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The Popcorn Story

It’s a week before my senior show. If my roommate comes back from Vegas early he will have a heart attack from seeing the shape our apartment is in. Dirty dishes in the living room, tubes of paint and brushes scattered around the kitchen cabinets. It would not be unusual to see something like a dirty shirt, a half eaten bowl of top ramen and a stack of notebooks and papers all lying together. I like to think of it as controlled chaos. It may look like a mess to an outsider, but I know where everything is.
After 48 straight hours of painting I decide that my brain needs a rest. Being in art school is kind of like being in Vegas. You have no set schedule and no real concept of time. I look over at the clock to see what number it has. 1:00. I look outside my window and given that it’s dark I assume it is 1 a.m. I call my friend Vivian to see if she wants to see a movie with me. It takes a little convincing but she decides to come by after I promise her that popcorn will be involved. This turned out to be a grave mistake.
I’m not exactly trying to charm the pants off this girl, we know each other pretty well, but I figure a little light cleaning before she comes over might be a good idea. She comes in and sits on the couch. I sit on the arm and we discuss our options. Looking through my collection we narrow it down to The Notebook or How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. I can’t remember which one we picked so for the record lets just say it was Die Hard. Before we start the movie she reminds me of the popcorn. I grab a bag with blue and yellow stripes out of a cabinet and stare at it for a second. Alright popcorn, I don’t like you and you don’t like me, but this is for Vivian so can we just set aside our differences and get along this one time? I set the bag in the microwave and foolishly hit the button labeled “popcorn”. I make a mental note to listen for the pops. Two minutes later, lost in conversation my thoughts are interrupted by an all too familiar smell. I run over to the kitchen, open the microwave door and a plume of white smoke comes out. Kind of like a teeny tiny little Hiroshima in my kitchen. This is shortly followed by a loud periodic beeping sound that could be heard through out the apartment complex.
Vivian and I open my front door and patio screen. We sit on seperate couches in what feels like a haunted house with one too many fog machines, curiously waiting to see what follows. Its too loud to hear each other so we start communicating through facial gestures and a made up sign language. Our conversation is quickly stopped by the muffled static of a walkie talkie. I turn my head to see a fairly large man standing heroically over the doorway. He looks like he’s out of breath after the flight of stairs he just walked up, but he was trying not to show it. After staring around the room for a while without looking or making any acknowledgment of our presence he grabs his walkie talkie, puts it up to his face and says.

” Looks like we got a code 4, I repeat a code 4.”

Vivian and I still sitting on opposite couches both look at each other, squint our eyes, slightly tilt our heads and silently mouth the words “Code four?” He exits the room. To escape the noise and smoke for a while we decide to go out on my balcony. Gathered on the grass outside my complex are men, women, families and children mostly dressed in pajamas and huddled in blankets. I light up a cigarette so as to provide an excuse for the white smoke still exiting from my apartment, in case anyone looked up and got suspicious. No one seemed to notice. By the time I finished the alarm had been turned off. We decided to go inside and start the movie when we suddenly hear another alarm of sorts. This one is coming from the streets and seems to be getting louder and louder. A bright flashing red light starts to creep over the trees that are blocking our view of the street. Then about 3 fire trucks pull up in the middle of the street outside the entrance of my apartment.
A man in a big yellow suit and yellow hat jumps out of the red truck and starts to exchange words with the heavy set security guard that was once in my living room. I start to imagine the exchange of words being said between these two people. It’s mostly the security guard apologizing for the false alarm. Losing interest we head back inside to sit and talk about what just happened.
“Can you believe all the people that were out on the gra. . .” I stop mid sentence when I see a group five firefighters in full uniform (helmets and all) enter my apartment. I stand up. Can’t remember if it was because I was nervous or if it was a sign of respect. They scan the room without really making any eye contact with us, much like the security guard did minutes earlier. “How stupid do you guys feel?” One of them jokingly says to ease the tension. I give the best fake laugh I possibly can, which still sucks. I need to work on that. The alpha male of the group grabs a cooking tray and awkwardlys fans the smoke in the apartment, then sets it down in a different location. I can’t remember if he gave some sort of arbitrary comment and then left or if he just said nothing and started walking out. The rest of them follow and as they all started funneling out the door the last one stops, turns around, looks at me and says. . .
“Minute forty-five. . . . . . popcorn”
As an ironic birthday present 3 weeks later, Vivian gave me a giant pink popcorn bowl with 5 popcorn bags in it. To this day I have never, nor will ever pop popcorn in that microwave. The bowl I’ve kept as a memento. It managed to survive the move into my new apartment and has found a home in the top shelf of my kitchen cabinets. I feel every kitchen needs that big bowl or glass or plate that gets stored in the top shelf and is never used. This popcorn bowl will always be mine.
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