A Peculiar Sadness

Maurice Hutson: I usually wake early to see the sunrise. I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve pretty much always done it. When I was kid, I thought it was really something to be up that early, like dawn was something only for the grown-ups. I enjoy sunsets, too. 

I love those two times of day. They’re like magic, sort of. I read once, in one magazine or another, that movie-makers call them the Golden Hour or the Magic Hour, something like that. There are brief moments when the light is just so, it’s a certain glow as the sun is rising or setting. Everything looks different, everything is different. It’s…the world…it’s flawless. Right then everything seems perfect, and you can’t improve on it. When I see a sunrise or sunset, it feels like nothing can ruin it. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know.

For a long while now, I’ve…I’ve starting thinking that’s life. That’s how life is: it’s perfect in these isolated moments. You can share them, but these perfect moments, they happen and when they’re gone, sometimes they don’t come back. They happen and that’s it, it’s done, it’s all lost. 

I feel like all the magic has gone out of life. I think I’m waiting…I’m praying for something perfect to happen, again.

Merita Hutson: I met Maurice through friends. Friends of friends introduced us. I was in my third year at Rollins College and he was doing his post-graduate work at Bentley University, at the Judson School. We were both home for Christmas break. I was from Tawesville, which is this incredibly blue collar town. He was born and raised in Bregburg which is the total, complete opposite. Even back then they were separate worlds. We met at a party, as boring as that sounds. Opposites truly attract. We were instant, just this big spark, a Big Bang. I joke we’re two celestial bodies perfectly in orbit with each other. We just fit together like nothing else and that happened from the start.

Maurice Hutson: Merita says we’re like planets or stars or something. I’d always tell her she had a heavenly body. It always grossed out the kids.

Merita Hutson: We got married two months after we met. Valentines Day. We went to the courthouse. We didn’t have a big wedding, or even a small wedding. No banquet, nothing. We didn’t tell our families, or any of our friends, what we had planned. It was just him and I. The two of us.

My mother got so mad when we told her what we did. So mad. She threatened to kill Maurice. I knew she wouldn’t, she was this little Church of Christ lady who’d never raised her hand to anybody her entire life. Maurice wasn’t so convinced. My brothers, they were all older, they gave Maurice the big brother talk of he better never hurt me. He never has.

My father cried. They were tears of joy. He cried enough for him and my mother both. It took a while for my mom to calm down, but she did. Eventually. She loved Maurice.

Maurice Hutson: Her mom, Bernadette, was a tiny woman. But when we told her we had gotten married, it was like she turned into the Incredible Hulk. I’ve never seen a woman that mad in my entire life. Never seen a person that mad.

Merita Hutson: Mom and Dad didn’t have a big wedding. They got married in her sister’s house. They had, maybe, ten guests. It was nothing fancy, nothing, you know, elaborate; no grand, dream wedding fantasy. My mom had plans for me, she had dreams for me I didn’t fulfill. I didn’t let her fulfill them, I didn’t give her a chance to do it. We always thought we’d renew our vows on one of our big anniversaries and let Mom plan everything. She passed away, though, before our sixth anniversary.

I didn’t fully understand her anger at the time. I mean, I understood her being mad about us eloping and keeping it private, keeping it secret from everybody, especially from her. I didn’t truly understand until I was a mother. Mom had dreams for me. She could see my future, she had her own vision of it. My brothers’ futures, too. She had it all in her head. Dad, his visions for us probably weren’t so defined.

All parents have dreams for their children.

Maurice Hutson: When I saw my son for the first time…Proud. I was proud. Then I got real scared. I was a dad. I knew for nine months I was going to be a dad, but then he suddenly pops out and I’m a dad for real. I’m not a ten-year-old playing war in the backyard, you know. This is it, this is the real deal. I helped create this little screaming bundle of flesh. I’m responsible for a human being now. I’ve got to feed him. I’ve got to change diapers. 

Then, as quick as I was scared, I was proud, again. This was my child. This was my son. This was one of those perfect moments like a sunrise or a sunset or meeting Merita. It was a perfect moment I had been waiting for, and I didn’t even know I had been waiting on it.

Merita Hutson: Adam was twenty-two hours of labor. It was brutal and grueling. When I was going through it, all I could think was that witches in the old days had it easier. The whole time I swore I was never going to have another child, I would never allow myself to get in that condition a second time. Never! If Maurice even thought about touching me, even holding my hand, I’d amputate some part of him. I was convinced one child was going to be it. All that changed, of course, in a split second. I melted when I heard Adam cry for the first time. I held him…He looked like a little old man. My heart burst. Everything was worth it, all the pain and agony and fear. It was like flying through a storm: there’s all this turbulence, and it’s not always easy, and sometimes it lasts longer than you think you can manage it. But then you come out the other side. That storm wasn’t so bad.

