Joe Pitt’s wife, Harper, sits in her apartment, talking to herself. She takes some pills and finds herself staring at a travel agent man named Mr. Lies—a man who materializes on the stage out of thin air.
Mr. Lies is plainly an imaginary character—the association between the pills and Harper’s vision makes this clear enough.
Mr. Lies tells Harper that he, like all travel agents, has the power to send people anywhere in the world. Harper asks Mr. Lies for the chance to go to Antarctica to that she can see the hole in the ozone layer—something she’s heard about on the radio. Harper also tells Mr. Lies that she’s not safe in her home, as she hallucinates people, Mr. Lies himself included.
Mr. Lies’ glib pronouncements about travel seem to confirm what the Rabbi was saying: travel has become cheap and easy, the antithesis of the quest that Sarah Ironson took nearly a century ago. And yet there’s an urgency in this scene that undercuts the Rabbi’s point: the modern world faces a new set of challenges and dangers, whose scale are far greater than any before (climate change and—we might be able to guess by now—the AIDS crisis).
Harper complains that Joe, her husband, “stays away,” and Mr. Lies advises her to keep moving. Harper wonders if Christ will come again in 15 years, when it’s the year 2000. She says, “the suspense is killing me.”
Here, we get something like a prophecy: a belief that some big event is about to happen. Harper’s sad, lonely life (so lonely she has to invent imaginary friends) shows us how some people live with prophecy—instead of taking control, they’re just waiting for someone to come along and save them.
Suddenly, Mr. Lies vanishes, and Joe Pitt walks into the apartment—he’s early, Harper points out. Abruptly, Joe asks Harper if she’d like to move to Washington.
Joe’s question to Harper is something of a punch line. Harper has been fantasizing about moving and traveling, and all of a sudden Joe comes to give her a chance to travel.