You Always Remember It Brighter Than It Was

“Your kidney is always fucked up,” Greg said.

“I know,” Tim said. “But still. It’s a bitch.”

In front of them lay the city, outstretched and inviting, but impossible in expanse. A lover who promised you the world, even though you knew you could only give yourself in return. It was that kind of night, but you were okay with it for once. The fireworks lit up the sky all over the place. The clouds were dark and low. It would have been apocalyptic with the flashes and bangs, but it was the 4th of July and Greg and Tim were at their yearly spot, overlooking everything, including their life.

“Thank god you bought a plane,” Greg said.

It was fortuitous. Tim had had a few planes over the last 20 years, all parked at Santa Monica Airport. For the last 15, he and Greg had taken to spending their Independence Days in lawn chairs at the end of the runway where lazy Beechcrafts and Cirruses parked.

“Yeah,” Tim said, passing Greg the bourbon they were sharing.

Pop, pop, bang, bang, for a dozen minutes of human silence. The two sat there, reclined, connected by familiarity but distant in memory.

“It’s just the one kidney now, right?” Greg asked.

“The one,” Tim confirmed. “Do I need another? I’ve been doing better with one than I did with two.”

“The bourbon doesn’t help.”

“It doesn’t hurt.”

“No. No, it doesn’t.” Greg took another swig, pausing with the bottle between his lips as a particularly spectacular concussion of lights flared.

Tim glanced sideways before looking at the ground. “Drink a little more,” he said.

“I’m not a child, and I’m not in college. It’s fine.”

“I’m not trynna baby you, Greg.”

“Of course not.”

“It’s okay to talk about it. About her. About that.”

Greg passed Tim the bottle with a passive expression, saying nothing. It was like that every year. Minutes of silence punctuated by companionship. The night exploded all around them and they soaked in the noise.

“You never expect it,” Greg said.

“Expect what?”

“Well, you do, but.. it’s never what you think. We’re old, Tim. We are old. We knew it was going to happen, we noticed as it happened, and now it’s happened. We’re firmly old. My hair is white. So is yours. So was hers. Our kids have kids. Everything was neatly checked off. We were neatly in love. The American dream was ours because we did okay for our blood and for the blood that will come after us. The only thing left for us to do was…”

“Die.”

“Yeah.”

Shattered silence. Splattered darkness.

“When she went, I —”

“Greg…”

“No, no, it’s fine. I mean, you’re right. I should talk about it, right?”

“If you want.”

“Don’t do that.”

“Do what?”

“That guilt thing you’re doing right now. No one cares. It’s not your fault my wife died,” Greg said.

“I know it’s not.”

“I miss her, that’s all.”

“It would be sick if you didn’t.”

“I guess so.”

“Why do we come here?”

“Eh, don’t be a moron. We come for the show. We come because we have nothing better to do with our damn selves.”

“Do the fireworks always suck?”

“Yeah, it always sucks. You should know that by now.”

“Why the fuck do you drag me out here?”

“I dunno. It’s your plane.”

“Still.”

“Whatever, Tim. Pass me the bottle. I always remember it brighter than it was. Sue me.” TC mark

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