From Some Stones Don’t Roll
In Stockbridge, Massachusetts, during the 1970s, the author befriends a young man, unaware that this newcomer is a paranoid-schizophrenic who depends on medication to keep him from suicidal and homicidal behavior.
The water is running. It is shower time. I had a dream before waking of a friend making love in my sight, no just beyond my sight, on a window ledge, intimate. Bill had no woman. I ended up in the dream making off with the woman on the ledge and silently holding hands with her until whoever she had been with came back, at which point I stood up and went back and got dressed. Did Freud still impart truth, I would fish for a meaning around the desire for pigeons on my window ledge and my own parlous post-prostate condition. Senator Coburn is quitting. He says he has prostate cancer. He says, almost as an aside, that he thinks it is receding. He says he has at any rate five or ten years. When I was revving up to the danger zone on the Gleason scale, I found a prostate doctor who was doing what is laughingly called non-invasive robotic surgery. I said I did not want to have a barbequed organ lingering in my body. I said cut it out. Many opt for the radiation course of treatment. Radiation and seeds. Maybe hormones. You go in multiple times. Your prostate is done in, you hope. It sounds as though the Senator allowed his religious oblations to intervene long enough to make a surgical option impossible. Who knows? There is always a cause for such things. I wish the man well. The President should have heeded him more. Wait a minute. He did and still got whacked by Mr. Coburn’s crazed colleagues. And even Mr. Coburn showed up at the execution party. Everything has a cause. It will be 2020 until the national cancer created at the end of the 1960s is enough removed to enable a resumption of something like a beloved community black and white together deep in our hearts.
I never knew Bill. Darkish. Dark. Bespectacled. Intelligent. Verbally sharp. Sane. Quiet. I do not make friends easily. Funny to say that now that everyone is my friend, mandated by the hopeful and erroneous vocabulary of those who do the virtual thing, which has become the real thing for channelling things in the charade called money. In the milieu called social. How did Bill get money? He had been at McLean. I didn’t know that. He had been at Gould Farm. I knew that. Gould farm was rehab for non-violent young folk. I never knew what a paranoid schizophrenic supposedly was until after I saw what seemed to be his bloated body on the table. My doctor was the king of robotic surgery in Manhattan, soon to be a fixture on FOX News, opining on health matters. We emailed for a while after the operation and then he did not respond until just the other day. I received an email with a single url — the address of a work online opportunity. The man was trolling for referrals! Would I sell Bill’s guitar? It’s back in Needham or Dedham. Wherever he lived. Bill’s only possession. Had I lent him the money to buy it? I don’t remember. Bill, Bill.
There are other Bills in my life. There is Bill Rewalt who was in my class at Trinity. They say his parents did it once a week and you could see it through the window of their apartment. There was Bill of the family I took as my own at the age of three until it was over and I became homesick, There was Uncle Bill one of my Cleveland family who had one of those chiseled, aged almost permanently smiling faces I associated with ageless Ohioans. He came to live with us as his agelessness morphed into death. There was Bill Saltonstall at the end of the Harkness table at Exeter talking of Herodotus and Thucydides in 1951. I later got into trouble for suggesting he run for the Senate in New Hampshire. Then there was Will. A friend. A tear. I do have friends. Now dead or gone. My angel is my friend. Her name is not Bill.
When we got to the turn to Amherst I saw the familiar bulk of UMass on on the left and we dead-ended into the large rectangle at the end of which Emily Dickinson waged war with words or were they minnows? Tony’s shop was on the East side up the stairs. Did I lend Bill the money for the guitar? I don’t remember. Money for me was and is an oddity. If I lent it to him, then it was my guitar. Do I want to sell Bill’s guitar so I can return money that was mine to Bill’s parents in whatever town they occupy? Can I work up sympathy for them. They are probably long gone too? Like all the instruments I once owned.
When I was dealing stringed instruments from my house on Cherry Street I got into all manner of financial tangles. One girl sold me two guitars I had to give back to pacify their owners who were drug dealers, boy drug dealers in the wake of the 50s, affecting toughness on Cherry Street on a perfect day. Tom over in West Stockbridge would borrow $900 and never pay it back. I had it. They didn’t. Bill and I walked down the hall into Tony’s careful, well-kept shop and soon were owners of a no-name guitar that probably sold for around $200 or so. Not a Martin or a Gibson or a Guild. We put it into the car and drove, largely in silence, the hour or so it took to get back to Stockbridge. It was suppertime. It was still dark. Daylight savings.
Dick Huntington built us a wonderful oval table of thick slabs fit together, Solid. Beautiful. We had benches on the side and chairs at the ends. Me. Ex. The three children and Bill. He had to make a phone call. There was a girl. Somewhere. Whatever it was about, it did not go well. Bill sat down. I was standing over by the stove. “Steve, I don’t think I am getting what I need from this relationship.” I hastily inventoried the weeks we had spent writing songs and the few times we had got up at the Red Lion Inn in the Lion’s Den and performed them and the day we had just spent getting him a guitar and the commitment I had made to spend virtually all of my time with him from the day I was asked to until now. “I can only do what I can do, Bill.” I said. “I am sorry if it isn’t enough.” There the matter rested.
After supper he said, “I want to go up town and hear Bev Rohler.” “Fine,” I said. And we walked out to the car.
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