach, the butt of their shared cigarette buried in the sand between them. Mid-October, 6:24 p.m. The unforgiving Chicago wind buffets them both, but they cling to each other, and it is warm.)

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