On my exposed forearms, I felt the last lick of the warm sun that is still available in November in South Carolina. As we embarked on the long walk down the boardwalk that led to the hard-sand beach, I relished in this time spent with family, closing my eyes and breathing in the air, thick with salt. My brain automatically brought me to teenaged years at this spot: to fudge shops and beach biking and sneaking out at night with my cousin. My biggest worry at that point was how to act once we got to the party.
Amanda and I were a couple of attention-seeking 16 year olds (as all 16 year olds are) trying to seem older and more sophisticated to the 18-year-old, super-mature (*eye roll*) guys that we’d met at the beach earlier that day. To us, they were the picture of cool, and we probably seemed a tad over-excited when they’d asked us to a party that night. In retrospect, our parents probably would have let us go, but we didn’t even ask them- you see, it was all part of the illusion that we were incredibly badass.
Once we walked in the door of this unknown person’s family beach house and saw the rest of the guests draped all over each other in beer-induced familiarity, we both concluded that to fit in properly, we’d have to partake in the underaged ritual of drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short amount of time. I’m sure that it wasn’t my first time imbibing, but it might as well have been. Looking at each other and shrugging, we walked into the kitchen. Amanda opened a red cooler that sat on the tile floor and handed us both a bottle.
“Cheers?” she asked more than said.
Looking down, I read the label. Seagrams. Huh. “What’s a wine cooler?” I whispered.
“Not sure. I guess we can try.”
Try we did. Again and again we “tried” bottle after sugary-sweet bottle, until I went into the powder room, and the wallpaper pattern started swirling and dancing. I blinked my eyes, but couldn’t make it stop. When I went out to tell my cousin about the experience, she wasn’t where I had left her. In fact, she didn’t seem to be anywhere, and I noticed that the majority of the party-goers were gone. I asked (or more likely, slurred to) a girl by the door where everyone went. “Oh, they just went down to the beach gazebo. There was a band playing there tonight. We’re gonna go there if you want to join us.” She pointed to the remainder of the teens grabbing the last of the cans of shitty beer and shoving it into their pockets.
“Sure, thanks,” I said in my best impersonation of a nonchalant, normal, sober, 18-year-old.
They walked out the door, laughing hysterically at a joke that I didn’t get. I followed clumsily, confident that they didn’t hear me tripping over my feet and/or didn’t care. As we got closer to the beach, I heard the music from the band. What time was it? We left around 10:30, but how long had we been “partying”?
As I contemplated this, I walked sideways off the boardwalk, directly into the surrounding bushes. I lay there in a thicket, the branches cradling me, looking up at the half-moon. No one of the group that I’d been following seemed to notice my sudden disappearance. I sighed, relieved that I no longer needed to employ any energy. For what seemed like hours (probably more like minutes) I stayed there; after all, it seemed like a nice place to spend the night, Just as I closed my eyes, I heard a faint voice- “Kirsten, Keeee-eeeersten.” Louder and louder she called.
“Amanda, I’m right here,” I called back, kind of disappointed that I’d have to leave my new favorite spot.
Apparently she didn’t hear me, because she continued calling my name. “I’M RIGHT HERE!” I yelled back angrily, for some reason.
“Thank God- I had no idea where you’d gone!” She’d become very motherly at this point.
“You’re the one who left me!”
“I got confused- I thought you had gone with the group, so I followed along.” She pulled me out of the bushes and I struggled to regain me balance. “You’re covered in scratches- and your leg is bleeding! Let’s just get home.”
“Okay. Everything is spinning. I feel kinda—” Those were my last words before I threw up all over my once-cradle. Leaning on my cousin for support, we stumbled drunkenly down the boardwalk in the direction we had come. “Yeah, I think we should go home,” I agreed. “Do you know how to get there?”
“We’ll figure it out.”
Somehow, miraculously, we did end up getting our drunk butts home and into our beds without waking any of our parents or siblings. I looked over at the clock at my bedside and concentrated as hard as I could on the spinning digits. 12:00. Badasses indeed.
The moral of the story is clear: Don’t ever drink wine coolers. They make you fall into bushes.