The following stories are not pretty, they are stark and full of pain. They are stories that I haven’t thought of in a very long time and, as I write, I’m not sure I ever did think of them even when fresh. But for the last two weeks they have played heavily upon my thoughts, over and over again.
I knew this guy named Dan. Dan was married to Ann. Ann and Dan had a couple of kids. Dan was a guitar player, Ann a singer. Dan and Ann’s marriage fails, she takes the kids and moves. Another friend Bob, another guitar player, is the owner of the local pro music store. Bob and Ann get married and have a couple kids. Ann and Bob’s marriage hits the rocks and Ann takes all the kids and moves into her parents’ house. Bob is filled with pain. He goes over to his in-laws to speak to Ann and the kids. But instead of using his words Bob lets an M-1 carbine do his talking for him. By the end of the soliloquy Ann, Dan’s 2 kids, and Bob are all laying dead on the floor. Ann and Bob’s youngest was asleep in her crib and their older child was out with the grandparents. I was pall bearer. I never was able to speak comforting words to Dan, just sit shiva with him.
Knew this girl, can’t remember her name, met her in a bar in the early ’80s. She had a couple of kids, three I think all pretty young. The stresses and pressures of the world and life as a single mom living in the ghetto got to her. She sought comfort and solace in bars, dope, and meaningless relationships. These things cannot comfort for long. One winter night after the children had gone to bed the despair became so overwhelming that she blew out the pilot lights and turned on the stove. She left the house walked for a while. She ended-up at the police station walked in and confessed what she had done. The police rushed to the apartment in the ghetto, but were too late. I read the account in the paper and couldn’t connect the name with the tragedy. A couple days later I was talking to another girl in a bar, one I had known from before, can’t recall her name either. Well it was the first girl’s best friend who let me know that I knew the girl from the newspaper story.
I actually sat in judgment of this young woman for whom the pressures of life were too much. Her friend tried to get me to empathize, but….
When I was 10 or 12 my mom had a friend, Joy. Joy and my mom worked together. Joy was married to some misogynist jerk. Joy’s husband was quite abusive to her and their kids, a couple girls and a boy. This clown would sit with a .22 while drunk and shoot flies. He tried to run Joy down in the parking lot of the Montgomery Wards she and my mom worked at. This abusive piece-o-s#$& was raping the kids, all of them the girls and the boy. One night he laid on the couch with a loaded shotgun and swore he was going to shoot the kids when they got up in the morning. He nodded a little, as drunks are prone to do. Joy took the shotgun from him, he turned a little and looked at her as she pulled the trigger. She very calmly walked to the neighbors, told them what she had just done, asked to use the phone and called my mom, then the police. When news got ‘round you could hear the cheering the next town over. Joy spent a couple months in jail until her trial. “Well, he was human,” was all the States Attorney could say. The jury acquitted Joy.
Do I need to try to look for the reasons that the dead guy would be like he was and not judge him so harshly?
This brings to mind the song What It’s Like by Everlast on his Whitey Ford Sings the Blues:
“What It’s Like”
We’ve all seen the man at the liquor store beggin’ for your change
The hair on his face is dirty, dreadlocked and full of mange
He ask the man for what he could spare with shame in his eyes
Get a job you fuckin’ slob’s all he replied
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to sing the blues
Then you really might know what it’s like [x4]
Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom who said he was in love
He said don’t worry about a thing baby doll I’m the man you’ve been dreamin’ of
But three months later he said he won’t date her or return her call
And she sweared god damn if I find that man I’m cuttin’ off his balls
And then she heads for the clinic and she gets some static walkin’ through the doors
They call her a killer, and they call her a sinner, and they call her a whore
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose
Then you really might know what it’s like [x4]
I’ve seen a rich man beg
I’ve seen a good man sin
I’ve seen a tough man cry
I’ve seen a loser win
And a sad man grin
I heard an honest man lie
I’ve seen the good side of bad
And the down side of up
And everything between
I licked the silver spoon
Drank from the golden cup
Smoked the finest green
I stroked the fattest dimes at least a couple of times
Before I broke their heart
You know where it ends
Yo, it usually depends on where you start
I knew this kid named Max
He used to get fat stacks out on the corner with drugs
He liked to hang out late at night
Liked to get shit faced
And keep pace with thugs
Until late one night there was a big gun fight
Max lost his head
He pulled out his chrome .45
Talked some shit
And wound up dead
Now his wife and his kids are caught in the midst of all of his pain
You know it crumbles that way
At least that’s what they say when you play the game
God forbid you ever had to wake up to hear the news
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to lose
Then you really might know what it’s like [x3]
To have to lose…
I think that this is how Jesus looks at us. He came and walked a mile in our shoes. I think I need to try to do that too, it is what I would like others to do for me. Maybe this is why these stories keep playing in my mind, maybe it’s time I tried to step into the shoes of each of the characters, maybe it’s time I tried to step in the shoes and walk a mile in the next person.