Monday I’ll sit across the room from the chemo patients. I’ll wait and watch and listen to cancer and laughter and how those cookies on the white plate restore ground for only that moment after or before.
You are now less than a whisper. So small in the booth. All bone and loose flappy skin. I am large. Almost imposing across from you and even the waitress can clearly see the way you lean out of this life.
At work I spill nervous disconnected sentences. Remember sucking vodka at a gravestone far from here.
Think of how many times I betrayed the way you were always there. I see flashing mind reels of Minnesota and long slow days where there was nothing but wide space and all of us so desperate to be family though we weren’t, but we tried.
I call you when I get home. It’s the trail of your voice reaching beneath my skin and prying open what is left and still breathing.
I watch my wife cook. Try to imagine not seeing her. Try to find the path that doesn’t forget. You tell me you dream of death.
“I do too.”
I drift into that hot fear and it all churns and spits and amalgamates into conscious visions that are more than memory, more than dream.
On Monday, I’ll pierce the Cancer Center language with laughter knowing that is exactly what you would want.
At the café, we eat and drink black strong fancy coffee and the waitress has eyes that captivate and entice and you are wiry old joy and you push, challenge, become the wild free dancing vibrating fire cracker that always taught us to live and be ourselves and stand our ground and never give up and I’m a boy with a mohawk watching you tell the teachers to relax it is just a haircut. I’m being pulled by my ear out of the lunchroom into a hallway and berated for refusing to admit to something I did not do. We are driving through the grey industrial town and you slap me because I stole blessed hosts from the rectory and ate them and I realize it’s about disrespect, about the nature of allowing others what I want for myself and inside that café we are trouble bubbling into actualized joy pulsing with the hotness of living being lived and you are already a memory and it is as it has been and there is grief and there is the wideness of your smile as we walk beneath sun splashing clouds.
I wake to your shape and the pain of that room where you are alone is on my lips slithering down to rack through my chest. Your fear. Your need.
At the Cancer Center, I watch myself start conversations and I watch the impact when connection is allowed its primacy.
You still don’t sleep.
I still find you along the reaching vibrations pulsing and seeking.
How much do we all miss as we go through this too short in and out breath sloughing off body?
I dream delicious derelictions.
The sidewalks speak riddles of what is definitely gone and somewhere you exist as you were.
You remind me of why we all must continue.
All the ways in which life hammered you and every motion you made.
All the versions of self you wrote through hard, hard misery.
But you were never a victim. Never one to be lost to narratives of blame or oppression.
You were laughter congealed and constant and snapping and no one knew how much pain you ate.
I listened to you scream like an animal bitten by a trap.
I wonder now what it was like to answer the phone and hear I was missing.
There was never a question about your strength though your sanity was whimsical psychotic crackling embers sometimes burning hot sometimes cool, pale
Longing to become ash.
My numbers were good. You misunderstand and I laugh. Soon we will sit and wait while they cut and drain the plaque from your arteries.
Your feet are unsure of themselves.
We stumble together because we do.