Last week, on Monday morning, with my cup of warm oat milk in hand, I slid the back door open and cozied up on the padded cushion sitting atop the woven espresso patio furniture from Overstock.
I typically allow myself about five minutes on Instagram, but something pulled me to check Facebook; maybe because I’d posted a chat I had with my friend, Lacey, about her experience as a black woman in America.
14 people reacted to your video
Someone invited you to like their new business
Living Chandler has a new member
Moving out of notifications, I took to my news feed and saw a R.I.P message… I kept reading and it… no… it can’t be. Dustin… Dustin is… dead?
What the FUCK?
My breath became heavy and choppy.
I immediately took a screen shot, started hyperventilating and called my mom… no answer. I texted my best friend the news and she called me with the same shaky voice.
“Is this fucking true?!” I was equal parts terrified, angry, and distraught.
My friend gasped for air with every word, “I don’t know. No. It can’t be. I’m gonna call my dad and see if he’s heard anything. What the fuck?! How can this be happening… again?”
We’re in our 20’s and over the years, we’ve had a number of friends pass away, so we should almost be used to this feeling… right?
Well, this one hit different — Dustin was special.
And I know it’s easy to memorialize someone in a way that folds a rosy lens on their life and how they impacted others… wait, let me back up… I don’t mean to say it’s easy to memorialize the dead, but typically when people die, you don’t hear others talking about how shit they were as a human being. I say that because I want you to know… the way I’m painting his life could not be argued by anyone that knew him — not even an ex.
Dustin showed up on everyone’s radar in middle school, though he lived in Prescott for a while before his grand entrance. He was busy learning karate and traveling for competitions, which is maybe how he had a six pack and arm muscles at eleven years old.
I went to another middle school, but I’m sure I had the same chemical reaction as the other girls, and boys, that saw him for the first time. He had light brown curly hair, but flowy curls, like he could’ve been a surfer, but he wasn’t a surfer — he was a runner, amongst other things, but that’s where I met him… on the track field at the local high school.
He smiled and the whole world lit up; it was this slightly crooked, yet sincere smile that could instantly wipe away a bad day. I instantly had a crush on him while feeling incredibly safe in his presence, which was an odd realization for a seventh grader.
That same day, he invited me to his house because him and some friends were competing in a boxing tournament in his yard. This was a big deal — he was from another school… and I made sure my friends knew it.
“Guess who’s house I was at this weekend?” I’d ask in a high pitched voice, surely sounding like a royal brat.
Oh, and to comment on the boxing… there was no competition — it’s not as though he had so much size on the other boys, but he was incredibly strong.
In high school, he made the Varsity football team right away and his stats back up the decision to put him there. His former teammates and coaches have spoken out since his passing, sharing stories of his pranks, his endurance, his positivity, and how “he was oddly best friends with everyone.”
He was at every house party, and every woods party, with a Coors in hand if he had any say, though that never deterred him from his responsibilities the next day. He never let his affinity to drink turn him into a different person; not once did he get creepy or handsy. In fact, one of our friends said she had a massive crush on him, but she was drinking when she came on to him, so he just kissed her on the forehead despite her pleas for more.
Throughout high school, he would be the guy anyone could turn to, to fix a tire, to pick up a friend’s sibling, or just to call and talk to. And every time you’d see him, you’d be greeted with a charming “how the hell are ya, darlin’?”
Fortunately for all of us, he was also the guy that stayed in touch after graduating. If he was ever in town, he’d call, on holidays, he’d text, and you could always count on him being at the annual rodeo dance in July, rocking classic cowboy books and Wranglers, ready to two step and throw back some Jack Daniels.
Rodeo weekend, back in 2010, maybe, he asked me to come stay with him at his mom’s house, however, there was a caveat… he was sleeping in a tent in the yard.
“Why don’t you just come to my parents’ house?” I asked between sips of Jack and Diet.
“Come on, it’ll be fun… we’ll have this memory forever,” he said.
And of course, he was right… as he often was. We stayed up all night talking about nothing and talking about everything; things got hot and heavy, then we went back to talking… just staring into each other’s eyes… which, I mean we kind of had to considering the size of the tent.
I fell in love with him with ease that night, yet still thought of him like a brother… incestuous? Yes, definitely… but judging by the stories told by our group of friends, this sentiment was widely shared. Maybe there’s just something about growing up in Prescott.
A few days after his passing, my mind started spinning and I began questioning everything… where I’m at in my life — with my relationship, with my job, with my intentions.
Am I happy? Yes, I am. But does that mean I’m with the right person? I’m not sure. So I’ve come to Sedona to figure that out.
I had an energy balancing session earlier today and as I held a stone in each hand, I felt them as the hands of my two late friends — Dustin and Robert; I squeezed tighter as I listened to their guidance.
“You can do whatever you want,” they told me. “You’re going to do big, great things.”
I argued silently with them, asking for clarity… “well what if I don’t know exactly what that is?!”
I felt my chest tighten which made it more difficult to breathe; I suddenly felt self concious of the healer working on my body, trying to let the nerves escape me, trying to realize this is the work… there should be a bodily response.
Once I got to the hotel… I had to lug my suitcase down several stairs, then back up two flights — it was not ideal and my armpits are proof of that. No, but once I got to the hotel room, I decided to write a list… a list of everything I desire in a partner, many of the attributes my current partner has… but not all.
Like, not lazy, or delivers romantic gestures. Am I willing to compromise on those things or are they deal breakers? Is it something my partner can change?
I don’t know, but I sent him the list… literally ten minutes ago, with clear directions on how I need him to respond, so we’ll see.
I’d like to set an intention to live with clarity and never settle for anything less than I know I want.
So, universe, help a girl out, would ya?
Rest in peace, Dustin darlin’