Old Phone Number

I found your old phone number
written in my torn high school address book.
I think of you often, though you died decades ago.
There was your phone number crossed out with a ballpoint pen.
The last number from when you lived in California
to pursue your career in acting.

My future wife and I visited you in Studio City.
You drove us to the community theater where you performed.
The same theater where Leonard Nimoy from STAR TREK started his career.
Cell phones had not yet been invented. So, you couldn’t be away
too long from your apartment, from your dial phone,
in case an agent called with an acting role on TV or a movie.

You always smoked cigarettes, over two packs a day.
Smoking relaxed you. It also gave you lung cancer at an early age.
Despite aggressive treatments, the abnormal cells kept increasing.

We spoke on the phone every weekend, even laughed sometimes.

Now, a lifetime later, I call your number from a landline.
The phone on the other end rings like an irritating mantra,
but no one picks it up to say hello.
I slowly hang up. Then, my mind hears your distinct voice,
a conversation you had with me about the importance of body language.
Like when you played King Lear for your final college theater project.
You spoke to the audience with silent poetry living in your eyes.
There was a soliloquy in your pensive pacing footsteps.
Unspoken grimaces molding on your face
painted the performance space with brilliant abstract colors.
You were so alive portraying Shakespeare's tragedy.

Your memory stays with me, a friend's unwritten signature.
I write this poem with wistful words,
so that others will meet you, and get to know you.

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