RIP Tiffany. She passed away back in May, but probably because I was away all summer I just heard about it now after reading this essay (I hesitate to call it a eulogy) by her brother. Thanks Max for linking this to me. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/10/28/131028fa_fact_sedaris?mobify=0
Since she was something of a celebrity in the area, I figure I’d share a little of my experience with her.
Tiffany was my roommate back in 2008. I was home when she first moved in. There was a knock on my bedroom door and when I opened it I saw my landlord and his wife, come up from their apartment on the ground level to introduce us. I thought it was a little strange that they’d both come up to make the announcement, but this was generally a strange time in my life so I didn’t think much of it. My landlord and his family were Somerville’s first Tibetan immigrants, impossibly nice people, and they looked a little apologetic as they told me they’d found a person to take the empty room.
My rabbit was hopping around at the time, and when Tiffany saw him she couldn’t contain her excitement. In one inexhaustible breath, as Samdup, his wife and I stood awkwardly in the doorway, she told me the life story of her rabbit, Hoos, the names and life stories of her other animals (who were being taken care of by a friend), and made plans to have a formal introduction between our two rabbits, complete with a tuxedo and gown for mine and hers respectively.
I didn’t know what to make of her at first. She was a human spectacle. She talked fast, and talked for long. If I’m being honest a lot of it didn’t make much sense, but she was funny, and sarcastic, and if you could handle her energy she had the ability to make you feel good just by being in her presence. To say that she had a big personality is the world’s greatest understatement.
We often sat out on the “deck,” really just a fire escape, her chain-smoking Marlboro Light 100s, and she’d tell me stories about her life. It was unquestionably rough, and the stories she told me about her family were hardly flattering. She did admire David, and felt insulted that he never contacted her when passing through Somerville on his book tours. Most of the time she made it clear she only wanted him to contact her so she’d have the pleasure of turning him down, while at other times she expressed a wistful desire to make amends. It was clear to me that despite her energy and her wit, she was very sad, and very lonely.
We made plans one night to mess with the uptight yuppies in the area – a class of citizens we found ample common ground in mocking – by staging a fake domestic dispute in the middle of the Cambridgeside Galleria. It was in poor taste, and that’s what made it so hilarious to us. We’d start by yelling nasty, personal insults at each other, and then we’d get in a real brawl until we were chased off or arrested. She kept telling me I wasn’t to pull my punches, that she could take a hit. I believed her. Her hands were covered in cuts from the art that she made – mosaics made of broken glass she salvaged from the trash. It was therapy for her, she claimed. She was small in physical stature, sinewy and tough from years of hauling around her bodyweight or more in treasure pulled from the curb, piled onto her rickety bike cart.
I chickened out of the plan to stage a fight, but I didn’t chicken out of my other plan, which was to get the hell out of America. Depressed and directionless, I had this notion of becoming an ex-pat– imagining, I’m sure, some impossibly romantic daydream of a life for myself overseas. And while that clearly didn’t happen the way I planned it, I did manage to work up the courage to at least attempt it. And moreover, my “adventure” was a success– it only took a few months of working a shitty job and living with a shitty roommate in a foreign country for me to figure out that a simple change of scenery can’t make some problems go away. I came back home and enrolled in school, which is where I am today. Considering how neurotic and generally un-adventurous I can be, I never could’ve done it without her encouragement, so in a real way I have her to thank for where I am today.
Lots of people in Somerville knew her, and I’m sure I’m not the only person she touched. She had that way – totally non-judgmental, totally encouraging – that made you feel like you weren’t crazy after all, that the world is just a funny, absurd place. I feel honored to have known her, even as little as I did, and I think there is a big space left in her wake that nobody can fill now that she’s gone. Thanks, Tiffany, you wonderful weirdo.