Maurice Hutson: We were the All-American Family, right down to the apple pie and church on Sundays. I had started at Brooks Dynamics and Merita was assistant director at Harbor Place. With my wife and my son, the sun rose and set every day.

Merita Hutson: My mom stayed with Adam while we worked. It broke her heart when we moved. Maurice accepted the job at Unified Mechanics, in Nashville. We debated moving closer to his work. He was just going to drive the distance, that was the plan at first, but then we found out I was pregnant with Amy. We decided I’d quit my job and stay home with the kids, and we decided to move to Murfreesboro.

Maurice Hutson: Adam was our patient child. As much as Amy is impatient and hates to be kept waiting now, she was ten times worse when she was a kid. She was nearly born in the car on the way to the hospital.

Merita Hutson: Amy was the easy birth. I prayed a whole lot with her.

Amy Hutson-Norvarro: I miss Adam every day. I’m sure people say that, how they think each day of someone who’s died, but it’s true for me. There’s not one day that I don’t wonder at least once what Adam’s opinion would be about something, even some small thing like a movie, or a book. I always have something I want to tell him.

Sometimes I’m frightened I’ve forgotten the sound of his laugh. Not his voice, I remember his voice, it stays with me, it’s clear. But his laugh, I forget it sometimes, which is crazy, because he laughed all the time about something. He made everybody around him laugh. When I’ve forgotten what his laugh sounded like, or think I’ve forgotten it, I look back over some of our home movies. One in particular, the last Christmas we had together. I found this t-shirt at the mall. It was black, and written in white all down the front, real big and descending into small letters, it said ‘Can’t sleep, clowns will eat me, can’t sleep, clowns will eat me.’

See, when we were little, we used to spend the night sometimes with Aunt Gina, our dad’s sister. She loved clowns, and her guest room was filled with clowns. All these pictures and dolls and stuff. It never bothered either us until Aunt Gina was reading that Stephen King book, It. Adam was about seven or eight. He asked her what the book was about and she told him a clown that killed little kids. Well, Adam couldn’t sleep in the “clown” room after that, he slept on the couch. That was the beginning of his lifelong disdain for clowns. There were no more birthday parties at McDonald’s, no Ronald McDonald or anything, that was for sure. Adam was seventeen before he agreed to go to a circus, again.

He laughed so hard when he opened his gift and pulled out that shirt. He gripped his sides and literally rolled on the floor, this grown man just cackling like a kid.

When I watch the video, I know I haven’t forgotten what his laugh sounded like. I forget how alive it was.

Merita Hutson: Adam always had good grades in school. Amy did, too, but it was easier for Adam. Amy had to study a little harder whereas Adam just knew stuff. It was frightening sometimes.

Amy Hutson-Norvarro: He was the smartest person I’ve ever known. It was freaky. He was freaky smart. He’d read something and it would stick in his head. I struggled. I don’t think he had a photographic memory, but he was close to it. He never showed off about it, though.

Maurice Hutson: He had a lot of friends. Kids at school, kids in the neighborhood. Adam and Amy always had friends over. There was always some little girl chasing after Adam. He encouraged it, he liked the attention. He knew he was a good looking kid. He was outgoing, but Adam had a private side, too. Sometimes this intense introvert would surface. He was extremely private in some aspects. He could be such a loner sometimes.

Amy Hutson-Norvarro: We were normal kids, I guess. I think so. We played with each other like other siblings. He’d play tea parties with me sometimes, I’d play superheroes and spies with him. We’d reenact battles from old movies with my Barbies and his action figures. Dad built us a treehouse in the back yard; with a dad who’s an engineer it was a treehouse on steroids, it was huge. It was like an apartment. For the longest, during the summers, Adam and I all but lived in it. 

Adam and I argued, too, we had fights. Ordinary stuff. Most of the time it was because he wanted to be alone. Even as a kid, he had those days he wanted to play alone, be all to himself in his own world. There were times he’d spend hours, day after day, in his room reading a book or writing. He had periods where he’d be up all night. He’d wait for our parents to go to sleep. As soon as he’d hear Mom and Dad snoring, he’d start reading or writing, again. 

Merita Hutson: Adam read everything he could get his hands on. He was like that from the time he started reading. He used to love for me or Maurice to read him stories when he was little. He’d want three or four stories a night, or more. It would drive Maurice crazy. We’d have to just tell him no. I know Maurice was glad when Adam learned to read on his own. After that, Adam would read stories to Amy. I think he helped teach her to read more than us or school.

Maurice Hutson: I can remember the last bedtime story I ever read him. Adam was eight, and I read it to him just for fun. It was a comic book. Captain America and the Falcon, number 154. He picked it out of a back issues bin at a little comic shop downtown…I don’t know how I remember that. That was years ago. It stays in my head. It’s the damnedest thing.

