(Excerpt from Beloved Chaos. “Chuck” died in his sleep on the back porch of Joe’s Addiction on May 24th, 2019. He died at home.)
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The difference between this young man’s life and Drew Barrymore's in “50 First Dates,” is he has no supportive family to lovingly help him through each day. His father died years ago. His mother is an addict, who is suffering a long, slow, terminal illness.
A couple of minutes later, a Love Gang guy came to me and said, “I’m going out there. She just looked through the window with that ‘Rescue me’ look in her eye.”
They told him to load the dirty dishes into the dishwasher and to empty them when they finished washing. Chuck is a bit OCD, and it bothered him that sometimes dishes came out with cooked-on-crusties.
He pulled up his sleeve and extended his arm toward me. Tracks marked the inside of his arm. He pulled up the other sleeve and swiped his fingers over the red places.
I received a text from Judy, one of our leaders, saying, “The hot water heater is leaking.” She discovered it, because it was dripping on her head. Yes. On her head.
They overheard a woman (who is also part of our Community) in distress. A man was in her tent, and she was shouting, “No. Stop! Get off me!”
Now here he was, four years later, and looking lots of years older. I went to him and said, “Malcolm! It is so nice to see you! We have missed you!” I hoped for a hug, but he put out his hand. I shook it and invited him to sit down at a table with me.
He’d stand on the front sidewalk and smoke a cigarette, and he’d talk. Not to other customers. To himself.
I put my hand on his arm and told him to calm down, that we’d figure this out. (I was doing the best I could to keep my own anger under control.)
I kid you not. At one point, all four Vietnamese voices together began to sing,
So . . . I did a thing. I got a tattoo. On my face.
“Went and knocked up some other woman. Got hisself some other kids. But we was his first childs. He just left. How do you do that?!”
Frank smiled. Then he asked, “Does your iced tea have healing powers?”
It’s a very public space, and most everybody knows if you leave something, it’s kind of at your own risk. So the barista reminded her of that, to which she turned and said to everyone in the room, “This is my food. I’m coming back for it. Nobody eat it. K?”
The judge looked at me and asked, “Who are you?” I told him I am this man’s pastor, and I am here just helping him to be in the right place at the right time.
Tears welled up in his tough-man eyes, and he said, “They beat my other cat to death. I couldn’t let this one die.”
But sometimes the mountain of failure and shame is just too big, too hard to climb, and the path is impossible to trek alone.
There he was, lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood. I pushed my way through the gathered crowd, caught the eye of one of the cops, and announced, “I know this guy. I have all his information.”
I didn’t know Melvin when he committed his original crime. I do know that he was twenty-two when he was convicted. How many of us did stupid stuff when we were young adults?