REGRET: ONE MAN’S EPIC OF PAST FRIENDSHIP

“I like your hermeneutics,” he exclaimed, that night in the Newton pub

Which was a Harvard word where we met and became friends

He meant my interpretation of Cindy Lauper’s, “Time after Time,” as we watched the video

I think of that night, even now, 37years later, when I hear the song

We were, maybe, too old to be playing at those grad-school hijinks we laugh about

Good times I now recollect with sadness, recast  

Each of our Ph.D. studies beset us with distance: he stayed and I went south

And I took the Amtrak up to Boston from Charlottesville carrying my guitar

To play and sing at his wedding and I did a Bible reading

I understood, when he explained another friend—a longer best friend—would stand as best man

Time passed on; he put me up at the Harvard Club where he was a member

When I needed to do research for my dissertation at the Houghton Library

He, the kind of friend who cared, anxiously

Made earnest inquiries out of his field with his psychiatric professional friends

While I noticed others’ indifference or the sneers, fear, outright laughter and some avoided me

He made the precipitous phone call that saved me, deep in the psychosis that broke my mind,

And got me into the psychiatric hospital and he phoned me in there every day

So it’s not so easy

I saw his car in my apartment parking lot out my window

That week I wrote 100+ pages for my doctoral exam

Writing and editing all day and deep into the night

I couldn’t break my concentration to visit with him

And he knew to go to my favorite bar to ask about me

This my heavy tome culminated on the day he drove down from Boston

To sit in on my open dissertation defense in The Rotunda and he posed a question

We now laugh at the professor’s quip, “Who is this guy?”

He waited with me outside the interview room while the committee weighed my oral defense

And the same professor borrowed his pen to formally sign off on my successful dissertation

He presented me his pen, formally, in my favorite bar as his family celebrated with me

Which makes it hard to write him off

And hard to believe he would cross the line

Recently, during international travel, my Permanent Resident Card expired

–An oversight of mine that became strangely serious–

Stranding me in Florida, necessitating reems of paperwork,

–And, of course, an international lawyer–

Which he recognized I would need and found one for me and got me home

And came down to Florida at the time to keep me company a few days

His substance issues got him there in a mess, off the bus

And I helped clean him up so we could hit the town,

And, of an occasion, to pursue gentlemanly discourse at a favorite, posh cigar lounge

Which causes me to re-think the line he crossed

But certain things aren’t funny, even for us

No, not even for us

BEYOND BLUES

It happened again

Then is it passion cancelled?

Avocation termination?

I once was a musician

Can I fight through

The shakes, the uncontrollable shakes

It isn’t just nerves

It started with

My psychotic break

Broken, I’ve lost my confidence

It hurts to perform, not to perform

It used to be such a thrill

They all said it sounded good tonight

My friend said he noticed me shake

Did the audience?

As I started the song I wanted to stop

Run away

But the show had to go on

The song I was in the middle of

So I shook through it

Agony

Do I continue to fight through it every time?

Or is it over?

A man’s complaint in

A universe

Sown in corruption

And what have I to do with thee?

It is my song

Solo

Lyrics carved in my regret

Beyond blues, I sing these words