The glowing embers emit a warmth that sucks the moisture out of my skin as I kneel down to ease the flow of beer coming out of the beer-bong. Gravity offers the pressure to push the five cans of Budweiser out of this massive piece of PVC pipe-measuring six inches in diameter and three feet in length-into the narrow hose that I put in my mouth. I can feel the ice-cold beer through the synthetic tubing in my palm and fingertips as it shoots through the tube into my mouth, like a torrent of water coming out of a fire hose. The crowd is chanting “GO…GO…GO…GO” in a rhythm that gives me no concentration as I feel a series of sharp pangs in my head caused by the iciness of the beer. I am thinking “NO…NO…NO…NO” echoing the mob of party-hard teenagers who urge me to carry on as I try to swallow faster and faster to keep up with the pressure and flow of the beer. Now comes the foam which is increasingly thick and musky. I gag on the earthy taste, and like most people, I spit it out saturating everyone in range.
For the rest of the night-after a few more drinks-I lay in a dissipating compost of misery and melancholy, which adds no sense of hope to my future. In the dirt next to the fire, I groan as spiders and bugs crawl and wriggle into my clothing and hair; tossing and turning I cover myself in dirt and trash left by the mass. I wake up on a different side of the pit, in a camping chair wrapped up in a sleeping bag, and I’m covered in ashes. It’s around mid-day and I am laden with sweat caused by the July heat. I crawl out of my sauna-like sleeping bag and look up at the sun, it pierces through my brain to the back of my skull and I feel the hangover that came with the excessive drinking.
Looking around at all the other kids, I notice how alike we all are. We all use partying as an excuse to forget our troubles, escape the chains and whips of adolescence. In a way, we are all conforming; when most are trying to be different, we all just end up the same in the morning. I wanted this. I lived my whole life in the small towns of the White Mountains, and I have never felt accepted. I’m gay and a minority in many ways, and I have done many things I regret in order to fit in; partying is a repetitive occurrence that always seems like it will do the trick.
I walk over to the edge of the murky lake, and I look in trying to find some sort of resolution. All I see is me: a confused kid trying to find some sort of decree. Making ripples, I fling smooth flat stones across Show Low Lake as some of the stirring kids walk zombie-like over to me. They too toss rocks in and look up to the sky commenting on the hangover they proudly developed . We pack our stuff in the small aluminum boat and glide across the lake to the launch ramp. Crawling out of the boat with sloth-like movement, I say goodbye to my now accepting friends and walk away.
It’s strange, because I feel even more alone and rejected now that I have been formally accepted. I know that that seems contradictory, but being accepted gave me this realization of how different I really am. Looking in the rearview mirror, I pick the bugs out of my hair and I know that I shouldn’t have to do all of this. I don’t need to be like them because being like them makes me realize how much I am rejecting myself. I don’t want to look into the mirror to see me.
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