While I sat gazing at the black and white clock that hung on the wall in English- my last class of the day, Johnny’s sister waited at the Rite Aid checkout with a bottle of whiskey and a fake ID. She had text Johnny a few minutes before to let him know that we had collected enough money to “buy a handle of Lord Calvert.” Initially, Johnny was upset--we had asked for a fifth, but his sister explained that a handle was what they called a half gallon bottle of booze. “Kid, if you don’t even know what a handle is, do you really think you’re ready to drink one?” She had texted him. “Yup,” He had replied. Boy, was he wrong. It was the Friday night before spring break, and my best friends and I had decided that we were going to get drunk for the very first time. Blueprints and outlines for this day had been made weeks in advance. Though this was not our first attempt at drinking, to this day it will historically prove to be our most successful. Jodi’s parents were the coolest out of the bunch, so we figured we could spend the night there. Jodi’s mom had purchased us booze once, and Jodi was allowed to have boys spend the night in her room even on school nights. “I really don’t like the idea of you guys drinking at such a young age, but if you’re going to try it, I’d feel better if I knew where you all were,” Jodi’s mom said in an attempt to justify our experiment. In reality Jodi’s dad would be furious if he knew what we were planning.
After class, I met up with my two best friends Jodi and Ashley at their lockers, which were side by side. Ashley asked Jodi if she thought we should all wear our Halloween Costumes to the “party,” since Halloween was only a few days away. “Duuuude! Let’s do it! ” Jodi was always looking for a reason to dress up. Out of the three of us, she was the leader and possibly a bully. Ashley on the other hand was sometimes too timid. “Okay, we’ll stop by my house on the way to Johnny’s, and I’ll bring the shot glass that my aunt bought me when she was in Hawaii.” Ashley pulled her little orange backpack from the locker. When we arrived at her house, we burst out in giggles at the shot glass, which read: “I got LAID in Hawaii.” “Your Aunt got you that?” I chuckled. “She must have gotten LAID in Hawaii!” Jodi squealed with laughter.
We walked to Johnny’s house--which was actually a singlewide trailer that sat in the front yard of someone’s pre-manufactured home. His parents used drugs we assumed and were never home, at least not any time that we’d been over. Johnny was tall and thin with scraggly blonde hair falling just past his ears. He always asserted himself as the alpha male. Sometimes while debating with Dennis, Johnny’d puff out his chest like a pigeon. Jodi and Johnny we’re the perfect couple, because she too was the alpha of our group. Jodi was tall for her age with long, straight, jet-black hair and she always wore white glitter eye shadow. She always decided where we went for lunch. Honestly, I don’t think that Ashley and I really enjoyed being friends with Jodi as much as we feared not being her friend. She knew everyone, and everyone knew her. Her whole family was pretty well known for being kind of wild. Ashley was petite with freckles and strawberry blonde hair, always kept tied in a ponytail. Her parents had recently divorced due to her mother’s gambling addiction, and this was her first year of school in our town. She didn’t ever swear and she didn’t eat anything blue. No blue candy. No blue slushies. Nothing blue. The only information about Dennis I had at this point was that he had passed out in math class, in seventh grade, after stabbing himself in the hand with a lead pencil. I still wasn’t sure if it was true. “Jennifer Leopard told Mariah Star that Jake McNaughter actually saw it happen. The Mr. Hall had to do CPR and everything.” Jodi nodded her head to assure us of the truth and tapped her fake glittery nails on Johnny’s door. A few seconds later he opened the door and smoke billowed out of the tiny trailer. The sweet, skunky smell of it crept up my nostrils, and I took a deep breath. “Oh yeah, sorry girls we were just hittin’ this roach.” Dennis held up the remains of a joint he’d lifted from his dad’s ashtray. “You’re smoking roach? Gross.” Ashley scrunched her nose. “It’s weed, Ashley. They’re smoking weed.” Jodi put her palm to her forehead. “I’ll put it out. I know you guys don’t smoke.” The roach hissed as he dropped it into a half empty bottle of Budweiser. “We gonna do this fo’ real this time?” Johnny shook Dennis almost violently by his shoulders. “Coulda’ done this for real a couple weeks ago if you wouldn’t have hogged the whole bottle.” Dennis jerked out of Johnny’s grip and took a step into the kitchenette.
