Who puked on the stairs?
When we weren’t at the Old Road, you could find us at a handful of houses where parents either didn’t care what we were doing or just weren’t around. This list didn’t include my house. But one house that seemed to never have parents around was Captain’s. In fact, the house barely looked like parents lived there.
The front yard of the small two-story house was a mess. Half-dead brown grass covered most of the lawn in the spring, summer, and fall, along with some old bikes, a plastic three-wheeler for a toddler, and for a while, a random rake. It was like someone brought it out to clean up leaves hiding in the brush, but thought better of it and abandoned the tool in the middle of the yard indefinitely.
We went to Captain’s sometimes during the day over lunch to get high, but mostly we went on Friday or Saturday nights as a group. One weekend, Captain lured Shelly and I over with stories of a four-foot bong he borrowed from some guy we never heard of. Shelly and I had never seen a four-foot bong and Captain was prone to tall tales. We decided to take him up on the offer and see if he was telling the truth. It turned out he was.
As we sat in his bedroom on the second floor of the home’s converted attic, I looked around at what a mess the place was. There was what looked like garbage piled everywhere – old skateboard magazines littered the floor, laundry was in messy heaps all around, and an ashtray the size of a hubcap sat on the old scratched up coffee table. It was filled with so many cigarette butts, I couldn’t venture to guess how many were in there. He should’ve had a contest like the “guess the jelly beans in the jar” contest. He could hang up signs around the house that said “Guess how many cigarette butts are in the ashtray and get a free, four-foot bong rip.”
Some weird-ass movie was playing on his old TV (I later found out it was Cheech & Chong’s The Corsican Brothers.) Being high and watching two grown men dressed in diapers and sitting in huge high chairs as they pretend to be babies is not something I would ever recommend. As out-of-the-ordinary things can do when you’re really intoxicated – that particular scene hit me in a weird spot in my mind and caused some sort of anxiety that I couldn’t quite name. I guess you could call it “the Fear” as Hunter S. Thompson’s Dr. Gonzo called it. Some irrational, place you go in your mind that you can’t escape from that induces total panic.
The Fear came on after I took a couple of four-foot bong hits and got mesmerized by that shitty movie. The bong was so big that it took two people to clear. Captain would light the weed and pull the smoke into the long blue, plastic tube, and then hand it to me or Shelly to clear. I took a couple of hits and was done. The smoke tasted awful – most likely because the bong was plastic, and also because the bong water was old, brown and dirty.
Shelly gave up shortly after I did and the three of us sat there in silence as the movie played. Captain’s room smelled like mildew and urine. As we vegetated, a cat roamed around the room, stopped in front of us and defecated right on the carpet. No wonder the room smelled – this appeared to be the cat’s own personal litter box.
Captain didn’t do anything when the cat crapped on the floor. I would’ve at least thrown something at it but he just ignored it. Gross, I thought. What am I doing here?
All of the sudden, Shelly stood up and ran out of the room. I heard her feet hit the top of the hardwood stairs and then the sound trailed off. Captain started laughing uncontrollably.
“She’s fucked up!” He yelled. “Hahahahahah!” He enthused.
I wasn’t laughing. I was fucked up too and was ready to hightail it out of there. Shelly was so annoying, though. Why didn’t she grab me when she ran out? She drove us there and I knew she wouldn’t leave without me, but making me exit on my own was going to be totally uncomfortable. I sat there contemplating how to leave. I knew Captain was going to make a big deal of it cause he was messed up and wanted someone to watch this dumb movie with him.
We briefly returned to silently watching the movie. But the scenes were getting weirder and the Fear wasn’t going away. I couldn’t take it anymore. “Fuck it,” I thought.
“Man, I gotta go,” I said, standing up shakily.
“What?” Captain said way too loud. He was such a loud talker, we were always telling him to be quiet. “What the fuck? I get you guys high and you take off?” He demanded an answer.
I wasn’t prepared for the conversation.
“No, dude,” I told him as I stumbled towards the bedroom door. “She’s my ride, she’s gonna leave without me.”
“I can take you home later,” he tried to insist.
That sounded like the worst idea I ever heard. Captain was cool to hang out with in the group, but I wasn’t interested in one-on-one bonding. His house was disgusting, he was basically disgusting, and this stupid movie was messing with my head.
“That’s cool,” I said as I started walking towards the door. “I’ll see you at school on Monday.”
“Hey,” he yelled as I ran down the stairs. I was so focused on getting out of there, I nearly slipped in chunky, light-brown vomit covering the bottom three wooden stairs.
