For about a month—from early November of 2008 to early December I worked for an exceptional lady. According to wikipedia, the word “diva,” is someone who is accomplished in opera–and by extension in theatre. It can be used with the sense of “goddess” or “fine lady,” or with a negative connotation to denote someone who is “high-maintenance, manipulative, fussy, highly strung, privileged, and demanding.”
The woman I worked with embodied all of these things.
During the time that I spent with her, she was ill, and in December, she died.
This is another topic that I have not felt entirely comfortable writing about, especially in the moment, as there was a certain element of celebrity involved but before the year comes to an end, and the world moves on, I want to mention it, and to acknowledge the impact our brief relationship had on me.
Being with someone during an illness is a strangely intimate experience. I’ve done it now as the person who is suffering, and as the witness, the would-be comforter. It’s so very direct, and you experience aspects of someone that few others, even those who know them well, have seen. But it’s like sex, or childbirth–it’s just pain, and that ends and it was so intense you don’t really remember much of it–and in some ways, you don’t know that person any better for knowing their humanity. You’ve shared something, but it still remains to be discovered whether they like avocados or classical music, or whatever. We mostly think of people in the course of our normals lives.
Although I got little pieces, I didn’t get much of a chance to make enough of those everyday normal life discoveries. So while I am grateful for the time I spent, there is part of me that feels betrayed for being deprived. She was the kind of person who makes an impression on everyone who knows her. Everyone has anecdotes. But they don’t seem to be the person I knew. Sometimes when you come to the party late, you don’t feel like you were at the same party everyone else was at even though they assume you were.
Regardless, the party I attended was pretty intense, and for a number of reasons I won’t go into the whole thing has knocked me for a loop. I still find myself crying at odd moments.