Friday, August 8, 2014

Scars in the Sky




We've given scars to the sky.

Mean ones, overlapping. Intentional. Why?

Splayed, obscene, over the dimming boardwalk and sand... higher even than the coral and sooty purple of the day's death... jetstreams have carved up the blue in fat white gashes.

No accident. Then why?

We must have had a reason. To betray a secret without a word? To pinpoint?

I see it!

X marks the spot in the Heavens!

I’ve sought more than prettiness in so many different views, lured by shimmer or what’s hidden or a cool fire. I’ve found no end of pretty, and the pretty was always lifting. But pretty is there for any and all who see, to breathe of and dote and feast upon. You need only look. 

But… to where? To what we sought? No. To a blue expanse, yawning and wide, of still more pretty, of more seeking. Wrong spot.

Until now, until here. We’ve been gifted the map!

There’s so much sky. Limitless margin for error, we could never seek enough to fill all those wrong guesses in the blue.

And now we're different, now we're golden, don't you see it...? If there's treasure in the skies, it's revealed for miles around, no one could miss it. God himself would have needed two hands to slash so vast a sign.

Dig here! Dig up!

No. I'm too quick, feckless.

The sky is resourceful. The X is less violent than a second ago. Ah. The sky is not so easily marred as its mate below. The Earth is sodden, impressionable, literal. But the sky?

(Don't even ask after the sea. It shares with no one.)

Our jetstream crisscross is fading now. Our temporary clue. Hurry! Longitude, latitude! But I know nothing of them, even with a compass or a sextant.

Jot it down, somehow… A messy scrawl on a napkin or take a picture? Scan, fast. Find a relating point on the shore... the jetty or the gouged old Casino?

Look up. Long arcing lines of chalk now, lightly traced. No longer gashes. Each being erased with steady grace. As sunset goes, so too the scars. Never mind.

X marked the spot in the Heavens. But it's night now, and you missed it.

I was there, saw the exact secret. But I'd never be able to lead you to it again. I could sing of it until I dropped or you ceased to care, but I couldn't take you by the hand to the spot. Only wish I could.

The sky brushed off our clumsy hunt. Its treasure is safe from us.

I stare and it’s inky and changed. It’s cooler and leaner. It all seems to hum ‘no’.

But the scars were unimaginative, weren’t they? They never could have worked, not really.

I huddle to myself. Then I realize I was wrong. The sky is not protecting its secrets.

In shrouded quiet, the sky was showing me how.



©  Eric Yves Garcia, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Go Fish





Funny, the things that suddenly occupy your mind. Funnier even, the faces that do, and when. From what piled up corner of your brain do some faces get hauled out?

And this one was a face. Bald dome, tan, eggshell shiny. Ears like a pair of dangling socks. Pouchy eyes that were shrewd and sly and stained-wood brown. Wide bristle moustache. But a face, my God. Dr Krass had pendulous jowls that looked like a Macy's Parade balloon before they add the helium.

If only a mother could love his face, who can say? He was already old when I met him, so his mother must had gone out with high button shoes. But I'm sure his wife loved his face.

He'd been my shrink, the only one I ever had. Dr Krass. A friend recently said only I could have a shrink with that name.

He had an office out of an old house, the sweet type that from the outside looks like doilies are underneath everything. It was knocked down years ago. I was about 8 or 9, changing schools and perfectly maladjusted.

Like they say on cop shows, I'd been brought in for questioning. Well, for testing, to see if I should repeat a year in school. He tested me. I didn't repeat a year. But it was thought that I was a little undercooked, so why not leave me in the oven since I was already in there?

When you walked in the old house, clacking on an electric typewriter behind a grey metal desk, sat his secretary. Given a century, I could remember her name. I know she looked like Ichabod Crane's less jovial sister. But she kept a hell of a desk. Stacks of documents at right angles, pens at all the same lean, no dust. She even wore a cardigan in August against the hum of the air conditioner. Curt but kind, she'd remember your name and signal you to wait in the room beyond. The waiting room was tidy, and down some little steps.

WQXR was always lilting through the air, the elegant slicings of strings. Bach, Beethoven. Maybe even Rachmaninov, if things were getting wild. Being restless, I'd scope out magazines. 

