The Old Friend – Michael Hettich

The Old Friend

calls to tell me he can’t see the same things
he saw yesterday; the book he was reading
last night has become an album of photographs
of his wife’s family back in the old country—
people he’s never even met—and his wife
herself has been replaced by the first girl he ever
asked out on a date. He tells me
how it snowed so hard that night, they’d made
a snowman instead of going to a movie
or a dance, so he’d fallen in love.
He says he’d stood still and let the snow
cover him while she danced around him.
Now his hands won’t move the way they used to,
and his voice speaks as though someone else were behind it,
like a puppeteer, someone not like him at all.
What am I to do? he asks. Sing the songs
you love most, I tell him, that might keep you intact.
And wait for me, I’m on my way. But when I get there,
he’s not in his house or garden, though his car
is sitting out front as usual, and his wife
is puttering in the rose bushes, singing
to the boom box set on the back porch, which churns out
golden oldies. Where has he gone?
I ask her. And she looks up with an odd expression
on her face and asks, Who do you mean, my love?
– Michael Hettich ( From Systems of Vanishing )