I knew, when Myrna died 11 years ago today, that I would spend the rest of my life alone. Oddly, this sent me into a panic of dating and attempting to find a replica. No such woman exists. Her final words to me were: "Don't blame yourself for anything. I love you."
But, I still do blame myself. For years, I agonized over whether I had caused her death from cancer. Crazy... I know. In reality, I know that the horrifying abuse she suffered as a kid growing up in the gutters of Manila came back to destroy her. And that doesn't even take into account the lack of sanitation in that sewer that undoubtedly was the cause of her infection with h-pylori, the precursor to her stomach cancer.
I should have recognized the symptoms... the persistent abdominal pain. But, I didn't.
I've worked for Martin Scorcese, the pre-eminent filmmaker of our era. Also worked for David Boise, the pre-eminent corporate litigator of our era. He argued the pro gay marriage case before the Supreme Court. I worked with and performed as an opening act for The Band, one of the most influential rock bands of the 60s. So, I've known some incredibly brilliant and talented people.
Believe me when I tell you that Myrna left them all in the dust. A fierce and profound intellect built on bitter knowledge of the ugliest side of humans. A child prostitute, she was tortured and left for dead repeatedly before she was 10 years old. I learned the most astonishing things from her. One of them was that there are so many men who would rather beat the shit out of a beautiful, sexy woman than fuck her. What accounts for that?
At the time of her death, she was a manager in a corporate law firm in NYC, pulling down a big salary, and she was my partner in the music biz. Here's the eulogy I gave for her at her Manhattan law firm.
To understand Myrna's brilliance, you have to grasp this. After our weekly gig in a restaurant in Woodstock, we sat down most nights for a cocktail at the Bear Cafe with Mike Lang, the owner of the Woodstock Festivals. He was considering staging a Woodstock Festival in Beijing with Myrna as a lead performer.
The loss on a personal scale for me has been staggering. Myrna was a once a day girl in bed... where in the hell do you find that again? (You don't.) She knew more than how to make love fun. She knew how to make love dramatic and a constant spiritual revelation. She was also profoundly romantic. My withdrawal into sexual deprivation after her death was damned near debilitating. She worked relentlessly at supporting, defending and encouraging her man. Here's a link that describes my standard morning routine with her.
Expecting another woman to fill Myrna's stiletto heels was foolish, but I tried. The women I dated those first few years after her death in my hysterical attempt to replace her must have thought me an awful boor. Took me five years to surrender to reality and accept that that part of my life was over.
The loss on a professional and financial scale has been equally staggering. I'm OK financially... secure for life at a low middle class level, so I have no complaint. But that romantic and cozy future of travel all over the world that Myrna and I foresaw will never happen. I do not apologize for the fact that I became second banana in our musical act because everybody, male and female, wanted to feast their eyes on her astounding beauty. Without her, I am just another guy who used to have something going. Even Mike Lang has sort of forgotten who I am and he seems a little perplexed when I greet him in public in Woodstock.
I can't blame him. Like everybody else, he was entranced with Myrna.
The loneliness that I am left with in her absence never goes away. Myrna wanted to be with me every moment when she was not at work. When we were together she was almost always in direct physical contact. My mother bitterly complained that Myrna had cast a spell on me, and she was probably right. I forget about the pain and loneliness when I am occupied and busy.
Myrna was an epic character. Bawdy and hilarious. She wouldn't hesitate to blurt out in the most PC setting of Manhattan and Woodstock that "black men are good for fucking and not much else." (Not saying I endorse that idea! I quickly surrendered on controlling her outbursts.) She was completely unafraid. Nobody dared rebuke her because they were all afraid of her (with good reason) and they all hoped she would give them a dollop of love.
Woodstock's lesbians were equally under Myrna's spell. They made the fatal mistake of trying to seduce her with that standard mid-90s routine of telling her that her hetero white husband was a despicable oppressor. I dragged Myrna out of more than one cafe in Woodstock to prevent her from beating the living hell out of those dumb bitches. (The hilarious reality was that she would probably have invited them into a menage a trois with hubby if they had only been romantic and nice. Not one of those idiot lezzies thought of that.)
Her experience of suffering through torture created within her a powerful spirituality. She refused to blame anybody for her suffering. In fact, she credited that suffering with forging her strength, intellect and power. Myrna happily helped anybody who asked for it, but she would brook no whining and no excuses, not even from me.
"I've had the worst done to me," she often said. "There isn't anything else left that people can do to hurt and humiliate me." And, "If I can make it, what the fuck excuse does some spoiled brat white American bitch have?"
I am humbled that she chose to walk beside me for 16 years, and I remain devastated that she is gone. After years of cursing God for taking her, I learned to thank Him for giving her to me. That was really my only choice. Well, my other choice was to destroy myself.
I learned from my experience to believe in prayer. Decades before I met Myrna, I was living in absolute despair in San Francisco, trying to find something to guide my life. I read every book Henry Miller wrote, and I prayed endlessly (without recognizing that what I was doing was praying) that I would one day meet a woman like the wild characters he wrote about.
God answered my prayers. Big time.
"Promise me that you will tell our story," Myrna said to me on her deathbed.
I am trying, but I am unworthy.
Tiny But Mighty, indeed.