Okay, this little fictional jaunt was inspired by a dream that I had recently …
Looking back, it wasn’t exactly the best decision I’ve ever made.
But if we had to do “another Saturday night” aimlessly killing brain cells with whatever was on tap at Fat Man’s, I’m pretty sure my head would’ve exploded on the spot.
So when Billy said that a few girls from Ellenville he knew had invited him and a couple of his friends to a prison party, we were all in before any of us thought to ask what the fuck a prison party was.
Turns out it was pretty much what it sounded like: a party at a prison.
Well okay, not exactly a prison—an old, abandoned juvenile detention facility on the outskirts of Grahamville, which is already out in the middle of nowhere. Sure, now it doesn’t sound like such a good idea, but at the time, we were (a few months) younger and stupider and desperate to do something different. Although engaging in the recreational use of alcohol, pot and sundry illicit pharmaceuticals wasn’t really all that different than anything we’d been doing for the past few years, it was at least a new way of going about it, or so it sounded. What could possibly go wrong?
Anyway, Toby volunteered to be the designated driver, which no one contested. When 11 p.m. Saturday night rolled around, the rest of us—Billy, Katie (Toby’s “girlfriend,” although neither will ever formally acknowledge that they’re been exclusive for the past four years), Katie’s bff Kelly (“Every party needs a Kelly,” as she likes to say), my bff Fred and I—all piled into Toby’s beat-up Suburban and headed out to Grahamville.
Even though I’d have to (begrudgingly) describe them both as “attractive,” and neither makes me want to stab my eyes out when I’m alone with them, I’ve never really been all that big a fan of Katie or Kelly. Fred has been crushing on Kelly for years, but his reluctance to make a move had backed him into “just a friend” purgatory, and he hasn’t been able to escape it (yet). With them along, the good news was that we weren’t a total sausage party rolling into the place.
Or what we thought was the place. Toby had the GPS and Billy appeared to have gotten the directions right for once, but when we pulled up to the gates of the former Sullivan County Juvenile Detention Facility, it certainly didn’t look like it was a happening party spot. In fact, it pretty much looked like the overgrown, broken-down, vandalized and undoubtedly tetanus-infested blight that it would turn out to be.
After sitting in the dark quiet for a few moments, Fred was the first to speak. “Uh Billy … is it possible you got punked again? The front gate is padlocked shut and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around.”
“Yeah buddy, this place looks deader than cemetery,” Toby said.
“Deader than a dozen cemeteries,” Kelly suggested.
“No,” Billy said, the glow of his cell lighting up the Suburban’s interior just enough to see that his cheeks were bright red. “I know there’s a party. Let me call Cleo.”
“Cleo?” I said. “You might want to try Miss Cleo because I’m pretty sure the only souls around here are on the other side!”
“Shhh … it’s ringing,” he said. “I know that … hey Cleo! It’s Billy. What up? We’re here at the gates but we don’t see anyone …”
“We can’t see anything,” whispered Katie. “It’s darker than Oprah’s armpit out here.”
“Ohhh … okay,” continued Billy. “Right … to the left and around. Great. See you in a few. Bye.” He lowered his phone. “The lock is just on the chain so if the cops come by they won’t notice anything. She says it’s open, but make sure to put it back after we go through the gate. They’re in back.”
A few minutes later, we were through the gates, around the back and parked with about fifty other cars. We followed the hum of gas-powered generator, and Cleo—a wiry girl with short-cropped blonde hair and wearing a white wife-beater, fatigues and black boots, and as it turns out, probably the most “normal” person we’d see all night—met us at what was probably a kitchen or service entrance. She led us toward a pounding beat through a mini maze of corridors that were lit with a long string of Christmas lights laying on the grimy floors, which was just enough light to see where we were going but not enough to make out what was scurrying about in the corners. Most of the walls and ceilings were either smashed or severely water-damaged, and there was broken furniture and shattered glass at every turn.
Looking back, it was a fucking disaster. And yes, technically different than our normal Saturday nights in our regular dive, which suddenly seemed plush by comparison.
The music continued to get louder, and eventually, we started to see other partygoers. We reached a significantly less-dilapidated area that must’ve been the holding complex for the more violent residents, and a large bald man seemingly materialized from the shadows. He had a beard no mustache, multiple piercings in his lower lip and a dragon tattoo that crawled up the side of neck from out of his black Megadeth concert t-shirt.
Cleo nodded to us. “This is Tesla—he’s the man here.” She nodded to Tesla. “This is that guy Billy I was telling you about. Dude’s hysterical.”
Good thing it was fairly dark so Tesla and Cleo couldn’t see the puzzled glances Toby, Fred and I exchanged. Although he tried too hard, Billy was about as funny as orthopedic shoes. Maybe less so.
“Cool,” Tesla nodded, and clearly not interested in introductions, extended his palm toward us. “Thirty each. Covers all your booze, band and whatever else you find here.”
The cover was as much a surprise to Billy as the rest of us, but thankfully, I’m at the point in my life where thirty bucks is no big deal—certainly less than any of would drop on any Saturday at Fat Man’s. We all paid.
“Okay,” Tesla said when he had all our money. “Explore the side cells, stay cool and where it’s lit, and you should be fine. Enjoy.” He seemingly dissipated back into the shadows.
