Counting To Zero, a short play by Lee Bob Black.


[ALYX, DERRICK, ISABEL, QUENTIN, and SKYE are drinking beer and wine at the main / large table, inside Doma Café.]
[SKYE and ISABEL are sitting next to each other.]
[ALYX and QUENTIN are sitting next to each other, holding hands; it’s clear they’re a couple.]
[DERRICK has his angled his back to QUENTIN.]

QUENTIN: She pulls out a huge brown bag filled with dozens of different condom brands and sizes and colors. I just want to put any condom on, but suddenly it’s a project. Undoing a woman’s bra is hard enough, that’s a fierce test of manhood. But being with a woman who has clearly more sexual experience than me just--

ISABEL: How was the sex?

QUENTIN: All I remember is she’d slept with dozens and dozens of men. Those were her words. Dozens and dozens.

ISABEL: But you can’t remember how the sex was?

QUENTIN: She was thirty and intimidating. I was eighteen and used to cum quickly--

ALYX: Still do sometimes. But only sometimes.

QUENTIN: Thanks, hun, now every one at Doma knows I cum quickly.

ALYX: You only pre sometimes, sweetie.

QUENTIN [looking away from ALYX]: I had no idea what I was doing in bed until--

ALYX: Until you shacked up with me.

QUENTIN: [looking at ALYX.] And it’s been golden ever since. Well, sometimes. [The following is said to the group.] So what do you guys think is a reasonable number of sexual partners for thirty-year-olds like us?

SKYE: Twenty for a woman. Meaning: I’d say that the average man, Joe Public, would think it’d be reasonable for a woman to have slept with no more than twenty men.

ISABEL: I guess that makes me unreasonable.

QUENTIN [to SKYE]: By the time she’s thirty?

SKYE [nodding]: Whereas your stock standard Jane USA would probably think it’d be reasonable for a man to have slept with up to thirty women.

QUENTIN: And if one exceeds those numbers?

ALYX: Hello Slutville.

QUENTIN [to ALYX]: If you’re a woman?

SKYE: Or if you’re a man.

QUENTIN: Are blowjobs eligible?

ISABEL: Absolutely.

DERRICK [for the first time, DERRICK turns and looks directly at QUENTIN]: Good question, good question.

ALYX: Not in my world they don’t. Handjobs, blowjobs, footjobs--none of these count. I only count penetration sex. You have to have penis in vag. Penetration.

SKYE: What about penis in ass?

ALYX [contemplatively]: Okay, that counts too.

QUENTIN: Why should blowjobs not count?

ALYX: BJs are less intimate than sex.

QUENTIN: But BJs are sex.

[The following is an intentional doubling-up of the word ‘sex.’]

ALYX: Oral sex is not sex sex.

ISABEL: It’s all the same in the dark. Sex is sex is sex is sex. [The following line is said to ALYX.] I don’t know how you give them, but blowjobs are intimate. I’ll fuck a man long before I go down on him. It’s true. If I have less of an emotional investment, I won’t suck his dick, but I’ll fuck him, because then I’m getting something directly out of it. If I’m blowing him, it’s all vicarious.

SKYE [in a sing-song; to ISABEL]: So it’s all about you?

ISABEL [to SKYE]: Have you ever tried to have an ego-less orgasm?

SKYE: Buddhists must orgasm.

ALYX [to ISABEL]: By the way, if you grew up with American boys, you too would have sucked them off to stop them from forcing themselves on you.

ISABEL [to ALYX]: So how many men have you had sex with?

ALYX: That’s not the question. The question is: What’s a reasonable number of sexual partners by the time you’re thirty?

SKYE: I keep a list.

DERRICK: It depends on what’s reasonable.

SKYE [a little annoyed; to DERRICK] Of course it does, it always does. What I think is reasonable will be different to what you think, will be different to what [pointing at a stranger in the café] she thinks.

ISABEL: The reasonable number of men I’ve slept with is the number of women he’s slept with, minus two. [The following is said to SKYE.] So you keep a list?

SKYE: Uh-huh. It’s coded. I even have a column for their profession. [She suddenly worries that her friends might think she’s too promiscuous.] It’s not a long list. And I’m going to burn it as soon as I find my soulmate.

QUENTIN [to the group]: So where do we draw the line? Twenty sexual partners? Fifty? What’s better--zero or two hundred?

ISABEL: The number is unimportant; it’s not even the right question. The right questions are: Is he good in bed?--dick control is important. And, does he have any diseases?

DERRICK: There’s nothing to be ashamed about the actual number. It’s like your age. Deal with it. If you’re fifty-three years old, you’re fifty-three. Start having a profound relationship with reality.

