Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Angel on my Shoulder

My Raphael sketch of an angel, the first tattoo I ever got, now 30 years old, re-inked and electrified for the 21st Century, for Ebony. Artwork courtesy of Darren Rosa at Rising Dragon Tattoo on 14th Street (the same artist who did my dragon). I know she would love it — especially the purple. It is a small gesture but one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Darkness Over Europe

There are four bottles of Jack Daniels on the kitchen counter. They are empty. At this point there is more Tennessee in me than New England. When I piss the scent is so fragrant it smells like someone baked a cake.

I miss Ebony so desperately. I have resisted all human contact but I have craved it so intensely. The touch of a lover. Ebony’s touch. In my grief, no less than seven women have offered themselves to me, in the kindest ways possible. They will forever remain anonymous. They are all beautiful, too. One is married, two are black – which, yeah, I guess that’s my thing now (“Once you go…”) -- and one, I am uncertain of what the current politically correct vernacular is, so, let’s say in a Jerry Lewis way, “a lady-type person of the lesbian persuasion.” She told me, “I want to take your pain away.” I don’t know if that’s ever, ever going to be possible. I am truly, deeply flattered and humbled. Somewhat baffled, but definitely humbled. Geographically it doesn’t even make sense – most of them are not on the East Coast or in the United States and none of them knew Ebony. (Hello!) But it’s kinda weird. I didn’t know that was a thing, but apparently when you lose someone, people want to sleep with you. I’m not judging – and I’m certainly not against it – but I don’t think it’s time for that. If it ever will be, I don’t know: but definitely not right now. Also, I have stuff to do.

So I have not taken any of them up on their magnificent offers. Instead, I wander around from the bedroom to the living room, watch The Kennedys documentary on CNN and SNL reruns On Demand and try not to stare too intensely at all of the things that remind me of Ebony before I black out. There is a picture of her that I had blown up and it sits across from the couch. It is of her posing against a jet turbine in her FA outfit and she’s smiling. It makes me smile and it makes me cry. My heart races and my face gets hot and my head is banging from the Jack and the tears run hot down my cheeks and I sit there and stare at it. This apartment is a shrine to six and a half years of our ten years together. I have to leave but I kinda don’t want to. It was our home. I’m supposed to be packing, but I am overwhelmed.

For six and a half months, I took care of Ebony here, in the apartment, because I would not put her in a home or fucking facility. Her mother, a saint, came up at the end of September and stayed with us on the couch – fully thinking this was temporary – and was here until March. Our story, Ebony’s story, is one about love. And now I wake up and realize that there is no one who loves me.

I remember a time in college, my freshman year, when a bunch of us pretentious English majors were sitting around trying to outshine each other with our knowledge of “important” writers. A lot of these guys were quoting philosophers and a couple of them talked about Nietzsche. You know those guys: they have the forward-flip preppie haircut, buzzed in the back and wearing LL Bean snowflake sweaters. Those guys, quoting Nietzsche. The only thing I ever got from that guy, that I ever related to, was this quote that, I don’t even remember where it came from, but he said, and I think I am paraphrasing, “Become who you are.”

I am now 50 years old. I am, and have always tried to be, happy-go-lucky. But I am miserable. I look like a washed-up 80s rock star and I am fine with that mostly because that is what I looked like when I met Ebony. She liked that. But I look in the mirror and try to see what she saw and I cannot. I am a phantom, a specter, a shadow of myself. I am not who I am or should be.

When I first met Ebony I was in a dark place. I listened to The Sisters of Mercy and Ministry a lot. Ebony saw me and reached through the veils of darkness, pulled me out and showed me the stars. And she said, “I love you.” I. Love. You. This crazy, beautiful, amazing person, this amazing soul. Loved. Me. This giant, magnificent obsidian beauty who smelled like the beach, picked ME. Me –of all people -- a total fucking Irish moron. And now here I am, alone, in a dark place again.

I listen to Bobby Darin and Motorhead, and Dinah Washington and Judas Priest; Filter and Nine Inch Nails; Ministry, The Cult and The Sisters and I think about Ebony and just hug my pillow. The neighborhood is filled with noises and the guy downstairs keeps weird hours and I can hear the muffled conversation he has with his friends or maybe playing video games and I wonder if he can hear me playing music and crying.

