Friday, April 25, 2014

Forever Twinned...

April 25. This day, like perhaps all, will forever be twinned with Summer, my little sweetheart. In 2009, we retreated to the house in Davis where she made some incredibly complicated and delicious b'day cupcakes and then took me to see DCFC in Sacramento. Three years ago on this day, we had plans to be here in NYC together working on "My Before and After" and then hopping into a rental car to catch Low in Philadelphia. Instead, I found myself speaking at her memorial. The words below are as keenly felt today as the hour they were given. My friend Kim told me, however sad, she thought it was perfect that Summer's memorial was held on my b'day. Forever twinned, my darling. Forever twinned, my love. Until that day. Until that day....

"I have a thousand things to say about Summer Lindsay Serafin. A thousand thousand. I’ll be saying them and thinking them and writing them down every day for the rest of my life no matter how brief or prolonged that may be. But today... Just for today...

She liked to sleep. That’s not what I wanna talk about but it has to be said. She loved sleeping. I’m listening to one her voicemails of late and she says she is so excited by the prospect of sleep. That “it is like (her) mouth is watering for sleep”. She says that. It’s good. I sometimes sleep now and just want to stay. I hope I might find her there.

It’s impossible, really. Impossible that I met her. That she “found me” she liked to say. I’m not from around here. It’s impossible that she lived in a place called “The Inner Sunset”. Impossible that she lit me up, this shining person, and held me, safely, in her orbit. Impossible. All of it. And today. Just impossible.

She was a terrible driver. Even Mike said so. I loved her battle-scared Blue Prius. The passenger side mirror in a kaleidoscope thousand pieces, dangling by a cable. A taillight busted. The bumper sagging. No, no she fixed that. The back seat full of boots and sunhats and coconut water. And tissues. She left a trail of tissues everywhere. Like Hansel & Gretel. You could follow it to its source and eventually find her.

She was – words, not for the first time, fail – an unearthly beauty. An ethereal beauty. And shockingly, entirely earthbound. Preternaturally present. She ate up life. With both tiny perfect fists. Ate it up. Actually, she ate quite beautifully. Do you remember that? Cutting and balancing petite bites, transferring them knife to fork with quiet elegance. Even bananas she ate like that. Seriously, I have a picture. I got her to try dark chocolate. She wasn’t a fan at first. She broke little bits off into tiny pieces. I looked over and she was sprinkling Equal onto them one at a time.

She was the dearest dearest girl. Nothing phony about her. If you got to know her at all, your heart just broke in two the moment you realized, the moment you saw her, really saw her and then surged with love. For her. This amazing girl.

She didn’t do anything to make it difficult, but I can understand how someone could think she was hard to get to know. She was friendly but never facile. She wasn’t frivolous. She was serious. She was fun, god, was she fun. She loved people – and this is what I wanna get it, at long last – she loved people and she took them seriously. Not everybody’s up for that. More fool they.

I’m circling the runway here, I know, but there’s one more thing I gotta say before I bring it in – she was a breathtakingly gifted actor. I met her doing Edna O’Brien’s Tir na nOg, Chris Smith’s last play at The Magic. She played the central role, a country girl in the west of Ireland who grows to young adulthood and further adventures in Dublin. And she burned that stage to cinders every goddamn night. With three broken toes. If you live here and you go to the theatre and you did not see her in that, I don’t know what to tell you. I really don’t. A year later, right after she was in Rock n Roll at ACT, she went down to Carmel to do David Hare’s The Blue Room directed by Ken Kelleher. I sat there between Linda and Coy and I just thought “god, what am I doing?” I have a perfectly healthy ego. I’m from New York. But I have never seen acting like that. She is like the supermoon. Once in a generation.

She loved her work. And she was good at it. But she had a higher calling. To love. And, yes, that is what I want to talk about. Because she told me. She told me she knew why she was here and that was to love. She was filled with love. So much love. And she wanted more than anything to share her love with others. She told me that. And there is absolutely no doubting it because you could not have a better piece of luck in this world than to have been blessed enough to have been loved by her. She was like that device they use in open heart surgery that cracks your chest open and holds it gaping, wide, so you can be healed. That fragile little muscle, scarred and scared and on the verge of shutting down, giving out, giving up, held now tenderly in her expert hands, beneath her loving, healing gaze.