Amy Hutson-Norvarro: We looked out for each other. We did. But Adam did more looking out for me. He was a wonderful big brother, he was perfect. We weren’t far apart in age, two years, but Adam could be an old soul, he seemed so much older so much of the time. I think he thought protecting me was part of his purpose in life.

Merita Hutson:  Adam could be like a mother hen sometimes. Once, when Amy was a freshman, she was invited to a party, it was at the start of the school year. I had given her permission to go and Maurice, well, he went along with me. Adam, though, he objected. He said it wasn’t a party she should attend and that there’d be people there she didn’t need to be around. I knew the mother of the girl hosting the party, I had no problem with her, they were good people. But Amy ended up not going, we all took Adam’s advice. Amy pouted a little. I’m sure Maurice was happy she stayed home.

Amy Hutson-Norvarro: Adam told me, “If you go to the party, you’ll regret it. Bad things might happen. You and your friends don’t need to go.” He was afraid I might take something or somebody might slip me something and…like he said, bad things could happen. 

At that point, I was a freshman and he was a junior, but I had known for about a year, or the better part of a year, that Adam was experimenting with drugs. He was smoking marijuana, which he let me try, and he had taken E a few times. He was drinking. He let me have a sip of beer, a sip of this and that. By the time he graduated he was using pills, and other stuff, recreationally. None of it was a problem, though, it was a like a normal thing. Everybody tried something, did something.

I don’t know what he was into once he left for college. I’m sure he partook of more advanced, more dangerous, things.

Emile Werner: Adam and I met in middle school. I was the new kid in the seventh grade class. We hit it right off. Boom! We liked the same movies, music, comic books, and girls. I think every class we had together, the teacher had to separate us. We’d create our own comic books. He’d write them and I’d illustrate them. I couldn’t draw very well, but he sure as hell could write like the devil. I wish I still had those, or…I wish I still had a lot of things. We were best friends. It was like we’d met clones of ourselves.

Maurice Hutson: Emile was over all the time, we practically adopted him. If he wasn’t at our house, Adam was at his. They were thick as thieves. What one didn’t think of, the other did. Emile became our our second son. When he had his problems, we did our best to be there for him. I think Adam’s death exacerbated some things he had been struggling with for a long time. We almost lost Emile, too.

Emile Werner: Being away at college, away from home and my mom, I didn’t hold back. I had no control. My cousin and I, we were sharing an apartment at the time. It was after Adam died, I’m not sure how long, a few months, not many. Honestly, I don’t remember thinking about Adam in those months…I’m sure I did, I knew he was dead, but I don’t remember it. I don’t remember much of what I was thinking or anything that happened. My cousin, he came home after work one night…when he found me I was already black and the needle was still stuck in my arm. I don’t know how I survived. God, I guess.

Amy Hutson-Norvarro: In Adam’s senior yearbook, Emile wrote: “Thank you for introducing me to my dark side.” My brother was an experimenter, he was a kind of adventurer, and he’d take people with him on his adventures and forays. Some of his companions, his partners in crime, they couldn’t take as much as Adam or avoid as much as he avoided.

Emile Werner: I mean you could call Adam a hypocrite, that would be fair, but it doesn’t seem right to call him one. We raised hell all week and were in church on Sunday. Raised hell Sunday night, too. That was normal for Adam, though, that was part of the adventure, learning this Christian philosophy, studying the congregation and stuff. A church, a strip club, a book store– they were all the same to Adam. He watched people, he observed them, he made friends, and he learned from all of them.

Merita Hutson: I was happy when Adam chose Rollins. It was my alma mater, plus it was so close to home, Nashville was basically in the back yard. It was arrogant of me to think that’s why he chose to go there. That’s where Emile enrolled and, also, Adam was all about the city. He’d been at Rollins for a couple of months when he came home one weekend with Tara. 

She was a beautiful girl, stunning. Tara was a nursing student, she was working as a waitress to help put herself through school. She and Adam, they had this simpatico thing. It was an amazing connection, innocent but at the same time mature, too.

After the little girlfriends he’d had in middle school and high school, this was serious. This was a real relationship. This was Adam’s first true adult relationship.

Then, later… well, so much was a damn lie.

Emile Werner: We used to go into the city every weekend, even when we were in high school. Adam loved Nashville. We both loved the vibe of it. Murfreesboro had its own feel back then, different, like it was about to explode into Nashville, like it was heading in that direction, you know. We’d spend entire days driving around Nashville, walking around West End, lower Broadway, the cross-streets. Adam said Nash Vegas had an urban appeal while the ‘boro had youth appeal. The ‘boro felt like an average college town in those days, parts of it anyway.

