I’m willing to admit it. Some of the reputation I carried as a young man was undeserved, either good or bad. One learns while traversing the treacherous corridors of public schooling, and if one is wise it will become apparent that a reputation can be used to pave a way for yourself with minimal effort. Being wise (arguably) I would fan any little flames I came across pertaining to myself. For instance, if someone said, “Hey I heard you beat some guy up outside the mall”, I would say “Yes, that was me,” or even better, a mysterious, “Which time?”. And so I became a tough guy without the bloodshed. Unfortunately, like most things this seemed to work both ways, and while I reaped the rewards of lies and exaggerations the universe seemed to find ways to tarnish my character.
My sophomore year a friend of mine moved to my school. We had met at catechism. He loved mischief, I was thrilled to have him. From this point on, for both the sake of awesomeness and anonymity I will refer to him as Snake-Eyes or SE.
Around Christmas of that year I went to his house for our first ever sleep over. That’s just good innocent fun. Around 11pm another friend of ours called and asked us to swing by for some ice basketball. Yep, that’s just basketball on a very icy court. Its fun as long as you avoid a concussion or a shattered elbow. Which we usually did. Due to the fact that we doubted we would get permission to go it was decided not to tell anyone until we got back. At that point we would fall back on the old, “Oh, we didn’t think you guys would care.” excuse. Kids are devious. Never forget that parents.
We were only gone an hour. We were walking back to SE’s house, which was only around the corner, when I heard a car coming up behind us. I glanced back over my shoulder, noting that with the way the headlights were positioned it could be a police car. I was hoping that we wouldn’t be stopped and questioned, which had happened before. Evidently after midnight its common practice to stop teenagers who are wandering, even in the country. I heard the car begin to slow. I figured this was going to happen so I stopped and began to turn. Suddenly, I was struck by something on the side of my face. The car sped off, the sounds of laughter trailing behind. SE spun towards me.
“What the hell was that?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I think it was a water balloon,” I said.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m good. Just wet and freezing.”
“Those guys were dicks.”
“Screw those guys.”
“What’s that smell?” SE asked.
And it hit me. There was a smell.
“Did those guys piss in the balloon dude?” SE asked me nervously, brushing at his lightly wetted sleeve.
I sure hoped not. And I didn’t think so. It seemed familiar. But that wasn’t quite right. Not piss…
“That was a beer,” I said. I scuffed my feet around in a circle and sure enough kicked a dented can we hadn’t been able to see in the dark. “Ugh, I’m covered in beer.” I took off my hat and shook droplets of beer out of hair. They’d got me good. My left side was drenched, my over-stuffed winter jacket quickly soaking up the liquid. We ran the rest of the way back to his house.
We burst into the living room having completely forgotten we hadn’t been given permission to leave in the first place. We were greeted by his parents on the couch, looking grim. We quickly started to explain how we had “just walked around the corner”, and looked to garner some sympathy by describing how I had been assaulted. If anything this seemed to make them more angry. We didn’t get it. It wasn’t that late. We had only been two-hundred yards away. Why did they seem so upset? I was kind of expecting to be coddled a bit. I had been attacked and I’d gotten wet, and it was very cold. That can’t be good for a kid! Didn’t they know I could catch my death? Not to mention the fact that I had taken a blow to the head, and those are pretty dangerous. They ordered me downstairs to change while they talked to Snake-Eyes.
When I came back upstairs things were getting pretty heated in the living room. Evidently, in their opinion, teenaged boys sneaking out and coming home soaked in beer does not match up to our version of the nights events. But that’s what happened! I was there! I promise you! Not only did they not want to hear it but the more we defended ourselves the angrier they got. This was not the impression I wanted to leave on my friends parents. As I tried to sleep that night I thought about how to redeem myself.
The next morning I was extra friendly. Smiling till my face hurt, complimenting everything. It didn’t seem to be defrosting the parents whatsoever. By the time I left I was glad to get out of such an inhospitable place and I was feeling badly for SE who was stuck living with those grumpy people. Never before had I had any trouble with parents. I was a favorite guest of several other families. What could the problem be? Later I found out.
You see, his mother had the exact same first and last name as my mother. That summer I had made a very stupid decision which had led to me getting busted stealing from the mall. My court paperwork had arrived at SE’s house, not mine. His mother opened and read about my court date. This was after she had agreed to me spending the night, and it took a lot of work on his part to get me into the house. I guess they decided to give me a second chance. So, from their perspective, I was a thief who befriended their son and then after being allowed in the house got him to sneak out to some sort of drinking party that was so wild it left us completely covered in alcohol. Then we burst in with some weak story about a drive by beer dowsing. I was no longer welcome in their home.
As I’ve grown up I’ve become more than a little embarrassed by the way I conducted myself as a teenager. I know we all make mistakes and it’s all ancient history but still, it makes me shudder to remember. I think it’s better to look at the humor and disregard the truly dark moments. And for those who thought I was evil, I never was. I understand why you thought so. But sometimes a fifteen year old covered in beer is innocent, and sometimes a bad kid is just a good kid covered in circumstance.
p.s. For those who are wondering. Of course we asked them to smell our breath! They weren’t having it. Their minds were made up. Not fair you say? Tell me about it!