Her love was tenacious, vigilant. Unflinching. I met her three years ago and she quickly became the center of my life. She didn’t drop people. If you were in, she was in. Even if you faltered because nobody had ever shown up for you before like this, she was on you. Checking in. Reminding. Different this time. Not goin’ anywhere. She hated talking on the phone but we talked every day, often for hours. For three. She knew everything about me. Things I never tell became hers.

And she made sure I knew her as well. Her gratitude, her pride in a happy childhood. Loving, devoted, would-take-a-bolt-of-lightning-for parents. Her epic struggle from the age of 5 to live. Ryan’s gifting her a kidney and the double organ transplant that saved and changed her life. The unfathomable loss of Jesse. She carried every piece of her past with pride and love and honesty into every room, knowing exactly who she was, like no one I have ever known. Or ever will.

God, how I loved her! She’s right. She did find me. I clung to her. “Like a liferaft” I told her she was, “to a drowning man.” She smiled and said, “you’re not drowning anymore.”

When my mom died last year, I was in London. I got the news in the middle of the night. I was alone. I called Summer, eight hours behind, here. When I told her, she burst into tears. And then told me to get on Skype. “I want to see you drink an entire glass of water”, she said. “And lie down. And try to sleep. I’ll be right here at my computer watching you. I will watch you while you sleep.” She watched over me like an angel, a cyber angel, and when I woke she was there with Linda getting me on a plane to New York and then on to Michigan. Then Summer flew herself to Detroit and waited in the airport all night to meet my plane. And was at my side every day for a week while I buried my mother. Who does that? Serafin love. Irrepressible, irreplaceable girl.

“When I met you”, she said “you were so wounded, so hurting, so sad – I just wanted to love you, to heal. But I never dreamed”, she added, “I would ever get so much love in return.” Who does that?
I need her. I am broken. That is as it should be. It’s supposed to be hard. She cracked my chest open. It’ll have to stay that way. Because who would go back? But it’s hard.

Summer, incredibly, had an answer for that, I think. All this is preface. She’d want to have the last word. So, I’d like to share that. It’s her Christmas card from a couple of years ago. She was in Boston doing Rock n Roll at The Huntington. It closed just before the holidays and she came to New York to exchange gifts with me. She made me promise to wait until December 25th to open it. So, I took it on the plane with me, waited til Christmas morning and opened it at my Mom’s. The gift was a beautiful blue and grey scarf she knitted. There was also a card. It’s to me but in a way it’s to us all. Everyone of us who she loved. Everyone of us who love her. And feel so lost. Because life is so lonely, the world so empty and wrong without her.

My Dearest Michael,

I’ve been working on this in the green room and backstage since we came to Boston. I’d drape it around my neck to keep warm while knitting in the dark of the freezing wings. The cast is decisively in favor of the striped color combination.

It’s Christmas day, and I’m wearing my pajamas. I’m in my P.J.’s even if you’re reading this when the sun has set. Ryan is making another bourbon and coke even if you’re reading this as the sun rises. My Dad is reading aloud shocking statistics about religion or politics, my Mom is spraying perfume on the dog, and me...? I am missing you. Maybe one day we’ll spend Christmas together.

Coy says “You are where you’re meant to be”, and while I like that idea, I know, far too well, what it feels like to be in a world where everything feels wrong – where everything is wrong. You have also been to that place. And as the world spins on its own axis, people are lost in their own needs and trials. We falter blindly, and strive endlessly. But no matter where you are, whether you should be there or not, and no matter who is present... know that you are a treasure in your own right. If the chest is buried, the key is lost, or the map stolen, it doesn’t matter; it doesn’t change the fact that it’s inside you. I just see what’s there. You carry it with you. What’s hidden can always be found.

I love you.
Your Gingersnap,

I love you, too. Love you forever. Goodnight, little sweetheart."

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tech fix...

Portatronics data recovery (W. 38th & 8th Ave) came through. They got my ancient phone back up and most importantly my earliest texts from Summer back. Grateful, I just painstakingly took iPhone pix of each screen going through them - then backed them up! Also just heartbreakingly/heartsoaringly wonderful to read each one. Love you forever, my little sweetheart...