Nashville was Adam’s place to escape. It was his rumpus room. When we were sixteen, he pops up with these fake IDs, right, and they looked so real. I asked him where he got them and he just said, “My connections.” The fake licenses had us listed at eighteen, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch. We couldn’t use them for alcohol; we got that elsewhere, from other people. We used the fake IDs for strip clubs.

To this day I don’t know where he got them, but I know they weren’t cheap. I wasn’t so sure we should try to pass them off, use them, but he said at the price he paid for them we sure as hell were going to use them. So we did– nobody questioned us. Those fakes were top-notch.

Adam had connections. He had the money for those connections, too. He always had money. One time– it was right before our high school graduation– we were leaving Tower Records, the one that used to be on West End. Adam was unlocking the car and this homeless man walks up. I thought “Oh great, here we go.” He was, he looked like he was going to just take our money. I thought for sure this dude was going pull a gun on us.

Adam point blank says, “Can I help you?”

The homeless guy throws his hands up and says, “I ain’t gonna rape ya or nothin’, don’t worry. I’s just wonderin’ if ya could spare a dollar or two.”

Adam laughed his ass off and gave the man a hundred bucks. 

That pocket change, I know for a fact, Adam got from selling acid to all the grunge kids at school.

Maurice Hutson: It’s one of the things I’ve thought on. Merita and I didn’t want the kids working, especially if it would hurt their studies. Adam did odd jobs around the neighborhood for extra spending money– mowing lawns, raking leaves for the neighbors. He had a couple of scholarships to Rollins, but we paid for everything. I never questioned how he made his money. I was never suspicious of anything, I never dreamed I would need to be.

Tara Shepley: I read a lot about angels. Not just the Bible, but people’s personal experiences, too. I imagine angels look like Adam: a beautiful smile, warm eyes. Adam was wicked fun. I don’t know if I was the love of his life, but he was the love of mine.

I was naive back then, if you can imagine a stripper being naive. When we met, I was working at The Mint– where all the girls are the gold standard. That’s what the sign said. Adam and Emile were semi-regulars. During the day, the club wasn’t so busy, it didn’t get busy until night. It was part of the job, after you dance, you work the floor, get the customers to pay for a lap dance or private dance in the VIP room. When it was the slow part of the shift, the dancers would sit and talk to the customers, it was all trying to get them to spend more money.

That’s how me and Adam started getting to know each other. He didn’t make the first move. I slipped him my number. I was really surprised he called me.

It was a whirlwind. A fantasy romance. At the time, we– I– felt like it would last forever.

His parents were great. They were my dream parents. Nothing like my real parents. I hated lying to Merita and Maurice. Adam had no problem with it. He lied about a lot of things. He was most honest with me and Emile.

The more I got to know Adam, the more he wasn’t like what he presented to everybody. Everyone got a different version of Adam Hutson, their own special version. I think he had an ideal to live up to for his parents. Emile saw some of the other side of Adam.

Amy blamed me for Adam dropping out of school. That wasn’t me. That was all Adam. She came to our apartment one day, mad, just in a rage, and I did my best to set her straight. There were things she didn’t know about her big brother. I didn’t get a kick outta telling her some of the truth, I knew Adam would be mad, but I wasn’t going to be the bad guy just so he could appear guiltless.

Emile Werner: It began in high school. Junior year. That was the first time, I know of, Adam did it. Uh…people paid Adam for the privilege of his company. Esteemed members of the community. Some not so esteemed. Adam would quote some outrageous prices sometimes. And people paid it.

Tara Shepley: Everybody would expect the stripper to be the prostitute. A lot of girls at the club earned extra money doing that, but I never did it. It’s like– it’s scary. I know people asked Adam to do some strange things. Creepy things. I asked him how he could do some of those things and he told me, “Some of our most delightful pleasures were once our strictest taboos. Try some, buy some.”

Amy Hutson-Norvarro: There are certain things I’ve never discussed with my parents. They’ve heard rumors of the truth. Mom treats it like gossip. She says jealous people just want to drag my brother’s good name through the mud. 

People have said a lot about Adam since he died. My parents don’t believe it. I believe most of it. Most of it’s true. 

There’s so much we didn’t know about him, so much we still don’t know. Look at the people closest to us, we don’t know what’s in their minds or what they do in private, what they do when we’re not around. Husbands, wives, children– we aren’t privy to each others’ interior lives. We can’t see what’s in someone else’s head. We don’t know what they do every minute of the day, or what they say.

As much as we like to think otherwise, none of us really know each other. Adam taught me that. I think I hate him for it.

If Mom were to look back, Dad, too, seriously analyze the information, there are so many things, so many pieces…Mom was trained to recognize depression and she completely missed Adam’s.

