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A year after I went away to college, my mom left the Northern New Jersey town where we lived since I started tenth grade. Neither of us were the type to look back at old places we lived with much nostalgia. Before long, the town was forgotten. We moved on with our lives, occasionally passing it on the highway, conjuring up some pleasant, benign memory. I didn’t keep in touch with many friends from high school. They were mostly dudes in my vicinity who liked getting fucked up, so we got along fine. Despite our camaraderie's lack of depth, I spent some formative years alongside them, forming a bond I don’t have with my college buddies.
My last memory of the people I went high school with is a house party in my old neighborhood the summer after my first year away at college. I hadn’t planned on returning to the town, but I happened to be driving past it on my way to New York. Part of me just wanted to burn one with the old crew, but another part of me wanted to gawk at the people from my high school—people whom I would probably never see again reliving their bleak, suburban glory days.
I got to the party around 10 PM and there were cars parked up and down the block. I parked and walked toward the backyard, suddenly dreading the pleasantries I’d have to make with forgotten acquaintances. As I crossed the driveway, two guys walked up carrying several cases of beer. “Yo dude!” one of them yelled to me. “Long time no see!” It was a kid I had blazed with a few times back in high school. His name escaped me. He dropped one of the cases to the ground and ripped it open. Looking at his fellow beer-bringer and pointing at me, he said, “This guy’s fuckin’ crazy. Remember him? He’s, like, insane.” He looked back at me and said, “You’re gonna shotgun a beer with us, right dude?” I figured it might not be a bad idea to kickstart the evening, so I agreed and shotgunned a beer with the two dudes. As soon as I finished it, I let out a massive belch, attracting the attention of two of my old homies who were in the yard. They walked out onto the driveway and we greeted each other enthusiastically. The kid with the beers said, “It’s a fuckin’ reunion! Let’s all shotgun another beer!” Before I could say that I just had one and I’m probably good for the moment, I had an already popped beer can in my hand, ready to go. Right after we shotgunned the second beer, one of my buddies said, “Holy shit dude! You gotta see this.”
Leaving the beer-bringers behind, my buddies led me into the garage, where three kids were taking turns hitting a plastic five-foot bong. One of them, a little guy, was standing on a stepstool to get his mouth on top of the thing. They finished up and walked away dragging their feet and mumbling. We took over the bong. One of my friends said, “Dude, we haven’t seen you in forever. You gotta go first.” I cleared a hit in three or four breaths and immediately felt the early stages of the spins. I stepped back and coughed for a while before noticing that no one else was taking a hit. “Dude, you gotta do another one! It’s been, like, a year since we saw you!” he said. His encouraging words prevailed and I pulled another heaping hit out of the five-footer.
I coughed a lot more, but I didn’t throw up. I kind of wanted to just to get the beer out of my system. In less than 10 minutes, I had consumed two beers and two five-foot bong hits, and I hadn’t even made it into the party yet. I finally stumbled out onto the back porch and saw a couple of people I knew. I made small talk, but I was just trying not to fall into people as I spoke to them. I powered through it, figuring it would pass if I just drank some water. After all, it wasn’t the volume of what I had consumed that did it. It was just the quick succession.
I went into the kitchen to get some water and ran into a friend of one of my ex-girlfriends. In the midst of catching up, I felt a severe drowsy spell. Her face started to blur in front of me. Her voice started sounding distant and echo-y. I felt like it was making me even dizzier. I braced myself on the kitchen counter, put my hand up right in the girl’s face, and yelled, “Wait! Wait! Just shut the fuck up for two seconds.” I closed my eyes and reeled for a second. When I opened them, the girl’s disgusted face came into focus. “Gross,” she muttered, and walked away.
I chugged a cup of water and retreated to the house’s formal living room. It was off limits to guests, so it was empty with all the lights out. I laid out on one of the couches and fell asleep almost immediately. When I woke up, it was 3:30 in the morning. A couple of other people were passed out on couches around me. The party had died down. Sublime was playing in the backyard and a couple of voices were drunkenly singing along.
I got up from the couch and stretched. I felt like a million bucks. I walked out to the yard and saw that my old high school buddies were the last guys at the party, passing around a pipe and a bottle of whiskey. When I joined them at the patio table, they asked me where the hell I had been all night, and I explained. They broke my balls about it for a bit, and then we caught up on old times. Somebody rolled a blunt, and then another. In their wasted state, my friends reminded me of our experiences as kids, when we were first getting familiar with alcohol and weed. I kicked it with them for an hour or two and then jetted. Most of them, I never saw again. That party was the closest thing I had to a high school reunion, and I slept through it, waking up at the tail end of a smoke session the following morning. It’s an allegory for my entire high school experience, and I’m glad it went down like that.
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