This page is dedicated to the memory of Bryce Arbogast, dear friend, lover, and compatriot to many, who left our company this month at the age of 26. I knew Bryce for just about four years, two and a half of which we were in a relationship, so naturally my words here come from that perspective. For instance, I use the pronoun “they” for Bryce, who preferred either that or “she” while we were together, though I know they also used “he” upon occasion. But I don’t want this page to be my perspective only. I know that many have posted on their Facebook page, but I’m hoping that some of Bryce’s friends might offer words and stories about Bryce through their eyes here as well. For that purpose, I have opened this page up for comments, so that others can share memories, moments, beauties, to draw a portrait of Bryce through the eyes of many.
To leave a comment or to read others’ comments, go to the bottom of this page and click on the “Comments” link beneath the last picture. (You might then need to scroll down the page again – sorry that can’t be changed.) If you want to post a picture, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll post it at the bottom above the comments. Include your name so I can say who it’s from. I’ve included some of my own here to share with everyone.
Dear Bryce, we miss you so very much!
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Cherry Berry Basil
November 25, 1988 – September 24, 2015
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Bryce was a beaming flower of light. I don’t know how else to say it. Everybody saw this in them, because Bryce simply exuded goodness and shine and potential. They drew gorgeously and naturally. They danced like a joy-struck demon. They were a builder and a maker, always ready to take on a project whether they’d done it before or not. They were a seamstress. An herbalist. A trickster. A bad girl. A sisterbrother and a brothersister and a big mama kitten. They were Question Authority embodied. An in-your-face genderqueer transwoman of color. A defender of justice with no truck for bullshit. A stone-solid argumentista. A scrapper squatter. A feral fighter when necessary. And a fabulous dresser.
Funny thing was, Bryce didn’t get why folks saw all this in them. They said to me numerous times, “Why do people keep telling me that I have so much potential? It’s annoying!” They really didn’t sense that, maybe because they had so much going on in their heart and mind at any given time. They were one of the most acutely sensitive people I have ever met – they roiled with feeling, had enormous, gravity-shifting emotions. Big big big. And a constantly analyzing mind. I don’t think there was a moment of the day when they didn’t have something burning their neural circuits, even amidst wild partying and flailing and sex. Always something close to boil on the mental, creative, emotional stove. And this put them in turmoil, too often, so many things unfigured, so many things strongly felt. I wanted nothing more for them than to move past that, the turmoil at least, and my heart is perhaps most broken that they never got a chance to.
For all their urban strivings, Bryce was a huge lover of nature, and was perhaps most at peace there. We had nowhere near enough time out of city, in the woods, though Bryce frequently asked me to get out of town and go hiking or camping. Fool that I was, so caught up in my own urban strivings, I rarely said yes. But I was there with them enough to say that they dove into woods like a sprite, and blended with tree energy like a true kodama, like a pan-global dryad. They were so, so at peace there, so happy. And they often told me, all they really wanted was to have a peaceful life. They strived and struggled and strived toward that. On a number of occasions they said to me, “All I want is a quiet, normal life with a husband and a house and a yard and a dog.” And I would say, “And a picket fence too?” or “What’s a normal life?” But joking as I was, I understood their striving, and how this represented peace for them. I wonder how many of Bryce’s friends would find their statement odd, and how many others heard it loud and clear. But the simple truth was, or one of the simple truths, that Bryce stood out from the crowd, by their unconventional dress, by their very non-traditional ideals and ideologies (thank the universe for those), by their beautiful Filipina-Icelandic face, by their radiant queer aura, by their adamant I-am-good-and-fuck-you-if-you-think-otherwise attitude. And many over the years had made them quite aware of how they stood out, many hate-mongers and fear-swallowers with their ten thousand violences, and Bryce wanted few things more than for that to stop, for the acceptance and tolerance that all non-normative people pursue, to be, well, here. To be real and solid and happening everywhere. Absolutely, they wanted to be themself, to be just the way there were; they just didn’t want that to seem odd to anyone. They wanted to be themself in peace.
