A night in 2008

Sitting at a table, legs pulled up to my chest; my jacket is black and oversized, a bit of red-and-black plaid peeping through the thick unzipped planes of dark wool. I'm listening, but not really. Good people, a lot of laughter. Good haircuts all around. We're passing around Pearl and Pabst Blue Ribbon and Miller High Life--horrible beers, but this is before I was picky about what beer I drank. Cigarettes and a few discarded cans crowd a small terra cotta pot in the center of the wrought iron table; faint smoke rises, but we're all talking and smoking and the hot breath and the cold air and the cigarette smoke are all just a jumbled mess, but it's not messy--it's destined. Artful even. I'm sitting in a cold green leather wing chair, the best chair on the porch. The roof is gone, so we can see stars through spindly tree branches and when I look up everything disappears. I don't hear the bits of conversation I was already ignoring and I don't think of whether or not I'm being looked at and I don't really feel anything physical, just an overwhelming sadness--sadness that this moment doesn't last forever, that a night like this only exists in most peoples' memories, yet everyone has it. Everyone, including my parents and theirs, has experienced this night, and that makes it even more sad. There's solidarity between me and the versions of me that lived in the eighties, and the sixties, and even before, but still I hate that it doesn't belong to me only. But that also makes it special. I look back down and color returns. Faint light. Someone's putting on a record, which I assume I'll most likely detest, and I wonder why we cannot just continue to sit here in quiet and stare at each other and why we aren't all in awe of how perfect this night is. I stare at a boy who's just moved in from Mexico, and his mattress is propped up against the wall in the yard. Can't really see it. Too dark. But he has just enough light on him from the cigarette-beer can candle to show off his long straight nose and thick eyebrows. Cute. Into me, maybe. A new acquaintance, one of the girls who has a neat haircut, leans over and whispers, "You two would have the most beautiful babies." I want to snicker something back but my heart jolts, and while I say nothing I feel suddenly ashamed and ugly and young. I've never learned to take complements. And this girl doesn't even know me, so her statements are weightless, despite their basis is strictly physical appearance. I suddenly hear the leaves under my feet and shuffle back and forth, crunching and sliding on the sandy porch. Perhaps it wasn't sandy, but in winter it seems everything is covered in a thin, imperceptible layer of cold dirt, and I feel this cold dirt as I slide back and forth. I can see that my Moment is fading and I look up at the sky again in hopes that I will feel alone again but I don't.

This is one of my favorite memories of my life, and it happened in Austin in late 2008. I had met a new group of friends, and with those friends completely found identity. I was no longer Dustin Is-He-Gay or Dustin Is-He-Smart: I was smart, friendly, gay Dustin. And that was nice. I'm often nostalgic about this one night in particular. You just can't recreate some things.