hey, I’m back.

I’ve been out of sorts, out of bounds and out of whack for weeks now, and it’s time for me to dust myself off and get back in the saddle.

More updates on our trans-Atlantic move as events warrant. We’ve still got over a hundred boxes to unpack and sort through and a decided dearth of bookshelves. Someday, I know I’ll feel at home here, but that day is not today.

And just as I had been thinking I might have my feet back under me, they were swept away again when I got the news that a dear friend and colleague, Lex Huffman, had passed away quite suddenly.

Lex Huffman was the technical director at my publisher, Interlude Press. But he was so much more than that.

He was my friend, my confidant, my support and my banter partner. In the five years I knew him, I haven’t written anything of consequence that he hadn’t seen before the rest of the world. I dedicated my first book to him. He’s intertwined in at least three other books I’ve been working on, and I just am having a hard time finishing this next book without him to bounce ideas off of and brainstorm with. Knowing I’ll have to complete these without him, without hearing “You done good, kid” from him makes me ache.

So many times, I’ve opened up a new post here to try to make an official Author Blog post about him, some collection of words that encompass him, what he meant, and still means, to me. But I just wind up in a puddle of tears. It’s not often that I’m at a loss for words, but the loss of Lex has left me aching and bewildered.

I’d written a eulogy of sorts of him on a private blog, and I’m going to recopy that here:

Lex Huffman died peacefully at his home in Ohio. He was 52 years old.

Lex loved Sufjan Stevens. And oddly-waifish blond midwestern farmboys who may or may not be gay. And bearded men in flannel. And Broadway-show-tunes singing men. And construction-vehicle-driving men. And eyeliner-wearing fabulously-clad men. I once asked him about his “coming out” story, and he said he’d never had to come out to anyone. He said no one who ever met him ever thought he was straight.

Lex was an astronomer. He loved space and space exploration. He developed a website, staratlas.com, which reads your IP address, and shows you “What’s Up, Right Now” – which constellations might be visible from your current position, even during the day. (For example, right this minute, Taurus and Orion are directly over my head. I can’t see them because of the sunrise, but it’s comforting to know that they’re there.)

At times, he did secret computer-y work for the US Air Force. At times, he drove a dumptruck and an excavator. At times, he wrote stories. He was a renaissance-man, whose curiosity was boundless.

He would want me to tell this story: One time, he got a congratulatory message on some of his astronomy work (and I find, to my chagrin, that I do not remember which of his projects it was.) Just a short e-mail from an astrophysicist, saying he’d found Lex’s work very helpful. And it was signed “Dr. Bryan May.” Lex replied, thanking the man for his note, and, as it was Lex’s penchant to do, he quipped “I bet you get asked if you’re the guitarist from Qn all the time”, to which the man replied “actually, I am the guitarist from Queen.”

Lex would tell me that story any time Queen came up in our conversations, which was, not-so-surprisingly, quite often. And then we’d agree that “Fat Bottomed Girls” was a most excellent song, and that no one but Freddie Mercury could sing it without it being offensive (with all due respect and apologies to Glee and Mark) and then Lex would tell me Freddie Mercury facts that he had stored away in his mind. He’d bring up Freddie Mercury’s birthplace (Zanzibar), or his religion (Zoroastrianism). And then talk would turn to Adam Lambert (the only acceptable replacement lead singer fit Queen, though Paul Rodgers in early ’05 really wasn’t that bad, either.) And then, inevitably, that would lead to Cheyenne Jackson.

I always had the feeling Lex took unspoken delight in bringing up Cheyenne Jackson in our conversations, if only to laugh at my baffled horror. He would send me the link to any number of Cheyenne Jackson videos, usually with Cheyenne in denim booty shorts. And I would express my disbelief at how anyone could be attracted to that man, and Lex would say “You are clearly not a gay man” and I would say “Lex, I think I’m pretty sure we confirmed that a long time ago” and he’d laugh. It was always the same pattern.

Lex had a great chuckle. He had a great voice. It was deep, with a slightly-Southern Midwestern drawl. It was soothing and comforting. He spoke slowly, and with gravitas, even when making an off-colour joke. He didn’t speak often, but everything always seemed to pause when he did. You just wanted to listen to him. He was the calm spot in a frenzy of activity, a sure and fixed point in the whirlwind of creativity.

He was private, and laconic. He never wasted words, he never was overly descriptive or wordy. He didn’t express emotions very often, beyond mild annoyance or frustration at what he was working on. Sometimes, he’d be wistful about romance and finding a good man, but he’d always change the subject whenever one of us would launch into matchmaking plans. He wasn’t one for saying “I love you” to any of us, but he did go out of his way to show us he cared.

