He spoke to me about feeling that he was on the periphery. Nearly everyone else in our group had a talent or attraction or some claim to fame that made them distinct. He spoke to me about his not having one.
We didn’t know he was the center of everything – till he died when he was 20 or 21 (from a hospital acquired infection). We, as a group, drifted apart after that. He had been the one through whom we communicated without realizing that. He was the gravity. When he was gone, “we” no longer were.
Dropping out of orbit
It’s 40 years later and if he were here, I’d have someone worth playing golf with, or worth going to look at a new car with. I have done those things with other people, but they really weren’t worth doing those things with. I’ve stopped doing those things.
I have friends in other cities, as I was in other cities for a long time. The friends I had here revolved around him. The older I get, the more I understand the extent to which he never could be replaced. It is difficult to over estimate the value and rarity of a good friend.
But before that
His dream had been to become a dentist, like his father (who died young), and eventually drive a Porsche 911s. He talked about that car frequently. If I could locate a few of our old friends (Donald Davis the poet, May Morgan the equestrian, Buddy Frieze the artist), and one of those cars, I’d see if I could round them up, go to his grave, park the idling car on top of it, and stand around it with them.
I don’t believe in the hereafter. I think we are mortal and material and once the physical matter stops functioning it is over. Yet, standing on his grave, when I finally learned where it was decades after he was gone, I found myself talking to him. That is where he is. It felt like finally communicating the things I wanted to say to him right after he was gone. Like, if he had just waited another 15 years, medical science had improved to where they routinely did that operation without killing the patients as frequently.
Now what I would say to him, if we gathered with such a vehicle around his grave, is that this is his car and we, his friends, are here with him.