Tag Archives: fireworks

Fireworks

On a rooftop in Los Feliz, at first,
colored lights in all directions, all the
city-sanctioned explosions going off
downtown blocked out by buildings; lingering
smoke, and the occasional daredevil
helicopter, be it police or news,
either way searching out the unlawful
displays, either way too close to the ground,
skirting the ceaseless show in East LA,
unbroken on the horizon, echoed
in Hollywood, Silverlake, Echo Park;
and after, on the highway, driving home,
a more personal effect, near constant
congratulation, frantic light tunnel.

Stranger In a Strange Year, or, All-American Spirits

She said it was something about the cigarettes. “There’s a lot you can tell about a person, they smoke American Spirits,” she told me as I pulled the pack out from my jacket and offered her a stick. “I’m Kara.” I was only wearing a light zip-up hoodie, despite the fact that it was December 31. The evening was unnaturally warm, which I took as a good sign for the new year still to come.

We talked and shared a smoke as we admired the swiftly melting ice sculptures that adorned the Boston Common. Turned out we shared the same affection for Flemish sculptors. She told me that she’d moved here a just few months ago and didn’t know many people. Her friends had ditched their plans for the evening, leaving her with no one kiss, and even less to drink, so I invited to a friend’s party out in Davis Square. Looking back, I think she may have invited herself, but I was in no position that night to turn down some company.

There was a loud explosion from the east, and we turned our attention towards the skyscrapers of the Financial District, heads tilted upwards towards the sky. It was barely even 7 o’clock, and the city’s firework spectacle had already started, ringing in the Irish New Year with booming Chinese lights.

We stood and watched the fireworks together and shared another cigarette. She thanked me with a sly, crooked smile, a curve that cut up the left side of her soft cherub face. She was coy about her age, and whether she was 16 or 36, I could have believed it. Butts burned out and stomped to the ground, we finished our loop around the Common and hopped the Red Line train at Park Street.

On the ride over, I started asking her questions about herself, tried to get to know her some. She claimed that she had grown up abroad, around, but wouldn’t tell me where. Her mystery was irresistibly alluring, and we shared a kiss on the Longfellow Bridge as the train crossed over the Charles River, the brilliant lights of an excitable city celebration glowing across the horizon behind us. I’d have sworn I saw more fireworks but my eyes were closed (it’s not polite to peek or stare).

Shortly after we arrived at the party, she started dropping hints that she wanted to leave, go somewhere else, preferably with me. That’s when I told her I’d been living with my parents on the South Shore after my girlfriend and I broke up, so I was actually staying with a friend that night. It didn’t seem to bother her, but she wouldn’t bring me back to her place either. She was giving me mixed signals all night — no physical contact, but she kept saying she wanted to leave with me, and so on. But still, I couldn’t tell where we stood, and I didn’t want to ditch my friends, so we ended up staying at the party until around 2am, although we kept to ourselves for most of the night.

Eventually we hopped a cab and got a hotel room out near Alewife which she talked me into paying for. We were both pretty drunk so I don’t remember the sex very well, but I know it happened, because afterward she told me to pay up. Eighty bucks an hour for the company, plus another hundred for the sex. Apparently prostitutes in this state don’t take American Express.

Old Acquaintance

The wind barraged his face and his neck lamented his aversion to scarves, but his feet suffered the most. Despite the alleged water-proofing done to these boots, the gray slush of the 28th’s snowstorm had seeped in to soak his socks. No amount of toe-flexes or tap-dancing generated any warmth, the cold of the city refusing to be denied.

The Columbus Park tradition had remained for years, through heartaches, cross-country moves, and minor animosities. All seven of them had gathered to ring out the year together from the days when their parents had to drop them off at the T. Sneaking nips had been replaced with bar-hopping, with only the apathetic teetotaler remaining sober.

A general din bounced around the park, off the swanky hotels and out across the water, punctured by the occasional blare of five-dollar plastic horns. Two of the guys in the group reminded the lone girl about the time they saw a naked woman in one of the windows. Jill, once again, said that she remembered.

As the hour approached, everyone turned to look back at the skyline. For a while, the countdown had been projected via laser onto the face of the Custom House Tower. After a few years, they added in awkward, vector graphic-level images of sponsors, bank logos and cartons of orange juice. After someone in the tower complained, they shifted it over a building off to the left. Less iconic, but still functional. Where would it be this year, they wondered?

Another gust came up off the water and crept through the crowd, somehow seeming to jump through his layers of wool and fleece to settle right in his shoes. He clapped his hands and rubbed his mittens together, as if that would offset it.

“Time check?” Ben asked, not taking his eyes off the buildings.

“Midnight-ish,” Rick replied. No one took out their phones.

A timid pop came from over their shoulders. He turned around, slightly nervous (though not as much as he would have been at the end of ’99, when everyone joked about Y2K but secretly believed the world would end). Across the old Harbor, the first fluttering embers of the initial salvo of fireworks settled toward the water. As he scrunched his eyes in confusion, a bright green burst popped in the sky. The display had begun.

“Uhh…guys?”

They all turned, his group and the rest of the crowd. Over the course of the following few minutes, a succession of sparkles and pops and bursts unfolded in relatively rote fashion. When it ended, the applause seemed muted by more than thick gloves. The display had been fine, but the lack of a countdown had hindered the celebration. And, by extension, the tradition. Trudging with the swaying crowd to the Green Line, no one wanted to say that, without a clear demarcation between the old and the new, none of them knew how exactly to exult.

