The Underground Man

Part 1

Let me introduce Aaron Bramson.

[fade in] [quiet, soft, string music][Aaron sitting at a table in a cafe]

This absurd little guy is hardly worthy of his own story. Confined by weak skill and ill-fortune to a life of misery and solitude, he passes the hours in unproductive self-reflection. Daydreaming megalomaniacal fantasies of fame, fortune, and fun. Never seizes an opportunity because he never sees them, except through fits of regret several hours after the fact. Is this a Sisyphus story: a wretched soul toiling torturously without end or reward? Or is it just..."Life"?

[silence][cut to a scene of Aaron walking down the street, head facing down]

He walks the cool, blustery streets, counting the lines in the sidewalk.

Aaron: {456, 457, 458...}

He often miscounts, he never cares.
Interacting with nobody for more than a few minutes, he never even exhausts the salutations he knows.

Local 1: Hello there.
Aaron: Uh. Hi.
Local 1: How are you these days?
Aaron: Alright. You?
Local 1: Fine. You gettin' some coffee?
Aaron: No. Going home.
Local 1: Okay.


Local 1: Okay.
Aaron: Okay

[fade out][fade in][Aaron sitting in his desk chair, looking blankly ahead, an opened envelope in his hand]

His homelife consists of holing up in his bedroom. Sitting silently, or shuffling through his mail. Although bothered by the bills, advertisements, and gimme groups that clutter his mailbox, it is not any amount of frustration that prolongs the writing of a single check to two hours. It is isn't a meticulous balancing of his bank book. It isn't even a careful analysis of the list of charges. It just takes that long. He is distracted, dissipated, always.

[keys rattle, sounds of a front door opening]

Chris: Honey, I'm home!

[Door closes with a slight slam]

Chris: Aaron, you in there?


Aaron: Yes.
Chris: Alright, I'll try to keep it down.
Aaron: Sure.

This is Aaron's roommate, Chris.

Chris: Anything wild and outrageous happen to you today?

[Aaron staggers out of his room with an empty coffee cup]

Aaron: No.
Chris: That's a damn shame. We were fuckin' slammed at work today!
Aaron: You, uh, work the floor?
Chris: Yeah, partly. Ran around answering questions and shit. How about you?
Aaron: Same old stuff every day.
Chris: You always say that.
Aaron: It's always true.

[After pouring his coffee midway through the conversation, he returns to his room. Chris closes the refrigerator door and walks to his room. Aaron is sitting at his desk again, coffee in hand. Music comes on. Loud.] [Fade out] [Fade in]

[Aaron Sitting in his desk chair in a different position.] [Fade out] [Fade in] [Another position] [Fade out]

Part 2

[Fade in] [Aaron is sitting by a window in a cafe with a small coffee, by himself, staring at the passers-by]

[Suddenly, some guy comes and sits opposite of Aaron]

Bill: I see you're a people-watcher.
Aaron : Huh?
Bill: A people watcher. You've been looking out that window for over an hour. You must be having fun. In your head I mean.
Aaron: {Who's this guy?}
Bill: You know psychologists have some interesting things to say about people who watch what other people do. They usually have very active imaginations. Say. Do you hypothesize about what these people do later? Where {What the hell is this guy talking about} they're going...or coming from...or things like that? I bet you construct these brilliant interlocking histories of all the comings and goings, don't you?"
Aaron: I don't think so.
Bill: Have you ever read a book called "People-watching for experts?"
Aaron: No.
Bill: Oh! It's wonderful. You'd love it! He, I mean Richardson, the author, he goes through all these twists and turns about what you learn about people just from watching them. {Did I ask for this?}Brilliantly written. The man is a genius. You know Chechov. He's known for his fantastic character descriptions, right?. They say he learned to do that so that he could remember the customers to his parents' shop. You see. {Do I look interested? Sympathetic?}He learned to be a great writer from being a people-watcher. Are you a writer?
Aaron: Not really.
Bill: Well, you're young yet. But I bet you have a lot of ideas, right? Are you a student? You look like a student.
Aaron: Sort of, not really.
Bill: We're all students! In some sense, we are always learning. I bet I could learn stuff from you. That makes you a teacher too. Confucius said that everybody who is a teacher is a student, everybody who is a student is a teacher. {Did he say that?}People who are neither are cockroaches. You don't want to be a cockroach, do you?
Aaron: I guess not.
Bill: Of course not, nobody wants to be a cockroach. They're disgusting little creatures. Scurrying around. Hey, they have this book next door. It's great. All of these little cockroaches in all these beautiful places. {this guy is out there} Not all of them are little. Some are as big as my hand.
Aaron: Really?
Bill: Sure, but not around here. You have to go some place tropical. Like Cuba, or Jamaica, or maybe Mexico. They love squalor, heat, and darkness. So do I, actually. Say, have you ever seen the movie Manhattan. {nod no} Oh you'd love it!You see...

