Me and You
In memory of Doug Fenberg (11/20/52 — 5/26/93)
Got to know you the summer between 11th and 12th grade,
when we all took the World Religions philosophy course at city college.
You gave me a ride to class on your moped,
I smoking a joint for the first time.
Bodysurfing the storm waves,
the green weight transforms us
for those moments submerged.
Coming out of the water, you sprinted up and down the beach
"to get warm" you said,
just too much excitement to be still;
and we laughed as you passed us,
auburn hair streaming in the sun.
Long afternoons, we climbed around the cliffs to the
tide pool flats and the next cove north.
Swam out to Seal Rock and climbed up onto it.
Went into the little cave and, quiet,
sifted through the tiny rocks and shells on its floor,
picking up a special one and handing it to each other to see and hold.
Hanging out at your parents house in the neighborhood,
your accountant dad out in back barbequing,
whiskey on the rocks in a heavy-bottomed glass.
You explained that a CPA really only works 4 months a year
and that you would probably follow in his footsteps.
Your thin, red-haired mom in the kitchen,
chatting us up from behind her cat-eye glasses, making coleslaw.
You moved to Berkeley and that one time
you, now slick and fast-talking, offered to let me be your mule,
carry plastic bottles of clear liquid for some cash and
a free flight cross-country, explaining the deal to me
as you neatly held the small, translucent bottle up to the light
between thumb and forefinger of your freckled hand.
That summer, you were pitching, underhand,
and Eric punched a solid line drive. You looked back,
thinking it went far outfield,
and the baseball hit you smack in the side of the head.
You keeled over and we drove up on the grass of the park,
carried you into the car and went to emergency.
After, I remember you in a white gown,
head shaved and bandaged, You had aphasia.
You were grinning ear to ear and spouting nonsense,
somehow explaining that you were thinking coherent thoughts
but the words that came out were all jumbled.
A couple of years later, one of my backpacking summers,
when you and Chris lived in Tahoe,
we came out of the mountains to your house in between hikes,
walked right into your A-frame living room
and picked up electric guitars,
singing into the mics you always kept set up.
We kept warm on the starry nights sipping
whiskey and getting high.
In winter, cross-country skiing,
but you liked the diamond runs at Heavenly,
turning high-tech daredevil in your shiny downhill gear.
And I remember the spring flowers in Hope Valley,
your black setter Mayra running ahead.
Then it got dark, you becoming an addict
and losing your friends,
I was one of the last loyal to you.
There was the one time the two of us went camping
and you got angry and petulant,
jumped into your car
and left me on the roadside on Highway 395.
You got skinny, you borrowed things,
Finally it was too messy; when you came over
you stole from my roommates.
I, too, stopped seeing you.
A decade later I heard you had AIDS and you
I went to visit you with my little daughter,
where you lived up north.
Your lover was taking care of you.
You told me about how you had had
the night sweats and first knew you were sick.
Skeletal, still freckled, showed me
the lupus stains on your torso,
wearing a baseball cap, offering me a pipe again,
telling me you were planning to go to Amsterdam
to get a complete blood transfusion,
a cutting edge treatment that
hardly anyone knew about here.
Looking into your water-blue eyes.
we said our goodbyes.