Serge was a poet. Not the kind who wrote poetry, or wrote anything at all, but the kind who looked at the same world you and I do and saw something different. Where we saw trees and clouds and each other he saw oaken towers, silver linings, and all the things we pretend we’re not. Serge preferred baths to showers, silence to small talk, and cognac to water. He breathed through the pores of his skin and knew love and lies by their aromas.
Sergio was one of the names he liked to use, but to me he was always Serge. Serge Apropos or Serge Apoplectic or Serge Onomatopoeia. His last name was always changing. He said that’s what last names were for. It wasn’t until after he died that I found out the last name he was born with: Johnson. I still can’t reconcile it with him.
Serge liked women. He liked men too and often said that some of his best friends were men, but isn’t that what racists say about blacks? and anti-Semites about Jews? If he had male friends other than me I never knew about them. When you call everybody ‘darling’ it’s just as well if your friends are female. Most of them don’t mind being called ‘darling’ or ‘sugar’ or ‘sweet feet’ or any of the other pet names he sprinkled on us like holy water.
Serge bought one fresh flower on his way to work each morning and placed it in the lapel of his jacket. He wore that same thin, gray jacket every day, whether it was below freezing or 100° and I never once saw him shiver or sweat. He said the flower kept him cool and warm.
Serge is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery up in the Bronx, where I live. Each morning, before I take the train in to Grand Central, I stop at the florist, pick out the freshest flower I can find, and place it carefully on his grave.
Rest well, Serge.