POEM for my FRIEND
Except for Kenny Zanky whose mother had him for the weekend.
His X-wife was there and his son, just a toddler, looking bewildered and a little scared from his uncle’s tears.
“He looks just like him,” someone slipped, and his mother cringed a moment.
The divorce and a new husband couldn’t change her son’s uncanny resemblance to his father.
He’d lost her – his wife – in the usual way, first it was her respect and then her love.
She hadn’t left him because he was sick.
The cancer came as a kind of toxic byproduct,
perhaps spawned from the ranker of their rancid hopes…
It grew and spread, and he weakened.
We had all been inseparable back in the day, my daughter and his son,
My girlfriend and his wife,
their brothers and cousins, in my house.
Our weekends were barbeques, video games, poker, and beers.
My house and their cooking.
He spoke sparingly making us hang on his thoughts, often unfinished.
He listened even less, nodding as his eyes squinted doubtfully, then completely disregarding what had been said.
We had forgiven each other.
I forgave the way he always arrived unannounced, drank up my beers, and drug me out.
I forgave him for the 7-Up he mixed with my 15-year-old bottle of French Bordeaux.
He forgave me for always calling his bluffs in poker and taking his cash, for my incessant advice about his finances, my meddling and how I always made him cook.
He taught my daughter to swim.
He told me the truth about my girlfriend, when no one else dared my temper. He dared, he stood right in front of me and made me eat the truth and then helped me drink it down.
Then it all, like a teetering inverted pyramid, fell to pieces: I kicked her out, she kicked him out, I moved away, sold my house, and from far away I heard the news – that it had all been too much.
Three years had passed since we’d spoken when I called him, and three weeks later he’d be gone.
He disregarded bravery, admitting the pain was becoming too much. Telling me there just was nothing to fight for.
I encouraged him to battle on, teasing him that no one made me noodles like him and that I’d pay for his ticket to come see me if he’d just get strong enough to cook, but this only made him cry.
And then I knew.
His brother took the phone and thanked me for the call, shyly saying he couldn’t talk anymore now – too many tears. No voice left.
We hung up and that world was gone.