How did my sister find me here, here in the arms and in the bed of my best friend’s lover while not but ten feet away is his newborn baby he will never know for my childhood friend is dead, his blue eyed boy born six months after Bill was killed by a train in Ogden Utah.
Christine’s face is full of dark confusion. What is wrong, if not everything, with this picture. It was not clear to me then, but she believed should have ended up in bed with Bill, and the baby smiling up at her in the crib, should have been her baby.
“I came to see Bill’s baby.” My beautiful sister told us, she not able to say hello to Angel, who got it. Christine had an undying crush of Bill since the day I brought him to our home on San Sebastian. I was twelve and Bill thirteen. At sixteen Bill Arnold moved in with us. He was a brilliant artist and writer. But more then that, he was an exceptional personality, he owning a understanding of human nature that was pure genius.
Bill had become our liberator, our Peter Pan, and now he was dead. No one who loved Bill, knew how they could go on living – without him. But, there lie Shane in his blue blanket, looking adoringly at Christine, who fights back her tears. Then she leaves the house on Miles Street in Oakland where I would later live with my artistic wife.
Bill was killed on the railroad tracks a few minutes past my eighteenth birthday. He was living with Sherry Souza who we called Angel, who promised she would deflower me one night when I was fourteen. But Tony showed up, her childhood sweetheart she would eventually marry. We had long been attracted to each other, but, this is not why we were in bed together. We were holding on to each other like children in a storm as reality as we had known it collapsed around us. We talked about the essence of Bill and his quest to be free. We fought to hold on to his ideals that had become our ideals.
At eighteen years of age, Angel and I were dealing with an extraordinary dilemma. We had bonded with a human being destined for greatness, but, Bill died before his genius could be put forth and recognized. Angel let me read two of the epic poems Bill wrote at nineteen. ‘The Migration of Pertinence’ shocked me to the core of my being. It was pure brilliance. I also read ‘Eden Dies and His friends’ and Bill’s play that a publisher from New York was interested in.
When I returned from Bill’s funeral, my mother backed away from me when I came to her to be hugged, she in tears as she said;
“I don’t know how you are going to go on living without your dear friend.”
These words prepared me for my death at twenty years of age. In 1987 I got in the New Hope program in order to get sober. Bill’s sister had asked me to stop killing myself with alcohol on my fifty first birthday. When Vicki Arnold went up to Oregon to see her nephew for the first time, upon her return home, her father died that very day. This is key to this story, for I got sober because I too wanted to see Shane Arnold, and I did not want him to see me as a drunken fool lacking the courage to carry on. For, as an infant Shane gave us hope, gave us a reason for living, for he did not know his father, would not know what a great man he was, thus, what a great loss his death is this very day. Shane, like all children looked with unjaundiced eyes at those who came to adore him, and bring what gifts they will.
All the artists God put in the world with me so that we may share our gifts with one another, are gone. This is their story.