I know you won’t believe me if you look back and read this, but I swear it felt like there was nothing else for us to do. It all began on a Friday afternoon. I had just taken my final college exam. So had Arnold, my roommate and best buddy.
“John, can you believe it?” he asked as we walked back to our apartment. “We’re fucking done man! Fucking done! Ahhhhhhh,” he squealed excitedly, shaking my shoulders and looking to the heavens with gratitude.
“I know! It’s un-fucking-believable!” I cried.
“What should we do to celebrate?” he asked.
That question was answered when we entered our apartment. Boris, our other roommate, was waiting for us with a freshly loaded bong and a cold case of Coronas.
“Boys,” said Boris dramatically when we entered. The lights were dimmed and classical music was blaring from the speaker. “Welcome to the post-graduate lair. Tomorrow, it’s San Diego for Senior Week. Tonight, it’s this apartment – a boy’s night out! Not out out, of course. We’re gonna stay in and get absolutely fucked, and I’ll have no protestations to the contrary. I’ve talked to people – of course, of course – and everyone’s playing it easy tonight. So fuck it, we’ll make our own party! Now, enough explanations. Somebody hit this fucking bong, I just smoked a bowl all by myself.”
And so we smoked weed, played video games, drank beer, and ate Doritos until about nine o’clock at night, by which time our bodies were crying out, “Enough is Enough!” And sure enough, when I woke up on Saturday morning, it seemed like the world was caving in.
But everything was alright. The everlasting Pacific would soon be ours. This was motivation enough to get my ass out of bed and return some books to the library. I even mustered the will-power to type out some warmhearted emails to a few professors. I’d probably never see them again but I wanted to stay in their good books, just in case my lazy ass ever needed letters of recommendation for grad school. “Thank you for everything, discussions were always special, best regards, have an amazing summer, enjoy your life” – the whole shebang. I pressed send and exhaled in exaltation. School was actually over. School was Finally over. No more classes! No more homework! The structure of my life since kindergarten… evaporated in an instant!
The gravity of this paradigm shift was difficult to grasp. I was also too busy imagining the next six days between now and next Friday’s commencement ceremony: Senior Week, as everyone called it, even if it was technically only six days.
During Senior Week, it was a school tradition for our graduating class to migrate south. The destination was always Mission Beach, a waterfront town just north of San Diego. It had shops, restaurants, bars and a rickety old wooden roller coaster. Mission Beach was the perfect location for unadulterated hedonism; an ideal venue for a sacred rite of passage.
You see, Senior Week isn’t just any beach vacation. It’s the beach vacation. Senior Week is a last-hurrah before ties, briefcases and slacks: ‘The Real World’ as everyone calls it menacingly, even if reality’s been with us since the get-go.
Anyways, at noon on Saturday we received a text from a nice girl named Shelly who had done all the grunt work: She had found a beachfront house on Airbnb, put down the big security deposit, and organized a group of mutual friends and acquaintances who were willing to shell out $400 for a four-night stay.
Check-in’s at 2pm. Beds and rooms will be distributed on a first-come first-serve basis, but please don’t should show up right at 2:00 since our 30+ guest list is over the 28 guest maximum… We need to be discreet about this shit lol.
Equipped with this information, we decided to hit the road at 2:00pm with the aim of getting there at 4:00pm. The idea was to arrive early enough for sleeping spaces, but late enough for the party to be already whizzing, whirring and welcoming us with open arms.
Arnold was the most selfless guy around, so naturally, he volunteered to drive us down in his lime green, four-door Jeep Wrangler, a big stallion of a machine built for these sorts of wild excursions. Justin was a slight, scrawny fellow with bushy red hair, big brown eyes, and a heartwarming smile that reflected the goodness of his soul.
Naturally, Boris and Justin (the other roommate in our four-bedroom apartment ) were tagging along for the ride. Boris was a tall and lanky creature with unruly blonde hair and an even more unruly temperament. His eyes were penetrating green-gray slits that, in their expressive force, ranged from Leonardo DiCaprio at his most chivalrous to Lord Voldemort at his most cruel. Justin, meanwhile, was a soft-spoken and studious Chinese-American who wore hipster glasses.
