Liam, when we met twelve years ago at a non-profit organization’s
Group workshop panel presentation on aging for which
I had volunteered to represent men in their seventies,
Where after someone from the community in his twenties spoke,
And then a person in his thirties, and so on nicely until the program
Came to me as final specimen (no one in his eighties had come forth) I stood
And spoke – six feet four inches tall and full of encouragement, presenting
Off-the-cuff words meant to inspire, I believed what I said, feeling still young
In my early seventies.

Then I sat down and those attending clapped happily
And headed for the coffee urn and plates of cookies. I was prepared
To contentedly leave and return to my small apartment and beloved cat
When you came up to introduce yourself. Handsome in your early thirties,
Shorter than I, gay – the non-profit group was for non-straights and the wondering –
Delightfully darker because born in Saudi Arabia, a computer person, serious reader
Of Wittgenstein and the like, somewhat shy but with appealing energy, you said
“I really resonated with your remarks. I think I’d like to get to know you better.
Can we go out for coffee one day soon?”

Since then, we have become certain friends. You come for conversation
And to pet my cat and enjoy a simple home-cooked dinner you enjoy a lot
With which you down only a little wine. Or we meet
At a neighborhood cafe. Or I get on the train and come to your condo
In the suburbs. It has worked out well. Also, we talk on the phone.

You are coming over this Saturday. I know which kind of fish fillet to sauté,
The kind you and I like, the inexpensive kind which has no bones.

But Liam, be warned: after twelve years of presenting encouraging statements
I plan to give you now a different kind of truth because I am waiting
To hear the results of a friend’s biopsy, am wondering how much longer
I can live alone, and whether I can afford not to, and am frightened or what my dear
Dead sister used to say, “scared.” Now I think of what my friend Barry recently shared:
“When you are in a low mood you should not consider what you are miserable about,
But instead should go within to discover what in your temperament you can use
And what in your individuality you can not.” Barry is twenty years younger than I,
And twenty years older than you. I have not asked but think he would be content
To have me offer you the words “It is not about the basic unfairness of things.
That we can take for granted.” Because now you are ready for them.

Jonathan Bracker is published in The Gay And Lesbian Review, The New Yorker, and other periodicals; An eighth, Attending Junior High, is due from Seven Kitchens Press this fall. He is editor of Bright Cages: The Selected Poems Of Christopher Morley; co-author with Mark Wallach of Christopher Morley.