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We Would Have Been Old Friends by Samuel Snoek-Brown

For Josh E.

 

You taught me to play SuperMario Bros.

 

You showed me that I will never be as good as you

at playing SuperMario Bros.  You always,

always beat me.

 

You corrected the way I clip my toenails. Straight

across, not curved in at the corners, and you saved me

from years of ingrown pain.

 

You told me I’m no good at building model planes.

When I sat on my F-4 Phantom and crushed it,

you told me not to take things

so seriously.

 

You told me that porn is best when stolen,

and we talked about how stark—how unmysterious

and frankly funny porn is, once

exposed.

Together, we learned what the word

dildo really means and why one shouldn’t spout

the word at random, as a misguided insult,

in front of one’s mother, who kept one

under her bed and showed it to you.

 

You taught me how to laugh

at myself.

 

We talked about family and devotion

to family—you showed me how family can be good, and not—

as teenagers like me sometimes complained—uncool.  I learned,

in fact, that it is especially cool to love

your mother. Quietly, but unreservedly.

 

You explained that father does not mean sperm donor.

Father can mean something tremendous, something that has

nothing to do with biology and everything to do

with love.

 

You told me one Texas summer that when you died

you wanted to go to hell, because

you love the heat.

When you did die

 

and your mother asked if you were in heaven—

when she wept into the phone, Do you know

what he believed? Did you ever talk

about that? — I didn’t know what to tell her.

 

You taught me that what you are

is what you are, and to hell

with what other people think.

 

I learned that friendship is often silent.

We know when we’re friends, and we don’t much need

to talk about it.  There were many silent moments

 

between you and me.  And so this silence

now is not alarming.  It is just a part of our friendship

 

unspoken.

 

Samuel Snoek-Brown is the author of the forthcoming story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, as well as the chapbooks Where There Is Ruin and Box Cutters and the Civil War novel Hagridden. He also serves as production editor for Jersey Devil Press. He lives with his librarian wife in Tacoma.