Photo taken by me in London, December 2006
I take this moment to remember Debra Boyask
(of many nicknames, badasstronaut
and Teacake being two of them), who died two years ago today on April 23, 2013. I have thought of Debra every day since then. I am far from the only person about whom the same is probably true. She left behind a trail of material reminders, such as her comics
; her friends from the UK comics scene made a memorial comic
for her. I have a pile of mix CDs she made for me, though the one she titled "Tech Sex in Space" has the most memorable cover.
I wrote about Debra's life, at least as I knew it, when she died
. There is, of course, nothing new to say about her life that couldn't have been said then. But what does change and grow after somebody dies is memory -- that is, other people's memories of them.
In my current period of rapid personal growth and change, I remember my previous such period: the end of 2006 and beginning of 2007. For me, those memories are all organized around Debra. I ask myself: "Should I make this about me? Somebody, after all, is dead." But if I didn't make it about me, I'd be doing a disservice to Debra's memory, to my memory of her, to the only thing I have direct control over that keeps her in some sense alive. To be true to those memories, I have to be as personal as I can, in my thoughts if not in my writing.
I had known Debra online for five years when we met in person, but when we finally did, I had no idea what to expect. I didn't expect that we would end up in bed in her house in Bristol, a house whose interior will always represent safety and liberation in my mind.
I didn't expect that neither her life nor mine would ever be the same again as a result. It's fortunate that sexual liberation can happen at any age. I was 25 at the time and she was 40, but I think we both experienced quite a lot of it all of a sudden, in ways that had an enduring influence on both of our lives even if our on-again/off-again romantic relationship was not enduring. (Our friendship was, up till the end, and the eventual flickerings in and out of our romance never did any lasting harm to our friendship.)
I can't speak for Debra as to what I meant to her, and don't wish to. What she meant to me was this: she was the first person I was intimate with who -- I thought -- saw me for who I really was. In fact, she was possibly the
only person I've been intimate with where I felt like I was truly present, and that she was truly present with me. There were ups and downs, mostly due to me having unresolved issues (still not resolved) that make it hard for me to be present for anybody (which is also the main reason why my other relationships didn't go well; I'm neither blaming my other partners for how things went nor absolving them completely here). But when it was good, I felt like I was dealing lightning.
This is, of course, personal. But as I said in the beginning, I feel like to not be personal about it is to be untrue to who Debra was, particularly who she was to me but not only
who she was to me.
Debra chose Kate Bush's song "Feel It" as one of the songs for her funeral, or at least I assume she chose it because it's not a song you would choose for anyone else's funeral. And she was bad-ass for choosing it --
[I am informed that Debra did not choose the song, but still, someone who knows her well must have.] a song about sex, love, meaning and connection that I appreciate more now than when I first heard it then."God, but you're beautiful, aren't you?
Feel your warm hand walking around"
I'm sad to say that when I knew Debra I wasn't entirely ready to feel it, yet, not everything, anyway. But she was a person who came into my life by chance and gave me what I needed in order to start trying. I like to think I returned the favor, but of course, I'll really never know; not knowing is all right, though, because my memory of her is more than enough to hold."I won't pull away, my passion always wins
So keep on a-moving in, keep on a-tuning in"
|Photo taken by Debra, January 14, 2007|
When I got the news about Debra, I was reading Facebook in the Mozilla Vancouver office, looking for a distraction but not expecting the one that came to me. I emailed my mentor to say what had happened and that I was taking the rest of the day off, went outside and walked down the Vancouver waterfront, not quite aware of either my surroundings or the thoughts in my head. I remember that I ended up at Little Sister's and bought a rainbow umbrella to remember her by, because of the time when we were driving in the countryside around Bristol and we were having an intense, left-brained conversation about gender, queerness, and identity and suddenly a rainbow appeared in the sky like a sign that the important stuff wasn't the ideas stuff.
But on that day, and for the month that followed, I couldn't really feel the grief, except maybe once or twice after listening to Neko Case's song "South Tacoma Way" on repeat for a while. I won't say I'm feeling it all now, either. My own inability to fully feel her loss compounded the pain of losing her.
Somehow, the only picture I could find of the two of us together was one she took of our shadows somewhere in the Columbia River Gorge, when she visited me in Portland in December 2008/January 2009. The icon I used for this post is also from a picture she took of me during that trip (which was the next-to-last time we saw each other in person).
And while I don't think Debra would have liked it (our musical tastes didn't overlap a whole lot), I also think of her when I listen to the Mountain Goats' song "Matthew 25:21":you were a presence full of light upon this earth
And I am a witness to your life and to its worth
It's three days later when I get the call
And there's nobody around to break my fall
Oh yeah, and one more thing:
|Photo taken by Debra, January 2, 2009|