The night my best friend’s mom killed herself, I was eighteen and home for the Christmas holidays. I got the call (simple, whispered: my mom is dead, can you please come over?) and drove to his house. I was surprised at the cop cars, at yellow crime scene tape. I thought it would be a private thing, just my friend and his mom and death. People in suits scribbled in notebooks. Neighbors stood quiet in the corner and cried.
He was sitting at the kitchen table.
“Hey, John Gee.” He said both names, like always.
I went to him and knelt at his feet. I don’t know why I did this, it just seemed right. I wrapped my arms around his knees and I hugged him. The happy living room, the lit Christmas tree, the pile of half-folded clothes. I had no idea how long she had been dead, how long before he called the cops, how long he sat by his dead mother, listened for a heartbeat, held her hand in his own until it grew cold, tucked a stray lock of gold behind her ear. I squeezed his legs so tight he made me let go.
But see, I was remembering.
How this one time we lied to our parents and drove my granddad’s gray Ford truck, nicknamed Piece-A-Shit, to Birmingham on a school night to see an all-girl punk band called The Bellyrazors. Me and him were in love with all of them and figured if we lied about our ages we had a chance.
But my truck died on the way there and we had to sleep on the side of the road. It was cold, thirty-degree weather. We huddled together in the truck bed under a pile of blankets, like how we wanted to be with punk girls from the North who had tattoos and lip rings, who wore leather pants and no bra. We knew we would be asswhooped when we got home, grounded, banned from each other, the worst punishment imaginable for best friends.
Luck was with us, though. Luck was always with us, in one way or another, even if it was just some hangdog luck that showed up two hours late, drunk, with half its teeth knocked out. What I mean is that night the sky was wide and clear and sharp with cold. That night the moon was a bride all in white, waiting for us. That night the stars gathered like fish caught in a net, wriggling and squirming, fighting to bust themselves free.
What I mean is that night there was a meteor shower.
Long silvery fingers of light reached down to us, scratching across the midnight sky. It was like God was angry, wild with love and beauty and wrath, like He came home from work that night swinging his fists, knocking the stars around. Like He flung all that beauty down at us just to see if we could take it. Fire scarred the sky, and the moon was full and blank-faced, looking on like a sober wife.
“You can wish on shooting stars,” he said.
“Who wants to do kid shit like that?” I said.
“I do,” he said.
“Me too,” I said.
“I’m gonna wish on every star that falls,” he said. “I’m going to have so many wishes stored up that good things will rain down me like a storm. That I’ll be drenched head to toe in the good stuff.”
The stars fell.
And they fell and they fell.
I remembered this, and in my mind I saw his mother dead, in her bedroom, even though by then they had taken her to the ambulance already. I saw her rise up from her body, all pure white fire. I saw the sickness slough off of her mind, the divorce and pain and insanity drop off like an old ragged bathrobe. I saw her become all of our wishes. I saw her rise up to heaven like a shooting star in reverse and leave both of us boys alone against the ravenous world. I knew then that we must cleave together, pooling our light, lest the wolf-thin darkness devour us, lest all be lost. I felt our souls become stitched together, our hearts sewed into one with pain and with fire and with light.