Charles is dead. In a flash, he’s exited this world leaving me with nothing but my guilt. I won’t be riding on the back of a rickety motorcycle, pressed between his broad damp shoulders somewhere on a dirt road in Southeast Asia. I’ll no longer murmur my prayers for him, destined to an unknown country or cry from exasperation at his drunken public antics.

Bago was supposed to be our next city. The selfish, reckless bastard.

There’s a storm brewing tonight over the water. A thick muggy mist separates me from the distant scene on the other side of the harbor, forming an impermeable film. It’s the only thing that touches my skin. A strange weightlessness creeps through the fibers of my body as if to float me above and over the bay to Kowloon.

Their faces waft gently in and out of my consciousness. So many people, so many different people. I know I’ll never see them again. And if I live beyond this they’ll only become a questionable memory. Even now I’m not sure that any of it is real.

This means nothing to me.

Greg, you’re here with me tonight. I will remember you, your sweet face and your clear innocent eyes. It’s the first time I’ve noticed their color, wintry and reptilian. Such a jarring contrast to the warmth that emanates from your open spirit. I’ll remember the gravelly texture of your voice that calms me, your calloused hands. Your every move and word a calculated but well meaning pretext, my gentle interlude.

A faint numbing buzz vibrates beneath the shallow surface of my skin. Apart from this unnamed sensation, nothing touches me, nothing reaches me.

You turn to look at me and I smile. I wear my robot well. She’s disciplined and responsive, well trained. I rattle off my verses dutifully.

A low, suppressed sigh escapes me.

I think to you, Eric. You taught me not to give a shit. It was the one thing you were so convinced of- this expansive and limitless futility, and after all these years you’ve managed to convince me. The weight of your ego pushed all the breath and remaining life force out of my chest. I love you and I wish you well.

It doesn’t mean a motherfucking thing to me. There is no tragedy, no light, no triumph nor betrayal that could shake me. The only thing I mourn is the loss of my ability to mourn at all.

The shadowy figures that have rallied around me have melded into the background, reduced to an innocuous nuisance. Their incessant demands on my time and energy fall like clanging nails onto a shaky roof. They stretch their mouths open, gasping for air between greedy bites, chipping their teeth on caustic iron. Shame is not an element in this game.

Their obsessions and their petty wars mean nothing. Their flimsy facades and their carefully construed personas mean nothing. This will all fall away.

Others have been kind and generous. These are the lights that have sustained me. I’ll carry them with me. The only thing I am deeply grateful for.

The sky is a murky deep red tonight- the color of beet juice stain, transparent and dotted with the flickering lights of Hung Hom across the water. Towering oil rigs traverse the backlit skyline, forming stark geometric slices in the brilliant multicolored gradient. I will remember this. I will take this with me.

The details are sharp, coming into focus as if I were taking it all in for the last time. Greg, your voice jolts me back to the present. You’re recounting all the things I used to long so deeply for and now know I’ll never have. I should be sad but I’m not.

My sensations return with a sudden rush. Your warm hard thigh is pressing with intention against mine. I turn towards you and you towards me. Your expression is so unassuming, open and eager with anticipation as if you were receiving a gift. Your bright, round features are arranged in a pleasant constellation on your broad face. You’re a sort of angel in this foggy dream, if angels existed.

I won’t ruin this with a fuck.

Charles, you left behind a destitute lover, my little brother. I send a prayer up to the heavens for your soul. I’m perturbed by my lack of faith that I hurriedly push down beneath my gut.

It’s suddenly all so clear, laid out before me like an old hymn sung over and over and it’s only now that I grasp the meaning. This is a blip in eternity that stretches on beyond my human comprehension. I give in to the complete loss of control and it’s here that I find my peace. Far away from this confused jumble of getting and spending as we prolong death. I’m succumbing to the reaches of unreality and therein lies my Truth. I’m going to miss this.