This is part of a series of “flash-memoir” posts that stand alone, more or less, but also link together to tell a longer story. The 1st is here.
A storm drain runs underneath the main road, lets out into a little creek on either side. Only rain water runs through it, and it hardly ever rains so it’s hardly ever wet, the creek isn’t much of a creek. But it’s walking distance from the new house, and Jamie’s new bedroom in the new house is blessed with a sliding glass door to the back yard, which makes sneaking out at 2 am very doable.
Didn’t know as we went to see the new house, before it was ours, they’d be claiming their rooms the moment we waked in. Jamie was oldest, so it made sense he started it, calling the one with the sliding glass door, clearly the best one. Sarah was my age, called the one with the huge bay window overlooking the front lawn. Lisa, the youngest, called the one next to that, the one with its own door to the bathroom and a secret closet with attic access. And there you have it, less than a minute in, flags planted in all rooms but one. That left the plainest room for me, the one with four plain walls and no special features, right next to the garage entrance, high traffic. I felt left out, alone as usual, tried not to look it. The logical part of me stepped up to say this makes sense, they were going to be living there, they should get the choice digs. This would be just an every-other weekend gig for me. But still.
The only good thing about my room is its proximity to Jamie’s. That, and that my dad and his new wife are tucked away on the other side of the house. My alarm goes off at the designated time, but I’m already wide awake with anticipation, and fully dressed. I creep across to Jamie’s room and knock, but no answer. I open the door, he’s asleep. I call his name, shake his mattress, tell him the time. Groggy, he throws off the covers, but he’s dressed. We slide the glass door open carefully, quietly, patiently, like that guy in The Tell-Tale Heart, we won’t make a sound and the old man will never suspect. We pad across the concrete porch in our jeans and sneakers to the back yard gate with a six pack of Coors, and I don’t know how he got it, I’m just thrilled he did. It’s been on my calendar for years, this moment.
Cool thing about having a new step-brother who’s two years older is he can get things like a six pack of Coors. Or maybe it has less to do with being older and more to do with being outgoing, resourceful. Being the kind of guy who sees a good room and calls it, starts a land grab. Maybe for him this was the challenge of acquiring the illicit, transporting it to the designated location clandestinely. He’s a reader of adventure stories, maybe this is his adventure. He is Indiana Jones and the six pack his Golden Idol. I just want to get drunk.
A gutter at the curb above feeds into the storm drain. We snake up into the gutter and peek out at street level as tires whoosh by a few feet from our faces. If anyone caught a glint of our eyeballs glowing in the dark, they never stopped to check it out.
In the main drain, the curve of the pipe fits our backs just right. The cans are cold and dewey in the heat, have the old pop tops with the tabs that detach and get flung to the ground or dropped inside to swim and clink while you drink. This is the smell of beer. Of victory.
I take my first sip. My first real, independent sip, without a parent pulling it back before I’m ready.
It tastes terrible.
Jamie wants to make nunchucks tomorrow. He’s been watching kung fu movies, bought some Chinese throwing stars, says you just need a little pvc pipe and rope to make ’em. There’s both in the garage, he says, left behind by the previous owners. Do I want to make some tomorrow? Yeah sure, why not. I have no interest in kung fu, or nunchucks, but I’m not jaded yet. I’m young, curious, open to new things, unaware of limits.
I’m trying hard to drink this beer. It’s getting harder, tastes worse now than it did before. I’m not half way done, not sure I can finish. And I don’t feel any different.
This is a night for bonding, turns out. We share stories, laugh, make plans for tomorrow, all of it illicit, outside of the house after hours. A night we’ll smile about years later, in a dark bar over beers, when we haven’t seen each other in years.
But tonight I’m disappointed. I can’t even finish a beer. And I don’t feel any different.