Eve reading at my wedding.

Eve reading at my wedding in 2010.

When I learned that my closest friend for nearly 20 years passed away quietly on a Sunday, I didn’t react the way I thought I would.

I had had time to prepare for the news.  Eve had been fighting cancer fairly successfully since 2013.  She would go into remission only to have a new spot appear somewhere else.   Spiritually and physically, she was holding up like a champ.  But two weeks ago she took a turn for the worse.  “I’m tired,” she told her husband Charley. They decided to discontinue treatment.

I had visited her in the hospital, seen her lying thin and pale under a brown blanket in a room with a window facing a brick wall and a ludicrous sign that read, “Call, Don’t Fall,” featuring a drawing of someone who clearly hadn’t made that choice.  I told her I loved her.  I told her how I wished we were drinking wine just then.  I reminded her of the time that she and I had a fight in the middle of a Pittsburgh street, and of the morning she walked into my dorm room and I thought she was my Singaporean roommate Sylvia.  (I didn’t have my glasses on yet.)  I said everything I could think of to say, and then I told her I’d come back to see her again.

I got sick myself and wasn’t able to go back, and we lost her on Sunday, March 13th.

IMG_0041The first thing that everyone noticed about Eve was her incredible beauty.  Since she’s passed on, four different guys have admitted to having crushes on her freshman year.  I’m sure there were more.  But the next thing you discovered was how friendly and relatable she was.  While she was alive, Andre and I spent a considerable amount of time debating whether or not Eve knew how beautiful she actually was.  I don’t really think she did.  We came to the conclusion that, like most of us, she thought she had Good Days.  She hated her eyebrows.  At times, she expressed a wish for a little more height.  But she had none of the affectations of a person who had been taught that her looks influenced people.  She wasn’t vain.  She dressed for comfort.  She wore her beauty like an expensive handbag that she was perfectly willing to toss in a corner.  She wasn’t precious about it.

Eve was the first person with whom I became close at Carnegie Mellon.  We met during my first week of drama school and bonded instantly– I don’t know over what.  I think we fascinated each other.  She was, quite simply, the coolest person I’d ever met.  She had incredible taste in music, and she listened to it on vinyl.  In 1998.  Meanwhile, I had grown up listening to Broadway cast albums and Peter, Paul and Mary.  She influenced my musical taste for the rest of my life, introducing me to Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, Bonnie Raitt, and so many others.

Her mom, Gilmer, had been part of the original Broadway cast of Godspell, contributing the poem that later became the song By My Side.  The poem had been written by an old boyfriend, Jay Hamburger.  (“Can you believe that?”  Eve would squeal.  “My name could have been Eve HAMBURGER!”)  Eve lived in the guest house behind her parent’s house in California, and she got away with epic adventures.  As a teenager, she got on a plane by herself, went to Burning Man, dropped acid, ended up in the back of an ambulance, and then flew home WITHOUT HER PARENTS EVER FINDING OUT!  (Ostensibly, they know now.)

Meanwhile, I was from a  county in Ohio that elected a beef queen every summer.  I had three sisters and an 18-pound cat named Poufy.  I was a Model UN/theatre dork with a chipped front tooth.  None of the boys had crushes on me.

Eve and I hit it off immediately.

Why is Eve wearing high heels? Why do I have black eye? I have no idea. PS: the time stamp is wrong. It was NOT 1994. Photo Credit: Eric Feldman

One of our acting class scenes at CMU. PS: the time stamp is wrong. It was NOT 1994. Photo Credit: Eric Feldman

We were cast in scenes together in acting class all the time at first.  We did not work well together.  Eve could work a scene to death.  (TO DEATH, I TELL YOU!)  As a musical theatre major, I had a little more on my plate than an acting major:  songs to learn, dance classes filling up precious hours, etc.  Eve was obsessive.  I would get fed up with it, and we would fight.  And then we would work through it and be friends again.  I’d never had a friend like that before.  We forgave each other, accepted each other, laughed about it, and moved on. She taught me how to do that in a friendship.  We became like sisters, like family.

That family remained intact when we moved to New York.  Some close college friends became mere acquaintances.  Not so with Eve and me.   We remained as close as ever.  I literally called her in the middle of the night during one bad breakup, and she jumped in a cab and came over.  After that I moved a few blocks away from her on the Upper East Side.  Her living space was always gorgeous, airy and enviably decorated, even when the apartment itself left much to be desired.  Her UES one-bedroom didn’t technically have a bathroom, just two closets that opened into the kitchen, one of which had been converted into a shower, and the other into a toilet.  Her bedroom fit her bed, and that was all.  And yet when you visited, you wanted to plop in a comfy chair, surrounded by one of her hundreds of throw pillows, and stay forever.  (She had a Thing about throw pillows.)

Eve, Bryan and me in Central Park in the early aughts. Eve has her camera.