About a month prior, we had scraped together about eleven dollars and convinced Jodi’s mom to buy us a bottle of Jagermaiester, on the condition that we pay for her 40 ounce malt beverage. We walked down Jodi’s long, gravel driveway, surrounded by massive redwoods and sitka spruce. Midway down the road, just out of eye and earshot, we stopped and formed a circle. Johnny pulled the pint out of the front pocket of his stained and oversized blue jeans and took the first swig. The grimace on his face made me seriously reconsider my interest in drinking. “Just hurry up and do it. Take a swig and pass it.” Johnny commanded. “I’m going to. I’m preparing myself.” I took a deep breath and jerked the bottle to my lips. It smacked into my teeth with a loud clack. “Ooooh! Bummer!” Dennis and Johnny harmonized. “ I’m fine,” I smiled to show my teeth, “but this tastes like shit.” “Yeah, it’s like cough syrup.” Ashley whined. “Yeah, but it’ll get you drunk, and that’s what we’re all here for right, ladies?” Johnny took the bottle from Jodi, lifted it to his mouth and finished it. None of us were even buzzed, not that we knew what it felt like to be buzzed.
This time though, we would have more alcohol, and we would stay inside Jodi’s room to drink it. Ashley’s mom dropped us off around 5pm, and by 6 the party had begun. We crammed into Jodi’s small bedroom that housed two dressers overflowing with clothes, and two twin size beds, the second for her usual weekend company. “We need a chaser,” Johnny demanded. “Dennis, did you bring anything?” Dennis unzipped his backpack and pulled out a half empty bottle of Smirnoff Vodka. “I got this from my Mom’s nightstand. She’ll probably be so drunk tonight when she gets home from the bar, she’ll think she drank it all.” She hadn’t noticed that most the rest of her liquor bottles had been filled with water to disguise what Dennis had drank, so he was probably right. “Dude, we can’t chase whiskey with vodka. You’re an idiot!” Johnny’s hand smacked the back of Dennis’s head. “Hey man, what the fuck? I was just trying to make this a real party.” He dropped his head and began to fiddle with his shirt. “I’ll go check our fridge for something, but I think all we have is milk.” Jodi walked out of the room, closing the door behind her. The beds sat against two of the walls in an L shape to the right of the door. Johnny and Dennis sat on the bed horizontal to the door, while Ashley and I shared the bed that sat directly below the window. The head of our bed touched the head of the boys’ bed, but we sat at the other end so we could gossip. “I think Johnny’s going to try to put the moves on her tonight.” I whispered to Ashley. “Ew, Jessica. With all of us in the room, you think?” Her face curled up. “I don’t know, but he’s not very shy. If you haven’t noticed. Hey, maybe Dennis will try to put the moves on you.” I checked to make sure neither of them heard me. “Yeah, well if I saw that fool I’d grab him by his shirt and give him something to send me out of class for.” Johnny grabbed Dennis by the collar of his shirt as an apparent demonstration of his toughness. They boys were talking about which teacher they would like to “run into on the street,” and what punishment they would ensue for giving them failing grades. Ashley had changed into her Halloween costume before leaving her house and was now dressed in a vibrant pink sequined prom dress, with fairy wings strapped on like a backpack. Her hair was pinned up and curled and had been dusted in glitter. She was the only one who had dressed up and now she complained that she felt awkward because of it. Jodi returned with a package of Styrofoam cups and Tampico orange juice punch, which came in a gallon jug for a minimal price. I was nominated bartender and set up four cups on the clearest dresser. “How much should I put in there?” I had to hold the bottle of Lord Calvert with two hands. I poured a little and the force of the liquid moved the cup back. “Just leave us enough room to add the juice. That’s how you make a mixed drink.” Jodi rolled her eyes. “My brother gets drunk like every weekend. He told me how to make them.” I filled each cup about halfway full with the whiskey, and added juice until the drink was a burnt sienna color. I marked the cups with our names and passed them out. “Shouldn’t we eat something? I haven’t eaten all day. I don’t want to puke,” Ashley whispered to Jodi. “My dad made beans and rice for dinner if you want some of that.” Jodi failed to whisper back. Ashley was a picky eater, but reluctantly she nodded, and Jodi brought in four bowls of beans and rice. “It smells.” Ashley plugged her nose as she chugged her cup. “Maybe you’re smelling the beans?” I lifted the cup to take my first swig. “No, you’re right. It’s definitely this.” We all filled our cups until the half-gallon was half gone. Jodi had been mixing the vodka into her whiskey and orange juice, she felt the buzz first and danced for a few minutes to “Tainted Love,” but her balance was compromised the more she drank. Now, she and Johnny were making out on the other bed. I turned my body away from them when Johnny’s hand began to creep up Jodi’s shirt. Their smacking and slurping sounds made me