“I know we’re not getting our deposit back on this room.”
These were my exact words as I stood at the threshold of one of the motel rooms rented to the class of 2010. We’ll get back to that. You need a little background first.
I went to a tiny high school, and I mean it was tiny. I graduated with a class of 42. Then there’s the fact that I broke up with the girl who would be named prom queen and who helped me plan the after party, which included a three-day trip to Seaside Heights.
We’ll call her Jen. In fact, all names in this story have been changed.
I broke up with her about three weeks before the night of the prom, for reasons only known to, well, I thought myself, but soon realized had spread to just about everyone.
Prom itself went off without any major complications. Of course, there was the odd person that refused to dance with their date.
As I sat at the table to eat the cheap steak that I had paid $75 for, I realized that there was no silverware to be found. My friend Mike was sitting next to me. He smiled and showed me the inside of his rented tuxedo jacket. Its pockets where stuffed with forks, knives and spoons. I chuckled and bought a fork and knife off him for a dollar.
I spent the rest of the night circulating, talking to friends, and avoiding any and all contact with Jen. I laughed, I danced, I ate my food, and I went home. Alone.
The next morning I got in my car and made the executive decision that, since all of my friends were going to Seaside, so would I.
“I can be a big person. I don’t have to make any trouble with her. I’m going.”
So I put my car in first gear, eased my foot off the clutch and the car lurched forward. Off I went.
The whole hour-and-a-half ride down there all I could think was, What if this goes bad? What if I’m ostracized for dumping the prom queen? After all, she was quite popular, but I was also well-liked and I had the necessary confidence to get through this, at least that’s what I told myself.
I was also thinking about my friends who were in charge of the booze for the weekend. They’re not exactly known for making good decisions and I was relatively sure that one or both of them would be arrested by the end of the weekend. A few of us actually had a pool going on it.
I had cancelled all of the reservations that I had made with Jen for the weekend. I cancelled the room and put all the money into my college savings, so my only assets for the entirety of the trip were a 2001 PT Cruiser, a cheap pair of sunglasses, a case of Keystone and $48.27.
Sometimes the best things in life are free. I didn’t buy any souvenirs. I took a life lesson home instead. I was one lucky son of a bitch to get out of this ordeal in one piece and without a criminal record.
I got there Friday at about noon, and I didn’t see anyone I knew at the motel, so I hit the boardwalk and bumped into Mike and Greg. They were never happier to see me.
Greg hugged me and said, “Hey man, can we get a ride?”
They needed to get to a liquor store outside of town because they’d already been turned away by all the locals, who were accustomed to high school kids partying there and trying to buy from them.
We drove over the bridge to a little place in Toms River, where the clerk didn’t ask any questions in exchange for almost double the price on everything we bought. When we got back to the motel, it was flooded with classmates, all of whom seemed happy that I had decided to come.
Then, five hours late, Jen finally arrived with her best friend, Mary, and another couple that were known far and wide for their soap opera topping drama, Beth and Ben.
Now, I’ve got to tell you about Mary.
Mary, oh, Mary, she’s the reason that I left Jen. I had a huge crush on Mary since our freshman year and she had just broken up with her boyfriend, so for some crazy reason I thought I had a shot. Alas, Mary had feelings for my friend Dan, whom I had known since the eighth grade, and she made that pretty obvious by the fact that they were sharing a room along with Mary’s best friend, Martha, and Jen.
To my surprise both Jen and Mary greeted me. Jen went off with the majority of the group to Mike and Greg’s room, leaving Martha, Mary, Dan and I to wander the boardwalk and meet up with other classmates who weren’t staying in the same motel as us. We saw some other people that we knew but weren’t really friends with, so we said hi and kept walking.
We made our way to the end of the boardwalk, past the last arcade and funnel cake stand, onto the path between the parking lot and the beach. We removed our shoes and sprinted out onto the sand. It was about 1:30 a.m. and the full moon was glaring off of the water.
We sat there for a while reminiscing about the past years of high school: my crusade against the cafeteria staff, which culminated in anti-school lunch propaganda and my “pay with pennies demonstration” in which myself and nine others paid for our lunch by counting pennies one by one for the cashier.
Then it went silent, the conversation had petered out. Just to break this uncomfortable silence Dan blurted out, “Lets go skinny dipping!”
The girls chuckled, but then I responded with, “You ever hear the Latin phrase Carpe Diem?” They stared. I told them that it meant, “Seize the day.” I went on about how this is a once in a lifetime experience to share with friends and convinced them that by not running naked into forty degree water they would be missing out on something they would never get back. “We could die in our sleep or be hit by a bus on the way back to the motel,” I said. “We have to live life to its fullest!”
No sooner said than did pants hit the ground and four naked bodies hit the waves. We got out of the water shivering and shaking. Martha and I huddled together for warmth, and, well, that’s where this part of the story ends for you…
We returned to the motel around three in the morning, to find everyone in our group drunk, high and generally incoherent, so I just went off to bed with Martha.
The next morning I got up at about eight and took a shower, then went to survey the damage. We had rented the entire third floor, so all of the doors were unlocked and I could just walk in and out of each room, drawing mustaches on everyone I stepped over. They were glorious: some curly, some handle bar style, and even a few Hitler stashes.
