I saw him take a steep drop into the churning wave. I instantly feel something is wrong. I anxiously look for him to come back to the surface. There was so much foaming white water I can’t pick his head out. I pace up and down the shoreline. I start to panic and run to the lifeguard tower.
“My friend is bodysurfing and he hasn’t come up after taking a spill over a big wave,” I yell up at the stand.
The LA guard gets out binoculars and scans the water where Tim went under. After seconds, he gets on his telephone and calls for assistance.
What’s he look like?” the guard asks.
“Yup. Sounds like a bodysurfer. Was he out there alone?”
“Yes. For about thirty minutes, taking waves. He’s a champion swimmer.”
“Probably he got caught in a rip and has drifted away from where you last saw him. The patrol boat is on its way. Don’t worry. We’ll find him.”
My gut refused to allow his reassurance to calm my fears. What if I’ve lost him? I tell myself I’m acting like a parent. It hits me hard. I really love Tim. I sit down quickly below the lifeguard stand. I refuse to give up and fight back the urge to cry. I keep telling myself that Tim is too strong to die.
Hours went by. The lifeguard keeps me informed of up-dates. I barely acknowledge him. The guard’s phone rings. There’s an excited conversation. I stand up.
“They found him,” the guard yells down at me. “They’re working on him now. It’s about a mile up the beach, around the point.”
I start running. The thought that they were working on him is foreboding. My sense of dread overwhelms my rational mind. I bought him those fins. I encouraged him to risk his life. If it’s my fault, I don’t care. I just want him to be alive. Oh, Tim. I love you so much. Don’t die!
I run up the beach, staying along the waterline. As soon as I get to the north end of Zuma Beach, around a short point with a single house on the cliff, I see the rescue workers clustered next to the water. My dread intensifies. I ran up, telling the lifeguards I’m with Tim. I gasp as I see his lifeless body receiving CPR. I notice a bloody gash on his forehead.
“He apparently struck the bottom with so much force that he knocked himself unconscious. Unable to swim to the surface, he drowned. We’re hoping to revive him now. An ambulance is on the way.”
I sit down hard, praying Tim will respond to the CPR. The ambulance sirens get closer and closer, shutting off as they park along the road above the beach. In short order, Tim is loaded on a stretcher and hauled away. I’m told to follow them to St John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. It takes me an hour to travel along PCH during rush hour. The news when I arrive is grim. Tim never revived and was pronounced dead. I explain that we work together. I have his father’s phone number in Miami which I give to the police. There is nothing left to do. I sit by his body for endless hours. I’m in shock and paralyzed.
I guess I said my good-bye. I realize there are details that need attention. Guarding Tim’s lifeless body is not on the list. I have Jay’s business card. He is Tim’s attorney and will know what to do. I assume that the police had contacted Tim’s parents. Jay could contact the friends and associates that are not family. I call him at the Ambassador Hotel.
“Hi, Jake. Should I be jealous that you’re Tim’s older amour?” I know Jay is married and the object of Tim’s relentless flirting.
“Tim was in a surfing accident in Malibu this afternoon.”
“Oh, no. Is he alright? Does he need proof of insurance?”
I sigh. “He didn’t make it. He’s at St John’s.”
Jay is silent, barely breathing.
“We went to Zuma Beach. I’d bought him swim fins. He went out too far and was crushed by a massive wave and drowned. He never regained consciousness. The lifeguards tried to revive him. He was pronounced dead here at the hospital.”
I can’t suppress the sobs anymore. “I loved him so much.”
Jay was sobbing, too. “Me, too. Just not the way you do.”
We laugh, and then I feel guilty. “Was it wrong? Is that why he died?”
“Don’t ever think that way. Everyone loved him. You were so lucky that he loved you back.”
“I never understood it. It was a roller coaster that never stopped.” It feels like I’ve crashed.
“There’s so many things that need to be done. I’ll call Michael, my boss, in Miami. Can you call Tim’s boss here at Universal?”
“Yes. I think he’s still in Oregon, but they’ll know how to contact him. I’ll call Doug Weston. He’s been Tim’s mentor since he was 15.”
“Are you okay?”
