June 28th, 2004

wasn't my bullet

ambiguously suspicious.

The night I fell in love, there weren't fireworks in the sky. They were on the ground.

The neighborhood block party happened once a year, every year; typically occurring on the last Saturday of June, it was always the event to top all events.

The neighborhood was a conglomerate of Italians, Poles, and Slovaks. The majority of the neighborhood had moved in during the '50s and no one ever left.

The general rule of thumb was simple: if you were born to a family in the neighborhood, you would never be able to get away. You could go halfway across the country to go to college, but you would be back. The neighborhood was a magnet and you were a paperclip. You had no hope.

Of course, everyone had plans to get away while they were teenagers. "I'm going to California," my cousin told me, proudly. We were sitting on the front lawn of my house, eating Mrs. Contini's famed pasta salad, while the Rossi brothers were struggling to set up a number of fireworks in the middle of the street.

"Really?" I asked, impressed. My cousin and I live two streets away from one another, yet we talk approximately twice a year. Once during the block party, once during the family Christmas party.

"Yeah," Magda told me. She tossed an overcooked noodle into the street, where two dogs began to fight over it. "I'm going to Los Angeles to become an actress."

I contemplatively chewed on a hot pepper. "That's awesome. I'm going to this university over in Rhode Island, Yale."

Her face went blank at the mention of the college. After a few eventful minutes, while Joe Rossi accidentally set his pants on fire, a secretive look came over her face. She motioned me to lean in. "I already have an agent. He said that I'll have to do a few bit parts, and maybe change my name, but I'm bound to be big!"

I grew silent. I couldn't imagine Magda being anyone but Magda - solid, loud, popular. She was one of the only people I could talk to at any sort of group event. And here she was, changing. Growing older. Like I was.

An older neighbor who had gone off to college the previous year entered the fray in the middle of the street, which led to Magda gaining stars in her eyes. She sat with me for another minute before not-so-gracefully excusing herself to go flirt.

And there I sat, thinking and remembering my past. My friends, my relatives, my neighbors - they were all around me, making me feel more and more claustrophobic. That was the exact reason everyone left the neighborhood for college: they couldn't stand to know everyone, to have no personal life. To have everyone mention offhandedly the time when you were ten and ran around the neighborhood without any clothing but a cape on. To have everyone aware of everyone you have ever dated and probably ever would.

It was also the same reason that everyone came back. Sooner or later, no matter where you went, you would come back. I couldn't fathom the idea: why come back to such a dinky town when there was so much of the world to see, to experience?

It took a few moments, but before long, the claustrophobia got to me. I couldn't go inside my house, since a good number of the neighborhood women were using it as a playpen for the children. By now, my room was probably in shambles.

So I did what any good Italian would do. I went to play with fire.

The yearly bonfire was almost as important as the yearly fireworks, if not more important. Most of the older generation believed that the bonfire was all that was needed, that anything more was unnecessary and a waste of good money. The younger generation - well, most of them, at any rate - knew the truth: fireworks were more dangerous. Thus, fireworks were what was needed.

"Cahn you beliefe zose keeds," an older, balding man groused to his cronies, most of whom were similarly inebriated. Mr. Adamczyk had an impossibly strong accent on the best of days, but today, addled by alcohol, his accent was nearly impossible to understand. "Fireverks! Pah!" Much like the bonfire and the fireworks, the yearly debate over which was more desirable was an important tradition.

A gravelly, smoke-affected voice broke through my attempt to surreptitiously listen to Mr. Adamczyk's conversation. "Hand me that stick."

I wordlessly handed my Uncle Giovanni a thick piece of wood, which laid by my feet. He turned away from me, back to the future bonfire. As I was no longer of any help, I no longer existed. I left the group and walked several feet away, to the groups thronging around the fireworks.

Most of the people around the fireworks were around my age, give or take a few years. My cousin Magda, of course, and John; another cousin, Paul; my older brother, Michael. The Rossi brothers. Juan Jimenez, a member of the sole hispanic family in the neighborhood.

"How does this go?" Joe Rossi yelled to someone I couldn't see. The crowd was too thick.

"How am I supposed to know?" his brother Arnold yelled back. "I'm trying to find enough lighter fluid for that shit!"

At that pronouncement, the street grew silent. A brief murmuring rustled through the multitudes before an ear-pitching screech came from one of the houses. "Arnold Abele Adolfo Rossi!" the crowd parted like the Red Sea, leaving a woman to push her way past anyone who remained in the way. I was pushed to the side as she rushed past, like a stampeding herd of elephants in the guise of a short Sicilian woman.

Arnold was as pale as a ghost. "Mother, listen, I didn't mean to-"

"You didn't mean to do nothin'," his mother screeched. She was wearing bright colors in floral patterns, with a powder-covered apron. She grabbed his ear and began dragging him with her. Arnold winced. "Swearing like that in front of children! Why, I ought to-" and with that, she was out of ear-shot.

When a door down the street slammed shut, the noise from the crowd started back up. I realized that when Mrs. Rossi had pushed me, I had ended up right next to the pile of fireworks. I edged away from the fireworks, worriedly inspecting them with one eye while keeping the other eye on the other people around. When I was at what I deemed a fairly safe length from the fireworks, I quit worrying and headed over to Magda and John.

"I'm going to be in a movie," Magda preened. John had a look on his face like a caged animal. I didn't know whether to feel sorry for him or laugh.

