I saw him take a steep drop into the churning wave. I instantly felt something was wrong. I anxiously looked for him to come back to the surface. There was so much foaming white water I could not pick his head out. I paced up and down. I started to panic. I ran to the lifeguard tower.
“My friend is bodysurfing and he hasn’t come up after taking a spill over a big wave,” I yelled up at the stand.
The LA guard got out binoculars and scanned the water where Tim had gone under. After seconds, he got on his telephone and called for assistance.
What’s he look like?” the guard asked.
“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 lost him? I told myself I was acting like a parent. It hit me hard. I really loved Tim. I sat down hard below the lifeguard stand. I refused to give up and fought back the urge to cry. I kept telling myself that Tim was too strong to die.
Hours went by. The lifeguard kept me informed of up-dates. I barely acknowledged him. The guard’s phone rang and there was an excited conversation. I stood up.
“They found him,” the guard yelled down at me. “They’re working on him now. It’s about a mile up the beach, around the point.”
I started running. The thought that they were working on him was foreboding. My sense of dread overwhelmed my rational mind. I bought him those fins. I encouraged him to risk his life. If it was my fault, I didn’t care. I just wanted him to be alive. Oh, Tim. I love you so much. Don’t die!
I ran up the beach, staying along the waterline. As soon as I got to the north end of Zuma Beach, around a short point with a single house on the cliff, I saw the rescue workers clustered next to the water. The dread intensified. I ran up, telling the lifeguards I was with Tim. I gasped as I saw his lifeless body receiving CPR. I noticed 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 sat down hard, praying Tim would respond to the CPR. The ambulance’s sirens got closer and closer, shutting off as they parked along the road above the beach. In short order, Tim was loaded on a stretcher and hauled away. I was told to follow them to St John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. It took me an hour to travel along PCH during rush hour. The news when I arrived was grim. Tim never revived and had been pronounced dead. I explained that we worked together. I had his father’s phone number in Miami which I gave to the police. There was nothing left to do. I sat by his body for several hours. I was in shock and paralyzed.
I guess I had said my good-bye. I realized there were details that needed attention. Guarding Tim’s lifeless body was not on the list. I had Jay’s business card. He was Tim’s attorney and would know what to do. I assumed that the police had contacted Tim’s parents. Jay could contact the friends and associates that were not family. I called him at the Ambassador Hotel.
“Hi, Jake. Should I be jealous that you’re Tim’s older amour?” I knew Jay was 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 sighed. “He didn’t make it. He’s at St John’s.”
Jay was silent, barely breathing.
“We went to Zuma Beach. I had bought him swim fins. He went out too far and was crushed by a massive wave. He never regained consciousness. The lifeguards tried to revive him but he was pronounced dead here at the hospital.”
I couldn’t suppress the sobs anymore. “I loved him so much.”
Jay was sobbing, too. “Me, too. Just not the way you do.”
We laughed, and then I felt guilty. “Was it wrong? Is that why he died?”
“Don’t 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.” I felt I had 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 thought 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 felt so guilty. I gave Jay my phone number. He promised to keep me in the loop.
I went for a final look at Tim’s body. Sitting beside him, I noticed his mouth no longer appeared to be grimacing. His teeth were clenched and his lips were tightened into a gleeful smile. It was the ride of his life.
Only the good die young.
Standing in front of the Catholic Church I felt a bit out of place with so many teenagers dominating the scene. An extremely forthright girl with jet black hair walked up to me and asked if I was Tim’s Hollywood boyfriend. I recognized her voice as the girl who Tim said was his girlfriend. We laughed. She called over two of Tim’s other boyfriends, Jack, his Harvard roommate, and the other, Trevor, whom I spoken with from Oregon. We all bonded on our mutual love. There was none of the drama I had instigated in Miami by kissing Tim in front of Jack. He was splendent in an all white suit.
“Are you giving the eulogy?” I asked.
He smiled and nodded.
He and Trevor went into the church together. I hesitated until the last moment, taking a seat in the back row of pews. Jack did a great job describing the spiritual side of Tim’s life. He grinned at his family, including grandparents. The rich seem more comfortable with changing cultural norms about sexuality..
Standing outside again, I congratulated Jack on his speech.
Most of the rowdy teenagers had not attended. They all were gathered by the church rectory. Suddenly there was a screeching of tires burning rubber. I recognized the ‘Wreck’ speeding down Holloway Drive. My jaw dropped when I saw Tim sitting in the back, waving at all his mourners on the church steps.
“Wait,” Jack yelled, running out in the street and jumping in the back of the convertible.
I realized it was not a resurrection, but a prank with Tim’s dead body. My heart sank.
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 agreed to do Mussorgsky’s ‘Night on Bald Mountain.’
I had never been that ambitious a performer but I was excited about playing for this crazy crowd. Tim’s performance addiction had infected me. I spoke with John Landis. He knew how to obtain a print of ‘Fantasia’ which we could project at the back of the stage. With the sound muted, we could play a live version. I worried that we may not be as dramatic as Stokowski’s s Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. Jack said he’d get his roommate to play the MOOG and he’d add guitar to fill out our sound. Jack seemed over the jealousy that overwhelmed him in Miami when Tim kissed me on stage. Now we needed him and Tim’s body to return to the club.
“Are you Hippie?” I asked.
“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 worshipper.”
“That’s just Ol’ Robby. I’ll do it if’n I kin play bass as well. Anna, my wife, will be pleased if I play church music. I won’t havta lie when I’s back in Miami.”
That settled, I went to find David, Tim’s other roommate. He was working with his band. They were pretty relaxed, going over their regular set. They didn’t seem excited about their impending Hollywood debut. They looked so young. I found out they were all high school kids. David had skipped his senior year to sneak into Harvard.
“What’s up?” David greeted 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 looked 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 lit 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.”
“Just as soon as Tim’s body returns then.”