Jules would send cassette tape "letters" from New Guinea that told us slow stories of baking an onion pie--it's like an apple pie, only with onions; everything you cook in the oven that meal comes out tasting of onion.
Sharon taught me this: that thing you least want to do? Do it first. It's never as bad as you think it will be, it only gets worse if you wait, and done early it can't darken your whole day.
Suzie had the basement without parental supervision where gaggles of us gathered before we were old enough to know why. We listened to pop music, pretended to dance, played truth or consequences without knowing the questions or what consequences were.
Malachi said to my grandfather, "Wow, you sure are FAT," in that truth-blurt unaware sincerity children own. Grampa put his huge hands over his face and heaved pretend sobs like he'd been crushed. Malachi recovered, "Oh! Not THAT fat."
Mark was the two years older football player brother of a girl my age, and the first death of a person I'd met on my own. He had a heart attack his Junior year in high school, after a practice.
Kermit is the largest human being I know. He's eleven or fifteen feet tall, I think. Inside and out. At the bar he handcups his quart of the same beer I drink in pints, and our proportions appear the same.
Jim is a smart, well read, articulate guy pathologically incapable of bringing any conversation to a logical close. After two years I realized what was odd about his gaze. His left eye is a quarter inch lower than his right.
Jim loved that bitch and I never understood why. She'd shovel shit on him and he'd come up grinning like peonies every time. His step-father manner was always slightly apologetic, but he would snap when she pushed too far.
Paul was one person in my life I missed out on being friends with. Circumstances, schedules, our circles each almost (not quite) overlapped enough. A face that flushed splotchy at interest and effort, I bet he's got a doctorate today.
Maggie tells stories in between her poems in such a way that you can only ever identify the transitions in retrospect; it was a few phrases back, if your rigidity requires that there be a clear demarcation between the two.
Alan is one of a very few people I liked immediately. I heard him read poetry, sing and play guitar, then ended up sitting across from him at dinner afterward. From one wide-ranging conversation I could call him friend.
Lynn was the first and last girlfriend (third grade) I ever had with blonde hair and straight white teeth. Today, I have one image of standing near her on the playground, and one of walking through woods to her house.
Terry alternated careers between phlebotomist and sous chef, and was one of the first people to make me believe I was smart--because I could tell, with certainty, that he was exceptionally smart, and, that he enjoyed conversation with me.
Susan sews superlative quilts she prefers you use, that's what they're made for. She bakes pecan pies she thinks are famous for how good they are. Her daughter suicided at nineteen and for twenty years appears in every conversation since.
Jerry has a way of reminding me to "have a blessed day" with an earnestness that makes me envious of his ability to harbor that kind of faith. He is precisely as sincere as one can be without appearing insincere.
Roger was the middle brother, I was best friends with the oldest. One Minnesota summer morning we walked in and discovered Roger dancing in the living room singing "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar" at the top of his lungs.
Tony will forever be 16, in Maria's basement, playing "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" on acoustic guitar, while every girl in the world--rightly--fawned all over his Italian-ness, even though he was wearing those bandannas and knit legwarmers.
Charles doesn't suffer the inconveniences of packing clothes, lugging bags, and unpacking wrinkled clothes. He travels light, and simply buys new clothes wherever he goes. His employees regularly take sweater shavers to their chairs to thwart unsightly pill build-up.
Laureen worked for State Farm and told me the secret to getting claims paid. Patience. If you don't need the vehicle, refuse all partial payments. Internal pressures to "close the file" steadily increase until they'll pay anything to achieve resolution.
Jen beat cancer, twice. I do not know what the armature was that held her together before, during, or after; before, duriing, or after; but from what I can see and hear and read, I think that today, it's poetry.
Carla is an orchestration of angles, from the points at heel and toe to the wedge of hair, from the brackets of her eyes to the sharp nib of her nose. She speaks with a rapid precision; laughter escapes her.
Mike arrived in seventh grade with his ropey muscles and shaggy head of hair. His voice didn't waver (but he didn't know what to do with his eyes) when he told me his older brother had finally kicked their father's ass.
Tommy taught me two things: nothing's so important it can't wait five minutes, and a ton can be done in five unpanicked minutes; and, read through a new recipe once forwards, once backwards, once more forwards, then throw it away.
Danny was one of my first "best" friends; all I remember today is his dark hair, the front door tohis house buried in bush shade, and playing with some kind of car track (slotcars? HotWheels?) in his living room.
Tina was about to bop into her boyfriend's room when Springsteen's "She's the One" started its thrum from my speakers. She sashayed in and we danced like our lives depended on it--and won. No words before, during, or after.
Mandi is openly and unapologetically lesbian in a town where much of the population routinely considers "I dunno, wanna go beat up some faggots?" a viable potential Saturday night activity. She's not brave, in her own estimation, just straight up.
David told me that, really, haiku should be read with a minute or more of silence in between them. I agreed and asked him why he didn't read them that way. He said the silence would make some people uncomfortable.
Rich can stage an entire production out of a suitcase through the magic of the perfect prop, the sly slide of body language, and the ability to present what's odd in each of us as a feature not a defect.