For Courtney Barrett

I wrote this a long time ago …
From the tears on my cheek
It feels like two minutes ago….

 

First memory: It’s late 1998, I’m sitting outside at McGee’s, a local bar, with Courtney Barrett. McGee’s is in Forest Park Southeast where both Courtney and I lived. What I remember about that night was Courtney announcing–without any doubt whatsoever (perhaps the only time in her life she’s been adamant about a subject)–that she would never, EVER, waste a second on boys, dating, romance. There were more important things to do, like envisioning the Catholic Worker Health Clinic for the poor, and doing the work of hospitality at Karen House.

Second memory: A few months later, April 1999, some Saint Louis University students are doing a benefit concert at Laclede’s Restaurant near campus to aid Kosovar refugees who have been coming to Saint Louis. I am enjoying the music, when Courtney comes up behind me and whispers in my ear: “I’ve got a crush on one of your students.” Startled, I said, “Who?” She pointed to him over in front of the Pax Christi table: It was Dan Horkheimer, who was then taking a Social Justice class with me. I had the good sense not to remind Courtney of her ardent avowal not too long before, about wasting her precious time on a guy. It seems that she had a change of heart.

Third memory: Six months later, I am taking the Friday night house shift at Karen House and Courtney is assisting me with calming down a new guest who will sleep on the emergency couch for the evening. Her name is Hela, and she is from Tunisia. Somehow, the subject of Courtney’s sweetheart comes up. Dan is spending the year abroad, studying in China. Hela is a very curious woman. “Tell me about your man, Courtney.”  “What do you want to know, Hela?”  “Everything, Courtney, tell me everything. Is he tall?” “Yes, he’s tall.”  “Is he big, Courtney, I like a big man.” “No,” she laughs, “he’s quite thin, I like thin men.” Now Hela gets a little too close to Courtney, I sense her personal space is being invaded: “Courtney, tell me about his eyes.” “His eyes? Uh, he has nice eyes.”  “And his nose?” Courtney is chuckling, embarrassed and unaccustomed to having to give a public accounting of her affections. “Yes, he has a lovely nose.”  “But Courtney, what about his mouth, his lips, tell me, Courtney, about his lips.” Thankfully, it was late, and time for bed, and Hela’s interrogation would have to resume at another time.

As I was driving 2000 miles from the San Francisco area to Saint Louis these past few days, a couple of lines from an old Rolling Stones song has been playing over and over in my mind. Mick Jagger sings, “You don’t want to walk and talk about Jesus/You just wanna see His face.”

I know, Courtney:

You don’t wanna hear me talk about how Dan was a perfect combination of the best qualities of Alyosha and Ivan Karamazov.

You don’t wanna hear me gush about how he was such a promising young Chomskyan intellectual.

You don’t wanna hear me exclaim what a cool Zen Gardener he was.

You don’t wanna hear me speculate on what a great landscape architect he might have become.

You don’t wanna hear me describe how Dan was such a mensch.

You don’t want my shmaltzy memories and these words that can never console you.

You just wanna look into Dan’s eyes, you just wanna rub your nose against his, you just wanna kiss his lips.

You just wanna see his face.

–Dan Horkheimer was shot and killed at his and Courtney’s home in North Saint Louis on Saturday morning 11 August. He was 29 years old. Courtney and Dan were married on October 4, 2003. The lines above were shared at Dan’s funeral at Saint Pius V Church on South Grand on August 15, 2007.

Dan and Courtney
Courtney Barrett and Dan Horkheimer, Karen House Food Storage Room, circa 2003

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