Open Letter to an Old Friend

I should have known you were gone when you fractured your ribs in the motorcycle accident and you clearly didn’t want me to come see you. You know, when we visit a sick friend, it is not only for them that we come. We ourselves need to understand their hurt, to see it and to know it. We seek not only to comfort a friend, but to understand their situation. You never let me understand yours, and I waited on the outskirts of your life, hoping to be let in.

I never did meet your girlfriend, the one you said was the love of your life. At the time I thought to myself that if I was in love I’d want to show him off to the whole world starting with my friends, and also, not quite trusting myself, I’d want to know that you all thought he was OK. I know men and women are different, and it has always made trouble for us that we went about friendship in different ways, but I never did meet the love of your life and she is gone from your life now and I never even saw her face.

You separated yourself from me when your heart turned to her, and heaven knows I was sad but I found I felt like a mother losing a son — glad to see her boy go off more deeply into life, knowing things would be different now for that’s how life is. But after that whenever I saw you I felt like I had arranged a business meeting with a disinterested associate who didn’t want to lose his job but wasn’t much on meetings. You were fulfilling obligations, and I was eating dinner with a stranger that was shaped like my friend.

Maybe I’ve seen too many movies, and I thought that there would be some big resolution and the unavoidable end to all this was you coming back into my life and turning back into the person I knew. Maybe I thought you’d show up at my door in the middle of the night with a bruised and bloody face like Nate did to Brenda and I’d make you breakfast at six AM after we’d talked all night. I remember I asked you once if you remembered the night we’d stayed up all night talking, and you said, Which one? There’s a look you can only give a friend you have had for 23 years, and I can’t give it to you anymore if I don’t ever see you.

When we had dinner last you popped all those pills — beta blockers for your brutalized and stressed-out heart, something else for the demon depression that turns your face into a blank. I wish I could believe that the disease took you away from me, for God knows the last few years have changed you. Depression might be a prison and you its prisoner, but if you wanted me you could have passed a note under the door and I would have been there in fifteen minutes flat with sushi and Season 2 of Six Feet Under.

Well, I will learn my own lessons and try hard to remember the good things. I remember the nights of watching movies together in the black and gray dark, talking quietly. I remember when you would visit and it would be 1AM but it would feel like 9PM because the time had just flown by in talking to you. And do you remember the thing we used to always say to each other? I would never tell this to anybody but you… I remember when you told me in an email that when you died I would be the one to put your affairs in order and you do not know it but I had tears in my eyes when I read that. None of my friends ever cared that I was a vegetarian for eight years but you. You always pointed out the cheese pizza. Do you remember the day I came to see you when you were a DJ, and when I drove home you played all my favorite songs for me? When I lost the station in the middle of Champagne Supernova going through the mountains I couldn’t bear it because I wanted to hear you talking to me with the music again. But the signal was gone.

Learning not to turn to you anymore is like dieting and exercising. It is good for me, but I’d rather have things the way they were. This brave new life is not easy.

I am writing this so I can look at it and remember that I have already said goodbye.

When I’m down you always comfort me
When I’m lonely you see about me
You are everywhere you’re s’posed to be
And I can get your station
When I need rejuvenation

Wavelength
Wavelength
You never let me down… no
You never let me down… no

I heard the voice of America
Callin’ on my wavelength
Tellin’ me to tune in on my radio
I heard the voice of America
Callin’ on my wavelength
Singin’ Come back, baby
Come back
Come back, baby
Come back

Won’t you play that song again for me
About my lover, my lover in the grass, yeah, all right
You have told me ’bout my destiny
Singin’ Come back, baby
Come back
Come back, baby
Come back


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