Supporting Cast

Down with a sore back
And in need of my twenty-year doctor
I look for a number,
Conjoining my city with his name
The search engine returns a patient’s comment:
“Rest in Peace, Dr. Jackson. 58 is much too young.”

And just like that, he is gone.
I check the date and blink my disbelief;
He has been dead two years.
Didn’t he adjust me six months ago?
More than seven hundred days he lived unchanged
In the white noise of my consciousness but there alive as ever
Though odd I hadn’t gotten a postcard reminder:
“Take action, call Jackson”
Nor a call from a friendly but ever new receptionist
Inquiring after my health.
My mind suspended him in the interim, no less vivid,
Gently scolding me for eschewing regular maintenance
And only coming to him in pain.
Would not God say the same in soothing tones of concern?
Was I doing my stretches?
Was I building core strength?

I scroll down his obituary.
I never knew he loved music,
That he wrote and played as did I.
How would I know to ask?
Nor did he know me outside those
Semi-annual twenty minutes
And the twin data points
Of my desk job and family.
I was one of hundreds to him,
As he was one of hundreds to me.
With a random comment and the right volley,
Who’s to say we might not have been friends?
Good friends? Best friends?

How many others, members of my supporting cast,
Touch me in the eccentric revolutions of daily life?
Bus driver waiting patiently.
Barista whose name I almost have.
They are ever present but at arm’s length
My shyness or theirs
The fact of an economic transaction
Tamping down the potential of friendship.
The ubiquity of interaction
Numbing us to the glory of genuineness,
The disease of the city.
Selling out intimacy: Welcome to Costco; I love you.

And yet they are a comfort
Until I one day circle back in pain
To find one gone
And the prospect of friendship
Gone with the transaction
Neither knew was the last.

–for Donald Vance Jackson. Thank you.