Friday, February 25, 2011

In Memoriam: Heather MacAllister, 25 Feb. 1968 - 13 Feb. 2007

I've been thinking about Heather all day, on what would have been her 43rd birthday.

I guess this is kind of an "I knew her when" post. Because later, Heather became famous as an LBGT and fat activist. Which never actually surprised me. Even when I first met her, at an anti-Apartheid shantytown on the steps of the University of Michigan Undergraduate Library, she had that thing. I don't know what to call it. Drive, determination. She was an activist to her soul.

She was sixteen, then.

We used to argue a lot about the value of radical activism versus a grass roots approach. Heather, of course, was on the side of radical activism. I don't think that ever changed.

We were good friends for what seemed like quite a few years at the time, but now, from the perspective of age, seems like only a little while. We used to go out dancing together. We were housemates; we moved in similar circles. We talked about starting a band. It seems kind of odd, now.

I moved to New York and she moved to Santa Barbara. She came to visit me at Christmas. Later, she sent me an airline ticket to come visit her. I ended up never going back.

I remember when she wanted to dye her hair silver. It turned out green, and she looked like a mermaid.

I remember being so pissed off when she ate the ice cream I had been saving for after work. "I had a couple spoonsful of your ice cream; I hope you don't mind," she said, and when I looked in the carton, only a little New York Super Fudge Chunk was left clinging to the edges of the cardboard.

I remember her saying to me, "How can I be a voice for fat people's rights when I'm only attracted to skinny people? It seems really hypocritical."

I moved to Colorado. She moved to San Francisco. I didn't hear from her much after that. One day, out of the blue, she called me to tell me she was back in Ann Arbor. She had met the love of her life and they were going to move to Sweden, or maybe Arizona. She promised to send me a letter and stay in touch.

I never heard from her again. From time to time I looked for her, but somehow I could never get in touch with her. I didn't even know about her struggle with ovarian cancer until after she had died.

Heather was one of the most positive and determined people I have ever known. Today, thinking about her, I read a lot of articles about her on the 'net. She touched so many lives. I wish I could say that I predicted that when she was sleeping on my couch because she had no place else to go, but I didn't.

Here's a poem I wrote for her in the long-ago time. It probably sucks, but well.

Perfect Shades

Get laid
back. Your shoulders loose you dance
with twisting hips completely
real, let
go. You are
the coolest. Make

it; shake
that cosmic groove thang, baby! Be
my blonde sex-mama, my amoral
rhythm queen. Show
me how it is. Be

my seer-priestess high
on dream-inducing herbs. Teach
me secret
hymns you chant in full moon
circles when frenzy tears

you from yourself, wings
you past the walls of night. Get laid

back. Reach
through my poker-assed
uptightness. Rip off
perfect shades and chill
me with your icebox eyes. No acting

here. No pretense. Take
me out front; expose
me naked. Red earth
natural you are.
You are.

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