Trash night was instinct. Trash night was ours. Trash night with nothing we knew we owned. Trash night because. Fuck a sun. Trash night.
One time when I was eighteen, I was on the main drag downtown, pumping three bucks’ worth of gas into my little Honda Celica. This car full of boys my age was at the pump behind mine. I couldn’t help but notice them—they had their radio turned up too loud, all the windows were rolled down even though it was a hundred degrees out, and they were all laughing and pushing each other and making a big fun thing out of the nothing of getting gas. One of them came over to my car, a soaped up squeegee in hand, and immediately went to work on my windshield wipers. I played along, charmed, and drove away smiling. The next week I passed by the same corner and thought of them. But the memory dissolved in an instant because there they actually were, at the pump again, the same group of boys, the same pump. As I waited in traffic for the light to change, the windshield squeegeeing boy ran into the middle of the road toward my car, calling out,
It’s fate! It’s fate! You never know, he could be right. I handed him a pen and he wrote his number on my arm. The next day I drove out to see him in Cherry Valley, forty miles in the wrong direction, in the middle of goddamn nowhere. That evening, we went out with his best friend, a boy who was soon to leave for the military. They bought me into their plans that night to do what they always did, something it seemed they were already nostalgic for because this might be the last time they ever got to do it. They wouldn’t tell me what it was, but I could tell it was something raucous yet solemn, fucked up, yet sweet. At around midnight, we climbed into the back of his friend’s van and hit the streets.
A piercingly beautiful story by Tyler Barton captures all the magic of that night. My memory of it all dissolved when I read Barton’s story because, for an instant, there they actually were, the same group of boys doing the same exact thing. Barton is a superb writer, one of my favorites, and ‘Late Teens on Trash Night’ is one of his finest pieces of work.