Monday, October 05, 2009

I Talk to Dead People

Maybe this isn't unusual. Maybe this is how a lot of people cope. I don't know. I've lost a lot of people over time, but this is new.

We're loading in tonight for the next show I'm working on at my theater. I'm not what you would call a handy person. I'm good with a paintbrush and so far I haven't permanently injured anyone with any of the power tools. I maintain that it is only a matter of time.

So tonight I've got a project to complete and I cannot complete this project with the use of the staple gun. I root around in the tool closet in the back of the theater. Find what I think is a staple gun. Locate staples. Try to load them into the gun. They fall out. I try again. Same result. I look at the fine print on the side of said gun. It says, "Load nails here." Ok. Wrong tool.

I go back. Find another thing that looks like a staple gun to me. Actually locate the word "staple" somewhere on it. Satisfied I have the right tool, attempt to find the place that the staples go in. After about five minutes of struggling and pulling at different bits of metal and trying to pop SOME PART of this thing open I am FED UP. I don't know a damn thing about any of this. I cannot remember this ever being so hard. I have never been so frustrated at the theater before and I OWN A STAPLE GUN AT HOME that I know how to use. I am beside myself.

Then it hits me. Standing in the tool closet, away from the 20 other cast and crew members who are noisily painting and drilling and sawing out on the stage I have a sudden moment of clarity. At set calls, I would come to Allan. I would hold the offending power tool or doohickey out to him and say, "Make it do." He would stop whatever he was doing and come and set up the tool, walk me through how to use it, pat me on the head and go back to what he had been doing. Eventually we got to where there were no words. I would hold it out and frown, he would smile because he liked being needed. He would walk through the steps and hand it back. I'd lean against him for a moment in a no-armed sort of hug. And work would begin again. A cooperative ballet as we built. He who knew everything, I who knew nothing. We had a rhythm when we worked together.

And tonight I stood in that tool shed and felt so lost. My partner is gone. I stared at the tools, tears rolling down my face, and just started talking to him... something I do a lot these days.

What will I do without you?

How will this ever feel right again?

Do you know how hard this is?

Are you here? Are you gone?

Do you know how much I love you?

I need you here. I need you with me.

I can't make this fucking staple thing work.

I'm useless without you.

God I miss you.


There's another set going up. Another set he wasn't here to help build. Another set none of them were here to help build. And it isn't the same. And sometimes it's so damn hard. The theater is my home. It's where my heart lives. It's where my friends died. It's where I talk to them. It's where I'm trying to heal.

I found someone to help me. I finished my project. I'm going back tomorrow to touch it up and then we begin dress rehearsal.

The shows will open. The work will get done. I will heal.

It would be faster if he were here, though.
He knew how to fix anything.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

One More Time, My Homage to John Hughes

I originally wrote What I Learned From John Hughes in March of 2007. My complaint, while in jest, was made to express primarily one thing: John Hughes had an impact on my formative years and my personal development through an art form that is dear to my heart. His films may not have been high art but they accomplished something that great art aspires to: they touched us, they let us know we weren't alone at a time when we most needed that message, and in some strange way they even changed us and impacted the people we became. What a strange, significant and lasting mark to have made on the world he left behind.

So here it is, one more time:

What I Learned From John Hughes

I have a friend who has a pet theory about John Hughes films. He says that John Hughes is responsible for 75% of all the relationship problems our generation has experienced because he destroyed our ability to realistically assess romantic situations and relationships. My friend may be on to something.

I started thinking about the John Hughes films of my teenage years and the impact they had on my impressionable, puberty muddled brain. For the purposes of this review, I consider THE John Hughes films to be:

Sixteen Candles (1984) JH wrote and directed
The Breakfast Club (1985) JH wrote, directed and produced
Weird Science (1985) JH wrote and directed
Pretty In Pink (1986) JH wrote and produced
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) JH wrote, directed and produced
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) JH wrote and produced

And, for better or worse, this is what I learned:

Just be yourself.

"Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself."
- Matthew Broderick, Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Every Hughes film touches on this. Andie is the quirky, weird girl in Pretty in Pink and WE LOVE HER FOR IT. Garry and Wyatt in Wierd Science meet girls who like them as they are. Ferris Bueller dances to his own drummer. He isn't the star quarterback or president of the student counsel. He has his own unique sense of style... and he's the most popular guy in school. Maybe in the city. He's a freaking legend. In Some Kind of Wonderful, Watts never changes. She stays a tomboy who plays drums and works on cars - and eventually Keith realizes how amazing she is JUST AS HERSELF. John Hughes let us in on the secret that being yourself was really where it was at.

"You had to be big shots didn't you. You had to show off. When are you gonna learn that people will like you for who you are, not for what you can give them."
- Kelly LeBrock, Lisa, Wierd Science

Stick to your principles.

"If somebody doesn't believe in me, I can't believe in them."
- Molly Ringwald, Andie, Pretty in Pink

I swear I learned half of my stubborn willingness to sacrifice anything to stick to my principles from my father and half from John Hughes films. From early on, I knew I should never accept anything less than what I deserved. I never let anyone tell me I wasn't good enough. I have always been honest and direct to a fault. A lot of that is my dad. But a lot of that is Andie and Duckie. And Watts and Keith.

"You remember how I said I'd rather be with someone for the wrong reason than alone for the right one? Well, I'd rather be right."
- Lea Thompson, Amanda Jones, Some Kind of Wonderful

Everyone finds love.

Sam and Jake Ryan. The Athlete and the Basket Case. Andie and Blaine. Keith and Watts. Farmer Ted and Caroline. Duckie and Kristy Swanson. Long Duck Dong and that really tall girl. These films taught us that, no matter who you are, there is someone out there for you. I'm not sure that's really a universal truth, but it's a nice message. It's reassuring. No matter how insecure I was in high school, I never doubted for a moment that someday a boy would love me. Someday an incredibly cute boy was going to come along and realize that I was the most amazing girl he had ever met. John Hughes told me so.

... And everyone just wants to be loved.

"I want a serious girlfriend. Somebody I can love, that's gonna love me back. Is that psycho?"
- Michael Schoeffling, Jake Ryan, Sixteen Candles

To me, this was brilliant new insight into the world. Beautiful, popular Jake Ryan wanted to find someone to love him just as much as Sam wanted to find that. Claire kisses John Bender in the closet and suddenly he isn't so tough, after all. Blaine may be rich and popular, but what he really needs is for Andie to love him and forgive him. This was a tremendous equalizer. People made a lot more sense once I understood this.

"I believed in you. I just didn't believe in me. I love you. always."
- Andrew McCarthy, Blaine, Pretty In Pink

We're not really all that different.

"We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all."
- Emilio Estevez, Andrew / The Athlete, Breakfast Club

Another popular message from Hughes, and probably the most consistent. All of his films lead you back to the idea that the geek and the jock and the rich girl and the tomboy - they all have insecurities. They all screw up. They all worry. They all want someone to love them. They all have imperfect families. They all had problems in high school. It's nice to know.

"Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place."
- Judd Nelson, John Bender / The Criminal, The Breakfast Club

The best guys are geeks and/or hard-core individualists.

"I feel compelled to mention to you, Jake, that if all you want of the girl is a piece of ass, I mean, I'll either do it myself, or get someone bigger than me to kick your ass. I mean, not many girls in contemporary American society today would give their underwear to help a geek like me."
- Anthony Michael Hall, Farmer Ted, Sixteen Candles

I have JH to thank for a lifetime of falling for the most interesting guy in the room. John Bender. Duckie. Cameron. Keith (I still have SUCH a crush on Eric Stoltz). Pretty boys have their work cut out when it comes to me. Instead, I fall for the rebel, the artist, the geek, the guy who has the guts to wear crazy vintage shoes and knows all the words to "Try A Little Tenderness." Super shy men or men who make me laugh or guys who look like trouble from a mile away. It's never the all-american average joe for me. If something isn't wildly different about him, I'll probably never notice him at all. In a John Hughes film, that character is the most appealing. He taught us to love the oddball.