New Yorker or People. Some choice. The first one was dry as hell, with type small enough to make the page look grey. The cartoons could only be funny to folks who laughed with their mouths closed. The other magazine though was glossy spreads of Gods, bronzed and grinning, and each looking unconcerned about anything. I was always concerned about everything, so they were refreshing. I wondered where they lived that nothing mattered.

Then Dr Krass would appear atop those waiting room steps. A little tubby, glasses like a truck windshield. Usually in a well worn brown tweed jacket, indifferent red tie. A cheery, thick-lipped smile spreading those jowls. Bach squaring and zinging in the background. 

He'd shake my hand, it always surprised me. For one thing, wasn't he like a principal or a cop or a disapproving teacher? Weren't you here because something was wrong? Why would that person shake your hand? You're not his friend. With friends, you have a choice. Also the handshake surprised me because I suspect he had no bones in his hand. It was like trying to grip a down comforter.

Into the office. Double doors, they broke in the middle and were padded with thick carpeting. Absorbing sound, you had to figure. Not that Miss Ichabod gave a damn what she heard, even if she could. Straying spouses, mixed up kids, the occasional glum alcoholic. Maybe she sought refuge in People Magazine too.

Dr Krass's office was a wide rectangle of cherry wood paneling. The carpet was tamped down thin, red and blue zigzags. There was handsome cabinetry custom built for the office, and in truth I think he'd built it himself. Woodwork was a hobby of his. A circular conference table by the street windows, and on the wall, in frozen flight, a stuffed pheasant. No wonder old kings and rich people like pheasants. The damn bird looks like them.

Dr Krass had shot it, had it mounted. I recall being fascinated by it, though not ever wanting to kill one or keep its carcass. Still it was fun, if you weren't the pheasant.

We would sit on the opposite end of the room. Either in a pair of blue leather wingback chairs, facing each other, or at his desk and with me to the side. I think it depended mostly on whatever cue I gave without realizing it. Maybe some days he just indicated one or the other and I just sat. Usually the desk though. It was a beauty. Ornately carved and glass top, with high baronial chairs. At his chair behind the desk, Dr Krass would be framed by three alcove windows. He'd slouch a bit and gain paunch. His forearms would land on the arm rests for the full perch and then he'd say with a wry sigh, "Alright, kid. Talk to me."

I didn't at first.

So Dr Krass sensed I was holding back. He might also have glanced at the gushing cracks in a dam and suspected there was water on the other side. 

He went to the cabinetry. Some days he'd pull out a blue plastic ball and have me stand a few feet away from him and we'd bounce this blue ball between us. Juvenile. I thought so even then. A toss, a thud off the carpet, a fap as it landed in his squishy palm. Now the other way. Repeat. All the while, his windshield glasses trained on the blue ball, Dr Krass would talk about his own life. Growing up Jewish in Brooklyn, going to NYU, girls, learning to sail, girls on the sailboat.

Sometimes the ball stayed in the cabinet. He had a toy gun in there that shot flimsy darts with suction cups. It wasn't like more modern toys, where the tip was orange to distinguish it as a toy. This one all black and metal and had a gratifying click. We'd set a window pane as a target and take turns like it was a tournament. Dr Krass would talk about meeting his wife, his three sons, the dogs they'd had over the years.

Then again on some sessions, he would just pull a deck of cards from his lordly desk. A rapid deal, a light game. Go Fish, he called it. We would play at his desk. A give and take game, and when he didn't have a card I needed, Dr Krass would keep his eyes on his hand and drawl, "Go fish."

He never sounded sorry at all that he didn't have my card. It was more like a chummy go-to-hell. And I would laugh. I'd really laugh, and have to find my card elsewhere.

I never felt as if I frustrated him. I can't remember thinking he was just killing time until my mother picked me up, or working some psychotherapist's trick. I always felt as if he was playing cards with me.

And I started talking to Dr Krass.

Years later, and probably one of the last times I saw him, he was still behind that desk. A little saggier, a little lower in the baronial chair, and some more droop in the jowl balloons.

We were talking, long past the need for cards. He removed his windshield glasses and reached for the ever ready bottle of Windex. As he looked down and doused his glasses in blue cleaner, he seemed to stare deep into the fleshy welts beneath his own eyes. He sighed and pursed fat lips, and started wiping the glasses with a paper towel, in small efficient circles. Dr Krass hoisted them back on his nose. Then he wagged a chubby finger in my face and said, "Don't be a schmuck."

