Shadows, lies, facsimilies: so much of life was secondhand, weighed down with arguments and explanations. If we stop moving and try to explain anything, he knew, we truly die; if we pause to make maps or poems, if we take our gaze off the shimmering horizon for an instant, we’re surely lost; if we abandon the path in order to reflect or to plot our silly course, we go into exile. And so now my exile begins, he told himself; I am led by a woman, Algernon, and fixed at a desk like a burned-out star in a dead orbit. My life is over.
—William Harrison, Burton and Speke, 1982
When friends would depart Fayetteville for new challenges and adventures, Tammy and I would have them out to the house for good food, good cheer (sometimes too much), and as heartfelt a goodbye as we could manage without tears. More than once in these send offs, I remember beginning a rapturous rant about how much Bill Harrison meant to me, and sometime late in the evening, pulling down Burton and Speke and reading aloud this passage above, hoping to leave the sojourners with something beautiful and unforgettable from one who taught me so much.
I do not live in a cheerless world; I live in one as crazed and frazzled and marvelous as you ever promised. I do not live without you. Rest in peace.