I have been on a ballad-free diet for a year. I only think about it 3 or 4 days a week now, so my shrink would probably be proud of me, if I were still speaking to him. What my shrink doesn’t know is how I stood in the craft store trying to decide what is goth enough for a goth grave without being so goth as to prompt the jesusy parents to remove my flowers. I settled on some dark burgundy flowers that would blend in nicely with the black and white ones that were already there. I went out there on his birthday and sat in the grass two feet above his ashes while I evened up wire stems, meshed flowers together, and tied a long black ribbon (one of the ones I had been using for my hair) around the whole thing.
I know it happened. I sat at a funeral and listened to people dance around the truth for an hour. I sat there, publicly crying, next to some hot friend from his childhood. Then I drove to a cemetery and watched men in coveralls put dirt over a 12-inch cube of my friend. I watched his mom make a point to leave before the dirt-laying started. I know it happened. I’ve been back to the grave four times. It’s near my house and on the way to Rivergate, pure coincidence. I’m doing immersion therapy. Each time I go, it still takes me by surprise, but there it is in inch-high bronze letters. All three names, first, middle and last. The succession you only hear when you’re in trouble.
That big bronze plate just lies there, telling me that I could live to be 100 and he will never, ever be on the other end of the phone. Never again can I call his number and just start a conversation with “talk me down, man.” I am left here to wonder if maybe there were more times that should have been reversed. Left to forever wonder if I could have done something, even though I promised that I wouldn’t wonder that. He even made me repeat it back:
“There is nothing you could have done.”
“There is nothing I could have done.”
But still. There it is, in inch-high bronze letters. According to my filing system, I wrote the following poem in 2002. He had left town and I was waiting on a visit that never came. Women. We’re like dogs waiting at the front door, with no sense of how long we’ve been sitting there. Honestly, if I’d known the clock was ticking I would have gotten over my fear of flying sooner. Sorry for the now rather melodramatic title…that’s what I called it in 2002. Who knew?
Memory reared its head it last night’s dream
I was at the airport with a flowering potted plant
Dressed in my finest clothes
Waiting for you
But your plane was late.
I slept at the gate, waking each time a stranger passed
Hoping it was you.
Days went by
My flowering plant wilted and dried to brittle brown sticks
My finest clothes became wrinkled and unkempt
I wondered whether you would ever arrive at all.
Then, out from the gate’s mouth, you came.
I squealed your name and ran to meet you
Swept up in a giant hug and spun around in circles,
I was so happy and you were there-
Then I woke up.