Friday, October 8, 2010


I don't really know how I know Billy Fields. He worked at The Junkman's Daughter, a funky, kitchy little store located in Little 5 Points in Atlanta, Georgia. Little 5, as it is affectionately called, is the epicenter of coolness in Atlanta. It's the place where all of the kids that were never really cool come to hang out and bond. We're former nerds and outcasts turned hipsters. There aren't many days when I walk around there and don't see someone that I know. Either I'll be walking down the street and run into them, or I'll visit the many shops that I'm a regular and tell them hello. Anyway, I don't remember exactly meeting him. I just remember him always greeting me at the store. He had long locs, a soft voice and a gentle spirit. Those boot cut pants and his funky style made him blend, while always making him stand out.

One day I walked around another shop where I'd heard music that called out to me. I asked the sales girl who it was playing. They told me that it was a group called Seek. Then she told me that Billy who worked in Junkman's Daughter was in the group. I was in heaven. About a year later, they dropped another album, which I quickly copped. It remains among my favorites.

A little later Billy started a band called Rev Rebel which also great music. Atlanta being as small as it is, he and I always ran into one another and I tried to make it out to see him whenever I could.

Although he and I didn't see each other much later, we still managed to stay in touch with one another through Facebook. I remember how last summer he kept calling me a murderer as I complained about feeling bad for having to cook live crabs to eat them. I laughed as he kept saying how good murder must taste.

The other day I noticed a post on Facebook where Billy thanked everyone for their well wishes and said that he was doing okay. I got ready to shoot him a message asking what happened, when he posted that he'd been shot when four kids tried to rob him the previous Sunday. He then felt it necessary to mention that the punks didn't get his money. My heart sank. Not Billy. He's such a good guy. For the 8 or 9 years that I've known him, I've never known him to be in a bad mood. We always joked with one another. He's too nice for that to happen to him. I asked if it was okay with him if I came visit and he said that he'd love to see me.

I went down to see him yesterday at Grady Memorial Hospital and they said that he'd just gotten wheeled into the o.r. and wouldn't be available for another few hours. I asked the nurse how he was doing and she said that he was doing great and in great spirits. I decided to go down today again. Before I went down I decided to Google him to see what I found. When I heard that he'd been shot initially, I thought he'd been hit in the shoulder or in the leg. Online, I learned that he'd been hit in the jaw and that some of his teeth had been knocked out, his tongue was slightly hit, and that the bullet went into his cheek but came out of his jaw. My dear friend Billy had been shot in the head. Oh my God.

I knew that I needed to go see him, but I just kept thinking to myself that I hoped I didn't cry. He'd just had plastic surgery was all I knew. How bad would he look? I didn't know. I asked a neighbor if they'd watch Pumpkin while I drove on down to Grady. I got there today and I walked around looking for him.I walked past a few rooms and saw a guy that looked kinda similar then I kept moving. I looked down at my name tag, which held his room number and realized that I was in the right room. Oh my gosh, I didn't even recognize him. I was immediately happy that at least they didn't cut his locs, which I was afraid they would. His faced was so swollen on top of such a frail body. His eyes were closed and he seemed peaceful. It shocked me a little because he looked dead.

There was a woman in there with him. I asked if he'd been asleep long. She explained that he wasn't asleep but the swelling in his face made it easier for him if his eyes remained closed. He wiggled his finger to let me know he was lucid. I admitted to him that I was fighting back tears. He raised  his finger to his face and rubbed it down is cheek from his eye, to tell me not to dare. I knew that my Billy wouldn't want me to be upset. Her name was Camryn and she was his roommate. She and I made chitchat and occasionally talked to him as well. He would sometimes grunt to express agreement or not at what we'd said. I told him that his friends were busy raising money for him and I warned him not to go to Vegas to blow the whole thing. I told him that if he blew it, don't do it gambling, use it on strippers instead. I saw a very slight smile come across his swollen lips.

She and I talked a little more. I was so amazed looking at him. He was so fragile. His eyes remained closed for most of the time, except for about 2 seconds when they opened and he managed to look at me. I waved. He waved back. I was glad that his eyes were closed because I really did have to fight back tears at one point. It was so close. A few inches in another direction and he'd be gone. No more Billy. I managed to shake it off. I told him that we'd have to hang out when he got out. I said that we'd have to go to the park when he comes home. He raised his finger in agreement. I also asked if he was getting the good painkillers and again i saw his agreement finger. Eventually a woman came to the room and told Camryn and I that visiting hours were over. I offered her a ride home since she'd said earlier that her car was having problems. I looked at Billy and told him that normally I'd kiss him, but I was petrified of giving him an infection, so I chose not to. I kissed my hand and touched his leg. He then reached up and gave me what the nation now calls a "fist bump" a la Michelle and Barack Obama. He held Camyrn's hand.

When I dropped her off, she marveled at renovations that had been done to their home that friends of their had donated to them. I went in to see them as well. It was just more proof how how loved his is. On the way home I couldn't help but to think of Pookie. What on earth would I do if that had been him. What if I'd gotten a phonecall that he'd been shot? I don't think I could stand to see him like that.

Last night, Pookie told me that he'd like for me to be more affectionate toward him when he gets home. I can see why he asked it of me. There are days when he comes home and I'm short with him. Last night when he got home, he asked questions about my day and I answered them all with one word. Its nothing personal, I just feel that most people probably don't want to be crowded over when they come home. Other times I'm just pissed or in a funky mood and really don't want to be bothered. But something tells me that tonight is going to be different. I'm going to hug him and kiss him and tell him how much I love him. I'm going to tell him that I think we should quit beating around the bush and just tied the damned knot already. I'm going to tell him that I love him even though I don't always show it. Billy would want that.

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