Uhhh...Sadtopia. No, that sounds like an Adam Rapp play. I dunno. Miserawake. Fartbutton. Dreggerization. Whatever. I've got my annual case of Dreggerizations and I'm running out of things to read, so I might as well write new ones.
(Note: I started writing this yesterday/this morning when I couldn't sleep...)
The big culture war to-do of late in New York is over the hated Prospect Park West bike lane (which is actually not that hated, which actually polls rather well but the minority is vocal and very politically well-connected.) Today was a big rally/event where families were encouraged to use the bike lane to show their support for bike safety. There was free food and t-shirts and entertainment and everything.
I missed all of that, though, because I left the house too late. And I invited Colleen, because we're bike buddies, but her bike's not ready to be ridden yet and she didn't sound that wild about it anyway and it's hard to get her to do anything outdoors-y until it's at least 80 degrees outside. I swear all women are the same about cold weather.
So I strapped on my warm biking clothes and I rode by myself. I rode into the middle of park, forgetting the whole point of the ride and finally detouring to the PPW bike lane because I'm still not used to it existing. And I rode that short stretch and back into the park and around the southern tip and it was easy riding today for some reason. Just me and my dumb brain, out on the town.
I'm a full-on Bike Dude now, so it's been a while since I remembered that I pretty much only ride a bike because Leigh died on one. I mean, I'd already owned a bike but I never ever rode it. Once she died, though, I started scanning Craig's List until I found something suitable. There wasn't even any symbolism -- it was a quite direct notion: the bike universe lost a special someone, and I needed to take up the slack. So I rode, and not just for funs. I wanted to ride like Leigh rode, all over the place, and now I do.
It's easier to see the world through someone else's eyes in that way, walking the proverbial mile in their shoes. Sad that I never rode the city with her, that it wasn't my thing yet. Sad about a lot of things, actually.
I've realized that, more than anything, I'm sad that there is nothing new. That's death at its simplest, and it's the thing that really gets you with someone young dying before their time. We were there for 1/2 to 1/3 of her life -- we've told all the good stories already. Oh sure, there will always be stories, there will always be more to uncover. But, mostly, it is well-worn. I've thought about our trip to Boston so many times the memories are growing hard and ridged. A lot of memories are like this now. I've sapped them of their energy, hoping to find Leigh there, but she's not there anymore and it's feeling emptier and colder. No more the warm, orgasmic high of our collected grief. Now something lonelier, colder, unfresh and well-trod.
Need something new. Need to send a letter to whoever is in charge of the archives and ask them to release more documents. More never-before-seen pictures and videos. Stories from secret lives we didn't know about. Ooooh, maybe she had a husband in another country!! A whole family somewhere that'll pop up and tell us all about the lady the children came to call "La-La"! What an odd story - that doesn't sound like La-La at all, tell us more!
eh. no chance.
So here's the deal: this is going to be boring. But it's not really for entertainment. Hell, it's barely readable anyway.
I've touched on this here and there lately, but I've come to realize that the true value of writing these things down is remembering them. This became apparent in the aftermath of Leigh's death when I just started Googling "Leigh Christastrophe" and going to town on whatever came up. So many things I'd forgotten about. Oooh, like this!
"Leigh defended you. It was really sweet."
"What'd she say?"
"That guy--what's his name, that guy I didn't know--said something about how 'Isn't Chris supposed to be the big rock star and he passed out all early' and Leigh just whipped around and got right in his face and said, 'Don't you EVER talk shit about him!'"
"Yeah. She meant it, too."
"I thought so."
Yeah! Way to go, Leigh! That was exciting.
Anyway, I've already written about Leigh dying umpteen times, but obscured in all this Very Fantastic Writing, so I leave out all the details. I want to write down the details before I forget them. Because, I'm realizing, getting old means forgetting the details. And this place is good for keeping a record of the details. The things I want to remember.
On top of it, I wanted to write a big huge post after the last time I saw her alive, but I didn't. To be perfectly honest, Spring and I were in the middle of a massive argument, and I knew that writing about how happy I'd been over that weekend was probably a bad idea. But now I wish I'd written something, even to keep it private, just so I'd remember all the details. So I'll dig back and do what I can.
So this is what I want to remember:
* I was beyond excited to be seeing Leigh again after being apart for so long. She'd moved back to Texas to help while her mother underwent cancer treatment; I was in town for a weekend to see a show I'd written that was being produced by our college buddy Brandon Dinklage. Leigh immediately offered her couch, because that's how she is. God, look at me. That's how she "was." Christ.