I laughed then too, but it was some of the best advice I've ever had. Covers a lot of ground.

Today Dr Krass came to mind and I've no clue why. So I looked him up. Last I knew he was still practicing, no interest in retirement, and was working on tests for early diagnoses of Alzheimer's and ADHD.

Today I found out Dr Krass died 2 years ago. He was 83.

That's how it goes I guess. It was a reflexive pang, after reading his obituary. You never like to find out someone you knew well has died, even if they did have a pretty long and productive life. 

No. He knew me well, better than I knew him. But that was the deal. Right?

Even so. Dr Krass. It saddened me. Maybe I thought we had one more talk in us. Maybe I'd have thought that but never done it.

Oh, and one last thing. An important one though. Dr Krass is a hard-sounding name. It's what I always called him. But his first name was Alvin, and an Alvin can be your pal.

Dr Krass helped me when I was a kid, but I think it was Alvin who taught me Go Fish.



© Eric Yves Garcia 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Driven





There was a time when I thought myself a sure driver. 


Aimless, and at peace with it. Safe, and hating that. But alert. My reflexes could be trusted.


Now, no. All I know lately is that I perceive less. There's thick black cloth across my windshield. I can't discern what's ahead, only the steering wheel, nothing beyond it. 


I can't see, but I can feel. That's no comfort. You can't steer the car to the music on the radio.


But there it is, no choice. There is no map. The feeling, the music filling the car, is deceptive. Like an idiot, you could wrap your car around a tree and kill yourself to the majesty of Fauré's Requiem. (Well. There are worse ways to go.)


All I know now are the controls tight in my sweaty hands, hurtling along in blindness. And it's not night.


I can't stop or slow down, because then I have nothing. More bumps to assure I'm still in motion, more hard swerves, accelerate! More, always. 


Impact...?


Maybe.


When...?


Not now. Maybe in a minute. Wait and see.


...Any moment, oblivion?


What the hell, how to tell? You know until you don't. As good a way of defining oblivion as I can think of.


So no oblivion yet.


So keep driving. Beats pulling over, right?


I stare daily at that obscuring cloth. I know I dropped it across the front of my car. That's the worst of it. I insist upon it being there. Unsure why, or how to remove it. I hate it. It is all menace, no benefit.


Yet every now and again... ah God, it's nice... a strong and kind wind flaps at that cloth, snatches at its corners. I see the pulsing rush of road, its dangers and hearty colors flash very real to me. It's like a flirtation of sight, of a joyous geography and of your place in it, there, just long enough to waken, then gone. 


And you keep on swerving, around crashes imagined or not, holding on like hell to what you glimpsed and how you might arrive there.


It will have to do.


Maybe the black cloth was always there, and I wasn't alert after all.


Maybe realizing it's there is the beginning of being a sure driver.




© Eric Yves Garcia 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

Teething




At the end of the beach day, it all tarnishes happily from gold to bronze. It gets windier and wider. It's a place for the faithful. The restless have flown. It is left dotted with readers who pulled their shirts back on, sitting removed and huddled, like bookish bedouins. There are few cuddling teens who discover each other's bodies over stares and murmurs. Along the surf, you've always got some middle aged fishermen, casting and reeling and strutting back and forth with solemn industry, proud of their secrets.

I was walking along that surf, to nowhere, but well on my way. 

Then a wide, guttural voice said to me, "Well THIS ain't no dawg fish!" 

I happened to be nearby. A fisherman, beer barrel-chested and a fat grey mustache across his face like a dozing squirrel.

He needed to tell someone. I was on hand.

He clutched a baby Great White shark. It wriggled and snapped it's tail in sharp jabs. It's eye was wary, the gash mouth expanded and the gills flared. The tease of needle teeth were fearsome even in infancy.

The fisherman said that a few days ago in Cape May, a full-grown Great White snapped the chum clean off a fishing boat. He says these sharks are common here, and even this far inland. I took this picture and asked if they leave people alone.

"Usually," he shrugged. 

He went to the water's edge and tossed the flailing shark back where it came from. But it landed wrong. The shark flapped down with it's snout facing inland. Panicked or disoriented, I don't know, but it flailed to swim up onto the beach. Maybe it missed us and didn't know when we'd meet again. Or maybe it wanted it's pound of flesh.

The fisherman swore. He stepped back and hoisted it up, gripping the shark's rough, glistening midsection. It thrashed harder. At times it almost formed an 'S' shape, with a fist at the middle. 

