September 11, 2009 by Amy Elliott Bragg
My old, new town: #1 – Paul
I drive by his house and I remember that he’s dead, although saying I’d forgotten isn’t quite right.
I liked him a lot. He was tall and a little bear-ish, mild-mannered, dark-eyed, an easy laugh, a consummate musician and music lover. He dated a few girls I knew and they all talked about him like he was the love of their life. And I believe that was true, at least true at the time.
His pretty old Civil War-era house on Shiawasee road was the last place I saw him, in the summertime a year before he died. It is banked by a long weedy yard and high firs on both sides, which gives the place the feel of a play stage, where an actor who plays Paul and an actress who plays me stand on a square porch, lit by a moth-flickering porch light, and drink Budweisers together and discuss Los Lobos.
When I drive by the house, it sends a flush of strange, surprising anguish over me. I guess I forgot the house was back there. That night I dream that I see him at a party, the same brilliant, gentle, totally Tennesee-charming fellow as always. I say to him, “I thought you were dead,” and I struggle to remember who went to the funeral. Maybe one of them will be at the party, too, so I can confirm what I’d thought for four years to be true.
“Yeah, well,” he says. “So what?”
Because it’s not that I forget, when I think about Paul, that Paul died. I just forget that death is forever.