Having played golf recently–for the first time in nine years or so–it isn’t surprising that my thoughts turn to my old friend Alex Burke. This is a thing I wrote for Alex back in 2002, not long after another golf day.
So many years have passed since the day I write about here, and I’ll straight up tell you, if it hadn’t happened to me, I might have a problem wondering if this is a true re-telling of events. It is; it exactly is. There is not so much as an iota of hyperbole or embellishment.
Downstairs in the Fridge
A golf day shouldn’t end in tragedy, Alex;
it just shouldn’t.
Fancy the three of us,
Sammy P., Carlos, and me,
eating Philly steaks and drinking
pitchers of beer at your
friendly neighborhood Hooters restaurant,
but Teri was hosting rock and roll trivia,
and you know what a sucker I am
for rock and roll trivia.
Plus, I was hoping that you would stop by,
and we could talk.
We were holding our own with the trivia when you walked in.
You were standing down at the end of the bar
when I saw you.
I hit Carlos and said,
“Do you see that guy down there?”
and to his affirmative response,
“That’s Alex. Everybody else hates Alex,
but I love Alex.”
I actually said that.
Part of me is sorry I did,
but I thank God just the same,
for giving me those words.
You made your way to our table–
that full and boisterous laugh so ready
even when you were in the darkness–
and grabbed a beer with us.
You knew that The Doors was the answer to
one of the questions.
“Teri,” you said,
“with her it has to be The Doors.”
You were quite excited
because you were going to meet this woman,
a fix up, whom you’d been supposed to meet
for a few months.
You had a frozen burrito-shaped package
of oriental seasoning,
a solid that would cook down into a rue,
in your hand.
It was for the lady
who was doing the fixing up.
You asked me to watch the seasoning for you,
that you’d be back shortly,
and you were gone.
Things like that just don’t happen, Alex,
that a man walks out of a Hooters restaurant and gets
plowed down by a two-tone brown
Chevy Econoline van.
At least they don’t happen in my life.
At least they hadn’t.
Your head rested a couple of feet from the curb,
just below me.
The ambulance attendant asked for your phone number,
which you gave.
You handed your keys and
your wishing stone to Teri.
Carlos asked me if I wanted
to say anything to you,
but I didn’t.
I knew I could just tell you later.
Maybe Carlos’s objectivity gave him
a more realistic view of the situation.
They picked you up, and
you were broken in half.
You bowed like a banana.
Later, I bought a guy named Dave
some beers for cleaning
the spinal fluid off the boulevard.
You were dead by the time
they got you to the hospital.
A couple of years have passed, and
I just found the pen
that could write these words.
I’m sorry, Al;
I miss you, brother.
I’ll be along directly.
That seasoning package is
downstairs in the fridge.
I’d bring it, but
the Book tells me that
only the souls
can make the pass.