It is an uncomfortably balmy November evening, a Saturday. The air is thick with COVID-19, Schrodinger’s election is over (the orange cat is dead), and, for fuck’s sake, it’s 70 degrees in November, but that’s another article.
Tensions are high and students are more stressed than ever, having been pelted with Panopto stream after Panopto stream, mitigated only by the recent Election Day-Zoom armistice from a few days prior. UR professors had disarmed their mics and put down their annotation tools, and we all had some extra time to dread election night.
On such an eerily beautiful evening — and a Saturday nonetheless — what better way to decompress than with a socially distanced quad gathering? On a night like this, it’s time to get the boys together, crack a few cold ones, and just have an all around pandemic-friendly good time.
Sophomore Chadwick Barnes had just the idea: He and his boys, out on the quad, pounding brewskis and tossing dice. It gets dark early, so they’d need a light source. Chadwick’s solution? Torches. Chadwick and his friends ran to Home Depot and set them up on the quad to light up their night. Festive with a tropical twist.
On their torch-lit march to the quad, the sight of Chadwick and his boys hoisting torches after dark provoked a range of reactions — double takes, gawks, goofs, gaffs, glares, sobs, not to mention a few screams. Too buzzed from their pre-game to notice, the gaggle of young men took part in the collective ball-busting of group member, Mark, each brandishing their torches in his face after he appeared afraid of the flames.
We had a conversation with Chadwick (who, for some reason was wearing sunglasses even though it was dark) later that night. A reflection of the torchlight in his jet-black frames reminded us here at CT of the burning pit of despair that the U.S. has become.
Our conversation with Chadwick on that night:
“So, why torches? Why the quad?”
“Yeah, I just thought it would be a vibe… Like, torches? That’s dope. We all thought it was a good idea, so we went and got some torches… and… yeah. Here we are on the quad, just vibing. The quad is sick.”
“Aren’t you concerned that, especially during an election cycle, you might appear to be aligning yourselves with a controversial agenda, and possibly even a hate group?”
After a long silence interrupted by some head-scratching, facial contortion, drunken belching, and a series of confused looks at his boys, one of whom was passed out face down on the grass, Chadwick replied:
“You know, with all the civil unrest and whatnot, you might be sending a certain type of message with the torches, the kind that might attract some unsavory attention.”
In response, he continued to stare blankly off at some point in the distance, mouth agape, clearly confused. A fleshy thump sounded as another of his boys planted their face on the quad.
“Neo-nazis. You guys look like neo-nazi demonstrators.”
Chadwick started for a second, then stood still for a second, mouth working wordlessly before speaking, “What’s a neo-nazi? I don’t really follow politics.”