In my head Times Square exists in perpetual night. It doesn’t exist otherwise. It just springs into life at 9pm, with its lights and its hurry, and it’s bustle, the faces and the scenes and the dingy cafes and tourist scene hustle. Many years ago, I met Billy there, he was carrying a guitar, I was carrying myself, we stopped and talked and shared a slice of pizza and a fragment of life. He wanted to tell me the good news, that Jesus loved me. I could hardly take him seriously in his drunken, meth’d out state: if this Jesus was anyone at all why would he send me this torn and shattered man to drag me kicking and screaming into the light? I fell for it – his promises that I needed to hear, his reassurances that this wasn’t the end, that I was loved, that I had an eternal father and redemption through his Son. Now I am not so sure. I think I just pissed everyone off for nothing, all my earnest church going, and my holding onto the comfort, a sham. No, now I am not so sure at all, and it sure is scary out here alone and responsible for my sin, me alone, and no one to answer to, no one to forgive me or redeem me, except myself. I feel cut adrift. Lost.
Tonight Billy, at the other end of life, is in a hospital bed, rushed in, the strokes, the alcoholism, the drugs, the partying, the nihilism, he is not going to be able to leave this time, not capable of walking out of there. Medical people are warning me it is serious. That this isn’t a time for me to let myself rage at him if I care about him, and I am the only person he cares to talk to, and to be frank the only person that cares to talk to him. He got onto the other end of the phone, giving me as his emergency contact, and said to me, “I don’t want to die alone.” And I don’t have the heart to let that happen, yet I cannot be there in person. I told him when he dies, I don’t think God is going to be angry with him. Worse. I don’t think there will be anything at all.
I keep expecting him to push through it, to survive it, to drag his sorry self, his brain tumor and his little-boy smile to San Francisco, meeting me by the Wharf for a coffee or at least an apology. He kept threatening to die on me, these last six months, and now it is me who isn’t ready to let go of my oldest friend. All I wanted was for him to take responsibility, to accept that we can only ever be friends, and to move forward for what is left of this world. I am asking too much of my old man, he was broken too long ago.
Alcohol can take you there, says Marianne Faithful, take a shot a minute and be there by the hour…but this isn’t nineteen ahem…whatever, and he isn’t even middle aged any longer, and there are no tickets left for the show.
Goodnight….I hope you have a good night.