SNAP Love Stories Entry: A playwright shares her tale

Published 9:51 am Thursday, February 14, 2019

Editor’s Note: The following story was submitted by playwright Catherine Rhoden-Goguen.

I had always been fascinated by stories of people who were strangers one minute and with just a random glance or hello, they instantly knew they had found their person.

I wasn’t really sold on destined to be and star alignment and such, but then it happened….

I write plays, but because of the untimely passing of my father, had been in a terrible disconnect from any ideas for writing.

Mindlessly scrolling through my internet readings, I came across an article on Quora that caught my attention. It was about a guy and the things he had overcome to land a job at Cornell.

Instantly, I was drawn in. Maybe because of my own struggles, but my story radar was piqued and for whatever reason I decided to contact the guy and see if he would be interested in allowing me to try writing a play about his experience.

I didn’t really expect he would respond since the article wasn’t recent, but I sent the email anyway. To my surprise, the next day he had responded and was agreeable to discussing it with me, so I prepared a list of questions and sent them to him.

He answered them all in detail and from that day on, we were in contact daily. The emails became texts and texts became phone calls and the raw honesty in which he shared so many details about his life fascinated me.

Here I was in charge of the task to tell his story but in doing so, I was inspired and amazed and connected to him.

The texts became more frequent, the phone calls longer and soon we were laughing and sharing details of our day, yet still working to tell his story.

I finished the play, “Unstoppable By Design,” and it was like no play I had ever written before. Here was a complete stranger, yet I knew his whole life story.

It was a surreal feeling and suddenly I felt alive again.

I remember the final draft of the play, I made a special flash forward in which his future he would marry the playwright. We both laughed, but he was so complimentary of the work I had done and I was so honored to have told his story.

It would have been easy to think our communication would stop as our work together to complete the play was done, but we decided to meet to celebrate the completion.

I knew the meeting could not be ordinary as nothing about us until this point had been. I decided to make it a mystery meeting, only texting him the address to arrive at. I then took quotes from the play and from our interview talks and wrote a rhyming script to capture all we had shared.

Once I had asked him for five significant songs in his life and “Hotel California” gave me the perfect venue. I rented a hotel suite, a reader to deliver the script and an amazing acoustic guitar player and singer to perform these songs in conjunction with the reader.

The day arrived and I was nervous and excited.

Would a complete stranger think I had gone way over the top?

Would a mystery meeting with no dress rehearsal go smoothly?

Would our chemistry from our conversations carry over in to face to face?

When he entered the motel room, I had my answer.

He hugged me immediately and I knew we were all fine. The rest of the mystery meeting was perfect as well and eight hours later we said our first goodbye.

Not a day has gone by since that first email that we have not talked. I kid that he is the only person I know who had a brain tumor and I am the only person he knows who rides a mobility scooter.

An odd pair we are, but seemingly destined to meet. Time will tell if “marrying the playwright” is written in those stars I used to didn’t believe in, but at the time I needed it most and in the way I least expected, I found my deep connection and just as the play’s title, I am pretty sure this love is unstoppable whether by design or choice.

It’s the love story I would have written for myself and in a sense, the one I did. Everyone should be so lucky.