I don't care about the fourth of july. I think it's a cruel holiday. I don't like to blow shit up. My pets get upset. My 9pm bedtime gets screwed up. I don't complain. I just think of all those horrible little people out there with nothing better to do than throw their dollars at cheaply made explosives that may blind them. I've still got a scar on my foot from when I was so stupid. Dropped a firecracker on my foot. I was 13, I think. And drunk. I was in love with a boy named Terry. I mean in love with his jean jacket and the way he let me touch his hair.
Sometimes I still think I don't know exactly what love is. Just the thing that makes my organs thrill. That lights me up inside.
Memorable fourths: last night I dreamt I was on the monorail at Disney World, I woke up and read that someone had died on it last night. The first fourth I can remember was at Disney World. I was a small child and terrified by the noises outside. We were in a hotel that had a balcony and my brother and mother and father were outside on that, watching the sky. I was inside with the glass door shut, marveling at the colors. But I didn't want to hear it. I imagine I had tears in my eyes.
In Pittsburgh it was a pain to watch the fireworks, which are of the best in the country, I think, due to the fireworks giant being headquartered there. I never went to the Point to watch them. Once I stopped on the 12th street bridge on the way home from work and watched, elbowed in between drunks. Usually I went to whoever had a rooftop. The last few years there that was Kate, who I was also nuts about (partially thanks to her hair, mostly to the way I couldn't have her. It was only later I learned that maybe I could have). The year I left '98, I was mad at everyone. Everyone knew I'd been duped and no one told me. I went to the party anyway. By then Kate had had her fridge fixed. No more hot beers drunk on the thin slice of roof between two taller buildings in the row on Penn Ave. She lived in the Strip District. I drew in sharpie on the wall above her stairs. Stalks of corn, knee-high by the fourth of July. Good midwestern girl that I grew up to be. Mark's "band" played. His was the tambourine. The drummer couldn't keep time. Everyone was happy, except for K and I. We both knew I was leaving. I hadn't told very many people. Most of the night I was just pissed there were so many people there. I threw bottle caps off the roof (which was accessed through her kitchen window). I wanted to throw bottles, but there were too many people in the street. I was drunk enough to sit on the edge with my feet dangling, knowing there were enough crazy people who might just push me off. I wondered if I'd die that way. I don't even think I saw the fireworks. Someone had pasted Kate's prom picture over the toilet in the bathroom. She had long hair and looked like anyone else. I didn't love her quite as much in that picture, but I still did a little. Later in the night, after so many people had gone home and the roof had gone pitch black, we smoked cigarettes and she cried because I was leaving. I cried because she did, but I was mostly numb by then. We kissed, then Sarah came home and they went to bed. I couldn't decide whether to spend 15 bucks on a cab to get home or if I should sleep on the couch. I had a red wine stain on my jeans and had no idea where it came from. I wasn't drinking wine. I lay on the couch for an hour until I heard someone laugh in the loft. I don't know which of them it was. I went downstairs and almost slammed the door before I realized I don't believe in slamming doors. I walked all the way home, partially through the Hill District, which scared me, but I didn't care if I died.
That fall I would fall in love again. First with a picture on a refrigerator, later in a cramped spare room with mahjongg. Of course it wouldn't work then, it wasn't supposed to. I wasn't even in a place where things could, even if she wasn't my best friend's girl. Then the next year Rita and I took a road trip. Plan: to be gone all summer. We left Atlanta in June and made it to L.A. by the 2nd or 3rd of July. That first night we'd driven from Santa Fe, leaving after lunch. I knew it was a drive. What really exhausted me was all the highways once we felt like we were close. We got there at 3am. We got high and watched The Blair Witch Project, which hadn't come out in theaters yet and I'd never heard of, so D could try to convince us it was real. I was scared for a minute. On the fourth we went to a neighbor's rooftop. I almost thought he had forgiven me for liking his girlfriend so much, but he never really got over it. I knew I'd disobeyed that seminal rule, not to mess with your friend's girlfriend, but it never really felt like she was his. Maybe it's arrogance to think she was always more mine. I'm not a fan of arrogance, but I'll be the first to say I've got it. Sometimes bad. Especially when it comes to pretty girls. I remember what the rooftop looked like, the building lobby. But I remember nothing of the rest of the night, except feeling sad, smoking pot, and cigarette after cigarette. I think this was as far as I could see of the sky lighting up, just that small ember right in front of my face. That's where everything was.