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Puerto Rico



Chris Chambers

Mike Waters


Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix

"You cannot demonstrate weaknesses so aptly if you do not possess them."

- Dominique

May 26, 1999

To River,

We are strange people. For the last six years, we all suffered big losses in our families or among personal friends. We knew them directly; we shared real memories with the ones who died.

So, why have we been touched so much by the death of an unknown beautiful boy, a far handsome young man? We never met him, never talked to him, never shared a meal or a walk with him. Why was I struck at 12 000 kilometres from his home the same way his own and real friends?

Of course, we liked him before he died. In a different way of the one we love him today. We liked to see him so confident. He was in charge like Chris Chambers, as a kind of elder brother. We knew he overcome a peculiar childhood, I dare say peculiar parents, who maybe taught him a lot of wonderful or rather unusual things but did not prepare him to confront the real world of a young American. He also looked so sure about his beliefs, about nature, vegetarianism, all that sort of things. He gave us the impression he would become not only such a great actor but also a nice adult.

Well, perhaps in Europe we are more reluctant about perfection and beliefs, but a few of us, like probably some in the US, already loved the other part of him. The one he showed when Chris Chambers cried on the shoulder of his buddy, when Mike Waters fell down asleep to escape reality. So he was not just a good actor. You cannot demonstrate weaknesses so aptly if you do not possess them. And we loved him more and more for those human weaknesses. He looked, he was so sincere in both direction : the epitome of the very nice boy, the one who can help, the elder brother, but also the shy one, the weak one, the one who needs, the one you would like to comfort, to console, the little brother you could help by yourself.

When the pain suddenly struck in a morning of October, you first wanted to cry your anger at such a stupid society that kills its good and beautiful ones, at a family that creates a wonder but doesn't know to protect it from the ugliness around, at him, himself : why didn't he listen to his own speeches? So he was not what he looked like? Was he just a young American actor, like any other one, who makes a lot of money when acting, gives us lessons about our behaviour and who dies of an overdose, when hundreds of other human beings with the same qualities die every day in Bangladesh, in Brazil or in any African country?

Then you remember the real River he was, the one you loved, a young one not too sure about everything, the weak one who would have needed you or your alike because you're older and you know a little bit more about life. You would have loved to show him different things from the life of a young actor in California. You even forgot he went to Puerto Rico and Venezuela and sang there in market squares when he was not ten years old and maybe he knows as much as you about life, but as a boy can know, not as a grown-up. You would have showed him a normal life with a normal family, normal friends in a normal city. You don't even realise he could have been bored to death by such a life!

But now, even if you're still angry with him, you love him, as he is, a kind of little brother, confident and weak at the same time, like we all are.

Well, perhaps he would have needed you but you also realise the truth is you needed him because he was different. Not different by his death. He was different before, already when he played. He was one of those who marked their passage among us because they can focus the empathy of the other living ones.

He was, he still is able to show us the compassion he can create inside us and send it back to us, proving so we are real human beings. Do these who can do that have a name?

We loved him for that, I love you, River, for that.

1993 was a very bad year. I lost my best friend in a car accident and I lost River. I have known the first one for 27 years, I have never met the second one. Years later, those two losses still are two huge voids in my life.

Good night, my friend, Good night, River, little brother.

Paris, France.

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