Oddballs and rebels everywhere owe John Hughes big time.

"I know I'm old enough to be his mother, but when the Duck laid that kiss on me last night, I swear my thighs just went up in flames! He must practice on melons or something."
- Annie Potts, Iona, Pretty in Pink

If you want someone badly enough,
they will love you back.

This is where John Hughes caused a LOT of trouble. Sam pining for Jake Ryan. Garry and Wyatt pining for... well, for ANY actual girl. Andie pining for Blake. Watts pining for Keith. John Hughes taught us that the most unlikely romances can work out, and that WANTING IT seems to be the magic ingredient. As my friend is fond of ranting, this has caused no end of trouble. If wishes were horses then beggars would ride. But they aren't. Crushes don't always work out. Frequently they end in tears instead of candle-lit birthday cakes on top of dining room tables with hunky boys. But Mr. Hughes left that part out.

"That's why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they'd call them something else."
- Paul Dooley, Jim Baker / Sam's Dad, Sixteen Candles

Date and make friends outside your social circle / peer group.

There's just a lot of class line crossover in John Hughes films. The geek boy doesn't fall in love with a geek girl. The criminal doesn't meet a great chick who has a pierced nose and a wicked tattoo. They all find love in the unlikely places. So that's where you're apparently supposed to look. I'm not sure it makes sense to teach teens that Mr. Right is almost never going to be the guy you have everything in common with... but I met a lot of interesting people thanks to it. In the midst of exploring outside my comfort zone for nifty boys, I made many great friends I might never have met otherwise. At least insofar as it applies to making friends (remember Molly Ringwald doing Ally Sheedy's make-up in Breakfast Club? I loved that.), it's sound advice. I just don't think EVERY romance needed to be across class lines. The closest he ever came to bringing two people together who were on the same side of the tracks was Watts and Keith. And I liked them together. But they were the exception to the rule. Which leads me to...

The person you're meant to be with
may be right under your nose.

"Don't go mistaking paradise for a pair of long legs."
- Mary Stuart Masterson, Watts, Some Kind of Wonderful

Sometimes the best relationship is the one you end up having with a friend. Maybe instead of looking for the perfect face, you should be looking for an incredible person. Someone who already likes you for who you are. This is the case for Watts and Keith and it was supposed to be the case for Duckie and Andie (and WAS the case in the original ending, but was booed by audiences and didn't serve the rich man / poor man agenda of the film). Honestly, I always figured that Andie was going to regret that one day. It's nice that she got what she wanted and all, but even on his best day, Blaine was no Duck-man. Duckie was the greatest guy EVER. So Pretty In Pink taught me not to make the mistake Andie did, or that Keith ALMOST did. Pay attention, or you might miss out on someone like Duckie. And men like that come along once in a lifetime. If you're lucky.

A certain lack of respect for authority is healthy.

"Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you're crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions."
- Anthony Michael Hall, Brian Johnson / The Brain, The Breakfast Club

Teachers and parents everywhere had John Hughes to thank for low-level rebellion becoming more socially acceptable. Really wild kids were going to act out anyway, but John Hughes taught the tamer kids that questioning authority (and the wisdom of being stuck inside on a perfectly nice sunny day) wasn't really bad. It was just logical. But honestly, John Hughes films are probably the healthiest and safest place for a teen to learn that some rules just need to be broken.

Of course, JH never covered the consequences of rebellion in any detail. He left out the part about how you end up grounded for most of your senior year because your DAD doesn't agree that it's reasonable to skip school to spend the day running around with your beautiful, trouble-maker boyfriend just because it was SUCH a gorgeous day outside...
But I'm not bitter (and, admittedly, don't regret it at all).

