Cindy Dall, I Hardly Knew Thee, but I Miss You Dearly
By Joseph Kyle
I’ve been thinking about Cynthia Dall this morning. I was talking about her with a friend of hers this morning. I only met her once, in the early 90s, at a Smog show. It was love at first sight. I talked to her for about a half-hour, about Rollerderby, Suckdog, and she asked me about what I was studying in college, what my goals were. The word I used to describe her to my friend was… “Pure.” My friend, who was a real-life friend, said that was the best adjective to describe her. She seemed a pure soul. Yes, she created some extremely transgressive photographs — and though I wouldn’t say she was “embarrassed” by what she had done, she did blush just a bit when I mentioned them, and it just felt to me that the photographs and those scenes were acting, a persona, a facade, something that she did and was a part of her, but not a defining thing. When an artist creates, does their art always define them? It’s an eternal question.
She had beautiful eyes, too — curious, inquisitive, and interested in taking in everything she saw around her. There was sadness underneath, visible to those who possess that same sadness, a secret life of pain and hurt, not overt but quietly throbbing underneath the surface of the soul, something that she seemed to be both running away from and acquiescing to. Yet it didn’t stop her enthusiasm, her friendliness, and her desire to learn, to talk to me as if I were the important person to talk to at that moment.
I only met her in person once, but I fell in love with her instantly, in the way one falls for heroin or a moment of pure bliss or a fleeting glimpse of happiness. I listened to her work with Smog and her album as Untitled (she chose to keep her name off of it, a move I admired) with a dreamy longing and happy memories of that one brief time when her mind and my mind were simpatico, learning about each other. I wrote a glowing review of her second album, and got an email from her thanking me kindly for the nice words. I simply said, “No problem, thank you for that great record”, and that was it. I look back and realize that could have started up a conversation… but I was too nervous.
Jump forward to the Facebook era. I friended artists from the 90s, and people from the indie-rock scene. I friended folks from the Rollerderby scene: Lisa, Dame Darcy, others whose work I have admired for nearly 20 years. When I discovered Lisa on Facebook — and worked out that it was actually, honestly her — I had zero nervousness in sending that request, even though her work with Rollerderby was heavily influential on my writing and the way I saw the world: looking at dark things, dark sides, ugly things, but never judging, never dismissing, and seeing the beauty in this world that others might find ugly. I could have been intimidated by Lisa — but I wasn’t. Never was, never will be.
Naturally, as my friends list grew, the recommendations for friends grew, too — and one day, a name came up. “Cynthia Dall.” Then I started to see her comment on mutual friends’ FB posts. I clammed up like a teenager in the throes of his first crush.
I never could send her a friend request. I never did. The week before she died, her name came up again. I gazed at the suggestion, then clicked “ignore this request”.
Why didn’t I? I’ve been thinking about that this morning. Maybe it was related to that crush I had. Maybe it was because that one moment, that little half-hour conversation, that blissfully delightful conversation we had — maybe I didn’t want to ruin that. Maybe I didn’t want to find out what was behind those beautiful, innocent, pure yet sad eyes. Maybe I didn’t feel I had a right to disturb that moment. Maybe I didn’t feel like what I felt was normal. Maybe I was afraid of her not accepting it. Maybe — maybe it’s a combination of all of those. Yet that day, that last day I saw her recommended her as a friend, I thought to myself, “What the hell do I have to be nervous about?” But I stuck to my decision. I wish I hadn’t.
I don’t fall in love often, and I definitely don’t fall in love with people on first sight. But Cindy — the woman I didn’t know — Cindy was different, Cindy was real, Cindy was otherworldly. Now that she’s gone, I feel like something is missing, my memories fading, yet that feeling still exists. I wish I had friended her. I wish that I had had the fun conversations I have with her real-life friends. I wish that I hadn’t been so afraid.
But that’s just what I have. Wishes. There’s nothing I can do now to rectify that, and for the rest of my life, I have to live with that decision.
Her death came during Holy Week. That week I undertook a vow of silence and prayer and meditation from noon on Good Friday to Easter morning. Something compelled me to check my email — something I had sworn I would not do — and the friend I was speaking to was asking me had I heard about her passing. It was hard to be silent. I thought of her. I prayed for her, prayed for her family, and used that time — that shocked time, that stunned silence — to say goodbye to a friend I never had, a memory that had sustained me, showing me that like souls exist during times when I feel totally alone in the world, and to know that there were, are, and always will be pure spirits.
It’s the third time in my life where the realization that I should be a friend and that I should take the initiative and not be shy was met with that person dying. Once in high school, twice on Facebook. Three times too many.
I miss Cindy Dall, even though I only knew her through photographs and little more than an hour’s worth of music. I don’t know where she is now, I don’t know what her spirit is doing, but I pray and hope she feels peace, and she is in the well-spring of knowledge and learning and curiosity that I always felt she possessed. Maybe one day she and I will have conversations about anything and everything. I’d like that.