Purge night fell on the Ides of March that year. I was living with my boyfriend Cal, his brother, sister, cousin, and (temporarily) his mother, in a twelve-hundred square foot bungalow we had beaten to shit over the course of five mostly drunk years living there. We had an absentee landlord named Claudia with whom we communicated only in order to schedule roach exterminations, an annual reminder of our existence to which she responded by raising the rent. By six o’clock we were arguing about whose turn it was to get beer and battling the heat. Is it still considered unseasonably hot if it’s almost always unseasonably hot?

Two blocks down the street our friend James was hosting a party at his house, an even deeper shit hole than ours, and having no better options available we defaulted to it. Our rule was to not travel further than we could reasonably imagine walking at 4am. This was the first Purge night post-Uber, and the company had issued a promotional deal they were calling “Beat the Purge Surge,” offering 50% off Uber Pool rides before 2am. We wouldn’t be needing it.

Garbage night coincided with the Purge and our walk was punctuated by small swells of empty beer cans and greasy cardboard. I found a positive pregnancy test and thought about keeping it as a prop for a mean joke. We arrived to find our small group of friends sitting on the porch taking turns passing around a Flesh Light, the origins of which remain unclear, and blowing into one end of it to make it fart, which continued for about thirty minutes. They were micro-dosing on MDMA.

The night went on quietly like this until the neighbors across the street started firing Roman candles at us and Cal and I decided it was a good enough time to walk home. That’s when things started to dissolve. As was the custom, we launched into an argument less than one minute into our trip. It was a routine argument, with a beginning, middle, and end we both knew very well. It was one of several hallmark symptoms we displayed of a partnership in late stages of decay. Oh well, we thought. But this one ended differently, ominously, without the gestures of closure I was used to.

In the morning, half asleep, I watched Cal pass through the room like a shadow and leave for work without a word. I went outside. Someone had spray painted a large pink swastika on the hood of my car and there was a charred pile of what I recognized as Ikea furniture in the street, still smoldering. It was overcast and mild and the breeze carried a faint and sweet chemical odor. I texted Cal and asked if what I thought had happened had truly happened, if we were breaking up, if I should buy a plane ticket home. He said yes.

— Anna Mack