My ex husband loved the blues. We got a free trip before our daughter Meredith was born because my dad & stepmom had bought plane tickets but had both fallen too ill to use them. Mike chose to go to the Mississippi Delta.
Inside, I was furious. We could have gone to Hawaii or Acapulco. But I said nothing.
We flew to Memphis, rented a car and drove south.
We went to the Crossroads. We went to two of Robert Johnson’s graves.
One was a tiny homegrown cemetery near a small white church with peeling paint. Behind the church at the end of the cemetery amid some willows and tall grass was a single-wide white trailer with scalloped awnings.
I wandered away to see the other graves, farther and farther toward the edge of the small grave plot. Some had wooden crosses, most gravestones of poured concrete. The farther I went the simpler and more homemade were the markers.
One said JES —
It was half covered in fine dust, the dried mud of the Delta. A thick triple-wide ribbon of red ants marched across it. The weeds overtook the right side.
I knelt to clear the weeds and scraped the ants away with the toe of my sneakers. They burst up with anger but fled toward another grave.
Out of the trailer came a man. He strode between the willows and through the tall grass, and bent down near me, because he was very tall.
It wasn’t Robert Johnson’s grave, he said. No one comes here much, he said. Even their relatives don’t come here.
He died a long time ago, the man said.
I bent and cleared the last of the weeds away. “JESSE” was his name.