nauseous and I’m pretty sure I heard Johnny tell Jodi to ‘just touch it,’ or ‘just let me touch it,’ but I kept sipping from my cup, and discussing life with Ashley. “See, my mom used to drink. I didn’t want to try it because I knew I would like it. I love this stuff!” Ashley held her cup over her head before setting it on the windowsill. . She then jumped off the bed and stood in the center of the room. “This dress is uncomfurble. I wanna put on my ‘jamma’s!” She had been back and forth with this sort of baby talk all night. She began to unzip her dress, but before “the girls” became visible, I stopped her and took her to the bathroom to change. We both held onto the counter for stability as she put her shorts on. “This changes the way I look at everything.” Her words slurred together in a drunken melody. “The sky is green, and the grass is blue. This stuff is like liquid gold. It makes food taste better. It makes me sociable. It makes me dance better.” She swung her hips from side to side haphazardly. “I swear, from now on, I’ll only pray to our dear Lord Calvert!” We walked back into the room to find Johnny leaned over Jodi, holding her hair as she vomited into her wastebasket. He was sort of laughing, “A little too much sippy, sippy. Eh, babe?” Jodi dry heaved what seemed to be a “Yes.” And I felt my stomach turn. I could see the trash covered with what was still clearly a rice and bean meal. “I think I’m going to be sick, too.” I turned and looked at Ashley, who had her hand over her mouth. “I need something, a bag, a bucket, anything.” Ashley scrambled to the second garbage can in the room. She too became ill. Within seconds of witnessing Ashley’s purge, I rushed to the bathroom. The door wouldn’t open, so I rattled the handle. “Uh, yeah. Someone’s in here.” It was Jodi’s older brother. I ran to the back door and out into the woods behind the house. I wasn’t worried about bears, or mountain lions. I just needed to throw up. Before I could finish, Dennis walked out the back door and handed me his shirt. “Here, you can wipe your face with this. It’s a mess in there. Jodi’s parents are going to kill us.” I think he was crying. “Where’s Jodi?” I took the shirt and wiped my mouth. “She’s passed out. She’s sleeping. Johnny is watching her. It’s cold out here. Let’s go back in.” He took his now soiled shirt from me and threw it on the lawn. My head pounded as we crept through the kitchen. Just when I thought we had made it back without awaking her parents, the kitchen light flipped on. “What the hell are you two doin’?” Jodi’s dad stood blocking the doorway leading to Jodi’s room. “Almost eleven o’ clock.” “Uh, sir. Thank you for letting us spend the night, sir. We were just getting some water to drink, because we were thirsty. Thank you for letting us spend the night, sir.” Dennis spewed the words out of his mouth. “What is your problem, kid?” Jodi’s dad took a step towards Dennis and sniffed the air. “Is that whiskey, boy?” He turned back to Jodi’s room, and I knew the jig was up. He opened the door and flipped on the light. “Oh, for Christ’s sake. It smells like puke in here. Is that puke on the fuckin’ floor? Hey, Leslie, these kids are drunk!” “I know, Dan.” Jodi’s mom, Leslie appeared in the doorway. Dennis began to drunkenly apologize. He was sobbing now, “Sir, Dan. Sir. I’m so sorry. I am so, so sorry. You let us here to sleep, and we puke all over everything.” “Kid, you don’t need to apologize. You need to go to sleep and sober up.” Dan’s voice was deep and commanded authority. Jodi’s mom set me up on the futon in the living room, after giving me a glass of water and two aspirin. “Here, take this so you won’t feel like shit in the morning,” she said. “Should I call my mom, Leslie? I feel like I should call my mom.” I tried to sit up but my head felt like an anvil. “If you want to call your mom, honey, go right ahead.” She set the phone next to me left to assist Jodi and the rest of the gang. My mom answered after only one ring. I forgot how late it was. “Hello?” “Mom?” “Yeah. Honey, are you okay? What’s wrong? It’s almost midnight.” “Mom, I’m drunk.” “Drunk? Oh, honey. Hold on.” In the background I could hear my mom call out to her best friend Pat who slept on her couch. “Pat! Come here. Just do it. You’ve got to hear this. Jess is drunk.” Laughter erupted, and I felt the room begin to spin again. “Mom, I’m sick. I threw up. I drank too much.” “Oh, you did, did you? Do you need me to come get you? Do Jodi’s parents know what’s going on?” “Yeah, they know. I’ve never felt so terrible. I don’t think I can get in the car, mom. I think I’ll throw up.” Everything I said began with the intention of clarity but ended in a mumble. “Well, you should probably just get some sleep then. Don’t ya think?” “Yeah, but the room won’t stop spinning, Mom. Why is it spinning? I feel like I’m spinning.” “Just shut your eyes. Lay on your back and put one leg on the ground.” Pat had taken the phone from her. “This used to happen to me all the time. Just put one leg down, and it will ground you. It’ll make the room stop spinning.” “Okay. I’ll try it.” I set my foot flat on the ground, and quickly fell asleep.
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