So I’m here at my computer, drinking coffee and checking Facebook updates, thinking about how I should be hanging out the laundry, or how I should be out on a power walk, or working on a novel. And then this message pops up: “Sue, are you there?”
It’s one of my Facebook friends, one of my real life friends. She wants to know if I’ve seen the post on her wall. If I’ve heard about you.
And before she writes any more, I know what she’s going to say. I remember that email you sent a couple years ago, after attending our high school reunion, which began “Geez I didn’t think I’d live this long,” and I remember the closet full of guns and your hero worship of Yukio Mishima.
And then I remember other things, like the first time we actually met. I was the new girl at school, the Yankee from up north. I’d made a friend – a classmate who lived in a haunted house who had a crush on you. I can’t recall under what ruse we went to visit you at your house, but I remember the three of us listening to home-grown punk rock in your bedroom, and laughing a lot. The next day at school, you sent me a note.
At the time, I was pining for some bad boy in Michigan, so I didn’t appreciate your interest. I’m sorry. But we were young, and I think you liked to pine, too. Before me, you’d spent years longing for somebody else.
Now I’m remembering that you’re the only guy, in my 45 years, who ever sent me a dozen red roses. The only guy to ever paint my portrait. The only guy who ever wrote a song about me. You were there at the end of every crappy college relationship. There was that time when the guy I had fallen in love with hooked up with somebody else at The Beat, leaving me stranded. You gave me a ride on the back of your motorcycle all the way back to Lexington, forty miles or so in the middle of the night. You were a dependable and caring kind of guy. And you cooked like a demon. Man, you could cook.
Maybe I wasn’t a good enough friend. Maybe I didn’t listen hard enough. I remember going down to the riverside at night (with a bottle of booze, probably) and hearing about your latest heartbreak. I know I listened, but maybe I didn’t say the right thing. And that email message you sent on Valentine’s Day three and a half years ago. Was that some kind of cry for help? I figured you were drunk and feeling nostalgic, that you probably felt better a few days later. Now I find myself regretting my perky reply. But I was there. I wrote back, didn’t I? And there were others among us who wanted to be with you, to be there for you. Hey, and why didn’t you come to any of my readings or book signings like you said you would?
I dig into my drawer of old photos, trying to find that one of you holding a sword in front of the portrait you painted of Yukio Mishima. I come across a postcard from Graceland sent in 1988, back before I was married. You wrote: “I went to see the Big E for Thanksgiving. I went by myself and it kind of bummed me out ‘cos it rained all day, was really commercialized, and 90% of the people never really care about Elvis it seems.”
I think you cared about Elvis. I think you cared about a lot of things.
Later, when you finally met my husband, you told me that you liked him in spite of yourself. He felt the same about you. He’ll always remember you because you helped him realize that typical Japanese fantasy of firing a gun. You were careful with guns, though. Although you accidentally shot yourself in the toe that one time, I remember that you were safety-conscious.
Those boys I pined for, they’re all on Facebook now – married and having barbecues, or divorced with three kids, selling used cars, “looking for a relationship.” Last I heard, you were still spinning records, cooking gourmet meals, making movies with friends and entering them in film festivals, going out, painting. I sent you a message, telling you that there were photos of you on Facebook, urging you to “be my friend,” but you replied that you weren’t interested in social networking.
That was two years ago.
I can’t believe you’re gone.
I send a message to you via email: “Please tell me that rumors of your death have been greatly exaggerated.
But there is no reply.
(In memory of Ernest Keith Wilson 1965-2011)