A magazine I don’t have much respect for contacted my manager, and said it was doing a retrospective on the 20th anniversary of the death of River Phoenix. Would I be willing to talk to their reporter?
I declined, because I don’t trust them to be respectful and accurate, but since the request came in a few days ago, I have been thinking about River a lot.
Yesterday, I was looking though my office bookshelves, and I came across some teen magazines I have from the 80s, when I was on their covers. I think they came out of Wilhouse 13 when I cleaned up the garage, or maybe my mom gave them to me when my parents moved out of their house a few months ago.
Anyway, on the cover of a magazine from 1988, there’s a picture of River Phoenix, and it says, “Find out what River will be like in 10 years!” I kept looking at it, past the pictures of me and Sean Astin and Kirk Cameron and Alyssa Milano and the other kids who were popular with teen girls in those days, and something about that was kicking me in the stomach, making me feel sad. I couldn’t figure out why, until I did some maths and realized that River died five years later, in 1993.
We’ll never find out what he would have been like in 1998, because he didn’t make it to 1998. Just thinking about that made me incredibly sad.
I said I Twitter that I don’t think of him often, but when I do, I miss him, and hope that we would be close if her were alive today, because he was good people. I don’t know what kind of 43 year-old he would be, if we’d have anything in common, or if we would be friends. Hell, we hadn’t been close for a few years when he died, mostly because our lifestyles were incompatible and I wasn’t especially interested in his recreational activities of choice.
But he was, in his heart, a kind and loving and caring person. He loved his family more than anyone I can think of, and he did everything for them, maybe — I think — to his own detriment at times.
But he was good. River was good, and he had so much talent within him to share with the world, so many characters to play, songs to sing, and stories to tell … and we’ll never get to experience any of them. That makes me sad.
Like I said, I don’t know if we’d be close, or if we’d have anything at all in common, but when I think of him, I remember the 16 year-old who I looked up to, who taught me chords on his guitar and played video games with me while we listened to music on a tiny mid-80s boom box in Oregon.
I miss him, or at least the memory I have of him. He was good people, and he left us far too soon.