Somehow us four were friends. Better yet, we had managed to not kill each other as roommates. We were sad as hell about graduating, but we knew it was time. Everyone was sad as hell about graduating, but everyone knew it was time.
So how about this: I’ll use my academic training for the greater good. Indeed, I’ll follow the advice of my professors and be as specific as possible:
The grand adventure of adulthood officially began at 1:59pm on that sublime Saturday afternoon. I was recovering from my hangover, sharing a beer and a cigarette with Boris from atop our second-floor balcony, watching Arnold and Justin play Tetris with our belongings in the open-hatched trunk of Arnold’s lime green Jeep. Arnold, our chauffeur, wore his yellow bro-tank and shabby sombrero; Justin sat shotgun, navigating on his iPhone; Boris sat left-nut and I was in the middle, wedged between my pal’s lanky legs and Arnold’s big rectangular speaker, which rested atop the folded-down passenger seat on my right-hand side.
Adrenaline coursed through our veins. We howled like coyotes as Arnold started the ignition of his big stallion, which rumbled in tune with its passengers. Us four were quadruplets in spirit: goofy, privileged, and raring to go for one last opportunity to tell ‘The Real World’ to go fuck itself before joining its ranks.
Our grand adventure, however, started on a sputtering note. We had only driven a mile when we decided to buy alcohol, so we pooled together some cash and stopped at a supermarket to pick up two 30-racks of Coors Light and three handles of vodka. We were spoilt jackasses who looked the part: Arnold in his sombrero; our shopping cart weighed down by mounds of poison. Boris used his credit card to buy himself a 6-pack of Smirnoff Ice, just for the ride down. I gave him a few bucks and he agreed to share.
Finally, we let fly on the highway. Boris and I were stealing gulps of Smirnoff in the backseat, hunched over and wary of the Five-O or some goody two-shoes who’d report the green stallion’s license plate and ruin our fun.
“Fuck the police,” we all cried.
“I mean, seriously though, it’s such a stupid law,” said Arnold, affording additional thought to the matter. “And it’s like, it’s just such a shame that people can’t be trusted to drink responsibly. I think it’s a sign of a truly enlightened society when nobody’s worrying about drunk drivers, you know? Oh, and like, when passengers can drink to their heart’s content,” he finished heatedly with a righteous nod toward me and Boris.
Arnold was upset by worldly injustices, and in a roundabout way, his complaint was justified. If there was one person who’d never drink and drive, it was probably Arnold. He loved his friends too much. Not to mention his love for that lime green stallion of a machine with the sunroof down and speakers blaring golden oldies: The Eagles, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones – quintessential road trip jams, timeless tunes expropriated from our parents. We bleated out fuzzily remembered lyrics while weaving in and out of picturesque SoCal valleys, cutting our way into the heart of hillsides blanketed beneath seamless seas of impenetrable navy green. Thus we plodded along, mile by mile, down the 105 in good spirits. Boris and I were in particularly high spirits: We were guzzling down Smirnoff like a pair of veritable maniacs.
Halfway through the drive, Justin suggested we play a game. Everyone was down. We were tired of music, and of existing in our own heads. Arnold closed the billowing sunroof so Justin’s voice could be heard.
“Great, thanks Arnold. Alright, so here’s how it goes,” said Justin in his professional and explanatory manner, swiveling around in his seat with a goofy grin plastered on his intelligent, bespectacled face. “First, we decide on a topic. If we’re feeling serious, we could choose something like, ‘the time you felt closest to God slash the universe slash whatever’. Or we can choose something lighthearted, like, ‘most fucked up you’ve ever been’, or, ‘craziest place you’ve ever hooked up with a girl,’ or some such theme. Then, once we’ve decided on a topic, we –”
“Wait a moment,” interrupted Boris, his lips curling upward. “Let’s throw out the rules and regulations and just tell stories… some good old-fashioned storytelling, how about that?”
Justin’s goofy grin vanished for a second. Arnold and I laughed at this clash of philosophies. It was inexplicable how two people with such different personalities could be friends. Sure enough, though, Justin’s goofy grin returned after a second or two.
“Okay yeah, why not!” said Justin.