I felt sorry for him. "Hey, Magda," I said, brightly, cutting into the conversation. "Aunt Elena wants to see you."

She shot me a look that could kill a brick wall. "Fine. John," she said, turning to face him with an angelic look upon her face, "I'll be back. Don't wait too long, you hear?" With a stroke of his arm, she flounced off.

John gave a relieved sigh. "Thanks. I'll have to pay you back sometime." He slapped my back and scurried off to talk with people who would actually permit him to speak. I sighed. A day in the life of a martyr is hard work.

I was unsure of what to do next. The older generation were boozing themselves up, the younger generation were sneaking booze and talking about some crap related to sex or whatever... so what else was there to do?

Luckily, I didn't have to make a decision. That was when the real fireworks began.

Ever since Mrs. Rossi had dragged Arnold off, Mr. Rossi, Mr. Contini and Uncle Giovanni had been huddled together, conspiring over their soon to be lit bonfire. I didn't notice that they had actually been attempting to light the bonfire. I'm not sure why they were lighting it - maybe to have hard proof that what was lit first in the bonfire and fireworks war was obviously superior? Maybe to get everyone's minds off of the curse word? Or, hell, maybe it was just time to light it and nobody noticed.

Whatever the reason they had, the bonfire was lit within minutes. As it grew and sparks flew from the stack of wood, the wind began to shift directions.

"Ouch!" I said, slapping at my leg. A burning piece of ash had flown through the air, hitting me and leaving a slightly off-color spot on my leg.

That was when the fireworks went off.

From what I was able to piece together, another piece of ash had rode a current of air past me, to the fireworks. It was practically a one in a millionth of a chance that the ash would have landed on a wick and lit the firework in question. Of course, as is the way the world works, that chance happened.

Now, remember: the fireworks were in a pile on the ground, this way and that. A very, very small number were actually facing the sky; no, instead, most were facing the crowds or the ground.

The explosion was furious. The fireworks went off in what seemed like the same moment, over an expanse of five minutes. In actuality, it happened in just seconds. Fireworks flew through the groups, causing screams, panic, pandemonium, and chaos. A few flew into the sky, where they harmlessly exploded. One hit me on the backside, since I had been bent over, rubbing at my leg.

I flew.

I really didn't go that far. The only reason I managed to move was because I was surprised. Before I managed to realize what had happened, I was in the middle of the bonfire.

Like any sane person, I screamed. Nobody paid the least bit of attention, as they were busy trying to keep away from the heat-seeking fireworks. I jumped out of the fire, clothing on fire, and attempted to put myself out by hitting at my body, my clothing. It felt like the fire was everywhere.

Admit it. I doubt even you would remember to "stop, drop and roll" when you really needed to.

I was shocked when someone shoved me to the ground, laid on top of me, and forced me to roll. I was too busy screaming to care.

Suddenly, I realized that my eyes were closed. I opened them. "Holy shit," I said.

Pandemonium continued to occur. My mother didn't come drag me off, like Mrs. Rossi had for Arnold.

John had been on top of me. He had come from wherever he had been and pushed me to the ground. He had gotten the fire under control.

His chocolatey dark brown eyes gazed into mine, worriedly. "Are you alright?" I shuddered and nodded. He rolled off of me and sat up, brushing off his clothing. I sat up next to him. "That was really something, wasn't it?" he said.

His deep, rough voice was cracking from the stress, from the worrying. I had known him for years, practically from before I was born, and I had never heard him sound like that before. "Yeah," I said. My own voice squeaked.

He stood up in one fluid movement and offered me a hand. I took it, and let him do all of the work of pulling me up. "You barely weigh anything!" he exclaimed. I flushed.

We were standing there, just looking at each other, when someone began yelling for him. He gave me a smile before he began to walk away. "W-wait!" I called out, stuttering. He stopped and turned to face me, a questioning look upon his face. I reached up and plucked a leaf out of his hair. "This was in your hair."

He smiled and took the leaf from my hand. "Thank you, Laura." He ambled off: leaf, fire marks and all.

I sighed. I always knew that I would see fireworks when I fell in love.
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consider it dug

the apocolypse is coming!

Well then!

Did anyone else experience the earthquake last night?

That's right. I said earthquake. In Illinois.

Now, for a number of you (Californians, those of you who have actually been somewhere that receives constant earthquakes, etc), this is really no big deal. However, I have never experienced anything before. Thus, it is quite exciting.

It happened at 1:10 this morning. I was, of course, computing, when I heard a huge THUMP coming from what seemed to be somewhere in the house, which resulted in the house shaking. I didn't worry - it could have been a cat, jumping from a shelf; a train passing by; or even someone's bed moving in the house next door (though I doubted that, since both houses are currently empty).

When the shaking didn't stop for a good minute, I began to worry.

I had been holding on to my chair, heart pounding, and then I realized I was a total loser. I opened up google and began searching for websites which might contain information of what was happening. Of course, even the internet is slow to update, so I didn't find anything. The shaking stopped. My heart beat got back to normal. I woke my parents up, mentioned it to them, and didn't think about it again until I woke up and came to the computer this morning.

A note, by the computer:

"Ohmigosh -
It really was an earthquake.
I loveyou,
Mom"

Information:
http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/nation/2650881
http://pasadena.wr.usgs.gov/shake/cus/STORE/Xkgad_04/ciim_display.html
http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/states/illinois/
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