Of course, I'm still me, so I forgot to call her once my flight was delayed. I was supposed to meet her at her job at the Houston Center for Photography, and it didn't occur to me to let her know what was up until I was in my rented car. I still didn't have a cell phone at the time, so I kept pulling over at every gas station I saw and running to the pay phone with quarters spilling out of my hands until I finally got a hold of her. She was, of course, totally amused. I felt worse than I should have and beat myself up for being inconsiderate and cursed and sweat and spit, and Leigh was so easygoing about it that it was gone in an instant. Ladies and gentlemen: Nutshell Chris and Leigh.
* I loved her apartment and how she'd made it so much her home. It took a while for my New York rhythm to slow down and relax, but she got me there. She fed me some ridiculously healthy muffin she'd baked and we chatted animatedly in her kitchen. Years earlier, we'd talked non-committaly about moving in together (when she was getting tired of the booze and grind of Flatplex) and seeing her place in Montrose I was sad we never went through with it. We would have had a nice little home, and who knows how completely unrecognizable my life would be now. The paths that we take.
* What we were REALLY excited about was exercising. We were new people! Not the mindless boozers of yore! She was gonna get a spare bike for me so we could ride everywhere, fuck my rental car! She nabbed a guest pass for her gym: "up at 8:30am to be at the gym by 9am," she said. Lookout!
* OK, instead we got epically wasted.
* The night started at the art gallery in the same art complex as the theater where my show was happening. Leigh was very excited for me to meet her friends, especially Shoe. She got all giggly talking about Shoe.
We dug through her things to dress fancy (an earlier plan to arrive in a rented limo fell apart once I realized any limo rental came with a time minimum. No, like, twenty dollar rides for a few blocks.) She gave me some black 3-D glasses and an enormous, shimmering ring to ornament myself. I accidentally pocketed the glasses, which I still keep on the dresser next to my bed. She was buried wearing the ring.
* I didn't care for the show at first, but I knew I wouldn't no matter what they did. I didn't loosen up until we got back to Poison Girl, Leigh's local bar, and she told me she enjoyed it. Then I decided I enjoyed it. I trusted Leigh's taste in things, and that she was an honest enough person to tell me if things were crap.
* She told me a few times, as we got drunker and drunk at Poison Girl, "This is your best music. Ghost Runner is OK, but this is something else." Again, because it was Leigh, it made me re-evaluate the way I looked at my music. I trusted her.
* I can't remember his name, but there was this really drunk guy who was another regular there who wanted to go somewhere else. I forget exactly how all of this went down (damn you, non-chronicling Christastrophe of 2008!) but, basically, this guy was in the red and needed taking care of, and Leigh and the others at the bar didn't want to be the ones taking care of him. So we wound up at this other bar where his relative/friend worked, some gay bar in a strip mall. Leigh couldn't stop laughing: she never drove or rode in a car any more, and this was the furthest she'd been from her home in months.
* Lights up at last call in the mostly-empty Houston gay bar was just the funniest.
* No beer in the house, and too late to buy, so we stayed up late drinking whiskey. At one point we used Skype to call Sara (at hat must have been 2 in the morning or so) because neither of us had a cell phone. We set up Leigh's computer on a shelf behind the couch, sat on the couch on our knees, and screamed "WE LOVE YOU SARA, WE THINK YOU'RE THE GREATEST YOU ARE SO NICE SARA WE LOVE YOU SARA!" And then we hung up and we were all, "Sara's great." "No kidding."
* I woke up on the couch in my shoes. She woke up on the floor, passed out in the doorway, her feet on the patio and her head in the living room. I asked her if she was ready to go to the gym and we just lost it rolling around on the floor laughing.
* I barely remember Leigh getting up to go to work at noon. I felt for her.
* My brother arrived that afternoon with his wife and daughter. We visited Leigh in her boutique, right around the corner from her house. Mia, my niece, ran around Leigh's shop and had a grand old time. I'll always remember Leigh's beaming smile upon meeting Mia. She thought Mia was the greatest. This, obviously, weighs on my mind with my own son. Wish Leigh could have met him.
* We spent all afternoon checking out butterflies at the Houston zoo. We couldn't even get Mia to look at the lion.
* My brother and I went back to Leigh's house, where we met her Dad (he was picking up Leigh's nephews, who Leigh had been watching for a few hours.) I don't remember if Leigh joined us for the show, but I'm pretty sure she didn't. At any rate, Aaron and I saw the show, and somehow gathered Leigh up and met at some nautically-themed bar for the cast party. I bought a round of shots. Did I sing karaoke?
Who knows, who cares. I just remember getting into an epic laughing jag with her and my brother while we were joking about crashing the car into the bar, just to prove a point. (The point was: BOOOOOZE)
* We dropped Aaron off at his hotel and went home. We tried to take it easy on the booze all night, not wanting to get a DWI or anything, not wanting to get in trouble with my brother in the car.