Some people had less than pleasant things to say (and I’m sure even more to think) about my relationship with Bryce, not just because of the whole queer thang, but because our age difference was so great – 28 years almost to the day. It’s true that I’ve gone out with and have been involved with all sorts of people over the years, but hadn’t before been involved with someone so much younger, with all it’s pros and challenges, and believe me there were many of both. It started out as just a friendship, you know, the kind when you meet someone who really connects with and jazzes some essential parts of your life, and you theirs. An exciting new friendship. We met through a queer chat space, and started talking because we lived a few blocks from each other in North Oakland, so we started meeting for meals, and to talk politics (Bryce could kick my ass in that department) and art and creativity. Bryce helped me with a difficult carpentry project, some freestanding shelves that I designed for my kitchen, and introduced me to Hot Mess, the squat where they were staying, and the local squat and punk scene, which I hadn’t been familiar with since the 80’s-90’s, and lots of cool folks, and it charged me up. I intro’d Bryce to the Bay Area poetry scene, and lots of literature, and lots of downhome art and music shows, of which they drank their fill and really enjoyed being around and part of. When we started getting more intimate, getting involved, I was resistant, certain that the age difference was too much, but Bryce was very confident that it could be overcome, and I was carried off by their sheer exuberance, and striving, and critical mind. We had many joys, though I can only faithfully recount my own, and the easiest way for me to break down sobbing is to think of how many time they kissed me each day – many, many, many – or a certain look of deviousness or surprise on their face, or the little noises they’d make of delight, or oops, or passion. And yes, as many know we had a rough road of it at times as well, and at the end of last year we were stuck in some bad behavioral cycles, both of us, which we needed to break just to save our friendship. (Sound familiar, anyone?) I was also afraid that Bryce was stuck dealing with the problems of a middle-aged person, while they had so much to go through that I’d already done and couldn’t go through again. I was afraid the relationship was pinioning them, and more than anything I wanted Bryce to be able to experience the world freely, certainly not with me as a filter; so I broke us up, knowing that I needed some time to break my own behaviors, and hoping that Bryce would be able to do the same, as well as turning back toward life with their incredibly open heart. It crushed me to do it, and they took it very hard, and whether or not it was the right decision is a river long gone, but the last thing I did it for was lack of love, there was oodles and oodles of that. Gazoodles. I loved Bryce very deeply, as so many did, and always will, and had so so much hope for them, and only wanted them to experience as much life as they possibly could. In the end, as I understand it, they were finally starting to do so, but they left us far, far too soon, and that is the biggest tragedy of all.
I was sadly on the East Coast when Bryce passed, taking care of my very ill dad so I couldn’t get away for the memorials or anything else, and of course every day has been a memorial for me. But I did do a big ceremony for them during the supermoon eclipse on Sunday, September 27, three days after their passing. Of course I can’t tell you everything that I did as part of the ceremony, but I need to tell you a couple important things.
I went down to the beach of the Atlantic Ocean in Cape May, New Jersey, under the bright and reddening full moon, not far from the surf, and dug a large letter B in the sand, using the entire reach of my arms and body to form the loops. I then planted a Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe candle at the crux of the letter. The first part of the ceremony, unplanned, was my efforts to keep it lit amidst the sea breeze, reasonably mild that evening but insistent and quixotic nonetheless. Eventually I succeeded by digging the candle a bit deeper, with the small but tenacious flame just below the surface of the surrounding sand.
The second, third, and fifth parts of the ceremony I keep to myself, but it is important for me to share with you the fourth. At this point I was lying face up on the sand, very calm, eyes open to the sky, moon, stars, galaxy, universe in a prone meditation, chakras open, all body open and in communication. I reached out to Bryce, and invited them to enter my body, my brain, my senses, to dwell and to experience life as I do, now and in the future, to experience whatever challenges and joys and tastes and soft soft scents and touches and pain and exhilarations that I have and will have, to experience some of what they’ve missed. But I am old, and many of you are young and full of lust and gust and toward the beginning of your emotional and mental and sensory journeys. So I say to everyone who knew and loved Bryce, I invite you to do the same, to allow them into your hearts and minds and nerves and senses, so that they can live many lives, full lives, through us all. That is my wish for them, to have peace and life in both their parting and their staying, for they have parted and they can also stay, if we invite them to, to experience not just joy but all the whelm that human life has to offer.
When I left the beach, I decided to leave the candle behind as well, since it was somehow still burning after an hour of me rolling in the sand, and I thought it good to let it burn as far into the night as it could. I decided to come and fetch it in the morning, so as not to leave a large glass jar partly buried in a public beach. When I returned eleven hours later, and twelve hours after I’d lit the candle, it was still burning.
I love you, Bryce.