Ode to a Dead Friend

To you, my bloodstain:

You were gone so long that by the time I realised you had passed away, it didn’t actually matter anymore. An obligatory realisation. Not that whether it mattered or not even mattered. The only thing that ever mattered was that capricious thing people like to call a ‘bond’, and ours was forged of ice and fire. People told us we were strangers but the only strange thing about us was our inextricable obsession with our own elements. It was awkward at first but eventually you learned not to freeze my fire, and I learned not to burn your ice.  Strangely enough, you never could stand the sunlight. But I, front-headed, never noticed, and by the time I asked you to turn around, your back had already melted into an ocean of moulting ice. Screaming, I grabbed the defibrillator but it was already too late. You were gone.

It wasn’t fair because we had made a promise, the kind only the kinds of people called friends make. The kind that needs no keywords or secret handshakes, or even permission, that tragic mistake. But we never spoke about it, did we? I mean, who does? A dead man cannot beg rebate from his killer. Spilled blood makes the only contract, but speaks no words. And there are times when words are insufficient, despite our dependence on language. And when they are, what else is left? I’m no mathematician, neither were you. Maybe if we were, we would have found things to fill up this empty space. I still keep it on a page in my notebook, a canvas for mid-lecture poetry.

I trusted you like a man trusts his reflection. And you never broke that trust. You twisted it, wringing it like a wet towel until even my breath was squeezed out. But it was never your fault. My world saw to that. Now I know that we are not our reflections, and the glass of the mirror spans an unspeakable distance between our fingertips when they touch. I remember the days I tore down the glass and found a painting of you. Each time, I covered it back up. And I saw, opposite, a painting of me, the colours muddling from the rain. I pooled the water dripping from the canvas and offered it to you, but you told me you weren’t thirsty.

Dear friend, excluding death, I would have accepted any other fate. Why is it Death, our oldest companion, who keeps his eye on you so, even now as you roam the daylight, unseen by mein eyes? And when I imagine you looking back, I see myself lost, dead in thine. Tell me, did I die with you? If so, where are my tears for myself? Where are my tears for you? Why do I feel nothing, and exactly that? I copied the lyrics of your favourite song and pasted it on the dictionary entry of myself, so why is your departure so frustratingly numb?

Dear best friend, I am not sure if I can ever completely forgive you for dying. But there was a certain pride I harvested from being able to stand in front of your picture on the altar and smile and say, “Goodbye” despite the sensation of my flames freezing up inside. It is a pride I will carry with me in my pocket. I hope I don’t forget to remove it each time I throw my shorts into the laundry.

I think the “Goodbye” I offered at your funeral was vastly insufficient, being the only word I offered you that day. It lacked the weight of time, acceptance, recognition, trust, not the final word but the mere period lying at the end of our story. And that wasn’t enough. At least, not for me. But now I think I’m ready. I know you were never a very artsy person, so I wrote this farewell the way I did just in case it ever happened to wash up on the shores of heaven for you to find. So I guess that’s it.


Published on Symbal 2nd September 2016


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