Camilla Forgets the Mandarin Word for Eggplant

This is a scene excerpt from a new play I’m working on.


Lights up at a table–small and round and made to seat two people at most. Camilla is sitting with a small makeshift menu and a glass of ice water. A Chinese waiter comes up to her dressed formally. It’s a Chinese restaurant.


Waiter: 可以点了吗?

Cam: Uh… 再给我一分钟。

Waiter: Mm.


The waiter walks away. Camilla points at the menu.


Cam: How do you say eggplant?


Ellie comes in from offstage and puts down her bag across the table from Camilla. She pulls the seat out and sits down.


Ellie: Hey, thanks for waiting.

Cam: Hey Ellie.

Ellie: You come here often?

Cam: Not really.

Ellie: Nice change of pace then!

Cam: I guess so.

Ellie: You know what you’re getting?

Cam: Yeah. Sorry, here.


She gives Ellie the menu.


Ellie: Oh…this looks good. I love Chinese food. What’s the difference between knife cut noodles and hand pulled noodles?

Cam: The knife cut ones are thicker.

Ellie: Cashew chicken! Do you know if they have orange broccoli? My parents are trying to convince me to go vegetarian.

Cam: You can ask. I didn’t see it on the menu.

Ellie: What are you getting?

Cam: Um…I can’t remember.

Ellie: Menu?

Cam: No, you go ahead and make up your mind. It’ll come to me.


Ellie continues to look at the menu and mutters quietly to herself. Camilla whispers.


Cam: Eggplant. Eggplant. 你好,我想吃…eggplant. Ahhhh…

Ellie: Everything ok?

Cam: Yeah. Everything’s fine. I’m trying to remember something.

Ellie: What’d you forget? Sorry, bad question. You’re trying to remember it.


She laughs nervously.


Ellie: Alright, I’m all set.


She closes the menu.


Ellie: You see Jason today?

Cam: No. Should I have?

Ellie: That’s weird. He hasn’t been responding to my texts.

Cam: He’s probably busy.

Ellie: Yeah. I came across a cool riddle on my phone today, I thought you’d like it. What word begins and ends with the letter E, but– wait, let me try that again. What word begins and ends with E but only has one letter?

Cam: Only has one letter?

Ellie: Yup.

Cam: Is it a trick question?

Ellie: It’s a riddle.

Cam: Ok…is E a word?

Ellie: I don’t think so.

Cam: But is it the answer.

Ellie: An envelope. Get it? It starts and ends with E but it also only carries one letter!

Cam: That’s clever.

Ellie: I know, right? I have an app that gives me a daily riddle. It’s a good way to stay sharp.

Cam: Maybe I’ll try it.


The waiter comes back in.


Waiter: 可以点了吗?

Ellie: Sorry what?

Waiter: Are you ready to order?
Ellie: Yes, we’re ready.

Waiter: Separate or together?

Ellie: Together. // Cam: Separate.


They look at each other.


Ellie: I’ll pay.

Cam: No, please. I can pay for myself.

Ellie: I don’t eat out often. It’s really my pleasure.


She turns to the waiter.


Ellie: Together.

Waiter: Ok. And what will you be having?

Ellie: I’ll have the cashew chicken with a side of yang zhou fried rice.

Waiter (to Cam): And for you?

Cam: I’ll have the, uh…


She takes a moment.


Cam: Eggplant.

Waiter: I’m sorry?

Cam: I’ll have the eggplant.

Waiter: That’ll be all?

Ellie: I think so.

Waiter: Ok. It’ll be right out.


The waiter leaves. Cam clenches her fist.


Ellie: Eggplant, huh? I never really liked eggplant but it’s been years since I last tried it. What kind did you get?


Cam doesn’t respond.


Ellie: Cam?


Cam doesn’t respond. She is holding back tears.


Ellie: What’s up?

Cam: I have to go to the bathroom. Feel free to start eating without me.


Cam gets up and hurries away before Ellie sees her cry. Ellie stares after her.


Ellie: …Cam?