"I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I'm going to take a stand. I'm going to defend it. Right or wrong, I'm going to defend it."
- Alan Ruck, Cameron, Ferris Bueller's

Relax. Have fun. Spontaneity is it's own reward.
"Wyatt, you're going to have a heart attack by the time you're forty if you don't learn to relax."
- Kelly LeBrock, Lisa, Weird Science

"It's called a sense of humor - you should get one - they're nice."
- John Cryer, Duckie, Pretty In Pink

Value the moment. Enjoy your youth. Do the thing you are afraid to do. The rewards can be great, and if nothing else at least you lived fully. After all, look at Claire and Bender. He kissed her back. There is a lesson the be learned there.

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it."
- Matthew Broderick, Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Oh, and almost everything happens in Shermer, Illinois.

John Hughes grew up in Northbrook, Illinois. Which was once known as Shermerville. His high school was located on Shermer Road. Thus the fictitious suburban town of Shermer, Illinois is born. An homage to his own home town, Shermer, Illinois is featured as an imaginary suburb of Chicago in several John Hughes movies, including Weird Science, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and National Lampoon's Vacation. Also, the high schools in The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off are all named Shermer High School. There's more on Shermer at The John Hughes Files.

This isn't actually something I learned per se.
I just remember being 14 and wanting to know where Shermer, Illinois was.

John Hughes
February 18, 1950 – August 6, 2009

I want to say thank you.

For a redheaded character who WAS the pretty girl. For the hope that someone like Jake Ryan might exist. For an awkward tomboy who got her man. For John Cryer lip syncing to Otis Redding, a moment in film so glorious to me that I never really recovered from it. For so very many characters I loved and performances that stayed with me. For the sense that the awkwardness, the angst and the insecurity I struggled with in my teenage years was such a universal experience that some guy was actually making films about it. Thank you for the laughter. Thank you for some of the most quotable dialog ever written. Thank you for the bubble gum of it all. Thank you for pop culture icons. Thank you for the glorious geeks and unforgettable rebels. Thank you for giving us Shermer, Illinois.

Monday, July 06, 2009

My Life Through One Artist's Work

Totally snagged this off of Alex. How brilliant! I'm usually iffy about these things, but this one has me tickled.

The instructions are:
Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, answer these questions.

Pick Your Artist:

Tom Waits

Are you male or female:

Describe yourself:
Trampled Rose

How do you feel about yourself:
Fumblin' With The Blues

Describe your current boy/girl situation:
I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You

Describe where you currently live:
Way Down In The Hole

If you could go anywhere you wanted to go:
Good Old World

Your favorite form of transportation:
Downtown Train

Your best friend is:
Old Shoes (And Picture Postcards)

Your favorite color is:
The Black Rider

Favorite time of day:
Midnight Lullaby

If your life were a TV show, what would it be called:
The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)
or maybe
Frank's Wild Years

What is life to you:
Shore Leave

What is the best advice you have to give:
I Don't Wanna Grow Up

"Well, God bless your crooked little heart,
St. Louis got the best of me
I miss your broken-china voice
How I wish you were still here with me
Well, you build it up, you wreck it down
You burn your mansion to the ground
When there's nothing left to keep you here,
When you're falling behind in this big blue world
Oh you got to Hold on, hold on, You got to hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right here
You got to hold on"
- Tom Waits, Hold On

Rockin' Leettle Bitty Miracles

I know people (people like Tracey, who I adore) are praying for me. And sending warm fuzzies my way. And positive thoughts. And whatever else they believe in the power of. You know how I know?

I got pulled over TWICE on my way home from the funeral. TWICE. And NOT twice for the same violation. Oh, No. The first one was for going ten miles over the speed limit - which I usually watch so carefully - and for having a passenger without a seat belt on (My sister feels very guilty. Particularly as she is the type of driver who will not start the car until your seat belt is on.). The second time was because one of my taillights has apparently gone out.

Both times the police officers let me go.

I did not cry. I was calm. I was respectful. I did say that we were returning from a funeral but I made no hysterical point of it and both gentlemen would have been completely justified in giving me a ticket.

One said with a bizarre logic and semantic somersault I cannot even sort out in my head, that he could cite me for three different violations that would equal about $375 in fines... but "this time we're just going to call it even." I don't even know what that means. Of course, I don't care how absurd it sounds. I could have just kissed him.