[fade out]

[fade in][Aaron is walking around a book store with a ceramic coffee mug looking at the covers of various books. He flips through some to look at the pictures and puts them back. Reads some back covers, but never expresses anything about what he has read or seen.]

clerk: May I help you find something?
Aaron: eh, not really. I'm just sort of looking.
clerk: I noticed you were looking at books on psychology, are you a student?
Aaron: uh, sort of, not really.
clerk: I think I know what you mean.

[Aaron smiles in relief of not having to explain himself][she flirtingly smiles back]

clerk: I study psychology at BU now.
Aaron: yeah, [pause] do you like it?
clerk: mmm, mostly. I'm interested in child and developmental psychology and stuff, but they have us learning all this behavioral psychology and biology and all this medical stuff that is way too clinical for my tastes. I like the hands-on approach to science.
Aaron: I see.
clerk: I think people in this business are way too distant from their patients. We need to get really close to really understand them. I don't want to be just another therapist that the person sees. I want to touch them, really help them.
Aaron: Right.

[Aaron picks up a book from the shelf]

Aaron: What do you think of this?
clerk: I think that's a travel book.
Aaron: uh, right. have you ever been to...Burundi?
clerk: [blank look on her face] No.

[fade out]

[fade in][Aaron walking down the street on the sidewalk, almost getting hit by a car pulling into a parking lot, but he doesn't notice. He sits on a park bench and looks at the ground between his feet.

{113, 114, 115...}

[all of the sudden he stops, looks forward with great intensity, then looks up at the clouds]

[fade out]

[fade in] [Aaron stands with a group of people at a party. The other attendees look like stock brokers and are talking jovially and drinking wine and beer. Aaron is wearing the same basic outfit, looking down at his glass of water with bizarre curiosity]

1: So then John says, "Gee, I've never put ice in hot cocoa before!"

[Everybody laughs except Aaron. When Aaron notices that everybody else is laughing he begins with a big laugh and quickly finds that he is the only person laughing. He looks down again at his drink with a disinterested look on his face. The other people endure a short moment of uncomfortable silence before starting again.]

Bob: So that was the last time we went to an independent coffee shop.
Mark: I know what you mean, after you've become accustomed to Starbucks, nothing else will do.
Doug: Even the other chains suck.
Bob: It may be a little more expensive, but you're paying for the quality.
Jane: I like strong coffee, but cappuccino is too much.
Mark: You should add a flavor.
Jane: A what?
Mark: A flavor. Vanilla, Hazelnut, makes em sweeter.
Doug: What they need to do though, is put definitions under the things. I mean, what the hell is the difference between a cappuccino and a latte?
Bob: Yeah, really. They taste the same to me.
Jane: Aaron, you drink a lot of coffee, what do you usually drink?

[Looks up surprised]

Aaron: Uh, Folgers.
1. You make it?
Aaron: Mmmmm, yeah.

