A Night on the Town

Seven kids sit on a curb. They try to sit on the curb next to the gas station but the owner kicks them out. Still, they sneak into the station one by one and use the only bathroom around for miles. The last person comes back from the bathroom and the group gets ready to leave, only to find that they are still only six.

“Where’s number 7?” someone asks. “Oh, he always wanders away,” another answers. A small search party disseminates and everyone starts calling out for 7. They walk up and down the side of the road, unease gnawing at each of their stomachs. A black car pulls up beside them and slowly creeps up the same road. The unease quickens their pulses.

Finally, the seventh member appears, though the car remains. He storms back to them from the opposite direction of their search, drink in hand. “Where did you go?” someone asks.

“Why am I here?” he counters.

Pale yellow light covers the sidewalk where everyone has become silent. They look at 7 apprehensively. An alert pops up on a few of their phones. The emergency is over.

“Why am I here,” he repeats, “when I should really be at home?”

‘Why am I here,’ he repeats, ‘when I should be at home?’

The black car continues to inch up the road. One girl gestures at it menacingly.

“Why am I here when they are destroying my home?”

The driver looks out his window at the group, waiting or wanting something they can’t give him.

“I need to go to the Loop. I need to go home.”

OK fine, let’s all go to the Loop.

“No, you shouldn’t go to the Loop.” He gestures at the girls. “But I have to. Maybe I could stop this.”

“What could you possibly stop?” someone asks.

“I’m angry. I’m angry, too. But what does destroying my home — what does this help?”

But if you go…

“If I go, maybe the Starbucks wouldn’t have been shattered. Maybe I could have stopped one person from doing one thing.”

None of the others can respond. Most have never been so directly confronted with the realities of this city.

The black car finally turns right at the stoplight. Another alert pops up. Ignore the last message. The emergency is not over.

Ignore the last message. The emergency is not over.

“Back at school, I make a point to be active. I’m… I’m involved, politically. In Richmond, I’m involved with social issues; I make my presence known. But now I’m here. I’m here and I’m home and the one time I’m home I should be there but I’m here. I should be there but I had to find out about the riots on Twitter instead of being there myself. I’m here, avoiding it, when I should be there.”

He looks around, shaking his head. His voice is beginning to break. Everyone’s eyes are beginning to water. Please, someone says, don’t be stupid. Don’t die.

“If I die… that’s it, if I die. But I need to be there. I need to go. I am going. They are destroying my home.”

No one breathes. Hearing 7 speak of dying so seriously causes them all to shake. They are so close to the headlines that flash endlessly on the news.

He swings his arms, stretching them wide and bringing them in close to his body. No one else moves. Is your grandma OK?

“Yeah, yeah she’s fine. She’s a strong black woman. No one can mess with her. But. I. Need. To. Go.”

They check on the Uber. It’s still five minutes away. “Will you go with him?” one of the girls asks one of the boys. “Yes,” he responds.

“I need to go to the Loop. It was nice visiting Wash U, and thanks for letting me park on campus, but I need to pick up my car and go home now.” He looks up at the lamp. 4 looks down at the pavement and imagines herself casually walking to Starbucks, surrounded by shattered windows. She imagines 7 purposefully walking to his home, picking up pieces of broken glass.

The day before, the Balloon Glow had taken place in Forest Park. Around 9 p.m., after every balloon was taken down, an announcer entreated the crowd to wait for fireworks. The audience waited and waited and waited, but no fireworks ever came. Disappointed, they made their way home. A park worker was overheard saying that after the Stockley verdict that came out that day, fireworks just didn’t seem right.

A park worker was overheard saying that after the Stockley verdict that came out that day, fireworks just didn’t seem right.

The Uber finally arrives and all seven pile in. The driver tries to make conversation but no one is in the mood. They drive in silence. A few of them feel disgusted with themselves, wondering how they could have gone out the night before. Some others feel carsick. Everyone feels hopeless. The lights of downtown cross and blur in their eyes. They drive past the Arch and it just doesn’t seem right. It feels like it should be broken, or maybe just a little cracked.

Sophie Tegenu

Sophie Tegenu ’20 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at s.tegenu@wustl.edu.

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