Sunday, March 17, 2013

the path (xiv)

Last year, I wrote a series of posts that explored "the path" that I've been on thus far in my life. For a while now, I've felt moved to add to that collection. Consider these additional installments further soul-searching, history revealing stories that help me better understand the person that I am today and who I hope to become, tomorrow.


Growing up, I went to seven different schools before I was in ninth grade. So by the time I reached high school - I didn't feel like I had much stability in the friendship department.  What does it take to be a friend? What does it take to be liked? What does it take to fit in?  Those were just some of the big questions that I was navigating at a critical point in my life: my early teenage years.  

My freshman year, I became fast friends with someone who was a native from the town. A native from a town that was very keen on its natives. It was a southern town that less than 26 years prior had undergone desegregation of the public school systems and held very firmly to its conservative roots.  The new friend was beautiful and athletic and had been very popular in middle school - which was a catalyst for her being very popular in high school. Moreover, her older brother was a senior heart throb on campus.

One Saturday afternoon, we arranged that she'd come over to my house for a few hours. My house being a very cozy two bedroom condominium on the second floor of a complex that I lived in with my mother.  And what I honestly didn't know until the day she was scheduled to visit was that my mother would be gone for the day.  So when she arrived to an adult-less house, the first thing that she did was call her quarterback boyfriend and invite him over. And then, she asked me if we had anything to drink.

I'm sure everyone's thinking that I had more to do with the trouble that we were about to get in to, but let me just state for the record: Up until my senior year in college, I'd always been very naive.  For example, when one of my college roommates asked if I'd like to "join" her and her Citadel boyfriend for the evening, I thought they meant by going out to dinner. When she said, "We were thinking of a ménage à trois..." I thought she meant a FRENCH restaurant.  Cross my heart, that's a true story.  Just ask my mother whom I called in a state of hysteria at 10 PM once I fully understood their intentions.

So there I am in ninth grade, holding a glass of ice water for my new friend and she scoffs at me.

"No, what I was wondering is if you have something to DRINK." She poured out the ice water before asking where my mother kept her "alcohol." My first instinct was to show her to the bottle of alcohol that we'd use for medicinal purposes - before I thought it best that she clarify. She laughed again as she set about opening various cupboards until she found what she was looking for.  My mother was not much of a "drinker" but she did have bottles of Kahlua, vodka and Creme de Menthe for when guests (that were older than 14) might come over.

My friend took all three bottles out of the hutch and poured approximately equal parts, in to her glass. Then she walked back in to the kitchen and opened the fridge. She extracted a Diet RC cola and a jar of maraschino cherries, which she liberally added to her cocktail.  At approximately the same time, her boyfriend arrived and they started to make out. And right about then, a little alarm in my head started to go off:  WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP.

The next hour was a blur. I do remember trying a sip of my friend's special concoction and thinking it was the grossest thing I'd ever consumed. So I ate a graham cracker instead. Meanwhile, my friend inhaled her drink and poured herself another one. Her boyfriend kicked off his shoes and turned on the college football game (Clemson vs. Alabama) on our 12-inch television set.  After her second drink, my friend who was leaning on her boyfriend's chest - dozed off to sleep.

I knew that her father would be coming to pick her up at 5:00 PM and since it was around 3:00 PM, I thought it was fine if she just took a little rest.  What I didn't expect was that less than five minutes in to her nap, she'd projectile vomit all over her boyfriend and my mother's couch.  The boyfriend jumped up, helped me get my friend up, and together we walked her in to my bedroom.

See, I really was naive. Because if I'd had any idea what was happening - or what was about to happen - I would have brought her directly in to the bathroom.  But no. We brought her in to my newly renovated bedroom and had her lay down on my lovely bed with the lovely down comforter.

And of course she threw up. Again. 

All over my bed. And her blond permed hair. And her Forlenza shirt and sweater vest and Guess jeans. I pulled her upright and together, with her boyfriend, we brought her in to the bathroom. Once we sat her limp body on the toilet seat, I decided that a shower was definitely in order.  So we got her in to the bathtub before I shooed the boyfriend out of the room so I could get her clothes off.

(Modesty. There's always time for modesty.)  

I filled up the tub and shampooed and conditioned her hair. I drained the tub and refilled it with clean water. I rinsed her off, dried her off, and dressed her in my clothes until her clothes - that I had put in the washing machine (twice) - could be cleaned.   With her boyfriend's help, I got her out of the tub - dried her hair - brushed her hair - and had her lay down in the bathroom with a bowl.  I then stripped the covers off the couch cushions, stripped my bed, and queued up the next four loads of laundry.  I scrubbed. And scrubbed and scrubbed.  It wasn't long before the house smelled like a combination of PineSol and Creme de Menthe with a subtle hint of vomit.

Her father called. He was on his way over to pick her up because she was supposed to be babysitting the neighbor's children in less than an hour. I re-dressed my friend in her freshly twice washed albeit not completely dried clothes (while ignoring the chunks of maraschino cherries that were still embedded in her sweater vest) and recruited the help of her boyfriend to help me get her down the flight of stairs to the street level. Her boyfriend then kissed her on her inebriated head before hopping in his car and leaving me to await the arrival of her father. Alone.

A few minutes later her dad arrived. So long as I live, I'll never forget watching him pull up in his white two-door BWM 325i. The sunroof was open. The sun was glistening off his short silver hair. I nudged my friend to stand up and making sure she had her sunglasses on - opened the passenger side door and helped her get in to the car.  Her father was chatting about something, so seemed unaware of his daughter's condition. In hindsight - this seems unbelievable to me, but I know for a fact that he pulled out of the parking lot without so much as a question as to why his daughter wasn't talking and acting rather floppy. 

From what I understand, when they arrived back at her house, she opened the car door - got out, took two steps and passed out cold in the driveway. Her parents quickly deciphered that she was two sheets to the wind.  That night, after my mother had arrived home and I fully revealed to her what exactly had happened earlier in the day - my friend's father called to talk with my mother and ask if perhaps she could come down and meet him at his Law Office one afternoon later in the week?  My mother obliged.  And. As it would happen, my friend's father told my mother that his daughter was forbidden from spending time with me in the future.

It was clear that I was a bad influence and since they were an upstanding Christian family in the community, he had a reputation to protect.  He went on to tell my mother that it really was no surprise that this situation had occurred at OUR home considering my mother was a divorced, single parent, and obviously provided no guidance or boundaries for her child (me!).  There's more to the story surrounding the trouble my friend seemed to find herself in throughout high school. But twenty-eight years later, that whole situation still leaves me almost speechless. (I don't think anything could ever leave me completely speechless, but this one definitely comes close.)