The school bell rung and off we went, scurrying in different directions like cockroaches avoiding your kitchen light. The plan had all of us back in our own homes after school. Since the dance didn’t start until 7pm, we had plenty of time to prepare. Dinner with our unsuspecting parents and a tale woven to them about the night’s plans(minus the copious amounts of alcohol to be consumed). I would roll out a story about going to the dance and afterwards heading to McDonald’s(back in my day, McDonald’s was the Nobu of Mt Penn. Everyone hung out there. Pathetic to some, nostalgic to others.) and then all of us were going to be spending the night at Ben’s house. I would get my necessary nod of approval and finish my potatoes augratin. A quick shower to erase the smell of gym class shorts(washed a neglectfully minimal amount of times throughout the year) off, roll my acid wash jean cuffs, lace up my Reebok pumps, and by 6pm out the door headed to a predetermined destination.
I head over to Matt’s house. It is right off of Carsonia Avenue. His house is where the snatch and grab of the alcohol was taking place. He would lay the distraction while I blindly reached into the double cabinet above the refrigerator to grab our potent potable. With our bottle of booze safely stored in the lining of Matt’s coat, we bid a farewell to his mom and head down Carsonia again towards the corner of Harvey to the Redner’s Grocery Store where we would be meeting up with the rest of our friends.
The sun was down and it was easy to slip between the moonlight, shadows, and streetlights on our three block jaunt to Harvey Avenue. Behind the bushes, in the back of the Redner’s, facing North 25th Street we would meet up with the rest of our party. From there we slip down Navella Avenue, off of the main artery. Navella would lead us directly to the Antietam Rec Center and Antietam Lake. We would have to be careful when we went down Navella. It intersected four separate streets before dumping us out at the Rec Center and we did not want to garner unwanted attention from nosy citizens deputized by the neighborhood Crime Watch.
After guzzling away any trace of sobriety, we would follow Byram Street past our local pool. We pick up Sterling and away from the hustle and bustle of Carsonia Avenue. We grab Vesper Avenue, Myrtle Avenue and lo and behold we are at the school. Cautious not to alert anyone to our spiked blood alcohol levels we enter the dance. Enjoy the rest of the night and sleep off the effects of our inebriation. The next morning pump our chests out trying to prove which one of us was the most drunk.
That is how we would have liked for it to go. How we planned for it to go. How, in our clouded teenage minds, we sincerely thought it was going to.
This is how it really went.
Earlier that week I had broken through some barriers with a girl I had been attempting to swoon. She was a junior and a someone whom I had fallen for two years prior. Although we had not proclaimed our official status as boyfriend and girlfriend I was well on my way and the dance Friday night, March 6th could have cemented it. Amongst our grand scheme being devised everyday at lunch, Erin and I had made plans to meet up at the dance(when I had done this I obviously had forgotten my commitment to my ragtag group of friends, but come on, who hasn’t done something stupid for a girl?) My plans of being so drunk I profess my undying love for total strangers on Friday night came to a grinding halt due to my loftier goals of love and a raging set of hormones.
I had now effectively taken myself out of all the fun of the night but I refused to take myself out of the devised and agreed upon scheme I had given my vote of confidence to. So the night of March 6th, 1992 had begun when my parents did sign the waiver of consent for me to dance, spend 59 cents at McDonald’s, and remain at Ben’s the rest of the night. I headed out the door and made my way to Matt’s house. When I got there, Matt distracted his grandmother long enough for me to snatch the fullest bottle of whiskey I could wrap my hands around. Matt and I exited in due haste, making our way to North 25th Street and the bushes of Redner’s. It so happened this moment became our first twist of the plan.
There were some in the group who had either not been ready or were content with blasphemously ignoring our plan and heading to the lake without the entire group. We were missing Matt(another one), Aaron, and some of the girls. Misinterpreting the larger picture to this first snag as nothing more than problems with punctuality, we headed down Navella and towards Antietam lake(It is said a butterfly’s wings can cause a tsunami thousands of miles away. We all may have missed the butterfly but we were sure in store for the tsunami.).
We got within shouting distance of the lake(Let me clarify this lake. It is more of a stagnant watering hole with a solid 6 inches of algae masking the entirety of the lake like the film you get on paint when you don’t seal the lid correctly. It was small, it smelled, it had been rumored there was one large fish patrolling the bottom scum of the lake and like Nelly, we only ever caught glimpses of her back cresting the water. You would never have swam in this lake unless you had gotten your hands on a Hazmat suit. That was our lake. But it was dark and teenagers looking to partake in illegal or lewd activities….it was the place to go). We saw the rest of our friends waiting there for us. The reason they had been late it had appeared as though the 24oz of whiskey we had contrabanded away from Matt’s house wasn’t to be enough and so a cooler of beer was waiting for all of us too.(Can you feel the flapping butterfly wings stirring the tsunami’s force?)
As our troop headed back to the seclusion of the lake’s back brush and the waning moon’s offering of dim light, Kelly had decided to remain up at the Rec Center’s swings. Kelly was begrudgingly abstaining from drinking tonight. She was actively taking medicine and despite her teenage mind, had the forethought to just say no this night. I found this to be my opportunity to abstain as well. If I had any chance at love with Erin(played to a backdrop of Richard Marx’s “Hold on to the Night”) I was going to have to do it sober. I would like to believe it had been my strong moral code, responsible nature, and resistance to peer pressure as to why I would not be drinking but I was just a horny 16 year old kid. That night my brain had orders from another boss.
I decided to join Kelly on the swings and kill some time while our friends got smashed. I never enjoyed hanging out with drunk people when I was the sober one so I was hoping they could down that bottle and all that beer quickly. I wanted to get to the dance, work my sixteen year old magic with Erin, get back to Ben’s house, put a little buzz on and go to sleep. As we sat there swinging away, they all had been pretty quiet at their makeshift cocktail party. Strangely quiet. The quiet parents hate when all their kids are in the house and yet there is no noise. The bad quiet. That’s what Kelly and I heard(though neither of us admitted it, we both had that look of concern). Little did we know it was at this point hell had delivered a hand basket just for us.
…to be continued.