I first met Rob on New Year's Eve, 1994, at Hollywood Express on Mass Ave in Cambridge. I had just inherited my parents' old VCR, and Hollywood was, and still is, the best video store in town. The idea was to prepare for a lazy New Year's Day after a night out by lining up something to watch. He approached me in the crowded store, suggested Russ Meyer and Twister. I parried in kind. We flirted: Two movie geeks identifying themselves.
[And I remember what I did start 1995 with--The War Room and the Brothers Quay. Go figure].
After that, I began to watch a lot of movies. I mean a lot. Nearly 1,000 in 1995. Night after night I would curse the VCR's slow rewind, then leap on my bike and pedal furiously to the store before it closed at eleven [so my movies would be returned on time].
We became involved sometime in February, after we'd gone to see his coworker Billy Coover's rockabilly band play at the Plow and Stars one night. As we walked, slightly drunk, down the dark Cambridge streets back to my apartment after the show, we sang "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady" and the
Mario Lanza Maurice Chevalier "If a Nightingale Could Sing Like You" bits from the Marx Brothers. I invited him up, and he stayed. From there, it got complicated, and was often painful, until it ended that December.
Rob Rivera was the first man I ever loved, and who I was then--a foolish, heartsick girl--is at the root of all I am now. And all of my memories, good and bad, of this man are tied up with the movies I watched, he watched, we watched.
A couple of years after he first broke my heart we ended up working together at the second location of the video store, in Central Square. I had dropped out of NYU and was pretty lost and slacking hard. He hired me and gave me a home. I stayed with that job much longer than I should have, even as I began making my life with the Fesser, out of a sense of loyalty to Rob. Everyone there did--Seaghan, Michael, Azeem, Pam, April, Maceo, darcy, Sarah, Lorenzo, Bryan, Seb, so many more. Ultimately, I was fired by the owner, and we stopped talking, again.
Rob and I hadn't spoken for years. Then in February we began a tentative correspondence. I now have seven emails from him. There will be no more. Last week he died, after battling primary progressive MS since 1998. He was 35 years old, and he's broken my heart all over again. I don't know if I ever had the courage to tell Rob straight out that I loved him, so I am telling you now.