INT. COLLEGE SOPHOMORE CLASSROOM, MANHATTAN- DAY

LOVELY is a renegade (19, African American, dark smooth skin). Both mysterious and misunderstood in a way that is rarely romanticized. She is confident, defiant, and deeply stoic.

Dressed entirely in black, she’s sitting behind a desk in the center of the classroom, wearing a cowl neck scarf over her head. It hides most of her profile.

Much like her expression, her tone is always unreadable.

LOVELY
Fuck Emily Dickinson.

Silence. After a moment, laughs & whispers. A debate has been going on, the room feels tense.

The entire class is positioned in an arch around Lovely (10 white students, 2 black students, 3 Asian students, 11 boys, and 4 girls).

CUT TO:

MS. JARED (Advanced Literary Studies Professor, white woman, late 40s, blond hair, blue eyes). She leans against the front of her desk, arms crossed, irritated.

Ms. Jared & Lovely stare at each other.

MS. JARED
Lovely, you can express yourself without being so profane…

LOVELY
You wouldn’t have heard me otherwise.

SAVANNAH
(to Lovely, bitter)

Cuz I’m only half a voice, right?

Lovely and Ms. Jared turn their attention toward the back of the classroom. SAVANNAH looks agitated (19, half white, half black).

MS. JARED
(Exhausted)

Alright, class dismissed. Come back next week with a rough draft.

 

CONTINUED:

The class begins to gather their stuff. Some students are already out of the door. Lovely stands, sliding her bag over her shoulder.

MS. JARED
Not you, Lovely. Meet me back here in five.

Lovely halts. She looks at the door, then back at Ms. Jared. Ms. Jared walks away.

INT. OUTSIDE CLASSROOM, HALLWAY- DAY

Lovely’s chilling on a bench. The area she’s waiting in has a vending machine and water fountain. The remainder of her classmates are filing out, chatting with each other. She stares straight ahead in silence, standoffish.

Savannah emerges, sits next to Lovely. Deep in her own thoughts, Lovely isn’t aware.

Savannah stares at her until Lovely senses another presence and looks up. They hold each other’s gaze for a moment. Savannah has an intensity about her.

SAVANNAH
You think I’m a house nigga.

Lovely looks away, immediately disinterested.

LOVELY
I think you’ve been bamboozled. But we all have.

SAVANNAH
As in white-washed, right?

Lovely’s tone remains dry and apathetic.

LOVELY
Your words, not mine. I prefer another term.

Savannah glares at Lovely impatiently, waiting for her to say what she’s really implying.

SAVANNAH
Yes, I’ve had my fair share of white boys and Radiohead. That’s what this is about. Just come out and say it.

 

LOVELY
You think you’re entitled.

SAVANNAH
I think I just like dick.

Lovely returns her attention elsewhere. Savannah just stares at her- long enough for Lovely to feel it, and look up for a moment.

SAVANNAH
You think you’re Nat Turner?

LOVELY
You think half white exists?

SAVANNAH
I’m here, aren’t I?

LOVELY
If that’s what you think, I mean, you’re more ashy than you sound.

Savannah bursts into laughter.

SAVANNAH
Ashy? That’s innovative.

LOVELY
Yeah.

Lovely is ignoring Savannah. Savannah takes another moment to stare at her. Then she leans in real close, forcing eye contact with Lovely.

SAVANNAH
(softly)

You’re transparent, baby girl.

Lovely’s close enough to smell Savannah’s breath. She looks disoriented for a quick moment.

Ms. Jared arrives. Lovely returns to her indifference.

MS. JARED
Excuse me, Savannah.

Savannah smiles, holding her gaze on Lovely.

INT. CLASSROOM- DAY

Ms. Jared sits, leaning against the front of her desk. Arms crossed. Face tight.

Lovely stands still, her bag slung over her shoulder as if she’s about to walk out. They stare at each other.

MS. JARED
What’s with your fixation on being this course’s antithesis?

LOVELY
What’s with your fetish for dead, racist poets?

Ms. Jared looks confused, raising her eyebrows, and shaking her head as if she can’t comprehend what’s just been said to her. She shifts her posture, tapping her nails on the desk, not sure where to begin.

MS. JARED
Racist? Fetish?

Lovely’s tone is controlled, and matter of fact.

LOVELY
She called me a nigger, and everyone pretended not to notice because she said “negro” and her syntax is real fine and that’s just the way they spoke back then.

Ms. Jared closes her eyes, takes a deep breath.

MS. JARED
And… you feel that Dickinson was addressing you, personally?

