I read this story last night. I didn't change the names to protect the innocent because let's face it - nobody was innocent. Some of this may or may not be hyperbole (though doubtful), luckily I've got a photographic memory.
“Are you sure this is what you want?” skinny Erika held up two 4-packs of strawberry-flavored wine coolers and looked at my 13-year old sister, Adrienne with a slight glint of disgust.
Erika was my best friend for many reasons - her fake ID was just a bonus. Some other fun facts about Erika: She was pants pissing hilarious and loved to act out scenes, she made the best mix tapes in town, both her parents worked – giving us a safe house for after school cigarette and pot smoking. Also, her mom loved vodka, so there was always a full supply of bottles stocked on the shelf under the microwave. But what sealed the deal was her father’s erratic dieting. When he fell off the wagon, which was every day, he stocked up on Nacho Dorittos, Oreos and Mountain Dew. Erika’s house was a teenager’s utopia, at least until 5pm when she pushed out the back door before her mom got home.
“Yes, one for me and one for Meredith,” Adrienne chomped on a colossal wad of Bubblicious looking more like an eighteen year old than little Erika.
“Wine coolers give me a headache.” I grabbed a 6-pack of Milwaukee’s Best from the shelf. The piss watery Milwaukee’s Best would give me the runs the next day, but this was way better than a wine cooler headache.
“Should we get a case?” Erika asked.
“A case - for just me and you?”
I was convinced Erika had a tapeworm, or a metabolism that moved at the velocity of a rocket ship. I could never figure out where she put the gallons of booze and mounds of junk food she consumed. Calories evaporated in her mouth. I often wondered if my thighs made up the difference.
“It’s cheaper,” she heaved the case into the shopping cart.
“That’s a lot of beer for two people,” Meredith who was in my sister’s class said - as if that would change Erika’s mind. Meredith’s beauty was so striking that boys would perform John Cusack feats to get her attention; serenades, begging on knees, gold necklaces, song dedications to name a few. But Erika and I refused her wiles.
“Wellll, it is my 15th birthday. Plus, the guys might come over later,” I smiled out of spite.
“You invited boys over?” Panic shot across Adrienne’s chubby face.
“Mom and Dad are in Atlantic City all weekend. We’ll be fine,” I assured her.
Back in the car the three of us watched Erika purchase the shopping cart full of booze. The cashier was either clueless, or just didn’t give a shit about selling alcohol to under-aged girls. This was the 80s. Erika exited the grocery store and we piled the booze into her mom’s green Celica coupe and hurtled through the streets of Kensington back home.
At the house we got the party started with Dougie Fresh’s “Six Minutes” blasting through the speakers. Erika and I had a beer chugging contest hoping to procure a buzz just in case the boys showed up and polished off our supply. We danced around the family room while Meredith and Adrienne sat on the kitchen floor filling tiny shot glasses with pink wine cooler. One shot after another. Their innocence was charming, like two baby deer in the woods not knowing guns were aimed right at their heads.
“A toast to you, my best friend,” Meredith held up the tiny shot glass.
“May we always be the best of friends,” Adrienne tossed back the pale pink liquid. I had sworn off wine coolers 10 months earlier, having the vague recollection of barfing into a Hefty bag in a quarantined room at some girl’s house I can’t remember.
There was a knock at the door.
Standing on the front porch wearing a white izod and white shorts was innocent Chris; her long blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders like angel sent from heaven. Why such a pristine creature wanted to hang out with riff-raff like me I’ll never know. I hesitated opening the door knowing that if she entered she would leave corrupted. Behind her I spotted Stefanie marching up the sidewalk with determination, her giant eyes blazed like two green suns ready to scorch the town to ashes. She had a few chips on her shoulder, and this I knew… once alcohol touched her lips she was about as subtle as a runaway train colliding into a glass building. Any chance innocent Chris had of fleeing unscathed evaporated.
“Happy Birthday, Simoney!” Stefanie roared shoving Chris out of the way.
“Come on in! Folks are in Atlantic City!” I welcomed them into the den of iniquity.
“Frantic City. Frantic City.” Adrienne sang out from the kitchen already wasted at the hour of 7pm. I counted eight empty wine coolers lined up in a neat row on the kitchen floor.
