Ah, Tina, what became of us? Incarcerated together in Christian school … lovers of music that was forbidden us by those nattering fools … for a while there, we’d talk every night, then we stopped … then you left school, got married, had kids … when was the last time I talked to you? I called you a few times from college, once or twice from Mom and Dad’s place … when I needed to hear an old friend, and/or a southern accent … When your dad died, I had it in my mind to call you … would’ve been easy; Mom had the number … but I was too busy and forgot … I regretted that … then, what, two, three, four months ago, got word that you were sick … had it in my mind to call you again, but didn’t … you were in and out of the hospital; you had other things to contend with; didn’t need an old voice that only materialized when things looked bad …

You used to say, “I swanee,” when you meant “I swear” … we both said “Oh Lord,” because saying “Oh, God” would’ve gotten us into trouble …

I don’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but I remember February 25, 1984 … your Sweet Sixteen birthday party … a bunch of us Christian school kids in your parents’ basement, lights low, slow dancing … Air Supply’s Greatest Hits, Billy Joel’s “This Night,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (the long album cut) and “Tears” off that Bonnie Tyler record … whoever was closest to the record player when they ended had the duty of lifting the needle and playing them again …

Adolescence teaches us all things that are vital to our future lives as adults … damned if I can remember most of it, but the earliest things that stumbled across my consciousness did so while we were friends, good friends, maybe best friends for a while …

I slept in this morning … got out of bed at 10:30 … at that moment, five hundred miles from here, you slipped away in your sleep, with your mother and sons around your bed … no more suffering …

It’s cliche, but I think part of me went with you … part of me that grew up a little at 13 or 14 … part of me that still drifts off to a basement in Raleigh when I hear a Bonnie Tyler song …

I’m sorry I never called you … you were on my mind, though … I guess I didn’t learn enough …

I love you, Tina … my old friend … rest easy …