By S.A. Murison
I travel almost weekly, ostensibly to talk about my long and award-winning career culminating in poet laureate. But I know the real reason I fill auditoriums is to give my first-hand impressions of Boyd Matthews, fellow writer and best friend, dead thirty-four years now. As if I could split open my chest cavity and produce a miniature golem of him. I know the questions that will be asked. Yes, he was funny. Yes, he wrote all night and slept all day. Yes, that incident in Mexico really happened. Yes, I was there…I was there…I was there. And then I am asked the question I cannot answer. Always I find myself withering inside, muttering at podium after podium about his being inexplicable to all but those who knew him best. I let my audiences assume.
I board the plane and order a double scotch because it numbs me whole. He never saw in me what I saw in him—an understanding. I unlatch the tray table and loosen my tie. I was published first even though he was the better writer. He would come live in my brownstone for months at a time. We would read and write, drink, then argue, laugh, then drink and write some more, dedicating individual poems and full collections to each other. Always linked, together. Still linked. These patterns made me see a life for us, and it looked like this: two typewriters at our kitchen table. Home.
I take my first sip as I always do when I think about the last time I saw him. I grabbed his cheeks and kissed him on the mouth because he would not shut up, and he would not let me explain my dream of our life together. He pushed me off the sofa and stood, fists clenched. I waited for the yelling, for the punches, for a glass to be thrown at my head. He just stood there, looking at me, as though I was Moloch himself. I went to my bedroom, shut the door, and lay alone and awake and smoking one cigarette after another just until the sky grayed. Then I slept.
I had planned to talk to him, but Boyd was gone when I woke. He left a piece of paper in my typewriter on the kitchen table, next to an overflowing ashtray. The entire page blank, except at the top, where he typed
Fuck you, Gilbraith. Don’t write me, or about me, ever again.
The last thing I remember about that day was pulling the paper from the typewriter, collecting all of his letters and poems and leavings of stories from around the apartment, and jamming them into an empty typewriter paper box, crushing the lid so hard the sides bent. Perhaps I sent this box to Boyd’s mother, escaping his admonishment not to write to him. Perhaps I sent it to Boyd’s publisher and the scraps have been published and republished as mysterious “insights” into his life. Or perhaps I picked up everything, including his black wool scarf and his cigarette butts, his fuck you and his denim jacket, and burned them in my fireplace, inhaling the smoke of all that was left behind.