Monday, October 6, 2008

A Night Mission


My tears are not original. They are the tears of a million gay men. At 2 am, I woke with a purpose. My name whispered and called from the very breeze that blew across the lush green fields below the house. I seemed to float through the house as a lost spirit might. I peaked inside JoAnn’s bedroom. She was lying on her stomach, snoring with one hand still gripping the half-empty gin glass. Ron Popeil was hawking spray-on hair from the screen of her little 13” TV. After turning the TV off, I walked through the living room, passing my other roommate’s sleeping form of the couch. Clark had pulled himself into a fetal position and slept as only a baby could. I felt a sick wave of pity as I stood there, staring down at him in his sleep. He looked so innocent.

I remembered a pearl of wisdom Joan Crawford (as Sadie Thompson) delivered with relish to the missionary’s wife in RAIN (circa 1932). Beulah Bondi looks down at Sadie Thompson (Joan Crawford) and gives her a snotty, “I feel so sorry for you.” Sadie angrily retorts back, “Yeah? Well, sister, I feel sorry for the whole world!” That’s how I felt staring down at Clark as he slept.


I knew I had to finish this journey, so I left to join Norton on the back stoop. I smelled his cigarette smoke before I could see him.

“Norton? …Norton?” I whispered fearing I’d wake Clark or JoAnn. Well, Clark, maybe…JoAnn was totally OUT. You drink that much gin and see how alert you are. A chuckle from the bush by the back door made me jump, “What’s wrong, scared?”

“Nah…It’s just you…” I waved my hand, dismissing his words. My heart nearly leapt right out of my chest. I was thrilled to be talking to Norton again. I stared into his soft chocolate brown eyes and fought the urge to throw myself into his arms. That I’d “missed him” was a gross understatement.

“Come on, Ken. You can’t get that many visits from the other side…”

“What are you doing here…now? You’re dead.” I noted.

“No kidding, you always were the bright one.”

“God, I’ve missed you, Norton.” He seemed to pause in mid-puff, thinking of a way to reply. I hurried on, “What’s it like… being dead, I mean?” I continued on, " I know that last statement sounds stupid, but I don't know what else to say..."

He thought for a minute, “It’s like nothing now, it’s only been a month and I might add, what a month it’s been. Who knew so many people would turn out for my funeral? I mean really... I still can’t believe all those fags could tear themselves away from WeHo long enough to track out to North Carolina to pay their respects to me.” He chuckled, “Did you see that outfit Worthy Meechum had on?”

He stubbed his cigarette out on the little gaudy wishing-well fa├žade that covered the pump house and turned around to face me. He was so beautiful standing there in that bright moonlight. The stirring in my heart was mostly just a sheer longing to join him on the “other side”. I was beaten and tired on life. He stood before me now as one that had never known a sickness amd not that pale,waxen corpse that had been quickly wheeled away from me at the Hospital after he passed. I wanted to hug him, hold his hand as I often did when he was alive and needed some comforting after some jerk had cheated on him or dumped him. But I knew I had to wait because something hung in air, something needed to be said, completed first.

I gave him a questioning look, asking. “ I can’t leave yet, babe.” He quietly said and turned away from me.

“You can’t leave?” I automatically repeated. “Where have you been, Norty?”

He reached for my hand, “Walk with me, Ken.”

I took up his warm hand easily and walked to the gate with him lost in my own thoughts. We pause long enough to unlock the gate and began down the path to the meadow and the South Folk River below.

I nudged him, “Go ahead finish…”

He started rattling off as if he’d practiced it many times, “I’m neither here nor there, I am just around the corner but yet far away. It’s so god damn hard to explain, babe.”

I laughed, “That sounded like a line from a Twilight Zone episode, Norton.”

"I know, I know."
He chuckled and punched me in the arm, pulling me to the edge of a large mud puddle and stopped short. Before I could say anything, he pulled me out to the middle of it after him. We both grinned at each other as we watched the mud squish through as toes.

Norton lit up a cigarette, looked at me almost up to my knees in mud and nearly doubled over laughing, practically howling at the sucking, farting noises my feet were making as I tried to keep my balance. I too, started laughing that crazy manic laughter that comes from being so damn happy you feel as if your face will just split right into.

“What is it, Norton…. What the fuck is so damn funny?”

Finally he was able to speak, “Look at us, one ghost and one queen standing in the middle of a mud-puddle at 2:30 in the morning!”

We got out and walked on for a few minutes more before he pulled me into a soft nest of grass by the river. We both lay on our backs looking into the heavens intently, sleepily as if some profound answer for all this were forthcoming. Norton rolled over onto his stomach and began to rub my shoulder.

“Sometimes I sit by your bed and watch you sleep at night. Other times, I lie down here in the meadows and dream of the sun. I’m always there, Ken…watching. I’m just standing in your blind spot. Don’t forget that.” He stopped and rubbed his forehead.

“Ken, I’m tired. You have to let me go,” He pleaded. The gentle blue of his eyes could be seen even in the dark. I’d caused this, his pain.

My cheeks were wet now from tears or was it beginning to rain? It was morning before I knew it. I was back in the tiny, hot bedroom I occupied in the back of the house. I slowly lifted my head off my wet pillow to stare down at my dirty, mud-caked feet.

1 comment:

david said...

great piece of writing. it was very beautiful and moving. thank you