The winter is barely hanging on. It stirs lazily on occasion, in the form of a brisk wind or a frosty sunrise, but overall it’s noncommittal. It is at one with the inevitability of pending change. The slight breeze that blows in through my wide open window lightly jostles the curtains and causes me to close my eyes with blue -skied pleasure.
I am typing, my spirit warming gradually--the weather affects me tremendously--my children are playing with the train set my father built for them this Christmas.
As I type, my mind takes a turn suddenly to the image of Spring, and tiny green buds poking through the soil and appearing suddenly at the tips of bare trees. Then things darken a bit, when I stop to consider what type of flora the abandoned vehicle of my long dead friend’s body might be sprouting.
I don’t know much about the process of decomposing. Whatever happens down there beneath the topsoil is all quite mystical to me--never a really scientific person--so it’s hard for me to fathom what sort of alchemical shift may or may not be occurring, and what kind of surface level manifestation I could expect from such a process.
It was late December years ago that they found his body beneath the overpass, his neck broken, his feet bare, two cell phones apparently in his jacket. He was a writer like me, much better in fact--I can say that now that he’s dead--and I think he’d like that the repercussions of his final act have created ripples far and wide in my life, and have caused me to write and think about him extensively, in ways I probably would‘ve been incapable of doing were he still alive.
There’s a chance it wasn’t suicide, but the facts unfortunately point to it. A failed relationship of extreme importance, depression, unusual behavior, a fixation on the subject of self annihilation (in a letter he hand wrote me he spoke of ‘a certain feeling of accomplishment in not shooting myself in the head’) and a profound disappointment in the results of that year’s presidential election (Bush v. Kerry). There was the chance it was an accident; I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he had been walking along the overpass on the wrong side of the rail to clear his head, or maybe just sitting when a heavy wind brought him down; remember that he was a writer. We are odd, rash people. There was even a suggestion that he was murdered by a hitchhiker, which would’ve been much preferred by me, for a variety of reasons. But perhaps because I’m a cynic--and perhaps because I had a bad feeling weeks earlier when I got his handwritten note--I can’t believe any of those other possibilities, no matter how much I’d prefer them.
So I’ve decided to write him a new ending; maybe a new story altogether. Start it off with the young man as I saw him before he headed off to another state to live with the girl who would change his life. Maybe earlier. Maybe he stays around the city and meets another girl. I’d like to insert him into a different type of story altogether, something that accentuates his awkward charm and friendliness over his often brooding elitism.
So I begin my romantic comedy with Sam flipping through yellowed old books at the Thrift store. She walks up to him with a pair of jeans folded over her arms and peers over his shoulder. He’s reading an inscription someone wrote in light pencil on the inside flap of a copy of 'The Tin Drum’.
“The person who writes their own history wins the whole of it.” She says.
He turns around, startled. Awkward smile, tongue brushes his gums. “Wow. Huh. Did you say that? That’s amazing.” But it’s not amazing. He doesn’t even know that it makes sense, and it sounded a little funny coming out of her mouth. What he really meant to say was you are amazing. He looks at her. She’s brilliant, her cheeks are flushed and her eyes are exploding with energy. Plus, she smells really good. Like cotton candy. Her hair is brunette and in pig tails. “I’m Jean.” She says and sticks out her bracelet-ed hand for shaking. “Sam.” He says, taking it firmly and giving it a good pump.
“Don’t you just love these places?”
They end up going for a walk on the hillside outside of the thrift shop. They jump the fence, because Sam thought it would be a novel, romantic thing to do, and he picks some ragweed and hands it to her in a bouquet. She curtsies. They walk over rocks and the grass smells good and it makes their noses run. They find out they both like Kerouac and Salinger, and they both think the president it an idiot, and are both active in his opponent's campaign. Maybe they hold hands and kiss sweetly before parting ways, first thinking of some novel, romantic way they can run into each other again.
Whatever they come up with isn’t Sam’s idea, and that’s fantastic to him. He usually has to think up these kinds of things. The fact that it was Jean’s suggestion would make it easier to write sincerely about the encounter later.
But all of this is so sweet, and so false. My version of the story would involve a misunderstanding that resulted in some kind of a ‘Say Anything’ moment, with Sam declaring himself in a silly, sweet way as the neighbors looked on, or maybe in a quieter way with him standing at her front door with some kind of droopy flower behind his back, and a new appreciation for her in his heart. A far cry from the real story, which ended with him at the bottom of an overpass with a broken neck.
I think Sam would like this story. Not the one I was making up for him, but the one I’m writing now.
Lying to you makes it easier to lie to myself, so I try not to lie to you. I’d rather lie to you now, but instead of that, let me tell you this: Sam missed this day for whatever reason, because of whatever was going on inside of him that night. And it’s a shame too, because I think he would’ve really appreciated the way the naked trees are rocking like enrapt gospel singers in a wind that is becoming increasingly playful. I think he’d like the vaguely blue sky, I think he’d like the way I have my beard trimmed these days. I know he’d like the way the cat just jumped up on my lap, sneezed on my hand and then jumped back down.
I’m sorry I couldn’t write him a happy ending , but I’m more sorry he didn’t give himself the chance to make one of his own.
Cross posted ateverything in the medicine cabinet has expired.