Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Just Wrote A Play About AIDS

I'm not kidding either. I really did.

We were asked to write a scene using two personal ads as the characters. One is a woman who wants to talk about health care reforms, the other is a gay man. My first scene with them had them being reporters at a Presidential address. I actually really liked it, although it didn't have any depth really.
Then in class, we came up with some odd settings and "surprises" we could use to change the scene. I chose hospital and "one of the characters has a secret." So, my scene goes like this...

Personal Ad #1: ATTRACTIVE AND SUCCESSFUL thirty-something NY woman, tired of dating the boring, boorish, and humorless, seeks intellectually original, conventionally handsome, magnanimous male to dine languidly, laugh incessantly, make love voraciously, and discuss how to advance healthcare reform.

Personal Ad #2: SF BAY AREA—intellectual, professional, handsome 42 y/o gay mensch interested in music and the arts seeks intimacy with a whole-hearted man of wit and integrity.

The hospital room is sterile and white. A man, Personal Ad #2, is hooked up to countless machines, all beeping, whirring, and whizzing as they track his vitals. The man is obviously dying despite looking so young. He is only thirty-two. He wheezes and coughs, as if he has smoked for a hundred lifetimes and this is his final breath. His skin is pale and bruised where the nurses have helped to prop him up. A woman, Personal Ad #1, bursts through the door to his room and angrily clicks her heels across the speckled white linoleum floor. She is all business, wearing a black suit and white blouse with black high heels. She carries a black leather briefcase, which she sets down on the floor near the bed, then scoots the single visitor chair closer to the bed, but far enough away that it is clear this is not a personal visit. She sits down, opens up her briefcase, and takes out a tape recorder, pen, and black and white composition notebook.

(hurried, snappy)
So, shall we get this thing over with?

(hacking to clear throat)
Is your discomfort a reason to be rude, Ms. Jennings?

No, I guess it’s not. (subtly sarcastic) Shall we start then, sir?

Where would you like me to begin? (coughs)

At the beginning, I suppose.

Andrea turns on recorder and places it on the bedside table near Evan.

The journey my life has taken me since I came out of the closet is a long one. What are you looking for to write your article?

Mainly, your health situation and how the new health care reforms will affect your treatment.

Well, I became openly gay when I was nineteen years old. My family instantly disowned me and left me with nowhere to go. I travelled around the country for a bit, working odd jobs to make enough money to live, but finally I settled in San Francisco.


(ignores comment)
My first partner was the one who gave me HIV. A few months into our relationship he disappeared, leaving a note saying he had HIV and that now I probably had it too. No sorry, just... this is how it is. You will now die horribly.

(still rude, but not as much)
How... unfortunate.

Yes, unfortunate. Two years later, after sinking into a dark depression, I met Andrew. He was also HIV positive. He helped me through everything. When I was diagnosed with AIDS seven years later, he was there holding my hand with me. And then he was diagnosed two weeks later and died within the year. It’s been three years now without him. Three very tough years...

That’s sad. Now... health care. How will these health care reforms hurt your treatments?

(coughs for awhile)
The health care reforms will significantly reduce the help I’m getting. I know I am on death’s doorstep, but does that mean that I or anyone else at this stage in their life do not deserve help? Because we are dying means we don’t justify a peaceful death? (coughs)
That’s just it. Right now, you’re taking a hospital bed, nurses’ time, doctors’ help, government money from someone who can still live? A mom having a baby, a child with a broken leg... These spaces can be used to save those who have a chance.

Am I not a human too? (coughs heavily)

You’re dead.

Does your status as a high profile, prime time reporter make you a diva or were you a bitch first?

Andrea stops what she is about to say. She looks taken aback at the harsh words coming from the sickly Evan. Her face then goes blank. She looks like she is lost in the depths of her mind. Then she starts crying.

Oh... look, I’m sorry. That was uncalled for. I can get pretty catty sometimes.

(sputtering through her tears)
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I called you DEAD. Who the fuck do I think I am? (long pause, shaking head) I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. It’s just that... It’s no excuse, but... My brother was diagnosed with HIV last month.

Evan is now taken aback. He understands the pain she’s in, remembering losing Andrew and knowing she's scared of the same future she will live through. He internally forgives her former attitude.

(still crying, head down, pausing between sentences)
It’s been so hard preparing for this interview, finding out exactly what happens when you contract HIV. And seeing you now... I can’t see him like this, like you are now. I just can’t. He’s my brother... He’s my brother...

Evan turns off the tape recorder as she’s crying and reaches out for her hand. She looks up and takes it. Evan squeezes her hand and quickly she’s up and hugging him, crying into his shoulder.

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