There is a dim-lit buddy of mine waiting for the light to change at the intersection of Boylston and Moody streets. He sits tight-limbed in his white Cutlass and the car idles a gentle hum. The red glare of the red light is reflecting off the rain that’s beaded on the hood. This light bounces up through the windshield and illuminates his face, its stubble, its sunken eyes, its hambone jaw and its thin line of lips. These lips are wet from the spill of the bourbon bottle that he’s throttling in his tight right hand. His left is interlaced in the steering wheel, waiting to steer the car into the parking lot where he knows that I am.
He’s a friend of mine and I can’t complain. It’s been so long that there’s no not knowing him. Children to adults to real adults and a bond is a bond.
But I love you and you love me, so we don’t need to say it. He’s jealous of us and what we’ve got. You came first—quite literally—in his bed. You’ve told me about it. The loosening of his smile that came with the loosening of his woven-leather belt. The warming of his hands as they gripped your hands, then your belly. His politeness, not looking until the lights were low and you were naked and you were ready. It was a heartwarming story and he seemed very much like what I pictured him being like in a moment like that. So, I can’t complain and I can’t not know him and we are here.
The light turns green and the Cutless lurches forward through the standing water of the road and cuts across the intersection. The front of the car dips down then back as he bumps it into the parking lot. He takes a wide circle, all the way around the perimeter, though our two cars are the only two here. I don’t watch him. I watch only the neon time tick itself forward on my dashboard. Late, the appropriate time for this.
Through the speakers comes the wailing of a saxophone, a solo starting deep in the basement notes. Each held clear before the next comes. Then dancing through the middle octaves and the screaming of the ceiling before a dying back to the bottom. Mournful, the appropriate sound for this and I know it is the sound that fills the Cutlass as well: this is the only station he or I ever listen to, to only radio station not made now for queers and teddy bears. That was his line, but I liked it too.
Even when we were boys in grass-stained pants, I knew my low light buddy could be anything we wanted to be. He always loved frogs, chasing them, watching them jump and he would chase them on an up-and-down chase through anything, bogs, brambles, briars. He always loved words and he wrote poetry to you. You’ve let me read it and he rhymed well, using words like “cream” and “beam” and “tuck” and “fuck” quite elegantly. Numbers too, he could do numbers, adding them, taking them away, combining them in all sorts of ways. You always said that he wasn’t as dim as we took him for, though I’m not sure I believed you.
He’s chosen a parking space now and parked in it and the parking space is three up from mine and across the aisle. The red reflection from the stoplight has been replaced by the yellow circle cast by a light atop a brown lamppost. In the white-rimmed rain beads atop the white hood, the yellow light looks green. Now he’s waiting for the rain to pass. I know he’s breathing heavy and there’s a gurgling in his stomach where the whiskey’s gone and he doesn’t look over because I know he’s second guessing himself.
I think of that Fourth of July day when he lifted up the back of your white skirt to get one last look at what was there. You said nothing and simply stood there for a moment then walked away and looked up at me where I was watching from the kitchen window. You shook your head and I shook mine and we let it go and went back to the party. Remember how loud the fireworks were that year?
He’s a friend of mine, though, and I can’t complain.
By now, there must be new fruit hanging from the old fruit tree that sits out back behind the house that your parents bought us, the most beautiful wedding gift ever given. It rained then too, do you remember? That fruit must be humming its late spring hum. Ripe seeds will quiver inside the flesh, all of this gathered under strong skin, strong skin but not too strong. I don’t know what will happen next or if I’ll be able to come home, now, tomorrow, ever. He’s a lowlight buddy of mine and I can’t complain but there’s no not knowing each other now and I re-cock the gun held tight in my tight right hand and wait for my friend to wait for the rain to pass and for us to learn which one of us will have you.
[Inspired by Iron & Wine’s “Low Light Buddy of Mine”]