The Last Time I Saw Richard

Amy Susanne Robinson
17 min readAug 25, 2021
Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in 68

And he told me all romantics meet the same fate

Someday, cynical and drunk and boring someone

In some dark cafe

— Joni Mitchell, “The Last Time I Saw Richard”

The last time I saw Richard — my Richard — was Decatur, Georgia, in 2010. And he told me he slept in his eye makeup the night before to get the look he wanted for his concert at Eddie’s Attic, the local, lesser version of The Bluebird Cafe, which he’d played in the 90’s, before I knew him. The last time I saw Richard, he’d just debuted songs from his fourth album, which he never finished because he never had enough money, not to make an album and not for anything else, either.

He told me the same kinds of things he’d told me so many times before and he barely listened when I answered his perfunctory question or two about my own life. Before that, I hadn’t seen him in a year, maybe two. I had to convince myself to go to his show. In the absence of any reckoning with him, it felt wrong to go. But then my brother said he wanted to go, and I figured if he was okay with seeing Richard, I could be, too.

I expected to be overcome with complicated emotion. Instead, in that not-dark cafe, as he went on and on about his pre-concert routine and the album that would never be, Richard was certainly boring someone. Me.

You laugh, he said you think you’re immune

Go look at your eyes

They’re full of moon

— Joni Mitchell, “The Last Time I Saw Richard”

I don’t remember the first time I saw Richard, but I know I fell in love with him when I did. My eyes were full of moon. I was 19 years old, shampooing hair at a salon in Atlanta in a ritzy neighborhood called Buckhead, where I also happened to grow up. He was 41 and uncanny: a receptionist and hairdresser and indie country singer, with long limbs and black hair and sharp Irish bones and the “sad eyes of a small-town queer,” as he wrote in a song about the only gay bar in his hometown. His laugh was iconic, a rattling cackle that began with a burst and then trickled into a kind of groan. I could hear it from the back room where I fluffed smocks in the dryer, filled…



Amy Susanne Robinson

Essayist, poet, writing teacher. Mom. Very good cook. Web: Twitter/IG: @amysmcd