Friday, February 27, 2015

I Wish You Were Here

It is almost impossible for me to write about this right now. It may never be possible for me to write about this, to write something coherent and cogent and meaningful. I have always been compelled to process my emotions on paper, with a pen, though sometimes they remain eternally a maelstrom of words, desperate or vengeful or livid or desolate or delirious. 

Phil is my first friend to die. He was my age, give or take a few months, working hard, dreaming strong. He was killed. Saying the words, typing the words, is a surreal act, one that even with repetition has not made these past few days soak in yet. I have been to other funerals, though, the ones of vivid memory can be counted on a single hand. My first at the small age of three years old, accompanied by my favorite stuffed animals: my Polish great-grandmother. I remember the taste of homemade fried chicken, to this day, of simple white meat to sweet, coating so crisp, prepared with love from memory, hands automatically performing the actions, prepared by an army of old-guard Polish women from that corner of Baltimore. My paternal grandparents, in middle school. An acquaintance's mother, destroyed by breast cancer, whose service caused me to wail, thinking of my own mother's inevitable death.

He was a beautiful, beautiful person, and was a dear, loving friend to me during those most emotionally-fraught years, when all is raw and seemingly so unfettered, so impossible to control and to reign and to understand. I know I will never forget that type of warmth, that lust for love and life and true, deep friendships, that lust for mischievous fun, but I now, naturally, find myself struggling to grasp at memories, at snippets of conversations, of moments alone, together, wondering, joking, laughing. Our friendship was one built from the seeming mundane things of growing up: exasperation at strict teachers, worry over grades, worry over social acceptance, obsession with fledgling romantic entanglements and woesWe were together in happiness, and sometimes, in fear. I have never fully resolved those fears, not yet, but they were diminished in his presence. This effect he had, a certain self-assurance, a warm comfort, is unique, and he generously shared this gift with all his many friends. 

It is impossible for me to write about this now, to give this tragedy some meaning. Trying to speak with our mutual friends, friends who also grew up with us, I have only superficial words. I can only let myself feel the full brunt of the pain, feel its force, and try to take comfort in the memories, in the beauty and good that came from his too short life.

We get into the car and we begin to drive, aimless, anxious. Tall, tall cups of black espresso, made palatable with thick foam milk and too much sugar, warm our hands and as we sip, warm our blood, hasten that thump-thump of the heart. Eventually, we begin to head north, north, and just keep going. Laughing, we decide to drive to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, with no sense of motive or purpose other than the beauty of that open highway, freckled with potholes, black gravel crumbling. A frivolous adventure. We crack the windows of the car and take long, shallow drags of cigarettes, nicotine consummating with caffeine to make us even more giddy.

Our parents call and we lie to them, pretend to be driving home from the mall near home. We keep driving north, unconcerned that as soon as we reach the small town, we will have to head back.

Every ten minutes or so, the same song blares from the speakers, the latest hit by Destiny's Child and we shout-sing along each time. As the song closes, we each take a long drag, exhale and listen, exhale and listen.

In the summers, my mother bakes peach pies, the fruit fresh and almost too-sweet from the spring months of hot sun. We come to my house and a newly-baked pie sits quiet on the counter, still warm, potent peach perfume permeating the kitchen. We begin to gingerly slice into the golden crust and my mother shrugs, hands us forks, and instead we get to work on the entire pie, devouring the sticky goodness, perfect chemistry of sugar, butter, cinnamon, fruit meat. In a matter of moments, quick maneuvers of the forks, the pie is gone. We have eaten it all. Just some crust crumbs and streaks of filling scatter the glass bottom of the dish.

The sky is near dark. We hide in a black night, the moon low and demure, waning, sit in a circle in a decrepit tennis court beside her house, green surface sadly sagging. Sipping from plastic cups of cheap alcohol, pale beer or maybe some concoction of blood red juice and astringent vodka, we swap jokes and stories. It is summer and the Future looms, a brilliant expanse of unknown potential, as distant and intangible to us as the specks of stars scattered in the black. In a few months, we, our bodies, here, concrete, able to touch and be touched, would scatter, to new towns and new states, unsure but excited. We sip and talk, divulge our secrets, sitting so close we are almost touching.

(image taken from A Well-Traveled Woman)