“Great, you go first!” urged Boris with a glowing look of affection that diverged so markedly from his expression of a few seconds beforehand that I thought, perhaps, just maybe, there were multiple souls inhabiting this lanky creature with green-gray slits for eyes whom we all knew as Boris.
“Okay! I have a good one!” said Justin excitedly, rubbing his palms together with youthful delight. “This little story is from last summer at the tail end of my internship with Flat White Capital. So, as you guys know, I was offered a full-time job after that internship. And honestly, I was so surprised and happy that I signed the contract immediately without even giving it a second thought.”
We offered Justin a mock round of applause while he blushed in remembrance of that special day.
“So anyways,” continued Justin, “me and the other interns who’d been offered jobs were staying in New York City for one last night at a hotel paid for by Flat White Capital. We had been offered jobs that morning, but the company kept us in the hotel for one more night and bought our tickets home for the next evening. This is all part of their acquisition strategy. You see, only me and this Chinese guy – and I’m talking actual Chinese, like straight outta fucking Beijing – us two were the only ones who immediately signed on. The Chinese guy bought his own plane ticket home after signing his contract. I guess he wasn’t interested in fraternizing.
“So the hiring manager – this real intense, wiry guy – called me down to the hotel lobby and sweet-talked me into taking the other interns out for a fancy dinner, buying them however many drinks they wanted, etcetera, etcetera. He lent me FWC’s credit card and basically said, ‘Go as wild as you need to,’ and then texted me a link to these electronic documents on which the interns could sign their names and commit to full-time employment. In other words, these were valuable assets that FWC wanted to acquire, and it was now my job to convince them to sign their lives away.”
We all laughed in appreciation of Justin’s self-deprecation.
“Wait a second, why did they need convincing?” asked Arnold smartly. “I feel like most graduates, such as yourself, wouldn’t need to think twice about working for Flat White Capital.”
“For sure,” said Justin, “but these people also had offers from companies like Havasu Investments, Salmon Shorts Ventures, etcetera, etcetera.”
I squirmed in my seat. I had no idea what I’d be doing next year, much less where I’d be living. Boris was in a similar boat, so he passed me our final bottle of Smirnoff. I popped it open with my key-chain bottle opener and took a big swig.
“So, anyways,” continued Justin, “after enjoying a nice meal we hit up this super swanky bar. I started splashing FWC’s cash on shots of the finest hard alcohol available. Before long everyone was blackout drunk! Two of the interns were kissing aggressively on the dance floor. This hotshot from Wharton was screeching like a lunatic and begging one of the bartenders for her number. He was saying absurd things, like, ‘Look babe, my bank account is gonna be as huge as my cock in five years max. FIVE YEARS MAX BABE, FIVE YEARS MAXXX.’”
We all groaned and laughed at Justin’s expert impersonation of a frat-douche.
“I know, right? Ridiculous… And that guy was such a tool! I had to sweet-talk the bouncers into not kicking him out. Anyways, everyone was happily drunk, and sure enough over half of them signed their electronic documents, verbally pledging their commitment to work for Flat White Capital. You see, those contracts were psychologically binding, not legally. The hiring manager told me that over 90% of interns who signed didn’t opt out. A great return, really. FWC has a fantastic HR department that conceived of the system.
“So anyways the craziest thing happened when I brought a recruit out onto the bar’s balcony. At this point I was fairly drunk but still in control of my faculties, and I was on the brink of persuading this one little geek from Harvard to sign his document, but sure enough the geek leans over the banister and vomits onto the road below. I watch the whole thing in slow motion: a waterfall of puke falling down two stories and landing SPLAT on the head of this burly bald guy who had been walking down the sidewalk, just minding his own business!”
“As if the geeky boy’s puke was a magical hair-growing potion compelled by gravitational forces to cure the woes of bald men!” exclaimed Boris lyrically in a single breath.
“Exactly!” cried Justin. “And so I look down and see the bald guy looking up, yelling and pissed-off and threatening to kill us and what not, so I grab this piss-drunk recruit by the shirt, drag him inside, and assemble the whole crew, saying to them, ‘Look, we gotta get back to the hotel, the party can continue there,’ and boy DID it continue! I’m telling you, that hotel got damn rich off Flat White Capital’s dime. And holy fuck, I was soooo hung-over the next morning, I puked all over my goddamn bathroom. But eight of the interns ended up signing the document – including the Harvard geek – so ultimately I guess it was money well spent.”