LOVELY
Yes.

Failing to hide how bothered she is, Ms. Jared stares at the floor- trying to gather her thoughts.

 

MS. JARED
Lovely, were you here last week when we covered subjectivity?

LOVELY
Racial slurs are subjective?

MS. JARED
No! That’s not what I’m–

Ms. Jared takes a moment to regain composure. Lovely has a strange effect on her, and she’s slightly thrown off by how emotional she’s become.

Lovely watches her, unfazed.

MS. JARED
Assuming that Dickinson is a racist…is a bit subjective.

Lovely remains silent.

Ms. Jared fidgets with her wedding ring, looking stressed.

MS. JARED
I apologize if at any point in the discussion today you were offended. I want you to feel comfortable enough to always express your thoughts in my class. But this is a difficult topic for everyone. There are other students who feel the same as you, and they’d like to express some of their opinions as well…but sometimes, your approach can be so-

LOVELY
Guilt-provoking?

MS. JARED
Harsh.

Lovely starts toward the door.

LOVELY
I need to leave.

Ms. Jared stands abruptly, finds the base in her voice.

MS. JARED
Lovely!

Lovely comes to a slow, impatient halt. Hand on the door, she stands with her back turned toward Ms. Jared.

MS. JARED
I need you to understand that history is beautiful things made by people with ugly ideas. I don’t like it either. But imagine if I refused to educate you on every poet or writer who’s ever had some prejudice toward race or sex? There’d be no one left on the syllabus.

Ms. Jared moves around to the back of her desk and takes a seat. She crosses her legs, and leans back in her chair. She stares at the back of Lovely’s head with concern, but she’s found new confidence in the point she’s making.

MS. JARED
To quote a young journalist from the Atlantic, “The timber of humanity is too crooked.” And he’s right, I wish it were-

Lovely exits, the door slams. Ms. Jared is silent for a moment, staring at the door. Then she exhales and doubles over, hands in her hair, head between her legs.

INT. SASHA’S APARTMENT, BEDROOM- NIGHT The room is completely dark.

SASHA
(singing Erykah Badu lyrics softly)

Hello, hello, hey, hello, hello

The light cuts on. The room is small and cluttered. Lovely is lying on the bed, her back against the head board. At the foot of the bed, SASHA is on her knees(19, Jamaican & Chinese, honey skin tone, wild thick hair, ripe).

SASHA begins crawling slowly toward Lovely.

SASHA
(To Lovely, seductive)

Hello, hello, hey, hello, hello.

Lovely watches Sasha with a tired grin. Sasha straddles her, close enough for their noses to touch.

Sasha begins to kiss her, then Lovely’s phone chirps. She has a new text message. Lovely pulls away, reaches for her phone.

Sasha watches her read the text. After a moment, Lovely still hasn’t put her phone down. Sasha is restless.

SASHA
Who’s that?

Sasha interrupts Lovely’s train of thought. Lovely glances up at Sasha, tosses her phone to the side. Sasha stares at her impatiently. Lovely returns her hands to Sasha’s waist and shrugs dismissively.

Fury flashes across Sasha’s face. She abruptly gets off the bed, leaves the room.

Door slams.

We watch Lovely, exhausted, leaning her head back, closing her eyes.

INT. COLLEGE CLASSROOM- DAY

Students are filing into the classroom. Ms. Jared is propped up against the front of her desk, shuffling papers.

Lovely emerges from the hallway and heads straight toward Ms. Jared. She abruptly hands her a small piece of notebook paper. Ms. Jared looks up, startled.

Lovely stands there with her arm extended. Ms. Jared takes the paper, skims over it briefly.

MS. JARED
What’s this?

Lovely’s tone is controlled and impersonal.

LOVELY
A list of writers who, if ever included on the syllabus to begin with, would still be left after you weeded out all of the dead bigots half your class can’t relate to.

A little off to the side, JOSH (21, tall, lanky white boy) has been peering over Ms. Jared’s shoulder, reading the list.

JOSH
(to Lovely)

You do realize that most of the people on this list have work that’s a response to the oppression of white supremacy, right?

Ms. Jared removes the list from his view, folds it up.

JOSH
So…that’s like reading Elie Wiesel without ever learning about the Nazi Regime. So…you kinda need those dead bigots…like, context-wise.

Unresponsive, Lovely completely disregards Josh.

CAROLINE (19, white, redhead, messy bun and sweatpants) has been lurking from a distance, eavesdropping. She’s passionate, an honest child of her generation. She steps into frame.

