Imagined Cast: Ross Lekites as Tony; Evy Ortiz as Maria; Michelle Aravena as Anita; Drew Foster as Riff; German Stantiago as Bernardo; John O'Creacgh as Doc; Mike Boland as Lt. Schrank; Wally Dunn as Officer Krupke; Jon Drake as Action; Kristin Paulicelli as Graziella
Disclaimer: I own nothing. The characters, setting and general plot are property of William Shakespeare, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, Hal Prince, all of the casts and all of the creative teams that have produced any production of West Side Story.
Author's Note: The title comes from a lyric from Eric Whitacre's "I Thank You God for Most This Amazing Day", from his album of choral music, Whitacre: Cloudburst.
"[West Side Story's] Maria, unlike [Shakespeare's] Juliet, survives, though at one point the authors considered killing her off as well. Richard Rodgers advised them not to. After all that she has been through, he explained, 'She's dead already.' The Lesson of the Master."
- Ethan Mordden, Coming Up Roses: The Broadway Musical in the 1950s, pg. 243
Tony had told Doc that he was going to clean the basement of the drugstore until the store had closed; after a few minutes he lost all motivation, sat on a crate and thought of, as usual, Maria.
They had made plans to escape the West Side, Manhattan, New York City itself. They would go to the countryside of the state, and he would get a job to support them— of course, Maria would be free to get a job, but only if she wanted to; he did not want to make her work to support the other end of the expenses. And if she did get a job, she would quit when their first child was born; they both had agreed they didn't want their children being raised in daycare.
But the main thing was that they were leaving. They would still keep in contact with Anita and Doc, and always honor the memory of those killed in the rumble, but everything else would be in the past behind them.
It almost sounded too good to be true.
Tony started when he heard the sound of footsteps on the wooden steps, but relaxed when he saw Doc. He noticed the fistful of cash in his surrogate father's hand.
"Were there a lot of customers today?"
"No," Doc muttered. There were pronounced bags underneath his eyes as he held out the money to Tony.
"Are you sure, Doc? I don't—"
"Take it. At least it'll help one person get out of this blasted place." Tony sighed and accepted the money.
He began talking aimlessly, not really considering his words. "You know what Maria and I are going to do once we're settled in the country? We're going to have seven kids, and we'll name the girls after Maria's friend Anita and name the boys after you—"
His words were cut short as Doc struck him, hard. "What does it take to get through to you?" Doc said furiously, and Tony hadn't the faintest idea why.
"What has gotten into you, Doc? Did something happen—"
"Oh, something happened all right, but it doesn't matter," Doc said in a low voice. "Why does living like you're going to be attack any second justify anything? Why does killing justify it?"
"I told you what happened, Doc: I tried to stop it, but I couldn't. Maria understands. Why can't you?"
"I never had a girl to understand it."
"Maria knows what happened and why I did it, and she understands. And if even if it lasts for one more day, it's worth it. She's worth it."
A hollow, pained look crossed Doc's face. "She's not anymore."
"What are you talking about?" Tony asked, confused.
Doc was clearly hesitant to explain. "I don't want to tell you, Tony," he finally said.
"If it's about Maria, then I have to hear about it. Did something happen to her?"
"What is it?"
Doc seemed to give up. "You know the leader of the PRs, the one who got killed in the rumble? His girlfriend was upstairs, said she had to deliver a message. And—" Doc seemed to almost continue about Anita, but he reconsidered. "Long story short, somebody called Chino is out looking for you, and he has a gun, and he killed Maria."
Tony reeled back as if he had been stabbed.
The only sound that passed through Tony's lips was murmurs of "No, no, no..."
"Tony?" Doc asked again.
This time the sound of his name snapped Tony out of his shock-induced trance. Abruptly, he shoved past Doc and ran up the stairs to the main floor of the drugstore.
"Tony! Wait! She said the guy, Chino, he has a gun! Tony!"
But the door slammed hard, and Tony was gone.
The only sound Tony could hear was blood rushing through his arteries as his feet pounded against the pavement, his breath ragged. The streets were eerily silent, and he did not see a single soul as he ran. He ran without knowing where he was going. He only knew that if he ran far enough, he could find Chino and use the gun to join Maria.
Though his parents, as Polish immigrants, had raised him as a Catholic, he had never been one to pray. But now he screamed out at the cold, star-filled sky, fury and hate pouring in his veins, desperately needing to know why the One in heaven had decided that Maria's life had run its course, why the earth needed to be rid of an angel.
He found himself in an old alleyway, with a rusting fire-escape on one brick wall. He sank to his knees, digging his fingernails through his brown hair. To anyone who happened to pass by, they would perceive him as insane. Though truth be told, he could feel his hold on sanity slowly loosening.
Say it loud, and there's music playing. Say it soft, and it's almost like praying...
"Maria's not dead," he choked out. "She not. She's alive and unharmed and she's waiting for you to join her and then you both can leave all of this behind."
But she is dead, Tony. All the faith in the world can't change that.
"Come and get me, Chino!" Tony shouted out suddenly to the empty alley, desperate. "It's just me! I'm waiting for you! Come and get me!"
