I'd rather be spit on by a llama than go to a crummy, alcohol smelling, teen gathering like a football game. But one of the most important parts of my high school career are my friends. So that's why I'm sitting on the cold, metal bleachers as our home team is being absolutely crushed by the other team. My friend Kinna is sitting beside me with an outfit that I'm very envious of, but I know would never be allowed to even leave my room in it. My hot breath fills the inside of my mask that I've had on for at least seven hours today. The only good thing about having to wear these masks, is not being able to smell the low-hygiene teens around me. The student section is barely filled, with only about 20 kids completely disregarding the social distancing tape on the bleachers.
"Kip is so hot. I feel so bad for him though. Harley is hanging all over him," Kinna says while fanning her face with her hand. I agree with her, Kip is hot, but he's in college(visiting a girlfriend) and I'm a senior.
"Yeah, she get's on my last nerve."
"I thought y'all were friends?"
"Ha, that was like in middle school when I was naive enough to be friends with someone like her," I say, and I mean it completely.
Harley was one of my best friends in middle school. We met at volleyball tryouts and became friends over the fact that we looked exactly alike. My hair was a dark brown with gold highlights and hers was the same. Her dark brown eyes matched mine along with our tan skin, not from the sun but our heritage. We walked up to my mom and asked if we looked alike. I remember walking away laughing when she said yes very enthusiastically.
"What do you think will happen with her?" I asked my dad when I got home that night. He always knew how my friendships would end, or last.
"Make the best of it while it lasts," he said while walking out of the room.
Four years later, and she's walking-more like swaying-up the bleachers towards me. Her platform shoes hit each bleacher hard and she smiles a half-smile at me and Kinna. She has an intention, I can see it in her unfocused eyes. When she finally reaches us she sets a hand on my knee and the other on Kinna's, getting her face close enough to mine that I wish I could spit in it. Lighting flashes in the distance, right behind her face. There's a small part of me that wishes she was standing under that lightning.
"God, I am sssoo drunk," Harley says, catching me off guard. Her hands leave our knees, waving at someone far way and then turning back to us. She starts talking again but I can't hear a word she's saying. For a moment, my mask protects me from the memory, but then it hits me like a brick in the face, the smell of pure alcohol.
The smell fills the musty room. A yellow light flickers on the ceiling, illuminating the peeling, green paint on the four walls that keep us in here. By us, I mean me and Kai. He's lying on the floor, scratching his beard unconsciously. I'm sitting in the furthest corner away from him, which isn't far considering that there's a door and it won't open and all I want to do is knock it down and run to the next country.
"Take a drink, Bails. It's not like it's bad for ya or anything like that," he says, holding up a bottle of beer.
"Bad for your future," I mumble.
"You gotta live a little, just take a sip while we're stuck in this freaking elevator."
"No, we'll be out of here soon and guess who'll be out there waiting for you...the cops. You're 15. What are you gonna do with that beer bottle?"
"Good point, buttt luckily, I don't have to care," he says with an ugly smile. His words are starting to slur and I feel like gagging from the smell that's filled the elevator.
Like I said, friends are important to me, and Kai had become one of my best. He had no one to go with to this concert of some band I had never heard of and invited me. Obviously I had nothing else to do, so I said yes. When we got to the address that he was told to come to, the building looked like a ninety-year old motel. Still, Kai wasn't going to be stopped by this, he ran towards the building with glass clinking in his backpack.
One curious friend led the other into a sketchy elevator and two hours later, they're sitting on the floor while one is drunk out of his mind. Still, he didn't lie about the concert. The music started about thirty minutes ago and we can feel the bass through the wall. Kai keeps bumping his head to the beat and singing the words quietly. I will admit, they're not bad.
"Kai, what number are you on?" I ask, suddenly getting worried when he starts getting quiet.
"IIIIIII. Heh. I dunnoo-oo." He hiccups and burps at the same time and I bury my head in between my knees. I want him to stop drinking but I don't want to lose a friend. He'd get mad at me and then this whole situation would be even worse. I wish I knew what number he was on but there's only one empty bottle on the ground. The others are in his backpack, in which he's laying on. His eyes are getting heavy so maybe when he falls asleep, I can get the backpack and see how many he's drunk so far.
Loud coughing fills the room and I open my eyes. I have no clue what time it is but when I get up to check the doors, they're still stuck and we're probably still stuck in between two floors. I look over a Kai and he's laying on his side breathing heavily. Vomit lies on the floor in front of him and another empty bottle is held loosely in his hand.
