While running in the woods near Foz do Arelho, just below Nazaré, Clark Middleton’s face popped into my head. Where is that guy? How is that guy? I liked that guy. Then my thoughts shifted to the pink migrating cranes eucalyptus rows fishermen’s bootprints hunter’s huts ripples on the lagoon.
Clark was an actor in New York, born with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. His head was huge, couldn’t move his neck. Had a permanently locked elbow, tiny bird hands. Clark told me once, I could do anything, we have the world in our hands, just squeeze. And Clark did with David Lynch, Ang Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater, Richard Rodriguez and others… Remember Miracle Mile?
When on stage, plant yourself and tell the truth. Clark studied and taught all his life. We never said good-bye, just drifted apart, remember when you could? The internet of work or life never brought us together again and to be honest, I’d forgotten Clark completely until he made his cameo in my head yesterday while running in Portugal. Flash. We’re on Bleeker street shaking in laughter. He’s patting my shoulder endlessly. Won’t let go of my hand each joke slips into a story then back to another joke. I don’t remember the jokes just laughing. No story, just that we were together—the horns lights people applause all swirling around our hands connected. Time, that demanding villain dragging us away.
Minutes ago, I read Clark’s obituary in the Guardian. I send the link to a mutual friend, an old producer. Interconnected, we all are, blow out your candles, Clark.
The last thing this world needs is another predominantly straight white old man writing about his youth or dead brother. Fuck cancer is the status update. Yet here I still am.
When I moved to New York with all the hope in the world to learn to act, Amy Weinstein, my Improv instructor let seriously loose during the second week. Why the fuck is you smiling? That fucking smile is a useless mask. Think everything is fucking cute? You’re in a war. People are dying and you’re still fucking smiling. Little fucking country pumpkin get rid of that fucking accent while you’re at it. What accent? Oh, fuck me, how can I put this nice? You’re like a closed book that I want to read but can’t open. Drop your fucking mask. Stamp on it spit on it burn it piss on it. You’re glued shut. Maybe one day you might get close to becoming half an actor, if you’re fucking lucky.
Listening but couldn’t stop smiling like some house servant scrounging for approval, that night in New York sitting by the Met fountain walking up Broadway alone in that at shitty expensive room Sid and Nancy the neighbours shaking the walls with fucking—I tried and failed not to smile. Were you in Singapore? Geneva? Canterbury? We spent fifteen years without a word, inner or outer Mongolia, a card—how much oil can an oilman trade, if an oilman could trade oil—another role? No rancour just took different directions. More lines to learn no real reason but complicit in distance. I wonder where Amy Weinstein is tonight if I knew I’d send her a bourbon on the fucking rocks.
DM O’Connor has an MFA from University College Dublin & the University of New Mexico. He is a contributing reviewer for Rhino Poetry and fiction editor at Bending Genres. His work has appeared in Splonk, A New Ulster, Dodging the Rain, Cormorant, Crannog, Opossum, The New Quarterly, The Guardian, the Irish Independent among others.