Never Just There
It’s been years since I’ve seen my friend Sean in the flesh. The last time, I think, we were riding the Red Line through Cambridge when we spotted each other from across the compartment. I’d heard, via a blog or a MySpace page or something—or maybe he told me that day—that he was now a cyborg (his word, I’m pretty sure). He’d had an operation or two done on his brain, and they’d installed something up there to help him out. It sounded scary, but he delivered the anecdote with a smile, so I wished him well and we went our separate ways.
In the years since, I’ve kept up with what he’s been doing online, read about a journey that sounds as if it was just as daunting as I’d imagined it might be, and smiled as he’s persevered. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I saw him ask all of us on Facebook and Twitter to share stories about him in honor of his birthday. His memory’s not what it used to be, you see. So, I made myself a note. A mental note. But my memory’s not what it used to be, either. And I forgot.
His birthday has come and gone. So, I’m late. But, better late than never, right?
I met Sean during my sophomore year at Bradford College. I was vaguely aware of him at first, this cool kid that my theater friends and my geeky friends were talking about. Then, it turned out he was dating this girl I had myself a crush on—at least I think they were dating; but it was college, and who can ever be sure—and suddenly I began to notice him more. Funny how that works, huh?
Anyway, I think our first interactions centered around theater. For the spring student theater festival that year, he directed a short he’d written called Samuel Iscariot and I directed Albee’s The Zoo Story; I think there was a third play as well, probably directed by the talented EvilDeb, but my memory is failing me.
The cast party for that, or maybe for some later thing, was held in Sean’s room in Academy Hall (or someone else’s room that just seemed like his because he was such a presence). It was there that I heard Ani DiFranco for the first time. I recall Sean praising her work, playing the best of it on the CD player. The music was great, and I’ve always been drawn to people who can introduce me to good music, my own tastes somewhat shitty by comparison, so there was that.
Sean was also the first person, during some other party, to introduce me to the wonders of Midori. I’m not sure if I actually imbibed any of the stuff that night—I think it was in the Jell-O shots we had at a party to celebrate the start of my junior year—but the sound of the name alone was enough to entrance me, and it’s been my spirit of choice ever since.
The role-playing games we played in college: I’m pretty sure Sean was in on them, too. We played both Rifts and AD&D, I think. He wasn’t there all the time—he was in high demand, after all, the way awesome people are—but the game was infinitely better when he was. His imagination, the characters he came up with—I think we all raised our game because of him, and had a lot more fun in the process.
And you know what else was better? Theater! When I finally landed a role in a main stage production my junior year, I got to play Lane to Sean’s Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest. My memories of that production are just as hazy as everything else I’m sharing today, but I do recall some fun being had with the cucumber sandwiches. I just wish I could remember what kind of fun.
The next year, when I debuted my short play A Lick and a Promise at the student theater festival, Sean’s kind feedback was among the commentary I valued the most. The year after that, when I was casting for my senior project, Sean was on top of my list of actors to get. He couldn’t do it, which was a bummer, but I recall it was only a matter of scheduling; he told me he would have been a part of it, if he could have, and that meant the world.
After college, when I was trying my hand at any creative project that I could think of, Sean made my tentative attempts at music-making feel all the more legitimate when he agreed to make a music video for my song “Nice & Round.” The weekend we spent filming in Newburyport, first in an old barn on the grounds of Maudslay and then in the cluttered upstairs storage area of a downtown building he somehow had access to—that’s one of the only weekends from the aimless years immediately after college that I have any memory of, one of the only weekends worth remembering.
He has always been the type of fellow who made things more awesome just by being there, and that was mostly because he was never just there. He was there.
Thanks for the memories, my friend. Here’s to years and years more to come. Happy (Belated) Birthday.