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Monday, January 31, 2005

When The Morning Light Comes Streaming In, We'll Get Up And Do It Again

I'm feeling like a wrung-out dishrag today. I don't think I realized, until I tried to lay down to sleep last night, how much the events of the past few days have affected me. Standing helplessly by while so many friends and colleagues dealt with the pain of their friend's death, sharing only their feeling of inadequacy. In the same way they've been struggling with their sense of powerlessness, with their inability to affect the outcome of a truly horrible situation, so conversely I've been engaged in a similar struggle, but one focused on my own inability to relieve them of the grieving that comes from such a loss.

We held a memorial party for Nicole last night at one of the theatres near where I live. About 11:00 a.m. yesterday I got a call from Amy, the PR Director there, asking if I'd be willing to act as a media coordinator for the event, as several of the local TV news departments and the print dailies were going to be sending reporters, photographers and camera crews, and someone was needed to answer questions, get them set up in a designated "media room", and generally do whatever was needed to keep them out of where the event was taking place. It seems that everyone in Seattle whose name showed up next to Nicole's in a Google search had been getting phone calls all weekend, not only from the local press, but from the New York Times, The Post, network news departments, etc., etc. We were now part of the story, and the press suddenly wanted to "cover" us. Given that it's literally impossible to get the broadcast media to cover theatre in this town, let alone fringe theatre, needless to say, no one was looking forward to turning what was intended as a private celebration of Nicole's life into some sort of circus. Plus, Scott and Mary Jane were flying in from New York. They've been through enough already, and it was important to give them some peace and privacy.

Naturally, I said, "yes", and after spending the afternoon baking some cookies to take along, I went over to the CHAC at around 6:30 to help set up. Things were quiet for the first hour or so, until the TV trucks started showing up around 7:30. But, by then we'd already put out signage, established a game plan, and were pretty much prepared for whatever was thrown at us.

All-in-all, the newshounds were respectful of our desire for privacy, and weren't nearly as pushy as I'd been led to expect based on a conversation I'd had earlier in the day with one of the local TV news directors. They got their shots of people out on the sidewalk, greeting, hugging, smoking and commiserating. They got their handful of interviews and sound bites. They didn't try to crash the party. And they'd already pulled their gear and left by the time Scott and Mary Jane arrived at around 9:15. So, my end of things went fairly smoothly.

Most of the people there hadn't been aware they were coming, so it was quite a shock when they walked in. Very emotional. It stayed that way through the remainder of the evening. People laughed, cried, hugged a lot, and spoke about their friend.

I didn't know Nicole personally, aside from having had the pleasure of seeing some of her work while she lived here. But, from the reminiscences I got a pretty good picture of how those closest to her saw her: a woman who had overcome personal tragedy, with an indomitable spirit, fierce committment and courage, unbridled enthusiasm, and selfless generosity. Someone who illuminated the world around her. The kind of person anyone would be proud to know.

Afterwards, after all the hugging and sobbing and talking had ended, I helped tidy up, then joined a couple of friends for a nightcap at a bar around the corner from the theatre. The mood was more upbeat, and for a few brief minutes the conversation turned away from death, and regret, and sorrow, and we were just another group of guys out for a night of socializing.

I got home at around 2:15, and tried to put something down summarizing how I felt about the events of the past several days, but it just wasn't happening. Finally, after about 15 minutes of fruitless effort, I decided to call it a night.

And then, it hit me. Suddenly, all the pain, and sadness I'd been absorbing from everyone around me started coming out. Since Thursday I'd been soaking up all the psychic and emotional spillage around me, not realizing that I'd become a human sponge, and now the sponge was finally full, and needed squeezing out.
So, I let it squeeze for a while, in the dark, finally having some small understanding of what it must have been like for all those others these past few days.

This morning, the sun was shining through my bedroom window, but despite waking up at the relatively late hour of 9:30, I just couldn't gather up the energy to get out of bed. I felt, dry, empty -- wrung out. By the time I finally did manage to drag myself up, it was 11:30. I've been going through the motions since then, searching the classified job listings, checking emails, reading online newspapers.

According to this morning's New York Times, a 19-year-old Staten Island man has been charged with Nicole's murder, and as many as six others, ranging in age as young as 15 and including two teenaged girls, have either been charged as accomplices or questioned regarding the killing. Police recovered a .357 Magnum pistol that has been identified as the murder weapon. According to the article, the group was identified from a public survelance camera that had recorded them attempting a similar robbery about an hour and a-half before, at approximately the same location on Manhattan's Lower East Side. As of this morning, the alleged killer, Rudy Fleming, 19 of Staten Island was still at large.

Outside my window, the sun is overhead, like a giant yellow beachball bouncing on the foaming crest of Mt. Rainier. Birds flitter by. Squirrels scamper across the wooden fence separating my neighbor's yard, while two cats nap in the square of sunlight framing a corner of my bed.

Life goes on.

Posted byCOMTE on 1:27 PM

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