I am from Rhode Island. Haven Brothers, the oldest food truck in the country, is also from Rhode Island. Haven Brothers is famous among locals for being the only thing open in the middle of the night in downtown Providence, and it is a beacon after last call, bordering on a mecca, its greasy food like manna after a long jag drinking.
But this is not a story about Rhode Island, or about Haven Brothers. I don’t remember how many times I went to Haven Brothers with Moira Brady. One time was during a street fair when they closed down Westminster Street, and the club music was loud, and Moira bopped back and forth to the rhythm and yelled let’s make a band called the Metronomes. She was always starting bands, or talking about starting bands, or clubs, or gangs. We had a bike gang. That is, a bicycle gang. She never took her helmet off. Or her sunglasses. But when she did, oh boy. The men would fall all over the place for those eyes. I admired the ease with which she dated them all, and she admired the ease with which I didn’t. She said she felt diseased—that she had a diseased mind and a diseased vagina. She also said she had an internal clock that could just go tick tick tick tick tick on and on forever. Kind of like a metronome. She could rest if she wanted to, but she didn’t have to. Tick tick tick tick tick.
Moira was the definition of a spitfire. She drank, a lot. We drank a lot. She did crazy theater. We did crazy theater. One night, under the direction of Moira, a group of 5 or 6 of us put on pantomime makeup and hit the town. It was supposed to be Waterfire that night, another street fair type of thing that was like a circus outside, tons of people walking around downtown. The rules were simple: We were not to say A WORD, not even to each other, for the entire night we were doing this street performance. We were method mimers.
Turns out our intel was wrong: There was no Waterfire that night. The city was dead. We maintained our plan. We wandered the city looking for people to perform at. We went to a bar, and I just wanted a water which was easy enough to convey without words, but Moira wanted a gin and tonic. She pulled out a notebook to write down her order for the bartender and I indignantly slapped it out of her hand. She eventually got her drink.
On the way to another bar, on another dead non-Waterfire street, we came to an intersection where a single car was waiting at a red light. Seizing this opportunity for performance, we mimed being traffic cops. Some of us put our hands out to the car to make sure they didn’t go, and some of us waved through the nonexistent cars going the other way. The red light persisted. We persisted. No other cars ever came to the light. It went on like this for a while, well beyond the point of being clever or funny, but we persisted. We were dedicated.
Finally, the light turned green. We made a production of waving the single car through the light and on their way.
The person in the car drove slowly through the light. They paused, leaned out their window, and said to us, “I had the worst day today, but you just made it the best! Thank you.”
I left Providence later that year, so I didn’t get to make crazy theater with Moira anymore. A couple years later, we happened to be in Ireland at the same time—she had just moved to Dublin—so we tore up that town, too.
That was to be the last time I’d see her. A few years after that, within a week of getting sick and being diagnosed with cancer, she died, at 33 years old.