[The party-goers looks around as if Aaron is really weird. Camera focuses on Aaron's face expressing a blank grin][fade out]

[fade in][Aaron is walking down the street in front of Espresso Caffe Royale with his college friend, Lucien. Both dressed similarly and having the same 'beaten down by society' look to them. And both with ugly ceramic mugs in their hands.]

Lucien: Have you been keeping yourself busy? Y'know, since college.
Aaron: Yeah, I guess, with work and everything. The days seem to be going by at a regular pace.
Lucien: You still play chess?
Aaron: Sometimes. Not really. There's nobody around. The people at work think Chess is something you put clothes in.
Lucien: I know what you mean. I expected more.
Aaron: More out of what.
Lucien: Work, life, I don't know. Everything.
Aaron: I guess we both expected a lot out of life.
Lucien: What happened? What are we doing wrong? Everybody around me seems so happy. I just don't get it. It's like I'm going through all the same motions, but I'm not gettin' the warm glow others get.
Aaron: I know what you mean, maybe we should try going to Starbucks?
Lucien: [pauses] Yeah.
Aaron: Where did we get these ambitions, anyway? Our teachers were losers.
Lucien: True. Perhaps television. We were always told to dream big weren't we? Shouldn't I be depressed that I haven't done anything important. Or depressed that I gave up trying?
Aaron: You know, Our teachers didn't think of themselves as losers, why do we hold ourselves to our old standards of greatness.
Lucien: I don't need to be great or anything, just...I don't know. I'm not satisfied. I'm not making anybody better off.
Aaron: That's what I mean. When our teachers were children, they wanted to be astronauts and shit. They ended up making sure a bunch of brats could add fractions. And yet they're satisfied. I just wanted to be middle management, and yet I feel as if I've let myself down. Maybe I should have wanted more. Maybe I would be happy checking the spelling of some rugrats. [pause] No.
Lucien: That's what my parents do, they seem happy.
Aaron: Would you be happy in their shoes?
Lucien: Probably not, but at least at the end of the day I would feel as if I made a difference.
Aaron: Why? You wouldn't have. Not really. You didn't save the world.
Lucien: But I did my part.
Aaron: Maybe. It's not what I had in mind.
Lucien: Me neither.
Aaron: It's cold.
Lucien: Yeah.
Aaron: You hungry?
Lucien: Isn't that what we've been talking about?

[fade out]

[fade in] [Aaron and Lucien walking down the street talking. Devon comes running up behind them, stopping them, almost slipping.]

Devon: Hey man, I think one of you two dropped this dollar.
[Aaron and Lucien look at each other puzzled]
Lucien: No.
Devon: Seriously, you just walked by, and there was this dollar on the ground.
Aaron: It's yours now.
Devon: I can't take the dollar, it's not mine. It's yours. Take it.
Aaron: It's not ours, you can keep it.
Devon: Look, if you don't take it then I'll be running around all day asking people, just take it.
Lucien: But you're giving it to the wrong people. Doesn't that bother you.
Devon: Nah, so long as it's off my back I'll feel better. Who wants it?
[Look at each other and shrug]
Lucien: Okay.
[Devon slams the dollar into his hand from over his head]
Devon: Yeooowww!
[Devon runs off skipping almost falling again.]
Lucien: That was pretty weird.
Aaron: Was it? Maybe he has the right idea. He's done his good deed for the day, all we've done is take somebody else's dollar.
Lucien: Yeah but...yeah.
Aaron: We lose again.
Lucien: Damn.

Part Two

[fade out]
[fade in][Aaron sitting at his desk, typing. Finishes an e-mail and sends it. Sits back smiling.]

Phone rings.
[Aaron is startled by the phone ringing and answers in a questioning tone]
Aaron: Hello?

This is where the action is supposed to start. The thing that tears his world apart and makes the story interesting...all the stuff above was just exposition. I might someday complete this story, but probably not because I have better ideas to work on.

This little thing marks the end of the page.