[Abra Adduci, Devin’s friend of over 30 years, read the following eulogy at his Montana memorial on August 1, 2014. Abra’s eulogy is also available as a downloadable .PDF: Devin Eulogy, Abra]
Eulogy for Devin
When someone dies, everything becomes a reminder of that person. It starts right after you hear the news. That terrible feeling before going to bed. You lie there, mulling the horrible thing,, and your realize the thing, the horrible thing, will be your first thought when you wake up in the morning. And it happens. You wake up, “Is it morning?”, “what time is it?”, “Oh God, Devin died.”
It continues. Days become weeks and you still haven’t brought yourself to walk past the house with the tall stairway where you used to sit in summertime with zip-locked bags of peppers – jalapeno, serrano, habanera – challenging each other to eat the hottest variety…then getting a stomachache, later.
You get on the train – the brown line, the Sedgwick El stop, go downtown to see your therapist, hyperventilate and tremble in his office. On the bright side, your hysteria is so impressive, they discount your bill. Walking down Michigan Avenue, you spot a slim man. Black hair, well-dressed, and – oh my God – that gait! It’s the way he walks! Your confused heart leaps, your addled-brain awaiting the final piece of information. The face. Blue eyes, bushy eyebrows, lips curled in immediate recognition of you.
The man turns. He walks into a Gucci Boutique. And he’s Asian
Downtown is a mine field. Across from your bus stop is Ghiradelli’s ice cream shop. Your memory suddenly sparks. You sat there with Devin at age 12. You ate from “old-timey” silver serving dishes carried by white apron-ed servers, not particularly thrilled about a table of middle-schoolers. Devin ordered a sundae called the “Gold Rush.”
On the bus, you think of Big Bowl, a few blocks away. And, in Lakeview, “Burritos as big as your head,” purchased with the $20 bill hidden in the folds of your wallet. “Always keep $20,” Mom said. “Strictly for emergencies.” To Devin, the prospect of slow-cooked carnitas constituted an emergency.
Now, the slightest notion brings a slew of memories. A conversation about the Roger Ebert documentary brings recollections of Devin walking among the dumpsters behind the Biograph Theater, insisting he could invoke John Dillinger’s spirit. Buy a window curtain and you’re transported to the self-built walls of his Brooklyn loft. Buy a shower curtain and you’re again banging elbows against the bathroom walls of his shoebox Manhattan “apartment.”
On Saturday, I went out to breakfast. The diner was next to Tiparo, Devin’s beloved Thai restaurant. “The broth!” he would say over slurps of Tom Yum Soup. “It’s so rich! I love a brothy soup!”
I took four smoke breaks during that breakfast. To pace past Tiparo’s windows and think about broth.
Your memory, of course, is not perfect. Giant gaps mar the fabric of your memory, the accumulation of age, self-imposed by substances, or pure grief. Lost moments feel critical, yet hopelessly gone. Like an archival film, you try to retrieve them. When you try to gather them, they’re visible only through a foggy lens. Like the static of an old television, figures barely visible behind digital black and white snow. Remembered speech warbles in and out as you grasp at snippets:
Devin getting socked in the jaw by the muscled jogger; Muffie typed the sentence in an email but the details resemble Devin’s illustrations; gel-haired meathead, sunglasses, named Chad, for some reason.
The image goes. Now, Devin – 9 years old – is at our grammar school playground. He wears one of those Technicolor t-shirts from the ‘90’s that change with temperature (until you put them in the wash, of course). He is running with the other kids. He is taking advantage of the seconds before class. He is smiling.
The memory disappears and Devin, transforms to Devin on a Christmas-time Amtrack ride from New York to Chicago. I was depressed, that part I remember clearly. “Abra” (with a hard “A”), “you’ve just got to realize -” Memory stops. “It’s hard, but you’ll –“ Stop. “It’s bad now, but it you won’t feel this bad forever.” Full stop.
When someone dies, you want answers. You’re shell-shocked “What?” A gasped “How” between short breathes. The eternal anguish of “Why?” These are normal responses, say the experts. Expect to numbness. Expect disbelief. Expect confusion. The experts say you should ask “why” until you are satisfied with partial answers (how…comforting?)
But what about the rudimentary? Hearing Devin’s name continually-repeated for two weeks makes him seem palpable. Part of the daily routine. Maybe a source of advice. Devin, should I paint my kitchen red, or will it clash with the color scheme? Devin, did you know Piper’s Alley is now totally gone? Devin, why does your old house not look like your house, anymore?
He continues his residency in your mind, even as he becomes the subject. Devin, which drawing would be best for a memorial tattoo, flattering at the back on my neck? Or, do you have a longer one for across my shoulders? What should I pack to go to Montana, Devin, like, would you say formal or semi-formal? Since when did you become a vegetarian?
When someone dies, minutiae becomes massive. Wasted moments and missed opportunities accumulate in mountains. That time I visited New York and spent my last day cavorting with a jackass ex-boyfriend, but was supposed to go to MOMA with Devin. Why did I blow him off? When he left for Montana, why did I assume he had no cell phone or email address? I could have found him I could have called. I could have tried harder. The best I could do was look him up on Google Plus? Seriously.
The last time I saw him was in Chicago. John McCord was there, along with a med student who hit on me. We drank 4Loko on a roof in Wrigleyville But I had to get tired. I had to go home when Devin stayed.
Why didn’t I wait another hour?
Half an hour?
I knew I’d never visit Devin while he was in Montana. He’d come back to New York, I was sure of it. I don’t like long goodbyes. The extended embrace, the drawn-out final words. It implies an ending. I make it quick. A short hug, a final inside-joke. I didn’t say “Goodbye” to Devin. I said, “see you later.”
I hope that’s true.
– Abra Adduci, Devin’s lifelong friend, August 1, 2014