Thursday, April 25, 2013

The real gin and juice blues

I don't want to write this post. I've been putting it off for 3 days now. I know putting it into words won't change anything. I know not putting it into words won't either. So I'll just write it.

Melvin died early Sunday morning.* He was a passenger in a car that crossed several lanes of traffic and ran head-on into a pickup truck. He and the driver died there. Careflight came for them, but the coroner left with them instead.

I saw photos of the wreck Sunday morning before church. The car was crushed. I thought, How awful. Nobody walked away from that car. I didn't know it was Melvin who wasn't going to walk away. I don't think we'll ever know what happened that night. The police said neither speed nor alcohol was involved, which means the driver wasn't drinking. Melvin was never sober, but he also never drove. Not after his doctor had his license pulled.

Every time I went out Sunday I expected to hear Melvin's voice, but our part of the street was quiet. He came and went a lot though; sometimes 5 or 6 different people would pick him up and then bring him home in a day. I looked for him, but I wasn't worried that I didn't see him.

The next day his landlord Paul knocked on my door to tell me he was dead. The police couldn't find Melvin's daughter, and Paul wanted to know if I had her number. I didn't.

I'll write more about that day, but not tonight. It's been a hard week, and today is only Wednesday.

There's a big gaping silence over there across the street where Melvin used to sit on his porch and holler to me as I walked to my van, "Baby, how you doin'?" And I'd reply, "I'm fine." And he'd say, "I know you are! I love you, baby. You know I love you, don't you?" And I'd say, "I know you do." And he'd say, "Where you goin'?" And I'd say, "To a party (or downtown or to the store or just out)." And he'd say, "Can I go wit' you?" And I'd say, "No." And he'd say, "That's OK, baby. You be careful. I still love you though. I can't lie. I still love you." And I'd say, "I love you too."

And I did. I did love him too, in spite of myself and in spite of himself. He watched out for me. And sometimes I watched out for him too.

Sometimes he really annoyed me. And .... I don't think I ever annoyed him. He just wasn't like that.

I'll write more about Melvin later. Tonight I'm struggling to see the page through my tears, and I'm tired. Grief makes me tired. The emptiness out there on the street makes me tired.

*If you don't know who Melvin is was, maybe you haven't been reading here long. I've written about him many times. Here's a list of the most relevant posts. I hope you'll want to  know him better.

"Gin and Juice Blues"
On the Radio
Life on My Street
It's Just Not There
Rick and Mitt
Wednesday Night After Karaoke (a poem)


  1. Putting it into words _does_ change something - it changes you. And reading your heartfelt words of grief changes me. I wish you peace.

    1. Of course that's why I write. Thanks for reminding me and for your kind words, Ralf.

  2. I'm so very sorry for your loss. I'll miss him, too. Your words brought him to life for those of us who couldn't meet him.

    1. Thanks, Debbi. Melvin thought it was great that I wrote about him. He never asked to read anything though. I guess he liked what he imagined best.