CAROLINE
(to Josh)

Um excuse me, bitch, but was she talking to you?

MS. JARED
Caroline…

Josh rolls his eyes and walks away. Lovely returns to her indifference, Caroline turns to Ms. Jared.

CAROLINE
I’m sorry, I just think it’s fuggin dope. Look!

Caroline gestures to the folded up paper in Ms. Jared’s hands.

CAROLINE (CONT’D)
She’s doing your job, trynna educate us crackers on what it means to step outside ourselves. The truth: meaning… there are more narratives in the world than the ones we keep pulling out of our old, crusty asses.

Subtle laughter can be heard from the back of the classroom.

Ms.Jared looks stressed, trying not to snap.

MS. JARED
Caroline…have a seat.

JOSH (O.S.)
(directed to Caroline) Take several.

Caroline rolls her eyes at Ms. Jared, gives Lovely a nod, and exits the frame to take a seat.

Side eyed, Lovely remains standing. Ms. Jared takes her time returning the eye contact.

MS. JARED
I’ll have a look at this later, Lovely.

Lovely begins to turn away.

MS. JARED
And for future reference, I’d prefer you speak to me in private about these things.

Lovely’s expression is unresponsive. She walks off, takes a seat.

Ms. Jared takes a deep breath, regains composure, and stands to address the class.

MS. JARED
Alright, seeds.

The class quiets down a bit. Center, Ms. Jared stares at all of her students for a moment.

MS. JARED
Who could have prepared me for a literature class full of boiling nonconformists?

Lovely clearly does not find the statement amusing. Caroline abruptly raises her hand as if the question wasn’t rhetorical. The remainder of the students appear unmoved.

MS. JARED
But you guys really…force me to reckon with the new world we’re living in. I’ve always considered myself a free thinker but…you guys tend to open my eyes even wider. And I appreciate that…truly.

She gives something that looks like an appreciative smile, and starts toward the front of the class.

MS. JARED
I know finals in your other classes have been eating your soul. So we’re going to watch a movie.

STUDENT (O.S)
Which one?

Ms. Jared has her fingers on the light switch.

MS. JARED
Dead Poets Society.

STUDENT (O.S)
Again?

LOVELY
See you next week.

We hear Lovely get up from her seat.

CAROLINE
Muthafucker

Ms. Jared’s fingers come down on the switch.

INT. SASHA’S APARTMENT, BEDROOM- NIGHT

Sasha and Lovely sit side by side, their legs stretched out toward the foot of the bed. Sasha’s hair is in a head wrap, she wears a bra and boxer briefs. Lovely’s fully clothed, dressed in black.

They’re close enough so that Sasha’s laptop rests on both their thighs.

Sasha’s watching an informational video on butt implants. We can’t see what’s on the screen, but we can hear it clearly. She watches it intensely.

Lovely’s attention is somewhere else. She’s staring at a random corner in the room, deep in thought.

Sasha glances at her and then returns her eyes to the screen. A few moments pass. Sasha abruptly hits pause and waits for Lovely to notice. She doesn’t.

SASHA
(impatient)

Hi. Hello. What’s up.

Lovely looks at her, confused.

LOVELY
Hmm?

SASHA
You’re not watching it!

Lovely shrugs.

SASHA
You’re pretending not to be here again.

LOVELY
Sasha…

SASHA
Say it again.

LOVELY
Sasha.

Sasha pushes her laptop to the side, gets on her knees, and squishes Lovely’s face between her palms.

SASHA
Yes, Love? You have my undivided attention…

Lovely just stares at her. After a moment, Sasha releases her and falls back onto the bed.

SASHA
That’s how you do it.

LOVELY
Fake ass just doesn’t do it for me.

SASHA
Cuz you’re mad cool. Ice cold since you slid out of your mother’s vagina. Correct?

LOVELY
Cut the rhetoric, Sasha. You sound like a professional side chick.

Sasha abruptly throws a pillow at Lovely’s head. Lovely laughs at her.

SASHA
Fuck you, Negro. And it won’t be fake. I’ve spoken to like over twelve doctors, and they all recommend fat transfer. My fat.

LOVELY
You weigh like ninety pounds, where are they pulling all this fat from?

Sasha sits up.

SASHA
I think you don’t want me to be happy.

LOVELY
I think you’re trying too hard.

SASHA
So you just gonna project all your shit onto me, huh?

Lovely shrugs. Sasha stares at her, becoming solemn. Her tone is soft but direct.