Saturday, April 12, 2014


April 10. She moves in mysterious ways… Had an audition today for a play. Kinda a political thriller. The part of an art historian. Plot revolves around his expertise and as Summer famously, groggily said waking from a dream during our trip to Ireland “there was a hostage situation…” I haven’t read for a play for a while and these sides, to say nothing of the play itself, are quite linguistically dense. I prepare extensively, diligently and am very familiar, in the end, with the scene, almost entirely offbook. Ready. In a need to dress up, I slip on a suit jacket I used to wear all the time going out with Summer but seldom do anymore. I actually fit into it comfortably again maybe because I’ve been running almost every day for three months. Not having a drink in 66 days may get an assist on that, as well. The jacket has a pin, a “badge” as the Brits would say, on it from ACT’s production of “Rock n Roll”. Summer gave it to me on Opening Night and it’s been there on the front chest pocket ever since. The auditions are at rehearsal studios in midtown at W.36th St and 8th Avenue, on the upper floors of a huge office building. On my way through the revolving doors, someone grabs me. It’s Jeff Biehl, a castmate from Lucas’s Hnath’s “Isaac’s Eye” - the last play I was in 13 months ago. He’s just read for the same role. I go through security and up to the 17th floor, find the rehearsal room, there’s no sign in, sit down and wait there. An older woman is sitting there, too, preparing. It’s quiet for a while and then I hear an actor reading inside, the same part, none too well, I think. I feel bad about that, about thinking that, later after he comes out because he recognizes me and introduces himself. He’s an actor I knew in DC. He asks me how I’m doing in a way that I know he means he knows about Summer. I don’t mind. I love talking about her. And I do. How we met. Some of our adventures. Some of her amazing story. How much I miss her. How much I love her. About “Of Love and Loss”. About the cover. About Alex Alemany. About Summer’s Memorial Fund. Eventually, the older woman comes out. He’s waiting for her anyway. She’s also from DC. Katie Flye. She was the dialect coach on “Slab Boys”. I don’t recognize her but I knew her there, too. Sometimes, like now, I find it odd that anybody would recognize me from that long ago. Just before xmas, I was in Brooklyn with Jason to see Renee’s modern dance recital. We went out after and when I was in the men’s room I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. As we walked back to the subway, I told Jason, tearfully, that I didn’t think Summer would even recognize me anymore. “Yes, should would,” he insisted. “She’d recognize your eyes,” he added, helpfully. My two old DC compadres say their goodbyes and head for the elevator. They’re taking a break inside, so I wait some more. Having stood, I remember I still have my walletchain on. A little too punkrock for the part, I take it off and put it in my backpack. I’m wearing my Summer bracelet. My Summer pendant around my neck. My Summer sharpie tattoo freshly drawn on my left arm under the sleeve of my jacket with my Summer pin. I’m rather remarkably, entirely not nervous. And I hear myself saying, “remember to have some fun.” And that’s a bit weird because that’s nothing I usually tell myself. I usually remind myself that I’ve already prepared. That I just need to relax now. Just to be present. Do my best. 97 times out of 100, I’m not going to get the job anyway because it’s not up to me, it’s a thousand other things. Just chill out, be authentically yourself, read well. Never do I say to myself, out loud no less, “remember to have some fun.” That is Summer. That is purely a million percent Summer sitting with me in the next chair. Probably looking through her green canvas backpack for a tissue and wondering why she didn’t bring a coconut water with her from home while we’re waiting. They finally call me in. It’s a small room, overly heated, the director is there with a reader, both behind a table. The director asks if I understand the scene. Not “do I have any questions”. But do I understand. I tell her I won’t presume to say that I know because I wanna hear what she has to say. We talk about it - the scene, the role, the play, its uncanny current geo-political relevance for a work written 10 years ago. We settle on where to begin the sides. And then I do, I begin, with the reader. I know the scene. I know what I’m doing. New things come up. I’m present. I have fun. It’s one of those auditions where you feel them with you, feel them drawn in. Where you make the reader really respond, breaking her out of her trance having done this scene with a dozen actors over the last hour. Where you hear the director’s involuntary intakes of breath, murmurs of accedence, an entirely unexpected laugh of recognition. When it ends I get the feeling she doesn’t want it to. We’re still in the moment. We’re still - thank you, sweetheart - having fun. I can see that it’s perfectly fine not to get a note, to get an adjustment from her. She asks, the director does, if I have any questions. I don’t immediately know what that means. What kind of question would I have now? Ya know? Like after I’ve read? But Summer is there, after all. Summer is with me, so she’s right on it. Summer who heavily lobbied her father to give me my first iPhone one xmas, adding an extra line to the Serafin’s AT&T family plan, and who quickly grabbed it out of my hands the moment we came home so she could type her info in and be the very first contact, entering her name as “Cheeky”, saving and handing it back with her patented heartstopping grin. Summer is with me so she asks the question. “Can I have the job?” I hear myself saying. The reader laughs, the director’s a bit taken aback. By the cheek, no doubt. “It’s, uh, too early to ask that question”, she says, the mask going back on. Walking home, feeling lighter than I have in some time, even as I try to go through the routine - you prepare, you audition, you forget about it as fast as you can - I’m talking to myself. It’s not a problem talking to yourself in New York. No one takes notice. Especially in this neighborhood, on this route from the Garment District back up Ninth behind the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I’m talking to myself. I’m letting it go and I’m lighter but I’m questioning a little my astonishing boldness. I’m telling myself it’s okay. It’s a good thing. It demonstrates good humor and being comfortable in one’s own skin. People want to work with people like that, no? “Hey, I’m fun,”  I hear myself saying. And nearly getting hit by New Jersey Transit I crack myself up. “Oh my god! Yeah. That’s you alright. Loads of fun, you are. When you think fun…” And, ya know, can there be any question - can there be any - but that Summer is with me in these moments? Cheeky. Yes. Yes, you are my angel. Always. Always, my darling. Always, my Gingersnap. Always, my little sweetheart. Always.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Letter...

