Offstage, my husband was an impossible act to follow.
At home at one of the raucous, joyous, impromptu eight-hour dinners we often found ourselves hosting, where the table was so crammed with ambassadors, hacks, political dissidents, college students and children that elbows were colliding and it was hard to find the space to put down a glass of wine, my husband would rise to give a toast that could go on for a stirring, spellbinding, hysterically funny 20 minutes of poetry and limerick reciting, a call to arms for a cause, and jokes. “How good it is to be us,” he would say in his perfect voice.
My husband is an impossible act to follow.
And yet, now I must follow him. I have been forced to have the last word.
It was the sort of early summer evening in New York when all you can think of is living. It was June 8 2010, to be exact, the first day of his American book tour. I ran as fast as I could down East 93rd Street, suffused with joy and excitement at the sight of him in his white suit. He was dazzling. He was also dying, though we didn’t know it yet. And we wouldn’t know it for certain until the day of his death.
Earlier that day he had taken a detour from his book launch to a hospital because he thought he was having a heart attack. By the time I saw him standing at the stage entrance of the 92nd Street Y that evening, he and I – and we alone – knew he might have cancer. We embraced in a shadow that only we saw and chose to defy. We were euphoric. He lifted me up and we laughed.
We went into the theatre, where he conquered yet another audience. We managed to get through a jubilant dinner in his honour and set out on a stroll back to our hotel through the perfect Manhattan night, walking more than 50 blocks.