Comfort & Joy
by Christopher Soden

_____________for David

It was less than a week until Christmas
and the friends at my party were feeling
rushy and effusive. Laughter brimmed.
Singing and spilling and driven,
endless, emotional conversations.

Luxurious hugs and enormous smooches.
Frenetic gags and anecdotes. Fine mist
of alcohol to slow the circulation
and coat the world in innocuous glaze.

A close friend of mine from work,
David, asked to speak to me in private,
so we went to my bedroom. He told me
a man we both knew had struck his wife
in the kitchen. Several people were upset,

and David most visibly so. He had hugged
Amy, to say goodbye, and Greg (whose grasp
of love was mostly predatory and rapacious)
slapped her. Some thought I should call

the cops, or ask Greg to leave. I didn't know
what to do. I was scared and agitated.
I pretended to be level headed, but mostly
I just wanted to avoid a confrontation.
He hit her, Christopher,  David said.

His voice broke and I let him nestle
within my arms as the sobs came,
and hated myself for being afraid
of Greg, the charming, butch troglodyte.

We were there talking in my sanctuary
for awhile. I let myself  (when it was
appropriate) kiss David, which I had
wanted to do for months. It felt fierce
and raw and urgent and he responded

in kind, like an astonishing nova  
erupting in a black cold Eastern sky.
as we walked up to the Seven-Eleven
for cigarettes, he told he wanted me.

Many other things happened that evening.
Around two, the remaining guests went
out for an early, raucous breakfast.
We all felt gentle and buoyant and jovial.
Potatoes and ham and eggs and gravy
with coffee and champagne and cocktails.

Around five or six, I guess, David
called me to come and collect him.
Greg had apparently come back
and slashed his tires. I brought him
home, and prepared the guest room.

David was talking feverishly
(something I loved about him)
and stoked with adrenaline.
He said, C'mon Christopher,
put on a pot of coffee, I can't
go to sleep right now.

But I had to beg off.  Looking back
on that night, I can't believe I was
so utterly dense. I was overcome.
Morpheus drowned the alluring
duet of Aphrodite and Dionysus.

I took him home on Sunday afternoon,
and called him Monday evening.
His brother told me they'd had to check
David in at Timberlawn. Though I knew

he'd had serious problems before,
this was news I wasn't really expecting.
I didn't hear from David again
for years: when I thought I'd completely
and unmistakably forgotten about him.

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