We all have less hair but still a ropy strength in our bodies, veins riding over muscle, and our energy endures, but with more control now, the capacity to stop and listen, a quality we might have earned in age’s wearing away of fantasies and youthful musings, and through the long, painful deaths of some we loved. Sometimes an attentive silence is the only respectful response — attention, to any poor blasted friend, must be paid.
Even though our eyes seem as hooded as the cowls of falcons, we three are not coots yet, not for a while, all of us feeling dynamics inside that have not cooled. At the table we eat sparingly and drink red wine. Our conversation touches jobs, retirement, children and colleges, the City and this pleasant neighborhood, the Rolling Stones, the beloved dead, promises we have made to ourselves, the names of some who have known only trouble, our acute awareness of time, the long past and always somehow, basketball.
Our history together is a palpable element, a stream of common Catholic training, upbringing and memory able to link us into an immediacy of response. We have known each other for over fifty years. There is no room for bullshit at this table. We would be embarrassed to try. We share a heavy, acerbic scorn for malignant ideas and the poisonous stratagems of bigotry but one also senses more forgiveness for blunders and for so many of the vices tied to our common frailities. We have all waded belly deep through the aftermath of bad decisions that sure seemed like good ideas at the time. There are moments when we laugh so hard that our bodies contract, our eyes squeezing shut, our speech strangled by stammering, cackling, croaking roars.
Our daily worlds are separated by geography and responsibilities, but especially now, we are aware of our unspoken affection — this after reconnecting, and after gathering each to ourselves our own precise knowledge of how near-at-hand the end can be. We can look at the wilting faces across the table and see the boys who once filled them out, and deeper yet, as if through a magic glass, images arriving unbidden in a montage, their parents and neighborhoods and all the pretty girls, and moments when we were actually innocent. We all three carry within us a fragmented history of the other, but those fragments are pure blessing, the sweetest gold, an endangered species within each life, one more part of a bounty found in long friendship.
painting by Niko Pirosmani