the best man

the best man

republicans don’t want you, lewis.
when’s the last time you voted anyway?
you’ve been 21 since you were 18.
brian says you’re not human.
he has stories.
we all do.

last year a bomb blew up in your neighborhood.
your neighbors called, you were babysitting a dog.
you had no clue a kid would never walk again,
or walk with nails in his shins or walk with singed flesh.
austin was on lockdown, we were worried there was a war ahead.
but you stayed tucked away in your waterbed
singing hail marys to Live Oak cans and texting your friends,
“where’s the party at?”

the party shrinks every year.
I peaced out a long time ago, another casualty of monogamy,
one of many. you should be used to it.
how many times have you played the best man to a rat abandoning ship?
how many fly miles have you racked up travelling cross-country to serve last rites
to a lad about to be had by the cringing ring of a wedding bell?

I remember the Park City wedding,
when you found the groom pacing the church basement
on the morning the service was scheduled to commence,
cummerbund undone and fear-faced with a case of severe premarital jitters.
you said, “let’s think about this before you make any rash decisions”
and spent hours talking him off the ledge.
the ceremony carried on as planned.
it’s one of your proudest moments.
doesn’t matter they divorced a year later.
you were there to save the wedding; to hell with the marriage.

hollee says it makes sense, what you did,
“of course, lewis wanted the wedding to go on,
he was probably appalled at the thought of all
that alcohol being wasted.”

but, see, I think of you differently.
cause I still remember those summer nights post-divorce
hanging out at Fado’s by your invitation—you, me, Hollee,
the rest of your congregation, laughing and draining glasses
of lager and bumming cigarettes off strangers.
I remember it all
— the patio and the thick, soupy air and the stench
of parched plants panhandling to an impassive, swollen
moon—like an old man crooning to the illusion of water.
it was a beautiful slaughter, all those sweaty bodies squashed in,
dancing rhythmless to a U2 cover band, fist-pumping silhouettes
on shamrocks and stiletto heels getting killed by the sticky spilt beer of an after party.
you flicked ashes off my dress and asked me to dance.
I laughed and swatted at your hand.
“come on, erin, even liberals gotta have fun” you sung
whenever I got homesick for my kids.

back then, I would have traded the fun
to be in love again, or be in love with the life I’m in –
but I was wrong, and I want you to know how sorry I am,
and how very thankful.

hollee told me a story about you the other day.
(republicans don’t want her either, by the way)
she said the night Fado’s closed for good,
you took Justin’s plaque from its place above the bar stool—his bar stool,
the one he sat in for years,
sharing drink specials with you,
hitting on girls with you, trading barbs with you,
always the faithful companion
until ALS stole his laugh and closed his bar tab forever.
after his funeral you nailed the memorial plaque above his stool
but Fado’s was closing,
and you weren’t about to let your friend’s memory go down
with the sinking ship. you took the plaque and carried him back
to a time when he could walk again—
and I sorta, kinda love you for this.

republicans can’t have you, lewis.
barbarella isn’t the beast you think.
we’ll talk about politics again when it's safe.
or we won't talk about politics at all.
besides, brian says you’re not human.
he has stories.
we all do
and we love you for them.
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