Flying to the Moon
Wesley Adam Rhodes
This day can only ever be your birthday. I admit there were times that I tried not to think of this day that way. Maybe it’s because I was in denial, hoping that by some miracle I’d get one more chance to celebrate with you in person. Or maybe it was more selfish than that, more about what I didn’t want to feel. Regardless of why I tried to forget, this has always been your day.
I ask her to go through all your files. Every video, voice memo, note, and photo gives me another precious fragment of you. One note, a favorite, reads:
“My buddy, 28, sure seems to be fond of peanut butter. He’s the only one to prefer it to bananas.”
The truth is I only liked it because you gave it to me. You had a magical power: the ability to see wonder in all things.
The alert is up and I have to go. The letter is almost finished, but your birthday is only beginning.
Memory carries a cost. You taught me this.
I pay in rage. Rage paid for all the moments stolen from you. Rage paid for the wrongdoing that cost so many lives. Rage paid for misunderstanding, for the failure of righteousness, for the frailty of innocence.
I did not get to say goodbye before they tore your bodies apart.
There are no easy days and few easy moments. Your birthday is no exception.
There are moments where it is you that I remember, and there are those when they barge in and blot you out.
It wouldn’t be so hard if I could see their faces as more distinguishable from my own. But to see your body crooked, smashed beneath a twisted version of myself: the rage knows this image best.
I hear a spine crack, a column of stone shatter. Images get strewn about my head. All is red.
Friends call me back to life, telling me that the work is done when I open my eyes.
My friend spoke to me in secret. She knows that today is a special day. We talk about you as if she had known you as well as I did. She indulges me for hours.
She asked me if I will need to return, looking up at the powdered face of the moon. “Need’? Perhaps not. Within friendship, needs and wants have a way of turning to smoke. All that we have is each other.
I light your candle to finish the letter.
You always whistled a particular tune while you fiddled with your databases and diagnostics. You were so happy the time that I hummed along. She found a video of you trying to teach me to dance using an old recording of the song. I remember hearing the words for the first time, thinking that the singer was you.
And just like you have a day, you have a song. She knows to play it when I’ve lit your candle. I always try to sing along. Especially the part that matters most.
“In other words, I love you.”
Happy birthday, Harry.