In the morning, I was at school, in some administrator's overwarm office, sitting next to the bravest student I've ever met. After the verdict, I drove her and her boyfriend to the top of Peace Point, where you can see the school nestled on its hill so many miles away. You can see the dormitories, which look august and old but, I'm told, were cheaply made. You can see the academic buildings, where students learn and write and act on stage and dilute hydrochloric acid, where they sit outside the cafeteria strumming guitars, where they go to buy books, where they go to pay a parking fine, where they go when they've been violated and they want to say it wasn't right, what happened to them. You can see the tower rising up out of red brick, its white face nearly gleaming, even in the muted winter light. A snow was falling, but not sticking to anything--not on the horses covered with their blue tarps, not in the branches of the half-bare trees. It was over, for now, anyway. I slipped back into the car when they embraced. I wanted to give them distance: miles and miles of it, the road closing up behind them, sewing the wound of what had happened.
Later, I was with my brother. It was his birthday, this man who's been my best friend. We had Mexican food and a margarita. He opened presents while I felt guilty I hadn't had the time to wrap the gifts properly. I wanted to make them beautiful for the tearing.
Later, after a disco nap, we were in some bar in the middle of the glamorous part of town. Outside, the cold got colder, and white lights spread ineffectual fingers in the trees. The streets were lined with dark windows that did not reflect us.
Toward the end of the night, my brother flirted with some man who was rushing out, some beautiful man with light in his eyes. He was a nurse, had patients in the morning, needed sleep. But, mostly, his friends were leaving him and he needed a ride back home. He laughed, charmed, at my brother's spirited flirting.
How do you tell other people: this man right here, this man flirting with you, this drunk man who is being a bit too insistent, this man could make all the difference in your life. He's unforgettable. Don't be an idiot. Go out into the cold and the night and think of him. He's all you'll ever need to get right.
Happy birthday, Dustin.