Twenty Years Later

It had been twenty years since the two old friends last wrote papers at 2am together.  20 years since porch step parties, lecture halls and worrying about landing summer internships.  Things were quite different now.

Standing at the reunion’s lavish open bar, the two had reverted to their former selves making a series of inappropriate jokes ever escalating in offensiveness and making misguided statements on the nature of existence.  “College!” They often shouted over the thumping beats of mid ’90s pop hits.  The bartender cut them off just before 11 o’clock and they moved outside.

Under the moonlight their conversation turned to business, goals and all they had discovered in their adult lives.

The chat hit a lull pretty quickly, and, very drunk, Charles wanted to sound impressive, “Hey, hey, Paulie…Paulster, oooooooohhh, Paulina Paulina.. ha! Like that one song….I burned down my first office just to watch the flames!”  Charles burst into laughter.

Paul cleared his throat, blinked far too many times, furrowed his brow and stared at Charles.  Charles himself still bent at the waist laughing at the ground at this point.  “Wowsa, that’s unexpectedly sobering.  Did you actually commit arson?” Paul asked, hoping the person he had not seen in 20 years outside of LinkedIn updates did not confess to an actual criminal act.

Charles shuffled his feet and worked through a nervous laugh, “uh, no.  Of course not.  That would be insane. I mean, who even likes to see flames dance against the moonlight and then collect on an insurance policy that is well over…” he trailed off.

Paul took in a deep breath, clapped his hands and made way back inside, “I’m calling a cab.  See you at the 30, right?” He walked away, not allowing his back to Charles, and remembered a particularly odd weekend in the dorm when popcorn bags were constantly being burned in a ‘malfunctioning’ microwave.  At the time he was only concerned about the smell of burnt popcorn, but with this new bit of information so much of his college experience made sense.  That weekend he returned from a visit home and the couch was gone came into some clarity.

“Yeah, see you then!” Charles said.

As Paul walked back into the light of the event hall he saw a quick flash of orange in the darkness that now surrounded Charles.


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