The Kindness of Strangers
EXT. PARK – MIDDAY
A girl, ALIYAH, sits down on a bench in a park. Joggers run in the background and pass her by. She looks shell-shocked for a moment, her bag on her lap. Suddenly, she bursts into tears, huge floods of them, crying completely and utterly without stopping. Her phone rings in her bag. Looking at who’s calling she steels herself and then answers.
ALIYAH (on phone) Hi, Mum. No, not yet. I know, Mum, I know. I’m just…I’m fine. Really. Look, I can’t talk now I’m at an interview. No, a different one. Okay. I love you too. Bye.
Her tears return as she contemplates her phone. She buries her head in her hands as if to hide from the world completely. An old TRAMP comes along and sees her crying. He approaches cautiously.
TRAMP Is it alright if I sit here?
TRAMP Is it okay if I sit here?
The Tramp sits on the opposite end of the bench, settling himself down, spreading a sleeping bag over himself and generally making himself more comfortable.
TRAMP S’cold today.
Aliyah doesn’t respond. She’s caught out – wanting to cry but not wanting to do so in front of a stranger and yet unable to leave because she’s too exhausted, lost, and has unwittingly entered into some strange dialogue with this man.
TRAMP Yeah, it’s colder than yesterday, alright.
Aliyah cries quietly to herself, trying to keep her tears from being noticed.
TRAMP Excuse me, but –
ALIYAH (interrupting) I haven’t got much change, alright?
TRAMP That’s okay.
Aliyah digs in her handbag for her purse, which she roots through. She finally digs out a fifty pence piece, which she offers to the Tramp.
ALIYAH Look, here’s 50p. You can have that.
TRAMP I don’t want it.
TRAMP I don’t want your 50p.
ALIYAH (suddenly exploding angrily) How bloody ungrateful can you be? What do you keep pestering me for then? Just piss off and leave me alone!
TRAMP Okay then. I’m sorry.
Slowly, he gets up and begins to walk off. Aliyah’s resolve crumbles and she breaks.
ALIYAH Sorry. I’m sorry. That wasn’t…It was rude. You can stay, if you want.
He hovers awkwardly. Aliyah opens her purse again, feeling guilty.
ALIYAH And, look, here’s a fiver. It’s all I’ve got. Take it.
He takes it and sits again.
Silence descends. Aliyah tries to ignore him, tears still pour down her face.
TRAMP Are you okay?
ALIYAH (breaking down) No.
TRAMP What’s wrong?
ALIYAH Everything. I got my heart broken and he’s moved on already and he brought her to this friend’s party and kissed her right in front of me and I feel so stupid for being taken in by him, being taken in again, but everyone seems to think it’s my fault and I suppose it is. My job sucks and I can’t get a different one because I want a better role and more money but everywhere I apply says I haven’t got enough experience and how are you supposed to get any if they won’t let you try? My friends all arranged to go on holiday and they didn’t invite me because they’ve all got boyfriends and girlfriends and husbands and babies and I’m just me alone and they didn’t think I’d want to come, but I really need to get away and I can’t afford it on my own. My mum’s nagging me night and day about not earning enough and wasting my life and I try to talk to her about everything else and she says I’m being ungrateful and silly and feeling sorry for myself and I just feel so very alone and lost and I want everything to stop.
Aliyah takes a breath and breathes through the fresh lot of tears. The Tramp looks on, frowning, but says nothing and makes no move towards her.
ALIYAH Sorry, I don’t know why I said all that.
TRAMP Asking for help is the hardest thing to do, except needing help and living without it.
ALIYAH What do you mean?
TRAMP If you need help you have to ask for it. Like money, it doesn’t grow on trees. Find someone – a close friend, a family member, a counsellor, anyone who is willing to listen to you and give you what you need.
ALIYAH I- yeah. Thanks.
He offers her his hand and she shakes it, warily. He points across the park.
TRAMP There’s a chemist over there if you need tissues.
She looks across the park, away from him and then realises he has left the £5 note in her hand.
ALIYAH But you-
She cuts off seeing that he is gone.