Huiliang and Aiysha are an Asian American and an African American pair of very smart girls. When they walk into their chemistry class and find out they are partner’s the tension between them is clear but only from Huiliang. Aiysha doesn’t understand why her partner seems to hold so much attitude towards her. As the class continues Huiliang’s anxiety starts to boil over as Aiysha takes over the experiment and the girls begin to discuss the real problem: Huiliang has an issue with Aiysha because she’s black. This sparks a deeper conversation as Aiysha begins to probe Huiliang as to where this hate comes from. One would think that she would avoid this girl, her attitude and her comments that are not very nice but instead she wants to know why she feels this way and in her probe, it comes across that she clearly wants to help her. Through the scene we see that both of these girls are extremely smart, and dealing with some deep inner stresses that, in this moment has brought them together. Their mother’s, the meanings of their names, how smart both of them are and how in this moment maybe a chemistry assignment might just be their first experience with how difficult it is to forgive and how sometimes tolerance is the answer. This story explores how two very different people can figure out that they have something in common that could possibly take the pain away that is wrapped up in the word, “hate.” A story of two very different, very smart girls learning a lesson that would have never been taught to them in any schoolbook.
The Chemistry of Tolerance
(Scene opens with students piling into a biology classroom. The students look at the list on the board that shows where they will be working with and with who. Aiysha, an African American girl enters first. She is bubbly and full of energy; she checks the list and with no hesitation takes a seat. Then enters Huiliang an Asian American girl, quiet, looks at the list, turns and sees Aiysha sitting at her table and immediately goes to the teacher.)
Huiliang: Umm Ms. Wheeler, I am scheduled to work with Aiysha. (Saying her name wrong.)
Wheeler: Her name is Aiysha and the two of you were randomly paired together.
Huiliang: I know but I… I just can’t work with her.
Wheeler: Why is that Huiliang? (Beat. Huiliang looks at the teacher then over her shoulder to where Aiysha is sitting.)
Huiliang: I just think it would be best if- never mind.
Wheeler: You are the top two students in the class, maybe there is something you can learn from each other.
(Huiliang rolls her eyes and walks away. She sits next to Aiysha who tries to smile at her but Huiliang avoids. They begin to get ready for their experiment.)
Aiysha: So, you’re not going to speak to me all class.
Huiliang: I don’t want to. I can do this lab, get an A, and do it all without speaking to you. Aiysha. (Pronouncing it wrong again.)
Aiysha: It’s Aiysha. A-I-Y-S-H-A.
Aiysha: Not sure- Aiysha.
Huiliang: Fine. (Raises hand.)Ms. Wheeler this isn’t working. (Beat)Because (Looks back at Aiysha) she’s black. (Freeze. Both girls stare at the teacher.)
(Both girls still staring at the teacher for a moment until Aiysha looks away. They both work silently but intensely.)
Aiysha: Can you pass me the 100ml beaker?
Huiliang: Yes. (She passes it.)
Aiysha: Salt. (Huiliang passes it. Beat, Huiliang steps back as Aiysha continues to work quickly not missing a beat, Huiliang keeps trying to get in but Aiysha works faster without her. She is working so precisely that she can’t get a hand in, there is nothing for her to do but watch.)
Huiliang: Can I at least stir the chemicals- (Aiysha is doing this as she’s speaking.)
Aiysha: Nope. Done. Now we just wait for the chemicals to combine and record our findings.
Huiliang: Fine. I’ll record.
Aiysha: (With attitude)It’s the least you can do.
Huiliang: (Raising her hand)Ms. Wheeler-
Aiysha: Put your hand down.
Huiliang: Why, because you took over the lab and wouldn’t let me do anything?