David was lying on his back, mumbling nonsense and gesturing at the fluorescent light bulbs in the dorm room ceiling. The mushrooms he’d eaten some hours ago had taken hold. John was stuffing dry-ice into an empty liter of bottle of Dr. Pepper with Penny and Zelda, the freshman girls he’d brought. I was drunk and sad on bottom-shelf vodka, smoking cigarettes with Zach on the balcony, wanting to be everywhere and nowhere. Beneath us, a trio of sorority girls were walking back from the parking garage talking loudly, gummy steps. Tiny skirts and tight blouses. They were returning from their latest tryst with the lover who took them each night, pristine and beautiful, and each night returned them, sloppy and cheap. One of them went down sick, revealing black boy-short underwear. Another looked up, saw me watching and slurred a dirty word at me. I sat on the railing, hooking my feet into the vertical bars and bending backwards till I faced the distant ground. I gazed out to the lights and spires of San Antonio, which hung like stalactites against the sky. I could have told you then that I’d never give a damn about Wordsworth. If there were such a thing as sin, then ours were too great, and too many, and what trees were left could only look on in silence like the families of drug addicts, full of pity and remorse and, most of all, resignation while the world closed like a tomb. What could life mean when it was falling, maybe with serene indifference, maybe with frantic clawing, towards an end as implacable as the concrete-armored Earth? Was there, had there ever been, space enough or time to comprehend what we were leaving or where, if anywhere, we might resurface? Looking down on the stars, I was just drunk enough to imagine that I might let go and descend into the sky, where the dead migrate after that reservoir of dreams has finally run dry. I decided to have a cigarette while I thought it over, but succeeded only in burning my fingers.
When I came in, Penny was on the phone with John, saying he’d put the bomb in the parking garage next to the building. When it went off, the boom cut through our conversation, through the music, through the walls, and silenced us all. I immediately pictured the man walking to or back from his car, maybe on the same level, who would never fully recover his hearing or his ability to feel safe. Minutes later, the Resident Advisor for the floor knocked on the door. We froze. When we answered it, he told us that there had been a gunshot somewhere around the dorm and that we needed to stay in our rooms. We feigned shock and concern until he was gone.
I laughed with the others of course, but later, when I thought of the RA,
it made me sad to know that he could hear the blast, but not what comes after
or what went before.