I met Michael in January of 2007. He had been away to London for my first semester at FSU in the Fall of '06. Michael was famous at FSU when I met him. Everybody knew who Michael was, and the other undergrads orbited around him like paparazzi around a celebrity. This was my first impression of Michael, and I don't think I've ever been able to shake it, really. In truth, I've never even tried to shake it. At FSU Michael was a star performer, getting a role in a mainstage production every semester and pretty much knocking each part out of the park. In his last year he was in a production of a superb new play by Adam Lucas directed by Joel Waage (now of Mad Dog Theatre in New York City) and Michael was just excellent.
I haven't the foggiest idea when Michael and I became close. We didn't work on shows together at FSU; we met in a class and then went from there. I distinctly remember having a fight about Brecht outside of a classroom one day. Michael accused me of being pretentious. I accused him of being under-read. I feel like our relationship developed in this way a lot. There were lots of arguments that would have appeared quite bitter to any outsider (and probably actually were rather bitter, come to think of it). But we became quite good friends, so that his last year at FSU we spent lots of time together.
I remember once driving to find some restaurant just north of Tallahassee that we had both heard was good but which neither of us had ever visited. We must've driven for twenty minutes before we got to the restaurant which was closed. (Michael and I were always trying to have dinner on Sundays and in Tallahassee everything is closed for the Lord's day.) So Michael and I are very frustrated and we think: Thai food. Perfect. And after we drive another ten minutes to find the Thai restaurant, we realize it, too, is closed. But they're not even Christian!! Michael wailed. I could not stop laughing.
Michael moved to Virginia after school to work for a theatre company in Roanoke or somesuch location (he has spent an incredible amount of time in Virginia since we met) and Michael and I kept in touch sporadically over the phone. We wouldn't speak for months at a time and then we would both rattle off ideas and thoughts that we'd been storing up for the months of silence until our phone conversations became these epic two-hour marathons. At some point we realized we could probably call each other more frequently. This cut down both on the conversations' urgency as well as their interminable length.
I started going to Endstation Theatre in 2008 to see Michael in Romeo & Juliet. I went again in '09 to see Midsummer and last year I got the bright idea to go to Endstation to volunteer so that I could spend time with my friends at the theatre and spend a more extended period of time with Michael. My first day at Endstation in 2010, Michael referred to me as his best friend. Funny: it's a phrase I haven't used in forever. I had a best friend in high school, but most of my best friends have spouses nowadays, so I haven't thought of anyone else as my best friend in quite a long time. But there was Michael, claiming me.
And, see, Michael has always been – if not mysterious – a figure of infinite fabulousness for me. I have always felt intimidated by him, by his knowledge of fashion, his ability to execute fashion, his intense knowledge of literature I still haven't read, his interest in high modernism, his ability to pick an excellent bottle of wine (or whiskey or vodka) and to find a perfect speakeasy in which to drink, his selection of friends... I could go on. I have always felt dangerously inadequate when I'm around him. I am learning to feel this way less, of course, but in a way I am still very much in awe of Michael and his abilities, tastes, and goals. And the feeling I have toward him is now, perhaps one more akin to admiration than inadequacy. (We should admire our friends, I figure, and I admire many of mine.)
Michael is my best friend, too, and even though I have a brother named Michael, I insist on constantly referring to Michael in conversation with my family without adding a last name. I just assume everyone knows to whom I am referring. I was saying that to Michael just the other day...
Michael is an extraordinary artistic mind with discriminating and exquisite taste. He is also a very good director, and will get even better. His work is something I am both proud of as his friend, and proud to help with as a sometime collaborator. I treasure every bit of time I get to spend with him in both New York and in Virginia, and I look forward to many more hours sitting drinking coffee and looking forward (and backward, too, but mostly forward). As with all of these pieces, this one feels inadequate and incomplete. How is it possible to describe or thank your best friend for all he does for you? But, then, I have felt inadequate with Michael before, and I expect that will never go away fully.