I then told a real doozy of a tale from my senior year in high school when some buddies and I were out smoking weed and decided to sneak into the basement of a kid who was out of town but whose parents “wouldn’t mind us hanging out in their house,” or at least that’s what this rascal named Tommy said. Tommy was a good buddy of mine and even better buddies with the kid who was out of town, and whose basement was calling to us with its crazy weed smoking devices designed by glass blowers and scientists: ribbed bubblers, six foot bongs, apocalyptic gas-masks – the whole shebang.
With Tommy’s assurance we snuck into the kid’s house and tip-toed down into the basement where we proceeded to get high as a kite. The only problem was that a neighbor had seen us sneaking inside and (spurred on by her sense of civic duty no doubt) followed us into the house with a flashlight to shine down on us from the top of the basement staircase as if we were rotten insects to be exterminated. She demanded we explain ourselves or else her son would call the police to come and arrest us. Her son was standing by on his home’s landline next-door, ready to call the police at a moment’s notice, prepared to bring justice to this gaggle of mindless suburban menaces.
“Marijuana is illegal, you know” she said at one point, which made us all giggle in spite of our unenviable predicament. But thank God for Tommy, the cunning ninja who eloquently and calmly explained that he was like a “second son” to the parents of the kid whose property we had invaded, and that contrary to what her bleary mind perceived, our presence in that basement was entirely sanctioned by the home’s owners, i.e. the mom and step-father who were peacefully asleep upstairs.
This was not exactly true but the proud woman cautiously gave way to the power of Tommy’s elucidation, but only on the condition that Tommy shake the parents awake so they could confirm that Tommy was telling the truth, but in reality the woman believed Tommy because she saw our faces and saw we meant no harm, in fact she recognized Tommy because as a matter of fact Tommy was a second son to the family; he was always hanging around playing hockey and soccer in the cul-de-sac with the kid who was out of town, and whose family welcomed Tommy into their humble dwelling with open arms – amiable, free spirit that Tommy was – but now the woman sensed a need for self-justification for her habit of knitting in the drawing room and listening for the activity of neighbors. After Tommy’s lucid appeal to reason, she suddenly felt ridiculous for having moralized from atop her pulpit, which in fact was only the doorway at the top of a basement staircase of a humble dwelling in a lonely Cleveland suburb, but in the cold hard law she found saving grace because she saw that cold hard logic was on her side, and even if she understood the harmlessness and good-will of the intruders ex post facto, they were still intruders and that in itself was wrong – WRONG – and that in itself warranted her extra precaution in demanding the parents be woken, a decision she made proudly and which, predictably, resulted in a horrific blood-curdling scream from upstairs as Tommy gently nudged awake the mother, who really didn’t give a rat’s ass about kids smoking weed in her basement, but who was scared shitless by the shadowy intruder shaking her awake in the dead of night.
The others and I stood prostrate in the kitchen with the vigilante neighbor, listening intently as we overheard Tommy apologizing and placating and hushing and attempting to explain what was needed so that our gang wouldn’t get arrested. The adults came downstairs. The mom waved away the intrusion without a second thought. Tommy – saint that he was – urged us to scram and he settled everything with the parents.
“Damn, this Tommy kid is like…like a fucking legend! What’s he up to now?” asked Arnold.
“I think he’s still delivering pizzas,” I said.
Then Boris told a long, drawn-out story that involved a female classmate and too much cocaine on his part.
Oh Boris. Classic Boris! Untamable American hedonist!
I know what you’re thinking: What do these silly anecdotes have to do with anything?
I know you won’t believe me if you look back and read this, but I swear it feels like not a detail can be left out. What I’m saying is that I can no more dismiss Tommy’s existence than I can consign this entire story to the dustbin of history. I could do both, admittedly, and the world would keep spinning. But what fun would that be, honestly?
I know its all a bunch of hoopla about some silly beach vacation, but trust me when I say that Senior Week wasn’t just any beach vacation, and that the adventure – for better or worse – is only getting started.