"September 15, 1980"
Bill has been lying low (an understatement) for most of the past
two weeks – keeping quiet in his green
on green on green room, on top of the pale green brocade king-sized
bed, spread out on top of the galaxy of cigarette burns from his
two-year stint in this, his bedroom on the ninth floor of the Whiteman
House on Center Avenue in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
This is Bill’s room. I share my side of the King. He is on
my left; I am on his right.
He is nodding, not sleeping. I haven’t seen him sleep yet.
I’ve been here for six months,
keeping a close eye on things.
Just being there.
I am conscious of death at all moments. Death is in the room like
a shadow waiting for the light to
come on, to intensify with the contrast. I have prepared grapefruit
to cheer Bill up. I am so far out on a limb
here. I try putting on some music -- Jim Hall and Bill playing duets.
We are willing Bill out of bed so he
can make an appointment in midtown to get set up at a new methadone
clinic. He is gravely concerned
about the fact that his doctor is cutting back his dosage without
his permission. So he is willing all of us
to bring him to this appointment in midtown NYC.
I am relying on Joe LaBarbera, Bill’s drummer, who has been
staying with us this past week while
Bill sat out on his gig at the NYC jazz club called Fat Tuesday's.
Another piano player, Andy Laverne,
took over the rest of the week -- because Bill came so close to
a crash on the Eastside Highway with me
in the passenger side as it swooped inches away from the side of
the underpass. I think someone
drove us home. Maybe it was Joe.
was great to have Joe around that week because, as I said, I was
really out on a limb with this one.
We support Bill through the building’s lobby, and into his
late-model maroon Monte Carlo. Bill lies
down in the back seat, Joe and I are in the front. Joe drives us
into midtown, Bill directing us to the
address. We are watching the street in traffic, and Bill notices
a beautiful woman and makes the comment,
“This really must be the end, because I don’t feel a
thing for that woman.”
We laugh, the rope trick once again. I am always amazed at how far
out he can go (literally leaving
his body) and still snap back at just the right moment. Boom.
I took this moment to offer an inspiration I had about Bill’s
financial woes. I said, “Hey Bill, what do
you think about having a memorial concert to raise money for you.”
He said, “You mean a tribute, my dear, as I am still alive.”
Well, Joe and Bill and I laughed a little
harder about that one, and then Bill started to cough up blood, and
soon there was a steady stream of
blood coming from his mouth as he directed us to the Mt. Sinai Hospital
. “Lay on the horn, Joe.
Tell them it’s an emergency,” he instructed.
I felt compelled to keep watch over him as he directed Joe. He gave
me the fear in his eyes. I wanted to tell
him I needed more, that we weren’t quite done yet. He told
me, “I think I’m going to drown.” I
wasn’t sure a person could lose that much blood.
We pulled into the emergency driveway of Mt. Sinai hospital moments
later. Joe and I lifted Bill
from the car and walked him into the hospital. His blood was everywhere
leaving a trail through the
waiting room. We laid him on a bed in the emergency room and a flurry
of doctors and nurses took over.
I was shuffled into the waiting room, where I sat and watched with
great alarm as the janitor came
out and mopped up Bill’s life force. A nurse appeared and
in a soothing voice described Bill’s condition
as something similar to a nose bleed that just needed cauterizing.
The woman sitting next to me added that her husband had a very similar
experience and went on to
describe it in great detail. But I couldn’t take in what they
were saying. I was thinking about the blood
and Bill’s jacket, which was sitting in my lap.
A moment later a young male doctor came out and escorted me into
a small office. He said, “We
couldn’t save him.” I looked at Joe and said, “This
is déjà vu. I have been here before.”
this point on I am in a heightened state of adrenaline shock. Joe
starts making calls. He calls Helen Keane, Bill’s manager.
He calls Marc Johnson, Bill’s bass player.
Nobody showed me the body.
years afterward, I would dream that Bill wasn’t actually dead,
but had planned some kind of escape.
That’s why it’s so easy for us to continue our relationship
because he isn’t really dead to me.
Not at all.
I never left and he is eternal.
-- Laurie Verchomin
2007. All rights reserved. Used by exclusive permission of the author. Any reproduction, republishing, or copying, (except for personal use) electronically
or otherwise, is strictly prohibited.
You can visit Laurie's site at www.laurieverchomin.com
(This is an excerpt from Laurie Verchomin's book,"The Big Love".She
can be contacted at:
llamatv AT dccnet DOT COM
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