“Hey y’all, come in here, I have a surprise” I motioned for the girls to gather around dining room table and held up a dime bag of pot.
“That’s my girl!” Stefanie bellowed from across the table.
“I’ll roll.” Erika pushed up her sleeves and took out a packet of zig-zags. Her nimble fingers could roll the most perfect joints.
“Chris, is this a problem?” I asked - not really giving a shit.
“No way. I’m cool. Remember that one time you got me high and I liked it,” she smiled and the last drop of innocence vanished from her pretty blue eyes.
We passed two fat joints around and around. Smoke billowed and snaked between our bodies and hung in the air like a thick cloud. We burned down those joints so low we had to use a roach clip to suck up the last embers of weed. The table of hazy faces nodded in approval. Erika jumped up and hustled into the family room to kick off a session of white girl Soul Train.
“Six minutes. Six minutes. Six minutes, Dougie Fresh you’re on. On, on, on, on, on, on…” she sang and tipped back a can of beer, not coming up for air until it was empty.
“Because these shoes always hurt my corns…” I sang back, and followed suit chugging down the rancid beer.
We formed two lines facing each other and took turns dance-laughing down the middle.
“My turn. My turn,” Adrienne barreled her way in middle. Her plumpish body swayed as she revved up for some spectacular move. We waited not sure what she had planned. We waited some more.
“Get to it!” someone yelled.
Adrienne fell to her knees.
“What the fuck’s she doing?”
On all fours, her round body started contracting into dry heaves. We watched in utter stoned amazement waiting for the inevitable… Up came all four wine coolers, some beer, and an entire Continental’s pizza.
The room emptied while Dougie Fresh droned on in the background.
Erika and I ran to the kitchen and leaned over the sink gagging into the empty glasses and beer cans. The stench of beer mixed with wine cooler made my gut heave, but nothing came up except saliva and tears.
Someone was cackling like wild banshee in the family room. I stumbled back to the crime scene to find Chris doubled over pointing to the pile of yuck Adrienne had dispersed onto the floor. All of us gathered around to closer observe the mound, puzzled at the strange object perched on top of the heap.
“What IS that?!”
“That’s so fucking sick, man.”
“I’m gonna puke!”
“It’s a french fry! It’s a fucking french fry,” Chris howled holding her crotch to stop from pissing her white shorts. I was happy to see she was enjoying herself.
For the next twenty minutes I scooped up the mess with paper plates. The pungent smell of wine coolers mixed with bile had me back in the kitchen dry heaving over the sink. Adrienne slogged her wayward body upstairs to take a shower.
“Was that really a french fry?” I marveled as I doused the Oriental rug with an entire bottle of Resolve, praying it would dry before my parents returned from Atlantic City.
After I finished cleaning up, I noticed the girls were stuffing their faces with slices of my chocolate birthday cake. I couldn’t remember if they sang to me or not. I didn’t care.
“It looks like ANTS! Ants! Ahhhhahahah, cake! I’ve got cake in my throat,” Stefanie laughed over and over.
I left the asylum of stoners to check on Adrienne. She stood under the shower nozzle letting the warm water run over her body. She was still wearing her new Benetton sweater vest.
“You okay, A?”
She looked like a wet poodle in a sweater one size too small.
“I’m okay,” she mumbled.
“Why don’t you take off your vest? You might ruin it,” I felt a slight pang of guilt that I might be the worst role model in the history of time.
“I’m okay. Just go back to your party,” she smiled under the spray of water.
“No, I’m waiting until you’re finished. I don’t want you to fall or something.”
“Oh, just so you know, A, you’ll never live down the french fry,” I handed her a towel. (It’s true – 27 years later and we still bring it up)
“It wasn’t a french fry, it was my gum,” she grumbled drying off her sopping wet sweater vest.
“You really shouldn’t swallow that shit, it’ll mess up your intestines.”
The next day we took precautions and hid out at Meredith’s house so we wouldn’t be home when my parents arrived. During the middle of a heated scene in Dirty Dancing the phone rang. Meredith picked it up, hung up and walked over to us, her face a pale greenish hue.
“Who was that?” I asked.
“Umm, Simone and Adrienne, that was your mom. She found two roaches and a roach clip. You have to go home.”
Keep writing. It saves lives.