• ,

Geezer's Journal: Saying goodbye to TW

New York City. 1983.

I opened the heavy door to the respectable five-story building, the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel. I was met by a young man in a dark suit. He looked distracted.

"Are you here to see Mr. Williams?" he asked.

I said yes.

"Take the elevator to the second floor."


I walked out of the elevator and another young man extended his arm in the direction of an almost-empty room. A few people were there -- many less than I expected. I walked to the far side of the room, and there he was.  He was in a casket, dressed in a coat and tie, arms folded over his chest. He looked so small. It didn't make sense for the colossal things he'd done. I leaned closer. I could see the make-up on his mustache caked at the bristles' ends. They could've done better than that. His eyes were closed. He had died two days earlier in a New York hotel. Choked on a bottle cap.

I was the only one at that moment next to his coffin. I spoke to him.

"Tennessee, thank you for everything you gave us.  Thank you for Streetcar.  Thank you for Glass Menagerie. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for everything you wrote. You were a great artist."

I wished he could hear me, somehow. I felt less secure in the world now.

"Goodbye," I said. I absurdly thought he might reply in his famous deep lilting cadence.

I turned and walked away from this momentous death.

Richard Goodman is an assistant professor of creative nonfiction writing at the University of New Orleans.  He’s the author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France.