Dennis came in on a revolving door. It ushered him in. More than a year later, it escorted him out. After New York, I never saw him again. It was for the best, though it never felt that way. Without him, a chasm opened that wasn’t there before. I missed our conversations, the way he made me feel connected. All I wanted was to see the guy again.
That would have required him to be more invested than he could be.
After New York, there were a lot of nights I stayed up thinking about him. I’d feel the electricity in my arms, how it was when we hugged goodbye in L.A., and wonder if he was thinking about me, too. I wished he’d call, he never did.
One autumn night, there came the soft tapping of rain against the windows. In the dark, with the shadows, it was easy to get lost in the sadness of it all. The glare of the street lights revealed tiny droplets upon the glass. I saw ’em there and felt the dampness of my own tears. They fell with the rain.
For a while, that’s how it went.
I had the CDs he made me, almost 30 of ’em. When Dennis presented ’em to me in my apartment, he had this gleam in his eye, as if he knew he’d done something good. I thumbed through ’em one-by-one, mesmerized by the art he’d made for each label. He sat beside me beaming.
Listening to the CDs only reminded me of him. I couldn’t enjoy ’em, couldn’t give ’em away either. They were the only remnants of him I had. Some nights I played the Smokers Delight CD, let its ambient rhythms lull me to sleep. That was the only exception.
Dennis worked as a screenwriter. His creativity inspired my own. I remembered all the nights we talked for hours, like that time I said I didn’t like plays. I uttered the words, a long silence followed on the other end of the line. In the quiet, I made a note to self. Dennis really likes plays. He had this deep voice that sounded on the verge, as if he could laugh at any moment. When his baritone finally cracked the silence, his words sank just as deep. “Playwriting was my first passion.”
It’s all he said.
Then he was off and running, going on about John Cassavetes and Peter Falk and how I need to see Mikey and Nicky before I die. The rhythms of Buena Vista Social Club poured from the speakers, I poured a glass of wine. The studio had a warm, understated feel that evening, and it struck me that I did too. At some point Dennis suggested coming for a visit. I couldn’t tell if he meant it and wasn’t about to ask. He could talk a big game you know.
That was before.
With him out of the picture, I watched “Mystery Train” for the umpteenth time and hit the midnight shows at the Music Box. Every second Saturday, I went down to Andy’s to hear Von play sax. I hung with Sue and Sarah, hit the sauna at Lakeshore Athletic Club, immersed myself in all the trusty outlets I had known. It wasn’t the same. Neither was I.
They say people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. It’s all these years later and I’m still trying to figure where Dennis falls. On the surface, he stayed for a season, so that’s where I put him. It’s easy to dissect it. All I know is, he was there when it all went down. Then he was gone.
When he walked out of my life, he took epilepsy with him. That’s the way it looked, and I ran with it.