The Awful Truth

In memoriam

By Cintra Wilson

Published May 27, 1996 8:47AM (EDT)

certain people are like big good anchors in your life that hold you to the
world, that give you a sense of exalted, meaningful belonging and true comradeship in the highest sense. They are co-conspirators, people who get all the
jokes. When someone understands you that well, you can never truly feel alone in
the world.

For me, that person was my best friend and lover Kevin Gilbert, the
guy I lived in sin with for the year of 1995. He died suddenly over the weekend.

We were inseparable, knew each other inside and out. He was a handsome prince of
a guy who really helped me in my life. Generous beyond belief. He moved me into
his castle, got me a great psychiatrist and helped fix my brain, stunned me with
his wit and affection, bought me a car, took me out to dinner every night, and
really showed me what it was like to be truly loved by a good man. He was the
most talented human being I ever knew. A bloody musical genius. Picked up a
cello one day and just started playing it. He was quite famous in some musical
circles for writing and performing a lot of deeply personal rock songs with a lot
of wordy lyrics and massive integrity. He never had the raging commercial
success as a musical genius that he so richly deserved, despite the fact that
he'd won a Grammy. He got standing ovations when he performed, and regularly
received embarassing poetry from love-blistered fans, which I sometimes "accidentally" wadded up and threw away.

We had a rocking relationship. For two consecutive Thanksgivings we danced out
in the patio of our friend's family's house, singing the Johnny Hartman-John
Coltrane album to each other: "You are too beautiful, my dear, to be true... and
I am a foooool fo-or beautyyyyy..." It was our little tradition. Once it was
in the rain, the second time it was just really cold. We spent Christmas at his
idyllic parents' idyllic home -- it was completely idyllic. He gave me the computer I'm writing this on -- "You need to have the right tools," he told me. We
sat together in bed in the mornings and watched tapes of "I,
Claudius" and "The Singing Detective" over and over and over, holding hands, eating
pancakes. We looked at sea otters in the zoo and marveled for a long time over
how in love they were, then we took hallucinogens and reenacted them. We ice-skated together in Vancouver, all wobbly and hand in hand like happy idiots.
We took sleeping pills and got second-degree sunburns in Cabo San Lucas, and
ended up covering each other with aloe vera in the hotel room the whole time -- it
was still great. We wrote funny songs together. He was like food to my heart,
every second I spent with him I was aware of this delicious love for him I could
feel like a tingle in my jaw -- my heart always felt like it was stretching like a cat in a sunray around him, actively stretching to catch it all.

There are moments when you feel so good with somebody that you miss them when they're right in front of you. Nostalgia is built into the moment, and you feel the
excruciating pangs of too much joy.

I could never imagine life without him, and now he's gone.

His death is a complete shock to me. When you have someone in your life who
simply understands your every quirky nuance, every gesture, every tilt of the
head...the loss of that is unspeakable.

We cut a smart silhouette on the intellectual dance floor, he and I. When we went to movies or the theater, we always found each other more entertaining than what was in front of us. We'd whisper and giggle through everything and annoy people. In restaurants, we'd
turn the tables sideways so there'd be less space between us, so we could really
talk. I used to show him everything I wrote and he'd make comments... mostly
about my lousy syntax. But I'd run to him all excited like a six-year-old with a
new fingerpainting to hear what he'd say, because his comments and opinion were
so vital to me, because I knew he knew, he had his finger on the pulse. My
pulse, anyway.

This grief is phenomenal. It removes all thought and rips you down to your most
basic enterprises of personality. You can't eat, you can't sleep, you walk like
a zombie with nothing in you but a big grey dead lump of cold pain. The first
primal urge I had was to find a swingset. My new beau said it was because my
head was swinging back and forth and if my body was swinging too I might re-align, a little. We leapt over the fence of a closed park in the middle of
the West Village at midnight. My God. I just rocked back and forth for a while,
and figured out who I wanted to call, my face swelling up like a bruise from the
torrential crying.

Kevin and I had the same psychiatrist -- she called me and told me the news. You
imagine or fantasize at dumber moments about that phone call sometimes, but you
can't imagine how it actually goes down: "I have some terrible, terrible news;
so-and-so is dead." Your face opens up like a volcano, you cry from the depths
of the earth, you explode with a clean white agony that slides through all the
cells in your body like a flash flood.

We "separated" in the interest of becoming emotionally healthier individuals in
February, with the express intent of getting back together at some point, but
we were always in touch. I went to New York and he stayed in LA, but we met up a
couple of weeks ago in London just to see each other's faces.

He told me "I don't know what's going to happen to me. I don't know where my
head is going, I'm a little scared."

I told him "No matter where you go in your head, we'll always be tight. We'll
always connect like this." I didn't know he was going way over THERE.

He told me that seeing me was like having an amputated limb back. When I left he said "I'm losing my limb again" with tears in his eyes.

The last time I saw him, he stuck me in an elevator in
his posh hotel and told me he loved me. He didn't want to walk me all the
way down because he said he wanted to spare himself the pain of seeing my taxi
pull away. We were both crying. My elevator doors began to shut, he turned and

Oh, God, Kevin Gilbert, wherever you are, I hope you know I loved you more than
anything alive, and when I lay on my back under your piano and listened to you
play your brilliant music I counted myself the luckiest girl in the world. You
were beautiful inside and out, and I hope you're rocking the biggest stadium in
Valhalla, with the flames of a billion Bic lighters from your angelic fans
guiding your soul ever upward to God. May you be infused with all light in the
universe and blaze in blinding love forever like the star you are. Don't forget

Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson is a culture critic and author whose books include "A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease" and "Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny." Her new book, "Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling America's Fashion Destiny," will be published by WW Norton.

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