John Parras

 

 

 

 

Before the Bomb went off

 

Just before the bomb exploded, Ariel leaned an elbow hard against the bar and gazed at the good-looking girl beside him, gazed at her olive skin and blue mascara and at the sapphire jewels of her big wet eyes. He’d said something funny about the Prime Minister and the Arab Leader and she was still smiling at the joke, though Ariel imagined she was smiling at him and at his fine white shirt and tan skin. The smile made him reckless, made him want to grab her around her tight waist and split her apart. The bar was packed, the room bursting its seams with Middle Eastern youth, and big black speakers hanging on the walls blared the new hit song about the Conflict, Give and it shall be taken away from you, Let’s love each other while the sky is blue.  Everyone was drunk or trying to get drunk. Ariel was being shouldered by some muscled fellow, some rough youth who looked like he made a living erecting the wall to keep out the enemies; the guy was trying to squeeze past Ariel to the bar. Ariel used this as an excuse to lean closer to the girl who, he now noticed, had two small beauty marks on her left cheek and small rhinestone earrings dangling from her soft earlobes. He was so close he could count her eyelashes and smell her skin, and he noted that after her four Pink Tomahawks (white wine edged with cassis and schnapps) she didn’t seem to mind. She sipped the pink liquid greedily through a miniature double-barreled straw and looked back at Ariel with doe eyes that said, I’m almost ready, almost ready.

 

There was a flash of white light behind them and for a millisecond Ariel thought someone was taking a snapshot of friends to remember the joys of this festive Levantine night.

 

Then the shockwave hit. Ariel felt blood in his ears where the drums had burst and he found to his amazement that everyone in the room was flying. Most people had their mouths open, last words studded on their tongues like pierced jewelry. Ariel was still next to the doe-eyed girl, she still had a drink glass in her hand (though Ariel found he had only the broken neck of a beer bottle in his) and the girl said, “I wish they wouldn’t do that!” sulkily, a brunette curl was tossed in her face quite sexily, her hands were unaccountably red, her lipstick seemed smudged. “Do what?” Ariel asked, astonished to find his legs rising higher and higher in the air until he was head over heels and peering at the girl’s thighs (she was also gyrating but in a slightly different orbit) and he found her toes as beautiful as olives on trees in the homeland.

 

A voice piped up behind him. “Are you looking up her skirt?” one of the girl’s friends spat nastily at Ariel. Craning his neck, he saw she had a look on her face as though he had stepped on her bunion. She opened her mouth, toothless and bloodful, and snapped, “I can’t believe you’re doing that when this is happening, you pervert,” and Ariel felt ashamed. He noticed bright red globules floating in the air, which he thought were droplets of someone’s lost Pink Tomahawk. The brawny guy who’d been trying to shoulder past him before the blast came careening through the air and knocked Ariel spinning back toward the doe-eyed girl. He was practically on top of her now and it was a bit awkward, her skirt rode way up her beautiful broken legs and her lipstick was indeed smudged. Under any other circumstances—namely, if he weren’t careening through the air in a chaos of hot metal and nails and shattered glass—Ariel would certainly have relished his position. As it was, he thought he should apologize to the girl and had begun to do so when his head hit something and a tremendous pain gripped his entire being. He had smashed into the mirror behind the bar, shattering it with his skull, and as the fragments fell it was like watching a lake of ice crack beneath your feet and in each shard of mirror Ariel saw a face as confused and thoughtful as his own, all these youths who had come out to celebrate and defy the war, these teenagers who wanted nothing but to wet their lips and hear the newest songs. As he crashed to the floor, Ariel grimaced: he was twisted violently at the waist, battered like a plastic toy broken across the knee of an angry little boy.

 

 

 

 

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