In the park, students were smoking between mumbling to small time dealers, who exchanged 1.5”x2” ziplock bags for stiffly withdrawn cash. They giggled, appeared not to have slept. Sunglasses and hair blazed fluorescent by the flash of photographers. One spilled his coffee and lied, ―Fuck it.
―Fuck it, the girls with him pretended to agree. Fog lifted over the fountain’s cold and ugly spray. A man shouted a song about which nearly everyone knew and, for several decades, few cared. No, he thought. But while one struck up with a saxophone, another placed his hat upside down on the ground and began dribbling three basketballs.
From the perimeter of the park, the campus radiated, not so much a campus as a series of acquired properties. Ten blocks north, a converted nightclub housed a gym, two swimming pools, seven dining stations and the first bathroom in which Alex had secretly shotgunned a beer. Three blocks east a municipal building with a pharmacy where he was administered an annual flu shot. Along the southern strip, the law school, four places of worship, a theatre and the library. There he had consumed malt liquor energy drinks and scrolled through countless Facebook profiles, had emerged in the dark of night to walk east, in the wind, first to dormitories, later apartments, growing cheaper the farther east he pushed, until he was priced off the island and over the river. Still he continued to work there, and more than three years after he’d graduated he imagined there must have been some persisting logic to the decision. Some ambition he could unearth if he forced himself to think back to it, to get a discounted master’s he’d never pursued, a pension he couldn’t touch and union benefits he wasn’t fully aware of, access to the archives so that he might independently… What? but there had been nothing unique in his research as an undergrad, nothing that screamed necessity or epiphany in the history of some handful of people who owned property, Thomases, sir or not, and their respective deaths. Had he wanted to more than stay, to go further back into something even less than history? this, like most things, he had little hope to remember. The library was only a building then.
The wan orange slab towered over the southeast end of the park, mocking him.