SASHA
You know…this sad, little colored girl uniform is getting old. It’s embarrassing, baby. Time to find something new.

Lovely stares off, refusing eye contact. She looks so unhappy. Her tone is tired, sad, and sarcastic.

LOVELY
Maybe. You think it would cost me four grand?

SASHA
Get out.

Lovely looks at her. They hold each other’s gaze.

INT. CLASSROOM- DAY

Ms. Jared, leaning against her desk, stares into the faces of her students.

MS. JARED
In light of Lovely drawing to my attention that we have not studied very diverse writers in this class…I’ve decided what your final will be. Write a poem inspired by a writer who has influenced you. Criteria? Be deep…

INT. CLASSROOM- LATER

Students are packing up and exiting the classroom. Lovely’s almost out the door. Ms. Jared catches her right before she gets there.

MS. JARED
Lovely, can I speak to you? Lovely speaks without turning around.

LOVELY
I have a train to catch.

MS. JARED
It’ll only take a second…I just wanted to have your opinion on the assignment.

Lovely turns around, looks at her side eyed. Ms. Jared’s waiting for her to come closer. Reluctantly, she does.

MS. JARED
What do you think about it? Could it be useful…do you have any suggestions or…?

Lovely pretends to consider Ms. Jared’s question, and then shakes her head.

MS. JARED
Nothing? Really?

Lovely shrugs. Ms. Jared stares at her for a moment.

MS. JARED
Do you think I’m racist, Lovely?

Lovely avoids eye contact. Ms. Jared stares at her with this concerned, semi- pleading expression.

Lovely’s slightly uncomfortable.

LOVELY
I dunno…You picked the wrong profession, if you are.

Ms. Jared just stares at her. Eyes wide, slightly nodding her head even though Lovely’s stopped speaking.

Lovely finally looks up at Ms. Jared who’s beginning to seem unstable. All of sudden Lovely feels bad for her.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

LOVELY
(instructive)

Look…you’re either a part of the cure, or part of the disease. There is no in between, unless you’re a newborn. And even then, there’s only a limited time frame before you’re forced into knowing. That “monkey pretend to see no evil, hear no evil” bullshit is worse than organizing the social and political lynching.

Silence. Ms. Jared is experiencing a myriad of emotions. It shows on her face. She keeps silent, staring at the floor.

Waiting for a response, Lovely shoots subtle glances at Ms. Jared’s neck, blouse, and legs.

LOVELY
So…now that you’re aware, it’s just about choosing which side you’re on, and ultimately what kind of person you want to be.

After a moment Ms. Jared is suddenly stern and authoritative.

MS. JARED
Goodbye, Lovely.

The words slap Lovely across the face. She’s vulnerable, offended, and confused. And for the first time, she allows it all to show on her face.

LOVELY
Fuck you.

Ms. Jared looks surprised, slightly frightened.

MS. JARED
Excuse me?

Lovely’s tone turns dark and manipulative.

LOVELY
You didn’t think anyone would notice?

MS. JARED
Notice what?

Lovely steps a bit closer.

LOVELY
Your make-believe. Your “helping all the little Niggers find Forrester.”

Lovely’s possessed with fury. Her speech comes out in snarls. Ms. Jared looks horrified.

LOVELY
Ms. Harriet Beecher Stowe of the Negroes. Barnard, lesbian for a summer, Peace Core-abolitionist with an adopted son from Haiti.

Lovely hits a nerve.

MS. JARED
You’re way out of line, Lovely! Who the hell do you-

LOVELY
You think you can keep him alive, Katherine? Sooner or later, all little black boys with ashy knees grow up to swallow bullets.

Eyes swelling, Ms.Jared holds onto her desk.

LOVELY
I knew a boy who bled before he even grew hair. With toys in his hands. Baby teeth in his mouth. Everyone knows this. More Niggas die here than in Darfur, Katherine. Everyone knows that. But that’s not what you signed up for, is it?

Ms. Jared is trying desperately to maintain composure, her body is shaking. Like something fragile that’s about to tip over and shatter into pieces.

Lovely stares down at her.

LOVELY
You’re acting like I’m some kind of poltergeist. I’m not haunting you, Ms. Jared. I just told you the truth. Get back in the womb, if you can’t handle it.

Lovely exits. When Ms. Jared hears the door slam, she breaks down hysterically.

INT. LOVELY’S BEDROOM- NIGHT

Lovely is sprawled out in the middle of her bedroom floor. Arms stretched, eyes wide. We float above her, looking down at her still body.