Tara Shepley: He quit school in the spring and moved in with me. School wasn’t good for him, neither was living on campus. He hated the dorms, he hated his roommate, they did not get along at all. His classes bored him. He was alone there; he didn’t have hardly any friends and Emile was lost in space. Adam didn’t like anything about Rollins. It dragged him down until he was physically sick. 

He got better once he got away from it all. Adam still had days where he struggled, but most of that was the pressure from his family. His parents gave him a hard time. When he got the job at Crown’s, he seemed to fly out of the dark clouds. It was a bright new day.

Merita Hutson: I had no idea Adam hated school to that extent. When he came home on Christmas break, he looked tired. Maurice and I both could tell he was worn out, physically and emotionally. Mentally. He mentioned classes were dreadful, but he seemed okay otherwise. He had made a lot of new friends. After a few days of being home, he was more himself. He rested over the holidays and he was ready to tackle school head-on at the start of the new year.

Amy Hutson-Norvarro: That was our last Christmas. Adam stayed to himself a lot. He slept most of the day and stayed up most of the night writing. He’d sold three stories, four maybe, to different magazines and journals. One story was published in a sci-fi fanzine, something one of his co-workers printed in their basement. Adam was writing a lot of poetry, too. He had let me read some of his work. A lot of it I didn’t get. It didn’t make sense to me, especially his poetry.

Tara Shepley: He’d go on these binges. He’d smoke a joint then sit down at his typewriter and bang out like five or six pages. Then he’d smoke some more and bang out more pages. Some of the weed was laced with coke, some of it with angel dust. He liked his joints dipped in embalming fluid. Adam tried weird stuff, stuff he read about or people said they tried. He smoked dried centipedes. I don’t know if he dried them himself or what, you’d have to ask Emile. They smoked tea leaves rolled in newspaper; the newsprint gave’em headaches. 

Peyote, LSD, crank, heroin. Snorted all kinds of pain pills. Nutmeg, cinnamon…I don’t know, whatever sailors used to do.  Adam tried a lot of stuff, but he didn’t, like, get hooked on anything. Personal control was his addiction, that’s why it was easy for him to dabble in all these things and quit. Adam didn’t like to lose control of himself or not be able to remember what happened or what he did. 

Emile didn’t make it out so lucky, but he’s clean now from what I’ve heard. He tried to follow Adam, be like him, but he wasn’t Adam.

Emile Werner: Amy never knew her brother was on antidepressants and, what is it, anti-psychosis or psychotropics or whatever. Major anti-crazy pills. She thought it was for his endocrine system or anxiety and OCD, something crazy bullshit like that. That’s what Merita told her Adam took them for. Adam went along with it to keep Amy from worrying, I guess.

You know why Adam didn’t like taking his meds? He didn’t like the way they made him feel. Can you believe that? He could do a line of coke or stab a needle in his veins, but Zoloft or Lithium gave him “medicine head.” He felt like a druggie.

Tara Shepley: He said he didn’t feel real when he was on meds. “They make things too cloudy,” is what he always said.

Maurice Hutson: Adam was good at weaning himself off his medications. He’d hide it from his mom for as long he could, but he’d…he was definitely different off the prescriptions. A spark came into him. It was there when he was on his medications, but it wasn’t as vibrant. There was a subtle difference. We wanted to keep those down times from adding up and becoming more frequent. It can be easy for the bad days to outnumber the good. I think the help we got him was the best and I think it did benefit him.

Adam didn’t like it. He didn’t want to take anything. He didn’t like going to the doctor. Some people, a lot of people, probably, think they can deal with things themselves. I’m the same way when I’m sick. I believe some of us can deal with less serious issues ourselves, on our own. But we need help with the bigger problems.

Tara Shepley: I was trying to find a job somewhere else, not dancing. After he started at Crown’s, Adam wasn’t doing any of the other stuff. No drugs, no “escorting”. He loved his job with Gerald. He was meeting a lot of new people, a lot of other writers and artists, those types. They were all positive about his writing. They encouraged him. Everybody was very supportive.

Adam was going to his parents’ for a few days. It was spring break and he was gonna see some of his old friends in Tawesville, people he’d gone to high school with. He was going to do some work, too, while he was there. An agent, or publisher, was interested in him, somebody he met through Gerald, so he was gonna edit some stuff. 

Adam was excited. We were both excited, we were happy. Everything was going great. All these doors were opening for him. It was a constant dream.

He called me the first night he was at his parents’ house. He sounded good. I could tell everything was going well, he sounded his usual self. He was working on the edits and he had all these ideas. He said he couldn’t get things done fast enough. We talked about an hour that night, we laughed a lot, said “I love you” to each other and then we hung up. It was normal.

I didn’t hear from him anymore after that. He was busy and I was busy. It was before cell phones were everywhere, we didn’t have one and nobody we knew had one. I think his dad had a car phone. We weren’t in constant contact. If he was at his parents’, it wasn’t unusual for us not to talk to each other.