But the fisherman treaded a few feet further into the surf this time, for good measure. With a reached-back toss that would have won him a bowling trophy, the fisherman hurled a snapping, spinning baby Great White shark into the waves. It vanished for good. The water foamed and settled, bottle green and grey, like the shark's back. 

As the fisherman climbed back up the sand to both me and his fishing pole and bait, he laughed. "Nah. They usually don't bother nobody. They're lazy. They'd rather have the bloody chum from a fishing boat. Easier, you know? But you know who should worry?" 

I shrugged no, waiting for him to soak up his emphatic pause. Christ, he'd earned it.

"That guy," he drawled, with a jerked thumb bobbing over his right shoulder. And I looked past his shoulder to see a windsurfer skittering over waves, then lose gust or balance, and splash down about twenty yards offshore.

"Babies have parents," I said, still watching.

"Hey, let me see that pic you took of my shark!," he said, wiping his hands off along his shorts, "'Cause that ain't no dawg fish!"



© Eric Yves Garcia 2014


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Those Crazy Kids



He had only floated near the piano for a scant few minutes, but there was an imminent tumble of words about him. He was waiting for me to finish the song with a loud modesty. If a 7 year old boy could look 70, he did.

His left fingertips were clutched by his right hand over his stomach, wispy white hair a little strewn and his face had a genial hang to it. He approached my elbow as I wrapped up the tune early for him, sensing an end before the final chord.

'The two women I'm sitting with,' he said, amiable, a tremor in his voice. Shy to a fault?, I wondered. No. Gentle.

'The two women, with you and the other gentleman, at the end of the banquette...' I gestured with my eyes.

'Right,' he nodded. 'We're all from North Carolina. He's my husband, we've been together for 42 years and got married here in New York just last year because, y'know, we love this city...'

'Of course.'

'...and it's not legal where we live.'

'Another excellent reason,' I said.

'Though', and here he cupped a hand around his mouth to block out the world, 'We're fighting that!'

'Successfully too,' I grinned.

'So those women are our dear friends,' he went on, the lilt of drawl sneaking through, 'And they've been together for 49 years...'

'Christ, there's an achievement!'

'...I know! And today they got married down at City Hall. When I go back to the table, I'd like to bring them back to the piano, and could you play something lovely and romantic for them?'

He had leaned a little on the piano lid at the end, as if to keep a secret no one else was close enough to overhear, but the secret was newborn so he protected it. I watched his eyes go filmy, heard his voice teeter at the end. And even if it was 3/4 emotion and 1/4 wine, you still wanted to help the voice get sturdy and the eyes to get drier. He was so harmless he nearly got on your nerves.

I loaned him a good smile and told him I'd be happy to. A bright nod, and he hurried to get them.

It took a few minutes. I spun a tune out a little to buy time, but they sauntered up.

The ladies were in their 70s as well. One was a little bullet-shaped, wore thick glasses. When she unveiled it, her grin was sunny and wide and jokey. She gestured little and her walk to the piano was lumbering. Some people conserve themselves. I wondered if her knees were bad. The other was more spindly, sharp-eyed and nimble and chatty. She had the look of a retired school nurse.

'49 years,' I muttered to the spindly one.

'Can't really believe it myself. 49 years and only got married today,' she said, with an ironic tilt to her head.

'Maybe you just wanted to make sure she was the one. Can't rush into these things,' I said, and her head bunched into her neck while she guffawed.

'Oh we made sure!' she said, eyes crinkled in humor.

The first song that came to mind was 'I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons)', so I went with that. The 4 of them flanked the piano on either side. It made me happy to see light smiles, or if not, that easy reflective set of the face while they listened. The spindly school nurse inaudibly sang along.

When it was done they clapped and nodded thanks. The man who'd initiated dropped a 10 in my glass. I had to ask their story.

'Well,' started the spindly one, '49 years ago we met while both living at the Y in Philadelphia. They kicked us out...'

'They thought we were sharing too much...' mumbled the bullet-shaped one with some lean humor.

'...so we left and I found a studio for rent in Philly and I was nervous but I asked her if she'd like to share the expenses and she said yes. So we moved in together. And I mean we had nothing, NOTHING, so we had to go to my father's and borrow two old army cots and we slept on those for more than two months in that studio.'

