Night of Hope – Steven McBrearty
There were high hopes always in the moments just before the Friday night dance at St. Vincent’s High School in suburban San Antonio, Texas began. Those first, screaming warm-up notes from the elongated electric Fender guitars of the cool and jaded band members bouncing off the gymnasium walls signaled the possibility that the remainder of my life could be drastically different from everything that had led up to it—in other words, I would be happy. I prayed, I pleaded for affirmation of my appearance, my personality, the shirt I had selected over all other shirts to make me appear cool and jaded but also desirable, coolly, jadedly desirable. I hoped that despite my limitations (a big nose, bad teeth, a tendency to freeze up when in actual proximity to a girl I found attractive) some attractive female would somehow recognize me as soulful, intelligent, whimsical, romantic, comical, able to break through the homely everydayness of the surrounding world to achieve a true communion of souls. I hoped I would at least get somebody to accept my invitation to dance.
Last time out I went home with hopes as wilted as my once smoothly-pressed knit pullover drenched with stale perspiration. I slunk back silently, morosely, trying to reconstruct a new tomorrow in the ashes of today’s debacle.
“So how was it?” asked my mother, absurdly hopeful, separated from this particular crucible of anxiety, this trial by putting oneself on the line, by the insulation of many years of stable marriage plus an optimistic streak that was as tough as rawhide.
“Oh, okay,” I said, not wanting to reveal too much, wanting to appear hip still and cool even to her stodgy middle-class maternal eyes, though I was dying inside. I know now that she could tell that my hopes had been crushed, that my psyche lay in ruins, that it was difficult for me to believe there was even anything much left to live for. But she was a trooper, my mother, a tough, never-say-die bundle of protective instincts, and she never let on that I was anything but beatific. Later that night, in the privacy of my own bed, I stared at the ceiling conjuring up some slinky 16-year-old femme fatale in her blue chiffon mini-dress, her mascaraed face, her tantalizing aroma of lipstick and perfume, and how she found me irresistible as well. I was always irresistible in my own bed.
The next night would be different, I told myself. The next night would be perfect!
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Steven McBrearty grew up in San Antonio, Texas, in one of those typically large, loud, rollicking Catholic families. On any given day, there might be games of pitch and catch in the hallway or tackle football in the back bedroom. Steven moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas and remains living there now. He has published more than 25 fiction and non-fiction pieces in a variety of literary journals and served as a ghostwriter for a study skills book published by Simon & Schuster. Though still youthful (he thinks) he has two grown children and two grandchildren.