For Chuck——1957 to 2020
The last time I saw him, his face was being rolled up inside three-ply safety glass—untouchable and forever behind the driver’s window of a rust-bucket Toyota. I suspected an open pack of unfiltered cigarettes nearby, his lighter hopelessly lost beneath the front seat. However, he never confessed to being a smoker.
Would you finally disappear—like a dead lilac?
Surprisingly, he complied—a complicated mystique created from swirling obedience, defiance and cracks left to rub against each other for two and a half decades. “It’s your fault. You held your breath deliberately.” When I can’t fall asleep, his unrequited voice becomes an obnoxious draft, a window left open on a winter night. Sometimes I think his coldness is merely from an old poem our grandmother read to us when we became sleepy, but refused to let our eyes close.
Even a dead lilac retains a pleasant odor from time to time.
Journal entry: Stay there, I decided. I carry few memories and mourn even fewer victims. It’s unlikely you’ll be missed. (Besides you’ve confused “indictment!” with “who the hell cares?”).
Twenty-five years later a grown woman decided to take up smoking in America. While driving, she confronted a man’s dead face embedded in a stranger’s tinted car-window. Sure enough, it was a Toyota, this time without the rust. Immediately, she felt listless, unsure of herself. She searched all things open, including spaces made from fractures, or unbroken little pieces that had forgotten to decay or turn into dreams.
She wanted everything missing to persist. She wanted all splintered edges resurfaced. She insisted tangled rebellious lungs and clear glass splattered with flesh be revived using strong vinegar. She polished every thought until hidden fragments became the color of smoke, following the path the average, insecure man’s breath eventually rises above.
Journal entry: Stay there, she decided. Every woman eventually makes her choice. No man is a stranger—I think I finally remember you. Yes, it’s you again—that overly important, smart-ass whimper gave you away.
In time, small cracks appear, precariously like little wars secretly admired, sprayed into the air, eventually filleting each decade like a greasy, fat fish. As things end, women have no reason to hide from shallow men, those who pretend to dive deep—the few afraid of exploitation.
Then again, maybe you meant something after all—a dented, sputtering friendship. Truthfully, I had no fault, no fracture of the soul like you experienced, only loss and wonder at your arrogance. It was appalling at first, but it was you who misunderstood agelessness for purpose. Maybe now I can reach into some man’s air, grab onto their torn shirt-tail, rescue every plummeting chunk of flesh—even that special piece—the part of a man that sinks for no apparent reason.
Journal entry: Stay there! Stop breathing so hard. There are no more chances. Besides, I like the way you ended.