'Tough on the back,' I said.

The bullet-shaped one groaned.

'But over time we moved and found a one bedroom and a few years later a two bedroom and then years after that we bought a house, and God knows how but we made it work and were able to make a home,' said the spindly one, hoisting her hands up, as if she found her own life story still a mystery.

Their story had an earned calm. You seldom hear that because so few are confident enough not to push for that sound.

I'd stood up behind the piano by now and leaned on my elbows to join the congress of faces over the shiny black top. From 4 points there was warmth, pride, but also steel. Gentility was not weakness with them.

'Nearly 50 years, my God,' I said. 'I can scarcely manage a few weeks,' I told them, and looked at each.

The husband who hadn't yet spoken piped up from out of nowhere, a commanding and rangy type.

'That's up to you,' he said in a sure baritone. 'You have to choose to have it, in advance. You've got to make that choice while it's just you. Work on that. Or else it won't change. Learn that.'

I blinked.

What do you say to the person who challenges you to make a great feast, when all you've ever done is boil eggs? You say you will, and privately hope to hell you have the knack.

I shook all their hands and wished them luck and thanked them for livening my night, which they had. They walked away from the piano and shouldered into the rain. I sat on my bench and saw the light waves of strangers at a sympathetic other they won't meet again.  




© Eric Yves Garcia 2014




Wednesday, April 23, 2014

...Need A Lift?





At about three in the morning on Easter Sunday, I climbed into a minivan taxi and sat in the middle row. Not yet a middle pew. Nobody's that ambitious.

The flat grumble from a mouth I couldn't see asked where I was headed. The driver stared ahead. No question mark in the voice. I told him. Then a crackle/squawk on the radio, and he half-craned over his right shoulder to ask if I'd mind other passengers. I stared out the window and said that'd be fine.

A couple climbed in holding hands, twenties, windswept, clustered, eyes a little glossy from drink and infatuation. They sat behind me, and she gave their address. We drove off.

A few blocks later the driver's phone bleeped. He was only a few years older than me, balding in back, wide goatee, with his seat reclined a little too cozily for my peace of mind. He pulled the phone from out of his hoodie pocket. I saw a blonde girl's face as it rang. He flicked a thumb and said 'Hey babe.' His tone was a little depleted, and felt like this was the cooled-off follow-up call, but not too rude.

One mm-hmm's, then three, each had a sharp little crescendo. Then a blurted 'WHAT...?!?', a snort of hot air out of his nostrils and the phone was down from his ear. I saw the blond girl for an instant before a thumb swipe hung up on her and she vanished. To be sure, he chucked the phone into the empty seat next to him. It thunked against door.

Behind me, in the back of the minivan, I heard thick lip smacks and the juicy slurp of tongues. They sounded serious, and I wondered if one of them might have lost their house keys behind a bicuspid.

We went on that way for a while. I thought that this ride was perfect, in it's way. Behind me was blind lust. Ahead of me was deaf disenchantment. I didn't envy either one too much.

I found myself in the middle, wondering how long it would take me to get home.



© Eric Yves Garcia 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sorry-Grateful
















Eddie was a very close friend. Eddie was a guide, what he had seen and known I could only guess but he saw fit to lovingly steer me through when I needed him, always. Eddie could only ever be Eddie, outlandish and savvy and true.

Slightly more than a month ago, my friend Eddie died. He was 54.

I loved him, I learned from him, I leaned on him. We laughed like hell. When I woke to the news, when I swung my feet to the floor and stared at the planks to think that my friend was gone, I wanted to feel shock. Shock seemed vast and fitting. But it wasn't there to be mined. The hollow and lethargy of sadness, yes, but no shock. Eddie had been ill, more than he let on, and his world had constricted. With his beloved Ruben, their cats, their pre-war rooms in Queens, Eddie closed out his life precisely where he would have chosen, if not when. Too soon, far too soon. There were so many happy hours left unwritten.

One revisits the last few encounters. At the end we had only some scattered phone talks, an hour-long minimum. With him being the world-class life-liver between us, I was ready to shut up as tales unfurled. They always did, an unspoken arrangement. Eddie would regale and gossip and rave. I chuckled or roared and memorized, but mostly held the phone and grinned. Sometimes I’d groan mid-laugh because the punch line was so foul. Then he’d snicker, and through the phone I’d hear the sliding tinkle of ice cubes in his glass of vodka as he sipped in the pause. Masterful timing, Eddie had.

