I love Fall.
I understand that when the temperature carries an undertone of coolness and when the sun hit me but not with any intensity, I will for one small moment, want to be wrapped up in a boyfriend's flannel shirt, standing around a bonfire and drinking keg beer.

I can smell Fall in Illinois when I hear certain sounds or when I open the door to my apartment at night and feel the cold just setting in.

There is always a part of me that longs to be going to a party in the country on Fall weekends, to see friends I've known for as long as I've known about true abiding friendship. I long to wear boots and sweaters and to smoke cigarettes.

Those parties I grew up with are so ingrained in me. The whiskey drinkers would sit near the fire, talking and keeping warm in every way we could for being outside in October.

The vodka drinkers would be over near the boom box, playing dj with an I Love the 80s! box set.

There would always be a couple of girlfriends who weren't sure to whom to speak or with whom to sit when their boyfriends went off to admire a new gun or to look at a tree that needs to be cut before winter really sets in and ice breaks the limbs.

There would always be a couple of other girlfriends, maven and territorial about the party, huddled in the kitchen and banded together in judgment of the newer girlfriends who we knew had gone out with someone's cousin's husband but before they were married but not, like too much before. After high school.

I can taste the Doritos and the keg beer, I can feel the sun setting and the deep settling of my flesh onto my bones as I haul myself stiffly from the camp chair and go inside to join the other long-time girlfriends to talk about people.

I can feel the flush of alcohol and central heating coming up on my cheeks now that I'm inside and I take off my sweater but leave his soft old flannel hanging hugely around me.

I hear all of the guys still outside now, and the couple of girls who think they are in tight with men who have known each since before they were allowed to walk to school with their mothers not holding their little hands

I look outside into the full darkness now and lean my fingertips on the sliding glass door, watching them poking the fire, seeing the spooky uplighting on some faces and the shadows of hands in pockets, keeping warm, of smoke billowing into the black of the trees that are sharp against the moon's grey night.

I want them to come but I love watching them, too. I love feeling like I belong there, like I know where I am and who I am and that the people inside and outside don't even want me to be there anymore - they just expect me to be, expect me as part of a family that stretches far and wide from the single-family, small-town Illinois homes from which we each eventually emerged.

Forever and always these nights will be inside me, as alive as when I was there, breathing for me comfort and an utterly eternal peace in the stillness of those memories.

arizonasarah at 2:49 p.m.

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