Lex loved being a hub of information – he loved knowing things about people, so he could connect them. He remembered where people were from, where they lived now, their families, their hobbies or professions outside of fandom. He knew people’s “secret identities”, lives or jobs or families they didn’t talk about on the internet, and he relished keeping those secret – though he was not above saying “I’m not saying who, but I know for fact that we know someone who can confirm {such and such detail}” or “Let me consult my sources.”

I lived in a timezone 6 hours ahead of him, but he had strange sleep patterns, and so we often talked in what was the middle of the night for him. I’d frequently wake up to a message from him

“Uh-oh, I think my computer might be spouting random media files. You might want to check your email to make sure it didn’t send you gay porn or something like that.”

And sometimes it was someone’s book cover. Or a particularly exquisite paragraph or two that had struck him from the book he was working on. Or a set of fonts he was trying out for a particular book – he was determined each IP book would have a type face that was perfect for each book’s content and feel.

And sometimes, it really was gay porn. Lex liked to keep me on my toes.

One week last summer, I had a really really awful week in my personal life. I was really very upset and I couldn’t stop crying, and, as always, Lex was talking me through it & offering support. He happened to be in possession of my book cover, which I hadn’t seen yet. And he told me I could choose just one little piece to see. He sent me just a slice of one of the small “photographs” from my book’s back cover, weeks in advance.

I knew I could ask him anything, and he’d help me. When my computer crashed and wouldn’t turn back on while I was doing final edits on my book, he calmly talked me through the steps for to retrieve any cached information, how it was possible to restore my hard drive, and how I could get a portable hard-drive to save everything on before it happened again. When I had a conflict with someone, he listen to me freak out and then would calmly suggest some things I could try to resolve it. When I had myself convinced that what I was writing was god-awful, he’d read it and give his opinion. When I had a (still-unwritten) space story I was sketching out that hinged on a plot detail I couldn’t figure out, he came back with 10 or 15 different ideas that would make it work. When I was upset, he’d talk me through.

If you’re sitting there reading this, and thinking “I wonder if Lex and I were friends?” I can assure you, that yes, yes, you were, and he loved you fiercely. He was so proud of us, so proud of our stories and our triumphs and our hearts. He loved those of us that wrote stories, those of us that drew stories, those of us that read and appreciated stories. He loved us. If he replied to your posts with an irreverrant quip, if he sent you a message because you were having a bad day, if he helped you restore your phone when it froze, if he told you a story – he loved you.

Years ago, I was in a group chat thing with Annie and Candy and Lex, and because we were all in different time zones, there would be a “sweet spot” where Candy would be just heading to bed while I was waking up, and Annie and Lex were insomniacs. Inevitably the three of us would get winding each other up, with innuendo and dick jokes, and like magic, Annie would appear online. It got to be a game for he and I, to see if we could start Annie’s morning with an “oh my god I haven’t had enough coffee for this.” He and I would often leave a good joke or innuendo hanging in the chat window, and continue chatting in a private window, just so she’d be sure to see it first thing. It tickled him to no end to know he was making people giggle.

Lex loved decorating for events. His piano teacher (from when he was a kid) still came over to his house for most every major holiday, and brought with her her friends from church and assorted men she would not-so-deftly try to set him up with (which often produced absolutely hysterical texts from Lex “The Piano Teacher brought over a good-looking nice Hungarian boy. Sadly, she has not figured out that he’s not gay, he’s just European.” or “The 77 year old antiques dealer is not “available”. He is “still alive””) The day before Easter and he’d send me a picture of his dining room table, all laid out with the good china and fancily-folded napkins with placemats and tablecloth in coordinating colors. At Christmas time, he’d send me photos from around his house, showing me his enormous Christmas tree collection. (He was trying to figure out how many glass or porcelain or plastic or fake christmas trees  he had. Honestly, the man had Christmas trees of all different sizes, in every single room of his house. “Here’s the hall bathroom.” In total, we counted over 41 “major” christmas trees, but we grouped the small ones, so I am unsure as to the final total count.)

It’s strange, because I still find myself having conversations with him in my head. I can almost “hear” what he’d reply to whatever I sent him. I’ve found myself having to stop myself from messaging him, several times a day – with my usual daily mini-crises, or something funny that he’d get a kick out of, or questions to ask him. I guess it’s a bit of a comfort for me that most of our interactions were via the computer. I always knew that he was a real person, living and breathing somewhere out there in the world. But, he was my delightful friend-in-the-computer, a devilishly funny supportive delightful friend who exists in my head first-and-foremost. I’m determined to keep him there, to keep his dry humor and his flair and his calm intelligence with me, to help keep me balanced.

Lex, my darling friend, I miss you so very much. I will keep writing happy endings for you. I am determined to keep the family you gathered together, to be a smaller hub in the connections you started. I promise, I won’t give up on these dreams. Just like Orion and Taurus, I know you’re out there somewhere, even when I can’t see you.


One thought on “hey, I’m back.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s