I am calm.
I am quiet.
I am nervous.
I enter the same theater I had just been in one week ago. I see someone I had been there with one week ago.
He is crying and when he embraces me firmly I begin to cry too.
On my way into the larger seated theater used for premieres, the amphitheater is prepared for spillover. Flowers are out. Music is floating in an attempt to float us too. Float us out and away from this place? Float us into a state of calm?
A headshot is on the large screen in the amphitheater, the centerpiece of the building. The screen is massive. The headshot is beautiful. It is what a headshot should be: a calling card, a face to recall, the best features shining through. It shows his kind eyes and the genuine joy of his smile. His tousled curls. He has small freckles.
I don't know if this is how I remember him from when I saw him last, one week earlier.
I don't know how I remember him now.
Now I remember his headshot. It is still him. It is still beautiful.
As I walk into the main theater I hear an older woman behind me. "The way the world is now, you don't just walk through."
No, you don't just walk through. You can't. You leave impressions everywhere. In files, cookies, caches, tags, comments, frequently visited pages, frequently contacted people. Profiles around the web. On phones. In the list of people's open text messages. In inboxes. In yearbooks. In other people's photographs. In bylines and playbills. In payrolls and apartment inquiries. In job application pools and dating pools. In the periphery of neighbors. In the backs of taxis. In everyone else's documentary outside your own. Imagine counting all your guest appearances.
The tenses are mixed: the past comes by default but the present is used to make a point, the present perfect. It is used voluntarily. At times it is corrected, both to and from, is and was.
"We are all just visitors here," a director reminds us at the end of recalling a memory. It is the last thing he tumbles out quickly before leaving the stage. It was important for him to say it: we are all of us passing.
A woman divulges how she discovered her passions late, performance skills she would not have known she had within her if not for his encouragement and guidance. She too had a final message to share with us, but in an earnest plea that shook me with guilt. "I won't waste any more time, for you. I won't waste another minute, for you."
How often do we waste our time ignoring our own pursuits in lieu of saying we will get to it tomorrow? That luxury of negotiating our existence when it is really just ignoring it. If you tune out the rainfall it does not mean it did not rain when you take note of how quiet it is after the storm later. Time is a man-made invention. As the Futurists proclaimed in Marinetti's manifesto, time died yesterday. And when time dies, its acknowledgment goes with it. How often have we delayed in sending a message due to societal stigma or fear of actually being heard? How often do we want to make something and box it up as a dream or a hobby or a goal instead of doing it right away? How often do we say we will have coffee?
It is not possible to get done what we want. But if you jump the rest is gravity; if you set it in motion you will be moving. If you never begin it then it does not exist.
Do not wait for Godot unless you will meet him.
Walking out of the theater is a slow shuffle. I am confused about where to go from here. From this. I need to say hello to a few people. I need to leave and be alone. I need to leave everyone else to each other.
There is no hello. There is only embrace: the tender brace before release of something internal, something expelled through pressure and proximity, the warmth and moisture of someone else's tears on their face burrowing into you. The salt. The enveloping of someone you may not have known closely communicates the only conversations being had, silently dictated by holding each other: how long is this moment, how firmly, loosely, warmly, tightly, do you embrace me? Are your hands in fists or flat on my back, are you crying behind my head too? I find that in these silent conversations that share our remorse as something physical without language, all it takes is to touch me and I begin to cry. I shake against people. I grip one hand with the other. I begin to pull back and upon hearing my intake of breath I am pulled back in. The transcript here would read: Not done yet. People use my name who I had only met once, twice. People who I had met just last week.
It feels futile to ask, "How are you?"
It feels like the only thing that should be asked.
"There isn't anything to say."
"I don't know what to say."
"I have nothing to say."
This is the conclusion when I leave. I am in agreement. All I can manage to tell anyone using words and not my body is, "I am so sorry for your loss."
I am told, "I am so sorry for your loss."
This is not my loss.
This is our loss.
I am aware that my knowing him does not run deeply or in great detail. I am devastated by losing him all the same. Grief and shock alternate in waves, but endlessly so; a theater-full of stricken undulations feels unreal, confusing. Is this all still true? I see the headshot on the screen. I watch the shoulders shaking in front of me. I am advised that a connection to someone can be as briefly-established as having been impacted once: what it is that does not leave you. "It's quality, not quantity. They touched your life - you connected - that's what's important."
He continues to exist after exit by way of the connections he made, the impressions he left, the true pieces of ourselves that live on long after our bodies: the changes we inflict upon others, regardless of intention or who is aware of the change at all. The encouragement to try something, the chance to meet someone, the advice to edit a piece. Our opinions shape the views of others; others' opinions paint a bigger portrait of our character than just our own thoughts. How often have you worn something because of someone who will see it? How often have you read something on someone's recommendation? How often have you changed a habit or developed one because of someone else? How often have you brightened your cab driver's day with pleasant conversation or humored your cashier as they scanned your groceries or left a big tip for your server or invited someone to something uncanny on their calendar? It is true what they say: your smile can save a stranger. It is us as who we are when we are our own persona that help others to craft themselves. Pick and choose wisely who you become, but be your highest self always. Nobody will forget it.