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The Wool Cap


We watched The Wool Cap — William H Macy — and marveled from the cave that you converted into a bedroom in the garage.

I remember the night a spider crawled onto your hand from the inside of your guitar, and you threw it against the wall so hard that it knocked your mother’s china off the dining room wall on the other side of the thin barrier between your father, and us three.

At two a.m. we donned our own stocking caps, packed our favorite batch of Santa Fe No. 05, a small flask, and snuck East with nocturnal youth fueling the fire inside. Or maybe they were one in the same.

I remember when one of us dove into the arroyo. It was empty. He landed headfirst on a concrete slope that has proven to be the perfect incline for the two of our friends who said I do at the base of the foothills and bombed the ditch in celebration, but didn’t serve him as well as a drunk teenager.

We walked to the smoking bridge. The one above Tramway and not-quite-Candelaria. The one we used to frequent on the days when you were able to convince the gas station clerk to slip you a cigarillo and a pack of cloves beneath the counter.

You talked about God and Blue Like Jazz. The first book we read that told us something more about him.

We cursed like sailors.

Eventually, I wrote some of those conversations down in a journal that I photocopied and gave to my dad for his birthday. I used a permanent marker and blotched out every f-word, but kept the rest of them in.

It felt like I was trusting him with something.

I remember him laughing about the faux censorship. And worrying, too. Not so much as he did after he saw my first show that prophetic night - so long ago - at Winnings Coffee. But he always worried when he read beneath the surface.

And I mean “read.”

Man used to read my journals and ask me questions about them like it wasn’t supposed to infuriate me the way that it did.

We got our pipes from Stags and smoked tobacco above the city before crossing into the Open Space and climbing higher up the mountain.

Rattlesnakes and coyotes everywhere beneath the cool of the night sky, full moon like a flashlight God held, shining grace on a narrow path tread upon by wobbly men trying to keep themselves in line.

At the top of the highest boulder we could climb, we prayed together for hours and didn’t descend until the sun began to rise behind us.

God was real, then. Rising.

You were one of my favorite gifts he ever gave to me.

Most nights like this, we’d make too much noise making breakfast burritos in the kitchen and wake your parents up. Your dad would walk into the room, laughing at us. Remembering, maybe, what it was like to be his son’s age. Loving the taste of it.

He followed us up the mountain one time, in Jemez. He held the only lantern, and once we’d hiked to the top, at midnight, he blew it out and started laughing and screaming and we ran down the hillside in the blackest maze I’d ever experienced up until I found the one in the mirror after we graduated, and parted ways.

And then, when the rest of the house woke for the day, we went to bed.

And I don’t know what I dreamt then, but I still - sometimes - dream about you now.

We were boys.

All of us to blame, I think.

I didn’t know that you had to get out on your own in order to come back home. Late bloomer, I suppose. Taking after the old man. He grew five inches after he graduated from high school, and my heart’s finally being forced to grow beyond the parameters I created for comfort’s sake.

Or just because it’s what I had to do.

Go gentle on yourself, son.

One night, or the first night, we weren’t sure you were going to make it. I’m glad you did, my friend.

I’m glad we both did.