Forty Years On: 25 January 1969 - 25 January 2009
I describe it all in “Strange Days” just as it happened; the courtesy, the gorgeousness, the heart-stopping fairytale sparks when we touched hands. Now I just want to talk a little about what it felt like.
I was 22 when we met; he had just turned 25. He was wearing a white cotton Mexican shirt and black jeans and Frye boots, the same clothes he’d had on for the Garden concert the night before, and he was in one of his very longhaired periods, right down on his shoulders. I was wearing a dark-gold velour long-sleeved microminidress as a tunic over brown leather pants and cocoa suede boots and a vintage black fur coat, with tigereye scarab earrings, a long, heavy, goldtone chain knotted up and a silver and bloodstone ring (I had very little jewelry at the time, nothing expensive or impressive).
(For all those toxic weasels who sneer about how could I POSSIBLY remember things with such detail, I will say only that if THEY had been lucky enough to be with Jim, they wouldn’t have forgotten anything either…)
We talked for almost three hours, two of those completely one on one; then some other people came in. When we started, there was winter sunlight outside over Central Park; by the time we said goodbye, it was dark. There wasn’t a second in all those hours when I wasn’t completely aware of him and only of him; I was shivering inside, so intensely did fate come on, so conscious was I of him and of how this was going to play out.
I think I knew right then that we were never going to get to live happily ever after, and I decided right then, too, that it didn’t matter, that whatever joy I was lucky enough to have with him, and I knew it would be a lot, would be worth all the pain, which would also be a lot.
I was right. I’m still right.
I also think that I honored him not by sitting around and moping, or delusionally imagining that he was still alive, or pretending that he was coming back, or by losing myself in drugs and whoredom, but by taking my grief in both hands and going out to work every day to support myself, with no help from anyone and no comfort for my loss, and by going on to focus and achieve real works of creativity in my name and his and ours. By having a life, not merely an existence.
I did it for us, and I’m still doing it for us, and I will continue to do it for us until the day he comes to fetch me and we’re together again.
And it all started forty years ago today. I remember that day, and this is how Jim himself remembered it, in a letter:
In a cold chamber
in a cold stone house
in a cold city
on a winter afternoon
a young Empress
is seated in a high-back’d chair
w/roses in her lap
I remember. And he remembered too.
© Patricia Morrison