Sunday, June 8, 2008

¡Fantastico! Stories from the life of an American Madman

I am somewhat of a mysterious figure to many of you, as my frequent ranting affords me little time to talk about myself. I feel badly about this, as you are all my friends and therefore ought to know what you're getting yourselves into. Too late to turn back now, but at least you're not going into it blind, right? Here's a little story that I like to tell. I changed all the names, but otherwise, everything in this story is true, and as free from exaggeration as possible. My life doesn't need exaggeration.

When I was 16, I got an internship in a Senator's Office in Washington D.C. I won't bore you with details of the job itself, we're here to talk about the weekends.

My friend Alex and I went to a house party one night, where we met two people who worked in the same building as us. Julie was a good-looking girl who offered us beer and laughed when I told her I was 20. I managed to get her number with all the charm that a 16-year-old could muster. Her friend Gabriel was a dumpy Panamanian with sweat stains on his shirt and a beard that I could have grown in 3 days. I specify his nationality because when I told him that my mother was Venezuelan, he insisted on calling me "Venezuela" for the rest of the night. Guess who I wanted to hang out with.

Alex, Gabriel, Julie and I talk for about an hour. The three of them are fairly buzzed by now, and Alex suggests we go to the kitchen for some snacks. I grab a box of Cheez-Its. They grab a quarter-full jug of vodka. Shot after shot reduce the three to one large, tipsy animal, trying to balance on six uneven legs. When the bottle drains, I fill it with water; only Alex notices the change in taste, though he merely winks at me and stays silent. The group gets drunk off its own drunkenness, and makes enough noise that the residents kick us out of the house.

I should mention here that I was completely sober, and in fact did not drink until I got to college, 2 and a half years later.

With difficulty, I herd them in the direction of Alex's apartment, and make some decent progress until Julie breaks from the group and starts to cry. To a 16-year-old boy, this is a new and troubling experience, comforting a spontaneously hysterical drunk girl on the street at 1 AM while my best friend accidentally headbutts a tree. I sit her down on a stoop, and she pours out a semi-coherent sob story, which after 10 minutes basically translates to, "People only want to hang out with me because of my uncle." Sitting down on the sidewalk next to her, I could think of a few more reasons, but I didn't say so. I asked her who her uncle was. "Pete Domenici," she says. Not a name you would recognize, probably, unless you live in New Mexico and know who your senator is.

So here I am, an employee of a United States Senator, carrying the drunken niece of another senator on one shoulder and my friend on the other. No way I was touching Gabriel. We get to Alex's apartment, which appears at first to be mercifully empty. The group collapses on the couch, and I take a much needed break from my job as shepherd. All good things come to an end, of course; Alex's roommate, John, wakes up from the noise and stumbles out of bed to find three drunk people and a confused teenager in his living room. John asked me, "Taylor, are you drunk?" I replied that I was not. John looked me straight in the eye here, and said, "Then I need you to get these people out of here. Now." There is a bond that happens when one man kicks another man out of his apartment, a strong and unbreakable connection. To this day, I think John is one of the coolest people I have ever met.

I am thankful that Alex is sobering up quickly, as he has no qualms about giving Gabriel a shoulder to lean on, and Julie wants nothing to do with Gabriel. Gabriel, on the other hand, very much wants to have something to do with Julie, and begins to grab her arm in an attempt to lead her home. He attempts to wave off my offers of assistance and merely succeeds in unbalancing himself, and Julie in the process. He insists that he knows where Julie lives and can take her home from there. He again grabs her arm, and resists weakly when Julie pulls away. I am now convinced that he is a rapist. Julie seems to realize that Gabriel's intentions are less than noble, as well. She giggles, yells "Taylor, run with me!", and shoots down the sidewalk with all the speed and grace that drunkenness allows. I am rather confused as I run after her, unsure if I was going to get laid or arrested. As it turns out, she leads me straight to her house, with Alex and Gabriel not far behind. She goes around to the back door of the house and lets herself in quietly, to my relief. A quick goodbye leaves Alex, Gabriel and me alone in Senator Domenici's driveway.

I though that my little Odyssey was over, that I had reached Ithaca and Penelope was already making me a sandwich. Not so, unfortunately. Gabriel decides that he is going to spend the night at Julie's house. Alex, who is nearly sober by now, tells him to go home, but Gabriel is too fast for us. He darts into the house and locks the door behind him, marking the first time that night that I was truly scared that something bad might happen. Strangely enough, calling the police never occurs to me. Instead, I call the number the Julie gave me, but it goes to voicemail and I suspect her phone is off. As Alex and I silently panic, two people approach us on the sidewalk. They're scruffy college kids, looking for a late night weed dealer. I recall that one of them had a "Jew-fro." We explain the situation to them quickly, and the one who asked for the marijuana looks me straight in the eye and tells me, "Dude, she's gonna get raped and it's your fault." I didn't feel the same connection with him that I had with John.

Finally, I am reduced to banging on the door of Senator Domenici's house, hoping to God that Secret Service doesn't arrest me. I imagine the conversation I might have with the senator, if he answered. "Hello sir, your niece is being molested by a smelly Panamanian." Unbeknownst to me, the Senate was in a special 2 AM session that night to vote on a gun bill. The purpose of the bill was to keep American homes safe. To my relief, after 5 minutes of banging, Julie comes to the front door and motions for me to go to the back of the house. I run there, ignoring the inquiries of Alex and the stoners.

Julie comes to the door and sweetly asks what's going on. The tears are gone and she has forgotten the paranoia of the hour before. I muster up all the authority that I can, and explain to her that for her own good, she needs to drink water, go to bed, and lock her door until morning. I told her that Gabriel was up to no good, and that he was in the house. She tells me not to worry, that she would do everything I said. She closes the screen and whispers, "You're the greatest, Taylor."

That Monday, I wanted to go see Julie in Senator Domenici's office, to ask her to lunch. Alex tells me not to, says I might seem too eager. I listen to him, and eventually forget about asking her out. I never see her again. I learn later, from various sources, that Alex wasn't giving me girl advice. My good friend Alex was shielding my young ego from an unpleasant truth.

Julie was completely unharmed, thank God, but she had no recollection of me or anything that happened that night.

I will conclude with a personal note to Alex: Life was always more interesting when you were involved. D.C. was fun because you were a true friend, and you dragged me out of the house when I was feeling lazy and you knew that I needed to get out and meet people. I can't thank you enough.

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