I have a friend named Marc. He’s an actor and you’ll see him in a show on HBO this fall, with Jason Bateman. Last year he was on Ozark as a character named Russ.
I met Marc on an airplane several years ago when he was heading from Boston to Martha’s Vineyard to see his girlfriend and I was going to pick up my kids. We stayed in touch in a very modern way: we send each other voice memos on a fairly regular basis—it’s pen pal-ing, with a phone instead of paper.
Marc will send me a memo from South Africa about all the people he’s meeting and all the funny things he’s doing while he’s shooting an episode of Black Mirror with Miley Cyrus and I’ll send him a memo about going to visit one of my boys. He’ll send me a memo about being in LA and shooting a thing for Gibson guitars (he also happens to be a gifted singer and songwriter) and I’ll send him a memo about visiting with someone who is dying; every voice memo I get has him in some far-away place doing something really cool. And I respond with the stories of my little life here in Vermont. We have a fun overlap: his girlfriend, Victoria’s, family has a house in Lake Tahoe and every once in a while they’re there eating at the places we go when I’m there visiting Sam, looking at the lake I look at when I’m there. We have yet to be there at the same time, but we love sharing stories of a delicious visit to the Char-Pit, the smell of the pines there, the way the air is so crisp.
We saw each other in December when I went to New York with Nate to see the Lone Bellow at the Bowery Ballroom. The band members are his friends, of course, so we got to meet them, hang a bit; we got the total VIP treatment. It was so much fun. I think, besides the great music and getting to spend time with Marc and Victoria, my favorite part was when the band circled up before the show and I said a prayer about warmth and song and sweetness. Totally awesome pastor moment.
You have to admit, what Marc and I have is unusual. In a world of fly-by-night encounters, short-lived relationships and nanosecond attention spans, Marc and I have managed to cultivate a friendship of meaning and lasting worth, even with lots of space and usually a couple of time zones between us. And we know this and so we continue to honor it but putting time and energy into our friendship.
When I first met Marc he was a classic struggling actor, living in New York and barely getting by. I’ve watched as he’s made his way, persevered. I sense that’s it’s a combination of talent, tenacity and genuine kindness that have propelled him forward to where he is now, with his first recurring role in a major TV series. I couldn’t be more proud, nor less surprised. Marc is one of the good ones and I like to believe that the good ones eventually have their day.
I’ve been helping Marc work his way through a challenging situation at the moment and yesterday we were sending messages back and forth, processing that. He paid to me what I consider a great compliment. He said, “thank you so much, Melissa, for all of your help. You say things that make sense.”
It was a kind of relief, actually, to hear that I may actually be spewing some gibberjab that is helpful, that somehow my life experience is paying off for someone else … you say things that make sense. Phew!
This is a hard world we live in and we’re all trying to figure it out as we go. It often feels like it’s getting weirder, more complicated. It feels like people are struggling more and more with mental, physical and spiritual issues. It often seems like the things that befall people are truly profound: the cancer is stage four, the mother and the father have died, the loss of not one but two sons; the daughter is starving herself to death. The needs of the humans I encounter have great depth while at the same time it feels like people are alienating themselves from each other, more and more.
I adore Marc Menchaca. I adore his lovely partner, Victoria, and I am incredibly honored to be along for the ride, to be part of his story, to bear witness. He feels the same about me and we tell each other this all the time. We have a plan for our memorial services, by the way, so you’ll get to meet him when I die.
The night we went to see the Lone Bellow, Nate and I walked home, back to the hotel, very late. It had been such a fun evening, one of those classic New York nights. Nate said, “Mom, I can’t believe you get to have experiences like that just because you’re kind to people.”
Take the just out and what you have is a map for your life: be kind, care, pay attention, be helpful, let the right people in and keep them in.
When I wrote about V Smiley and her miraculous preserves yesterday, she countered by writing a little Instagram blurb about me: Melissa has been an utterly warm and inspiring force of support, notes, jam buying and general cheerleading. So much so that I’ve re-focused my energy on writing and have started these weekly meetings with my sister where we share work back and forth.
I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to hear that I have inspired in someone a reborn desire to write!
This is what we want for ourselves and each other in this life: to lift each other up, to care about each other’s dreams, to share in our stories and to bear witness to each other’s triumphs and sufferings.
One of the things I loved about V’s post was that there was no @ or # in front of my name — it was just Melissa O’Brien, stand alone me. I’m not hashtagable anymore and I will tell you that the world is a very different place when you’re no longer concerned with likes and hearts. You’re just … in it. It’s really nice.
But that’s another story for another day. Thanks for coming, reader. Thank you for your eyes, your heart, your time and attention. Believe me, I can feel the love and I am deeply, infinitely grateful.