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They say you are addicted, a drunkard, a user, crippled in body
and soul, but I don’t believe they understand.
My life is scattered with gifts of your love, disks you collected
for me, music from far corners. Your handwriting, neat and
unmistakable adorns my every niche – the drawers and albums
of my years.
When you went away I closed my mind to all that. You traveled
to far places, did strange things I only heard of via gossip,
bitterness, recriminations. My letters went unanswered and I
preferred to think somehow they never reached you. Years lengthened
into gulfs of silence. I tried to hide the pain, almost succeeded.
But every now and then a memory of your childhood drifts again
across my inner vision.
We were on holiday together, far from home, visiting a friend
across the ocean. We’d traveled to the center of a busy city, by bus
and subway, changing lines several times. A hungry vegetarian youth
you came across a roadside grill shack. You requested I ask the grill man
to clean the hot plate from hamburger fragments before toasting your
cheesy bun and I shamefully refused. And then you threw the money
down and ran away. I waited anxiously for your return, minutes passed,
turned into hours. Eventually a phone call told me that you that you’d
found your way back to my friend’s house, somehow retracing all those
bus and subway stations.
That was many years ago. Last week I lay in hospital when suddenly
after decades of silence came your phone call wishing me recovery.
They say you are addicted, lost and crippled but I don’t believe them.
Come, let’s take a trip downtown, I’ll buy you a toasted bun dripping
with melted cheese. And if you ask me to get the man to clean the grill
before he makes your meal, I’ll volunteer to scrape the platter clean myself.
© Johnmichael Simon
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