Watercress Sandwiches a one-page play by Tim West
LIGHTS UP on a man in his 70s.
The week I was to report to the Army, my parents took me to The Lafayette. In the old… oh, what was the name? Hay-Adams Hotel, on Lafayette Square, opposite the White House. Very elegant. The walls were watered silk, French, pale green with delicate pink flowers. Doric columns in Italian… alabaster, is that the word? on either side of every doorway. Waterford crystal vases on the tables, fresh-cut flowers. Jonquils, I recall. Mother used to grow them.
It was where all the important people in Washington went. And my father was a very important man. Senior partner in one of the oldest law firms in the capital. He golfed with… Herbert… uh, Brownell, who had been Attorney General, under… General Eisenhower. And my mother played tennis with… Ethel. Ethel Kennedy. Her family were Democrats, my mother; her uncle the Governor of… somewhere in the Midwest. I can’t recall; anyway, important people in government.
So we were seated at a nice table, and we sat, and my father ordered for us. Earl Grey tea, he liked. And watercress sandwiches. I’ll never forget them. Little triangles of delicate white bread, buttered, with the crusts cut-off, filled with the lightest of cream cheese and paper-thin cucumbers. So cool, so elegant. Even the name whispered elegance. Watercress sandwiches.
My father was concerned with all the talk about the war. Professors at my university. Protesters in the streets. Boys going to Canada, to avoid the draft. My mother was concerned that we not fight about it, not here, although… There was no need. I never fought with my father. There was no need. I would serve, as he had served, and I was proud to do it, as he was.
It was a difficult time. All my friends at Princeton thought I was crazy, to give up my draft deferment to fight for our country. So we drank our tea, and ate our sandwiches, and talked in quiet voices, and looked out on the flowers in Lafayette Square.
The old man sits lost in thought.
My father passed away in 1972. He was proud of my service, if a little
chagrined by my… disability, yes. My mother never mentioned it. She was a lovely woman. When she died, a former senator and two cabinet officials spoke at her memorial.
The old man smiles.
That last lunch we had together, at the Lafayette, before I went to Vietnam. I’ll always remember it. Watercress sandwiches.
BLACKOUT. END OF PLAY.