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Night Air

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I could have sworn I tasted the same night air before.

It was warm with a tinge of roses—budding, blooming, dying—nearby. Alcohol from the party wisped unappreciatively but familiarly, by. The streetlights were glowing as the last touches of sun were greedily consumed by the tender night.

The building in which I had exited was still alive with laughter and warmth from the ongoing dinner. The clinking of glasses, the bang bang of live music, the toddler’s happy shriek. People from all over, congregated in a single room for a single cause. It was a celebration, but try as I might, all I could think of worth celebrating was that I was almost done with another day.

Time goes so fast. Time goes so slow.

And people. So many people.

People repulse me. People attract me.

How many stories are in that building? Of which will I know, ever know?

A smile, a “Hope you have a great time!” when I know that after I attempt to make some awkward small talk, we’ll forget the other. Two people who met for a minute, never to see the other in the millions of minutes that may lie before us.

All I have left of you is a business card shoved at the bottom of my tattered black bag.

I was outside, stomach full, but not my heart, oh no, not my heart— waiting for my father to pick me up to go home.

Home.

The prospect felt so good. To get out of the collared top, the slacks, the pinched heels. Hair tied tightly back. Contacts removed. Face washed. Start homework. Perhaps, just perhaps, make something of myself.

Where I would not taste the air that felt so disturbingly familiar.

It had been a long, long day with more failure than success, more pain than glory.

But I am alive, healthy enough, strong enough, to experience the night, and that is much more than I can ask for. It could have all changed if I had made a different decision those many years ago.

I’m surprised I’ve gotten this far. The road ahead leads to the street intersection, flickering with car lights and fluorescent shop signs. Shadows leap and jump to the impending, crouching night. The road behind is dark but strangely intimate, the Westminster library and senior home. The playground of my youth.

I am afraid. The intersection ahead is my future; the community buildings behind is my past. I don’t know where to turn, who to ask, what to do.

I've done many condemnable things. Wrong things. Things that I am ashamed of and am reluctant to claim as my own actions and thoughts.

But as I stood in the night air, I didn't believe I regretted any of them. What happened has happened; there is nothing more to be done. The past cannot be changed and I can't be weighed down by it. There's only the future with the shadows, leaping and jumping. Even if I am only one person in a world of many, I am still a person with blood, tissue, bone.

I am proud-- not surprised, no, not surprised-- that I’ve gotten this far.

God has blessed me, indeed.

We’re small. Each one of us. There are people in the building behind me. They could be mothers talking about their children, businessmen making social connections to the local councilman, the waiter asking the cook, “Is the entrée done?” And when it’s all done, everyone will, like me, stand out into the night and eventually return home, wherever that may be or represent.

So small, so vulnerable in the grand scheme of things. But we’re all interconnected and have our own stories that distinguish and characterize us into the individuals we are.

The business card in my bag represents someone. Someone who undoubtedly met many challenges to get to his position. But in my bag he will stay until summer rolls around and I dump everything onto the backyard and toss his struggles, along with certainly that of many others, into the wastebasket.

My father comes from the street intersection.

I know I will taste the same night air again





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