I drove the rest of the way home gripping my steering wheel with white knuckles and feeling like I had a target painted on my bumper, but I feel truly blessed that this night ended sans ticket. It may not seem like much in the general scheme of things or in comparison to what HAS happened to me, but it's kind of nice when the universe sees that it is about to place that straw - the straw that would break the proverbial camel's back - and you can almost FEEL it ease up. Like, "Yeah... you know what? I've been hearing a lot about this one lately. She's had enough."

A mile from the house my sister said, "Well at least we didn't get pulled over three times." I nearly jumped out of my seat. If I had gotten pulled over at that point, I'd have made HER pay the fine.

Oh, and one more highlight from this weekend:

Prior to the actual funeral today we are all standing around, smoothing our clothing and checking each other's make-up and the men's ties and such. Everyone is a little tense and we're sorting out the details of who gets in what car and steeling ourselves for the ordeal of the viewing. My mother breezes in, holding a prescription pill bottle in the air and says brightly, "Does anyone else need Xanax?"

Um, yeah. I love my crazy family.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Pieces of My Fourth... or Fireworks: Not as Entertaining as an Anatomically Augmented Car

I am woken early in the morning, as I still lie in bed recovering from last night's ill-advised drinking, by the shrill (it seems) tones of my mobile phone. It's my father. He is calling to say my grandmother died late last night (she has been ill, this was anticipated but also somehow sooner than I had expected). The funeral will be tomorrow night. Everyone is in town for the holiday but no one has anything to wear to a funeral. How long will it take me to get there and can I bring enough clothing to dress five of my closest female relatives for a formal Southern funeral?

I rush out to work to get a few things done in case I have to miss work Monday. Pulling my car out into the street, the sky is shockingly blue and my iPod shuffles on Josh Radin's "Brand New Day" and it occurs to me that I cannot remember looking up at the sky in months. Somehow on what I know will be a daunting day, I have a moment of feeling absolutely tremendously happy to be where I am and driving my car and breathing the air and just living in my skin.

My younger sister and brother-in-law arrive in town and we pile into my car and head out for the town where the funeral will be. After packing an entire suitcase full of appropriately somber clothing from my closet. And shoes for five women. Earrings for five women. Slips and cardigans and various sundry extra Anything They Could Possibly Need for five women. And clothing for myself. And my sister and brother-in-law's things as well. You get the idea. My car is overflowing with funereal clothing and looks like a goth gypsy caravan.

My younger sister introduces me to the wonders of The Lonely Island's SNL skit "I'm On A Boat." I mean, really? "If you're on the shore then you're sure not me, oh"? Wow. I am in awe. I'm so out of the loop. Note to self, must start watching television periodically. Apparently it has its moments.

We spend the last 20 minutes of our trip driving, overcome with fits of HYSTERICAL GLEE, behind a bright orange Cadillac with enormous truck tires and a huge pair of shiny metal ... well, what could only be intended to be a strikingly realistic representation of testicles swinging from the center of its rear bumper. We reach stop lights. We pull out camera phones. We try my camera phone. The resolution is too poor. We try my brother-in-law's camera phone. The people in the car next to us at the next stop light gesture wildly, making certain we are seeing what they are seeing. We ALL laugh hysterically together. Pointing. Incredulous. This goes on for miles. We have names for The Car. We start playing music we feel is appropriate for The Car to sing to if it were, in fact, able to sing along. We name the far less interesting and thus inferior cars that are driving next to The Car. The Car drives right up to and past the street we need to turn at to reach our destination. Pulling into the driveway, we cannot stop laughing.

As we were driving into town, fireworks began to go off in the distance. Blooms of red and white over the treetops. A single moment of the holiday surprising us in the midst of our crazy, difficult day. The bursts of light, silent from this distance, repeat and grow larger and change in color... Reflecting off the pendulous scrotum of the absurd car in front of us, making us all dissolve into new whoops of laughter.