Eve, Bryan and me in Central Park in the early aughts. Eve has her camera.

We got together and watched bad movies.   We got together and watched good movies.  We went to Nina’s and Nick’s and the Moonlight Diner.  We drank wine and smoked the occasional clove on her fire escape.  We nursed each other through heartbreak and celebrated each other’s small victories.  We had another fight in the middle of Second Avenue.  We cried.  We made up.

Because when Eve decided she loved someone, she loved them fiercely.  She sunk in, holding you in her grip, and she would not let you go.  She refused to give up on you.  She was stubborn.  She was frustrating.  She was strong-willed.  She was fierce.  She was loyal.

And she was funny!  Eve was a fucking great time.  She would laugh with abandon, throwing her head back and allowing joy to permeate her petite frame.  She had a wonderful sense of the absurd and the mischievous.  Freshman year the two of us were in a rehearsal room talking with Habib Azar, whom we didn’t know very well, and she let out a loud fart in the middle of her own sentence.  She didn’t even pause, she just kept on talking right over it, carrying on with such normalcy that I began to wonder if the fart had happened at all.  As soon as he left, she turned to me and said, “Did you hear that FART?!”  We laughed till we cried.  We still laugh over that.  And about the time she peed in a parking lot outside P.F. Chang’s.  I have so many memories that it’s impossible to pick just one, or even do them justice in this space.

Eve and me, both with short hair in 2014.

Eve and me, both with short hair in 2014.

It also seemed impossible that she would die, but after visiting her in the hospital, I knew it was going to happen.  Still, I had to convince myself that my friend was losing her battle with cancer.  “Eve is dying,” I told myself as I shopped at CVS.  “Eve is dying,” I repeated as I descended the subway stairs.  “Eve is dying,” I thought, as another person– it seemed like me, but it couldn’t possibly have been– taught fitness classes at Physique 57.

Eve was dying.  Eve was dying.

Here’s where I must mention the extraordinary courage of Evelyn Reinhardt.  She faced cancer like a boss. But even before she was diagnosed, Eve was fearless.  After our senior showcase, Buchwald wanted to sign her, but this one agent wanted her to meet the rest of the agency dressed in jeans and a ball cap.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen Eve wear a ball cap in her life.  She turned them down.  “That’s not me,” she said.  If you’re not an actor, you may not know how brave that is, but trust me, it’s fucking GANGSTA.  She quickly abandoned acting altogether, turning her energy and intelligence toward fighting injustice.  Her dream was to create an epic theatre piece about the devastating effects of illegal abortions in lesser-developed countries.  She raised money to travel to Africa and Peru, finagling interviews, arranging for a crew and translators.  She came back with incredible stories, including one about when arachnophobic Eve insisted on being carried through her doorway in Peru because a spider the size of her face lingered nearby.

She was an original.

A headshot Eve took. I use this as my "mom" shot.

A headshot Eve took. I use this as my “mom” shot.

While working on her project, she began fostering her talent for photography.  When she got sick, she had been working as a freelance photographer, taking head shots of me and so many others. In fact, I had a hard time finding pictures for this blog because so frequently Eve was on the other side of the camera.

She was a brave and fearless artist who moved effortlessly from one medium to another.  So when I heard that she had taken her last breath, I couldn’t be sad for her.  She had simply moved on to the next artistic and spiritual realm.  I sat on the train, waiting for the tears to come, but instead all of these happy memories came flooding back to me, some of which I’ve mentioned here, but many, many more.   I felt light and buoyant, as if Eve’s puckish spirit were whispering in my ear, “Remember the time when….?  And remember when….?”

Eve and her amazing and gorgeous husband Charley at their rehearsal dinner.

Eve and her amazing and gorgeous husband Charley at their rehearsal dinner.

“I feel like Eve was already connected to the Universe in a way I never really understood,” my friend Zach said in a message later.  “Like she was this weird mix of hippie/Earth Mother bloom and sexy/chic/edgy woman.  I’ll never feel okay about it, but I feel like Eve found some way to make peace with all of this.”

I feel like she’s more than made peace with it.  Some people float into heaven.  I feel like Eve rushed in in the front seat of a roller coaster.  She climbed out of the car, pet my dead cat Poufy, and then Eve, a great believer in reincarnation, exclaimed, “Whew, that was great!  Let’s do it again!”

Either that or there is no such thing as reincarnation, and Eve is up there in heaven, trying to figure out how to get to hell and back without God ever finding out.

Either way, her spirit is not at rest.  It’s turning cartwheels around us, laughing with us and– knowing Eve– at us.  She can finally be everywhere at once.  She is free to love us as fiercely as we deserve to be loved.

Eve and me.

Eve and me.

She was my friend.  I loved her, and she loved me.  In the words of the great Taoist, Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

 

 

Advertisements