I suspect only one thing could be more delicious to Eddie than living itself, and that was weaving the story for a captive audience over a drink and a smoke. Half the fun was in the doing, the other half in the telling. That gentleman always told, and for the record, so does this one.

If that rings tinny and anecdotal, it wasn't. Eddie's stories were like a vintage cocktail shaker that has a hard dent in it. Elegant, if a bit worn? Yes. Pristine? Never. The dent was the point.

Still as I type this, there is Eddie's bray in my ear… that cheerful, flat-vowel holler of an Astoria housewife. So too is his cackle, rapid-fire, shot down the barrel of a Marlboro. Cut the bullshit, he says. Keep it REAL, he says. Truth, style, a little obscenity to offend the weak-stomached. That’ll tell them everything they need to know.

True enough.

We met having both been cast in a production of 'Company'. I was living in Jersey. I’d retreated after city life got to me. Fled was more like it. I made some new, excellent friends, and we were all in some of the same shows. This show was staged in a dump that was a theatre the same way a methadone clinic is a spa. But it was a damn fine show.

Somehow Eddie commuted every rehearsal and show day from Astoria. That meant traveling by multiple trains, two hours, one way. He was letter and note perfect. The job was a labor of love, it paid nothing. But for him I suspect the dividends were quite rich: out of the apartment, creative muscles flexed. Here was a task now that he had retired and was on disability. New faces dotting his view, something at stake and vitality in the veins. No one lit up a rehearsal like he did.

I often drove him to and from the train station. That was where our talks began. Eddie was quitting smoking then. I remember more than once pulling into the train station and finding him on the platform: a cig jutting from two bony fingers of one hand, and in the other, a book whose jacket screamed 'QUITTING SMOKING NOW!!' How he read it through the haze of tobacco, I couldn't tell you.

What did we talk about? As I said, mostly I listened and laughed, prompted him now and then with a question. Not that he needed prompting. A generator connected to Eddie’s jaws could have flared the Eastern seaboard like the goddamn Rockefeller Christmas tree.

Topics on those train station drives? Asbury Park in the freewheeling, dangerous days. The West Village in the freewheeling, dangerous days. His tenor notes before smoking. His vital role in opening the famous restaurant, Jean-Georges. His brief flirtation with corporate work, his office and suit and demeanor, all of which he called his ‘days in drag’. How he lost his virginity, fell in love and had his heart broken, all in one summer afternoon in Midtown. Remarkable stories.

Rehearsals and hard work and laughing and drives to the train station. Fast friends have traction before they’ve any right to. Maybe I enjoyed listening to this half-gentle, half-raucous man and his careening life. Maybe he saw that I was floundering and shouldn’t be. Eddie was that rarity of both superb talker and listener. Few manage the trick.

I played Bobby and Eddie played Larry, one of the husbands. My favorite song in the show was Eddie’s: ‘Sorry-Grateful’. Now that’s a song. Unadorned, contradictory, but above all wise. I still think of it as Eddie’s song. It makes glorious sense if you’re heart, not head, logical.

And I was. The show opened, and a girlfriend at the time had bolted on me. I was heartsick in ways that were cute only because I was under thirty.

She and I reunited, oh Christ, a bunch of times. Eddie was back in Astoria, calling me up, calling me ‘Kiddo’, sweet enough to pretend to be surprised. He’d met her. He’d seen how I looked at her. Trust me, he wasn’t surprised.

Yet Eddie never lectured, never lorded. If he foresaw the months ahead for me as plainly as he might skim the Sunday Times, he never let on. And I’m certain he did. We talked a lot, and his replying ‘mm-hmms’ brimmed with patient humor and knowing. I smile now to think of it.

One summer, maybe late July, I was at her condo's block party. Swarms of roasted pink strangers, and their hive was a large turquoise pool. Full sun, glaring white concrete striped by rows of metal lounge chairs. Jersey summer, humid air soaked with the scent of grilling beef. I grew up by the ocean, so choosing this landlocked weenie roast on an otherwise beautiful beach day was really a testament of love.

Eddie called. I wandered off a distance to take his call, for quiet and shade, pine trees I think. We launched headlong. This time he was focused. He kept on urging me to move back to the city. It was time to get back to work, he said. Beyond I heard screaming kids, splashes, Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits.

