First cigarette at 6:41.
He had met someone. The night before. Not intending too. Which might be why it bounced so heavily about his mind.
The grass started around 7:30. Nothing crazy. He just couldn’t sleep anymore. Too damn awake from being too damn tired. But this was his vacation.
His last drink of water was at 1:07pm yesterday.
He picked up his guitar at 7:39am. Waiting for anyone else in camp to wake up.
No one did such a thing until 9:12. A mere nine beers, three joints, and half a dozen cigarettes later. The sun was coming up. It felt to be a hot one. A hot one, indeed.
The first one to wake up did not suggest breakfast. Hughie. He always had his own. A very specific diet. They could never see eye to eye. Never understanding how something had to have died every day for him to live.
But Hugh was the first one up, munching away on granola. He didn’t take any, lest anyone think he’s soft.
Yet, they eventually wandered down towards the merchant area, to a low and lazy crowd. The music didn’t really start until noon. Folks had plenty of time. The smart ones slept and recovered from the day before. Hughie and he mulled about, looking at things and using the proper indoor plumbing. Potable running water- the decadence of the first world.
Their camp was all the way up the hill, so when they returned and reached where they meant to go, exhaustion was clear. By then, the few tents conglomerated to make up their camp were meagerly bustling with life. He felt good. This was, after all, his vacation.
He sat down in his chair, next to the now conscious Gene. Which was incredible, as Gene usually sleeps for seventeen hours a sitting. Gene had a beer cracked, and a slight amount of crusted blood about his left nostril.
He wiped his own nose, while looking at Gene, to give him the heads up. Hint received. Nasty stuff, dried blood. Never gets up quite clean.
“So,” Hugh said through mouthfuls of seeds. “What are we gonna do today?”
“Whatever you guys feel,” he replied.
They both opened a beer. You can’t detox, Hugh would famously say, without having some toxins in you.
As they looked upon the small sea of tents below, Gene stumbled back into the circle and sat upon his chair. He reached, slowly, for the cooler. And subsequently, plucked a beer. The night was cool enough. Most of the ice was still there. Cold beer. As though it were water.
“Oh,” Gene nearly shouted. He could be sporadic, at times. He patted down his front, left, shirt pocket three times before reaching inside. “This was for you in the cooler.”
Gene handed him the half soaked, half ripped piece of paper.
It was a name. And a phone number.
“I guess it was the girls from last night,” Gene coughed. Lighting a cigarette.
The girl from last night.
There she was, as he remembered. Late. Inside the lodge. Late shows were always inside the lodge.
He nearly rolled down the hill. Setting up camp with Hughie and Gene could be rough. Hugh likes things to be organized. Sometimes color coded. A place for everything. And everything has its place.
Gene would let the whole world burn down around him as long as he did not have to pick up his own dirty clothes off the floor.
So, they missed the first few acts of opening night. But this was his vacation, he thought. And who knows when the next may come. So eventually, he had enough of their dawdling and wandered down.
The music is easy enough to find, especially when it’s downhill.
Into the lodge and up to the edge of the crowd he went. Not that he liked the song all that much. He was just happy to be there. So, he bobbed about. And occasionally looked around.
He noticed her.
If she was with anyone, they were not around.
Yet, she danced.
Eyes closed and with the flow, she danced. Not for anyone. No one but herself. A modest length dress swayed between above and below her knees. Olive skin, cast just shy of blue in the far-reaching stage light. Her hair bounced, as it meant to. As it wanted to be.
A few minutes passed, or an eternity, before he realized he’d been staring. So, he half fixed back towards the band. Moving more in tune than he had before. Sneaking glances often enough to see, but not seem to be sneaking.
He hadn’t even noticed that Gene and Hughie had filed in behind him.
The music ended. Lights came up.
Wildly enough, he managed to introduce himself.
She smiled, as though she were happy he had said something.
Her name was Rose. Bright, bright green eyes. Speckled with gold and ever so attentive. A thoughtfulness that could be mistaken for sad, if one did not look closely enough. A furious collection of earth tones wrapped around a few perfectly round pupils. Powerful eyes. The kind that swallow someone whole. Willing or otherwise.
She asked if he had any pot.
They smoked up by his tent, with everyone else. She asked if that was his guitar. It was. He played, modestly. She wished he sang with it. She would have thought his voice lovely. If he had mustered the courage.
