One fewer rainbow sender
Tuesday June 09th 2015, 10:50 pm
Filed under: friends,grief,Oxford Tags:

“the most irresponsibly generous person I’ve met.”
“Wise, crazy, and wonderful.”

Last night I looked at the Chagall book she gave me, as I left Oxf a decade and change ago. “From someone who does give a shit,” she signed it. I believe it was one of two art books that her father had given her. He was a stage designer, or technical theatre person of some description. That was her, though. I think she showed up to the party around midnight, well after someone had already exited the flat through the glorious front windows, through the bushes, and took with them the last shreds of my landlord’s respect and most of my security deposit. God knows where she was coming from – the Royal Shakespeare Company, I would guess, where she was doing vocals? Did she have a stage name? Light googling isn’t turning much up. But classic Helen. Here, take one of these two totally precious things (that I’m inexplicably carrying around with me) that I really, really, really want you to have.

And she really did want you to have it. We spoke several times that summer. I remember pacing around the parking lot between the co-op and the faculty housing, speaking waaay too loudly on a mobile phone when it was still novel for the US. (A novelty and an unpaid bill that would come back to haunt me despite several corporate buyouts some 5 years later at the invention of the idevice.) She sent rainbows in ridiculous ways, and tatt and good scotch, and told me I had to have a place to play my music. We never played together, probably out of my shame at not being in the league that she was at, that the other reader of this is at. A shame, really, as she judged passion, not skill, heart, not talent. (And then skill, talent when appropriate. Damn could she judge when called to.)

She sent money, too, when it all rather predictably fell apart and I needed to leave, and she and the friend made it possible to get out of the narrative that I’d been unable to disrupt before it came to the very end. I left and came back, not to Oxf, but to London. I’d go back to Ox, of course, but never with a place to call home again. I’d see her a few times in the year it took me to finish, then move to NY, to here. She always asked if I had a place to play my music. Never without the possessive pronoun. That mattered, that meant something, that absolved and forgave and gently made anything OK, even beautiful.

We’re headed out in just a few weeks. She said she had a few more weeks than that, and we were going to see her, small included. When her daughter called, she sounded just like her. The connection was terrible – I fucking hate AT&T – and I thought it _was_ her. Somethingsomethingsomething at home? No, I’m at work I said. Peacefullyinhersleep. Oh god. I’m so sorry.

And I am. Not that she minded, at the end, staggeringly generous in forgiveness as in everything else. I raise a glass of single malt, and listen to music that reminds me of you, and none of it will fill the remarkable space you made so utterly yours. What the physicists must have made of you, your eagerness to push their science into philosophy, their quantum indeterminacy into a different kind of beauty.

“I want to live, but I love the life I’ve lived, and can leave it.” May your atoms and molecules scatter and entangle interestingly. You were loved.