The Versions of Us | A Poem For Alex Weinstein

11 years ago today, three members of my family died suddenly on the way to the dentist, when their car was hit by a driver who was so drunk the doctors were shocked he was even conscious. He is now serving three life sentences back to back for second-degree murder, and every year on the anniversary of the deaths of Alex Weinstein (age 12), Sam Weinstein (age 9), and their mother Judy Weinstein (age 49), I make a point of publicizing how the accident has affected me and my family, as a public service announcement to please for the love of all that is good and holy, never drink and drive. Gary Weinstein, who lost his wife and children in that accident, was then and continues to be the strongest and most forgiving person I know. I remember Alex more strongly than I remember Sam or Judy, because he was my closest friend at the time, more than just a cousin. Three days before the accident, I spent the weekend at their house in Michigan and for some reason I had a tape recorder with me, to record our adventures. I still have the tape. Alex would be 23 now, and every year my memories of him get further and further away. I was a child then, and I am 21 now, but he will always be 12 in my memories. Both Sam and Alex loved theatre, and it is both painful and beautiful to think that, had they lived, our careers might have run along the same paths. I tried for so long to find a way to write this poem, but I was overthinking it. Ultimately, I just wrote how I felt, and this is the result. This is a poem for Alex.

The Versions of Us

I wish I could tell your story.

And not just the short version,
The PSA,
The guilt trip,
To convince my friend to just get a cab home.

I want to tell the version
Where you land the lead in the school play,
And your dad buys the first ticket
And sits next to your mom on opening night.
I want to know what their faces looked like,
I want to know the sound of the applause,
And the name of your co-star.

I want to tell the version
Where you take your girlfriend to the prom in a limo
And there’d be photos on Facebook of you in a tux
And I’d comment “Wish I was there!” on every single one.
I want to hear your valedictorian speech over the phone,
I want to know the passion in your voice
And hear the subtle hint of
“Thank God I’m going to college.”

I want a version where you tell me about wild freshman parties
And one-night stands
And, maybe you tried drugs and told me it wasn’t worth it.
I want to visit you at Harvard, or Yale,
I want to proofread your research papers
And pop the champagne when you get the news about your dream job.

I want a version
Where we grew up together.
I want a version
Where we had a life.
I want to know the adult you would be,
And I want to know that adulthood
Is as terrifying for you as it is for me,
That growing up is awful.
I want to promise to each other
That we’ll Peter Pan this out together,
Run away to Never Land and co-captain a pirate ship
Or… something.

But maybe…
Maybe growing up, in this version
Wouldn’t be so bad.
In this version,
Where I get to sing at your wedding
And play with your kids
And drink wine with your wife.
This version that didn’t end before its time,
That wasn’t left at a traffic light
In a torn-up Honda Accord.
Maybe adulthood would be okay,
If I knew that you were doing it too.


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