Sweetheart, it's sometimes a small comfort to know that other people out there have lost someone like I've lost you and that they understand. I got a very thoughtful letter from somebody like that who I don't even know and far across the globe. I just wrote this terribly kind person back and here's what I said, my darling:

Dear friend, I'm sorry you're feeling so blue. I am, too, actually, so I very much understand. The huge hole in my life, my desperate longing for Summer is always there but sometimes I can find simple moments of pleasure in little things or day to day encounters, even working toward something that seems rewarding or worthy. And, then, yes, other times nothing seems of any interest or import or comfort and I simply wish this could all be over and I could be taken. Yesterday was largely like the latter.  I was dragging myself through the entire day and at some point well before dark I'd just given up. I wish I'd been at least as productive as you - I've a pile of books I'm meaning to read, indeed have been meaning to get to for a year at the least. Instead, I simply lay on the sofa and let Netflix and a basketball game I didn't care too much about carry me into the night. At least I slept. I was down by 11pm and didn't rise this morning until 11am. Maybe the weekend will find me better but truthfully weekends may be even harder as they seem so keenly lonely. When I feel like this, there's really nothing I can imagine that would soothe me. Nothing but death and deliverance. Summer's best girl friend Danya told me early on in my mourning when she thought I might self-harm, that if I did I "would never find her (Summer)". Later, I asked Danya if her saying that meant that she believed in an afterlife and indeed what her beliefs were exactly. She couldn't tell me, didn't really have any. But somehow even though Danya's words were unmoored to any faith, they still had resonance for me. It's not impossible that words of great grace and import can fall from the lips of even the faithless, all unknowing. So, when I say I want deliverance, I know I can't do anything to bring it on myself. I just have to get through the days as best I can. And some days won't be good - let alone my best - at all. I may have many many more days where I give up before the sun has set. Where I let mindless passive viewing subdue me into tiredness and try again the next day. Maybe I'll get to actually picking up one of those books. But, yes, as you say, it's good to at least be able to tell someone, to tell each other things like this and know we'll be understood, know we've found a sympathetic ear. Know we've found a friend.

With love & faith,