SKYE: I don’t know what planet you live on, but the number makes all the difference. Say I’m his one-hundredth roll in the hay. How would I satisfy him if he’s comparing me to the first ninety-nine women? If his tally is that high, I never want to know. Ignorance is mental health.

QUENTIN: I wouldn't marry a woman who’s slept with tons of men. If she’s into three figures, forget about it. If I were sleeping with a centurion, would I be thinking what’s been in there? Damn right I would.

ALYX [as if seeing a new side to her boyfriend; to QUENTIN]: You don’t know how many men I’ve slept with, do you?

QUENTIN [imitating the autistic character played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man, QUENTIN puts both hands over his ears, rocks back and forth]: Go back to Walbrook, stay with Charlie Babbitt. Go back to Walbrook, stay with Charlie Babbitt.

ALYX [to QUENTIN]: So what number seems reasonable then?

QUENTIN: [Pointing at his chest.] What I personally think? [Pointing around the café.] Or what I think the average person at Doma would think?

ALYX: What you think.

QUENTIN: Regardless of your sex, I’d say between ten and twenty partners.

DERRICK: What if the guy is gay?

QUENTIN [somewhat sternly]: Makes no difference.

DERRICK: Look, your condom bag lady is a heterosexual exception. Surely you’ve got to factor in how gays have truckloads more sex than straights.

QUENTIN: Do you?

DERRICK: Don’t pretend to be naïve, it’s unbecoming.

QUENTIN: Prove it.

DERRICK: Gayboys fuck, honey. If there’s fucking to do, we’re doing.

QUENTIN: Prove it.

SKYE [whispering to ISABEL]: What if a boyfriend of yours has slept with a guy?

ISABEL [whispering to SKYE]: That’s kind of a turn-on.

ALYX [looking directly at her boyfriend QUENTIN, and speaking loud enough so everyone can hear]: If my boyfriend had sex with a man . . . it would crush me. I can compete with a woman, but I can’t compete with a man.

DERRICK [after pausing for ALYX’s line to resonate, DERRICK says to QUENTIN]: I’ll prove it. We’ll do a Doma sex survey.

[SKYE takes out a pen and paper, ready to record the names of the ‘guilty parties.’ She draws two columns on the paper. In the ensuing conversation, when anyone identifies another sexual connection, SKYE jots the names on her list.]

QUENTIN: Okay. But we’ll be here forever if we list every sexual encounter--so let’s only include people who have had sex here.

ALYX [slightly confused]: Had sex in Doma?

QUENTIN: I mean, who met here, and then went on to sex, you know what I mean.

[Many of the following lines can be spoken rapidly. The particular names are unimportant. The following serves to give a playful, quick impression that a lot of Domites (Doma regulars) have slept around.]

ALYX: Candace slept with Erik.

ISABEL: I slept with Erik.

ALYX: Bobby slept with Melissa.

DERRICK: Rick slept with Jason. [DERRICK, trying to prove his point that gays fuck more than heterosexuals, highlights only gay male encounters.]

QUENTIN: Michelle and Straight Mark were seeing each other for a while.

DERRICK: Queer Mark had Aaron and Seamus.

ISABEL: I slept with Terry.

ALYX [complimenting ISABEL]: Girl, you are the Dominator. [ALYX either says ‘Doma-nator’ or Domi-nator’; this is a wordplay of ‘the Terminator.’]

ISABEL: I’m the Domaster.

SKYE [looking up from her writing pad]: I’m so glad I didn’t sleep with Terry.

DERRICK: Harvey slept with Paul.

ALYX: Phil and Jasmine had sex. And he slept with Fiona.

SKYE: Which Phil? I know three Doma Phils.

QUENTIN: Of course it was oversexed Phil, screenwriter Phil.

SKYE: He and Fiona got it on? Say it ain't so.

ISABEL: Yep. And he also tapped Kathleen.

ALYX: Who’s Kathleen?

SKYE [to ISABEL]: What does tapped mean?

ISABEL [to SKYE]: Like a maple tree. You know, have you tapped her?

QUENTIN [to ALYX]: Kathleen the writer.

ALYX [sarcastically]: That narrows it down. This Kathleen a Doma regular?

DERRICK: Uh-huh.

ALYX: I feel weird hearing about other regulars, and I have no idea who they are. It’s like, this is my third place, I’m a café xenophobe, what gives you the right to be here when I’m not? I know this is irrational and fuked up, I’m a JAP, what did you expect?

SKYE [whispering to ISABEL]: JAP?

ISABEL [whispering to SKYE]: Jewish American Princess.

