I’ve never spent a holiday so far from family, so when I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner by a new friend I was thrilled. I searched my mind for my Aunt Gloria’s broccoli cheddar casserole recipe. I sent emails. I would either make the casserole or my mom’s sweet potato pie depending on who responded first. But then I thought, how rude of me. What if what I bring clashes with the theme of my new friend’s menu? I asked casually, what should I bring? Nothing.
I was offended.
I woke up this morning Wednesday November 25th, 2009 to a voice mail from a Mariah saying that a dear friend of ours, Palin Perez Jackson, had been shot by the SWAT team and was dead. Happiness is a Warm Gun warbled out of my laptop speakers as if by chain reaction. Everything was still except the tears slipping off my cheek and hitting the sheet. Dain was there with sympathy. All my memories of Palin played through the Beatles’ Anthology.
“You were only waiting for this moment to be free.”
I learned that he was upset that he wouldn’t be able to see his kids for the holidays and he couldn’t take it anymore. His wife ran away and they tried to negotiate with him for three hours. They said he came outside with a gun as if he were suicidal and threatened his kids.
Threatened his kids? Palin Perez Jackson wouldn’t threaten his kids. Period.
They said he shot a cop. They said they shot him dead. Where was Gideon’s Bible? What would make him walk out with a gun? How bad did it have to be? And how didn’t I know? How many questions will I ask before I remember that it doesn’t matter why-what matters is that he’s gone. He will never make it to his solo art show in Sanford this weekend. We will never sell art together on Orange and Church again. We’ll never check out the girls. We’ll never hang out in his studio and drink warm beer. Never smoke. Smoke.
I went to Market Time for cigarettes. Matt, the checker who introduced himself last week, was there. Words like hi and how are you spilled out of my mouth. I didn’t even hear myself say them. He was fine. But when he asked me how I was doing I sighed and inhaled at the same time and emptied my heart and lost another tear. My friend is dead. He was shot by a SWAT team. That doesn’t just happen on a Wednesday morning. Matt hadn’t expected anything like that from me. The color drained from his face and he offered condolences. In an effort to change the subject, I apologized for not introducing Matt to my roommate, Dain, who he’d seen when we bought dinner together.
Yeah, he’s a really cool. He’s a poet.
Oh so he’s a poet and didn’t know it?
I never know what to say to that whole poet/know it rhyme. I looked away. I meant to walk away, too, but Matt opened his arms and invited me in. I’ve never hugged someone I met at a grocery store before, but I hope there are more. There’s nothing so comforting as the kindness of a friend. I left Market Time listening to Modest Mouse thinking about the painting Palin gave me. Then I started thinking about Strat, another ridiculously talented person who is no longer with us. I starting thinking of all the sunsets they’ll miss.
I starting thinking of all the things I miss everyday like sleepovers at my house, girls’ nights, friends, family, bands, hearts, hugs. Every single instance of happiness I’ve ever had is solely based on this group of people and places.
All I can be is thankful.
So, even though I’m far from home I’m holding it in heart and I’ll be at my new friend’s house with nothing but a smile on my face.