Marissa Bridge, a botanical painter, portrays the passage of time with flowers as her metaphor. She’s working toward an April exhibition called The Journey at Dodds and Eder in Sag Harbor. It consists of a series of thirty-six canvases of an orchid: tight buds, pregnant orbs, various stages of opening, full tilt blooming, then steps of fading, and the last: a blossom lying face down on a table, like a folded ballerina, fluttering her final breaths.
Her first husband was Allan Bridge, the mastermind behind The Apology Line. We all met in the early ’90s, during a period when I was very active in the downtown scene of performance. I had heard of Allan, only because The New Yorker published an article the week before I made his acquaintance.
He began in 1980, with a clever use of of answering machines. By figuring out a way for people to call and leave an apology for others to hear, comment, and leave their own, he was able to execute his concept into an ongoing project. It was based on the premise that an apology would give people a chance to turn over a new leaf. This created a format for the forlorn to get over terrible deeds, dumb mistakes, tragic regrets, and a stage for a few who left whopper lies, including a confession of a murder that never happened. The fact that I was performing monologues, and at that time, a string of confessions, sparked an instantaneous friendship. But compared to the scope of Allan’s generosity on the confessional platform, mine were self indulgent little scandals, at best, humorous tales of a New York wildcat.
Late in the summer of 1995, I heard Allan was dead; just like that, struck by a hit-and-run Jet Ski while scuba diving on Long Island. Calling Marissa felt like an intrusion, as it was Allan I knew best. I immediately took to the bed in a state of despair, fell deeply asleep, and as clear as afternoon light, Allan appeared in a dream. He seemed tired. He said he wanted to go, but couldn’t leave. A loud click woke me; the kitchen light was on, but I remembered turning it off before retiring. I told myself Allan was using electricity to make sure I remembered what he said.
With all reluctance aside, I called Marissa in the morning. We made plans to meet in person at which time I would relay the dream. Before hanging up, she said she wished she could dream about him, too; that “He left without giving me a chance to say goodbye.” “He’s around,” I said, “so when you go to bed, ask him to come to you.”
When Marissa arrived at my apartment, through a river of tears, she described two profound dreams from the night before. In the first, all their friends were together, everyone outside, nude and posing for a historic group photograph. In the second, she was freezing in bed and Allan crawled in to warm her up. After she stopped shaking, he said, “it’s time to say goodbye.” They hugged, kissed, and he left. As she spoke, I cried too, for them, and for every sad thing in the world.
As she described the monumental task before her — facing his absence through dealing with his possessions: hundreds of tools, many of them duplicates, tons of equipment, all over their loft — I resisted the urge to ask for one of his hammers. In a makeshift moment, mine was jammed in a window to prevent intruders from jiggling open the pane above the air conditioner. I felt shame for even thinking of it, but my hammer was doing more good in the window than it ever could in the tool drawer. I continued my silence as Marissa spoke, until we were interrupted by a very loud crash at the window. My hammer had fallen from its perch and as I plucked it from the dented floor, I asked for one of Allan’s. A state of wonder came over us and has never left.
She’s remarried now, to Joe Lamport, an utterly charming fellow writer, who translates Chinese Tang poetry under the name Lan Hua: TangSpirit. While Marissa paints in her backyard studio across from the house, Joe and I hole up in separate rooms and dig through our minds for the right words. It’s like being together, but alone, everyone feeding off an invisible frequency that buzzes around their house, ruffling the day lilies, sweeping through the grass, across the surface of their pool, and inside the studio where various orchids waiting for their turn to be captured on canvas vibrate with the passage of time.