Only the blind blues singer knows for sure.
January 24, 2018
She was married. He was just a scoundrel passing through.
An excerpt from my Memoir of Sorts: The Man Who Talks to Strangers.
He was a blues singer, a holdover from an era that vanished in a long-ago night.
He said he was eighty-three.
He looked older.
His hair was white.
His face had been carved from granite.
He wore a flannel shirt, even on the wet heat of summer, faded overalls, and lace-up boots.
His eyes had seen more than they should have seen.
He could tell lies.
But his eyes never did.
He cried when he sang, and he sang for tips in an old country beer joint in Southern Mississippi.
The blues singer would show up about nine o’clock on most nights.
Sometimes he came as late as ten.
And he sat on a stool in the corner, his head laid back against the pine board wall, just him and his guitar, an old Martin he bought second hand in 1956 from a truck on his way to the coast.
Been married four times, he told me.
Where are they today?
Didn’t leave any of them.
They didn’t leave me.
I just stayed on the road.
And they somehow got misplaced.
They come and they go, he said.
My old guitar?
It’s been everywhere.
It ain’t going nowhere.
He sang about life.
It was good, he said.
It was bad, he said.
It was worse than ugly, he said.
The Blues Singer knew.
He had seen it.
He had lived it.
He had his memories.
He had his secrets.
The Blues Singer sang of Luther and Mary Ann McCall.
They were lovers.
She was young.
He was a man who had a lot of miles carved into his face.
She was looking for love.
He carried a little love with him when he went, and he was always gone.
She was married.
He was just a scoundrel passing through.
The night was dark,
The moon had gone.
And Mary Ann walked the road alone.
The hour was late.
The night was warm.
And Luther held her in his arms.
They walked away
into the wood.
Gone for the night and gone for good.
That’s what he sang night after night.
Time after time.
Verse after verse.
He sang with a broken heart.
He sang with a broken voice.
It’s a love story, he said.
It’s a love song, he said.
“You write it?” I asked him.
“It sort of wrote itself,” he said.
And if anyone had asked him, and no one ever did, he could have walked into the dark woods and led them to the graves he dug for Luther and Mary Ann.
The Blues Singer sang about them, and he died a little every night.
It wasn’t the guilt he felt.
It was love.
He had no remorse and no regret.
He simply did what any sane man would have done, he said.
He sentenced himself to life, he said, a life with the blues.
It was a sin unwashed in the blood of the lamb.
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