“This reminds me of when I went to Myrtle Beach with my family. Well, really the boardwalk, it had this place that dresses you up like the Old West. For a picture, y’know, black and white and with a prison background. I think it’s still hanging in my parents’ living room.”
I stop painting to peek over the canvas. “Cause of the costume?” The thrift-store tuxedo was designed for a child, too small for him, but the bright red bowtie and pointed shoulders are exactly what I envision a ventriloquist’s dummy would wear.
“Yeah. Theirs were cut like hospital gowns though.” He goes to scratch his face – I clear my throat – he remembers the makeup, pulls out his phone and checks his reflection. “Was all this necessary?”
The canvas hides my smile. “Absolutely. You need it.”
A flash, then the swoosh of a sent Snapchat. “Ha-ha. I’m average looking at worst.”
“And at best.” The tux is grey but seems to cycle through shades, every second looks tells me I don’t have it right, more black, white, black, white –
“You hear that?”
“People are yelling outside.” He says as he stands.
I hang my head. “Did you have to move?”
“Look at ‘em all!”
I join him at the window. The street, usually empty at night, is full of people walking on cars, shattering ground-level windows, even the peaceful ones carry signs that read ‘Fuck It’ – all move in one direction. “Something happened, I guess.”
“Something terrible, obviously. You saw how mad they were.” He moves from the window to search the apartment. “Where are my shoes?”
“Wait, you just want to follow them?”
“I’m gonna join ‘em.” He lets laces drop and looks up at me from the ground. “You’re coming too, right?”
“Why would we do that?”
“That was more than half the town out there – we should be with them.”
“But you don’t know what they’re mad about.”
“That’s why we’re going. To find out.”
“So we can be mad?”
He moves toward the door. “You coming or not?”
Outside, the crowd has moved on, but are easily followed by the trail of car alarms. As we walk shadows run from storefronts, faces obscured, arms full of whatever was around to grab. My roommate flags one down. “What’s going on?”
“Cops are busy.” The shadow says then runs as if fleeing from the setting sun.
The next block over we find the police force phalanxed in the corner of the town square, watching the crowd scream round a burning building.
“Fuck it!” One of them screams, beginning a chant of hoarse voices. On the edge of the gathering the less-committed wander away; my friend rushes to one of their spaces.
“FUCK IT!” I hear his voice at first, because I know it, but his sound quickly loses distinction. People start to throw whatever they can find at the fire – having not come prepared, my roommate contributes his shoe.
After about five minutes he’s walking back towards me; to my surprise his proximity to the flames didn’t melt the makeup off. “Satisfied?” I ask.
He shrugs. “Ready to go back home? We can finish your thing now.”
“Why, can you think of something better to do?”