Four score and several years ago I brought forth upon this blog an old story, conceived in temulency and dedicated to the entertainment of those who shall continue to read even after I started a post with a play on the Gettysburg Address, whom may be few and far between and oh my god are you still reading? fishsticks and screwdrivers–
I owe you a cookie.
Once upon a time I was just a small girl, off at college. But not just any college, this was art school (if that makes a difference, which it turns out that it does). You see in art school very little matters besides making things pretty, learning to talk the bullshit, and being drunk. I wish I were kidding. I didn't take one single college math or science course and our "english" class was remedial at best BUT I SURE CAN CARVE YOUR FACE OUT OF PLASTER WITH A MALT LIQUOR CAN, AND HOW.
Of the many lovely (and useful) college experiences I had the strangest were always related to our living situations. Our school was so small that they didn't provide dormitories, they just moved you into an apartment with several other young tortured artists– apartments with suspect landlords and faulty gas stoves. My freshman year I lived with two other girls on the second floor of an big old house; the rooms were large, the house was crumbly, and the landlord was a creeper. There was a second story porch overlooking the street with a swing on it and a hooker living next door named Red.
Our house contained the majority of the female freshmen. Directly across the street was a house that contained the males. Several apartments chock full o' boys. Unsurprisingly that house was in much worse condition, no thanks in part to the fact that it was the de-facto school party house. The year after the group of us moved away the boy's house was promptly condemned and featured as blight of the week! in the local paper. All this to say: we lived across the street from a real shithole where we would all go get drunk. The end.
Of the boys living across the street we were closest with Nathan and Dave who occupied the downstairs apartment. Knowing Nathan is an honor and a privilege because he is one of those rare finds people describe as "a character." He was (and continues to be) a large ridiculous bearded Virginian with a heavy accent, a taste for the sauce, and a bit of the crazy in his eye. He would bellow loudly, kept a beating stick in the living room, and would take baths while fixing collard greens. I love him dearly still to this day. Nathan was also our source of alcohol, because though we were all under the legal drinking age he had befriended the clerk and the gas station around the corner. Can I mention again he was a large bearded Virginian? If he'd been carded since he was fourteen I'll be a hobo wearing a squirrel face.
One Friday night like so many others Jon, my roommate, and myself walked across the way to participate in standard art-school carousing. Normally this would involved everyone drinking while watching Farscape on VHS but this particular weekend one of the other boys who lived in the house had invited a group of his own friends down to visit so there were unfamiliar faces present in our familiar spot. It bred bad attitudes and suspicion as you know I hate strangers, especially annoying screaming ones. Our normally locals-only zone threw twenty more LOUD faces into the mix poised on the precipice of disaster. Things at that house were always a careful balance of crazy but not too crazy, loud but not too loud.
I walked into the kitchen with a twelve-pack of beer in hand and looked around in dismay. Nothing is worse at a party than lots of people you don't know– they will drink your beer like horrible thieving wretches. I opened the fridge and checked out the situation. After a quick scan I deemed its status unsafe. If I left our beer here it would be gone in minutes like hats on cats. I jumped to the next possible logical conclusion: I would have to carry all the beers on my person.
Why would that be the next logical conclusion? I don't know, I was probably drunk.
I hauled the beer up on to the counter and loaded up the pockets of my pants. That didn't get me too far and I quickly resorted to storing some down my pants, and in my shirt. And in my sleeves. One in each hand and bulging oddly with heavy chilly glass bottles I surveyed my handiwork. WIN! TEH BEERZ IS SAFE! I smiled satisfactorily to myself and stepped off to go find friends. At that same very moment our lovely unwanted guests were out on the second-story deck screaming their faces off. I scowled. Trouble was brewing in our party safehaven. I found my way to the living room and holed up with my roommate.
Outside shit was getting crazy, but not that kind of fun crazy I've come to love and respect. It was adolescent new-drinker crazy, the kind with no dignity or smarts and complete with girls shrieking while consuming wine coolers. Disgraceful. Jon and Nathan stood near the edge of the upper deck talking and attempting to drink their beers in peace.
It was at that particularly untimely moment that a police officer stepped out of nowhere around the corner to the back of the house.
Time froze. Jon looked down at the cop. Nathan looked at Jon. They each looked at the cop. They each looked at the other–
The two of them walked purposefully towards the door as the party continued. No one else had seen their doom arising from the side of the house. A particularly annoying girl whom I had always hated stood at the rail steps from where Jon and Nathan had been– and dumped her drink over the side.
Onto the cop.
"ALRIGHT, WHO WANTS TO GO TO JAIL?"
All hell broke loose. Time sped back up, three times as fast.
Jon and Nathan moved into the kitchen and collected myself and Dave in one fell swoop. Except I was hobbling along like a sack stuffed full of glass bottles– because I WAS full of glass bottles. I paused at the kitchen counter to unload the ridiculous amount of beer from my person. Because no one knew what I had done all they saw was me outrageously pulling beer after beer out of my pants– my pants were like a clowncar of beer, which if anyone could invent would be the best thing ever. Where are they all coming from?! It's a miracle! I deposited double fistful after fistful of beer onto the counter until I was free at last.
As the police circled around the back yard the four of us bolted with speed and efficiency towards the back of the house. People were holed up in bedrooms, in bathrooms, under furniture. We plunged through a dark labyrinth of rooms and halls guided by gut instinct and faith alone. In the blink of an eye we were down the back hallway and busting through an unused door that connected to a dusty spiral staircase... and straight out the front door.
We peeked our heads out, one by one. In their haste to go take care of the noise complaint the police didn't leave anyone out front. We were free! We hurried out the door, got into the street, and attempted to walk back into our own house with some kind of decorum. Ho hum, nothing to see here, just taking a walk OHMYGOD quick, LOCK THE DOOR. Adrenaline pumping we watched from our porch swing on the other side of the street unable to see what was taking place but aware that we had just completed a masterful move. We were the only ones to escape.
It was a perfect storm of choreographed events that went of so smoothly it was as if that had been our plan all along. If any one thing had been different, if Jon hadn't seen the policeman, if I hadn't been in the kitchen with my pants full of beer, if Dave hadn't known his way through the back of the house, if the police had remembered to leave someone out front... it left us with a moment that will live forever in infamy– the story of the speedy escape. We would tell the story again, and again, and again, later at better parties and happy times. We'd illustrate it in class and on tables at birthdays. It's far from my most ridiculous story from that period but it's always been the most heart-pounding blood racing and our most beloved.