Breaking the Silence/A Dirge

Image: Rodin’s “Head of Sorrow”

Breaking the silence….of this blog and on writing in general, that is. It’s been awhile. There has been so much that transpired between my last post and now that I could have and maybe should have written about. There was a broken heart, a 609-day/20-month poem-writing streak, the subsequent writer’s block, facing addiction….and maybe I’ll get to all of that.

However, what brings me back here today is the loss of a friend.

It’s crazy, because Chris and I went to high school together. We should have met then, but I don’t think we ever spoke or even locked eyes. I knew his name, and that was about it for me. A mutual friend passed away in October of 2019, and at that friend’s memorial service, I reacquainted myself with several people I hadn’t seen or otherwise encountered since my graduation. In all the social media/let’s reconnect hullabaloo that followed, my profile must have showed up in Chris’s feed. When he sent me a request, I thought, “Okay, I remember the name, why not?” and accepted his friendship.

Not too long after, he made a post mentioning a trip to the hospital due to some major cardiac issues. I believe I made a comment of well-wishes, and I occasionally checked back to see if there were any updates to his situation. There were none, and after a week or two I started to worry something had happened to him. I messaged him to see if he was okay, and he messaged back informing me of what happened and the fact that he has endured several chronic and debilitating health issues since high school. These hospital excursions were, unfortunately, commonplace. I only remembered this genesis of the friendship that formed a day or two ago when I was trying to remember what initiated our series of messaging back and forth.

We texted a bit, and eventually, Chris asked if I would be up for phone calls. This was strange for me, because I have become a rather hermetic and misanthropic person over the last 15-20 years. I pretty much never talk on the phone to anyone beside my father and mother sometimes, and I tend to put off calls I have to make. But I uncharacteristically agreed. And a weekly to bi-weekly ritual was started. I don’t want to give too much of his personal business away, but one of his ailments required dialysis. A lot of our conversations were done while he was waiting for the procedure to be over. I grew to know him more, and began to really enjoy our talks.

He was a man who seemed to know something about everything. He was known as a super-talented bass guitar player, and he knew so much about music, the industry, local performers, and all kinds of related things. But he also knew about cars, and computers, and electronics in great depth. He had street smarts, too. He would proudly tell you why his Subaru could dust a Mustang with intense mechanical detail, he would talk of all the computer programs he learned to master doing different jobs….it was seemingly endless. I wouldn’t understand any of the jargon at all, but I just let him talk because he was so happy to have and share his understanding of those things. He told me stories about things he’s done, the girls he’d dated, the fights he’d been in, his family’s, um, colorful doings….and there I was taking it in, a person who’s never been anywhere or done anything with anyone, really. We talked about movies and youtube videos, himself being a virtual data bank of all things entertainment. And he would tell me all about his immense medical history and continuing saga in that vein.

I told him some about my completely uneventful life, including my addiction and turn toward sobriety. He didn’t judge. I honestly don’t think that was his way. He always had a protective older brother vibe despite our being the same age.

We went months this way, and I was continually amazed by how this had become a cherished routine. We often talked about getting together and finally meeting in person now that pandemic restrictions were lessening and we were both vaccinated. I’m deeply sorrowful that that will never happen. I learned on Saturday morning, via others’ social media posts, that Chris’s body had finally worn out. I don’t yet know the details, and I suppose they don’t matter. I am regretful that we never transcended beyond phone calls and that I didn’t happen to call him the final week of his life. I find myself thinking about all the years of friendship we could have shared if only we’d done this earlier. And I consider that, as much as I’m hurt now over his passing, how much greater that hurt would be.

In Chris’s memory, I tried to break the silence of this blog and the silence of my writer’s block. I wrote my first poem since June of last year (with minimal output before then dating back to April 2019). I obviously wish his death hadn’t happened so as to write about it, but it felt right to try to write again in a piece dedicated to him. The fact that I put a “you know?” in the fifth line of an otherwise rather formal poem is a nod to the way he talked. He would drop “you know”s all the time in conversation, saying it like one word. Yaknow?

FOR CHRIS                                                                         6/22/21

The unforeseen and fortuitous finding of a certain friend

fulfills the forgotten necessity of meeting minds akin,

sounding and expounding the abounding, unending words within, 

and parceling new conceptions a fertile intellect will lend.

How friendships commence can ofttimes be nebulous, you know?

Haphazard and uncanny fellowships are founded from the void;

unsought or unexpected, the unattached become alloyed

as a scarce steel or blended pigment of a resplendent tableau.

Then abruptly comes a piercing as a somber missive will apprise; 

the confidential connection for which we both endeavored

was called upon by calamity, the tender ties become dissevered,

and I suffer the vicissitude of my friend’s precipitous demise.

I stand in consternation, eyes dampened, with one thought I can distill 

over all the words we’ve woven and all the words we never will.