Dear David Berman,
It’s been over a week now since you said farewell to us all on the Drag City message board, and I can’t say that it’s been easy. You know, I feel sad about this, but it’s also hard to tell these days. Maybe it’s a door. But there are no doors underground, not in that cave where you’re going to sing your farewell songs tomorrow. I thought about meeting you there. But I don’t have much of a taste for spectacular tragedy these days.
I’ve been keeping up with the messages posted in response to your farewell. It’s kind of like looking at the Facebook profile of the kid in your hometown in the days after he was mauled by the lion escaped from the county zoo. You know what I’m saying. Everyone and everything comes out of the woodwork, blowing their noses and wiping their tears on the comfortless Kleenex of the Internet. They post public messages in the second person; they praise your deceased wonder. They reminisce over chance encounters and paint them as intimate portraits of a relationship strung through years of a one-sided infatuation.
And I wish I could say I am above those people, but publishing this letter to you proves that I am not. I have let the spit of your song fall onto my forehead so many times I thought I could claim baptism. When I last saw you in Pittsburgh, I confused our sufferings and walked away reminded of that inexorable sadness — maybe the same feeling you’ve come to call the burn for justice. Earlier this year you spoke of a crisis up ahead and you called for us to all assemble, you stepped up to be our hero. We got behind you in droves and waited for instructions to deploy.
But maybe you can only be everything if you reduce yourself to nothing. In the wake of newly formed absences, we will always try to hold onto whatever is left. So here I am on the highway, honking out of loneliness, and here I am on a chair floating in a sea of beer. Here I am, unable to believe what is at bay. Here I am, wearing my silly private’s uniform when my captain has long gone home.
Here I am, David, selfishly waiting for you to come back.
Yours in the Wild Kindness,
M. Callen | Special to The Tartan