last night at a show i ended up speaking with an acquaintance who'd hear of my friend Bill Tunilla, and had even worked with him for awhile. Bill was my mom's best friend my entire life, helping her to function and protecting me from having too much to bear, as far as taking care of her. he was also one of the best people ever, with the type of shitty like that truly kind people end up coming up with, especially with a pretty cut-throat version of capitalism in place the way it is. he owned a used bookstore for years, because he loved books, and wanted people to be able to read books. he would give a book away to a homeless or crazy person if they got their heart set on it. me and mom were really his family. he did so much for me. he died of renal cancer in the bedroom of mom's apartment, this past June, penniless and truly tired of being so sick. he was well known in the used book world, dare i say a bit legendary (for his kindness, and maybe his sloppiness and love of baseball and cats too) and the acquaintance i was talking to knew him through the used bookstore world.
I started using Bill as a character in my fiction a lot more than previously once i found out he had cancer, which didn't kill him for a few years. usually i'd call him George. "When We Meet in Heaven," a story posted earlier, is inspired by him in a roundabout way. I wrote the first draft of my novel about him at lightning speed, because i was really inspired to honor him once he died -- he died, then a day later i got this shitty job that was very depressing to be at, and so on my breaks and at lunch and, admittedly, during downtime, i scribbled away at a draft, and i didn't realize how rough it was until i gave it to geof to read. i have been lazy about reworking it, though. it needs a major overhaul, and i've just been truly uninspired. so this shit could end up taking years to have a true "the end."
i dream about him every night, almost. in my dreams, we are hanging out, and then i say something like, "you are really dead, aren't you? this is just a dream." and he invariably cops to it, admits it to me with pity in his voice that yes, in real life he's dead.
i just felt like posting chapter one of the novel in progress today.
Imagine the sun beating down on you, on a day in the year in which you feel the most youthful you will ever feel. There is a breeze. You extend your bent arms out a little further along the arms of the porch rocking chair so you can feel the jewels of sweat that have been forming slow as a drugged breath along the curves of the caves of your armpits, every inch of you radiating unshakable confidence, for once. It is 1956, George. Shhh. You are not dead yet, you are still alive and I am still just the ephemeral glow surrounding fireflies or the particles of dust that drift visible across shafts of sunlight through the curtains on a Sunday afternoon, I am not yet born. This is one of your birthdays. This is the day on which you feel your absolute youngest. Does it feel good? Yes, of course, but not too much better than later birthdays on which you will feel old. No better, really, than being 45, when it is painful to walk but you are gifted with love.
George was born in 1943. He was 25 when "Yesteryou," a song sung by Stevie Wonder, was out and being played on radios. This was his all-time favorite song -- for the most part he didn't notice music, though he was often mistaken for a music-lover. But he loved the way this song captured the melancholic, sunsetty feeling of nostalgia. There's a part where the lyrics ask: "Where did it go, that yester glow? When we could feel the wheel of life turn our way?" When someone asks a question like that, it sounds like they are scared, of the way time moves and the way it feels to get older, and this was the anxious way George felt about the passing of time as well, the pure inevitability of time. But he also appreciated the song for itself, for the way it sounded. Like I say, there's something of the sun in that song. The beauty of it agitated him, even, made him ache for an omnipotent knowledge of how other people felt about the passing of days.
When he was a child, he and his family moved from a mostly black suburb of Connecticut to a mostly black suburb of Los Angeles, called Inglewood. He would remain in Inglewood several years into his adult life, before settling in a different sort of Los Angeles suburb, a place called Pasadena, where he would eventually open a used bookstore that would be like heaven to spend his afternoons in, friends and customers drifting in and out all day long, and only one robbery in all the years the store was there.
On this one birthday of his childhood, the day he feels the youngest he will ever feel, he has a broad, bespectacled, homely face, and he always will.
Beth, on the other hand, was born sleek and slender and night-visioned and falsely inviolable-seeming as a young tomcat. That might have been the most power Beth ever had, sadly -- when she was a beautiful baby girl.