Dave at Davestock by o&poecormier
Dave at Davestock, a photo by o&poecormier on Flickr.

the beach is in front of him, sunset pink over the mountains of the opposite shore. the water is glass, the beach, pebbles. old tree stumps gnarl and twist in the bonfire.

his parents’ fishing shed is visible behind him. the cottage, replete with antlers, looms on stilts across the lawn. there is an octagonal gazebo for latenight singalongs without black flies. the smokestack from the power plant looms just out of frame. there is a full moon.

from the deck of the cottage, they look out, easy and laughing, clustered, catching up.

nine years since we gathered here. the bodies shift, some of us stoutened with babies and beer. the beards grow grizzled and flecked with silver.

most of them – the guys, and a few of the women – have known each other since childhood. most moved away from here years ago: all return, though, in regular pilgrimages to parents and grandparents still rooted in this small town.

they called it Davestock, that first summer party sixteen or seventeen years ago, when most of them were twenty-ish or not much more. guitars and cases of Alpine that ensured Dave’s mother’s place as a saint in the annals of history: most of them saw beer bottle toss as a blood sport, then.

they are different, now.

or not. the lawn at the cottage Sunday morning was oddly pristine. not a trace of vomit in the pansies; even the few rogue cans and sixpacks looked anemic in the wholesome expanse of green. somebody finally wrote out all the verses to Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall. not one soul braved shrinking flesh and the misnamed Bay of Heat to skinnydip at midnight. but there were still guitars until nearly dawn. gestures, familiar. signature laughs that do not change, only deepen a squeak or two.

there is no such thing as catching up, of course. it is impossible to tell your life to me, or mine to you, not really: we none of us have ears to hear the tide that is somebody else’s reality. we parse and allude and it washes over us, and then we smile and nod and pretend we are made clean to each other. we have no business claiming to know each other over time.

your friend, the one you loved when you were a green, lost kid: that friend has shed all his cells and his eyes are crinkled now. they’ve seen a hundred things you never will. that other friend, ripped wide open by a fork in the road that was not yours to take? she is no more that girl you knew than she is a phoenix. we are each of us only aging humans who remember each other fondly: whose stories intersected once, and again.

yet we end up woven together, each making the other a little more real. shared history. i stand at the edge of the fire and watch them all and smile at Dave, who is more Dave at Davestock, suddenly, than anywhere.

i hear The Cure in my head – you make me feel like i am home again – and i warm my hands at the fire and hope they can come again next summer.

who are your oldest friends? do you know them, still? how?