For Birdie & Christopher

“Never bet against the Steelers.” That’s one of the things my friend, Owen, taught me. I don’t work in a bar anymore, and I’m not a huge football fan, but I’ll always put Owen and the Steelers together. If they ever win a Super Bowl, I’ll think, “Owen must be pleased.”

After the Steelers, my old dog pops in my head. When you remember someone, images you aren’t expecting may flash forward. Hopefully, they make sense when you reel them into focus. I named a yellow lab I loved very much, Maude, after Ruth Gordon’s character in the movie. And Owen brought that movie to my life. He gave me lots of good movies, and we went to the movies. I see us sitting in theatres all over town. He was older and wiser and had seen so many more movies than I; he’d been an extra in the movies. Perhaps, Owen gave me movies in a new way. We cried in front of the TV on the sofa in that great old apartment in the Village watching the end of Harold and Maude. Then we wept through the end of Resurrection; Ruth Gordon, Ellen Burstyn and Owen—associations that would delight him.

I didn’t have to see him dead the way Christopher did, and I am very glad for that. Two suicides in four months had folks looking at me cross-eyed, like a big black cat crossed my path. First Tom in December in a park with a bed sheet tied around his neck and my name pinned to his chest, and then Owen behind his door in March. It was too much. Really.

I took a playwriting class after that somewhere in the East Village, but I can’t remember the name of the street or the school. And I sat staring into space a lot. I smoked too many cigarettes thinking about suicides I knew and loved. Eventually, I felt the Universe shift and things moved in mysterious ways.

But first I stood at the bottom of the steps, quite certain that it must be a mistake. Maybe he picked up the wrong guy and was murdered? But Christopher was certain. And now after reading his stories, I know just how certain he was. But I looked up to Owen, and I didn’t want it to be.

But then it was, and we were cleaning out his apartment with the big windows and that delightful view overlooking crooked streets. And I took a sword, a stage combat tool, an ornate prop that somehow belonged to me since Owen and I met in the theatre. It is sitting right there, propped against my bookcase in the Hudson Valley, here and now. Then I carried it down those long stairs and out the front door with a shirt that everyone loves and I still wear, and I paused with Christopher in the doorway just long enough to hand the landlady I knew Owen hated the toilet brush—another gesture I’m sure delighted him.  And I smile remembering what fun it was to please Owen. And still and all these years later, I miss him again.
Rev. Darlene L. Kelley   Methodist To Her Madness   Nov. 22, 2014

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