“Oh shit,” I said quietly to myself as I jumped over the final stairs onto the carpeted landing like some sort of Olympic stoner athlete.
Was that the cat? I thought to myself. But I didn’t care to enough to find out, and was panicked to get out of the place. I walked quickly through the disheveled kitchen piled with dirty dishes, and through the small living room cluttered with junk, garbage and old furniture.
I slammed the front door shut behind me and saw Shelly’s little green car sitting in the street where we’d left it. By now, I was running, afraid that Captain was chasing behind me yelling that he’d take me home later. Telling me I could stay a bit longer with him.
I grabbed the car door handle, pulled up and swung the green door open in one motion.
“Shelly!” I yelled. She was reclined in the driver’s side seat and asleep at the wheel.
“Huh?” She said, sitting up.
“Let’s get out of here, dude!” I insisted. “This place is messed up, I gotta get home.”
“What?” She asked. “OK, chill.”
She turned the big, single key already in the ignition, eased the car into drive and started pulling away from the house. I looked back over my shoulder expecting to see Captain running after us with the blue bong yelling, “come on guys, one more hit!” But no one was there. He’d given up and let us leave him alone.
A couple of weeks later I was at my locker at school getting ready to go to study hall. It became my favorite subject our senior year because the teacher in charge let us do whatever we wanted, even though the hour was supposed to be used for doing homework.
“Hey,” Bumpy said, walking up behind me.
We had study hall together and usually walked to class every Tuesday and Thursday.
“Hey,” I said as I shut my locker.
Bumpy was one of the nicest guys in our group. He was pretty quiet most of the time but was funny when you got him to talk. He was a gentle kid and except for some light ribbing here and there, he never tried to mess with any of us girls by making fun of us or hitting on us. He was like a brother or a best friend.
“I heard you guys went to Captain’s,” he said and started laughing. I knew he was trying to insinuate that Shelly or I went there because we somehow “liked” Captain, as in we were attracted to him.
“Gross, dude,” I said. “Yeah, we did but it wasn’t like that. We wanted to see that bong.”
“Man, that bong smells,” Bumpy said. “Not worth it.”
“Well, I know that now,” I said.
“I heard you puked all over the place,” Bumpy laughed again as we walked down the hall.
“What?” I said, irritated. “What are you talking about?
“Captain said you puked all over his house and then ran off,” Bumpy said a bit more serious, but still laughing.
“That’s not true!” I insisted. “That was his gross cat or something! I would never do that and leave. That’s so disgusting.”
“He’s telling everyone it was you,” Bumpy said.
“What the fuck?” I said. “Seriously, it wasn’t me. That dumb ass.”
I could tell Bumpy believed me.
“He told me Shelly said you did it and she was with you guys, right?” He asked.
“What?” I half-yelled. Now I was pissed.
I traced back through the night in my mind. Shelly left the house before me, how would she even know if I threw up? And now that I thought about the amount of barf I saw on the stairs, I realized it was way more than some nasty hairball from a cat.
“Dude, I think it was Shelly!” I told Bumpy.
“Yeah right,” he said.
“I’m serious, man!” I insisted, hoping he would believe it was her and help clear my name.
“She left first and ran off like a nutcase without even saying anything,” I told him. “Captain and I didn’t know what was going on. Then, when I left, there was a bunch of puke on the stairs. I thought it was that gross cat.”
“Man, that cat is so nasty,” Bumpy said. “It pisses all over Captain’s clothes and then he wears them to school.”
“Ewwww,” I said, wrinkling up my nose. He did kind of smell sometimes.
“What do I do now?” I asked him. “He can’t tell everybody I did that. That’s not cool.”
To me, this puke lie was a big problem. It threatened my carefully crafted image that I was not a lightweight, and also that I was not a total asshole. It was becoming obvious that Shelly was definitely both.
“I don’t know, man,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. His only interest was giving me shit on the way to study hall when he thought I was the culprit. Now that he realized I wasn’t, he was moving onto something else.
“Fuck it,” I said as we reached what was normally the cafeteria, but also served as afternoon study hall. “I’ll just tell him it was Shelly.”
“Won’t she get pissed?” Bumpy asked as we walked down the handicap accessible ramp towards a table.
“I don’t care,” I told him. “She’s going around letting everyone believe it was me. I’m going to expose her lies.”
Bumpy shook his head and sat down in a chair. He wasn’t into drama of any kind.
“Good luck, dude,” he said. “I’m not getting involved.”
“You won’t have to,” I told him as I dropped my purse and backpack onto a chair next to him. “I’ll be right back.”
I walked towards a table of Juniors I knew would love to start spreading a new version of the story.