Naima Omar

Burnt Popcorn

Southeast · Mt. Pleasant · Memoir

We are drawn outside by realizing that we will not be able to sleep with all the pyrotechnic festivities going on directly behind our home.

“I bet they don’t do this at University Circle” proclaims my resident anti-Cleveland and pro-leaving-153rd-Street expert Brandon.

One house has torches in the yard and a variety of things placed on the path directly in front of the house. I don’t look closer, although I wonder why they would put so many seemingly random objects on the sidewalk at night. Their dog or cat is assumed missing, and Selena and her male companion go looking for it. Soon the matriarch of the house discovers that the animal has been under something and call them back to the house, “What it is gonna be like when we finally move out of Cleveland?” asked Brandon, hoping to speak his destiny into existence. “Cleveland sucks, that’s a fact. These people spent more on fireworks than the city spends fixing potholes. You can’t bring a war veteran here.”

I never thought about that, but I guess you’re right. Of course, not all veterans have PTSD.

Brandon and I watch the fireworks from the porch. They explode from all angles. I can see some reflected in the upstairs windows of the house across the street. Some are behind it and slightly to the right others are far left, perhaps a few blocks over. Some are almost directly behind the house across the street. The burst directly behind the house across the street is mostly purple and white. A few yards down the street, orange and white projectiles threaten to light the porch on fire. Behind my house and to the left, I see a lot of red, green, white, and orange. All are loud, but the ones directly behind my house that I can only see by reflection are the most thunderous. The smell is like burnt popcorn.

At some point, it becomes clear that the random junk on the sidewalk of my almost next-door neighbor’s house is, in fact, fireworks—and lots of them. This will probably go on until at least 2 a.m. Some of the explosions shake the house without me seeing where they are coming from.

A woman screams, “That almost hit me!”

Cars go by cautiously. Perhaps my neighbor is a professional. He lights several in a row with a sparkler producing an impressive show. Despite the excitement, we all have our devices. Brandon is finding a place to escape and lamenting that each location has its weaknesses. Texas is too hot. California is too expensive. Florida and Arizona are racist and hot/humid. He takes a break from geographical research to take a few photos; also, he is a rather good photographer. Alex is reading about a sadistic dentist and claiming that Kanye West is running for president.

The fireworks had been going on for a month or a week; it seemed like a month to me. It was a welcome distraction from the neighbors arguing. The second-floor guy complained loudly about the third-floor couples’ loud arguments. Even if we couldn’t move out of Cleveland, maybe we could find a better house. I had stopped thinking that the girl on the second floor was a prostitute, so what if her friend answers the door completely nude. Just because that guy with the dreads said she was selling ass doesn’t mean anything. How can you trust the word of a man who comes to someone’s house demanding a bed without even having a vehicle to transport it in? Ok, so the guy she lives with has a fancy car. A lot of folks around here have fancy cars.

The third-floor couple decided to watch the festivities from a friend’s car. They look so cute together. No one would ever guess that, a few weeks ago, he broke a window putting her out.

The house across the street with the two American flags has some very appreciative guests who applaud every time my neighbor creates an especially impressive display. I am happy to learn that the guy across the street isn’t as lonely as he pretends to be.

We decide to go to bed around midnight, but it is no use. The rumbling continues long after we grow tired of watching beautiful bombs burst in the air. The crazy part about it is fireworks are supposed to be illegal. Real crime over the holiday weekend precludes anyone from worrying about the thousands of unauthorized pyrotechnics shows occurring all over the city.

Naima Omar

Born in Atlanta, GA., Niama Omar moved to Cleveland at the age of five. She attended AJ Rickoff, Robert Fulton, Riverside and Gracemount Elementary Schools. She earned an Associate Degree in specialized technology from Pennsylvania Culinary and Bryatt & Stratton College. She also has two children.


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