It was a brilliant idea. Well, yeah, it was our Idea. We were the Kings and Queens of Right in those days, yeah, the Kings and Queens of Righteousness, maybe even (in retrospect) the Kings and Queens of Self-Righteousness but damn, don’t say that, don’t ruin the moment. We were freshmen and only a tiny fraction of the way into our sexual lives, still just a month or six months in, unlike the seniors, who were already pushing three, four, five years and for whom virginity was a distant memory. Virginity a distant memory! Now come on, that’s no fun, what’s sex without a little recent virginity thrown in? So, yeah, we were propelled forth by the crazy energy of that, along with everything else, such as no longer being sad dorks… there were eight of us, five with three-letter names and four with androgynous names, two sets not mutually exclusive. Half with cleverness in the creative arts and half with cleverness in the practical arts. Again, not mutually exclusive! We’d known one another for four weeks but it felt like we’d known one another longer than we’d known our parents. We worried about the Invisible Poor of the World and the Future of the Planet, but we didn’t let our worry get us down. Weren’t we the ones who’d delivered excitement, mystery, and surreality (surreality, a very essential thing, we agreed) to campus by breaking into the cafeteria and removing every single box of breakfast cereal? Weren’t we the ones who’d seduced a visiting prospective student with the incredible story that we’d invited a homeless man to live in our shower stall (homeless man played by a half-naked chicken-bone-thumping Les)? Weren’t we the ones who’d blasted everyone out of their complacency by taking all toothbrushes from all student bathrooms and sticking them into the flowerbeds around campus, their bristles making them look like patches of weird and beautiful white flowers? Three a.m. was a very normal time of day for us. For us, three a.m. was the best time for having ideas and also waking dreams. We were in this state of mind—it can’t be described—we were in this state of mind that enabled odd and fascinating things to come to mind.
And oh were we familiar with the bell tower! Nine triple-strength locks between the top of the tower and the student body (there had been suicides) but come on, we weren’t interested in killing ourselves, we just wanted to get closer to the moon…Tran was clever and Viv was mean, an unbeatable combination when it came to beating locks.
On Sundays, when the Belgian waffle machine in the cafeteria was plugged in, we had brunches that lasted four hours. Seriously… you can put chickpeas on a Belgian waffle and it’s actually kind of interesting, Tabasco sauce never hurt a bowl of oatmeal, two parts soymilk and one part cafeteria coffee and stick in an Earl Gray teabag now there’s a drink you’d pay five bucks for at Starbucks; these were the things we learned. Everyone else at every other table: jealous of the way we yelled and laughed. We knew they were jealous because we too had once been jealous, back in the dark ages.
It was a couple of us—two who dared rise up off the stained orange velour couch, emerge from the bog of dried-out grapefruit skins and torn-up problem sets and free (as yet unused!) condoms, extricate ourselves from the web or labyrinth of whatever conversation was taking place in our common room, open the door out into the hallway where the world smelled of laundry detergent and Pine-Sol rather than of boys and girls and Indian food and grapefruit rind and incense (clichéd indeed, but yes, even we liked incense, it seemed somehow special to us at the time, we were not above this one collegiate indulgence) and someone’s cologne (no one would confess to owning it; bedrooms had been ransacked but no evidence had been found), and make our way over to the Gymnasium to roll around on the mats and lift a few weights—who first observed how disgusting it was, the jocks and the professors on the ellipticals and treadmills, gleaming and self-righteous, burning up great stores of the world’s electricity so they could break a pretty little sweat (it might have seemed that we hated everyone, but that was just because we were shy, had historically been shy; please let’s not anyone take our hatefulness too seriously). But still. What a (fucking!) waste of resources. Global warming, anyone? Can we offer you a little apocalypse with your Vitamin Water?
Gagging over this image at three a.m., the Idea was had. Had by whom? (We’ll never know.) By all of us at once. See, what we possessed, what we had in spades, was imagination. It was no trouble at all for us to imagine a flat, boring world, devoid of grass and trees, where a hot, terrible wind blew and the only human survivors (marching across the landscape alongside herds of cockroaches) were the strong, vicious men who’d once been NFL stars. Thank god Tran was in the sciences and could immediately bolster our Idea (Harness The Energy Produced By The Exercisers!) with diagrams and calculus or some other kind of complicated math.