I can’t really offer anything new. What can I say that isn’t a pale echo of the words sounding out all over the world right now. One planet, one universe, wasn’t big enough to contain Ray Bradbury. So he chose everywhere, and brought love, and joy, and excitement, and beauty to all the lives he touched. Yet, saying nothing doesn’t feel right either. He gave me words. The least I can do is offer some in return.
The death of a stranger has never affected me like this before. But then, there’s never been a stranger who has known me so completely, gone all the way to the core of me, and shaped my very being. There has never been a man like Ray Bradbury.
I’m ashamed to say, the first time I met Ray Bradbury, I didn’t remember him. I only learned later, much later, that a story of his was included in an anthology I read when I was very young. The first time I remember meeting him was in high school, reading Fahrenheit 451. I was intrigued, I wanted more, but I hadn’t yet been swallowed whole. So I’m not going to talk about either of those times. I’m going to talk about the moment I fell in love.
It was in the summer. When else could it be? Only summer, or Halloween. We went to Cape Cod every year. And every year I brought a massive of stack of books with me. After reading Fahrenheit 451, I knew I needed to spend more time with Mr. Bradbury. I needed to get to know him better. We’d had one conversation, a brief meeting, and there was a connection. I snapped up the two books of his that were currently available at my local library – Death is a Lonely Business and A Graveyard for Lunatics – and off we went to the slate-colored sea. For the most part, the Cape is too cold for swimming, especially early in the season. Leaden skies and cold water, and sand not all cluttered up with sunshine – that’s what beaches mean to me. That, and reading.
So I settled down with Death is a Lonely Business. Waves crashed, and a breeze tasting like salt tangled my hair and left crystals on my skin. And there was ticket-punch confetti, and the aching loneliness of death walking the aisle of a swaying train, the feverish passion of a young writer, the bitterness of an aging detective and a forgotten movie star, a jungle backyard, a rotting pier, and movie magic. Oh! I was lost. I was in love. There were carnivals waiting for me, and the veldt, there was Halloween, and all of summer in a day. I never ever looked back. I never will.
I didn’t ever have the good fortune to meet Mr. Bradbury in person, but I feel I knew at least a little piece of him through his writing. What is more fundamental about an author than their love for words? Ray Bradbury understood magic, and wonder. And he’s far too big for death as well. So, though he may be gone from this world, he isn’t gone, really. We’ll carry him to the vastness of space, and they will read his books on Mars with golden eyes. And he will live forever.