Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 26th...

Today coming back from a run along the Hudson, walking home east of the river path back in the thick of traffic along 10th Ave, right at the exact intersection where I had the run-in last fall with the Angry Bicyclist, I see a blind man at the corner, tapping along the gutter with a cane, trying to cross the street.

I asked, “Do you need any help, sir?” and he said 
“Yes! Yes, thank you. I’m trying to cross the street. This is 55th, isn’t it?”. 
“Yes”, I say, “and we have the light”.

I extend my arm to him, arm to arm, so he can feel it alongside and take it. I don’t just grab his arm. I know not to do that. Ya know? I saw Scent of a Woman. Pacino and I even share the same birthday (yesterday). Lesson learned. Hoo-ah! Boy’s alive!

After we cross 55th, he says, “I’m just going to the D’Agostino’s market”. 
“D’Agostino’s is just halfway down the block. Are you okay?” I ask “Or would you like me to take you to the door?” 
“Oh, if you could help me,” he says, “that would be so kind”.

So I do. We nearly get knocked down by some guy flying out of Dunkin Donuts but pull up just in time. I take him to the automated doors and he makes his way inside thanking me and saying “Have a good day”.

I walk on wanting more than anything to call Summer and tell her all of this. But then in that moment I have a feeling that somehow she knows. And I tap my chest with my fist in the place where I felt that and look at the sky and say, “I love you, sweetheart”.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25...

April 25th. It used to be the day my grandfather, Hiriam Louis Milligan, baker, sentimentalist, antic soul (I told Summer almost from the first time we spoke that he would have adored her) - the epitome of Irish America – would decorate a cake for me, two layers, his strong tattooed forearms squeezing icing out of a pastry gun. A Louie cake was a total cert, a lock, if the day fell on a weekend. If it fell on a weekday, my mom would bake peanut butter cookies, pack them up along with a big bag of Tootsie Roll Pops and send me off to school- a post-recess treat for all my classmates. The added inclusion of the Tootsie Roll Pops was because Amy Cottier had a well known peanut allergy. Also, now that I think of it, her brother died when she was in 4th grade. I remember the teacher telling us in hushed tones once she’d left the room. Summer would’ve gotten on with her, too – the first kid I knew like myself who had a too early sense of their own mortality, a taste of tragedy in their mouth before they were ten. Amy was in my class from Kindergarten through 5th grade. I walked her home once. And got in trouble for crossing the Anthony Wayne Trail without permission.

Subsequent years found other rituals, most involving heavy drinking. A surprise party one year at Mike’s, a long-now-defunct bar on 10th Avenue, in the halcyon days of EST, even Curt was there. By the end, everyone was surly as hell and sniping at each other. Pretty goddamn hilarious in retrospect. Another year, the year I moved to New York but went back to DC for the day, I got mugged in broad daylight 4 blocks from the White House, just outside the McPherson Square Metro Station and spent a couple of hours in the GW emergency room getting my nose re-attached to my face. (“They can’t all be winners”, Summer wrote me, years later, the first year we were together but couldn’t be on this day.) In ’96 Uncle played at CBGB’s on the day. A surviving recording off the sound board includes our closer, a hopped-up cover of The Beatles’ “I Don’t Wanna Spoil the Party” by way of the Ramones and tells you everything you need to know about that band, far more than even the two records we released in the late 90’s.

Doubtless, the best April 25 of them all was the one spent with Summer in 2009. She took me to see Death Cab for Cutie in Sacramento. She stood in front of me and I wrapped my arms around her. We sang along to every song, crying and kissing over her shoulder and crazy in love. Then we decamped to the beautiful house in Davis where she made absurdly complicated and delicious chocolate chocolate chocolate molten chocolate with chocolate frosting and more chocolate cupcakes and we dozed on couches and in the garden and in her amazing bedroom and used up the bath bombs we got at Lush in Carmel in her spa and I cooked for her and we watched movies and drank each other in for several days. It was, like every day spent with her, the best part of my life.

Last year, of course, it fell on the day of Summer’s memorial. She was meant to be here in New York. We had tickets to see Low in Philadelphia at this great venue we’d heard about but had never been. It was a Monday, so it would be our day off – we were meant to be workshopping a new play of mine that week, Summer in the leading role. Instead, I was in San Francisco, at Brava, giving her eulogy. My friend Kim said at the time, when she found out that Summer’s memorial would be held on my birthday, that it was “somehow perfect”. At the time, I couldn’t quite hear that. I wasn’t mad or anything. I just didn’t see it. Now, today, I do. Of course. Of course.

What could this day ever be, what could this day ever mean now without Summer? Choke down some cake? Oh, sure. Drinking heavily... well, that’s not so good but the jury’s out. Fuck. I dunno. I was sober for 8 1/2 years. Summer used to tell me “I don’t believe you’re an alcoholic. I don’t get this. I think you should be able to have a drink. Like when you’re with me. And when you’re happy. Maybe only, at least, when you’re happy.” Summer wasn’t perfect, we didn’t always agree and she wasn’t always right. But damn near. Damn near. I’ll try, sweetie. 

What I do know is that Kim was right. What better way to observe it – indeed, what else – than to eulogize, to remember her, to speak of and think of her. Of Summer, of the girl who found me and saved me and changed my life. If only I knew what to do with what’s left of it. Without her. Without you, sweetheart. Oh, my girl! Beautiful, brilliant, miracle Summer. Until that day. Until that day...

Michael Louis Serafin-Wells April 25, 2012 - New York City