Even as a boy, I knew I'd one day give my liver to either David Crosby or Morrissey. I believe in predestination. I am a strict vegetarian. I have always had issues with Daryl Hannah. And I have a liver.
So when the Durham radio station WXDU had a call-in contest, "Give a Liver To Either Morrissey or David Crosby," I dialed for three endless hours, pounding the keys until I got an answer. Part of the contest was the chance to see Morrissey and Crosby on consecutive nights at the nearby Carolina Theatre. That was, in the parlance of Crosby's generation of love, "groovy." I would also be required to give the singers my liver. Blessed fate!
I answered the quiz question—"Fuck, Marry, Kill: David Crosby, Morrissey, a baby lamb"—correctly. I offered to kill myself, thereby pardoning the lamb. I won.
God is good and bountiful in His plenty, so it took only an evening in the ventilation ducts of the musty old Carolina before I could spy, through the slivers of the vents, the spot where I suspected these two titans of strident song might meet between their shows. I worried I would spill onto the greenroom floor and be forced to offer my liver to whomever first claimed "dibs," but I remained frozen in the lights of destiny and, instead, bore witness.
Crosby entered first, hair and illegitimate children cascading from his mustache like Poseidon leaving the deep. He lit a marijuana cigarette while softly humming "Another Day in Paradise." I thought to myself, "This must be what it was like to be Sha Na Na at Woodstock."
Next, five rockabilly Latinos entered the room, feeling every inch of the wall and floor for illicit, hidden meat products. Finding none, they waved a Union Jack out the door, and Morrissey arrived. His feet seemed to float three inches above the floor, though the sobbing, black-clad teen(-ish?)agers writhing at his pant cuffs and hurling roses at his knees might have created that illusion themselves.
Crosby looked impressed. He extended his hand. Morrissey stared at it as though it were Rough Trade Records founder Geoff Travis sweating pastrami.
"Shaking hands feels like the 1984, something old and vicious," he said. With that accent, it almost sounded like it meant something.
Crosby shrugged and lowered his hand: "That's OK, man." He reached over, made a passing motion and yanked a nickel from Morrissey's ear. Crosby handed Morrissey the nickel.
"Money is like love—a lie fools tell themselves," Morrissey said. "I find it amusing, but it's not terribly funny."
Still, he handed the coin to a shirtless skinhead who had materialized at his side. The young, beautiful skinhead placed the coin in a change purse labeled, "$ Pulled From Morrissey's Ear."
In silence, both bards stared into the distance. After about 15 minutes, Crosby gently swatted a butterfly from his hair.
"You know anything about this liver contest?" he asked. "That's in poor taste, man. I got enough grief the first time around. I'm trying to live hassle free."
He then talked about the environment and Sarah Palin for 16 hours. The wind rushed in my ears. Mold grew on mountains.
"I shall never worry about the human liver. Rourke and Joyce are contractually obligated to give me 40 percent of theirs should I ever desire," Morrissey said, pronouncing the names of The Smiths' rhythm section as though they were Joseph's brothers and had just dealt him into slavery. "Barring that, I know a gentleman in China..."
Morrissey is god, like Clapton but only half as racist. The thought of him not needing me or my liver made my eyes well with half-angry tears. My heart sank.
The rockabilly dudes, meanwhile, tried to keep their cool. They smoked cigarettes and fended off a seemingly endless string of white doves, all flocking from Crosby's guitar case and toward their oil-slick pompadours. Every time they discarded another dove, the walls reverberated with the sound of a jangling minor chord.
The air was thick with pomade and molt. Morrissey undid another button. The ground around him squealed, and the thorn of one hurled rose scratched Crosby's cheek. When he touched the blood, it became a nickel. He looked at it with such resignation.
"You're right about money, man," Crosby concluded. "It pollutes the body politic. Just look at the Republican Party."
I swear another five hours passed as he spoke. Angry, once-liberal baby boomers left the venue, demanding refunds.
"I often think that were it not for my heart and brain I would make a fine politician," Morrissey countered. "But I am cursed with a tremendous honesty."
A graphic video of a vivisection spontaneously appeared behind him. On the opposing wall, behind Crosby, a screenshot of a half-dozen unanswered texts sent from the white-locked singer to old pal Neil Young appeared:
"Hey Neil just seeing what yr up to"
"hey man I'm really digging Pono? How r u?"
"whats Daryl like anyway"
"I love the earth and it messes me up so much how we take it for granted, Neil."
My leg fell asleep, and I began to worry I would never be free of my liver, doomed to live as Prometheus in reverse. My liver weighed hard in me, pressing down on my air vent of a hiding hole until I feared I would crash straight into Crosby's girth, another victim drowned by his expansive love. I'd never been in a threesome, so I felt unworthy of his aura. I tightened my grip.
Like a demented but amiable uncle, Crosby was picking nickels off Morrissey willy-nilly. Morrissey looked terrified, his hair wilting slightly. When Crosby started expounding at length about how Johnny Marr's playing reminded him of The Byrds but "with less balls, you know," the various skinheads and rockabillies began searching for a fainting couch.
Crosby started theorizing graphically on the various ways he'd like to "catch a cold" from Kristeen Young. Morrissey wept. Each tear transformed into an inch-tall, frail teen stuck inside an oversized Smiths shirt. They scurried to and fro, hurling miniature black roses until all the tiny petals made it impossible to see.
But I had seen enough. With my remaining strength, I hurled myself onto the floor, shoved my hand inside myself and extracted my liver. Morrissey and Crosby stared at the gore in my shaking hand and, finally understanding, shared a look of profound empathy that only they are capable of sharing. They each placed a hand on mine, gripping my liver with compassion I had never encountered. I swear I saw Morrissey and Crosby's hair intertwine like a squid making love to its own ink.
A sense of peace washed over me—over us all, I think. As I passed out, I heard Crosby mutter, "We will go on ... as three."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Meeting is murder."