30 Years Ago #NYE – The Boy I was Dancing with Disappeared – Forever…

Posted by on Dec 31, 2013 in BLOG | 0 comments

30 Years Ago #NYE – The Boy I was Dancing with Disappeared – Forever…
Sam Todd circa 1983

Sam Todd circa 1983

The email was in my inbox when I got home.  Christmas is always harrowing for me. Since I was 18, it has meant traipsing across the country to join the two halves of my family – Dad and everyone else. For many years it was easier because I too divorced my father, then in 1999, after writing a play with the help of Jules Feiffer, I was able to include my father in my life again. The rest of my family has not.

This Christmas, my dad–Anne–spent Boxing Day at Jules Feiffer’s house with Broadway Producer, Jeffrey Seller and his partner Josh (who photographs homeless transgender teens). It is amazing that after so many years of having to hide my father from the world, it is now not only okay to have a transgender family member but something I can talk openly about at a Christmas party with other serious artists.

The email in my inbox was from Jenny Finely Boylan, a writer who has an Op-Ed in the New York Times today about the disappearance of my friend Sam Todd. She was letting me know that I was quoted in the essay… Imagine my surprise when I read the essay to discover her emotional connection to Sam was through transgender identification and her own desire to disappear as a young person in the 1980s. Of course, she did not.

Sam did.

What amazes me about the world is the way we are connected and connect through writing and the arts. How we find each other despite the murk and confusion, the betrayals and losses life bestows on each of us. How one story can reach so many disparate souls and connect them in deeply moving ways. I have never met Jenny Boylan. I confess I have never even read her memoir, but I know her through her Op-Ed and our shared grief: mine on the lower east side, hers on the upper west and now 30 years later we have found each other.

When my first novel The Weeping Buddha was published I gave a book reading in Sag Harbor at our historic book store, Canio‘s. The book is a murder mystery built largely around the disappearance of Sam (called Todd in the novel) and my imagination.  Afterward one of my neighbors and a new friend came up to me and said, “I was at your party. I lost my earring and called the next morning to see if anyone had found it, and the person who answered the phone said you had lost your friend.” I remembered the phone call. How we had shook our heads and then laughed–Sam had only been gone for a few hours by that point. We still believed he was going to come loping back up the five flights into our loft and tell us about one of his adventures.

When Pedro Hernandez confessed to killing Etan Patz, those of us who knew Sam Todd held our breaths. Would he confess to killing Sam too? We lived just a few blocks from Etan’s home. Sam could so easily have been his victim… I receive emails from private detectives and psychics giving me information that often scares me more than provides comfort. Jenny Boylan’s essay is comforting. She writes about dreams where Sam is knocking on her door. Sam knocked on many of our doors and windows in 1984. His spirit beckoned me from the pay phone on Canal Street, which I could just see from my loft bed. I would wake hearing the phone ringing from my dreams and hear Sam’s voice on the other end, asking us to throw down the key so he could come inside. We left the door open for days, just in case. I have not spent a New Year’s Eve in NYC since, but tonight, when Ombak Putih-1786I dance–as I always do–I will save the last dance for Sam, who left me alone on the dance floor thirty years ago and never returned to dance me home that night.

The Weeping Buddha was published by Akashic Books in 2002 and released on Kindle last year.

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