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    Rangel-Mullin, Rebecca
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Our Own Separate Edge of the Boulevard

Excerpt by Mark Cugini, 2010 spring

Mark Cugini

We walked into the hallway and placed the wire on the top of the stairs. We kissed, then he lit it, and I watched a spark fly down the stairs and out the door. We went to the window, where I stood in front of Matt and he held me in his arms.

When the spark disappeared into the hole, I started to worry.  During that silence, I wondered what would happen if we didn’t pack the piping with enough explosives, if the ventilation would cause the wire to fizzle out, where we would go if the hole was a hole and not....

A boom echoed down the boulevard and the house shook—the Island shook and pulsated and for a split-second we heard it rumble, then it rose and when it rose the first things to blow were the streetlamps and traffic lights: green and yellow and red and white glass shattered and rained down to the black pavement, which split and cracked quickly and shot pieces of debris from the PCV piping thousands of feet into the air.  It rumbled and we both were shivering with glee. Thrusts of flames and energy ripped holes through the vehicles—the gas-guzzling SUVs and the sports cars with their sunroofs and the mini-vans equipped with DVD players and seven power outlets—that lined the boulevard and their hubcaps and steering wheels blew upwards, too. I stood there and shook while the pavement on the boulevard crumbled within itself and collapsed, turning from a congested road into a gaping hole. The boom was quick, but its explosion was long and its damage was awesome: the low roofs of the block-long shopping malls shook and caved it, the stores no longer divided in parts but were unified in the rubble. We heard cracks and snaps and alarms went off as the telephone poles and power wires fell into the quickly-forming crevice and the lights left on in houses as beacons for the young that stayed out until the sun rose flickered and died.

We didn’t stay in the window to watch the aftermath. After the rumbling stopped, I turned around and looked Matt in the eyes: they were wide and bright and we were both still shaking.  He grabbed my face in his palms and kissed me. I jumped in his arms and he carried me out of the house and to the beach, and we made love on the edge of the water while tiny explosions erupted in the distance.  Waves broke around us as concrete crumbled along Hylan, and we lay there for days.

For the specifics of what happened afterwards, we relied on the reports of others.  

They told us that, after an hour of panic, the MTA closed the Verrazano.  Those stuck on its upper lever abandoned their cars and ran to their old neighborhoods in Brooklyn—they stayed with aunts and uncles and ex-boyfriends. The chief of police went live on air to say that these actions wouldn’t go without reprimand; he’d send every unit out to find the culprits and they’d be held accountable and liable for the lives they ruined and the public property they damaged. They blamed God; they blamed Al-Qaeda.

None of the island’s residents bothered to do anything. As the days went by, they came to their own separate edges of the boulevard and peered down the crevice—our crevice, our months of work, Matt’s masterpiece. They watched the bubbles of brown sediment rise and pop as water seeped through the cracks. No one tried to cross from one side to the other.

The rest of the city forgot we existed, at least for the first few days. They were too caught up in the “why” and the “how” to worry about the “what next”. By the time the mayor sent for the National Guard, the bridges were already crumbling. We walked down to the boardwalk and watched the Verrazano’s blue steel fall within itself. When pieces of the giant arches hit the water, it caused a series of waves to rip through the Hudson and shake the oil tankers. I imagined the pieces going “plunk” when they hit the water, like the noise a bar of soap makes when it falls into a bath tub.

The Island was new, the Island was broken.  The Island was separate, and it was ours.