Tree Houses and Vomit-Covered Walls

We sat on the second story of the tree house. Our feet dangled over the edge as our cigarettes lit off the only light for miles. The time slipped away from us as we took as much in as possible.  A thrill, one of which didn’t come often, for me nearly ever, was staring us right in the face. If we were to get caught, our parents would never look at us the same again, but that wasn’t a worry, we would cover our tracks. I looked at my new friends, took a long hit of my cigarette, and smiled. Tonight was the night. I was nervous, and you could see it throughout my entire body. My hands shook, my lips pursed, and my laughs were uncontrollable. Someone passed me the bottle, and I drank for what would be the first and the last time.

I was different back then, almost like two opposite people shoved into one body, both fighting to be seen. I was the shy girl who went along with my conservative friends, laughed at what I knew they thought was funny, and talked about the topics that they would want to talk about. I got nearly straight A’s, listened well to my parents, and never got in trouble or even dared copy a homework assignment. Though, at the same time, I longed for adventure. I found myself looking more at the kids with lives and bad reputations than my own friends. I wanted more and more to talk to the people in my class that I knew rebelled rather than the kids that got good grades. I was the girl who needed a change, needed to break the rules to feel something, needed to drink. So, naturally, when the opportunity arose, I took it.

I sat next to a girl in English my eighth grade year. Zohreh. She was the type of girl who knew what she wanted to look like, knew who she was, and knew how to get what she wanted. I envied her. I wanted her outlook on life; to not care about what other people thought of me, to be confident. One day, as our teacher droned on and on about dependent and independent clauses, she leaned over and asked me to meet up with her and her friends later. It was never made clear to me if she could sense my second personality, or if she just thought it would be fun to bring me along for the night. Either way, I didn’t care. That night I went without even a second of hesitation.

There were five of us who met up, all of which I knew on a first name basis, none of which are really important, except Zohreh. They led me to a tree house, or more appropriately a house made around a tree. A tree house, to my knowledge, was elevated on some sort of stable, thick branches and had ladders you climbed to gain access, maybe a little door, and no legroom. This specific tree house was the complete opposite. It had two floors and was made mainly sitting on the ground. There was a big heavy door with a padlock and a bench all around the base of the first room. Mounted on the wall, a TV and an Xbox gaming system blared out some kind of confusing sounds, and posters covered the rest of the wood. I did not understand how someone had the time to build this, or why someone’s parents had supplied the money. The answers to these questions didn’t matter, because it was already built, and here is where we would drink.

Two boys came barging through the door in triumph. They had successfully, for the hundredth time it seemed, stolen alcohol from the local convenient store. Hearing this news, the fort became overwhelmed with cheers and high fives, and all the sudden I could barely breathe. At first, it was like a shock bolted through me and I was momentarily paralyzed. It was almost like I had touched an outlet, but the buzzing didn’t disappear, it stayed in a way that was unfamiliar to me. This tingling inside of me was adrenaline. I was excited and afraid, the two best feelings you can ever combine.

I’m not sure how much I drank that night, being that we all shared everything, but I’m sure it was a lot. Zohreh was experienced in this field, you could tell in the way she drank. As I poured my Coconut Parrot Bay into my two liter of Sprite to make it tolerable, she drank it straight and let it burn. We started with four fifths, I quit after two, but Zohreh, she wanted to challenge the guys. At the time it was all hoots and hollers, laughs and nods, but it became a death wish. With tears in her eyes, she finished the fourth bottle. There was no clear winner, we were all too drunk to really care and we were out of alcohol. Hours passed as we sat and laughed the night away. I’m not sure who mentioned the time first, but it became evident that we needed to pack up before the cops got called.

I’m sure we intended on gracefully entering the house and saving Zohreh’s parents the trouble of seeing us drunk, but needless to say, that didn’t happen. Someone tripped over a rug and let out a yelp while another opened the door making a loud, prolonged, squeaking sound. When we finally made it down to the basement it seemed like we were safe, like all was well. After talking for a while, Zohreh made it apparent that it was her bedtime by rolling over and passing out. The rest of us went to finish our pack of cigarettes on the back patio. About an hour later, our packs fully smoked, we decided sleep was a good idea. We headed back down the steps and stumbled upon something we will never be able to un-see.

Zohreh lied across the tile floor, shaking uncontrollably. It was as if all the heat in her body had suddenly vanished. Puke ran down her cheek as her eyes focused in and out on the ceiling. Her hair, normally a light shade of auburn, was now shades of green, white, and yellow with vomit, crusting to the floor. The room reeked so much of puke it brought tears to our eyes. Looking around, it was a crime scene, with puke in place of blood. The rest of us stared at each other, startled and ashamed. We had left her, and if she died, it was on us. Looking back on it, sober, we should have done something, anything. We should have rushed her to the hospital or at least cleaned her up. Instead, we did nothing. In that moment, we were helpless, we were awful, and we were drunk.

~Aubrie Smith