DENVER, New Year’s Eve, 1984 — He was draped in a black, long-sleeved shirt zippered on the diagonal to the neck, black silk parachute pants, furred goon boots up to the knees, lipstick as red as a rooster’s comb, pendulous earrings, a lightning rod painted on his right cheek and white-blond hair shocked on top and waterfalled at the sides.
I had arrived to collect Metallica.
I first met him around Thanksgiving time when we both were in what, during days gone by, was called a sanatorium or psychiatric hospital, now just “rehab.” On the day I checked in, he came down the hall to greet me, walking the way R. Crumb sketches his Mr. Natural: feet soles first, head tossed back, long sloping gait.
“Hi,” he said. “My name is Myron.”
I grew fond of Myron. He’d been in and out of these sorts of hospitals for some time. When he was out, he spent alternate weekends with either his mother or father — both, sadly, spiteful of each other. At 16, he was a grown man.
His health insurance had run out at the end of the year, so he had left the hospital. I was still in, although my doctors had given me leave that night, New Year’s Eve. My family was out of town and, rather than spend the night alone, I called Myron and invited him out for dinner.
My idea was to take him to eat at a very nice restaurant, something I figured he hadn’t done a lot. I called a friend of mine, Blair Taylor — a wonderful man with a heart as big as a house — who owned what at the time was one of the tonier places in town.
“Anything available tonight?” I asked. It being New Year’s Eve, I didn’t hope for much. He said, though, that a two-top was mine at 9.
Metallica and I set out in my old diesel Mercedes, me dressed in my favorite chalk-striped suit and Myron, well, dressed as Myron.
A policeman on a routine New Year’s Eve sobriety check stopped us. He put his head inside the car window and rolled his eyes. “Good luck tonight with your kid,” he said.
At the restaurant, Blair gave Myron and me the center table. The restaurant was peopled with those who could afford the fare, visitors from Palm Springs with suntans an inch deep, revelers dripping money like autumn’s leaves. They drank Champagne from magnums and ate but the corners of their food.
They were fascinated by Myron (you know how he was dressed) and made out that I must be his lawyer or agent and he, some sort of rock star. So, in our way, we fit in.
Myron wanted a steak. “They don’t have steak here,” I said. “But they do have veal. It’s beef and I think maybe you’ll like it.”
Our meals came. Myron picked up his fork and held it crudely in his hand, like a stick. He see-sawed at the meat with the fork. “Myron,” I said quietly, “use your knife.”
He raised his head and with eyes like a puppy’s, this little boy — for that was who he was, really, underneath the painted-on lightning bolt and the shiny silk shirt — looked up at me and said, “I never used a knife before.”
He’d never used a knife before. For 16 years, I found him to say, all he’d been given to eat by his heedless parents were burgers and pizzas and casseroles, nothing that ever needed a knife.
I taught him how to use a knife that night, how to hold it in his one hand with the fork in the other. I taught him how to eat for himself.
After dinner, I took him to where his home was that night. It had snowed, with flakes like big asterisks that lay on the earth as a blanket. Myron walked up through the new snow, this little big man who now knew about dinner knives.
In the Christian calendar, the end of one year and the beginning of the next are times for God-gifts and savior sightings, for epiphanies and revelations. I love it so when eating at a table becomes a hole to heaven.
Ever notice how the English word for the place where the newborn Jesus lay — the manger — is the same as the French “to eat,” “manger”? Or that the German “essen,” “to eat,” is ever so close to the Latin for “to be,” “esse”?
Source: Read Full Article