The next call I got from Murfreesboro was his sister. Amy told me Adam was dead.

Gerald Denton: I owned and managed Crown’s. We were a bookstore with a coffee house before it became standard in every bookstore across the globe. I modeled us after the Seattle scene, with a slight European influence for ambiance. We had a little stage where authors, sometimes prominent writers, would present their work. That’s how I initially met Adam Hutson, through the open mic nights. I got to know him and offered him a job. He was a good kid. His girlfriend was a waitress. He had dropped out of school and was discovering himself as an artist. What’s not to appreciate?

By all accounts, he liked working with us. We enjoyed having him as a part of our family. He was the life of the party most days, very quick witted, very funny. Very smart.

Adam wrote some good poetry. He didn’t read many modern poets. I think he read Wallace Stevens, casually. Apollinaire. No one current. Adam read mainly Byron and Blake. It was easy to see his influences.

His prose was intriguing. He dabbled with stream of consciousness, cut-up techniques. He was heavily into Redman Bancroft, Joyce, Burgess, Bill Burroughs. A lot of post-modernists. He was a decent writer, some very involving pieces. Some frills and filler, too, but what artiste can cast the first stone?

I introduced him to the regional literati. He was already acquainted with a few of them by other means. A good friend of mine– I won’t say his name– informed me of Adam’s extraneous activities. My friend had previously hired Adam for, let me say…social…companionship.

I never mentioned anything to Adam, of course. I knew about his sporadic pharmaceutical use as well. None of it impacted his work at Crown’s. It was his private life and I viewed it as such. Truthfully, I couldn’t see how any of it affected him negatively in any form.

Adam had his off days where he wasn’t quite his usual self, but rainy days and Mondays get me down, too. 

If he had a problem, any deeper underlying condition, I only suspected it because of a poem he read one evening, “Simple Sinner Blues.” There was a line: “I feel a sadness that brings me no pleasure.” How telling is that? It made me think, it made me wonder, but, being buried in art, how much of it was truth? Sometimes a cigar is a cigar. Even the best artists can’t fully articulate what’s in their heads. No art is the full realization of an artist’s feelings and/or imagination. There is always something lost between thought and expression.

That one line still stays with me. I think it sums up Adam and I think it is the closest he approached true expression. None of us knew his torments, the personal demons, the abhorrent feelings his mind created. We all have those in our lives. Even saints cannot escape negative states.

I’ve heard the speculation he was rebelling against his parents and their expectations, against religion, suburbia, even the establishment. He wasn’t. Why do we do the things we do? The majority of the time the answer is because we want to. 

Adam didn’t have to prostitute himself. He didn’t have to sell drugs, or use them. He did everything he did because he wanted to. He was never forced. Adam wanted experience. It’s difficult to understand, it’s difficult to accept, but it was all his decision. Those were his conscious choices.

And this sadness he felt, this sadness that brought no pleasure, was a different experience. It was useless. He couldn’t do anything with it, and he couldn’t shake it either. 

In the end, the sadness he couldn’t utilize– however, wherever, it originated– it moved Adam, incomprehensibly, to choose to end his own life.

Merita Hutson: Adam arrived here that Sunday afternoon. It was raining. He came in the house, soaking wet and shivering. It was an exaggerated shiver just to get a laugh. I couldn’t tell anything was wrong. When I think back, when any of us look back for clues, there were none. There were no red flags.

Amy Hutson-Norvarro: I was gone with my friend Lana and her family to their cabin in the mountains. I left Sunday morning and didn’t get to see Adam. I wasn’t coming back until later in the week. 

I called home Sunday night. It took a while, every time I called I got a busy signal. That was Adam talking to Tara. When I finally got through, Adam answered. We had a regular conversation. He asked me about school; we talked about movies, music, the stuff he was preparing for the agent. He was going to be at home for a while, like two weeks. We were making plans for things we were going to do while I was out of school and he was taking time from work.

The last thing he said to me was, “I’ll see you when you get home.”

That was our last conversation.

Merita Hutson: Those last days were average. Sunday night I read while Adam and Maurice watched a documentary on television, something about World War II. Monday, Adam spent the morning working in his room. Later, we baked chocolate chip cookies. He drove me to the grocery store, he helped me prepare dinner. That night, Maurice and I asked Adam about Crown’s and the literary crowd. He loved it, and I was happy to see him doing something he enjoyed. It was this whole new world, and we were thrilled for him. 

Everything was so normal, so– I don’t know any other word for it besides normal. It was like it had always been. There was no deep depression or crying. Nothing to indicate he was trying to push us away or withdraw from us. There was nothing.

