I called Eileen


by David Trinidad



to tell her Tim had died.


We’d both visited him on G-9


in the weeks previous,


part of the sad procession


of friends and family who came


to sit vigil and say (without saying


it) goodbye. One of the last


things he said to me was


“Will you look after my work?”


“Yes, of course,” I replied. “You


don’t even have to ask.” Jane,


who was with him when he passed,


said at one point Tim said to her,


“Can you please remove this torpor?”


meaning the numbness of the drugs—


he wanted to be conscious


of what he was experiencing.


Jane had been there when he learned


he was dying. “Oh, so my lifespan


is weeks instead of months?”


His female doctor had cried.


I couldn’t, three days after he died,


sitting next to Ira in the second-to-last pew


in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin


on 46th Street, as a multitude


of gay men filed in. One queen


feigned shock at seeing all his


tricks in the daylight. I refused to


laugh, though there was truth


in it: a palpable sense that most of


the mourners had spent time with


each other in dark, clandestine places.


The service I endured by staring


at the back of the head directly in


front of me. For months I was numb.


Sat, late at night, sifting through


Tim’s papers. (Christopher had


promptly delivered them to me.) It


seemed so little—his whole life


reduced to four or five cardboard


boxes. And yet those boxes contained


hundreds of poems, largely unpublished,


and his whole life lay hidden in them.


Poems painful to read, to handle,


spread out across the floor then put


in order by year. Some—the ones


he wrote at the end, his death sentence


imbued with such hopefulness—


I retyped and submitted to magazines.


In the midst of this process, Eileen


published an account, in her column


in Paper, of her last visit with Tim.


She’d complained to him, once again,


about not being in High Risk, the anthology


that all but ruined our friendship.


(She turned on me when Ira, whom


I was dating, flatly refused to include her.)


“Oh Eileen,” said Tim, “let it go.”


Infuriated, I dashed off a note


telling her how disappointing it was


to hear that she had troubled our


dear friend on his deathbed with


her petty resentment. She sent my


note back. On it, she’d scrawled


a message, something to the effect


that I wasn’t very intelligent. I


tore it to bits and returned it to her—


an envelope of furious confetti.


Our quarrel made it into a poem


of Tom’s, “Collateral Damage”:


“Eileen and David are still fighting.“


Four and a half months later, we’d


patched things up enough that



Eileen called me to tell me


Jimmy had died. She sounded


almost gleeful. “Well, I have


more people to call. Bye!”


We’d both visited him at St. Vincent’s


the week after his stroke,


part of the procession of poets


who came to pay him homage.


I ran into Douglas Crase


in the lobby: he was leaving


as I was coming in. He made light


of our meeting like this, perhaps


because I looked so frightened.


At the desk they handed me a visitor’s pass


and directed me to intensive care.


A shock to see Jimmy: rotund


in his hospital gown, unable to talk,


eyes searching mine—for what?


No hiding the distress in my face.


I didn’t know what to say—no different


from the hours I’d spent with him


in his room at the Chelsea Hotel


(to which he would never return).


My eyes kept gravitating toward


his bare feet, his several missing toes.


Darragh leaned against the wall


the whole time, arms sternly crossed.


Why didn’t he leave us alone? I


might have felt more comfortable


without his watchful presence, been able


to speak freely to Jimmy. As I was


leaving, Anne Porter, her white hair


pulled back into a grandmotherly bun,


came in. She was, in fact, Jimmy’s


last visitor. Darragh sprang to life:


“Oh, Anne . . .” Fairfield’s widow—


how perfect. As if he were a director


and this the unexpected scene he needed


to finish his film. He ushered her


to the side of Jimmy’s bed. Cut to


the exterior of the Church of the


Incarnation on Madison Avenue,


after Jimmy’s funeral. I tried to hug


Darragh, but his stiffness rebuked me.


(Later I learned Ann Lauterbach


had the same experience I did. In


the wake of Jimmy’s death, Darragh


locked himself in Jimmy’s room


at the Chelsea and drew everything


in it, even its absent tenant. This


led Doug to dub him “the widow


Park.” Darragh’s own death awaited


him eighteen years in the future:


blind and starting to lose his mind,


he, as Tom described it, “blew his


brains out.” It made me sad, though


not for the reason one might expect;


I never understood why he took a dislike


to me. How many, when my day


comes, will have such mixed feelings?)


Eileen and I, face to face, in front


of the church. Did either of us


attempt a hug? “I can’t believe


Jimmy’s gone,” I said. “Yeah,”


she responded, “it’s our turn now.”


I knew in that instant that we


would never again be friends.


Suddenly we were alone—where


did everyone vanish to? But


it had always felt like that when


I was with her, that feeling


reserved for lovers: like we were


the only two people in the world.


We required separate cabs. She was off


to a post-service supper (invitation


only) hosted by Darragh. Who


else had been invited? Raymond?


Tom? It didn’t matter, not really.


I was going to have to learn


to be alone with my grief.


She took the first taxi; I watched


it drive up Madison and make


a right on 36th Street. Then turned


around and, to flag the second one,


numbly held out my hand.