The Night Before the Night Before Leaving
I go to the Cove Crawl at the old boarding school. School is done, my teaching friends have their lives back, and the rain gods have blessed us a clear enough night for raucous outdoor activities accompanied by beverage and pipe.
It is a sure sign of early summer when woodstoves become bookshelves or pedestals for drink coasters, drunk party-goers planting their cushy asses half-cheeked onto the cold, metal tops, dogs barking at deer in the pasture, the moon crawling across the sky like the lazy smile of the Cheshire cat.
We dance to the Violent Femmes and tipsy on hard cider and moonshine I recall my first boyfriend in college, Matt Whitman; the softness of his skin as we bounced innocently next to each other at a live VF show, the necessity of phone cards afterwards to continue our long distance relationship, the bus ride across pale Washington deserts of sage and saggy rivers to knock on his front door. His mom served fajitas, noticed my manners, then left us alone for the rest of the weekend; twisted sheets and Kurt Cobain hair – I remember thinking it was love and later understanding how it wasn’t.
Outside, the dogs wait patiently on the outskirts of the party, one ear to the wild and two eyes on their owners; faithful. Conversation ebbs and flows like the river I paralleled on that bus to see Matt so many years ago. Uncensored, Todd takes center stage with drink in hand wearing a red-sequined devil horn headband. We discuss pushing the mind to its outer limits, the temporary clarity of drug-induced experiences, the initial scientific experiments that Harvard University conducted by giving shaman LSD (registering, in awe, the total lack of effects on such enlightened beings).
I toe the line between fully experiencing the party and being the fly on the wall, a continual dilemma in my life. There is a desire to give in, to dance like I used to when I worked so hard I didn’t have time to consider the effects of partying on my creative spirit, to drink like I did as a rugby player when the men were in abundance and my metabolism worked feverishly to keep up with my habits. It was not a life I regret, nor one that I mourn the loss of. There can be a simple peace in memories, easy, like water following its course, like a dog sniffing dandelion blossoms in boredom, like friends dancing wildly for no good reason except for the moment, the feel, the laughter, the richness of it all, the grace of celebration in its rawest form, the elation of presence.