Maurice Hutson: Adam told us he was thinking of, maybe, returning to school in the fall. Not at Rollins, but possibly somewhere else. Merita and I supported him. We told him it was his decision, completely up to him. Whatever he wanted to do, he had our full blessings. His mom and I both knew he had some difficulty adjusting, finding his way, and he seemed to have endured it marvelously. He conquered it. He was forging his own path and I was proud. So was Merita. We both told him how proud we were of him. We told Adam we would help him in whatever he wanted to do. We wanted him to be happy. He was happy, or appeared to be, and we loved seeing him so elated.

Emile Werner: I went home for break. I was periodically lucid. I gave up trying to get clean or concentrate on my studies. I know Adam went home. He called at one point, but I was asleep. My mother thought I had the flu. She told me Adam called, but I didn’t call him back.

I don’t remember the last time I actually saw Adam or talked to him. I was in my own world…out there somewhere. We didn’t see each other much anyhow. He was at school, then he wasn’t. I barely remember when he dropped out. Somebody told me. It could’ve been his sister or his parents. Someone at school. It could’ve been the Pope on a pink unicorn for all I know or knew.

I don’t remember our last words to each other. I don’t know what they were. We dropped out of each others’ lives.

I vaguely remember my mom telling me that Adam died and then I don’t remember a lot until after I woke up in a hospital four months later.

Maurice Hutson: We live in a quiet neighborhood. A mile East is town, a mile West puts you in a rural part of the county. That’s where Adam’s car was found, not even three miles from home. He parked it in a wooded area, the back of some man’s property. There was barely a road that led back into the woods. Adam’s car set there for three days. We didn’t even know he was missing.

Gerald Denton: Adam called me that Tuesday morning and asked how everything was at work. I told him fine, we missed him and hoped he was having a nice time with his family. He said his edits were going good, he’d written some new stuff Porter might like– Porter Kirby, an agent I knew who was interested in Adam’s work.

His call wasn’t suspicious. I hadn’t expected it, but I wasn’t alarmed. He said to let him know if we needed any help, Tara knew how to contact him. I was touched he was thinking of us, to be honest. He was hesitant to ask for a couple of weeks off, but I didn’t mind. I can recall being young and newly independent, in a different city– a big city– separated from my family. 

Again, all of those were Adam’s choices, his decisions.

Merita Hutson: Tuesday afternoon Adam said he was going camping with some friends at Strieber Creek. It’s a campground near Columbia. He said he’d be back by Friday. I asked him if Emile was going, but he told me Emile was sick. Adam left after dinner. His friends were already at the campsite. He packed a sleeping bag, a few snacks, a tent in case he needed it. We made plans to go to dinner on Friday when Amy returned. He told me and his dad good-bye and was out the door with a spring in his step.

The last look I had of him, he looked so beautiful. He was so at ease and worry-free, it was like he glowed. Full of energy and life and not weighed down.

Maurice Hutson: I feel like I’ve used the words normal, ordinary, and average so much, but those are the words I keep coming back to time and time, again. Everything was so normal about that week other than Amy was out of town and Adam was back home. I went to work each day, Merita did her volunteer work at the church. It was so ordinary that to think about it, it makes me sick.

Amy called Thursday night to say they would be leaving the next morning to return home. I told her I was laying out of work on Friday and the four of us were going out when she got back. After the call, Merita went to bed about ten and I followed not long after.

I woke early and made us breakfast. We figured Amy would be home by three or four, Adam would probably be home earlier. Merita was talking about a Thai restaurant when there was a knock at the front door. It made me clench. All of our friends and family use the back door. Usually, any front door visitor, or telephone call, after nine at night or before eight in the morning is not good news.

Merita Hutson: It was a Rutherford County sheriff’s deputy. I was terrified, instantly scared out of my mind. As soon as I saw him I knew something bad had happened, but I thought it was Amy. I was afraid there had been a wreck and she was in a hospital somewhere. Every scenario flashed in my head. 

But then the deputy asked if Adam Hutson lived at this address and if he drove a ’94 Acura Integra. Then he wanted to know if it had been stolen.

Maurice Hutson: The owner of the property on Ryhope Road found it that morning. They could tell Adam’s car had been sitting there for a while. There was no Adam, or any sign of him. Nothing indicated a struggle or foul play, but it didn’t rule anything out either. It was a missing person case right then. His backpack and sleeping bag were gone, but the tent was still in the car trunk.

Merita began making phone calls. She dialed every number in her address book to find out who had gone camping. She finally got a few answers from some of the kids. Adam never arrived at Strieber Creek. No one knew he planned to go. One of the kids, Joey Kimbro, said he had asked Adam to join them, but Adam had declined.

From the moment I opened the door and saw the sheriff’s deputy to Merita making her phone calls, I had a bad feeling. I ached the entire time; I hurt all over, head to toe. I sat in the kitchen looking out the windows. 

