Monday, September 3, 2012

A Long Night, Lucian and Langston

There have been discussions lately about long nights. Yes, some nights are longer than others. But the very notion of a long night arouses in me now so many different thoughts.

I suppose the last night of someone's life may be the longest night. A last night laying awake in a hospital bed awaiting death may be shorter than the night before an execution at dawn. There are long nights, I guess and then there are long nights.

I had a long night once. I suppose it may even be one of the longest nights of my life. My long night began midday at the end of December 1990 when we left tent city Saudi Arabia and headed into the interior somewhere along the outskirts of the DMZ. The night was a bus ride into the dark. Then it was a frigid wait for troop transport, then it was a dusty all night ride in the back of a truck. The night ended at our tactile assembly area at dawn where we were fed reconstituted scrambled eggs and stale white bread. That was a very long night.

Then there are really long nights. Tonight for instance, Langston Hughes just told me about a long night which began in 1619 Jamestown and it seemed to continue into vague years like 1961, 1963, 1964. I'm going to guess that the long night (as the work) of Langston Hughes is concerned did indeed begin in 1619 Jamestown and ended when he died in 1967. 1967? The absolute height of the civil rights movement. Yes, “Daybreak in Alabama,” “Jim Crow Car,” “Cultural Exchange.” I wonder what Langston Hughes would think of modern America 45 years after his death? What would he think of President Obama? And what would he think of the Gay and Lesbian movement, same sex marriages and the like? What would he think about now?

I have no personal recollection of the civil rights movement. I was born in 1972 on the eleventh day of the eighth month in fact. Plenty has happened in the world in that time. And tonight, I read through the poems of Langston Hughes. The volume is a nice edition: a comfortable font, acid free paper, made in America.

I don't know why I chose Langston Hughes. It was just something I hadn't visited in a long time. I suspect the last time I read any Langston Hughes was during my undergraduate studies at Metro State back in the mid-1990s.

I don't have any real reason to consider long nights other than today is my 40th birthday and today will be the birth of my son Lucian. I know I'll be inclined to tell him, annually, that I came 40 years before him and to the day. I may even tell him about my past in the war and the long night I had once in December of 1990. I will tell him about the rights of men and these truths that I hold to be self-evident that all men are created equal. He will know just like I know that black people or gay people are every bit as beautiful as everyone else. There is no sense in causing others harm. I hope that he grows up to be both strong and gentle because you cannot have one without the other.

I may even be inclined to tell Lucian about Langston Hughes and how I met his mother; how it was the mid-1990s and Metro State College on the Auraria Campus. I will tell him of the blissful days in the autumn of 1997 when Janice and I first became friends in Dr. Hamilton's American Renaissance course. I will tell him how beautiful she was the instant the morning sun of 1997 hit her lips.

I'll be inclined to tell him someday, about his mother's labor during the long night before he was born. How grateful we are, and how lucky too.

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