A shadow shifted in a corner, and Tony whirled around to face it. "Chino?"
But a thin, dirty face with short-cropped dark hair crept forward: Anybodys. "Tony, it's me."
"Get out of here, Anybodys!"
"Tony, it's all right. If you just—"
"Get out of here!" he yelled, again, almost savage with rage. She fled in the darkness, a hurt, lost expression on her face. "Chino! I'm calling for you! Why won't you come and put me out of my misery? Chino!" Another shadow moved, and Tony, expecting to see Anybodys and praying to see Chino, stepped forward. "Who is it?"
He truly thought he was hallucinating. Or perhaps he was dying already; he couldn't tell. Maria— beautiful, pure Maria, with a black shawl draped over her curls— was standing there.
"Maria..." He ran forward at the same time she did, needing to know if this was real, but a third shadow moved that he did not see, and he heard the click of a trigger.
A gunshot rang out in the silence.
Tony could only succumb to the horrifying, overwhelming pain the bullet brought, tearing at his chest and threatening to overtake him. Wave after devastating wave poured from the wound in his chest, flowing through his body. He fell to the ground, landing painfully on the unforgiving pavement. Maria knelt by him, trying to put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding, but Tony removed her hand. It would be hopeless.
"It doesn't... matter... all that... really... matters is that... you're safe... Maria..."
"Tony!" Maria's voice, normally silvery and soothing, was hoarse with impending tears. "No, Tony, it will be all right. We will take you to a doctor and you will be fine—"
"No, Maria... it's... too late." Maria took his hand, clinging to him. "Just..."
It was getting harder and harder to see her clearly. "I... love you... so much..."
"Tony!" The tears glimmering in her eyes finally began to fall. "Please, Tony! Stay with me a little longer—"
"Tony, no! Tony!"
But there was no response.
For several, extricating minutes, she did not move.
Then Maria sank to her knees beside Tony's still body. She bent down, her face buried in his still-warm chest and her curls spreading over his body, and she began to quietly sob.
Everyone gathered there— Anita, Anybodys, Action, Chino, the Jets, the Sharks, Officer Krupke, Lieutenant Shrank— looked on, unsure of what to do.
Tony was gone. He wasn't going to wake up and smile in that way of his that made her heart beat quickly and unsteadily— he would lay on the ground, and they would take his body to a funeral home, and there would be a grave dug, and— oh God he was gone.
Was he in a better place? What had he believed— was he a Catholic, like his Polish ancestors? Did he belong to some variation of Christianity? Was he in some place that was better than this hell?
She prayed he was.
Slowly, she raised her head and sat up on her knees, looking at him, which nearly made her cry again. Then her gaze rested on the gun, which had slid over the pavement near Tony after Chino had dropped it.
That gun looked so, so tempting.
She slowly reached out a hand and picked it up, feeling the surprising weight in her hands. One shot, that would be all it would take. She pressed the muzzle of the gun directly beneath her jawbone, the metal beginning to dig into her smooth skin.
Then Anita moved forward, halting after a few steps. "Maria! Maria, no, that won't fix anything. Please, Maria."
The tears were falling again. Damn them to hell.
But it would fix everything, because she could be with Tony.
—committing suicide would condemn her to hell. She wouldn't see Tony either way.
Her right hand— the hand holding the gun— fell limply into her lap. She dimly heard Anita murmuring prayers of thanks.
Then her grip on the gun tightened again, so hard that her skin went white with the effort.
She was crying again as she slowly, deliberately, lifted the gun and pointed it at Chino.
"How do you fire this gun, Chino?" She was unbearably, horribly, bitter and mocking, so very different from the girl who had meet the wrong boy at a dance. "Just by pulling one, little trigger? It must have been easy for you. It must be easy for me. One little pull and everything will go away..."
Chino was backing away, but she didn't stop.
"How many bullets are left? Do you know, Chino?" She stood as she was talking, the gun steady and never wavering in her hands. "There must be enough for you." Then she turned to Pepe, who scrambled back. "And you as well." Then to Action, who stood, frozen: "And of course we can't forget about you." She was pointing the gun at random now. "There's enough for everyone, because WE ALL KILLED HIM, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?"
The tears were falling so unmercifully fast.
"I can kill all of you now. I CAN KILL BECAUSE I HATE NOW."
But she was losing her resolve. In one last attempt, she stepped forward in the direction of Action, her hands shaking, but she couldn't do it. She threw the gun to the ground, and by some miracle it didn't go off.
Lieutenant Schrank started for Tony's body, but in one movement Maria had picked up the gun and pointed it towards Schrank. She ordered, in a low, throaty, quiet voice: "You will not touch him."
Schrank backed away.
Maria dropped the gun once more and knelt by Tony's body, smoothing back his hair and staring at him fiercely, memorizing every detail, because they hadn't thought of a camera and in a few days Tony was going to be buried so then—and Tony was dead.
Then Anita, carefully, stepped forward and gently touched Maria's shoulder. "Let's go, Maria." Maria nodded, numb, and allowed herself to be led away from the finishing of that chapter in their lives.
If only it didn't end.