Ghosts With Bones

Every other day of the year

he’s dead.

Today he lives in my mind.

The funny smart-ass kid that bounced around when he was six and I was eleven,

I was Matthew and he was Matthew but when we finally got to meet he became Little Matt and I became Big Matt.

Uncle Matt is a cool cat, Little Matt would tell his friends and I swear I wasn’t the cool kid,

But he thought I was.

Every other day of the year he’s a memory, a nineteen-year-old tragedy cut short by a bad decision.

Today he’s laughing while I wrestle him in the living room in Davenport, Iowa. Today he’s playing his guitar and running with his friends. Today he’s busting his lip open on the side of a car. Today he’s hitting a tree with an aluminum bat and having the bat bounce back and smack him in the forehead.

I tried to be what he thought I was.

The truth is, I wanted to be him.

Popular, easygoing, fun. Not many worries in life, just think of something fun and do it.

Every other day of the year he’s gone.

Today, he’s here with me.

I heard his voice in my heart, while I sat at his funeral. I knew I was going to get up and read his eulogy and I started feeling nervous. I started feeling like I was going to chicken out.

He said, you don’t know your own strength.

He was right. I got up and I heard his mom, my sister, gasp in surprise. She didn’t know I’d be reading for him.

I stood there and his friends all put their hands on my shoulders, I stood strong and I spoke clear.

The last time I saw him we went to the side of Lookout Mountain in Golden and hung out under the stars.

He was talking about one more year of high school and I told him,

Matt, you can’t stay a kid forever. It’s time to get on with your life. Get your diploma and start being a grown-up.

Every other day of the year he is the ghost haunting my bones, the ache I can’t soothe, the sorrow I can’t shake.

Today he’s the bright-eyed young man that everyone loves.

Today he’s Little Matt.

Today I’m cool.

We’re both Matt, we’re both cool.

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