I am sitting in a London cinema watching Vanessa Redgrave make amends for a life of deceit, to a soundtrack of rushing water I believe subliminal, to drive home melancholy, but when silhouetted heads turn in search, I realize it is real. It is raining hard outside, echoing behind the screen, and suddenly your death comes rushing back to me, Christopher, who I have not mourned.
Fifteen years ago we watched Vanessa give away Howards End, thrilled at elegant despair and handwringing, the way the rain never looked ugly there, was always just enough and never too much. When our sweaty young palms found each other’s in the dark, our dreams came in fast whispers, the promise that we would go to London one day.
I am here now, Christopher, and I feel you near. I am writing these words for you in Leicester Square, the English rain cold and perfect on my skin, yet the ink does not smear. You will not let me forget so easily, although I have tried to make you a stranger, a casualty of your own vices.
My fear is that I passed you on the street, when you were homeless and addicted, unrecognizable ghetto scarecrow, invisible and all the same, part of the city landscape. Maybe you were behind the gas station in a cold sweat, shooting meth to forget the HIV shame. Swallowed up in pride.
Your death is a voice mail, left by another with a phone number. The somber tone is unmistakable, a hush earmarked for the dead. Four days gone – long enough to have shaken off flesh gravity – I expect your ghost to rattle the unearthly chains of your discontent. Even when I skip the memorial, numb on the couch as twilight approaches, picking the memory of you like a scab, I realize that you are not so much a wound, but a scar that will never fade.
But today, you come back as the sound of rain; fill me up like a bucket until I brim. Not a dry eye in the house, anyway. So clever, you, subtle and un-paranormal. I mourn you with celluloid, Christopher, with dark rooms where stories unfurl, with rushing water, with a city that pulls me near and pushes me away, with clocks that always know the score.
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