NOSTALGIA #1: Toms I Have Known

Photograph by Grace Spicer-Brown
Photograph by Grace Spicer-Brown

There’s Tom from across the street, fifteen or so houses down,

who studies marine biology. He plays the guitar

and wears caps.

I was getting mail out of the letterbox when he came up on his bicycle

and asked if that was me playing drums before.

I said Yeah, that was me playing drums before, to which he said,

Great fills.

We sometimes play music together,

Tom on guitar, me on drums.

The drumkit is made up of parts

from the drumkits of other friends,

neither of whom are named Tom.

Tom recorded us playing,

but has had trouble getting it off his iPod Touch.


Another Tom once sent me his writing,

with a questionnaire attached that asked the reader to evaluate the story.

Feedback on things like composition, like verisimilitude,

like plot, structure, phrase. I remember

I told him that he used a word

too many times in one paragraph,

(though I forget which it was).

Back then, I had few critical ideas.

Later, I sent him my writing—

first drafts in Word Docs, or copied/pasted into Facebook chat.

Sometimes we emailed. He was very nice about everything.

He would highlight phrases he liked in red, and write long comments

about things he deemed well-put.

It kind of sounds like Tom’s dead, or like we had a big fight.

He’s not—he just lives in another city and,

for a pretty long time, only owned one shirt,

I think. Once he said, ‘If I had any money right now,

I would spend it on clothes, not books.’


We had a gardener, Tom, who rode a bicycle,

to which he attached a cart to transport the

tools he needed to work, and the tree limbs and weeds that were it.

He had long hair, and he stood in our backyard,

digging things out of the ground and pruning,

while I practiced guitar with the amplifier turned down to quiet.

I had holes in my pants and wore a Bad Brains t-shirt.

He would swear at himself, shout things like,

Tom, you fool, or even, like, Idiot

exasperated, angry, palm-to-face stuff.

When he was in the garden, I would stay inside. I feared him

though I did not and do not know why.

This was 2011, 2012. In the end,

Tom charged too much and didn’t even prune the right stuff,

Mum said.