I’d like to think that my heart is for people in the gutter, but I have just been reminded of a time when I was completely oblivious to a gutter around me. I’ve told the story of my friend Anansi, my former next door neighbor who ended up killing his mother, at least a hundred times. Today, after getting a few things done and before starting on my review of The Gutter, I looked at a blog I follow called The Church of No People and responded to a question asking what the stupidest thing I’d ever done was. I began to tell the story of Anansi, and how he had left me high and dry in Sugarland, a suburb of Houston.

I had given him a ride home from our college, about five hours away. He had promised me gas money, which he had shown me the night before. Like the stupid freshman kid that I was, I took off with very little money, without telling anyone where I went, just to prove that I could make a long trip and to do something for my friend. When we got to Sugarland, Anansi didn’t know the way to his house, and when we stopped to fill my car up, he only had 6 dollars for me, because apparently he “had fun” the night before. He promised me money when we got to his house, but it took us about an hour to find it. When we finally did, there was an eviction notice on the door and the locks were changed. I left him there with his clothes under the awning of the house, angry and worrying about how I was going to get home.

The story of how I got home is one for another time and place. Anansi was found walking down the street on December 29th, with blood on his shirt and a bloody knife in his hand, and when confronted by police he immediately confessed to murdering his mother. I got the news that night, as my friend Marvin called me and told me to turn on the news, just in time to see the house I’d dropped Anansi off at, and a picture of his mother before she was slain. I considered this the end of the story for a long time, and after a while I treated it as my trump card story in any conversational situation, saved for the special occasions but shared countless times nonetheless.

I was in the process of telling this story in a comment on The Church of No People when I went searching for the story from the newspaper in 2002, the one with Anansi’s mug shot. Instead I found this story from 2008, catching up with him and his high school coach, and telling his story. Anansi had a life I couldn’t imagine, a life I had never asked about. We knew him, talked to him every day and hung out with him constantly, and yet we didn’t know that he spent two and a half years alone in an apartment that his mother and stepdad paid for, after he got out of Juvenile Detention. He told me, on the way to the place I dropped him off at (which apparently was never his home), that his mother didn’t want him, that he was going there because he thought he should, not because anyone particularly missed him. He told me about his religious meanderings and what his parents believed. He told me about not seeing his dad, about the relatives…

He told me so much of this, and all I remembered was the part about him leaving me nearly stranded, and the part about him killing his mother. I never tried to keep up with him, and never tried to stand up for him when his name was dragged through the mud, especially because most of the time it was me doing the dragging.

We need to be about loving the Anansi’s of this world. I don't know what to do right now... I think one way I can apply this to my life is to reconnect with this young man, though I don’t have the first clue as to how. I am going to email the writer of the article. I think also that I can listen to those around me, because there are those in my life right now that are hard to listen to, hard to want to be with, who need someone to shine a light into their darkness. I don’t know who the next Anansi will be in my life, or how long I will have with him before it’s too late.

*Picture is from this article by Ken Sherrington


Matt @ The Church of No People said...

That's a great story, Richard. Thanks for sharing. After all those details, it makes your dilemma about how to get home a little smaller, huh?

Marni said...

Richard, I followed your link over here from Matt's page because I too, was intrigued by your story. And man, what a kick in the teeth the moral of your story is. You are so right about loving people who are in the dark. We may be the only light they'll see.

Thanks for that reminder...