There was this couple once, this gorgeous, accomplished couple. Their names were Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake.
They were both artists -- he with visual, undulating artwork that was essentially a new form he was creating with what was clearly a wild and brilliant brain. She was a pioneer in early CD Roms, ones that focused on the demographic the time had ignored: young, smart girls. She was also a writer and a filmmaker and an astute student of the art of what made glamour glamourous.
They met when they were youngish, supposedly at a Fugazi show.
They were both stunning -- stop and stare gorgeous, him dark and brooding, her light and cool.
They are both dead now.
She went first: a suicide planned, a note left, done with pills and champagne while she lay in the bed they had shared for years in the rectory apartment they had been renting at the St. Marks Church.
He was not home at the time, but it was he who found her.
He went next, a week later, shedding his clothing and walking into the ocean to drown himself. The note he left along with his wallet on the sand indicated that he was going to join the woman he loved more than his own life.
His body was eventually found.
I read about their story in Vanity Fair and in New York Magazine years ago. I have never gotten them out of my head.
How can people who seemed to have so much fall so far and so fast and in a way of such finality?
Apparently, I'm not the only one darkly drawn to this story. A project on their lives and -- of course -- their deaths has been in development for years. I'm not sure if he still is, but for a time, Bret Easton Ellis was attached to write the script. Gus Van Sant was slated to direct.
(Brief side note on Bret Easton Ellis: I once knew every single line of Less Than Zero by heart, the book, not the shit movie where the only things that worked were Robert Downey Jr.'s method performance as a drug addict in descent and the amazing hair styles worn by Jami Getrz, especially the bunched ponytail one. I tried for years to get my hair to do that. I pulled it off once; I'm pretty sure it was a Wednesday. But back to Ellis. I used to love him, and I'll never forget reading The Rules of Attraction at the tender age of fourteen and being so annoyed that the first page of my book started in the middle of a sentence, so I went to Walden Books to get a new copy, and that's when I saw the book actually started in the middle of a sentence intentionally in what was a unique artistic choice the fourteen year old me applauded for its utter coolness. Unfortunately, I have loathed Ellis' work since then, and that he brought The Canyons into the world is probably grounds for him eventually cutting the line and just being admitted into the pits of Hell to hang with Eva Braun, the forefathers of Justin Bieber and Glenn Beck, and Satan himself. I'm sure there will be a table to gather around that only serves Tang that Lindsay Lohan will be dancing on top of, obviously still sober.)
Anyway, back to the tragic Theresa Duncan. Her blog is still up since the internet has now allowed everything to live forever -- in literal fame or in sad infamy. She was a pioneer in the art of blogging, though, to be honest, I actually don't respond to much of her writing; it feels like it strives to be more erudite than it really is. But there's these pictures of her on her site, and she looks full of life and teeming with thoughts and almost tragically calm. It's hard to reconcile the stealth look of coolness with the clear loss of hope she must have internalized as she shimmered and glowed on the outside.
She said something once after being photographed while holding a stethoscope to her beloved's heart to listen to the beats:
"We are just another damn song."
Something about that line got to me when I read it, and it gets to me still. I think it's because it makes me think of a line that came into my own head during a bad day a few snowy months back when it was always dark and I couldn't see the light unless it reflected off the filthy snowdrifts that didn't fully melt until mid-April:
"There but for the grace of sanity go I."
Loss is a powerful thing. It tests you in ways you should expect but you don't. It leaves you with questions of what you should do, what you can do.
What do you do, you ask yourself, as you lather shampoo through your long hair in the shower or take power walks up the hills near your home, knowing that if someone you know drives by and sees you on those walks, they'd think something must be amiss and that you'd taken mushrooms or something -- which, for the record, I've never done.
But I've heard walking clears the mind, and sometimes you need a clear head.
(For the record, that theory -- for me anyway -- has been proven to be shit, but it has helped to create more questions.)
What do you do when, after sixteen years, you feel like you want to write instead of teach, but writing doesn't pay enough for you to buy the seven new pairs of boots you "need" every winter?
What do you do when some members of your family are going through difficult times and the way you deal with their pain is to get ultra-logical in a way that reads as detached, which is not your intention, but that's how it comes off, and it's your fault that it comes off that way?
What do you do when you simultaneously feel so strong but at the same time you sometimes wonder if all that you went through before the age of twenty -- life-altering things you chose to deal with rationally instead of with alcohol and rebellion -- that you sometimes wonder if there's actually an allotted amount of personal strength doled out, and you've maybe used your amount up already?
What do you do when you find out your ex-boyfriend just got married to the girl he dated for years before the two of you met, before he broke up with her to sow his oats -- and it turns out that, without knowing it, you were just an oat? (Answer: send a gorgeous Vera Wang wedding frame. He might have deceived me for over a year, and I'm pretty sure that girl spent that year plotting my demise, but I was raised right and that means you send a gift. And you know what? It's not such a hard thing to do once you're fully over it, which I am. May they live and prosper. And may their children get his looks instead of hers.)
What do you do when your dog is sixteen years old and accidentally falls into the swimming pool she used to run laps around because her eyesight has almost gone fully missing and she just didn't see the water that was right in front of her? (You jump in and save her, and you hold her close and you wrap her in a fluffy yellow towel and you whisper that you'll always save her, knowing full well that you won't always be able to do so.)
What do you do when you're out at dinner with friends and one of them, a girl you know genuinely loves you, keeps commenting on how huge your tits look -- which is funny the first time, but then you just feel like you're dressed like a whore while you're sitting on a restaurant patio when really you're only wearing a little black dress that has a v-neck, and you know that dress will now sit in your closet again for a very long time?
What do you do when you're waiting for a call that could change your life in the best way you could even hope to imagine, but there's a method of how these things are done, so all you can do is wait while bringing the phone into the bathroom when you shower so you don't miss that call?
What do you do when you don't and have never believed that everything happens for a reason?
What do you do when you get a text from someone and wish like hell it was from someone else?
What do you do when your mother tells you you've hardened? You tell her she's right.
What do you do?
You drink more water than a person your size has the capacity to really consume.
You roast broccoli because it makes you feel better to both cook and eat things that look like cute mini-trees.
You schedule pedicures with your friend and go for a color you've never chosen before, but not blue because everyone is doing blue these days and it's better to be unique.
You go out and you let people smile at you and, if you deign to, you smile back.
You stop giving people who haven't earned it the benefit if the doubt.
You recognize your own worth.
You refuse to ever go the way of Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake.
You give what you want everything you've got, even if other people would tell you you're crazy to do so, because this is your life, and nobody ever got anywhere by playing it safe.
And you find your own damn song, and though you can't sing for shit, you belt it out like it's a healthy, viable heartbeat that someone will hear when he lays his head tenderly upon your chest.