Excerpts from Look Down, This is Where It Must Have Happened

Mickers finds himself at the opening long after it opens. He hopes for free wine, a few platters of greasy cheese at least. Instead, there are buckets of pink popcorn. A woman behind a table exchanges bottles of beer for three dollar donations. He sticks his hand in a bucket, steadies himself. There’s something gaudy on the wall. But he doesn’t want to see it, can’t see it, anyway, shrouded by the gesticulating and hair-dos of people who look familiar to him.

No one else seems to be there alone.

He eats six handfuls of pink popcorn without stopping to breathe. The popcorn is more chewy than crunchy. It tastes like old gum.

***

Shauna calls Mickers on the phone. Wants to know: Did you hear about Bradley?

I can’t believe it, Mickers says.

He hangs up. He’s got weight on him. He feels miserable. He grabs at the handles of his stomach. He spins around the room, stumbles over a coffee cup filled with stained water. A long time ago, Mickers had a best friend he insisted on calling Brado. They lived on the same cul de sac in a suburb named after a tree. What happened to that friendship?

There are one or two vague messages about getting together saved on his voice mail.

Mickers feels drunk. He feels the muscles in his body rigid against the impossibility of what he doesn’t know. His legs go straight and he collapses. Something happens to the phone. Scraps of paper and post-it notes orbit down. Decrescendo. The carpet smells like dog. I live here, and before I lived here, someone else lived here. Call waiting. Speed dial. Three way conference. Note pad dialing. Disconnection. Directory Assistance. A sound like a busy signal and then nothing.

Two hours later, someone’s mother calls and leaves a message. Mickers to the disembodied silence of his own rented appliance: Don’t go just yet. Take the time to leave me a message. Please. Leave me a message.

***

I’m not sure how I became involved in this. I was elected. Sent to see if everything’s okay. Given the circumstances. Given the tragedy and what not. Once involved in something. A person is known to speculate. I wrote it down the way I found it lying in my head. Like a corpse.Look. All we think about is stuff like going to the mall or checking the mail or canceling our extra channels before their cost gets automatically deducted from our bank accounts without anyone even asking us. We never think about love or death or grabbing onto a pet with both hands and squeezing it until its wet nose starts to bleed. Nobody ever asks us. I’m fine, I told them at work. I just need a half day, a full day, a week. No need to fill my position. Just leave my position empty, the way it’s always been.

The bat thudded against the window. Peter felt it – broken glass in his gut – though the window didn’t break. No alarm went off. The window still sat in its frame, intact but in pieces like an assembled jigsaw. Laurie was wearing a crimson scarf that covered most of her face. Her long hair glimmered in the dark night and made Peter think of the ninja girl character in Mortal Kombat 3. Racist, Peter admonished himself. Or sexist. Something, anyway. Laurie poked the window with the bat. The whole thing fell apart.

Nice, Star growled. Peter had gone to high school with Star. When he walked into Advanced Social Theory 303Y (Special Topic: Terrorism) on the first day of class of his third year of university, he immediately noticed her sitting nonchalantly in the back row, bare legs protruding out of a short skirt and dangling over the seat in front of her. Surprising himself, he climbed the steps. Hey, he had said. Hey, she said back, her blue eyes already on him, a mimetic echo of his lost adolescent self, only 3 years removed. Star smiled, her lips full, her teeth straight and white. Didn’t you go to my high school? she asked jovially. I…yeah…I think…Peter said. Star had been in his 10th grade Advanced Algebra class, his 11th grade Geometry and English classes, and his 12th grade Honors History class. She was one of a group of smart girls who were also cheerleaders. Peter always sat behind her in the classes they had together. At night, he would think of her, the way her long blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders.

Tonight Star was dressed in dirty jeans and a faded dark blue track jacket. Peter stood next to her. Despite the grungy clothes, she smelled of soap and fallen leaves. Hey Petey! Star yelled. Peter startled. They were waiting for him. He stepped forward. The shattered glass under his sneakers sounded like snow. It was October. Next month, there would be snow. Peter stopped in front of the space where the window had been and looked in. The vehicle was massive, one of those super-sized trucks that seemed built to intimidate. Peter was 6-foot-3, but skinny like a weed. Peter glanced over at Laurie, who shrugged. Laurie Chung, lithe, quiet, 4thyear poli-sci to Peter’s 3rd year sociology. She was also way out of his league. For sure she had a boyfriend. At the campus coffee shop Star had talked about greenhouse gasses and rich assholes who don’t give a shit about the planet or anyone but themselves. Assholes, Peter thought. Laurie was short. Star was taller, but still only came up to the top of the door of the bulky truck. Even Peter had to stand on his toes to reach through to the lock. That’s why they were waiting for him to do it. Plus they had agreed that everyone would play an integral part. Those were Star’s words. Integral. So nobody could say afterwards that they didn’t actually do anything, that they were just there because it was an assignment.

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