First night

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The night was lovely, carefree and endless, with hot winds that sent clouds soaring and evoked summer cabins and childhood and drinking in parking lots on the seedy side of town.

It was everything “grown up” once promised and hardly delivered.

I walked to the reading, and it didn’t matter that the poems were overwrought and horrific. The wind whipped my kurta, that loose swath of linen tailored to my body by Pakistani men who held the tape measure an inch-and-a-half from my flesh, so as to maintain the purity of their souls. The boys were on the porch, beautiful gay boys with long eyelashes, so I sat there too, and the air swirled around us on our wrap-around Victorian, assuring us that soon, we’d have the storm we’d been waiting for.

We drank beer and talked hippie-fests and orgasms, meditation and cleanses. One boy cradled a dog, a skittish, leggy chihuahua mix, that looks like a tiny, birdy dinosaur. The upstairs crew came in, the guy who works at the arty magazine and a girl who looked cool, kind of plump and hip, like a indie-rock librarian, and his roommate with a cute but more boring-looking girl. Those two are the smokers. They leave overturned beer bottles and spill butts on the upstairs landing. I swept them up just this afternoon and cut away the ripped screen, so now we can all sit on the wooden banister thirty feet up and gaze at the rooftops of Quapaw.

Really, that’s where the evening started — among those rooftops and before bad poetry, when I drank a raspberry Shock Top and called Olivia in Boston, and we made fun of ourselves, our end-of-relationship drama. She laughed at my laugh, which made me laugh more, and those old-fashioned rooftops made me feel like I was in Boston, too.

Upstairs didn’t stay, just said hi and went in. But it felt like things could happen here, at this house, with the porch and the landing and the backyard and the sprawl, the myriad of ways to escape my airless shoebox. Now it’s the warm season. This could be just what I need.

A girlfriend came over, because the sleazy ex she dumped but still sleeps with had ditched her after dinner, and she needed distraction.

Around midnight, we all went in, the boys to do whatever, and the girls to make boxed mac-and-cheese, because I hadn’t eaten that day. The overhead lights blared, buzzy and hyper-real after the darkness, like the bare bulbs of a raw, island country or maybe, that marvelous wound that is the Mississippi Delta.

We took our bowls outside and sat in the backyard, on the bench I bought at Goodwill and chained to a concrete block so it wouldn’t get stolen. We could hear the upstairs chatter – they must have been on the landing or had their door open.

The wind snatched away our complaints about work and small-minds and bad match.com dates, and the night wound on until we felt delirious, high on beer and orange powdered cheese and electric-pre-storm air. It reminded me of my early-twenties, watching movies all night on the laptop with Tim on that back deck in Boston, or with Drew and Austin on the roof of the art co-op in Jackson, and of course, every post-party walk home with Monica that first endless summer, and then the second, quicker summer, when we never made it home before (the T stops running) midnight.

At 1 a.m., my friend left, and I went in and wrestled with the two windows that open (each, a mere crack), and slept, tightly at first, then fitfully, as lightening bounced through naked windows and around the walls of my bedroom. The sky growled, the cat cowered, and the world was made anew.

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