Poem 71 ± August 14, 2015

Marion Winik
Three Lost Boys
d. late 1980s, early 1990s

One was the snappish waiter at the Morning Call in the French Quarter, the guy who looked like a sailor: wavy gold hair, Aegean eyes, weathered, ruddy skin. Another was his boyfriend, a dignified sort with perfect posture and a trim moustache who cut my hair on a velvet barstool in their little slave-quarter apartment. Some of The Skater’s friends dropped him after I appeared on the scene, but these two didn’t mind.

Our first whisper of the nightmare ahead of all of us came after we’d moved to Austin and they came to visit, pulling up in our driveway in a clattering jalopy, purportedly stopping to refuel on their way out west. Neither was working anymore, they said, or feeling very well. Both were drinking heavily and stealing pills from the waiter’s mother, a frail person they had carted along with them from her home in Lake Charles. With their circumstances and charms so reduced, they quickly outstayed their welcome. Then stayed another month. At least it was the kind of thing that makes a good story. I told it for several years without understanding the bad part wasn’t the long distance phone bill, or the coffee cups full of port and Coca-Cola.

Their deaths were old news by the time we heard about them, but by then things had started to make their senseless sense. By then you might be handed an informational pamphlet with charts of mortality rates: rows labeled “Men who have sex with men,” “Injection drug users” and “Recipients of blood transfusion.” By then bravado was becoming very important.

A few years later, I watched my husband rollerblade through Jackson Square with a third boy from that crowd, a young protégée of a dress designer with a studio on Decatur Street. He had learned from the designer how to hand-paint silk and he made beautiful scarves. So adorable in his cut-off shorts, he was a bit of a liar, a wily Southern climber with a well-defined jaw and thick shiny hair, right out of Tennessee Williams.

Both he and my husband knew who was dead and who was alive, and they both knew whose side they were on.

MarionWinik_webCUMarion Winik is the author of First Comes Love (Random House, 1996) and The Glen Rock Book of the Dead (Counterpoint, 2008.) Her other books are Telling (Random House, 1994); The Lunch-Box Chronicles (Random House, 1998); Rules for the Unruly (Simon and Schuster, 2001); Above Us Only Sky (Seal Press, 2005) and Highs in the Low Fifties: How I Stumbled Through the Joys of Single Living (Globe Pequot Press, 2013). She has also published two books of poetry, Nonstop (Cedar Rock Press, 1981) and Boycrazy (Slough Press, 1986).

Marion’s Bohemian Rhapsody column appears monthly at BaltimoreFishbowl.com, and her essays and articles have been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Sun, The Utne Reader, O, Salon, and Real Simple, among others. Her commentaries for All Things Considered are collected on the npr.org website, and she regularly reviews books for Newsday and Kirkus Review. A professor in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore, Marion was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Non-Fiction and has been inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters. She has appeared on the Today Show, Politically Incorrectand Oprah.

To learn more, visit marionwinik.com.

This piece appears in The Glen Rock Book of the Dead.