This is not envy. Or wistfulness.
When we walked together in deer park I had a sense of something. Something akin to fate – the consequence of things that make up our destinies and the awareness of a brief interlude from which to contemplate it. Walking in the shade of low trees, dodging pissy geese, we talked about everything but the one thing that had led us here. Him, stooping to avoid walking into branches because he’s so tall and I, holding back the urge to walk briskly so he wouldn’t feel conscious of his limp. I felt the weight of things we left unsaid, aware that someday I would think back to now and wonder if it was all worth it.
I could tell he wanted to bring it up. Yet, with characteristic patience he waited, hoping, I suspect, that I would utter the first word. Had I offered even the slightest acknowledgment, I would've end up unleashing an embarrassing vomit of things I had learned through a great deal of heartburn to hold back in an epic display of restraint. I trusted him. Not myself. So we walked in silence, with an occasional pretence towards light banter, his eyes intense with things to say, and mine, uneasy, troubled and shifty.
In those walks is he forever frozen for me. His earnestness, his conviction, his steady patience and his frustration.
It was the one thing we shared. Our frustration. And in that state of simmering discontent we shuffled through deer park every evening for the few weeks he was over to edit his film, to forget briefly perhaps, to share a moment of feeling fortified in each other’s company and mostly, to escape the source of our woe.
It’s taken me four-and-a-half years to muster the nonchalance to browse the internet in google-search of his work and mine – for we were making our films together, weren’t we? We were in the same overburdened rudderless little dingy in the night, weren’t we? I found my film, credited to others, stripped of every trace of the hours I spent getting tetchy, grey and broken.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t expect otherwise. I just also didn’t expect that sharp twist in my gut.
And then I saw his. The awards, the reviews and above all the honest goodwill he’s brought into the lives of all the people who featured in it.
I remembered the call he made to me in anger shortly after those walks. Righteous anger. To vent about the deception, greed and blatant dishonesty that he and his film were caught in. He spoke without pause, pouring every abhorrent detail into the phone about injustice and vengeance. He needed to justify himself to someone. To me. He knew I’d understand.
But I didn’t. I had moved on, hadn’t I? I had given up and left it behind me. All of it. I wasn’t going to look back. I adored him, but sorry, I really couldn’t bring myself to care.
How could I explain that I would come completely undone if I did?
That was the last we spoke. He couldn’t understand my apathy. Or then perhaps he was disgusted by it. I will never know. For if and when we meet again, I’m certain he will be warm and genuinely pleased to see me, as always. Because that’s what he does best – understand and move on.
Here’s to the most committed filmmaker I know. The most honest and sincere documenter of people and their stories.
A man whose passion transforms effortlessly into the most breathtakingly lyrical frames I’ve had the fortune to behold.
RJ, I’m so deeply proud of you. You make me wish I was a better, more committed person.