They spoke, of life. She was going into some international peacekeeping initiative in two months. One of the big ones. Prestigious. She was going to teach English. And teach it well, he reckoned.
She was curious about a life post-education. Which these days, lasted most kids a quarter lifetime. Rose spoke of what she liked. A bit about what she didn’t. Her second favorite band was her father’s favorite. She could be forgetful, but mostly because she paid mind toward the now more than any other time. For all the first dates she’d been on, she’d been on very few second ones.
She wasn’t sure what or how she would be able, but she wanted to help the world. If for nothing else than to inspire someone else to be better. To make something better.
It wasn’t bullshit. He hadn’t had the time for that in years. Rose was going to be there, as she was, no matter what he thought about it. Without knowing, she was sure of herself.
He hadn’t noticed the blushing appearing on his face. Nor did anyone else, in the dim light. He did notice the goosebumps. He tried not to think of them.
Then- the night ended. But it was the first night. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, he thought.
Today however, he though, was a new day. And he had a phone number.
Which he called.
And they met. They went to the first two bands together. And he danced more than he had in ages. Because just being near her made him want to dance. And not for her, for she was not the type to demand such a thing. But for himself, because she helped him feel as though he should.
He though himself silly, but didn’t seem to care. They parted ways, with the promise to meet again.
And in all that time, he kept drinking. And smoking. Whatever came his way. He took two tabs, and a hefty taste of molly. And more beers. And swigs from a whiskey bottle. Cheap, cinnamon shit. And a few bumps. For no good reason.
The sun was hot, but it felt good. He was a young enough man.
They met again, he and Rose. And those eyes that went on forever. His blood pressure was up. Foam formed in the corners of his mouth. He kept wiping it away.
He thought about getting some water when the next band started. And what a strong start it was. Irresistible. She grabbed his hand and pulled him in behind her.
So much, so soon. Her voice. Her words. The few wonderful thoughts that had managed being shared by this point. It was strange, he thought. To be this fascinated in nearly an instant.
He was nervous. He hadn’t done much since his last relationship. Which ended poorly, two years before. And he liked Rose. He didn’t want to disappoint.
But the music moved him. It moved her. And they moved together. Anxiety fell away. He fell away. Only this moment mattered. For now.
And so, they moved, for longer than he could tell. It sounded as though the set was wrapping up. Somehow, he could always tell. He still attempted to move with her, but a dry mouth can distract from most anything. But the end of the set was coming. It would be fine. Just keep moving. Don’t blow this, you idiot. He thought.
Then the pain in his arm came up.
He swung it timidly, then a bit more aggressive. Something that could be popped back. The pain only spread further. And numbed as it passed. Quicker than he was comfortable with. He tried to get a grip. Talk himself down. He had just taken a bit too much. He was just losing his cool. He could keep cool. He wasn’t going to blow this.
But he hadn’t noticed how many steps back he had taken. She had though. So, she turned. And those great green eyes exploded.
Evidently, he did not look good.
She took a step forward as he watched her disappear toward the bottom of his vision. As blue sky fell more full, and full into view. There was a crash, and his head shook in a way that he felt should have hurt him. Dust mixed with the caked saliva in his mouth. He no longer felt his limbs. Or anything. He wondered if that was his heart beat, but couldn’t feel anything in his chest to confirm. He wondered about all of this, until he realized.
His last taste of water was at 1:07pm yesterday.
The dust was still drifting about when she came into view. It was red dust. Boot beaten clay. Dried up and fine.
But those eyes. Clairvoyant green. They shone through. Though glistening different, now. He couldn’t tell why. Her lips were moving, but all he heard were echoes. Muffled. He couldn’t tell if the music was still going. He could see her hand on his chest, but couldn’t feel it. She was calling out, somewhere else. Yet she kept returning her eyes to his. Eyes that now flowed well enough with tears.
Why, he thought. Then, he wondered. What was happening? Was I going to be alright?
She tried to smile and held his hand.
He thought about taking her on a date. Dinner, or something. Then they could wander about town. Holding hands. Maybe they would go to a bookstore and buy each other something. Maybe that is where he’d kiss her, he thought.
Yeah. That’d be a good first kiss.
She was still crying when the medical cart came. He was fading. He thought he’d like to get to know her better. As his eyes closed.
And his heart muscles seized up.
He died with a smile, of cardiac arrest via massive dehydration. She held his hand. He was still on the medical golf cart.