* This is from an entry I started writing at the time but ended up locking:
Like Leigh said: it was hysterical. I haven't dealt with bars closing at 2 AM in a really long time. So when we looked at the clock and realized it was 1:47 we took off running, literally running, giggling the whole way, for the three blocks to the closest bar. And even then, we peeked in that bar and "It looks like nothing but assholes in there! To Poison Girl!" and then ran another two blocks to Poison Girl and then found ourselves in the outside patio with a beer in each hand, double-fisting for the Lord, and it was made of good feelings all around.
* We sat at the table next to the giant Kool Aid Man and talked about art. We got home safe, drank the last of the whiskey, and actually made it to bed in one piece.
* I hugged her deeply on my way out the door, soaking in the good vibes, knowing I had a fight waiting for me at home. That was the last time I ever saw her alive, trying to take in as much of her good spirit as I could.
Wow, that was way longer than I intended. So it goes. OK, about the other thing, the sadder thing.
Actually, no. Don't feel like talking about her funeral. At least not here. I'll write it somewhere, so I remember everything. But I don't have it in me right right now. Just one thing about the day she died, since it's pertinent with this morning's dreary raininess.
* It rained incessantly that day. Actually, it pretty much never stopped raining through this whole terrible experience. In New York, in Houston, it didn't matter: it followed us everywhere. Colleen and I had a running joke that we'd wandered into this really cliched horrible movie about grief and the director couldn't think up anything better than "I dunno - everybody's sad so make it rain, huh? Makes sense, huh?" This director was an IMBECILE. We kept calling for a re-write.
* Oh, one other thing: Dru's parents let us stay with them (since their house was all empty-nested and they had bedrooms to spare.) One night somewhere in there we had a pizza party. Did we make our own pizzas? Am I remembering that wrong?
Anyway, we had nice pizzas and tried to talk like normal people but we were going to a string of memorials and wakes and funerals and all that and we were all pretty unsteady. But I remember sitting at that table, eating pizza, and trying to imagine that we were their children. Or, conversely, tried to imagine that I was Dru, tried to see them through Dru's eyes. Either way it was very sweet and welcoming.
Dru's parents were amazing through the whole ordeal. Exactly what we needed. They didn't even mind that we blew through cases and cases of beer while we were there (since we spent every insomniacal night drinking beer while watching TV until we passed out.) They initially raised concerns about hosting a co-ed sleepover party, but Dru assured them of the various rings on various fingers. But nothing about the beer, which we tried to do good about cleaning up every morning.
The only other thing, which I almost feel like I don't need to write down for the historical record because I'll never forget it, was that I wore a pinstriped suit and fedora for the funeral. Which isn't news: all of my suits are pinstriped and I've been wearing a fedora since I was 15. Dru later told me that his dad thought this was the wildest thing. He said, "Chris came down the stairs looking like an Italian gangster."
* I remember that a few of us, myself included, wrote a bunch of smart-ass things in her get-well card that we knew she'd find morbidly funny when she recovered. And then, when we found the card after her memorial, we were tempted to steal it back and erase it because OH GOD FUCK.
Anyway, I wrote this e-mail to her the day she was hit.
From Chris Alonzo
to "Leigh, Boone"
date Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 12:22 PM
subject You are massively loved
I know you won't be checking e-mail, like, tonight or anything, but just know that all of your New York friends are writing and calling each other and praying and drinking for you because we love you like you don't even know.
Oh, you know. But just in case. You're deep in my thoughts and my tears and I hope you get better soon. We'll be drinking and passing out on the floor with Elvis Costello playing in no time. Big huge love.
I wrote this hoping that she'd one day read it and think it was sweet that we were thinking of her. And I write on her Facebook wall for reasons I don't totally comprehend. I guess, in the end, I hope that (a) her parents and family and friends continue to be reminded of how much she continues to be loved and (b) there is access to Facebook in Heaven. Which, yeah, now that she's been converted to a form of pure energy and is unlocking the ancient mysteries of the universe I'm sure she'll get right on "logging into FB real quick."
* That's all I can stand for now. Feel like I need to stop thinking about this, need to stop obsessing, but sometimes I can't. Just really bummed and wish everyone was around.
Last night Spring stayed up with me, even though she didn't need to, and she could really use the sleep, but she wanted to make sure I was OK. She sat up while I typed away on an LJ I ended up locking, every once in a while asking if I was OK or if I needed anything. I told her basically what I said at the top of this entry. I wish I had something new to say or to think. Just need to hover here for a minute, remember what it was like and embrace that sharp little pain, and then keep going and hope that next time around it's even smaller. It's been two years and I'm having a very sad day, been having very sad days, but I can still get on with it. Can still function. For a while I couldn't function at all, so there's that. Progress. Onward.