Sebastian Matthews is a writer and collagist living in Asheville. He teaches creative writing for the Great Smokies Writing Program. His third collection of poetry, Beginner's Guide to a Head-On...
The same man I’d seen earlier in the week was back, his adorable puppy, Jade, already tumbling and tussling with ours. This time he was with his wife or girlfriend. Quick hellos. I recognized a young couple sitting on a bench from my visits to Luella’s B-B-Q, where they serve me beer and leave me alone in a corner to write and read. Their piebald puppy joined the other two to create a frenzied threesome. We watched from our spots the entertaining play as it unfolded in the mud and beaten-down grass.
Eventually I walked over to the young couple, and we chatted about restaurant work; then I drifted back to the older couple, closer to my age, and it turns out they’re new to town, fresh up from Savannah. A few more back and forths like this and I realize I’m the only White person who will join this Black couple—outsiders twice over—and that the larger group keeps their distance. What to make of this? I jump to a few conclusions. That Whites are afraid of Blacks. That this Black couple is wary of a circle of White people and so keep their distance. Then I wonder: am I making people uncomfortable in my shifting from group to group? Does this new couple wish I’d stop bugging them? Does the young couple from the restaurant wonder why I keep leaving their company for that of the other? Am I the only one who notices, or cares? I don’t know.
The dogs have tired themselves out. Ali arrives, standing off to the side to watch the show. I am tired too, sick of social life in general and this configuration in particular. My discomfort inside it. All the already answered questions. I say goodbye to both couples. And, as we start to head out, a large Golden jumps the fence and enters into the fracas. The dogs start up anew.Credit: Sebastian Matthews