I taste the Jack and remember the first time Ebony and I kissed. That is a special thing, between lovers, when you first connect. It is unforgettable. Ebony and I were sitting in her car, a maroon Ford Taurus hand-me-down from her Mom’s boyfriend. We were parked outside my old apartment in Washington Heights, on Riverside Drive at the bottom of West 157th. It was that time when everything is awkward and you’ve been out and now you’re getting ready to say goodnight and you’re both so attracted to each other that you don’t even know what to do with yourselves. I was fidgeting, nervous, sitting in the passenger seat trying to look cool, but Ebony was totally focused. She was a big girl – tall – and had what I later referred to as “an enormous wingspan.” She reached over and brushed the hair away from my face, then moved her hand behind my head – her hand covered the back of my head – and she pulled me towards her. As we got closer she whispered, “I want to taste the whiskey on your breath.” And then she kissed me.

I suppose that is part of why I have been boozing so hard. I want to have whiskey-breath and remember that day. Of all of our days, that was the most special, because it’s the day that I fell in love. I should have married her the day I met her. Shame on me.

We had so many awesome, crazy experiences and I was privileged to be with her. She was freaking gorgeous – beautiful face, dynamite eyes, amazing smile, tall, legs for days, a huge ass and she loved metal – really extreme stuff, too – but she loved rock and New Wave and “Kick” by INXS was one of her favorite albums. I never made a lot of money but one thing that I was able to do was take her to shows. And we both loved music and going to shows was our thing. Two times, I was able to get Ebony a photo pass to see Iron Maiden at Madison Square Garden. When you get a photo pass to shoot a show, you get to stand right in front of the stage – even closer than front row – and she shot Maiden -- twice. There are so many of those kinda stories thanks to the amazing people that I have had the pleasure to know and work with. One day I will share the story about the time we hung out with Ian Astbury at SxSW on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012. Astbury actually said to me, “Wow, she is gorgeous.” I will never forget that.

Ebony was so totally amazing all I can do is think of her and then try to distract myself any way possible so I don’t dwell on it and want to kill myself. I just loved her and wanted to spend all my time with her. Even if we were just sitting on the couch, each of us at one end looking at our phones. I just wanted to be around her.

There is a low-rent drug dealer in our building. He comes to visit his grandmother every other week and stays for a weekend. He saw Ebony and I together and one day I was outside and he chatted me up.

“You like that black shit, huh?”

I said something like, “I don’t know man. She’s hot. I just love her.”

And he was like, “Okay, okay. Cool. Cool. I feel you.”

He would always say hello and I remember once he helped Ebony carry in her bags when she was back from a flight.

That was it. No big deal. Later on, I was at the deli and he was buying beer and his card wasn’t working – and you would think this guy had cash, but whatever -- so I just said, “I’ll take care of it.” It was a six-pack. Like, so what? What’s a six of Bud? You’d think I’d pulled a thorn out of his paw.

From then on, he would always come up and fist-bump me and used the N-word to say hello – I don’t use the N-word -- and wanted to give me drugs. Marijuana, mostly, but he would offer me other stuff if I wanted it. I never did. But it was nice to know I could if I wanted to. He saw me with Ebony when she was in a wheelchair and a couple of times in the ambulance and knew that her mother was staying with us. He was always respectful and kind.

I ran into him the other day and he was with a couple of his pals – I don’t want to say “thugs” but, um, thugs– and he grabbed me and hugged me. He introduced me to his pals and told them a 30-second version of what Ebony and I had and went through and I started crying. That makes people uncomfortable and they were clearly uncomfortable but each one of them started sharing a story about personal loss – to cancer.

After, he asked me, “How you getting’ on? You doing okay?”

I’m not. But I said something like, “Hanging in there.” Then I came upstairs and watched “Sportscenter” and passed out.

Cancer touches everyone and no matter what the situation, everyone grieves in his or her own way. It’s something inescapable. Right now I cannot escape and that’s all I want to do.

I go to the window in the bedroom and throw it open to smoke. I am afraid I might fall out but I brace myself and stare up at the sky while I inhale American Spirit tobacco. It is vast and beautiful and lonely. And I think to myself…

“Out of my mind’s eye, out of my memory… black world, out of my mind.”

That’s where I’m at. Black Planet, black world…

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Going to Brazil...




The Love of my life is off to see Motorhead.
We will have to catch up with her after the show.

Ebony “Evelyn” Caprice Duncan
Fiancé, friend and total badass
January 12, 1976 — March 20, 2018