Naomi asks me what I’ve been thinking today.
That grin. You were 35 when we met, and I know exactly how you looked as a kid.
You’d beam whenever Josie sat in your lap. You’d look over at Jess like, “Can we?” If only Bugaboo made a sidecar for Harleys.
Playing soccer in the Argentinian mud.
You lighting Naomi’s birthday cake and setting it down in front of her, singing.
Standing under a streetlight in Brooklyn, passing around a pint of ice cream you and Harry bought at the bodega because the fancy place took too long to seat us. Right outside the storefront window, facing the diners, to whom we all must’ve looked like hobos sharing a can of corned beef hash.
Matt Mad-Libs have helped me combat the sadness. Pick a non-motorized form of transit and a colorful location and you’ve done it, in it. But remember to phrase as a question and ask abruptly:
You guys ever inner-tubed through the Bering Strait? You gotta do it!
Ever been ferried through the Shahran Market in a wagon full of ketchup packets? Total rush!
Ever rode a penny-farthing onstage at a Neil Diamond concert? Stop what you’re doing right now.
In a McDonald’s in a Turkish airport, you invited me to dream about my future. “Come to New York, man. You’ll find a job easy. You’ll live in Brooklyn.” You were so sure.
Three hours as a resident, when my temporary housing wouldn’t be ready until evening and all my stuff was packed in a truck on I-80, I appeared unannounced on your stoop. Thank goodness you and Jess were home and not sipping beer with epidemiologists in Zanzibar.
You grinned, hugged me like a brother, wrapped up your draft, then spent the rest of the day driving us around to lunch and apartment hunting.
I managed not to spill tears at work. Didn’t hide from it, either. I looked at the tweets and memorials.
But now, recounting these things to Naomi, I realize I’m most disappointed that I never even got a chance to fight for you, that you’d gone by the time I found out. If I’d known you were sick, I could’ve prayed or texted or hugged Jess … sent you the energy somehow. Whatever my little mortal energy is worth, I could’ve delivered it.
We both would have. We all would have.
You created a feedback loop of intellectual curiosity with everyone, but it was distinct for each person. You and Naomi energized each other. Thank you.
You and Jess nourished each other.
Naomi tells me what she’s been thinking today.
“I just keep saying to myself, ‘Damn, Matt. Not you.’”
To flip a line of yours: March is the cruelest month indeed.