Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Whisper Loud and Clear

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Sometime during the summer of 1985:
I came home one grey and rainy Sunday to find Scott taking a nap in his room. It looked like he had been meditating, with his legs crossed, and then laid down and fell asleep, with his arms crossed, too. He looked so peaceful in that position, with his little black and white TV mumbling in the corner. I tried sleeping in that position a few times, but couldn't do it. I still try. He soon got up and was out the door. I sat on his futon, and changed channels. I found a movie that had just started on PBS. It was the French film, Diva. The giant lofts, the misty scenes in the Tuileries, the haunting arias, the zen-like grace of Wilhelmenia, and the intense obsession of Jules for Cynthia kept me spellbound. I played the cassette of the sound track til it wouldn't play anymore. I tried to become that movie after I saw it. I let that movie fill me to the brim; I tried to live my life for the next few weeks like someone with complete and utter confidence in my abilities and choices, and walked and talked like a beautiful black woman, until the spell wore off, and I went back to my old, sloppy ways.

In the fall of '86, my friend from Wisconsin, Bryan O., came for a visit. He and I met practically the very day I moved back to Wisconsin to start beauty school. His quick wit and love of a good time kept me glued to his side til the day I moved away. He was the youngest of eight kids, with a ten year gap between the next youngest, so he was alone and bored on the farm with his elderly parents. He wanted me to exorcise the farm boy out of him, and often said Make my hair cool! What clothes should I buy! What shoes! What are they latest funny gay phrases! What music should I listen to! I bleached his hair on the top, and dyed the rest dark brown every month, took him to Maurice's for Girbaud, and turned him on to Nina Hagen's Fearless, Ministry's With Sympathy and The B-52's Whammy, cause we liked to dance and drink at my dad's place before we went out. He tried to turn me on to Bronski Beat, and although I did love Smalltown Boy, I could only handle Jimmy's falsetto four minutes at a time. He did find me a great Divine EP, Love Reaction, that he gave me as a going away present, which I still have.
Bryan was one of those people who was always in a good mood, and he never let anything bother him. And boy, did he like to talk. I mean talk. All his hopes and fears and random thoughts and deep secrets and scary personal stories. He tried and tried to get me to open up to him, but I just never learned how to communicate at all, and we got into many fights about this.
"I can't hang out with you anymore. We're supposedly friends, yet I know nothing about you! Why won't you tell me about you!" He would say.
"I love you Bryan, I love being with you, and I couldn't imagine my life without you, but I just don't know what I'm not saying."
He quickly learned in order to get anything out of me, he had to ask very specific questions, and that seemed to satisfy him for a while.
His visit was just what I needed, during this depressing time I was going though. I got him caught up with my Doug drama, and how it was still affecting me, a year later. He did his best to get me to talk about it, and to try and cheer me up, but he knew he could only get so far with me, and soon suggested his favorite way out of a depression: getting rip-roarin' drunk. He immediately fell in love with Berlin and it's great music, so we went every night during his visit. One night we caught one of those 1950's looking cabs, and when we got in, every square inch was decorated for Christmas.
"Is this just for the holiday coming up?" I asked.
"No." the driver said. "I have this up year round."
Bryan and I stared at each other, mouths agape. Back in Appleton, he and I spent many nights at Cleo's, a tiny bar that was always decorated like this cab.
"We're in a mini Cleo's!" We said, almost in unison.
On the nights I felt my hair was too big, or my outfit was too crazy for Cleo's, but not too big and crazy for 1101, (our little small town gay bar) he would go without me before he picked me up, and I sometimes spent hours looking out my kitchen window, all decked out, waiting for his headlights to come rolling down my street, cursing him, and regretting my fashion choices. Why can't I be normal!

During Bryan's visit, I noticed his life seemed to be getting better. He was in great shape and was happy and healthy, no ups and downs, he just went along at an even keel, and didn't seem to need my influences any more. He found who he was. I chalked it up to our age difference, and hoped I could be in the place where he was someday.

Friendships are strange, sometimes. We can have decades with people, or just months. Maybe people come into our lives when we need them. My memories of this person I was very close to for a year are all wrapped up in a big 80's bow. A song from that time comes on, and I'm whisked into the past and sitting in my dad's den with Bryan, doing shots and laughing about Gino, The Weekend Alcoholic, and his latest scandal at the bar. Bryan and I fell out of touch not long after this visit, because he didn't like the change he saw in me as a result of my move to Chicago, and kept asking me to move back. You were happy here! he would say.
I came across his picture a few months ago, and tried to find him on Ancestry. I found a death certificate that matched his name and age. Is he really gone? I thought to myself. Am I not able to talk to him anymore? Am I not able to tell him that the person he enlisted to help him change was changed for the better by him?

Today I found an old letter he wrote to me, complete with his family's old address. I'll write them and see what happens.


Aaron said...

I have had this happen to me before (not in Chicago), and I hope that the certificate is NOT your friend's!

Happy New Year! (I keep saying that although I don't believe it anymore...:-))

David said...

So I was at club 1101 I think. It was fun. I think...

Marika said...

People should read this.