I go out walkin after midnight, out in the moonlight, just like we used to do
After Dad left for good, Mama always cried when those lyrics came on the oldies station. Eventually, the radio just got turned off for good.
I'm always walkin after midnight, searchin for you. I walk for miles along the highway. Well, that's just my way of saying I love you
Eventually, Hector and Sissy had to stay most of the time with Grams so Mama could work extra jobs to pay for Sissy's medicine. Insulin was expensive and Sissy couldn't be without it for very long.
Hector didn't mind though. There was always music in Gram's house. If not the radio, then from Ralph's fiddle.
Mama was very clear on the fact that Ralph wasn't their grandfather even if he was married to Grams. Hector and Sissy didn't quite understand that, but it didn't matter. He still always had candy in his pocket for them both – provided they could sing him a new song to earn it, of course.
I stopped to see a weeping willow, crying on his pillow. Maybe he's crying for me. And as the skies turn gloomy, night winds whisper to me
Mama couldn't stay with Sissy at the hospital when the flu turned into pneumonia, so Hector did it even though he had to miss school. Grams and Ralph came in and out, but they both had to work too. The hospital was expensive.
He was alone and singing to Sissy when her heart gave out. Folks at church said it was a blessing since she'd been such a sickly child.
I'm lonesome as I can be.
I go out walkin after midnight, out in the moonlight, just hopin you may be, somewhere out walkin after midnight, searchin for me
Going back to junior high after the funeral was hard. Hector felt out of step with everyone all the time. All the time except when he was running track or singing in music class. At least, until they found a way to take even that from him.
It was just a black and white picture taped to his gym locker. But the man hanging from the tree was the same as the one that stood next to a young Grams in the picture on the mantle. The one that Mama used to make a point of saying was his grandpa.
It was then that he understood why Mama preferred to live in silence.
I stopped to see a weeping willow, crying on his pillow. Maybe he's crying for me
It's Ralph that notices. Or at least, it's Ralph that talks to him about it. Hector's sure that Grams noticed him turning off the radio. Grams never did miss much.
Ralph takes him down to the basement where he keeps the instruments that he repairs. He starts working on a much abused guitar as he speaks. "You want to talk about it, son?"
"Nothing to talk about it."
Ralph smirks and shakes his head. "Uh huh. Well, if you take another transistor out of your grandmother's radio, you'll wish you'd talked about every time you sit down."
"I'm just tired of the noise. It's disrespectful."
Ralph's hands pause in the process of restringing the final cord on the guitar. "Disrespectful? To whom?" Hector just grits his teeth and looks away. "Son, just cause your mother stopped living after your father left, that doesn't mean you have to."
"He left a long time ago."
"So this is about Sissy. You think she'd want you to stop listening to music? You think she'd want you to stop singing?"
"It doesn't help anything. The world's still ugly and people still die," Hector states.
Ralph caresses the guitar. "You're right about that. But sometimes, the right song reminds folks of what beauty there can be. Sometimes, when you're just about to give up because it hurts too damn much and you can't stand to be kicked down one more time, a single note will remind you of exactly what you have to fight for and why giving up isn't an option."
Ralph walks over and sets the guitar on the stool beside where Hector stands. "Your voice did more for your sister than all those doctors in that hospital. I can't imagine she'd rest too peaceful if she knew you'd fallen silent."
And as the skies turn gloomy, night winds whisper to me. I'm lonesome as I can be. I go out walkin after midnight out in the moonlight, just hopin you may be, somewhere out walkin after midnight searchin for me.
Despite Ralph's words, Hector didn't sing again in school, though he did stop turning Gram's music off. He could still hear the music – he'd concentrate on it to block out the taunts in high school and the teachers who tried to fail him because of his color. But he didn't sing out loud.
Not until Basic and a certain drill sergeant assuring him that if he didn't call out cadence on the run, then the run wouldn't end. In Basic, and later in Selection, Hector proved the truth of Ralph's long ago advice.
Somewhere, he was sure that Grandpa, Sissy, Grams, and Ralph could hear him sing. That knowledge always made the tasks a little less painful and a little easier to live through. And someday, someday he'd find a wife to sing to.
I go out walkin after midnight, in the moonlight, just like we used to do.