Merita was making call after call. She was about to call Tara to see if Adam had, somehow, shown up there when I told her to stop. I told her to sit down and wait. I asked the deputy if he would follow me outside.

Merita followed us to the back yard, asking what I was doing, what was going on, talking about how we needed to find our son.

Mothers have women’s intuition, but fathers have a certain sixth sense, too. I…knew….

Sitting and looking out the kitchen windows, I noticed the curtains were closed in the treehouse windows. With how the sun slanted on them, I could tell there was something on the inside. The windows had been covered with black plastic. 

As Deputy Banks, that was the officer’s name, as we got to the tree, to the ladder, we could smell…we smelled the odor. I told Merita to stay back and I was surprised she did. I could see she was so scared.

I was going to go up the ladder. It was my responsibility. Deputy Banks stopped me. He ordered me to stay with Merita. He climbed the ladder. I don’t know if I could have climbed it. I stood back and hugged my wife.

Merita Hutson:  You stand there and it seems like forever, it’s like everything stops and everything in the world runs through your mind. And you, you think it’s so surreal and none of this can happen. You really think it’s a mistake, that somebody, somewhere, has mixed things up severely. Your child does not lay dead in a treehouse in your back yard for two or three days while you sleep, cook dinner, watch TV and go about your normal living. It’s not real, it’s not possible. These things do not happen in real life, they just don’t.

Amy Hutson-Norvarro: I didn’t know anything was wrong until I got home. Lana’s dad had to park in the street because an ambulance and police cars and a fire truck were in our driveway and at the curb. Dad ran out and ushered me in the house. I didn’t know what was going on. Mom was crying so hard she wasn’t able to talk.  When he left that night to go camping, Adam hid his car in some field and hiked back home….

My brother was in his sleeping bag. Deputy Banks said he was peaceful, like was going to wake up at any moment. There was an empty prescription bottle of sleeping pills in the corner and an empty thermos of water. Adam was wearing the t-shirt I gave him for Christmas. 

The firemen cut out a side of the treehouse to remove him. They covered him with a white sheet and brought him out on a gurney. Dad and I watched the paramedics load him into the ambulance.

My dad didn’t fall apart until after they left with Adam’s body.

Gerald Denton: Pinned on the wall beside him was his note. It was one sentence: “My epitaph shall be my name alone.” 

It’s Byron. ‘That, only that, shall single out the spot; by that remember’d, or with that forgot.’

God, I…I’ve never thought to ask people who seemed perfectly fine if everything was truly okay. Why would I? Why would anyone? I do it now, though. I get some strange looks sometimes, but…

I honestly wish Adam had made different choices.

Tara Shepley: Sometimes when I’m driving, or when I’m at home, there’s a physical presence. It’s like when you know someone is standing behind you or they’re standing over you when you’re asleep, you have that sense. I know it’s Adam. I know if I turn to look at him, or open my eyes, he’s going to vanish. So I don’t look. I take comfort in knowing he’s still here.

Maurice Hutson: We had a private funeral. We couldn’t…we didn’t want a lot of people around. After we buried Adam, I started tearing down the treehouse that very day. I rented the biggest wood-chipper I could find and reduced it to dust. When I finished with that, I cut the tree down and destroyed it, too.

I’ve read about our brains and how memories work. When we remember something, we don’t remember the actual event itself, we remember the last time we remembered it. So that’s why memories can degrade and become fuzzy, the specifics can change. Memories are a copy of a copy of a copy. I don’t believe it, though, because, even after all these years, it feels like I find my son dead every day of my life. 

The pain has not diminished.

Merita Hutson: You ask yourself why. You never stop asking. Why didn’t I see this coming? Why didn’t any of us notice anything? Why did he do it? Why did he think this was his only option? Why didn’t he talk to me or his dad or his sister or somebody? Why couldn’t my son ask for help? Why couldn’t he ask me– any of us, anyone— for help?

You pray and you pray and you wait patiently for an answer that may never come.

People tried to comfort us…there’s nothing anyone could do, or say, to make things better. There’s no making it easier. They still try. There is no condolence. If you had such a loss, I could comfort you better.*

I wanted to give up after Adam died. All of us wanted to give up. We didn’t because we– Maurice, Amy, and I– knew we couldn’t survive without each other. Maurice and I have two granddaughters now…we all still need each other.

Maurice wanted to sell the house. I think Amy did, too. I couldn’t move. This is our family’s home. Adam is in every room. I smell him in every room. I hear him. Every day I expect him to waltz through the door and say, “Hey, Mom.”

I see my son everywhere. I see him as a little boy, I see him as a grown man. I feel him here. I can’t leave this house. This house is full of memories and that’s all I have left of my son. 

*Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form;
Then, have I reason to be fond of grief?
Fare you well: had you such a loss as I,
I could give better comfort than you do.

– King John, William Shakespeare

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