There are 10 hours to spare on my day job,
plus a 1,000-word essay for a competition.
The prize money is a catch. Barely enough time,
like the hours we spend on get-togethers
a few times a year. But enough to remember
8 years ago, we met on a trip. You were dapper
but rambunctious and irritating
(who the fuck wears sunglasses at 4 am?
As if the glaring Defy tattoo on the forearm
is not showy enough).
Every year, on these trips, the defiance folded
more to softness, the arms tighter and surer,
the drunken conversations warmer,
the hours longer.
Our ways contrast.
There are subjects we will never agree on.
Yet often, it was the two of us
and empty beer bottles left to safekeep
each other’s dirt till dawn. Remember
you sat at the back of the bus to say, Stop
feeling guilty for problems that aren’t yours,
back to your seat?
When I am heartbroken
you restrain your potty mouth
and ask around if it’s alright
to send me memes that make fun of my pain.
On the beach, you said, “If you need me,
whatever it is, just say so. We will drink it to death.”
What I am trying to say is there is never enough
time for anything in this fickle world.
Writing this epistolary poem might mean the hours
won’t be sufficient to finish that damned
essay and have a shot at the cash prize.
Still I am making time on your birthday
because from you and our friends I learned
real, enduring friendships are priceless;
time is not promised.
So I raise a golden bottle for you in one hand
and big bad motherfucking gratitude in the other.
Still going to try, like you with your memes,
Happy birthday, TJ!