Things I Meant To Tell You

Excerpt from a piece performed in 2002

That I deleted your last email. When I saw your name in my inbox I wondered how the hell you’d gotten through. Because I’d set up a filter so that anything you sent me would be dead on arrival. Because, in spite of everything, I remember how good the good times were, and that’s almost enough to make me want to see you again. And I just can’t do that. Because although you used all the right buzzwords, I was only important for the credibility I loaned you. You personify everything that’s wrong with Los Angeles: you want Depth and Substance and Enlightenment, handed over in a cloyingly hip package, and if you have to wait, they’re not worth it to you.

That I wish you were still around. Although we were never friends, and although I think we sometimes resented having a friend in common, I admired your independence; your unwavering solidarity with yourself. Sometimes I think I see you, and then I remember the car accident.

That it’s silly maybe, but the sweater you gave me for Christmas erased any doubt I may have had about whether or not you get me. I’ve wanted that kind of sweater forever, but it doesn’t look like me. It feels like me, but anyone not living inside my skin wouldn’t know it. I’ve never said anything to you about that kind of sweater; I’ve seen you so rarely these last few months that I haven’t wanted to waste time with inconsequentials. But you saw it and thought of me. So I know that you stick around because you get me, in spite of me.

That I was afraid. I was certain, although I didn’t know how, that if I got too close I would fall in and drown, the way a drunk knows to avoid passing any bars on the way home if he wants to make it there on time, and sober. You sat in your little space sneering, eyes squinting against what little sun came in, and I felt myself succumbing to a sort of fast-forward trance. You hated everyone but you liked me because I was ruthless, which made me want to keep you warm and well-fed. You terrified me, and when I said “too different” what I meant was “too much alike.”

That your boyfriend doesn’t look anything like Kurt Cobain.

That earlier on, as this began unfurling, I thought a lot about that weekend road trip to Las Vegas. It was 1985 and I had no idea my life was about to change. There was an unbelievable thirst, like I was housing a desert in my ten-year-old body, which was newly thin from all the glucose sitting around with no transport available. A thirst that would not be quenched no matter how many liters I drank. Like clockwork, the need to stop at a gas station bathroom or squat by the side of the highway every thirty minutes. The cool liquid felt like heaven as it streamed in, but gradually my stomach would fill, then bloat, then threaten to explode. Meanwhile my throat was no less parched, no less delighted at being soothed. It was an embarrassment of riches. It was a nightmare. And so I wondered whether this would end up the same way. How far, I wondered, does the invitation extend? Beyond the front door, certainly, but then what? Just into the foyer? Can I hang my jacket up? Should I step on into the kitchen, or stay at the entrance? Should I call ahead? There was always the worry that I’d overstepped my boundary, overstayed my welcome, laughed too loudly. But one day I caught a glimpse of something on your face that startled me. And it had been so long– I reached back into memory to decipher what I was seeing. And when I realized I had somehow managed to make you proud, this overwhelming sweetness rose, backwards, from my belly up into my throat like a negative of that weekend.

I guess it’s simple, this thing you’ve done. Like mending a leg on a chair: there’s no dramatic announcement, and no one notices except maybe the first time you sit down again. After all, a chair with legs that work is just a chair. Maybe you don’t even know what you’ve done. But it’s fixed. That thirst exists only in memory now.

That the worst thing about tragedy is that everything still needs to get done, every day, like the day before. The things that happen, happen, and we go back to our menial tasks, feeling the ripple of aftershock as they re-settle our lives, the way a room feels different after being dusted by someone who didn’t quite know where everything went. But I can’t let the dust settle the same way this time. Now that keys to the castle no longer seem to be everybody’s inalienable right—now that it’s painfully evident that our invisible safety shield was invisible to everyone—I won’t shut my mouth against the things I meant to tell you. So—fair warning. You’ll be hearing from me, my friend. Just in case tomorrow gets canceled.