The sultry, summer evening air clings to the skin of my comrades. The people before me are the real troopers, the ones who stood by when all else wasn’t, when hopes were thin and times were strenuous. They are positioned around me in a circular fashion, with a bright, fiery mass anchoring us as one. The day’s sun sinks beneath the gold crowns of the young corn as the coolness of the night encroaches upon us, ever so gently. The pieces of the zodiac rise from the east but are broken by the cast of a full moon’s might. A distant hoot of an owl frames the background but is muffled by the occasional slurs of our lyrics of choice.
To my left is a very special person. Her name is Hannah Jane. She’s a sweet girl who always places the happiness of others before her own. She is free-spirited and seems to never hesitate to attend a last minute “get-together” when some parents are out-of-town such as this.
Preceding her is Rachel. She is one of more maturity and reserve out of the group. Nonetheless, she too seemingly never declines an offer to get a little rowdy. She’s caring and is the type of person to fight right by your side, especially with a few drinks in her.
Then there’s Ray. He worries me from time to time. The type of kid to not fully think before he speaks, but in a light-hearted way. Be forewarned that he may leave the occasional shirt or sock once the festivities are over, leaving your mom to wonder who was at the house during their absence.
Next to him sharing a joke is Alex (“Bear”). This one is Ray’s twin, but tends to hit the burner a little beyond my liking. He’s the one you really don't hear from that much but who you still want to show up with some spliffs, smoked at the yard’s corner of course.
Jake, making fun of the two, is laid back fresh from shotgunning a few. He is king at playing it cool, but at times acts cooler than reality. He has anyone’s back and never fails to liven-up the gaggle. Maybe its his demands to, “Smack the Bag.”
Oh boy, the trifecta is next. These are my friends Katie, Ty, and Lexi. They are real people who do very little sugarcoating. They joke, laugh loudly, but love immensely. They too would dive to the depths of troubled waters to make sure you grab that floating life ring above. As Ty tells some endless story about his day on the docks, Katie is shouting about to Rachel across form here. Meanwhile, Lexi is downing shots of God knows what.
The sweetheart enters full view. Her name is Lauren. She is what I sometimes think of as the mom of the group. She knows the tricks of the trade in the departments of cleaning and control. She's a keeper, but one who is gradually drifting away. But that’s life.
Her best friend, Alex, has also showed this evening. She’s a go-getter and will give it to you straighter than boards. But that’s why I am so fond of her. I have missed her company has well, but it’s nothing personal I’m sure.
The fire is bellowing in anger as each of our laughs echo from the oaks rooted to the west. A light breeze gradually decreases the humid fixation of the day’s record-setting mercury. The moon is now some forty degrees over us. Our shadows play against the shed wall like younger versions of ourselves. We were all just together, sitting at a cafeteria bench or in our formation of classroom desks, thinking about the future. We had lofty dreams, surely bigger than our britches. But I like to think that they will become reality soon, when we’re all millionaires and famous. But will we be the same people I see placed before me today?
Reaching the midpoint of the arch before me is Jiordan. She, by far, the most free and flowing thinker. She does things differently and is never afraid to float about her own tide. But she can’t stay away for long. We simply won’t allow of that.
By her side is Elizabeth. She’s, well, unique. She has a somewhat abrasive personality but means the best. She’s ever so kind to the host, but at times may ruin her welcome by the clinging of beer cans as she accidentally knocks over the kitchen counter pyramid.
Next up, my Pre-K pal Gladye and her genuine boyfriend, Mark. These two are truly forcing everyone to wait for the wedding invitation. They’re quiet at first, but don’t let them hide what rests beneath their calm exposure. They will eat your frozen pancakes.
Laughing with Gladye over Mark is Samantha. She sued to be quite the wild child, but has since, gladly, simmered. She’s a bartender at heart, I swear, and a party animal for sure. But take caution, she may fall from the toilet, midstream, and torture your pets with love.
Then there’s Rowley. He’s laughing with everyone and is certainly the smile of the gathering. He speaks of his epic tales of freshman year at college as smoke puffs break each spoken syllable. He’s, in my mind, misunderstood. But is never a bore.
Sitting close to him in distance are Lexi (another) and Taylor. They keep to themselves for the most part, only due to some rifts buried deep in our pasts. I enjoy their presence but at times throughout the evening I felt that they were absent, only to flea early.
Last, but damn not least, are a peculiar group of four. Though we are not close, we are acquaintances that luckily get the invite by default. They’re Gordon and Eric, best buds as long as I can remember. Next to them are Andrew and Tyron (“Turtle”) who I have known since the elementary years. They show up fashionably (about two hours) late, but when they arrive its as if time had never parted us.
And yes, we have the occasional drop-ins, visitors, and joyous annoyances. These are summer job coworkers, college buddies other than the annoying girl down the hall, and the typical high school little sibling who is brought by his brother to prevent risky snitching. The moon is at its zenith flooding us with its beams of enlightenment and wisdom. One by one the circle of comrades around me shrinks. Some leave early, some hookup, and other pass out. Thoughts flood the mind. Fears pace side to side of life, the future, and the demands of success. The hoots of the farm owl become deafening shrills of immediacy.
I become paralyzed in my seat as everyone, one by one, vanishes before me. Without mentioning the slightest, “goodbye,” I feel the oaks, zodiacs, moon, and owl quickly filling the place’s of the attendees. The once bright, bursting fire spits and spats into a dead pile of black. I awake to a new light, surrounded by pale blues and whites. It’s morning, the party is over, a mess left, and the loneliness kept.