I almost didn’t go to Alumni weekend. I had a lot to do at home, and it’s sort of a long trip down to LA, and maybe I had an inkling that I’d have to explain fucking Harold to the current students. But I knew Lenny and Spike would be there, and I hadn’t seen either of them in maybe eight years, so I though, what the hell.

So the three of us were standing around in the courtyard of the dorm where we roomed together Junior and Senior year. Lenny was telling a blue-haired undergrad named Leona about the old waffle irons in the cafeteria when fucking Harold wandered in. Spike saw him and immediately shouted.

“Hey! The fuck are you doing here?”

“It’s my ten year reunion too, asshole,” said fucking Harold.

I turned to face him. When we were in school, he’d been so small I could pick him up with one hand. He hadn’t filled out much, and I hadn’t lost any muscle. So when I decided to loom over him his attitude softened a little. The duffel bag he was carrying drooped.

“You need to get the fuck out of here,” said Lenny. “If they find you you’re gonna be in deep shit.”

“None of them even know who I am anymore,” said fucking Harold, adjusting his shoulder strap.

“We do,” I said. “Time to leave.”

“Yeah whatever,” he said, “Fuck you.” He walked out of the courtyard, trying as hard as he could to swagger with the big bag swinging back and forth around his leg.

“What the hell was that?” said Leona. A few other undergrads had gathered at the short spectacle.

“That was Harold,” said Lenny.

“Who?” said a kid who wasn’t wearing shoes.

“Harold Stratus,” said Spike.

“Never heard of him,” said Leona.

“Thank fucking god,” said Lenny.

“Who was he?”

“Shit,” said Spike. “Now they’ll know.”

When we were Freshmen, there was The Coffeehouse. It was an old building, as far as LA is concerned, about a hundred and fifty years. Fancy wood paneling, dark red carpets, chandeliers. And for some reason the administration allowed students on work study to autonomously operate a coffeehouse out of it.

Coffeehouse is maybe not the most accurate term for it. It opened at eight PM, and was generally open until three or four in the morning. People up late studying could go and get fried food or ice cream or baked goods, as well as coffee. Late nights at the Coffeehouse were an institution, and those memories are some of my favorites from my time in school. The cozy opulence and exhausted bonhomie felt more like home than anything else at school.

Everybody was vaguely aware of fucking Harold. He was That Guy in class, asking obnoxious questions designed to show off that he knew some random vaguely relevant fact. He had a column in the school newspaper that tried to be edgy but was mostly just poorly written.

One morning at about seven he went into the Coffeehouse with a can of gasoline and a zippo lighter. He poured the gas on everything, the curtains, the carpets, the old round tables of dark wood that were covered in nearly a century of carved initials. He didn’t really know how gasoline worked, so when he lit the zippo he burned his arm pretty badly. The building was completely destroyed.

The campus went crazy. They had to actually give him police protection for the few days it took to expel him. And for all that time, whenever I saw him, he had this shit eating grin on his face.

Eventually somebody leaked the last column he submitted to the paper, which they’d of course never printed, where he explained what he was doing. He knew the consequences. He wasn’t trying to hide it. He did it so that we’d remember his name. Fucking Harold.

So after he was expelled, there was a weird kind of war. Most of us just did our best to forget that he’d ever existed. The administration actually tried to ban mention of him. Any paper that mentioned him would get a failing grade. That kind of thing. But for a small population of students, it was just too funny to ignore.

They made t-shirts. Black t-shirts with the words HAROLD STRATUS in big white block letters. Fights broke out between those of us trying to forget him and the assholes who were intent on keeping the joke going. The administration tried to suspend kids for wearing the t-shirts, but the kids went to court and it turns out in California schools have to allow freedom of speech. For the next three years, it was nearly impossible for us to get away from fucking Harold, even though he was banned from campus, and in jail for most of that time.

“That’s fucking awesome,” said Leona.

“No, it really isn’t,” said Lenny.

“We should make some more of those those t-shirts,” said barefoot kid. Leona laughed.

That’s when fucking Harold’s fucking bombs went off.