We arrive. I am hugged by roughly a dozen people in rapid succession. We exclaim over how much weight people have lost and the pink streak in my adult niece's hair and my parents' dogs skitter around in excitement. My 8 year old niece who, as far as I can tell, only puts up with most people because they can reach things she can't and have mastered the ability to buy things (which she also cannot yet do), rushes me as I break from the cluster of people and grabs my lapels and pulls me down to close to her so she can kiss my face.

My baby brother's 4 month old daughter is curled up in a ball in the middle of a big old bed that has been slept on by members of my family during summer vacations for decades. She is a sweet, chubby pink ball of angelic sleeping baby and his expression softens and I say, "She's grown so big." He smiles and his normally dark face opens up and he just says, "yeah," softly.

We sit up late watching old home movies. My father keeps accidentally rewinding and replaying things because he's had too much wine. My sister-in-law (the glowing, miraculously good-natured and breathtakingly lovely mother of my new niece) sees many of us as children for the first time. She coos and is excited with each familiar face revealed in its childhood incarnation. We tell stories about foolish things we had forgotten. My father falls asleep on the couch and we listen to him laughing 20 years ago.

1am, the house is dark and everyone has found a bed or a couch or a recliner to sleep in. The house is silent except for my father's snoring and the whir of the old outdated fridge. One of my sisters tiptoes into the kitchen and whispers to me, "Is there anything to drink in here besides buttermilk and booze?"

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Fourth of July... here's a dog staging his own personal reenactment for our viewing pleasure.

Nothing says independence like an explosive wielding dachshund.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."
- Mother Teresa

That is where I am trying to be. In a place where I focus on how much I love the people I have lost. I want that to be my driving emotion. More than one person I care for died in the shooting. I am focusing on the loss of Allan, but that is because it is so large to me. I feel I need to find a way to understand that one loss so I can process all the deaths that took place that day.

I have every one of their phone numbers in my cell phone and I cannot figure out what to do with that. I started to text Allan one day. I was somehow disoriented enough to start typing a message I can never send.

Sometimes something hurts so much that it feels like it has a physical presence. It feels large and looming. The loss is enormous and surrounds me and makes me feel as if I am seeing everything through a haze. As if it has swallowed me whole.

I realize that the loss is so tremendous because of how much love I have for the people who died in front of me so suddenly, all in one day. So I am trying to find a way to focus on that love. If I must be swallowed by a whale, let it be made of something good. Let me be overwhelmed by how much I love them. Let me take that love and use it in how I interact with the world.

I'm not angry. Perhaps I should be, but I don't have room for anger. The man who shot my loved ones is dead. He took his own life. He is irrelevant and was, to me, from the moment they died - although we did not learn of his death until weeks later.

I have lost so much in the last year and a half. My last tenuous shreds of illusion about safety. My plans and even my desire to marry. Family members have died. And friends. Friends who were some of the most remarkable people I have ever known. This is not a disingenuous and distorted memory of the dead. I tend to be appalled at the rosy cheeked perfection with which people remember their dead. No, each of the friends I have lost were truly unusual and remarkable. Death came and took the best from among us. I do not want to be made up of loss.

So here I am, loving. Loving until it pains me in ways I could never have imagined. Loving like something in my chest cavity is straining to cry out and make itself heard in the ether. I am going to accept it and try to find a way to take joy in my capacity to love them. I am not going to let it close me down or prevent me from loving other people. I am not going to let myself swim in this suffering.

I will love so much that there will be no more room in me for hurt. Only love.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


I've been away for a long, long time.

I've just redesigned this blog and the coming months may see some additional changes. I'm fine tuning at this point. We'll see where it takes me.

I am going to blog again about film and random topics of interest for my fellow females and/or people who like to read a female perspective. I am. But I think that, if I'm going to start writing again, I'm going to have to embrace the fact that this is going to get personal. When my personal life was simple and mundane and smooth sailing, it was easy to focus on pop culture. But in the last year that just became impossible. So I stopped writing. And I MISS writing. I miss capturing little moments of life and fleeting ideas about the grander scheme of things in the happily haphazard format of the interweb essayist. I miss the freedom of saying things I need to say.

