Bits and Pieces

Chewing the Fat

When They Were Young




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Hey you

I’ve been reading a lot about you lately.  Some of it true, a lot of it not.  You would have liked it though.  The way you are presented.  The cool hipster, the movie mogel, the yacht-myster, the investment whiz, stories of the early days.  You would have liked it. 

It’s funny that.  So many people who know you.  Know the public persona.  Such a contradiction to the memories I have. 

And yet, was it? 

Maybe the Johnny I knew was the mirage?

Images, floating past, some of them lingering longer than others.

The ever ready tic tacs in your pocket, the smell of vanilla on your breath.  The long white tee-shirts that you loved wearing at home that were softer than a baby’s butt from years of washing.  The happy marchy-marchy dance around the bedroom, knees, elbows lifting high, sharp pointing angles, big grin on your face because you had done something, pulled off something very clever.  Home from work, evenings, weekends, the mountain of pillows surrounding you, a safe soft cave to burrow into.  The way you liked to eat your breakfast, always the same thing, cooked just so, in bed, two pillows behind your back, one on your lap, big happy smile on your face.  I think that was your favourite time of the day, after the kids had gone to school, the house quiet, and I’d bring your breakfast up on a tray, me on the foot of the bed, watching you eat.  Always the same ritual, the same order of how things were eaten.  You’d draw it out, savour every mouthful, “heaven,” you would say, eyes rolling back in your head.


Defending you against that mugger in New York City, me in my high heels and skirt, he was going to have to go through me to get to you.  Afterwards, dinner with Howard S, acting all bravado, while you reenacted it for Howard’s delight, being me and then the mugger, both of you laughing, me laughing too, embarrassed, keeping my hands under the table because the shaking won’t stop.

In Malibu.  We had been talking, lying in bed, when I noticed the light on the ceiling shift,  I looked at you and as I did a flame surged up, the corner of your pillow case had caught fire on a candle you had by the bed, and in a split second that single flame became a halo of them surrounding your head.  You smiling at me, me leaping over you, a banshee wail roaring out of my mouth, ripping that pillow out from under your head, flinging it on the floor, trying to smoother the flames with my hands my body, feathers flying everywhere.  And you, watching me like I was an insane woman, demanding explanations, had I lost my f—king mind.  Me, unable to speak, just guttural noises, needing to get that fire out, make the place safe.  And then your face, the blood draining out, when it was over and I held up the blackened pillow, half of it gone, the gaping burnt hole.  How grateful I felt, that I hadn’t been in the bathroom when it had caught fire, or in the kitchen, or somewhere else. 

That was the end of candles in the house.

At the hospital.  The glucophage disaster.  Both of us so scared by that close call, clinging to each other like life-preservers.

Always the hospital.  In and out.  Then back home with us, nursing you back to health, to life, and then off you’d go, back to LA convinced that what you wanted to think, was real.  Sad.  So sad.  Those last years.  Helpless.  After years spent defending, protecting, trying to keep you safe, I failed.  Couldn’t keep you safe.  Couldn’t keep you out of harms way.  Tried my best and still I failed. 

I miss you now.  But there has been a lot of missing in the last few years.  A lot of grieving.  So now, when you finally are well and truly gone, the sorrow is not as sharp-edged anymore.  It is more of a gentle, confused missing, that almost feels like a dream.  Like you aren’t really gone, like I can still pick up the phone and say hello, and tell you I love you and listen to you breathe.