I remember the moon shining bright, the night Bin Laden died, on that last, cold night in April down in the swamps of Gainesville, Florida. The last week of graduation.
The four of us looked at the television in silence, watching the flashing images from across the country, of the jubilant crowds gathered in New York City and Washington D.C. And I saw that over every mob in every city was the same full moon. Watching. Waiting.
Then Louis changed the channel and the images vanished. He and Sam resumed their video game. “Dude it’s a conspiracy.”
“You want to know the truth? The truth is that he’s been dead for a long time,” he said. “But there is something about this moment that finally makes them tell us. This is the moment where the powers-that-be look to everyone and say ‘Wake up and get with the program!’”
I walked outside to get some air. Louis’ eyes were glued to the screen with intensity. He was an intense little man and his mind moved fast. It was he who first referred to our group as the Four Horsemen. It was a strange and cryptic name, and I don’t think Louis really knew anything about the apocalypse, but it was a name that stuck nonetheless and it was an ‘epic name’, he said, for an ‘epic group’ that formed in these last four years at the University of Florida. He further insisted that we four were destined for an ‘epic life.’ Louis, Myself, Sam and Cal Corso.
Louis was horribly insecure, yet the type who spoke with no filter. Honest to a fault. And while in some ways he looked up to all of us, it was Sam Lyons that he idolized the most.
Sam was the natural leader of the group. In his freshman year, he pledged a fraternity before leaving one day for reasons he was never able to explain. It was around this time that he started hanging out with the rest of us, his natural frat-like charisma never fully wearing off. Sam’s mother died when he was very young, and so he grew up only with his father and two older brothers. Beyond that, he spoke very little of his family. Sam was strong, and very loyal and everyone who met him liked him almost immediately. And while he had many friends and fans and acquaintances, he would often say that we were the greatest group of friends a guy ever needed.
Sam Lyons and Louis Luchessi were like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, respectively. Sam was tall, lean, and current captain of the rugby team, who slept with many women. Louis was short, stocky, and champion of online gaming, who dreamt of many women. They were like Abbott and Costello, and if Sam was around, usually Louis was not far behind.
I walked out into the night and felt the cool air brush against my face. It was already May and still the nights were cool. It didn’t bother me. It felt good for a mind that was on fire that night. Actually, it had been for a while. Maybe a couple months. The boys always thought I was wise, some young philosopher, because I was a pre-law student and I had the best grades. But the truth is I knew I was no wise man.
Lately I’d been asking myself all sorts of questions and writing all the time, taking some newfound interest in every person in the world and all the things around me. Then of course, there was the guitar playing. Songwriting. I didn’t pay much attention to the cause of it, only to the fact that I was sounding good and that it felt good.
The boys probably thought I was still torn up over a certain woman. I tried not to think about her too much but I wasn’t easy. She was gone. Long gone. And yet she stayed in my mind. Haunted me. I still loved her.
Once she planned on going into law, like me, and sometime ago she’d decided on the house we’d have after graduation. It all seemed great until I could no longer breathe, when I realized that I was only twenty-one, and that we’d met when we were seventeen. Addressing this was always problematic.
Once we were at a cafe, and a homeless man walked in with a comforter over his head and painted purple toenails. She turned to me and whispered her disapproval of the man, without even the slightest interest in him or his own story. No compassion. In her mind he was a feral beast tarnishing her evening.
Where was her appreciation for real people? For the people who have experienced the most pure moments, who have lived down in the deepest gutters and tasted everything from raw joy to horrible despair?
“Where is your sense of public service?”
“Yea, service. Like Kennedy said.”
“Kennedy is dead.”
We argued some more and then she stood up, shook her head at me and walked out. This time I let her go.
Damn. Letting her go was hard. Love can be that way, I thought. Even young love. And when the girl is gone, with enough time having gone by, it’s too easy to forget the bad times and only remember her as an angel you pushed away.
Still, many of those memories were beginning to leave me, along with most of my memories from beyond a year or so ago. I didn’t know exactly why it was happening, nor for that matter why it happened so suddenly. All I can say again is that my mind was on fire, and that those old thoughts and feelings were melting beside the flames.
“Do you think you deserve to die,” I heard a voice say. I turned around and saw Cal Corso walking beside me in the night. I’d been sidetracked in my thoughts and didn’t notice he was there. The fourth horseman.
“You’ve been straight and narrow and living by the books your whole life,” he said to me, “and tonight here you are taking a night walk and being all spontaneous and romantic. What’s the story?”
“I don’t know…Bin Laden’s dead.”
“Oh,” he said. He looked away and then back at me. “So what?”
“No one here seems moved by it.”
“No you’re not.”
“Yes I am. Look at my face.” And he made a serious face.
“Ten years ago…man. I remember being in school that day.”
“I remember I skipped that day.”
“You skipped everyday.”
“This is true.”
Cal Corso was an actor. Cal Corso was many things. He painted and played ukulele and the bongos, and he wrote poetry almost every day. He only went to school with me, he said, to make sure that I got into some trouble. After graduation, Cal would be leaving for Hollywood, to pursue a career in acting.
We walked down University Avenue in silence. The busiest street in the city was quiet and still as ever. Dead in the night. The street lights were flickering and failing. The moon was brighter than anything I could see and the night had grown colder.
“What did you say to me before?” I asked.
“Just a minute ago, something about me deserving to die?”
“Well, who then?”
“Bin Laden. Do you think he deserved to die? Do you think he was evil?”
“Oh….I mean, yea of course he deserved it. But I don’t know, that’s not my call. I mean he was just a sick man, I guess, you know?”
“I don’t know what evil is,” Cal said. “I just want to know what good is. Really is.”
At that moment, I didn’t know how to respond.
“What do you think happens from here?”
“After graduation?” He smiled like a young thief about to pull his greatest heist. “One might say it’s the dawn of a new era.”
I felt as though I craved a new era myself, though I knew it was something everyone craved for their own generation. Ideally.