Can’t Find My Way Home
“Come down off your throne, and leave your body alone…”
♫ F, G, Gm, D ♫
When we’re born we make a contract with God. Some are written in fine quill pens; some in blunt pencil, others in red handprints on a wall.
He was the eldest of 6. The true prodigy; an urban celebrity by age 8. Even in our brilliance, we were all just diluted versions of Him. He was the one my mother truly loved, but who could fault her? He was caring and funny, gentle and kind and wise beyond his years.
Thrust into the role of father at age 13, he was my Hero. The unabashed center of my universe.
My protector; protecting me from the bullies outside and the one inside my home, too; stopping her hand which held a shoe or spatula. Not fast enough to stop the cutting board, he held me tight while they put the stitches in my head.
I run my hand over the bump in my scalp, and feel HIM.
“somebody must change…”
♫ F, G, D ♫
In high school the Citywide Spelling Bee champion and National Mathlete who performed in Carnegie Hall at age 8 turned rebellious. As those who are put on display so often do.
And the Valedictorian, Senior Class President, Editor-in-Chief of the yearbook wrote an elaborate poem wishing high school ‘farewell.’
The first letter of each sentence spelling out the acrostic:
F-U-C-K Y-O-U A-L-L,
and the Golden Boy was banned from graduation. My mother cried and felt betrayed. I laughed and felt – relief.
Eventually it was time for him to go, though I begged him not to. Hitchhiked to the West Coast to become a musician/actor/writer and landed in Haight Ashbury.
Met some Kind folk from Humboldt County – growers – and became a purveyor of that fine, majestic purple bud.
“you are the reason I’ve been waiting for so long, some body holds the key…”
♫ F, G, Gm, D, F, G,D ♫
Came home for my high school graduation. The next day we left for Cali with only backpacks and guitars.
He taught me to hitchhike and the chords to this song, too.
I only strummed the rhythm, and sang the melody; his expert fingers picking the lead, and his voice wrapping around mine in harmonies my brain could never find.
It was my summer of Firsts and never has there been a more magical time. I was enamored of him. It was a summer long House Party; his keen mind and magnificent heart attracted people to him like flies to honey.
He was especially prone to saving the strays. A lost soul with no place to go would always find their way to his couch.
Years passed and we spoke in 5 hour phone calls and 10 page letters and visits as often as we could.
As he traveled the world; Europe, Africa. Finding himself and when he did, he came home to Los Angeles. Won a spot in the prestigious UCLA screenwriting program and entered college at age 30.
“Well I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time…”
♫ G, Am, D ♫
One night the phone rang at 1 am and woke me from a sound sleep; yes, I slept back then.
And a voice was saying something about “blunt force trauma” and “next of kin” and “identifying the body” and my messages on his answering machine, the last 3 days.
While he laid there.
And then I stepped outside my body and it got on a plane with two of my siblings.
“…and I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home.”
♫ Em, G, Em, D ♫
Before even stepping into his home, the smell. Assaulted us.
In the past it was always homemade bread and spicy, piney sinsemilla and vinyl from the hundreds of records he kept in actual record store racks.
And now, it was dried blood and death and a rotting body.
And the putrid odor made us all vomit.
Blood was everywhere.
Soaked into the ottoman where he bled out. Spattered all over the walls, the ceiling, soaked into the floor. How could there BE so much blood?
Bashed repeatedly; 27 times the papers said, the police said, that’s how.
And now there were more police and even FBI because of his association with the Kind folk up North; was this drug related?
A mafia execution?
Was he a “drug lynch pin?”
Their ludicrous investigation of his loving, hippie soul poured bleach into my torn heart.
Cold hearted snake-eyed reporters shoving microphones in my face every time I opened the door.
“Leave me alone! This is my brother, not some fucking NEWS STORY,”
I screamed on the news, but the network bleeped out my expletive.
FBI helicopters overhead, round the clock surveillance on the “drug dealer’s family.” That relentless punishing “whup whup whup;” I hear them still.
