I wonder if she mourned you or whether your death came as a relief. Whether she stood in the living room with and felt her knees tremble when she read the obituary. Or maybe her mother told her. I wonder if she cried or if she breathed a sigh of relief. I wonder if she felt guilty. She should feel guilty, I think. Hell, *I* feel guilty.
You would chastise me or chide me gently, perhaps, for saying these things. I wish you were here to chide me or chastise me. I wish I could have said goodbye.
But I’m glad, I guess, that the last time I saw you, you were so happy. Had I known it would be the last time I would see you, I’d have stayed longer. I’d have taken a gift. I’d have made fucking sure it wasn’t the last time I would see you. Maybe sometime I’ll be glad that the last time I saw you, you were happy.
And I’m glad, I suppose, that the last time I talked to you, you were so happy. Maybe sometime I’ll be glad that the last time I talked to you, you were happy. And if I’d have known what was to come I’d have yelled “David, I love you!”, but I didn’t know. Nobody knew.
This isn’t about me, of course, but there is a certain narcissism about all of this; a self-induglence that makes me nervous just to write about it. Yet here it is.
I was in the kitchen when I got the text message that you were gone. I don’t think I’ll forget that. I wanted to laugh it off. I tried to convince myself this was some grand prank played out on social media for which we could all later be Very Cross. But it was true. Do you know how hard it is to say “it’s true; he died.”
He is dead.
You are dead.
I’m talking to you, and you’ll never read this. You’ll never hear it. You’re gone. I don’t get to laugh and tell you “you died”. It’s not a game anymore, David. Shit, as they say, just got real.
It hits me in waves. When I saw her lip quiver. The flag, hanging flaccid in front of the legion. Cars lined on every street. The crush of people waiting to get inside. I stared intently at the plaques on the wall. Other young men who’d died. Death surrounded me. I was enveloped. I stared at a blank space of blue wall. I glanced up at the entrance. You looked back at me, smiling. Laughing. Projected. Static. Alive.
Could I not have sat with you? Just to hold your hand? We wouldn’t have had to speak. We could have just sat together in silence and stared at the wall, or at one another, or at pictures of your daughter. Or at nothing at all. No, I don’t think I could have saved you. I don’t think anything I could have done would have made a difference. Probably nothing anyone could have done would have made a difference. But could we not still have sat together, just for an afternoon? Could you not have told one more story?
I wish I’d have saved your voice on my phone. I look back over all of the times I turned down an invitation for tea, or could not find you to invite you to a picnic. Twenty years is not enough, David. I thought about that today, staring out into white ice fog, wondering where the you that made you you has gone. I wondered what I would tell you if I did have you back for a moment, for an afternoon. That’s the thing; I hope you knew that I love you. I don’t think you knew what an emptiness there would be with your leaving.
What I would have said is this: I will fight this fight for you until you can raise the dukes yourself. I will be your Atlas. I will roll with those punches; I will wrestle your demons. You still would have said no. You would have closed your eyes and leaned back your head and you would have smiled a small smile, and you would have said it’s not your fight.
And here I am writing about me. About me, David, when all I can think about is you.