Sunday, February 11, 2007

The 32nd of December

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Do you have those moments in your life you rarely visit? You don't dare to visit? You fear to visit, because you know they define you too perfectly, and the power of that can make you want to stare at a crumb on the floor for hours and play the music of drug addicts way too loud on your ipod? Or tend to those moments in your life as you would to a child who's hurt themselves; doing your best to nurse them back to health, futilely wishing you could've been there to prevent it from happening in the first place?
I don't mean those calamitous or dramatic moments, like getting run-over by a car, or having a baby, but those tiny flashes from a time in your life you pretend not to notice. And what makes it worse, is that even though this tiny event perfectly defines who you are as a human being, and your purpose on this planet, it's only the tip of the iceberg. The tippy-tippy top of a mountain of those moments that add up to your life. A life, that can be easy to pretend, isn't yours.
Do you want to know my moments? I'll tell you, but I can't explain; I can't explain, because I'll have to get my ipod out, and it's late, and I want to get up early tomorrow. Two big ones are: getting called to the Principal's office over the school loud speaker in 8th grade, and watching TV in a bar one night in 1994.
As they say, you're only as sick as your secrets...

Spending time with Robert in the late winter of 1987 was, for the most part, a good experience. He had recently moved to Chicago from the east to open a Midwest branch of an art store chain. He had an arty, European look going for him, and a quiet, understated coolness. He also, of course, was a painter. Doug, my ex, was a painter, too. He asked me, one night at Berlin, if I wanted to come to his place and see some of his work.
Robert and I had dinner first at a Chinese restaurant, that is now 7-11, on the corner of Clark and Wrightwood. They used to have a sign up that said "Home of Elton John's favorite egg rolls!" (Why I remember these things, I don't know.) During the meal he made his true intentions for this invitation clear to me by taking off his shoe and putting his foot in my lap. I was attracted to him, but I think I was more attracted to the fact he was attracted to me.
His apartment was in a beautiful old turn of the century building down the block on a snow covered Wrightwood Avenue. It was a dark and moody place, and by every wall there were dozens of large canvases leaning up against them. After looking at his work for a while, we made our way to his bedroom. I put on the Maria Callas tape he had sitting on his desk, and stared out his window, and watched as the music gave a different meaning to the cold Chicago skyline. I spent a long time at the window, with my back to him as we talked, as I slowly took off my clothes, after I noticed he was doing the same. I remember it being one of those experiences where we both thought the other person was more attracted to us than we were to them, if you know what I mean. A little later, he said Joan River's new show starts tonight. Let's go watch it.
We spent some time together over the next few weeks, with better nights spent in the bedroom, but soon we decided to 'just be friends'.
Robert's friend David drove me nuts. They were constantly together, and constantly at Berlin (so was I), laughing over some conspiratorial conversation they were engaged in. David always had a smile on his face and a beer in his hand, and was gorgeous, and was a huge touchy-feely flirt with me. Whenever I called him on it, and demanded us to get together, he would say OK! but never called me. I eventually started to take his behavior toward me in stride and referred to him as my boyfriend, and made up stories for him about our 'relationship', causing him to break out into loud gales of laughter, as my stories grew more outrageous. He had an easy laugh, and I loved to hear it.
During the summer of '87 I spent most every night at Berlin, and Robert and David were always a part of my evening there, but as '88 rolled around, I started to spend my nights elsewhere, but I would run into Robert a lot over the years, and in '94 or so, and he gave me some news.
It turns out David had a rare and fatal heart condition, which he was diagnosed with as a teenager, and wasn't expected to live much past his 21st birthday, but he kept surprising his doctors, and made it to his late twenties, and died in '93. He was still very upset about his passing, and had a hard time talking about him. Robert was one of the few people he talked to about his condition, I think because Robert had lung cancer a few years before I had met him, and it was in remission. When Robert told me about his cancer, I remember the news floating over my head like a cloud; I just couldn't absorb it.
I was stunned about David, and held Robert and told him how much I was going to miss David, and how I loved knowing him.

The inspiration for this post came to me when I was in the back of a cab the other night, and heard a call-in radio show about 'changing the way you think', and a caller re-defined the meaning of the bible commandment, Honor Thy Father and Mother, as referring to reason (father) and emotion (mother), and it made me think about which of the two had ruled over me more in the past, and do I have, or can I find, a balance now.


David said...

Great thoughts, Blondie... How on earth do yoy keep these dates straight?

Kevin said...

What a great post, but yeah, the date recollection is crazy.

Aaron said...

I've had that moment of finding out from a friend that a mutual acquaintance has passed on...I feel almost like I've let the other person down, because I wasn't there, even though I had no idea (because we weren't in touch at the time--adding an element of guilt to the whole stew--like "rancid potatoes. :-))