I thought of Jacob recently, flashed to a memory of him standing in the small kitchen of my one-bedroom, head tilted slightly, saying shyly, “I know a really good way to cook bacon.” He put the bacon in a saucepan, covered the bottom with water, baked it until the fat dribbled out. Broiled it to finish, but not too crispy. It was a good way to cook bacon.
We spent a spontaneous, sweet early spring together — a month, two at most. We often met up in a small suburban bar. He had big brown eyes that asked for nothing but a little time. I felt safe with him, our bodies desperate for gentle closeness, gentle even in their insistence, softness into softness. My mattress in that apartment was comfy but bare, no frame, and I can still see him mom’s last name coming up in the primitive typeface of the old-school caller ID on my landline: BOURMANA. I had forgotten the name until I saw it on his gravestone in the cemetery by my parents’ house.
We talked over quiet meals and shared the scars on our wrists with knowing nods. I can’t remember that we “broke up,” but I remember that I hadn’t seen him in maybe a month when I guy he sometimes painted houses with called, wondering if I had seen him, and I could hear in his voice that Jake hadn’t shown up for work that morning. And even though Jacob had shown me the scars on his wrists I didn’t really think about it. That aspect of him seemed to me something from his past, and I saw him as having drifted from there into mild unreliability, a marker of a broken home and lower class that allowed a more casual attitude toward work and commitments. Though I now see how many assumptions are layered into that reading, at the time I slightly admired his approach. I shrugged it off and moved on.
Seven or eight years must have passed between that spring and his death. Jarringly, a photo of him smiled up from the stone bench that marked the plot. His gravestone had been recently attended. I felt a flood of gratitude for this sweet, quiet boy, who had met my weakness with his and held it.
* Names have been changed
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