Dear Walt,

There’s a Guy Clark song, My Favorite Picture of You, that he wrote after the passing of his wife of forty years. She was a songwriter, as was he. I wonder if they shared an office, worked side by side, grabbing ideas from the ether at the same time, creating in the silence enveloping both of them… though I suppose their songs required a bit more sound to come to life than our novels.

I made a folder in my phone’s photo gallery (two thousand plus pictures) and filled it with those I’d taken of you. There are around three hundred. There are more of the cats and dogs. And of food. Though dozens of those have hints of you in them. Maybe your hand as you crumbled goat cheese onto tomato cheese toast for breakfast. I am so going to miss your breakfasts. Having you climb the stairs to my office and set a plate on my desk. Omelets usually. We would eat together there and talk and then you’d move to your office… when you still had one.

I took two photos of you in May of last year. I have no idea why because we were sitting in the food court at Costco, mostly likely eating hot dogs. Or pizza. I actually have no memory of that day which is strange because of the photos. I must’ve had a reason for taking them.

In the first, you’re giving me a serious side-eye, a bit of an “Oh, really?” Or your famous, “Uh-huh.” (How many times was that your response to something I texted you?) As if you want to roll your eyes at what I’m saying. (More than likely you were rolling your eyes at me taking the shot.) In the second, you’re giving me that flirty eye-smile you did so well, as if enjoying whatever I’d said in response, a joke I’d made maybe. (We were so good at the jokes, feeding off whatever the other had said. We were so good at everything. At just… everything.)

I’ve taken to talking to the first photo, telling you whatever it is I need you to know. Then I flip to the next to see you respond, flirting with me, enjoying me, loving me. I can see it in your eyes. I zoom in and they’re focused right on me. Such a beautiful blue. You’re wearing your glasses. And your hair is way too long, showing the gray you hated, but at least it’s combed. Your dimple is so clear as you grin. This was before Harvey.

You had many things to grin about then. Life was good then. Oh, our writing progress sucked. I was stuck on something. You were slamming through the first draft of the second Icefall book. We probably talked out some plot point, or you told me what scene you were working on. This was our routine. Work until mid-afternoon when we realized it was late lunch time, then knocking out errands and eating enough that we could call lunch dinner, too. We talked story over every meal. I’d bounce ideas off you and you’d solve all my problems. I’m not sure how I’m going to make anything work without your input, but I’ll figure it out the way I’m figuring out everything.

I’ll pull up your “Oh, really?” photo and hear you point out all the problems with my idea just as you did with my newest project early in the week before December 21st happened. I’ll see you shake your head as I argue. You’ll rudely (yes, rudely) point out the holes in my logic. Then I’ll figure out a solution that works for me and I’ll flip to your flirty image and having your approval, I’ll go on.

It meant everything to me to have your approval because of how hard it was to earn it. You were my toughest critic as I found out when you read Call Me. We’d met just the once in person, but I’d sent you the book… and you read it. The whole thing. And because you were you, you told me something I’d done wrong, something that wouldn’t work. I fixed this something when I reissued the digital version, which made you laugh. And give me your beautiful flirty eye-smile.