The cutting room floor
I was recently interviewed by the news for a special play reading I was doing. This brought great excitement to my life. I spent hours preparing what I was going to say, and making sure that I looked good. I poured out my heart and soul to two people I'd just met, hoping that my story would reach the masses. Maybe even inspire a few people. I told everyone I knew to tune in tonight to watch me. But I was cut out of the story.
Truthfully, the main event was the play reading. It was a special night. Broadway actors reading my words; a professionally produced film adapted from one of my plays. People were into it. Some even cried. I had close friends there supporting me. I got to stand up and take a bow. There was free wine. All of this was spectacular. Yet, I couldn't help but think about seeing myself on television. Who wouldn't?
You can only imagine my disappointment when I waited all day, sat through one awful news segment after another, and then came away short. Yes, this experience burned me a little, and made me feel sad--a little embarrassed, even. And now it's after midnight, and I can't sleep, and I'm listening to Tori Amos again, because I'm consumed by all of this. I'm a fucking writer. If I don't tell my story, I'll implode. The clocks will stop. The world will end. But, wait. I'm a writer.
Yes, a writer. I don't need the news to tell my story. I can damn well do it myself. So, here's how the interview went down, as it now lives inside my head:
INTRO: MARK JASON WILLIAMS WAS DIAGNOSED WITH LEUKEMIA TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO, A TIME WHEN THE SURVIVAL RATE WAS ROUGHLY 60 PERCENT. THROUGH STRENGTH, DETERMINATION, AND CREATIVITY, MARK MIRACULOUSLY SURVIVED. TODAY, HE IS A PROFESSIONAL PLAYWRIGHT, HOPING TO INSPIRE OTHERS.
REPORTER: Mark, how did writing help you deal with your illness?
MARK: I had leukemia as a kid, so I thought I was far removed from those experiences, but as soon as I started writing about it, I realized there was a lot of stuff still in my head that I never quite dealt with. Writing helps me explore and deal with thoughts, emotions and experiences associated with my illness. It's a way to get it all out, to let others understand and empathize with what I've gone through, and it's helped me to look back and think, "yes, these experiences were painful, but I can't be bitter because they've shaped the person I am today."
REPORTER: Did you have any breakthroughs during the writing process?
MARK: I had tons! I think the biggest breakthrough was realizing my play wasn't about my personal story with leukemia, it's really about all of us as a community--patients and their loved ones, doctors, nurses--you name it. The story I want to tell through my play is, "don't give up hope, because we're all in this together."
REPORTER: What have you learned from your writing?
MARK; I've learned that writing is magic! When I write a play, it's become more than just words on paper--it's about bringing together a community to laugh, cry, discuss, and feel. That's an amazing feeling, especially if my words can help others to understand that just because someone is sick doesn't meant his or her life is over.
Pheew, that felt good to get out of my brain. While it didn't make the cut on TV, if these words reach just one person, I'll be happy. Because no matter what anyone says, my story is mine and I'm gonna keep telling it. And, the reason for this is because I have an incredible amount of support. So, thank you to my family and friends, to those who come and see my shows, to a wonderful coach and friend--you know who you are, and I hope you know how lucky I am to have you--and to everyone who enabled me to have another great night of magical theater.
On my way to work today, I came upon a cat. It was black, and dead. Or, maybe just pretending to be dead. I didn't really examine the creature like some kind of taxidermist. Either way, I thought, "Oh fuck, this can't be good."
I'm surprisingly superstitious. I don't walk on cracks or under latters. Umbrealls are for outside use only, and I avoid both hockey games and summer camps on Friday the 13th. Yet, I managed to stay calm and go about my morning---until the train was late, a lady spilled hot coffee on my foot, and I nearly got trapped in the men's room. But that can happen anyday, I assured myself. There was no way crossing paths with a kitty would do me such harm.
And then, I went to lunch at my usual place--a buffet-style deli where you pay by the pound. I got my basics: some greens, some fresh mozzarella and tomato, and topped it with a few slices of skirt steak. My bill was exactly $6.66.
Yep, black cat followed by the "devil's" number. Now, my thoughts multiply to "Oh fuck, I'm doomed." So, I call my mother (never a good idea in a time of panic, by the way) and ask her to finally come clean about where I came from.
"You adopted me from Satan, didn't you?"
"Yep," she tells me, chomping down on a potato chip. "Those horns were a bitch to cut off and everything."
We laugh for a minute, until Mom decides to do that annoying thing that mothers can do sometimes--read into things.
"Mark, you really don't think Satan's after you, right?"
"Because...wait, never mind."
"Well...if you believe in the devil, then--"
"I changed my mind, don't say it."
"Seriously, if you believe in the devil, then you have to believe in God again, right?
I make up an excuse--work, something or other--and hang up the phone. Because I'd rather deal with spooky, demonic creatures out to get me than getting into a thelogical debate with my mother. Atleast, with the demons, I still have a fighting chance.
Mark Jason Williams
I find trouble wherever I go