We all agreed to meet back around 1 a.m. Billy went off with Cleo, while Toby, Katie and Kelly headed off toward wherever the music was coming from. Fred and I found “the bar”—a wide stainless steel table with essentially every kind of alcohol you actually want to drink—and had a few quick shots. (Had to drink our money’s worth, right?) Properly lubricated, we went about checking out what else Tesla’s party had to offer.
What it had most to offer, however, were what I’d charitably call “freaks”—lots of tattooed, pierced, shaved, zippered, stapled, and any other imaginable body-modification you could imagine, and some you couldn’t. Again, it was hard to tell because of the murkiness of the situation, but this was no gathering of the local sewing circle, that’s for sure. You know, outside of the needles sticking out of some faces.
Still, like most social gatherings, groups had broken off by their preferred vice. The stoners were sparking up in one cell, the cokeheads were lining up in another, the ecstasy poppers were sucking their pacifiers in yet another. You get the picture, as the kids say. Fred and I swung past the bar a few more times.
As the warmth and numb of the alcohol began to spread out from my core, I sort of drifted away from Fred—who had run into someone he knew from college—and began to extend out from the main clump of rooms. The further I got from the main area, the more … unusual the activities.
Now, I’ve never thought of myself as particularly naive, but I saw a few … things … that I hadn’t ever seen at a party or a club, involving devices that I’m still not exactly sure about. After accidentally stumbling into a room where people were taking turns drinking shots from a series of tubes that appeared to run through the mouths of other people in the room—like some sort of crazy human still—I found myself alone in narrow corridor wondering exactly what I’d gotten myself into. I also realized that I was also more curious than spooked about the curiouser and curiouser activities I was seeing.
And that’s when I saw her.
You knew there’d be a “her,” right? On this odd night, the “her” in question seemed to be closer to the “goth” end of the freak-o-meter: fairly thin but some meat in the right spots, straight jet-black hair, lots of rings in the ear that I could see, a few rings in each brow. She was dressed entirely in black other than a white blouse—leather jacket, mini skirt over fishnet tights, short boots. Angry blue eyes, which softened as they connected with mine.
Looking back, this would’ve been the time to walk away. Obviously, I didn’t.
She nodded to me. “First time?” she asked, her voice a little more raspy than I would’ve guessed, which worked for her. I caught a glint in her mouth—tongue stud.
“No, I’ve been drunk before,” I said.
Her black-painted lips split into a smile. “That makes two of us. Come on.”
She took me by the hand and led me down another darker hall and into a small cell. In the middle of it sat a folding table with a few unmarked bottles of clear liquid and a few small boxes on top of it. For some reason, the pounding music was louder in here than in other rooms. Or so it seemed.
“Ready to try something different?” she asked, leaning into me. It may have been my buzz, but I could feel a little physical electricity between us. I liked it. A lot.
I looked at the table, and it took a moment (or so it seemed), but I realized that the boxes were dispensers—for razor blades.
“This doesn’t end with me waking up in a Tijuana hotel room and one of my kidneys missing, does it?”
“Not if you do it right.”
Before I could ask, she took a fresh blade out of dispenser, and held it up in front of her mouth.
“What the …” I murmured.
She held it perpendicular to her mouth, and then flicked out her tongue a few times. After a few seconds, her mouth was bloodied. She reached for one of the bottles on the table and took a big swig, swirling the liquid around in her mouth until she started wincing. She then swallowed, and gave a little shudder.
“Sweet,” she sighed. She picked up the razor blade dispenser and held it out to me. “The alcohol goes straight into your bloodstream—super quick and awesome buzz. You can barely feel the cuts, and they heal fast. Try it.”
If I hadn’t already been impaired—by both alcohol and my attraction to her—there’s no fucking way I’d do it. Even under the current conditions, I didn’t think it was a good idea. Then again, I’ve bit my own tongue and survived …
She must’ve sensed my hesitancy. “Come on, it’s not going to hurt you. Try something different for once.”
I grabbed the dispenser and popped out a clean blade. Before I could think about it too much, I brought it up to my mouth and started flicking my tongue against it. Even through my semi-haze, I could taste the metal as it cut me.
“Give it a couple of good cuts … yeah, that’s it,” she said, and then handed me the bottle. “Okay, good—now take a big gulp and hold it as long as you can.”
I did what she said, and soon the tip of my tongue felt like it was on fire. I felt the warmth rush back through my mouth and seemingly directly into my skull. My eyes filled with tears and I swallowed.
“Nice, right?” she breathed heavy into my ear. “That buzz.”
I nodded. It was … different, I had to give her that. I would’ve liked to know what I had drank, but looking back, that would’ve definitely been the moment to stop.
She took her blade and did another, longer bloodier shot. I followed suit and did another, too. This time, I waited until I felt my mouth almost full of blood, and tried to hold it longer, and the buzz was even bigger. My head started to swim.
“Crazy, right?” she said through crimson teeth, leaning in toward me. “Told you.”
I nodded, and before I could stop, her mouth was on mine, her tongue flicking against mine, that terrific little body against me. We continued to make out for a while, and I think we did a few more shots. It certainly was crazy. And exciting. And different.
Looking back, it was also how I contracted HIV.