My brother Sean has been doing some very wonderful writing lately, and I wanted to share his latest entry here:
You have to be very, very careful when you’re constructing the narrative of your life. I mentioned something about this in my last post, but I think there’s a lot more to it than just unintentional lies and misremembered circumstances. We need for the truth to match a path, our lives need to be somewhat linear (regardless of how often we see they aren’t) and where the dates and arcs don’t line up, we inadvertently add details and buttresses to give the whole thing meaning.
I got in touch with an old girl friend of mine named Erin. We never dated, we were far too close for that sort of thing, but we were like brother and sister. I sang at her wedding just before she transfered schools and went to the far side of the US, and soon after, we lost touch.
Her voice was singular and amazing, and her sense of humor was unparalleled. At least, for me. She was scrappy and vulgar at times, and she spent about two months homeless during the time that I knew her, although she always had a place to crash because of our network of friends. Erin made me laugh so goddam hard, all the time. She was shameless, she would make fun of me as quickly as she made fun of herself.
She was a peerless mimic. In a way, her vocal talent was off the charts because she could just decided to sound like someone, and then she sounded *exactly* like that person… and when you translate that into performance it’s really stunning. I remember her doing Patti Lupone in Evita, and it was scary it was so good, and then later, we were drinking beer and she sang “Still Crazy After All These Years”, and you would SWEAR it was Paul Simon. She was that good.
She had a pretty good appetite for dating, and she was the perfect combination of funny and funny looking to get most of the guys she was interested in. I was always wing-man, honestly, setting her up and letting her knock them down. And most of the time, she’d end up crashing at my place, sleeping on the floor next to my bunk bed while we criticized the partners du jour.
So, naturally, she showed up on Facebook. I jumped out of my skin, I was so excited. I’ve been in touch with a lot of people, and I’ve gotten a lot of joy out of it – the happiness WAY outweighs the mild discomfort I’ve had with some of the reconnections, but this woman was so dear to me, and I loved her so much, that I just freaked out.
Of course, I friended her, and of course I wrote to her. Gushing, a little, I guess, but not in any way that could be misinterpreted. I just wanted to let her know how much she had meant to me, and how much it would mean to me to be in touch with her again.
I got a response and… See, this is what is bound to happen. I can mock it all I want, but nobody remembers the past the way you do. On top of that, we’re not all in the same big forgiveness boat. We don’t all look at what we did when we were nineteen and laugh it off as the mistakes a child makes.
She tells me her story in two quick paragraphs. Fantastic college opportunity squandered because of a little too much pot and a move back to Los Angeles with her husband and kids. Then, a move from LA to Pheonix because of a sense of cultural discomfort… and the finding of religion.
What can I do? This woman will never be friends with me again because she sees the time we spent together as inhuman, non-divine. My vulgarity will never be funny to her, any time I spend with her from now on, even on-line, will be spent with a wall up between us. She looks back on the time she was friends with me and is appalled. She feels nothing but shame – her words, exactly.
She said she always thought I was “clever” and that it would be cool to maybe be in a band with me. Then.
I’m not mad at her at all, and I don’t think I’m better than her or have more insight or anything. It’s just heartbreaking. She’s found Jesus, and that’s pretty much it for me. I don’t know Jesus, I never will, and that is a wall that will always separate us. I had thought about writing back instantly, telling her that I had so much regret about that time that I lay awake some nights…
But I didn’t. I probably won’t. My regret isn’t about living outside the grace of God, I live utterly without God’s love right now and it isn’t a problem for me. My regret is how I treated people, how I behaved with people. The GOOD parts of that time for me were the times I spent with my friends laughing and loving and, sure, smoking pot. The times I regret are the times I was dismissive and superior, as if I knew something that I couldn’t possibly know.
Ahhch. I don’t know.
It’s so sad. I’ve thought about this person for at least fifteen years, I’ve thought about her once a month, wondered where she was, even tried to find her to cast her in a show I was doing a few years ago. I know now, she would have turned me down anyway, and she would have been uncomfortable with the show, with New York… with spending time with me.
I still love her deeply, this old friend. I know we were a kind of kindred spirits, curled up in my shit-ass apartment, counting our toothbrushes as one of our ten assets. I know that we deal with our own regrets in our own way, and she’s certainly found a better way than I did, I’m pretty sure she sleeps just fine at night. But it’s a painful and sad end to a friendship, and I wish she could have just remained a mystery.
me and Sean, Frankfort, KY, Nov ’08