I’m at Banditos, my favorite dive bar chugging pitchers of Miller Lite with Jenny and George and splitting blue football-shaped Xanax with myself in the bathroom that evening when my mom calls. They are 20 minutes away so I start jogging home and make it back just in time. Again, my mom has trouble finding a parking spot, and I end up parking her SUV for her. I have three pieces of Orbit in my mouth to try and cover up the smell of beer. My brother Brad introduces his friend Patrick as “P-money” and my mom makes a comment about my new coffee table. P-money has a distinct lisp. It’s going to be hard not to make fun of him. We leave my mom with Bentley at my apartment and head back to Banditos where I somehow sneak them in – they are only 17. We sing karaoke and Jenny drunkenly hits on my underage brother. We get back to my place at 3am and sleep for a couple of hours before leaving for Myrtle Beach.
“What the fuck did you do to the hot tub!?” my brother’s screams outside the bedroom door I am sharing with Andrea. I look at her groggily in the afternoon sun pouring through the blinds and we both start laughing. We’d been drinking and peeing in it all night. Apparently too much pee for the filter to handle. We’d also smoked some pot courtesy of my brother and his lisping friend and spent an hour trying to figure out how the moon affected the tides. We settled on an explanation that I’m sure was wrong and could no longer remember. We’ve been in South Carolina for almost a week and as usual Andrea and I had watched from the sidelines as the dysfunction unfolded. Brad is mad at my sister Darlene for being a bitch. Darlene is mad at her boyfriend Alan for not having sex with her enough. My mom is mad at P-money for spending all of his cash on a Batman bong. And everyone is mad at me for sleeping until late afternoon each day. I see no reason to adjust my schedule just because we are at the beach. Besides, without any Adderall or Xanax, I have no way to regulate my body. Getting drunk with Alan and Andrea is the only thing standing between me and a complete mental collapse.
We spend a particularly tense hour in the car the next evening while my mom drives past every restaurant we suggest because she wanted to find “something different”. This torturous drive ends with us eating at a Mexican restaurant with a large sign outside proclaiming “no firearms”. On the way home, Brad screams at me to stop playing Justin Bieber from the iPod I connected to the dash.
All in all it was what I had expected from a family vacation, which my Dad had learned years ago to stop participating in. Luckily Andrea and I had an early out. I had court in Winchester as usual. This time it was for failing to complete the state’s alcohol safety program after my DUI. I can’t recall why I stopped going in Richmond but I’m sure there had been a valid reason. Most likely the times had conflicted with my sleeping schedule.
I didn’t have a car rented, having been busy with my affairs in Richmond,and my mom yells at me for being irresponsible as I try to find a company that still has an SUV available. I refuse to show up to Winchester in some shitty econobox. I finally find a Ford Escape for just under a grand and put it on my credit card. I, or most likely Pete, could always worry about the bill later. The next day Andrea and I head north from the beach in the rental. I play with the color changing interior lights while she makes adjustments to the seat and steering wheel. “It’s like a nightclub!” I tell her. She tells me to quit it, and we both decide to hit up a liquor store for souvenir bottles before getting on the highway. I plug my iPod in and soon we were dancing to Fall Out Boy and reminiscing about high school.
We get to the Virginia border before I call Shaun, who Andrea has never met. We need somewhere to stay for the night and I don’t feel like springing for a hotel. I also need someone to drive the car back to Virginia after we take Andrea back to Pittsburgh. It isn’t merely a decision born out of convenience although he is one of the few people I know who has a license and no commitments like steady employment, but I miss kissing him. I’m pretty sure I’ll he’d done since he left my apartment weeks ago was drink and smoke crack, a suspicion that that is confirmed when he asks me to pick up toilet paper on the way to his house. “What have you been using?” I ask. “Paper towels” he replies. “Jesus you’re a disaster” I laugh. “Don’t worry I’m cleaning the apartment right now”.
Shaun is watching Lady Gaga’s Alejandro video on his laptop when we get there and we start preparing to go out. My rehab friend Sawyer works at Union Jack’s on the Walking Mall so we start there, chasing fish and chips with pitchers of beer. Sawyer gets off and we move to Brewbakers which is packed with college kids. He drinks Shirley Temples while we pound Long Island’s. Sometime during the night Shaun asks Andrea to borrow $100 promising to give her a check the next day. I tell her she shouldn’t have done that, and she ends up yelling at me. Somehow Shaun and I sneak back to his apartment to smoke crack. When we return to the bar I have a hard time hiding my shaking hands and shifty eyes. If Andrea notices, she doesn’t say anything.
We wake up late the next afternoon on Shaun’s old couches, and I barely make my court date. The judge tells me to complete VASAP or he is going to put me in jail. I add it to my to do list. We leave for Pittsburgh and Shaun sits in the front as Andrea drives. He talks about the show Queer as Folk and how he can’t wait to go to the gay bars on Liberty Avenue. I don’t have the heart to tell him that the show was filmed in Canada. He goes on and on about hunting lesbians and Andrea rolls her eyes at me in the mirror.
We finally make it to my parents large contemporary house in the suburbs, and my mom makes us watch a DVD of my brother playing soccer. Shaun keeps calling my dad “sir” which makes him laugh every time. We all nap in the cool bedrooms and prepare for another night of debauchery.
All I can see is an old woman holding a shotgun as I hear Shaun yelling at us to run. Its 4 a.m. and we are at an after-hours club somewhere in the Strip District. I haven’t had a weapon pointed at me since I was 14 and was robbed at knifepoint at one of my father’s dry cleaning stores.
The night had started out innocently enough. Refreshed from a nap, we leave for downtown around 9pm and park the rented Escape on Liberty Avenue. As I suspected, Shaun is disappointed to find only a block of seedy looking gay bars. We end up at the cleanest looking one called Images and immediately start downing rum and cokes. Andrea looks uncomfortable and tries not to stare at two young guys making out on one of the couches. Shaun makes friends while Andrea and I drink and dance. When the bar closes at 2am Shaun’s new buddies invite us to an after-hours club. Having never been to such a thing, I agree, especially since someone else offers to pay. I don’t know what to expect, but certainly not what we arrive at shortly after leaving Liberty Avenue. The “club” is merely a row house with a gravel lot surrounded by a rusty chain link fence in the back. We enter through a propped garage door and make our way into a dark basement that stinks of old beer. There are about 30 men crammed into the small space and music thumps from speakers mounted on the wall. Andrea is horrified and we end up sitting at a small table drinking keg beer from plastic cups. Shaun disappears and eventually a tall man wearing eyeliner comes up to our table to warn us about “our friend”. Apparently, Shaun is trying to rip someone off for coke, having spent the money Andrea loaned him the night before. We decide it is time to leave and that’s when we see Shaun running out of the bathroom, and like an alarm going off from a fire, the owner of the club appears at the top of the steps holding her shotgun.
Once back in the safety of the rented SUV, we both turn our anger on Shaun and ask him what the fuck he was thinking. He apologizes over and over before eventually falling asleep in the back. Andrea and I pass the bottle of Malibu Rum that was meant to be a souvenir for her sister back and forth as we make the drive back to my parent’s house in Hampton. Andrea keeps talking about how scary it was and I agree with her, but in my head I am thinking “that was so much fun!”.