How I Tried to Kill A Streetlight
January 6, 2017 • Sarah Jean Gosney
People will do all kinds of strange things for love, and the destruction of property is no exception.
I asked my friend if he wanted to hang out one evening, and he said yes. He was living with a mutual friend at the time, and he invited me to come over to their place. This was typical for us. We both were usually broke, so most of the time we’d just opt for beers and chit chat at one of our apartments when we saw each other. The summer nights had begun to cool off, making for perfect porch-sitting weather.
However, this time when I pulled up at his apartment, he was waiting for me outside.
“Hey, do you want to go on a little adventure?” he asked, a guilty smile on his face.
“Sure,” I said right away. I’d come from a solid eight hours in front of a computer screen at my office job, and I was up for anything that would shake me out of that funk.
“Alright, I’ll drive.”
As we piled into his black ’90s sedan, I immediately questioned why I hadn’t offered to drive myself. He had to get in through the passenger’s side door because the driver’s side didn’t open. It had been hit by a car, and the damage was evident from the side mirror that hung sadly by its chords.
“I can drive you know…” I said. “It’s really no problem. All four doors open in my car.”
“No, no it’s fine. You don’t know where we’re going. It’s easier this way.”
I followed after him and sat down on the discolored seat. It looked as though the grey upholstery had been water damaged. In addition, the ceiling boasted a large slash in the fabric. I didn’t press my case any further. After all, I had only recently sold my ’98 Honda Civic with its own scent of mildew from windows that didn’t shut tightly and fabric that had divorced from the ceiling due to all the moisture. I might have had a nice, mold-free car now, but I remembered my humble roots.
The mold that seemed to be encroaching on the fabric in his car gave off a slightly fishy smell, but despite this, the car smelled overwhelmingly of vanilla. I looked at the rear view mirror and saw not one, but five pine tree shaped air fresheners hanging together.
“Wow, that’s a really powerful bunch of air fresheners you’ve got there,” I said.
He laughed. “Well, see about that…I bought all those air fresheners to cover the smell, but none of them actually worked. What happened though was a friend gave me this candle, and I left it in the car. It kind of melted all over the seat back there.”
I looked in the back and saw a large oil stain covering the seat where there weren’t papers and books strewn across it.
“I tried to clean it up as best I could, but I couldn’t get it all out. But hey, free air freshener!” He laughed at himself.
He pulled out of the parking lot and started to drive down Kingston Pike toward wherever we were going. The side view mirror started rhythmically banging against the driver’s side door as he drove. It sounded like someone was taking a baseball bat the the side of his car.
“Uh, are you sure that’s okay?” I asked. “Because it really doesn’t sound okay.”
“Oh no, it’s fine,” he said. “It does this all the time. The side of the car’s already dented from the damage from the wreck anyway, so it’s really no big deal.”
The banging continued. As we drove along, the sickly smell of vanilla and fish mixed and began to make me nauseated. I attempted to lower my window to get some fresh air, but it wouldn’t lower.
“Oh yeah, the front two windows are stuck. They won’t open or close any further. That’s why it’s all moldy in here in the first place.”
“So you’re saying it just rains inside the car whenever it storms?”
“Yeah, pretty much. I tried taping some trash bags over the windows to help, but they keep blowing off.”
I’d seen the bags on the windows when I’d gotten into the car, but I’d naively hoped they served some other purpose. We turned into an apartment complex and he parked the car.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“My girlfriend’s apartment complex. You see, there’s this light right outside of her bedroom window that shines directly in and drives her crazy. She’s always complaining about it. We just had a fight, and I thought I’d try to give her this as a little present.”
“So you want to take out the light?”
“I want to take out the light.”
We walked across a small field of grass farther into the apartment complex.
“Here it is. That’s her apartment right there,” he said as he pointed at a second story window. “And that’s the light.” He pointed to the light sitting directly across from the window.
“So how are we going to do this?” I asked. “That light’s pretty high up.”
“Well, I figured we’d just throw rocks at it and try to break the light.”
I laughed. “Oh boy. I hope you have good aim, because I throw like a girl. A spastic girl.”
“We’ll see. I’m no baseball player myself. Let’s see, let’s see…first we need some rocks.”
We looked around for rocks but couldn’t find any in our immediate area.
“I really thought there would be some landscaping rocks or something we could use,” he said. “I guess those aren’t a universal feature of apartment complexes. Well let’s have a look around and see what we can find.”
We split up and started looking around the lawn. I found a couple of sizeable rocks, both bigger than my fist, and brought them back toward the light. It looked like my friend had found some as well. I looked around at the back porches of the apartments to make sure no one was outside.
“Well, here goes,” he said. He threw one of his rocks in the direction of the light. It arced near the light, but missed by a couple feet. “Maybe I need to warm up a little,” he said and laughed.
“Here goes nothing,” I said. I tossed my rock up. I missed by far more than he did, shooting several feet below the light and to the side. “Not even close.” I laughed at myself.
“Let’s call that one a trial run. This time’s the real thing.” He took his other rock and tossed it toward the light. This time it came closer but still missed.
I heard a back door slide open. A guy came out of his apartment. I hid my rock behind my back. He picked something up off of a table and went back inside. He hadn’t even glanced at us.
I waited a minute to make sure he wasn’t coming back, and I tried my hand again. I was even farther off the second time.
Since we both only had two rocks, we scurried off to retrieve them. We both tried throwing the rocks at the light several more times. He hit the light one time, but the rock bounced off of the plastic cover.
“I don’t think we’re going to get it,” I said.
“You think?” he asked, sincerely.
“Yeah…is there another way to take this thing out? I guess we could try cutting it off from the electricity, but they’re bound to fix it pretty soon. Plus we might kill ourselves. Or get arrested.”
“Yeah, I don’t know about that. That was the beauty of just breaking the one light. There was a really good chance they wouldn’t fix it,” he said.
“I think we might be SOL at this point.”
“Yeah, I thought it was worth a shot, but I guess I’m just going to have to go for flowers like a normal guy. I didn’t tell her I was doing this though. She’ll be none the wiser.”
“Oh well. A for effort for sure,” I said.
We both walked off back toward the car.
“Maybe I will tell her we tried,” he said. “It’s kind of a good story.”
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