on chadwick boseman, and work

On Friday night, a few hours before learning about the death of Chadwick Boseman, I was at FedEX, printing two copies of the Thousand Movie Project Zine, and what I thought was going to be a quick ten-minute task, where I’d scan six pages and print 20, turned into an ordeal, a technological clusterfuck, and I had to hop on the computer for 39 cents a minute, there were glitches and confusions galore and I ended up printing way more than I intended—the whole affair cost me $40. And when finally I collected my stack of pages and carried them to the patio of Latin Café 2000 at dusk to join Bob and Lynda for dinner I had an apology on the tip of my tongue, and an explanation for why I was fifteen minutes late, and as I launched into that explanation I felt my throat suddenly tightening, and I started kinda flinching and double-blinking in the way I do when anxiety hits a fever pitch, and I was kind of alarmed to realize I was on the brink of crying.

            Outta nowhere.

            I held it together, thank god, patting the tabletop and shaking my head and flagging the server for a beer. And the trigger, I realized, was mentioning that I’d spent $40. Because I’d observed that I paid that much, but I hadn’t really processed it. I hadn’t processed that my hope here was to raise some money for Thousand Movie Project by printing and sending out copies of the zine—and now I’d just hemmoraged a fuckton of money in order to print it. I spent a good portion of what I’d been hoping to earn.

            What I guess felt so suddenly heavy is the idea that I was scurrying from this desperate and tight-pocketed fiasco to join two gainfully employed friends, lawyers, and to simultaneously announce and understand that, on the cusp of 30, I’m in a situation where the loss of $40 is kind of earth-shaking.

            That’s not where I should be.

            Afterward the three of us went for a walk to a barren plot on Brickell where Bob and Lynda have been tossing wildflower seeds and as we were out there I got an email from another agent rejecting my book. Which is fine. But it just kinda widened the chasm that’d opened with the FedEx thing.

            Then later that night I’m up in their apartment and Bob’s on his phone and he announces that Chadwick Boseman died, that he was 43 (older than I thought), and that he was diagnosed with colon cancer while filming Captain America: Civil War, the movie that made him a household name, which means that the last few years of his life, apart from being probably the busiest and most successful, were also shrouded with the specter of death. It means that when he finally achieved the notoriety and success he’d probably spent his whole life working toward, he got his death sentence.

            But he dealt with it in private, worked constantly, visited oncology units to lift the spirits of kids with cancer…

            Apart from what he demonstrated in spirit, and integrity, what Boseman displayed creatively over the past few years seems similar to be what we saw with the writer Clive James and Leonard Cohen when they both got their respective cancer diagnoses: the presence of death, the certainty of it, sparked an unprecedented creative urgency, a clarity, and they produced a tide of work that, in some cases, was the very best of their career.

            I can’t even process exactly how or why the memory of Boseman, and the idea of his final years, is speaking in such a heavy silencing way to my recently panicked situation with money, and with writing, but I’ve been chewing on it, feeling some kind of tectonic alignment in my head and chest. Something to do with perspective.

            It’s making me want to work.

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