|Photo by Kira Hawkridge|
That's Travis Greene being silly, and that's me pretending to ignore him. It was a cold, but warm, joyous 2008/9 Winter Break Ugly Sweater Party (I had taken my grandfather's purple sweater off). Kira Hawkridge, one of my best friends and eventual Out Loud artistic director, was hosting. We were 18-years-old, and intimately close. We were the pioneers of YouTube rabbit holes and hours of theatrical and spiritual chatter. He was an Aries, as so many of my dearest friends are. Travis would soon be my roommate, and was already a confidante; we had become fast friends during our first semester at University of Rhode Island's theatre program.
I found out today that he died this week. We are 27 now.
Those instincts I had the past year to re-instigate a deliberate friendship with him? I ignored them. You can imagine that today I am frustrated with myself about that. But that does not diminish what he gave me a decade ago, and what that time still gives me.
|95 S, Connecticut. August 18, 2009. He drove and I read the map. C: Kira Hawkridge|
Writing a narrative seems impossible, and not just because I don't journal in a deliberate, chronological sense (I am more abstract when I enter my diary), but because my life with Travis actively lasted for 12 months, and he was embedded even down to the mundane aspects of my life; he became a part of its fabric. He was an acting student with me, so conceptualize how much time we spent together in and out of the classroom. I do not know where most definitive beginnings and ends really would be, you understand. And some of the moments in our friendship I remember best are very much his story, or our story, and it is not my place to share that with you. Some things should remain our own.
But I will share that the first night I ever went dancing at a gay bar was with him and four other friends. It was Mirabar in Providence, and after a crew/tech rehearsal in South Kingstown, we made the trek in another friend's van. He wasn't out yet, and I openly thought he was along for the ride and to be a good sport. But he danced and flirted with the boys much better than I could. We ate at Denny's afterward, and we are pretty sure the mob was there.
Travis knew what made me laugh. He set up a very formal appointment one night; I had to sit down and watch Adult Swim's Superjail. Though I was a shy, overcompensated polite boy, he knew I had a wickedly twisted sense of humor.
We went to New York City together with several other friends, and saw Hair. He loved Will Swenson's performance as Berger, and we ran in a stormy rain together after the show. Soaking wet, we laughed and danced the night away in the subway and our Soho hotel room. The next day, he met Alison Janney and Megan Hilty on his own at 9 to 5 (he left the trip before us) and his recounting of that story was so passionate and joyous. He felt honored to be there in their presence.
There was a time his heart and genuineness were in trouble, threatened by a person; and it was the first time in my life I truly stood up for a friend. It meant saying things he did not want to hear. I don't know how successful I was, but it meant something and he overcame it.
He taught me a lot about the birds and the bees. He encouraged me to be braver and more generous. And he also taught me to get my head out of my reclusive, nervous ass. I didn't quite take the lessons to heart (my own fault). But lately, perhaps by coincidence, I have been thinking about a conversation he had with me through our correspondence after I moved away to a different school (which I am avoiding re-reading right now). He told me that he was surprised and sad to hear that the joyous person he knew I was was lost and desperate and depressed. I believed him, that I was truly better than I was being at the time. And as I think about it now, I still believe him. I don't mean this in a self-aggrandizing manner. Rather, I think Travis saw the best parts of me, and I saw the best parts of him. Too bad we can't think the same of ourselves on our own.
|At GYPSY, December 6, 2008.|
Bluntly, I don't think I have been my total, absolute best. I think I have pushed people and conflict away. I fear being unloved and not good enough, so I have grown to avoid rather than take plunges or lead people through total volition and passion. That avoidance may be why I did my part to not see or write to him the past 2 years (I didn't hear from him either). That avoidance is why so many people I once knew are people I don't know anymore. That has been a learning process.
The best way I can honor someone I loved and cherished at an important juncture of my life is to be the person he believed me to be, and better yet to emulate things in him I respected and honored. To be the generous person I blockade myself from being. To cultivate joy and friendship and conversation. To sing silly songs and take long drives to places that promise adventure and shared memories.
Thank you for everything you did and said, Travis. Wherever our souls go, and whatever they become, I hope yours is as peaceful and jubilant as I remember you being. I hope it gets to hear Megan Hilty sing, watch stupid cartoons, and engage with meditative, kind energies, people, and places. I hope it insights passion and beauty all around us. And if it has any consciousness, I hope it knows and understands everything I (and everyone else, of course) feel.
|New York City, December 6, 2008. Photo by Kira Hawkridge|