As I sit at my desk and sip my morning coffee, I peer above my computer at the backs of houses and the barely used doors that lead to rooftop decks. I study the decaying leaves in mustard yellow and blood orange. They gently sway in the breeze; I suspect they only have one, maybe two days left before they fall. Halloween has happened, and the winter air will be here soon.
I try to remember this time of year in 2012, 2007, 1998, 1987. But the only memory that rises to the surface, that hovers in the cool blue sky above the sparse branches, is a park party from the late fall of 1995.
By November of grade ten, my newfound love for drinking was beating strong. Fridays at school meant plans must be hatched: Where are we getting booze? Where will we go to drink? If parents weren’t away, we would join the throngs of other teens in Sherwood Park to sit on damp grass, etch our names into a rotting forest green picnic bench, and burn our throats with vodka or rum straight from the bottle. Sometimes we’d mix in a bottle of Dr. Pepper or orange juice, but on those cooler nights, when I really should have worn gloves, I preferred the sudden heat of the alcohol as it hit the back of my throat.
The plans would start in Mrs. Lowther’s English class. In between chants of “Kill the Pig! Cut his Throat!” I’d fold up bits of lined paper with a Friday Night Plan Quiz that I’d ask Carolyn to pass to Clara. It would read TOP SECRET and inside were well thought out options of how to get booze.
- Shoulder tap at B-store?
- Ask Alexia to get it for us?
- Use the rest of the V*$k# from cupboard on Dinnick Cres?
- Midtown Bakery? (We’d need Leah, Jen and Jane to pitch in.)
**Do you have any bottles left in your closet? Also, do you have my cords? I want to wear them tonight. Brown ones.
That night, we decided to shoulder tap. We put on our brown suede jackets that we had bought in Kensington Market. Mine could have fit an adult man, but I liked how old it looked. I liked how it smelled, well used suede with hints of sandalwood incense. It covered my 90lb frame like the tarp of a tent, hiding my pre-pubescent chest and pointy hips. We walked to the beer store and decided that I would be the one to ‘make a call’ on the pay phone. I stood in there, having a pretend chat, but secretly spying on all the cars entering the parking lot. Who would be an easy target? The cool 19-year-old guy with the long hair? Or the lonely 26-year-old man? I decide the older man, and so I approach him.
“Hi there. Could I trouble you to buy me a six pack?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Oh please? It’s my friend’s birthday and we just want a couple beers. I’ll give you a twenty and you can keep the change.” I’d give him my best 15-year-old flirty smile.
“Okay. Meet me at the back.”
I hover at the back of the store, blowing on my hands to keep them warm. I give a thumbs up to Clara, who is standing twenty feet away on a side street with a giant Mountain Equipment Co-op knapsack, ready to be stocked.
The man exits, passes me the beer quickly, and says, “Don’t get too drunk!”
“Thank you, sir! Have a great night.” Mission accomplished. Again. I’m so good at this.
We kick around the boarding school for a few hours, eating crackers, listening to Weezer’s Blue Album on repeat. We don’t really wear makeup yet, but we do have Lip Smackers. I choose Watermelon and Clara goes for Cotton Candy. Although I spend my weekends drinking until I puke, I’m still a member of the Lip Smackers Club, and receive new flavours in the mail.
At around 8pm, we sign out, saying that we’re going to a movie. We take time to figure out which film sounds like the most realistic plan and decide that Ace Ventura will be the easiest plot line to bluff, if one of the boarding school dawns decides to interrogate us. We had even practiced our best Jim Carrey faces in the mirror, laughing at how ridiculous they were, but also extremely proud of how foolproof our elaborate lie was.
On our way to the park, we stop to pre-drink in another park (lest we arrive at the park party sober). We sit on a pile of leaves, in a dark patch of bushes and take turns chugging a beer. It’s so exciting. It’s the best feeling ever when we start to feel silly. We both decide to take a pee and laugh at the mist that rises from our hot urine.
As we near the park, we hear a couple guys shouting stories and laughing. There’s always one really loud girl and guy, usually the most popular, who shout for no reason. I was quiet, and only the beer allowed me to get noticed. Tonight, it would make me really kookie and fun. I’d stand on the picnic bench and do a dance, as if in some trance. Some girls would laugh, but no guys would notice me. They never did.
In the bushes, Erin was getting fingered by James. I wondered if she did anything to him? Like, a blow job. I still wasn’t sure what that was, exactly. They would emerge eventually, with smiles that would indicate they’d been doing something that none of the rest of us had ever done yet.
Sometimes, I’d watch girls from my class kind of wrestle with guys on the ground. They’d shriek and roll, and sometimes he’d be on top of her, sometimes she’d be on top of him. Watching their private parts grind together excited me. I wondered if they felt excited. I wondered if anyone would ever do that with me.
On my third beer, I was starting to fall. I loved twirling and then falling. Claire (not Clara) let me have sips of her Baileys. It tasted just like chocolate milk. I LOVED IT! I drank more then went back to beer. I jumped on the park equipment for a bit to wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! And finally I passed out on the damp ground.
I don’t know if I was there for ten minutes or an hour. Clara woke me up and told me we had to bolt to make curfew. I rose to my feet, wiping the dirt off my sweater. Like most Friday nights, I stuck my fingers to the back of my throat and began to gag. I always felt better after I puked. After a few loud coughing sounds, I brought some up. Now I was ready to go back and finish off our well-hatched plans.
Ace Ventura. SO FUNNY! I loved it when he made this face. (Practice face.) I had some popcorn, Clara got M&Ms.
We walked back to the school, chewed on some Bubblicious to disguise our breath, and coated our lips with layers of Lip Smackers. This time, I did the Cotton Candy and Clara did the Watermelon.
A crisp November night from 1995. Now back to my morning coffee in 2015.