I'm in the trenches right now. Anyone who actually checks this blog (Yes! All three of you!) will remember the loss that took place in my life last year. I am sorry to report that I suffered another sudden and violent loss just a couple of months ago... made more bewildering by the fact that this time when I lost a friend I was actually standing next to him. A close friend of mine was shot and killed in front of me. Right now I have no idea how to interact with the world without acknowledging this loss. I'm not even certain I will come out the other side of this remotely the same person. I mean, my wicked wit and self-deprecating sense of humor are intact - have no fear. But I'm not certain about the rest of me.

For the first time I can remember, I understand what it is to be lonely. I've always liked as much time to myself as possible. Incongruous in a woman who is, essentially, a world-class social butterfly. But true nonetheless. I like my own company and I have never really understood loneliness. But it's hard to connect with other people now, and I sense that a lot of people who know what is happening in my world may be uncomfortable with me. There is a chasm between me and everyone who has not experienced this loss. There is a strangeness between me and anyone who is uncomfortable with death. As if death hangs about me and they don't want to stand too close to it. I am taking a sharp look at just how short life really is, and how suddenly and unexpectedly it can end. I am realizing that I don't actually want to spend my life alone, and it shocks me to have to face that. And of course, more than any other factor creating this gaping lonliness - one of the closest people in the world to me is gone.

Now, not everyone has someone in their life like my friend, who I'm going to call Allan here for obscure personal reasons other than it actually being his name (because it isn't), but if you do - then this will make sense. There are some things in life that we go through that are almost impossible to understand or accept about ourselves without seeing ourselves as a victim. I have had far more than my share of tragedy and, other than discussing a limited number of those topics relatively anonymously on here, I don't tell people in my everyday life just how many horrible statistics apply to me. I work hard to make certain that people who know me in my daily life are given the impression that I sprang into existence fully formed and happy as a clam. My history exists for them in broad and vague strokes. Allan was one of those rare people that I just let SEE me. He KNEW. He knew all the awful, ugly and terrible things that I don't tell people. Allan was wonderful and wise and knew I didn't want his pity. I just wanted him to know me. And he accepted that. He let me be wholly self and unguarded in his presence.

When we met, years ago, we were both going through horrible, painful breakups. The kind that are massive ordeals and change your life and involve discussions with accountants and creditors and burning things in the backyard and resisting the urge to throw your telephone or run anyone over. We spent many nights sitting on the back of my car, rehashing horrible conversations with our exes and congratulating each other on managing to breathe and wake up in the morning and not say mean things to strangers just for spite. We worked on creative projects together and met for emergency I-Need-To-See-Someone-I-Actually-Like lunches. We told each other all manner of Things No One Else Knows. Over time we developed such a shorthand that we would design a set or discuss a project seamlessly in stream-of-consciousness juggling matches in which we finished each other's sentences and solved each other's conundrums. He was one of those rare friends who become a safe place. Someone who you can hand a piece of yourself to and trust to hold onto it and guard it and treasure it and not laugh at the parts of it that are weird or silly or funny looking.

He was gentler than I have ever known how to be. He was the most intelligent person I have ever been close to personally and he absolutely refused to see that about himself. He had a biting, wildly off-kilter wit that my world seems drab and hollow without. He took a piece of me with him. I am traveling through the world a little more alone than I have ever felt before. I'm not sure how to live in a world that doesn't have him in it. I'm a little bit lost.

So I think I'm just going to have to accept that, if I am to write at all, this is going to become increasingly personal. I mean, I will dig up favorite quotes and photographs again. And I will share my rants about the horrors of dating (Yes. I've been dating. I don't know why. Because self-flagellation would leave marks, I suppose.) and the terrible films that get made these days and all that nonsense. But I'm healing. And it's probably going to be obvious every little step of this journey. But maybe I need someone to talk to. That can be you.

All three or four of you.