For the first time, we see her half dressed & without her head scarf. She doesn’t make a sound. She looks dead, or frozen.

Suddenly, she draws in a loud, abrupt breath that shakes her whole body and sounds like she can’t breathe.

INT. CLASSROOM- DAY

Substitute MS. CASTILLO stands before the class (Latina, soft-spoken, early thirties).

MS. CASTILLO
Hello…Katherine asked me to stand in for her today. My Name’s Ms.

Castillo, but you can call me Alaina. I fell in love with the assignment she explained to me. Who’s first?

CUT TO CLASS:

Everyone looks away.

MS. CASTILLO (O.S.)
Okay fine, I’ll call you by alphabetical order.

JOSH Fuck.

CUT TO:

Josh stands in front of the class, clutching a piece of paper. He clearly doesn’t want to be up there.

JOSH
So…I’m not into idolizing people, so I haven’t been majorly influenced by any one writer. So this is just written from a previous experience I’ve had. Um, yeah so ok. True story. No title.

He clears his throat, pauses.

JOSH (CONT’D)
She’s shallow, but when the mood strikes, she lets me dive deep. So I just smile and pass the roach when she asks me if I prayed at Mecca on my free heritage trip to Israel…

Josh looks up, disinterested. We hear Caroline’s laughter in the background. Generic applause. He rolls his eyes.

CUT TO:

Caroline stands before the class. She’s loud, energized.

CAROLINE
Hey guys! Sooooo Eve Ensler is that bitch. She inspires the shit out of me, and basically introduced me to all this feminist stuff. She’s dope, and you guessed it! This poem is about Vaginas. It’s called “I lost my virginity to a Wisteria Flower Tunnel in Japan.”

Caroline clears her throat, pauses.

CAROLINE (CONT’D)
Azaleas lock my jaw, Belladonnas crowd my Vulva. Yellow Jasmines singe my rectum. Been fucking Wisteria for 19 years now, my pussy still smells like Chipotle. You’ll make that pungent taste on your tongue synonymous with vulgarity, but it’s not. It’s me owning my wetlands. Since you won’t. Fuck a rose tinted, pineapple scented cunt. I’m not sorry.

Caroline looks up, drops the paper, and holds her arms up like a champ. A few people clap.

CUT TO:

Savannah stands before the class. Paper in hands. She has a serious, almost anxious expression on her face. She begins reciting.

 

SAVANNAH
In the fetal position, insanity can start to sound like a dying elephant. I don’t mind if you take a bite out of my shoulder, I probably deserve it. I blew holes through both my clocks and set them on fire. I’ll always be the half-breed with the bad blood…

Savannah looks up. After a moment, we hear Caroline’s abrupt clapping. A few others join in. Savannah takes a seat.

Holding now on the empty space.

MS. CASTILLO (O.S.)
Alright, who’s next. Lovely?

MS. CASTILLO (O.S.)
Lovely Okoth…?

We hear students shuffling in their seats.

CAROLINE (O.S.)
I think she dipped.

MS. CASTILLO (O.S.)
What?

CAROLINE (O.S.)
(sighs at having to translate) She’s not here.

INT. SASHA’S APARTMENT, BEDROOM- NIGHT

Sasha’s siting on the bed. Lovely stands in front of her, hands by her side. Silent. They hold each other’s gaze.

After a moment, Lovely walks over to Sasha, kneels, wraps her arms around her waist, and pushes her face into her lap. It’s a tender act.

Sasha looks tense, and surprised. But after a moment, she places a hand on Lovely’s head and begins to stroke her back. Silence.

Sasha is soft, vulnerable.

SASHA
Tell me I’m good.

LOVELY
(speaks into lap, muffled voice)
You’re good.

SASHA
Tell me you love me.

LOVELY
I love you.

SASHA
Admit that you miss him…

Long pause.

Lovely shifts her head sideways. Sasha’s face shows compassion, she looks down at Lovely.

LOVELY
(barely audible) I miss him.

We watch them in silence.

CUT TO BLACK.

THE END

Gabrielle Randall’s poem, “Angel’s Trumpet,” won first prize in the Fourth Annual School of Visual Arts Writing Program Contest. Gabrielle also won second prize for her short script, “Fire Mouth.” Gabrielle is in her second year at the Film program at SVA. She hails from Colombia, Maryland. Gabrielle has this to say about her work:  “I tend to create very personal, character-intensive stories that are minimal in action and plot. One of my writing teachers at SVA once told me, ‘Write a story that can only come from you,’ and I take that very seriously.”