I’ve been thinking about Derek all day, reading the tributes, and wanting to write something myself. But when I found myself using the past tense, my heart broke and I couldn’t continue. Finally I decided that if I addressed myself directly to Derek, the brutal finality of the grammar might be a little easier to take.
I have your advance reader’s copy of Roberto Bolano’s 2666 on my nightstand, your mixed tapes and cds throughout my music collection, your face in many photographs documenting some of the best moments of my life, your portrait as Fifth Business (the role you chose to enact, so aptly, in my Dramatis Personae painting series) in my living room, your words and gestures in my memory—everywhere traces of you, and yet, unbelievably, never again you.
You insinuated yourself so easily, so modestly, but so indelibly into so many lives. I doubt that anyone who knew you for more than a few minutes ever forgot you. I can’t believe I’ve had the privilege of your friendship for over 15 years. Your boyish good looks (a cliché turn of phrase that was made for you) and affable demeanour belied your strong opinions. But you never shied away from debate and were always willing to consider other perspectives. You were the beating heart of our long-running book club, and you kept us punctual, diligent, and well-read—feeding us links to interesting supplementary articles and reviews on our blog, not to mention the celebrity status you conferred on us when we attended the IFOA annually. Without you, how can we go on?
In my mind I can conjure you so easily. I’ve been remembering one gesture in particular, one I’ve seen you make so often, the one where you scoop your arm around Sari’s shoulder and pull her next to you, then look down at her while she looks up at you and exchange that perfectly intimate smile only possible between people deeply in love. The memory makes me gasp—at the realization of what you gave, of what you had, and of what we’ve all lost. Too soon, Derek, much too soon.
You’ve left a uniquely Derek shaped hole in my life, and in so many others. Thank you for spreading yourself around so much. I’m so glad I knew you. I’ll never stop missing you.