Charles. Not ever Charlie or Chuck. Always Charles. The last time I tried to describe Charles I was writing a new email friend in PA a couple of years ago when she asked me about friends I had here in Arkansas. Charles topped the list as he has for the last almost twenty years I think.
Well, he’s just a friend I told her. A dear friend, a confidante. He isn’t pretty but his eyes are warm and thoughtful and I’ve grown fond of his face over the years. He’s a character; I really should put him in one of my stories I told her. He belongs in one. How do I say this without being trite? Charles is unique. . . comparable only to himself. If you met him for the very first time you’d wonder for a moment or two. Is he teasing or not? Believe me. . .he is. Picking up a line of improvisational fussing and carrying it with you until both you and he started giggling. Changing subtly as the subject turned more serious. His voice a little firmer perhaps. You just knew. Listening with a calm, accepting intentness that is so very rare. . .and so. . .just Charles. I don’t think my PA friend knew what to think. I know when I had written it there was still something missing. Ah, well. . .Charles was always meant to be experienced. And I don’t think anyone ever experienced him exactly like another. . . even though I know there were similarities.
Life never seemed to have enough experience for him, I think. He always seemed to be wanting to do more things. . . explore other things. I remember his stories about his brief career as an assistant to a funeral director. Harrowing. . wrenching. . .yet he told the stories with a deceptively light touch but again you knew somehow. He was horrified. . .not by death. . .but by the pain of those around it. He didn’t. . .couldn’t stay with it. Psychology . . . History. . . Law. . . . . .Justice. Always intent. . . perpetually curious. . . full of questions. . . and always interested in what underlined them all. . .People.
I have always thought in musical terms about a lot of things. It’s a curse really as I have no voice. . .no musical talent whatsoever. . . just an ear. . a cursed appreciation for the beauty I cannot replicate. But perhaps I can be forgiven for working in musical terms. . . making life a song. . . .a full fledged polyphonic chorus that grows richer and deeper every year of your life. One of the voices in my chorus. . .your chorus. . . is still. The cadence reached. And yet I know by its very silence how so much poorer the song of my life. . .the song perhaps of your life. . .would have been without that voice and how much richer that voice has made it. I close my eyes and listen to my memory of the melody. . .and I feel. . .privileged.
July 20, 1997