Philia, Agape


Terese Robison

Two men in different parts of my life were my other half, my “soul mates.” They were Barry (1) and Bob (2). If they had known each other, we might have had a soul triangle.   

We could say anything to each other.                                                        

I met Barry when we were both expatriates in Mexico City. Impish and slim, Barry was all lightness and curved-up smile, he was gaiety beyond “gay.” He called me darling, and the two notes of the word were tickling and easeful. I had a darkness helped by some ease.       

Barry was an actor and lyricist, and I a dilettante. We both moved back to New York City after a few years. I visited him on 13th Street off Fifth Avenue, inhaling the freshness of those surroundings.

When I moved to Danbury, CT, my second other half pulled me into friendship almost at first sight. Bob taught gifted students at the school where I was a sub. A failed poet and novelist, he was also a failed hedonist, he claimed. But his whooping laugh poked holes in that theory while I knew him. He planned to pile his unpublished books on his grave, where they’d sell and make a killing; he relished thinking that.                                 

If B1 and 2 had known each other, we would have had a three-way of the soul. We’d make an agape love feast, perhaps. At this communal meal, we’d dine on red papaya sprinkled with lime, tacos of squash flower, barbecued goat and Irish stew, caramel flan, whiskied fruited tea loaf…

The plural of agape (agapae) also can mean funerary gatherings, but we certainly don’t want to think about that, the three of us. We don’t want to think of Barry’s death from AIDS at thirty-five or Bob’s sepsis in his sixties. He wasn’t sincerely old and would never have been.    

We won’t hear Barry telling me, “I’ve plucked hope’s last feathers, darling,” during our final phone call. He was cachectic, used up; I would be horrified seeing him “in flagrante derelicto” (his brio rising for an instant once more?).                                                                                 

A late poem of Bob’s has a line we might wonder about, “Death isn’t the lights going out forever, it’s seeing clearly in the dark.”                                                               

During a brief part of my life I had soul mates. I let them out of my thoughts for only a few moments, and they were gone.                                                                                                          

But not entirely. We’re picnicking in forms of friendship. Adding flavors to the feast.        


About the Author

Terese Robison has lived in Mexico and several states in the U.S. She’s been a book editor, interpreter, and tutor-mentor for youth on probation and now teaches writing at community colleges. Her work has appeared in Hiram Poetry Review, West Texas Literary Review, Tahoma Literary Review, *82 Review, BULL, Pithead Chapel, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, LitroNY, Permafrost and other journals, as well as in several anthologies compiled from awards.