August 22, 2009
My first job when I moved to Manhattan in 1997 was at The Roundabout Theater Company. It was there that I met my first New York boyfriend, Max. He had an old soul, unbelievable blue eyes, quick wit and a lot of angst ..so immediately I was drawn to him. We actually had a pretty tight bond and worked hard and partied even harder. Over the Christmas holidays, we needed to “get away from it all” and decided to take a long weekend in Old Lyme, CT, a quaint artsy town marked by old-fashioned storefronts and a long-standing commitment to antiquing.
Looking back, it seemed like a rather mature trip for two lost souls in their early 20’s.
In the spirit of celebrating our rather dysfunctional exhilarating love, we decided to stay at a charming bed and breakfast with colonial flair. We arrived to our room and Max immediately began to stare out the window, chain smoke and philosophize existence as we know it. I wasn’t in the mood to dissect truth, reality and wisdom so I took refuge in the guest sign in book that sat on the nightstand. Next to the Bible.
What filled EVERY entry were the deepest heartfelt glowing reviews of a man named Matt.
“Our stay at your inn will always be memorable because of Matt.”
“Matt. Wow. You can guarantee that we’ll be back next year.”
“Matt truly is a gift.”
“I guess I just love how Matt made me feel about me.”
Page after page, Matt this. Matt that. Matt=something that transcends time and space.
Immediately I became intrigued. Who was this guy? What was his affiliation at the bed and breakfast? What was he doing that deeply affected every person that crossed his path? Max even stopped brooding and shared my curiosity.
A few hours later, we go downstairs to the Inn’s 5-star restaurant. Clearly a poor choice for 2 people receiving measly paychecks from an Off Broadway theater. But that wasn’t our concern because our intention was on Matt. I assumed he would approach us with his body surrounded by a golden lit hue accompanied by the sounds of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. Perhaps wistfully throwing flowers. I see peonies.
Our waiter approaches. He was an awkward acne faced teen whose parents probably coerced him to get a part time job because it builds character. We immediately ask, “Who is this Matt?” Clearly our inquiry made this kid painfully uncomfortable and not because he was going through the nightmare that is puberty. He took a deep breath, pursed his lips and his eyes got glossy. Then there was a pause. “Um..yeah..Matt’s dead. Car accident. 7 months ago.”
I felt sucker punched. It didn’t even matter to ask what his job was. All that mattered was that Matt was gone. Forever.
This is where I am NOT going to make sense of it all by sugarcoating my grief by putting a pretty red bow around this horrific reality. There was no “Isn’t there a little bit of Matt in all of us?” NO. “And sometimes when I see a sunset or a butterfly..I feel that Matt is with me.” NO. None of that. I was pissed. I should have met this man because I am certain that his energy would have exalted some form of influence on me. My strong reaction to his passing verified that it was an absolute shame that we never even had the opportunity to spend just five minutes together. It sucked. It hurt. And it wasn’t fair.
12 years later, I have stumbled through the 5 stages of grief and grasped acceptance. Yay. Yet I am still inspired and touched by a man that never inspired and touched me in “real life.” Why? Because he reached people. Random people. So I’m giving Matt the highest honor in the Jax Awards Ceremony(just like the Oscars but totally different.) I am adding him to the short list of people that I have not met but have added some pivotal significance to my life in a profound way: George Carlin, Moses , whoever invented napping. Matt
“And maybe..just maybe Matt is looking down on me and…” Oy.