Flashes and Fragments

I’m caught somewhere between having this feel easier
and missing you so much it hurts.
The memories that keep stimulating my synapses
would seem so insignificant to most
and yet I cling to them
for fear of losing you altogether.

Do you remember those Sunday evenings when the air was lazy while we’d go about our weekend? You’d always make sure to swing by “The Shopette” on base. Your main mission? To replenish whatever it was you needed to get you through the week. Me? Your trusty little tag along. I always liked crossing the threshold of those cold, plastic curtains into the refrigerated area that was hidden to the rest of the world (or so I thought). The smell of stale cardboard infiltrated my nose, though I didn’t mind. At the checkout, I’d notice how much happier you seemed than everyone else. I was convinced you were some sort of magician because no matter how many times I’d watch, the people you talked to would seem just as happy by the end. We’d both always leave with exactly what we wanted. You with your small brown bag full of small brown bottles and me with my Abra evolving into Kadabra. I guess I picked up on your tricks. We’d follow that up with a stop to the video store, which was basically my personal sanctuary, but I think you knew that. I always wanted to show you the new person I’d become and all their cool techniques or the new world I’d inhabited–every nook and cranny. I was proud of my skills and in awe of the story that was unfolding before me and I just wanted to share that with you. I still do.

Nostalgia is a concept that seems to creep up on me
it’s something I’m always craving
but can’t quite consume
due to its fuzzy nature.
It sounds sweet but tastes savory
please, guide me back to that time and place.

Do you remember when we were at the grocery store and you handed me a two-dollar bill to cover whatever it was I wanted? Probably some candy or a booster pack, I dunno. This was the first instance I’d be paying for something myself. Which meant dealing with the cashier — a stranger — myself! I was a shy kid. I was YOUR shy kid. You knew this. So, why did you put me in such a terrifying situation (Okay, that may be a little over dramatic, but still)? So, I stood there, petrified, cash in hand, begging to stay by your side. But, you wouldn’t have it. You kept asking, “why are you so scary, Cody?” Your tone becoming more and more frustrated, the further I pressed the issue… “Scared” was the word you meant to say, by the way. But, that’s okay. There were plenty of other things we’d both meant to say after that, too, but didn’t.

Nah, scary is the realization that one day
I may forget what you sound like
no matter how hard I try to listen.
Let me stay stuck in the past with you
so I can finally groove and share my moves.
Blast the music like you used to.
Let it resonate through our home
and gently rock these bones.

Do you remember all the nights I’d try to stay up for you? Splayed out on the couch, dreaming about something — probably Zelda related (a Nintendo kid through and through). You’d drift downstairs and kick back in front of our computer. The one with that creepy dude in it who would periodically tell us “we had mail” or something like that. 1) Uhh no we didn’t. Mom checked the mail earlier and complained about it always being “chunk.” 2) Who was that dude and why was he in our house so late!? Maybe he’s the reason I was so afraid of strangers…Like clockwork, your midnight snack of microwaved oysters and saltines — a delicacy in our household — creeped into my dreams, waking me, just in time to greet you. Though this was certainly a semi-regular ritual, you’d still act surprised. Every. Single. Time. I loved that. I’ll always love that. I’ll always love you.

To dream of you
is to keep you rooted
in my passing reality.
The lucky nights
you decide to swing by
prove bittersweet.
You let me gaze upon
your tender face
but only for a moment
before dispersing into
the rest of my dreamscape
and I wake up.

Do you remember the many Saturday mornings, after binging my beloved cartoons, I’d find you at the table, softly patting your cereal with the backside of your spoon, letting each piece grow soggy (ew!). You’d sit there, patting away, in nothing but a simple shirt and your briefs. I’m convinced “living the dream” is referring to moments like this.

Speckles of sunlight
float around you
in a sleepy circle
and your chuckle breaks through
the silence.
I try to read the lines
on the backs of the pages
but the text bleeds blurry
on The Boondocks
and I’m booted out of this memory.

Do you remember the metallic masterpieces you had strewn about our family room? Many of them were only partially assembled, but that didn’t stop me from quietly marveling at how carefully you constructed each component that lay perfectly tucked within. I often imagined the circuitry as a sprawling cityscape, my giant curious eyes observing every glossy piece. Who needs Legos when you have these?

Everything just clicks into place
when things are made to fit together.
But what about when they’re not?
What if something pulls them apart?
Do you force them into place?
No. You reshape the entire structure,
reform the foundation,
rebuild the bonds,
and take your time.
It’s a beautiful process, after all.

Do you remember fondly fading into the frequencies of your favorite jazz tracks (much like the tunes I’m currently listening to)? You, so passionately, tried to talk me into playing an instrument — trumpet to live up to my name, guitar to live up to his fame, drums, harmonica, sax, keytar, ANYTHING.

I wish I would’ve
for your sake
so you could’ve seen me on stage
like so many of the greats
you played and played and played.
You’re proud of me, you’d say
and maybe even stay
this time.

Hey, a man can dream.

Do you remember the many months we didn’t speak? I saw every one of your calls. I just didn’t know what to say, or rather, how to say it. There was a lot. I’d grown furious with the roller coaster we were strapped to. Trapped to. It had given me emotional whiplash all while being too small to ride. The attendant was absent, just like you. Don’t worry though, once he gets back from his smoke break, he’ll let up just enough to let us tumble to the ground, where we’d both find each other again, eventually.

Adrenaline sprung from anxiety
can sometimes go hand in hand
although, in this case their fingers
are laced awkwardly
bending over one another
nearing their breaking point.
I guess,
you didn’t even feel the pain anymore anyway
at least for now.

Do you remember the night I invited you to watch Whiplash? You were just three blocks away but somehow still managed to “wander off” your words not mine. I waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and finally you came walking in an entire five minutes before the credits started to roll. I chose that movie because it spoke to both of our interests. I thought we could nerd out over it — my fascination of film meets your mesmerized mind for music. Hindsight was the only thing honest enough to shed light on what really happened that night. It gave me the permission to forgive you again. By this point, we only had a little over a year left to spend together before everything, as we knew it, would inevitably end.

Listen to the rhythmic clicks
of the film spool unwinding
as it whirs and swirls
to produce this frighteningly
intimate experience.
Can you relate
to all that bloodshed
on the beat
being displayed
on the silver screen?
The things we put ourselves through,
the things in life we sacrifice
to pursue the passions
we refuse to leave behind,
is it all worth it in the end?

Do you remember that strange day I unexpectedly caught you walking on the side of the road? I have no idea where I was coming from or where exactly I was headed and I think you’d agree. This shouldn’t have been anything other than an ordinary exchange — brief and lighthearted — as you could’ve been enjoying an afternoon walk, nothing more, nothing less. But, something seemed off. Something seemed wrong. You were gaunt and your eyes looked gone. Your voice was small and shaky and unsure of itself and as afraid as I was to be witnessing this dormant part of the man I’d always desired more attention from, I suddenly felt like the luckiest kid, to be on the receiving end of this sadness, your sadness. This was our very first real conversation and for that, I’ll forever thank you.

I could’ve sat there, by your side,
and listened to you forever.
Your unconscious decision
to crumble and confide in me
broke down all of the glass barriers
between us
while building something beautiful,
a new beginning.

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