Freedom’s Flame

man cook meat fire grill burn fire works buns coal char burn boom light burn boom stars light burn bright man right life light might try bright fire cook light meat burn sear right free drink beer meat grill free ride die light try meat try free life try right fire meat grill burn beer drink eat life right drink more eat more try more light more burn more live more grill more eat life fire drink right try light fry meat corn man burn boom light boom fire works more wood fire wood grill cook right stars stripes life right red white meat life burn blue fire light right man cook meat fire grill burn fire works buns coal char burn boom

There Are Too Many (Part 3)

The final installment. Here are Part 1 and Part 2.

“Fuck off!” He yells this louder than he’s yelled in a long time. He hasn’t emptied his lungs out like that since…when? Was it the time he and his father fought about him using the pickup truck without their permission? His father had checked the mileage on a hunch and so had tangible proof, but still Reynold denied it. He’d screamed at his father, trying to get him to let him out of the corner he’d lied himself into. His father had responded with silence that only escalated Reynold’s volume. Was it when Jenny told him she was pregnant? He had hooted and hollered, thrown his fists in the air and jumped around like a maniac, slowing only to approach her and reach for her belly, still small then. He’d gotten real quiet, stooped against her and he swore to her he could hear its heartbeat. She’d laughed and said, Impossible! But he’d believed it, right then and there, with her fingers in his hair and the phantom heartbeat coming from her stomach he’d declared, “I’m the luckiest man.”

Now, in the yard, he feels small just like his father looked moments ago. There is the slumping over that he feels now has been approaching him all his life, pausing only to let him believe he was destined for good things. He takes off his father’s shoes that are too small for him and stands in the yard, feeling the cold wet of the winter ground soak up through his socks. The string on his sweatshirt is uneven and the left side hangs down near his waist, he can feel his nose beginning to reach the brink of dripping, and he thinks about how you never stop feeling like a child, no matter how high you count each year. He is not a man equipped to raise a child, and he wonders if it is something you are only ready to do because you are doing it, like going over the edge of slope for the first time on skis that feel too separate from your feet to be safe. He trails mud up the walkway toward the house. He supposes he will never know.

The house smells like something baking. As he removes his socks, heavy and dark with moisture, he pretends it is Christmas morning and that the house is full of people upstairs and in the kitchen, that he has taken a moment to himself but will soon be immersed in a presence other than the rising raucous of birds behind him.

The lights are off in the kitchen, as is the oven, but his mother has left two boxes of cereal and a bowl out for him. There is a Dollar General candle burning on the table that lives up to its label marked “Christmas cookie.” He fills his fist with Fruit-Os and heads back upstairs.

“They’re still out there.” Reynold’s mother comes out of her bedroom to tell him. She has begun applying her makeup, but she’s only slathered on the foundation, and her eyes sink beneath the pale. He feels as though he should reach out for her, as though she might crumble underneath at any moment.

“Yeah, just give me a minute. I need new socks,” he says with the cereal in his mouth.

She looks down at his bare feet, sighs. “There should be some old ones in one of them drawers.”

He digs around for a while, forgetting his original mission for socks. He finds the knife he sent off four Copenhagen tobacco labels to get when he was a kid. His dad quit chewing when his mother swore she’d never kiss him again if he didn’t quit. That summer the dentist yanked two of his molars and he never touched the stuff again. There are pieces of candy left over from countless Halloweens, old patches from Boy Scouts, his grandfather’s dog tags, an empty pack of Camels from back when they could still advertise to kids. He remembers the socks, which are pushed almost all the way in the back of the drawer, except there’s something else back there. He pulls the drawer to the point of falling out, and sees the red tissue paper lining the Lady Fingers. Behind those are four Black Cats, as big as pencils.

Reynold grabs them in his fists, cupping them like water. He rushes back down the stairs, past his mother and into the living room where his father keeps the long matches next to the fire place. The amount of crows seems to have grown in size, the tree limbs visibly bend toward the ground, threatening to break. You could probably hear their strain if it weren’t for the calling of all those birds. Their feathers are shiny; they look dipped in oil and Reynold fantasizes that he could catch them all into one fire that would explode into the sky like a flare, telling every crow everywhere that they are not wanted here. This is not a place for them to live, to feed, to make their noise.

Reynold does not notice that his feet are freezing against the ground, still littered in places with dirty snow and melted snow that has frozen again overnight. No, his senses are well occupied with the sound of all those crows and the smell of the matches that he is lighting, one after the other. The Lady Fingers are small and crack apart when he throws them into the air. The first few rows of birds scatter, but the top rows ignore him like they ignored his father. He is no longer angry; there is nothing but the sizzle of the Black Cats, the light of the sparks spewing from their ends, the flapping of wings, the whooshing that he can’t tell if it is coming from all of the crows as they fly away or the branches as they sway and bounce and settle amongst each other again, now a little lower, a little more bent and crooked, a tree that has been used and tried and affected. He has scared the crows off for now, and though his left arm is bleeding from where a spark has burned him badly, he is elated seeing the shadow of the tree against his parents’ yard with the details of its branches instead of one large shadow, foreboding. The neighbor’s wife peeks out the window that’s supposed to resemble the tiny round windows at the bottom of a ship and Reynold waves. He begins to feel the cold in his toes, except for in his pinky toes that have gone numb.

Aftermath

White scars stain a lightless
canvas, tattoo sky dark blue
while dissipating shuriken
smother fires on the moon
and starbursts singe the air.