ALYX: Don’t you find it disturbing that other people have had Domances--

[SKYE does not know what ‘Domances’ are. She looks questioningly at ISABEL.]

ISABEL [translating; whispering to SKYE]: Doma romances.

ALYX: --and they come when we’re not here, and, who knows, maybe they come here more than we do? [ALYX looks around distrustfully.]

DERRICK [to ALYX]: You have to go to some cafés out of the West Village, sweetie-dearest. A change is as good as a holiday.

ALYX: I’m a West Village elitist.

DERRICK [to ALYX, mocking her]: But you live on the Upper East Side.

ALYX: I take my coffee in the West. I don’t need to go to Williamsburg to be around tattooed women and trustafarians. And what the fuck is that saying, ‘A change is as good as a holiday’? I like my problems--they’re mine. Who would I be without my dramas? ‘A change is as good as a holiday’? Bullshit, it’s never that simple.

DERRICK [to ALYX]: It’s never that hard.

ALYX: It’s like that ‘Seinfeld’ episode--

SKYE: Hey! Doma is a sitcom-analogy-free zone. No comparing your life to your TV friends.

QUENTIN [to DERRICK]: Who have you slept with from here?

DERRICK [suspiciously or coyly]: Nobody, except Frank.

ALYX [to DERRICK]: Weren’t you having a relationship with Bret for a while?

DERRICK: Oh yeah, I forgot. But it wasn’t a relationship--we weren’t really sharing anything except arguments and sex. And that was two years ago when Doma first opened.

ALYX: But you met here, so you lovebirds make the list.

DERRICK: Keep us out of it. Remember, Bret has a wife.

QUENTIN [to DERRICK]: I never understood, what’s the attraction for gay men to have sex with straight men? Why do you always do that?

DERRICK: Straight men make the best gay lovers. They learn to be tender with women, and this gentleness carries over into their gay lovemaking. Well, sometimes. [DERRICK uses the word ‘sometimes’ in the same way ALYX did earlier, i.e. as an insult aimed at QUENTIN.]

SKYE [to DERRICK]: Don’t worry, this list is private.

DERRICK: Too many egos are involved for this to stay secret.

[The following are potential directions for SKYE during her next bit. She stands up. Progressively, as she explains her idea, she smiles and gets increasingly animated, and maybe looks off into the distance as if talking to an auditorium of fans.]

SKYE: You’re right. At the moment, this is just a list. But I can see it evolving into a huge flow diagram with arrows and boxes and circles and a pie chart, and it’ll link every Domagirl and Domaguy who’s ever shagged.

ISABEL: And we’ll exhibit it here. [Excited like SKYE, maybe ISABEL also gesticulates widely.]

SKYE: It’ll be like a massive family tree, but instead it’ll be . . . well . . . just Doma--people--who--have--fucked. [Upon saying this last bit, SKYE slumps into her chair, defeated.]

DERRICK [to SKYE]: Keep Bret out of the goddamn tree; he’s married.

QUENTIN [to DERRICK, as if wanting to hurt him]: You’re not the only one Bret’s slept with behind his wife’s back.

DERRICK: Really? Who else? [DERRICK looks surprised or disgusted. And/or, maybe DERRICK’s body language translates to, ‘Who else has slept with Bret? Have you, QUENTIN?’]

ISABEL [to DERRICK]: What’s that look for? It’s okay if he cheats with you, but not if he cheats with others?

DERRICK: I thought I was his only digression.

QUENTIN [to DERRICK]: Which is more morally repulsive: if Bret cheats on his wife with just one man--

ISABEL [pointing at DERRICK]: That would be you.

QUENTIN: --but he has sex many times with said man--

ISABEL [pointing at DERRICK]: You.

QUENTIN: --or if he cheats less times in total, but with various men?

DERRICK: Let’s keep the volume down. [He swivels in his chair and glances at other tables.]

ALYX: Be a man for the first time in your poofy life, answer the question.

[The following is an intentional doubling-up of the word ‘other.’]

DERRICK: It depends on how many other other men or women Bret has cheated with. If there’s just one other other man or woman, than maybe that’s okay, but if there’s say five of us, then--

QUENTIN: Then you’re less special?

DERRICK: There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be special.

QUENTIN: Would you have slept with him if you knew you were his twentieth lay?

DERRICK: I’m not his twentieth.

ALYX: You don’t know that.

DERRICK: I know that. He wasn’t that spectacular in bed.

ALYX: The Don Juans don’t have to be sex gods, they just have to be good at getting you into bed.

DERRICK [looking straight at QUENTIN]: I seduced him. And I fucked him, fucked him good. And he received. But he gave me nothing.



Read a character list and exegesis for this short play.