Night of the Heathens
That time we were "so bad."
It was our senior year of high school with only a month to go before graduation. One of my closest friends at the time was a girl named Kay. We'd known each other since the fourth grade and had been friends ever since. We bonded over a similar wacky sense of humor, Super Mario games on SNES, and What Lies Beneath with Michelle Pfeiffer.
Each spring at our tiny Christian high school in the Pacific Northwest, the annual Junior-Senior Banquet was held. Kay and I attended a school of highly conservative moral standards, which included no dancing. Seriously. So instead of a prom, we had a "banquet" that included the junior class. And instead of dancing to a DJ, we were allowed a supervised instructional dance course in swing and foxtrot. Being a closeted Christian boy, I had no problems living the real Footloose, i.e. brainwashed.
Kay told me she wanted to go to the banquet with me, and of course I said yes. The year before I'd gone with my other close friend Heather. At the time I couldn't put my finger on it, but something about taking girls to these banquets felt so awkward. That closet was deep.
These banquets were fun, in spite of the conservatism imposed upon them. This particular one was held at a local wedding venue out in the countryside. Very quaint and pretty. We had a gourmet dinner of leafy green salad with fettuccine alfredo and tiramisu for dessert. All the girls were in their beautiful gowns with done-up hair and makeup, things normally frowned upon at our school. Meanwhile, I was glancing at the boys in their suitcoats and ties, "admiring," as I liked to call it back then. I'm just admiring how good they look...
After finishing our meal, we headed to the ballroom where our dance instructor taught us the basics of swing. I danced with Kay and Heather and certainly enjoyed it, although I secretly longed to break free and dance to something a little more uninhibited. We danced the night away until about 9 p.m., upon which we all began shuffling out to our cars and saying goodbye.
By this time, Kay was in really high spirits and feeling particularly goofy, which I loved. Kay and I could bounce this hyperactive sort of energy between us from time to time and end up laughing so hard it hurt. She wanted us to take some more pics before leaving, so she and a few other friends sat down on the spiral staircase. I held the camera and took several normal photos along with one "depressed" photo, per Kay's request. The group put on their most dysphoric expressions and it still makes me smile to this day.
As we were leaving, Heather invited us over to her farmhouse to play hide-and-seek in the dark. Kay and I thought that sounded fun. After heading back to our homes to get changed, I drove over to Kay's house and picked her up so we could go to Heather's. The hyperactivity was still running high between us and as I drove we started singing our favorite songs from the TLC album Fanmail, arguably one of the definitive albums of the new millennium. Kay was belting "No Scrubs," but replacing the real words with our own misheard lyrics that we'd developed over the years. I was laughing hysterically by the time she started on "Dear Lie," a song we both agreed had the dumbest lyrics ever:
"Dear lie, you suck!"
I had to work hard to maintain focus on the road as tears began blurring my vision and my stomach twisted in a cramp. I was on that joyful kind of high in that moment. There's nothing better than a shared sense of humor.
At Heather's farmhouse, we played hide-and-seek for a good 30 minutes before heading inside to chat and laugh with each other. It was about 11 p.m. when we decided to head home. I dropped Kay off at her house and then went straight to bed like the good boy I was. But Kay had a far more adventurous spirit than me, and was a little less naïve about what our other classmates were up to on that fateful night.
It was over the weekend when news broke of a scandal involving my very own classmates and the evils of alcohol. After the banquet, about 90 percent of my classmates had attended a party at someone's house where the forbidden drink was served in the form of wine coolers and beer. Kay called me over the weekend to tell me that she'd snuck back out after I'd dropped her off and had driven over to the house where the party was held. I listened with glee and incredulity as Kay described how she had crept around back of the house and spied on our classmates partying through the kitchen window. It was a slick operation, as Kay went completely unnoticed. Meanwhile, Heather had also been aware of this party, but instead of keeping a low profile, she walked right through the front door of the house and crashed it. She was genuinely concerned for our classmates, and didn't partake of the alcohol herself. Of course, I hadn't been made aware of this party, most likely because my badass classmates figured I wouldn't be down with it, and they were right.
Word of this underage drinking spread fast, and by the time we returned to school the following Monday, the faculty was on Code Red doing damage control to protect the school's "image." My whole class, minus myself, Kay, and a couple others, were in deep trouble with the principal and our homeroom teacher, who expressed such incredible anger over the incident it made me wonder if perhaps their expectations of us were a little unrealistic. Teenagers do stupid things and make mistakes. Many of us were heading to college later that year where we would be presented with alcohol left and right. Our homeroom teacher berated us as if we had hurt him personally. And in spite of the fact that a few of us were innocent, our relationship with him was ruined.
Everyone who'd attended that party, including Heather, was handed a short list of punishments, which Heather took in stride. I remember sitting in our homeroom and turning to look at Kay seated towards the back of the class and we just sort of smiled knowingly at each other. No one had any idea she had spied on the party, witnessing the sin, except me, and that, in my opinion, was way more fun than any wine cooler or beer could offer.
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