Ellis Avery
Monday February 18th 2019, 3:45 pm
Filed under: exit,friends,grief,magic,memory,New York Tags:

Oh, Ellis. I’m so very, very sad about your death. Too many thoughts in too many directions, not helped by having had a high fever and the flu, and only just coming back into focus as a person.

I don’t think we were as close as we should have been, but I always _felt_ close to you (and to S) despite the distance and the long silences. Our annual tradition of calling and singing happy birthday to the other – I don’t recall how it started. I do recall the very surprised russian woman a few years ago when I didn’t have the right number for you, who politely waited for me to finish before telling me I had the wrong number. Increasingly “close” seems a weird metric for friendship – social media is filled with people grieving your death, who knew you longer and better than I did. But whatever kind of friends we were, we were, and policing its authenticity doesn’t seem helpful.

You seemed more grown up,more assured, partly because of Sharon, perhaps, or for owning a flat in Manhattan, or for having written a book. A book! A novel! I don’t know why you and Sharon rescued me from Wall Street Reporter to do construction. I’m sorry I couldn’t do the window, which I said I could, or the fan. I probably turned out to be a very expensive rescue.

Waiting by your chunky black landline phone as I bustled deliberately around, December 2005 was a weird month, as I dutifully showed up at your house every day to work. Was there really that much work? I remember painting the bathroom with you and S, fucking up the window and the fan, and finally patching the ceiling rather than replacing the sheetrock. Was that weeks of work? And the bidding war for your manuscript, your agent calling with updates. Much like Toni, the day before she died, watching General Hospital as we sat on her couch, and wondering aloud “who ever would think this is how it would end, watching General Hospital with you.” Did you feel the same way about getting your first big publishing deal with me pottering around in your house, your partner far uptown. Did I understand? Was I celebratory enough? I was so excited for you, but I don’t know if I made that clear.

All the grading papers at Mud cafe. I hate fucking grading papers. I’m not grading papers _right now_. Though I wish I had your scansion handout. I’ve looked a few times. There might be a hardcopy in a Dalton box somewhere. It was great. Thanks for teaching me how to scan verse so I could teach it, so little Peter whatshisface could clap wildly erratically beats, far removed from syllables, let alone stress.

Oh Ellis. I didn’t read your cancer memoir after the last time I saw you, when you gave it to me after we had hours and hours and hours of talking and catching up. I think I saw you once more, as you and your scooter visited the little house in Echo Park, and himself was charmed. [Email fact check. Yes, a few weeks later] I read it Saturday, still lightly feverish, after I learned of your death. You were in so much pain for so many years. And the food stuff, that would’ve killed me. S sounding like herself, terribly and truthfully and transcendently.

[OK, email fact checking now has me re-reading a whole seam of correspondence I didn’t really know existed. This stood out, too “Ask me about the the “employee of the month” badge I earned and then promptly sold for $30.” I have no memory of this. But the emails, recalling dinners and computer fixing and the bed platform that was much of the work done at their flat, and walks and coffees and all the rest, paint a picture of a much deeper intimacy than my brain remembers. I used to remember. Sigh.]

The grief is deep. She was so vibrant, so very much herself, so fiercely generous, so impossibly bright at times, so very dark at others. I lack words, really, to describe your impossible self.

20 years of writing a haiku each day. Dead at 46. Fuck that.

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