“No, but I need to be doing things. Thanks for getting me going again.” I think back to this morning, having breakfast together, taking the day off because the Santa Ana’s were blowing. Damn, those devil winds. Why did I give him those fins? I feel so guilty. I give Jay my phone number. He promises to keep me in the loop.
I go for a final look at Tim’s body. Sitting beside him, I notice his mouth no longer appears to be grimacing. His teeth are clenched and his lips tightened into a gleeful smile. It is the ride of his life.
Only the good die young.
Standing in front of the Catholic Church I feel a bit out-of-place with so many teenagers dominating the scene. An extremely forthright girl with jet black hair walks up to me and asks if I’m Tim’s Hollywood boyfriend. I recognize her voice as the girl I spoke with on the phone. We laugh. She calls over two of Tim’s other boyfriends, Jack, his Harvard roommate, and the other, Trevor, whom I spoke with from Oregon. We all bond on our mutual love. There’s none of the drama I had instigated in Miami by kissing Tim in front of Jack. He is resplendent in an all white suit.
“Are you giving the eulogy?” I ask.
He smiles and nods.
He and Trevor go into the church together. I hesitate until the last moment, taking a seat in the back row of pews. Jack does a great job describing the spiritual side of Tim’s life. He grins at his family, including grandparents. The rich seem more comfortable with changed cultural norms about sexuality..
Standing outside again, I congratulate Jack on his speech.
Most of the rowdy teenagers had not attended. They all are gathered by the church rectory. Suddenly there’s a screeching of tires burning rubber. I recognize the ‘Wreck’ speeding down Holloway Drive. My jaw drops when I saw Tim sitting in the back, waving at all his mourners on the church steps.
“Wait,” Jack yells, running out in the street and jumping in the back of the convertible.
I realize it’s not a resurrection, but a prank with Tim’s dead body. My heart sinks.
Before Jack ran off and jumped into Tim’s convertible, we had discussed playing classical music before the start of the rock concert, as we had done New Year’s Eve, in Miami. We agree to do Mussorgsky’s ‘Night on Bald Mountain.’
I’ve never been that ambitious a performer but I’m excited about playing for this crazy crowd. Tim’s performance addiction has infected me. I speak with John Landis. He knows how to obtain a print of ‘Fantasia’ which we can project at the back of the stage. With the sound muted, we can play a live version. I worry that we may not be as dramatic as Stokowski’s s Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. Jack says he’d get his roommate to play the MOOG. He’ll add guitar to fill out our sound. Jack seems over the jealousy that overwhelmed him in Miami when Tim kissed me on stage. Now we need him and Tim’s body to return to the club.
“Are you Hippie?” I ask.
“That’s me, jist a Southern country boy. Who are you?”
“Jake. Tim and I were working on the movie’s musical score. I hear you’re quite the gospel singer.”
“I’s jist a choir boy. I did do ‘Amazing Grace’ at Jace’s tribute.”
“How’dcha like to do Ave Maria with Jack and me, plus his college roommate.”
“Ya sure y’all wanna play church music to these heathens?”
“We need to counter the impression that Tim was a devil worshiper.”
“That’s just Ol’ Robby. I’ll do it if’n I kin play bass. Anna, my wife, will be pleased if I play church music. I won’t havta lie when I’s back in Miami.”
That’s settled, I go find David, Tim’s other roommate. He’s working with his band. They are pretty relaxed, going over their regular set. They don’t seem excited about their impending Hollywood debut. They look so young. I find out they’re all high school kids. David has skipped his senior year to sneak into Harvard.
“What’s up?” David greets me.
“How would like to perform with Jack and me in the opening act of the Tim Tribute?”
“I’m sick of trying to play to Jack’s MOOG dirges. What do you play?” he looks at me as somewhat old to be a rocker.
“I play cello. We’re going to do the ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ from Disney’s ‘Fantasia.’”
“His eyes light up. “I love that part. The Devil steals souls.”
“Yeah, but he’s ultimately defeated.”
“I forgot about that part. I’ll make that MOOG sound totally evil. Jack can play guitar. He’s better at that.”
“I can back him up. We did that in choir.”
“You think these Hollywood assholes will keep Tim’s body?”
“And make Tim miss his own tribute?”
“Totally unfair. They can’t be that mean.”
“It means we’ll go on first.”
“That’s cool. My band wants to headline at the end.”