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prompt: tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally old enough to do so.
i am fifteen years old and i’ve probably never felt uglier. this is where we start. i am right in the middle of heartbreak, i am right on the far side of an eating disorder.
i go to florida for the winter holiday. i’m from here, sort of, or at least i spent several formative years here, and i am sent to visit family once or twice a year. i spend time writing, letters that i will never send, that still live in a gray box, a men’s cologne set box. i have no idea how to feel good about myself.
one of my aunts is ten years older than me, so she is twenty five and i think she is the actual coolest person that has ever walked the planet. when i was five she gave me a pair of jean shorts, and i wore them until it actually hurt my seven or eight year old little organs to do so, because i could not bear to give up on the one cool clothing item i own. she is a mentor in a way and i am at a very sticky age and i don’t know what to tell anybody, really.
she asks me if i’d like to go to a party at her friend’s house. of course i want to go to a party at the house of a twenty five year old person – what fifteen year old wouldn’t want this? my grandmother, her mother, warned her extensively of drinking and driving, with me in the car and all, and after grandma left she turns to me and asks, “the real question is, are YOU going to drink tonight?” i mumbled something about thinking probably not, but the seed was planted. she asks me this as she does my hair and makeup, just like her own. styling and drying my curls into something big and face framing and making me up so much that i probably could get into a bar.
shortly after we arrive, i’m offered a screwdriver and although orange juice isn’t one of my favorite things, it is remarkably mild and tastes just like orange juice and where could the harm possibly be in that? i feel so fancy, so beautiful, and so remarkably adult in this place that i’m not really supposed to be, this place that is far away from home and in this magical situation that would never happen in my real life. people – people ten years older than me – are complimenting my maturity, humor, and the way i look. it’s a universe that i can’t quite process but am perfectly happy to enjoy. i’m sure my humility about it is charming.
we play games (this will be the night i learn to play kings, and it will remain my favorite drinking game). there is music and i dance, and there are a total of four big red solo cup drinks and some jello shots tossed into the mix. there’s a boy who is somehow unaware of my age, who flirts with me endlessly until someone clues him in. he’s shocked at himself and he’s shocked at me and i laugh and laugh and try to convince him it doesn’t matter (he remains convinced that it does indeed matter, for any concerned readers). i am, i guess, getting a taste of what life can look like outside of my tiny little bubble of a world where i am so unhappy. i’m starting to understand that one boy not loving me back doesn’t equate to being invisible and worthless to all boys. and to be incredibly plain about it, i’m having fun, which is something i don’t do often.
the next morning after sleeping on the couch, i wake up refreshed and full of energy and excited, and excited is not something i’ve been in a while. my aunt and her partner marvel at my hangover free youth, and she compliments me on handling myself so well. it is of course understood that this will be our secret. and it was, for a long time.
i drank screwdrivers pretty religiously until my mid twenties, when i just couldn’t take the sugar and acid anymore. my regular drinks are still vodka based. kings, as i mentioned, is still my favorite drinking game. i am still grateful that i had a chance to have this experience under the eye of someone who loved me and who would watch out for me, and that i could feel safe participating in something i thought was incredibly illicit – even i was naive, once upon a time.