Somehow he was adamant while never telling me what to do. Quite a feat, if you think about it. He leveled about neighborhoods and rents and utilities, all the realities of cost. He glowed about the mayhem and fun, but really what he was doing was more than clever: he was awakening me to possibilities. Eddie was projecting better, busier days, tougher challenges and unimagined rewards. All that while letting me think it was my idea. He was one hell of a Pied Piper. Eddie thought that it was time I stood up to be counted. It scared the hell out of me. 

I had a choice: a woman I loved beyond reason, a life with her, children immediately, and turning my back on the city and path I dreamed of. Or this city, this path, this gamble, and without her or that possible future. Couldn't have both.

Heart or head logical?

I remember looking back at that block party around the pool. I remember feeling alien. Not above it, not at all, but not of it. I was under those pines for a while.

When she and I parted for the last time, I called Eddie that night. There was steel in his sympathy. He didn’t baby me, but didn’t smack me around for my choices. It was time to move back and get to work, he said, and very kindly. And I did.

How the hell would I have done it without him? Living in New York again, this ultimate playground for children who don’t play nice with each other. A lot of phone talks. My progress and mistakes gave him equal pleasure. It always sounded as though things that I thought were dire… like bills or roommate troubles or auditions or dates gone wrong… instead to him, these were thrilling. I kept thinking I’d fuck it all up. Eddie saw it as an adventure, unfolding and writ large. Only a selfless man could do that.

And then? I found myself getting much busier, then more so.

And then? Eddie and I connected less. He might call while I was performing, or tearing out the door, late for a job usually. Eddie ventured out less then. It was getting harder to see each other.

The talks became more important, and much as I missed him, I was less available to have them. It breaks my heart to admit it, but it’s the truth. I felt, and still feel, as if I had returned his selflessness with selfishness.

Then one night he called me while I was on a train to a gig out of town. By luck it was at the beginning of my hour-long trip, and he kept me madcap company the whole way. But at the end, before I had to step off onto the platform, he asked something of me: could I gather the gang for some laughs because he missed everyone terribly, only it felt a little starker than that. He said I had to do it, that he couldn’t, and with enough time to plan, maybe he’d be able to make it. He said he was counting on me. He made me promise. And I did promise.

I never saw him or spoke to him again.

Oh I relayed the message to the gang, we started to look at when and how and all that feeble shit that ‘busy’ people do. Whether he could have actually met with us at that point isn’t what matters. I broke my promise.

So this is directly to you, Eddie. ‘Sorry-Grateful’.

Sorry, to-my-bones sorry, I let you down when you needed me.

Grateful, because our friendship was one I will always treasure, pull from, boast of, smile about.

Well, Kiddo, you might have said. Here we are. Whaddya say we ring down the curtain…?

Eddie, I have a feeling that at a moment like this when your friends’ eyes brim with tears, you’d be the first to make a fearless joke, some bawdy zinger, a theatrical exit line. The kind of line a pro knows will have him coasting on the audience's laughter from the wings out to the dressing room.

You had those chops, that style. You did leave this life a month ago, but sonnovabitch, you didn't leave one single drop of life left untasted. You gorged on it, what you wanted you tried and wrung every bit of pleasure from... and unless our conversations led me awry, you knew too well the flip side of that gamble. But no regrets, never one. I marvel at your courage still.

You idealized this city you lured me back to. I roam it and am reminded of you often, how kindred a place and man were. And I meet a lot of people, Eddie, you knew that too well. But you were the sort of man whose departure makes the whole damn city a little blander. I happen to think you and those select few like you are hearty stock, and lately this city brews its characters by bouillon cube. One can see right through them and their flavor is forgettable. Not you, Eddie.

Oh and one last thing, one detail that I prize.

You made me give you a promise once before, a long time ago. You might even have forgotten.

Eddie, you told me, “Have your fun, I’m not tellin’ ya to be a fuckin’ nun, so do what ya gotta do, okay? And God knows, you do! But don’t fuck around so much that you get a shell over your heart. Protect your heart. Get with too many people that don’t mean anything to you and you lose something. Something you can’t get back. Promise. Me.”

I’ve tested that promise, but so help me, I’ve kept it. You were telling me to never relinquish just that little bit of innocence. I see that now.

I refuse to say that you were a gift, Eddie, because you still are.



© Eric Yves Garcia, 2014