It was nearing 10:00 and all of Bobby’s oversized New Jersey family organized themselves into lines stadium style, some of the parents sitting in the open grass with their toddlers, many of the older men off to the side still trying to sneak in drags of their heavy Mediterranean cigars. Down the hill, three men hovered around the eight cardboard tops spaced out on the rolling grass, each top’s surface maxed out with out-of-state fireworks; the Bee Hive, Rat-a-Tat-Tat, New World Order, all with scratch off ticket design packaging and sporting some kind of anarchic/fuck-the-government name. The three men were like phantoms in the darkness, ready to light everything up, just waiting for the right time.
Another grad party wandered into the backyard---a bohemian group of about twenty somewhat familiar faces---and congratulated Bobby, some of the girls getting into short lived conversations with him with all the hot-shot boys of the group standing idly, waiting for the explosions. After a few exchanges, Bobby led us to the trampoline that was placed at the edge of the flat land, just where the hill began to slope, and we all kicked our shoes off and huddled in, taking positions on our backs, and waited.
Murmuring from behind us, under the tent and on the flat lawn. Giggles of excitement. Music from the speakers. Chris said something to Bobby and left the trampoline, and a minute later the music cut out and Chris’s voice boomed over the speaker system, “Good thing’s Bobby’s grades are better than his taste in music, because I’m jacking this playlist.” I waited. The tween-pop party anthems of the mid 2000s were shortly replaced with Gen X rock ballads; wailing guitars and guttural singing and even though my position on the trampoline wedged between two juniors I barely knew was not the most comfortable all of of this felt sort of right in a way and everything seemed to fit together like puzzle pieces. I let my mind go, falling into the rhythms and auras of the night.
More giggling, more waiting. Comments about the trampoline burning down and second degree burns. Laughter in response. On and off breezes of wind graced us as the night kept getting darker.
Music cut out, Chris’s voice again: “I sure hope all of you brought your brown pants because we’re about to blow some shit up.”
I don’t know how much time was spent just waiting after that. Time was withheld and unimportant, and only the wind and the chatter and the rock music mattered.
Then the first rocket soared up 100 feet, blowing up in a gunshot and exploding stars across the clear black sky. Another rocket, squiggling up and up and exploding with a magnificent bang that cracked the sky open and whirled trailing fire through the air. The explosions were right over us, and Kyle started freaking out that some of it would fall on him, but the flaming specks burned out or were pushed away by the breeze before any of it could make contact with the trampoline.
More and more went up; some going up invisible and silent and finally making themselves known in artillery-like death clouds of white and yellow and blue high above; others shooting off rapid fire bullets that screamed as they went up and all shot off in random and uncontrolled trajectories; and others going farther up into the sky than all of the rest and exploding, and those explosions exploding, each new one different colors and fizzling out as the light above us seemed to evaporate in a great crackling. We watched this for a while, a great big show. But there were no ohhs or aws; everyone was silent and just watched. Explosions above our heads as Van Halen wailed out “Panama”, then Eddie Vedder growling “Even Flow”, and Guns ‘n Roses and ELO and The Styx all sang along to the sky’s destruction and the booming clatter of the light that took up the entire sky; everything was noise and color, a deafening, relentless blindness, a choking whirlpool of disaster.
Then it ended. We were all dizzy when it was over.