Melinda

May 19, 2005

Melinda

I saw a young woman today in the window of a passing bus who reminded me of Melinda Mason, the beautiful girl who liked me in tenth grade. I attended that school for just one wretched semester, and she was the only person who ever talked to me. We met in French 1, where she was the best student in class and I was the worst. She sat at the front of my row and would come by to pick up my tests and quizzes. One time she saw I was writing something and asked what it was. A poem, I said. Oh really, she said, you write poetry?

After I moved away, I wrote to thank her for being nice to me, and she wrote back that everyone thought I was a narc because right after I left, a bunch of kids got busted for dealing. Then one thing led to another and I took a two-hour train ride to visit her. She confessed to having had a crush on me. She said she arranged to have a friend follow my head as she entered French class to see if I was watching her. Of course I was watching her the entire time because she was easily the most amazing girl in school – so beautiful and smart and self-possessed. She wore odd clothes and clearly didn’t care what anyone thought of her clothes, or her, or anything.

Melinda Mason.

One time we met at her locker.

She owned a horse and sometimes wore a t-shirt that said Horse Feathers.

She liked my poetry.

The day I visited her, we sat on her couch and listened to the Heart album Dreamboat Annie.

May 14, 2005

Alfred

David almost died last week. His heart stopped for twenty minutes. It happened in the hospital, just as his doctors completed heart surgery. Later the doctors told him that very few people survive such an experience with functioning brains. If his heart had stopped just a few minutes later, after they had wheeled him into the recovery room, he would have died for sure. What saved him was immediate access to oxygen. (Later the anesthesiologist said that his hands shook the entire time, which I can totally imagine: you take five seconds too many and the patient ends up a vegetable.)

I saw him yesterday at his apartment, and he told me about a radio play he wrote in his head while recovering in the hospital. It’s called Alfred Saves Himself and it’s almost entirely silence. It lasts five or six hours. Periodically you hear the sounds of different machines. A phone rings but no one picks it up. Then it rings again, and this time it’s answered. There’s some terse dialogue about Alfred deciding not to come over. At one point you hear the wheels of two janitor carts and distance voices. (The wheels were my idea. I suggested them after David explained that the voices belong to janitors.)

What’s happening is, David is dying. Each time I see him he’s farther along, farther away. We don’t talk about it.