I had a beer, mostly because it was the only thing cold to drink, and waited for the mustache crowd to wake so I could see their reactions upon looking in the mirror for the first time. I sat there for at least an hour. I pretended to sleep in the chair so they wouldn’t suspect that it was I who drew on them. Slowly but surely they all began to wake up and see the mustaches drawn on one another and they all started laughing. It was great fun.
As they all crowded into the tiny bathroom to look in the mirror I slipped out and met up with Martha, Mary and Dan for breakfast.
We hit the boardwalk for pizza. After we ate, things died down and we wandered in and out of the various arcades and down to the pier. The smell of funnel cake, fried Oreos and cotton candy filled the air. Martha and I forked over the outrageous sum of $20 a ticket to ride “Skyscraper,” an 80-foot arm with two seats on either side that spins you around. It was worth every penny. Being as it was about four o’clock and the little amusement park was empty, the ride operator let us go for almost 15 minutes.
Afterward the four of us dizzily hit the beach and lay in the sand for hours.
Around nine Greg called me to say that everyone was heading to the go-kart track. Half an hour later, we met and everyone stumbled out onto the track and into a go-kart.
That was the best $8 that I have ever spent. I got Mark in the first turn and rammed him into the wall. I came up behind Rick and his date (no one knew her name so we just called her “Rick’s date”) and slammed into their kart and pushed past them into the lead with at least a dozen drunks trailing me.
We returned to the motel that night to find a cloud of purple smoke hanging in the third floor hallway, thick as the smoke blanketing London after the blitz. We were laughing and hungry by the time we reached our room at the other end of the hall.
I could hear yelling and the breaking of glass. I walked in to cheers and Greg yelled to me, “The prodigal son returns!” as he thrust a bottle into my hand. I took a drink and asked where I could find a friend we were concerned about.
He motioned toward the bathroom. I stepped into the head and found my friend and a vile scene so disgusting I’ve blocked it from memory. It took a few seconds for me to respond. I just stared at the tile.
Finally I said, “Looks like you’re having a good time.”
I grabbed my friend Hank as he was peeking in the bathroom and sent him to get a few bottles of water. He came back a minute later with the water and went to hand my friend a bottle. She grabbed his arm, pulled him into the tub, and started kissing him, saying, “You’re cute Hank…”
I tell you Hank got out of that tub so fast and was down the hall before I could thank him for the water.
I spent the next two hours pumping my friend full of water and watching her vomit all over herself. I turned on the shower and left her in what I thought were the capable hands of Anthony, who was an EMT, and returned to bed.
The next morning was the same. First, I surveyed the damages. Only this time there was no one in the first room, no one in the second, and just Ben and Sally in the third. I finally arrived at the last door.
Slowly, I opened the door, and immediately my eye was drawn to the missing TV and the broken glass. I stepped over Greg and Johnny and made my way to the broken window.
Looking down into the pool I could see the faint outline of a square black object at the bottom. Must be the missing TV.
I turned my attention to the piles of people squished onto the two twin-sized beds and the others scattered throughout the room.
I noticed a considerably large blood stain on the carpet in the corner of the room near the broken bed and the shattered picture frame. I didn’t see anyone with obvious cuts.
I moved onto the bathroom, to see if my friend was still there. She groaned at me and I closed the door. I slowly backed out of the room and returned to mine.
I woke Martha, Mary and Dan. I took Martha by the hand and walked her down the hall. We entered the room as a group and began to take in all the carnage of the previous night.
We split up and picked through the rubble of broken bottles and furniture.
As we exited the battlezone, I remarked to Martha, “I know we’re not getting our deposit back on this room.”
The four of us left early that morning to avoid the whirlwind of insanity that would no doubt ensue when they all came to and when the motel staff found the room. I called Greg about an hour down the road when we stopped at an IHOP for breakfast.
I asked for a report, and he did his best to fight off the side effects of a killer hangover to tell me that my friend in the bathroom was fine. Most of the others had gone when they saw the room, and that he, Mark, Beth, Sally and Ben were left to foot the bill for the clean up.
The motel owner agreed not to press any charges as long as Mark’s check cleared. It did.
We all went to school on Monday just to recount our stories. I always began with the “Animal House” line, “From that one night there were two dozen acts of perversion, so obscene that I’m prohibited from listing them here,” and ended with, “A new low. I’m so ashamed.”
We found that there were a lot of holes in most of the stories, but I had the best explanations for Johnny’s cuts and I was the only person to know where Greg’s new henna tattoo had come from.
It was a butterfly tramp-stamp.
It’s funny. I seriously considered not going. What a mistake that would’ve been. I would’ve missed out on one of the best experiences of my life.
I wouldn’t have lived up to my carpe diem philosophy, and I would’ve missed being with Martha.
Life really is about experiences. It’s what we’re made of.
If I had not gone on this adventure with my friends, I would’ve ceased to live or, in other words, been dead for the weekend.
All and all, it was not what I had expected from my prom weekend, but I really don’t think that I could’ve asked for a better way to bond with friends and seize the day.