We lost Jay Lake on June 1st. A lot of us, as it turns out. And yet we each lost our own personal Jay. Not quite the same critter as the next missing-Jay sufferer.
Me, I lost a friend who gave me some things no one else ever had, who held my hands and my confidences gently.
A lot has been said about him in the time since, but a few things haven't been said yet and I'd like to say them.
Jay believed in love, yes. But he also believed in touch and sex and adamantly and passionately believed that there was nothing wrong with either.
One day when he was visiting me, I turned on the tape recorder and got him going on various subjects, which wasn't hard to do.
Jay liked to talk. It was one of the many things he did well.
About people and how to treat them:
"Way too many people don't get listened to, or experience kindness, or touch. If you pay attention and you're nice about it and you gently offer touch, it's amazing how people respond."
About sex and death:
"We are put on this earth to do two things: fuck off and die.
"We fuck off to make more of ourselves, and we die to get out of their way. Since we only get to die once, we may as well work on the fucking-off as much as we can."
I laughed at this. He smiled and added, "I'm saying that funny, but I really do believe it."
And he did. Among the things I learned from Jay was that there are lots of ways to do sex.
Now that he's gone, I realize he also showed me there are a lot of ways to die. His way was to leave it all on the table.
Or to take it all off the table.
"Two of the greatest things in life are sex and food. Sensory input. I approach them similarly."
Sensuality. The stuff of life. He wanted it all.
The morning Jay died I went into a cafe and got myself a large cup of whipped cream. I drank it to his memory.
One day, many years ago -- pre-cancer -- I was complaining to Jay about something or another in my life.
You do your best, he told me.
No, that's not what he said at all. What he said was this:
"Here’s a twenty sided die, a jar of anchovies, an accordion, and a lug wrench. Good luck."
He meant that we go forward with the tools we have. Maybe not quite the tools we'd hoped for. Maybe not even sufficiently good tools. But they're the tools we've got. So use them, he meant.
The gifts Jay gave me - his love, his insights - are among my best tools.
Along with the twenty-sided die, of course, which I keep handy for those occasions when I'm without a jar of anchovies, an accordion, or a lug wrench.
"The entropy of the universe tends toward the maximum. Our role as human beings is to stand against that tendency."
And he did.
I'd like to think that through those of us who remain, missing him and loving him, he still does.
"Love while you can, live as you must."