Thursday, September 6, 2007

His Memory

Jeff died erev Sukkot. I was in Hong Kong or the moon, same thing. Every year, preparing for the Days of Awe which leads into his yahrzeit, I binge cry. I cry without awareness of the tears or the root cause. The tears slide down my face, splotches on my tee shirt.
Jeff was...Jeff. I am truly blessed to have known him. I am not the only one to make that claim. He was special. A gay, short, in recovery alcoholic, a fussy little bantamweight with a broken tooth and you could not find a more beautiful person. He glowed. When Jeff came into a room, all heads swiveled to see "who"? He's cute in photos, but live he dazzled.
He was my brother's bashert. When they met, my brother said, "I prefer men shorter than myself." Jeff looked him up and down carefully. Said "I'm only 5' 6-1/2" myself." He was lying. But he knew and David knew. This was The One.
They each told me, independent of the other, what it felt like. One would wake up. Look at the other and say to himself, "This is my home. This is the one who completes me. This is the one who makes me whole, a better person, a better me."
I'd spend time with them, absorbing that glow. I was so happy for them. And oh, how I envied them! I was sick with envy and desire. To feel that way, to know, to be so sure.
One of Jeff's biggest complaints about being ill and dying was how cranky it made him. He became needy, irritable. We told him that he wasn't a burden, it was our pleasure to tend, coddle, indulge him, but he worried about it. Silly boy. The only burden was that AIDS took him before he became a burden.
At his memorial service, on what would have been his 30th birthday, there were so many serious speakers. Everyone extolling the virtues that were Jeff til I wanted to scream. I am one of Jeff's biggest fans. If there were a Jewish counsel to propose sainthood, I would enter his name. Still, after a few hours, I gave into my rebel streak and spoke of Jeff's wicked sense of humor, his ability to tell a joke and lighten any occasion. I related a few of his favorite, filthiest jokes. In sign language. And pantomime. Which made them even more explicit and filthy. His jokes were raunchy, never cruel, never mean.
Jeff saved at least one life. Directly. As metaphor, as influence, he saved so many, enhanced so many. His feet were guided one day, one cool autumn morning. A friend told this story. Jeff never knew what Mark was planning that day. How could he?
Mark had decided it was time to end it all. He went out to buy some junk, to put an extra large dollop of heroin in his needle that day and float away on a cloud of bliss, never to return. Went downtown to meet his supplier. Mark turns the corner and runs smack into Jeff. They hadn't seen each other in a few years. Jeff did not frequent that part of Manhattan.
"Mark! I haven't seen you in ages. Oh, we have to catch up. You must tell me what you've been doing, what's going on. Look, there's a coffee shop. No, Mark, I am not taking no for an answer. It is so good to see you. And hey, they have seven-layer cake. How can you resist seven-layer cake?"
Jeff put his arm around Mark's shoulder and led him into the diner. They spent the rest of the day together. And Mark did not buy heroin that day. Or the next. Or even the day after that. Jeff gave Mark a chance at life just by being himself.
Why was Jeff there, just then?
There is no such thing as coincidence.
Everything leads to everything else.
Paths diverge, converge, digress.
Time passes. The strands weave in and out, to that one moment which changes your life. Which gives you life.
"I'm only 5' 6-1/2" myself."

Moshe ben Esther of blessed memory.

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