Songs Of Love and Cheesecake

Post-college road trip to Las Vegas to find an apartment and postpone adulting for a while.

Post-college road trip to Las Vegas to find an apartment and postpone adulting for a while.

Captain’s Blog: Stardate 120918.9

Wesley: “I miss her. I feel empty.”

Guinan: “I know that sensation. But there’ll come a time when all you remember is the love.”

- Star Trek: The Next Generation

When we started dating in college, it was the middle of our senior year. The truth of our adulthood was looming heavy on our actions and our love. Not to mention, a steady diet of Olive Garden cheesecake, because when you’re in your 20s, you can handle that.

Our decision about being grown ups was to defer the responsibility and dive head first into graduate school in Las Vegas. Six of us total from our graduating class made UNLV our next stop on the road to maturity. 

One of my best memories is when four of us drove non-stop to Vegas shortly after graduation to check things out and find a place to live. After a campus tour, the group said we didn’t have time to stop by the “Star Trek: The Experience.” I was bummed, of course, but knew that I’d have plenty of time to stop there later. And then he and our fellow travelers took us there anyway. I saw Klingons and Ferengi standing at the door and I wept.

Before our move was official, we spent the summer in Lincoln, New Hampshire. I booked a summer stock gig out there and my boyfriend and my college roommate decided to come along. So, instead of me living with the company in provided housing, the three of us rented a studio hotel room in a place that made “The Shining” hotel seem open and inviting. My roommate worked at the hotel welcoming people on horse tours, my boyfriend got a job in the box office, and I rehearsed “Anything Goes,” “She Loves Me,” and “West Side Story” with an incredibly talented group people. One of those folks would end up in the original Broadway cast of “Book of Mormon.”

When we got to Vegas that fall, we adopted my first pet together; a beautiful grey cat most of you have heard me talk about at least once or twice. We weren’t entirely sure what the sex was of the kitten, so we made a deal. If the cat was male, he would be named Tamino from “The Magic Flute.” If the cat was female, B’Elanna from “Star Trek: Voyager.” B’Elanna it was. Though he and I would break up a year or so later, that cat changed my life and was with me for fifteen years.

The UNLV experience was not great, but there were some good memories. Working on the new opera “Shining Brow,” which got cancelled because there was no orchestra…but, not before I had the chance to correct the music director on the correct way to say “Cheney.” Working on “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” which got cancelled…but not before we changed the lyrics from “and one of them is black” to “and one of them is tall,” because, well, my boyfriend was not black. But he was tall. We did do one opera that year, “The Marriage of Figaro,” I think…but I can’t remember anything about it. 

OH! There was the Halloween party that wasn’t! See, in college, my roommate and I threw amazing Halloween parties! Like…the best! So, she and I decided to continue that tradition in Vegas. The five of us (one had already left) even had a theme: Disney villains. My roommate was Cruella deVille, I was Hades, my boyfriend, who was already 6’3”, was Maleficent. The horns we built must have added at least another 7-8 inches. Unfortunately, we hadn’t really made any friends yet, so the five of us went to a club instead and Maleficent was definitely the hit of the dance floor.

All but one of us moved out of Vegas the following spring. While we were all selecting our next steps, he and I auditioned at the University of Colorado, Boulder. We were there overnight, and it was during that trip we saw the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode of “The Body” where, spoiler alert, Buffy’s mom dies and the whole team has to face the truth of a devastating loss. We sat there and sobbed together.

September 11, 2001. He and I were just settling into our new apartment in downtown Minneapolis on Hennepin Avenue. Classes had started at the University of Minnesota. We hadn't really even made any friends yet, so we sat there together. Stunned. Devastated. Alone.

We developed a love of Domino’s Pizza that was almost unnatural, made much easier by the ridiculously cheap deal they had for pick up. The Domino’s was literally across from our building, so this was an easy habit to establish. Finally, we decided that we had to limit our pizza consumption to once a month. When it came time for our next pizza a month later, Bob the manager was so relieved that we were okay. He had gotten worried that he hadn’t heard from us in a while. 

We broke up the following spring, and it wasn’t long after that he met the man he would share the rest of his life with. I did not, though I had another amazing six years in Minnesota filled with music, love, and adventure before moving back to Chicago. 

There was not a ton of connection with my ex-boyfriend after we broke up. Which I suppose is part of that process. But I learned a few tidbits along the way. He became a licensed psychologist. He moved to New York and Texas. He and his husband were married by none other than Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

This past year he was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer. They found it rather unexpectedly while investigating what seemed to be an unrelated pain. What followed was a hard-fought, brave battle with this monster of a disease. I read on his Facebook today that the most recent treatment has failed and he has decided not to pursue another round of chemotherapy. My ex, Rush Williams, is now being moved into hospice care. 

Earlier this year, as I made public my impending move to Los Angeles, he wrote.”Shaun, I'm really proud of you; not because you're moving to LA, but because as long as I've known you, you have always followed your heart. I hope this next chapter brings you all the happiness and goodness you so richly deserve.” Even though I’m a writer, I found myself unsure of what to say. I was overwhelmed. I still am. To take the time to send such a beautiful message with everything he was going through moved me deeply. But I didn’t know what to say.

Rush, I am really proud of you. The life you built with Michael has clearly been full of joy, of passion, of music, and of great care. Care of each other, care of family, and care of those around you. I am proud of how you have faced this challenging battle with bravery and with optimism every step of the way. I remember the love. I remember the cheesecake. I am thankful that Michael and your family have all been with you to give you strength and support. I am thankful that your life has been filled with love, and that we got to share some of that love along the way. I send you love and light as you face this next step.