Saturday, March 04, 2006

"No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow." - Euripides


One of my closest friends died last Thanksgiving. I received the call riding home with my cousins from the family dinner.

I didn't believe it at first. Not in the sense that denial is a frequent companion to bad news but alternately, that the events surrounding Dawn's death were too surreal and outrageous to be real. She fell down an elevator shaft while climbing out of an elevator car that was stuck between floors. I was certain that the caller must have misunderstood or that I had misunderstood the caller.

I can't remember how many times my friends and I, including Dawn, climbed out of a rickety old, freight elevator, a couple feet above or below the intended floor at the Lift... and always exited without any injury or incident.


I had just spoke with Dawn earlier that day. It was a long and funny conversation. Most of our conversations were. The first thing out of her mouth was a question about if I remembered who it was that she had been making out with at the party where we first met. I could tell her exactly what it was that she was wearing - a Pucci knock-off that had once belonged to her mother and where the making out had taken place - on a mattress on the floor of the hostess' attic but... I couldn't tell her who. We had met 15 + years previous; I was impressed that I remembered as many details as I did. Then she spent a good deal of time encouraging me to proposition/sleep with a mutual friend of ours - - - "You can't let those condoms expire," she said, referencing an inside joke. She teased me about the former Olympic wrestler that I had met when I visited her in DC, a few weeks previous and she told me about her last "mess in a dress" night out in the Capital. And, even though I was staying with family at the time, she also wanted to make sure that I had plans for Thanksgiving dinner. She was spending hers with some friends that she had been growing increasingly annoyed with and she joked about finishing her dessert, pushing back her chair from the table and announcing that she was ending the friendship.

Dawn had been one of my closest friends ever since we were roommates for 10 months back in the early 90s. It was supposed to be a 12 month lease but she drove me so batty that we moved out two months early. I have the funniest memories from when we were roommates. Her getting drunk on Creme de Menthe and tormenting my cat to such an extent that he ran from the sound of her voice for the rest of his life. Or, how I left the apartment for 20 minutes on the day that she moved in and during that time, defying both commonsense and logistics, she moved all the food stuffs to under the sink and put all the pots, pans and cleaning products in the cabinets above the sink. The first and last time that she ever had calamari, when I got her to eat what she believed was an onion ring. Or, how if she answered the phone in her room and the call was for me and the caller was of the opposite sex, she would tell the caller that I wasn't "there" (as in not in her room even though she would be well aware that I was at home) and proceed to have a 20 minute conversation with the caller that I would only learn about later from the person that called, never from Dawn. Or, her scrubbing the floors on her hands and knees at 4 AM, after a stressful night working at the club. The worst was when her compulsion to clean collided with me having my wisdom teeth extracted. That night, she cleaned out my desk drawers and threw away the gauze that my dentist had given me to pack my gums. Her excuse? "It was all cut up into little pieces," so, it had to be trash. Funny now; not so funny when I woke up in the middle of the night and needed some.

But, if you know me, then you know that I deeply value people being themselves and that I adore people with complex or quirky personalities, particularly if the person is bright and Dawn was... So, in spite of the roommate situation being less than ideal, I always loved and valued Dawn and each of her eccentricities. I'm glad that I know that she had no reason to doubt that.

I never valued Dawn and our friendship more than in the last year of her life. In December of 2004, I moved to southern California. I had ended up in California by default. It was long past time for me to leave Cleveland. CA was an easy place in which to job hunt; the salary to cost of living ratio was excellent for the public sector; it had an ocean and I convinced myself that if my friends Jason and Steven liked LA, well... so could I. I didn't like it though. I hated just about everything about it. It was one of the most miserable times of my life. I was lonely. I felt so far away from everything that was important to me. The laid-back attitude and slow pace stressed me out. I even hated all the sun. Dawn was my first visitor and throughout the nine months that I survived out there, she called me 3 or 4 times a week and those calls would soften the despair into a mere dull misery.

I can imagine her coming for a visit to my new apartment in Park Slope. I wish she could. I know that she would have loved that I have a Haagen Daaz store at the corner of my street; she frequently ate a pint of chocolate peanut butter for dinner when we lived together. She would have been so happy at the opportunity to see other old friends now living in NYC like Jason, Lee, Brad, Charlie and Berni. Frankly, I could envision her leaving DC and living here.

I always imagined Dawn and I, in our 70s and 80s, sharing a house again. Her scrubbing the floors, cats in the yard, my tax returns and cancelled checks in the trash... I guess I'll be rethinking my 70s and 80s... There is no way that those years will be as entertaining without her. Nor likely, as clean and organized.

I keenly hope to honor Dawn's life and memory for the rest of my life. I will endeavor to do everything that I dream of or want to do, as she did in spite of at times, limited resources or lack of an interested companion to join her, whether it was traveling the world or just checking out a new restaurant or an old band. I will also endeavor to ensure that all of my friends know that I love them and exactly how important their friendships are to me.

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