Sitting here, drinking my coffee, pondering the morning. Today is my friend Brent Boechler's birthday, I read from the birthday notices on Facebook. Last year I would have left a witty remark - I would have tried to make him laugh or smile, knowing he was dying. Feeling sad with a tiny whisper of resentment though (there, I said it) because I couldn't just text him and go for a beer like the old days - making up characters and joking in voices from film while those around us at the bar would stare at us cracking up over something foolish we had said.
I notice the picture that I snapped of the evening sky yesterday reminds me of the painting that Brent made for me a few years ago. "I'm going to make you a painting!" he decided one evening when he had dropped by our place for dinner. He would send me photos of the various stages as he created it.
Black and white paint stretched out to an atmospheric wash that becomes faintly mauve if you look at it long enough. Landscape one moment, abstract the next - depending on mood and eye. The kind of work that if you hung it "upside down" would only lend a new perspective to the view.
We picked it up at his studio the week it was finished, paint barely dried, signed on the back, ready to hang. Yet, it leaned against my wall with other original works of art, some given to us by a friend who had passed away as it happened, along with a mid-century painting from family and some photos framed and ready. It leaned there until just this spring when after six years of living in this space we finally hung our pictures.
Brent would admonish me jokingly every time he saw me, "you haven't hung it up yet have you." It became our greeting. I told him that the next time he came over, I would serve him drinks on it like a tray.
Happy Birthday Brent - I miss you. I see a lot of people on the street and here and there lately who remind me of you, I guess that happens sometimes. I think about the great art collaborations we were talking about doing and I still can't bring myself to delete your texts yet, they were funny.
I think about the last time you and I went for drinks “A quick drink? Just you and me" you texted, to tell me just how sick you were two years ago and the latest news was not good. I went to meet you that chilly mid-November Sunday afternoon. I saw you from a half a block away, leaning against a wall waiting for me and I had a premonition that it was the last time. The last time I would see you like that. The last time we would ever do a tete-a tete. Things came sharply into focus as I saw you with your signature lean, looking the picture of health, casually elegant - the opposite of ravaged. I should have taken your picture. My hand was on my phone to do so. It was a great backdrop - why didn't I do it. I still see you like that. Dark wash skinny jeans, black leather jacket, cap and standing still against the wall as people jostled past. Just hangin' out, waiting for your friend to go for a glass of wine. Normal like.
I wrote down what we talked about after I got home, not sure why but it seemed important to mark it somehow.
It's a quiet morning and I'm the only one up. Drinking coffee, thinking and writing. It's nice. I can see your old apartment building from where I'm sitting and your painting hangs behind me in the dining nook - just where you recommended I hang it.
How nice would it be though, to be able to serve you drinks on it today - your birthday.
My painting from Brent Boechler, signed by the artist (compared to the sunset photo taken from my balcony).