And what were those handprints in red, all over the door? His contract with God.
The detective said those were his. As he fought to escape. Fought for his life.
But why didn’t you fight harder? You were so strong, the strongest human being on the planet. In my eyes
Did you even think about me? That you were leaving me?
Why didn’t you FIGHT HARDER?!
YOU LEFT ME HERE ALONE
PLEASE DON’T DO THIS TO ME
DON’T LEAVE ME HERE ALONE.
For 3 days we went through his belongings. I was desperate to feel him. To find a forever remembrance.
I kept only his Martin guitar I caressed like a lover, or a child. And his passport, stamped with mystical places I would someday go.
And then – we found it.
Somehow, though they turned his house upside down, they missed that kilo of glorious, uplifting resinous bud. Red tendrils and purple strands interwoven into bright green and gold.
The smoke detector was disconnected.
The room was bugged. Were the police watching us? The FBI setting a trap?
Oh God. It was the killer. He was coming back.
He was going to come back, and kill us ALL.
Now we wrote notes instead of talking,
and ate them.
Choking on them.
Retching up the paper, so hard to digest especially when accompanied by
paranoia, grief, panic, sleep deprivation;
Emotional rape by reporters and police and cameras, and THAT FUCKING STENCH.
The house needed to be cleansed of death.
We hired a professional service. They walked in, five 6’7″ black men from Compton whom I found oddly comforting.
And all five of them walked out, and vomited.
The blood. That putrid odor. And now, 6 days post mortem, maggots feasting on decomposing bits of brain and flesh.
Finally the ridiculously inflated investigation led them to a man, a boy really. One of those strays he had given his couch to. A college student. Only this time, it was a mistake. A fatal one.
And home, to a family now annihilated. And never healed, not in over 20 years.
The two brothers who accompanied me forever torn apart by that horror; never speaking again.
My one loathsome sibling spewing that my brother was “disgusting; he brought shame to our family.”
He was the best part of our family, you monster. I won’t see you again until you die and I can spit on your grave.
The look in my mother’s eyes; her first-born dead, her golden child. I could see in her eyes she wished it were ME.
And so did I.
It might as well have been. I’m dead now, anyway.
All I ever was, was the embodiment of his love for me.
All those years spent living that dangerous life, that everyone envies,
thinking how “cool” I was,
was really just desperation. Me, hoping to die. And never getting it right.
Me, making sure to waste every opportunity I could. Sabotaging myself on purpose.
Mistrusting and alienating those who would love me. Failing because who gives a fuck?
And left with nothing but sordid memories and wasted opportunities.
And a passport of far off places I said I would go to and never did, and likely never will.
I was just lost.
A boy, now a man, sits in a cell forever.
All these years later there are still days, I feel such RAGE I clench my jaw and seethe and could kill someone who looks at me the wrong way.
But mostly I’m numb.
I’m lost. Hopelessly, and I freely admit it – not even wanting to be found.
Now I don’t sleep. I won’t. I won’t close my eyes, because if I fall asleep I’ll dream him.
Not the gentle soul who raised me and made me feel safe.
Vivid dreams of him screaming for help; his desperate cries in Surround Sound; his blood and brains in Technicolor.
I’ll do anything not to sleep.
“Well, I’ m near the end and I just ain’t got the time..”
I’m finally telling this story. The one I’ve hidden for 24 years.
Not wanting to be the girl whose brother was struck 27 times.
The girl who was attacked by the media when the only person who ever loved her was bludgeoned to death.
The next of kin who traveled 3000 miles to “identify the body.” Which was unrecognizable pulp.
Don’t look a me with pity in your eyes. Don’t write it here, either.
I would just like to go home.
“But I can’t find my way home,
Still I can’t find my way home,
And I ain’t done nothing wrong…”
Today is my brother’s birthday. Will you take a moment and join me in listening to the song below, in his memory?
Play it for him. He’s listening.