I met my friend Paul about 22 years ago in Riobamba, Ecuador. I still remember it: I was the new kind in school. I walked into the classroom and there was a free spot at his right hand. He befriended me no questions asked. Since then we have prayed, fought, shared many things, gotten in trouble (mostly everyday) drank, and have been there for each other. It is hard for me to write “non-religious” poetry but I challenged myself to write this ode to my best friend, my brother, who has a heart as big as the moon and a smile as wide as the sun.
Lester, this is for you…
29 years… 28 years… 22 years…
You and I grew up together like to black and white carnations.
We shared times and names that are but written in our consciousnesses.
We used to walk to school on crispy Riobamba winter mornings and come back home in buses,
Joking, looking for the next adventure: we were ready for it all.
As I remember you so clearly while flipping my phonebook’s pages:
I see the names of faces I have completely forgotten:
They were our friends, our loves and benefactors; musicians, poets and actors
-who like you and I had vanished from the face of our old town.
You and I are but two drops of water about oceans of people in the planet
But we still run through the fields and somehow we give life.
We have smoked hundreds of cigarettes and traveled here and there and fought,
Because our friendship has never taken away some of our identities.
Sometimes I gaze into the nights and then I fold them like umbrellas.
Sometimes I gaze into myself and see the adolescence years:
I walked the streets following the wind and feeling so tired,
But I never walked alone, for I had you walking along.
And you are still here. And you are there: right when friends come back to basics
You are here with a big smile, a joke and a cold beer.
You are here to show me that true friendship means more than superficialities,
You are here because I am here, appreciating you.
I know so well that this poem will not change our lives
Neither have I known why we journey through infinite searches;
What is that that moves me to follow God and you to follow love?
-So that our tomorrow will shine, for tomorrow will be good.
Live your life and you will see that you are never alone
Be on your way and you shall find the right path towards heaven.
Along the way you will hear your heart beating in peace:
You had found your true love, your real love.
Sometimes I dream of you and see you the way you were when I met you:
Big brackets, big hair, green sweater, gray pants and big innocent eyes:
That was Paul, my buddy, my best friend, my subtle advisor and my brother
Thank you for your friendship. Happy birthday.
Paul and I at Saint Joseph College Seminary. Fall 2000.
(picture courtesy of paulnaranjo.8m.com).