"Kai! Did you drink another?" I ask.
"Yeah. I am. Cold. Give me yo-our sweatshirt?" I hand him my sweatshirt and he holds it in his shaking hand, not moving at all.
"Do I have to put it on for you?" He nods and I sit him up. He weighs about one hundred pounds but with no help from him, I'm struggling. Once I'm able to get it over his head, I leave it there. Then his eyes flutter shut and he goes even more weightless than before.
"Kai? Kai are you okay? Can you hear me, Kai?" His pale face is pressed to my chest and he really is cold. I lay him on the ground, trying to avoid the pile of vomit. I then realize that I can no longer hear the music but the sound of men working on the elevator is echoing through the shaft. I must've slept for a while. My hands are shaking when I reach over to grab Kai's backpack. Three empty beer bottles are in the bottom and two are lying on the elevator floor. Five beers in less than four hours.
When I look back down at Kai his face has taken on a blue tint to it. I stand up slowly and press my finger on the call button. A man picks up and tells me it's going to be at least another hour until they're able to get us out and hangs up. I try to call back but he doesn't pick up. My phone has one percent of battery and I had only used it to tell my mom we were at the concert. She doesn't know I'm here. Kai's mom doesn't know he's here. She didn't even know he left the house.
I dial 911 on my phone and an operator picks up.
"Hello, what's the emergency?"
"M-my friend. He had a lot of al-alcohol and he's passed out now. I don't know what to do. Please h-Please help me," I say, barely able to get the words out.
"Please stay calm Miss. Can you tell if he's breathing?"
"Yes, yes he's breathing."
"Okay, now I want you to count the seconds between each breath okay?"
"Okay." I wait until he takes another breath and start counting, hoping it's normal. Seven seconds go by and he hasn't taken another breath. At ten, he finally takes another. I turn to my phone to tell the operator and realize my phone has gone dark. I press the home button and it doesn't turn on.
My breathing starts getting fast and the smell of alcohol is still lingering in the air. I grab Kai and press his chest to my ear, his heartbeat is slow. I hold him for a moment, begging him to wake up. I pull the sweatshirt over the rest of his body, he said he was cold and I didn't even bother to care. He's cold, he's so cold. My eyes are filled with tears and a sob escapes my throat. His face is so calm, unaware. His long eyelashes are wet from my tears and his perfect face is drenched in sweat, even though he's freezing. I run my hands through his hair, remembering the time I braided it at school as he yelled at me between laughs for pulling too hard. My eyes land on his pink lips and remember Halloween, in middle school when we told each other we had never kissed anybody. We were each others first kiss. Then we agreed to just be friends, we didn't like each other like that.
Another tear drips off of my face and onto his once tan skin. He takes a long breath, holding it in for a while. For a second I think he's going to wake up.
"Kai?" I know when he lets out the next breath, it's his last. I don't want to accept it. I don't want to know that it was my fault, that I could have stopped him. I want to hear him call me Bails, and for a moment I think I do, but his still body is lying in my lap. He's no longer bumping his head to the muffled songs. He's no longer smiling at me from across the classroom at school. He's no longer laughing at the way I'm too innocent, and saying "Oh well, I love innocent Bails anyways," while rubbing the top of my head.
All because I didn't want to lose a friend. And I still lost one. A more permanent definition of lost. Lost to the world, and to the crazy mind-bending illusion that gives us teens the okay to give ourselves to the world, and to not try to be something better than that. The four green walls are burred out by my tears as I lay with Kai, I close my eyes and listen for the heartbeat that I'll never hear again.
As Harley is still smiling that idiotic smile, so happy that she's drunk, I stand up to excuse myself. Before she can finish her giddy little, "Where ya goin'?" I turn around and face her. I face that horrible smell and pull down my mask.
"I don't know if you're lost already. But if you still have a tiny piece of the humanity that can hear what I'm saying, I recommend listening. You are only lost to the world if you don't make a map. So either make a map, or get lost. Your choice." Those four green walls flash in my mind and the smell finally gets too much. I run out of the stadium, Kinna following closely behind, and sit down on the sidewalk. I bury my face between my knees and start crying. Kinna sits down beside me and places a hand on my back, something Kai would do to comfort me. I place my head on her shoulder and smile through my tears. I know I'm not lost and I know Kinna isn't either. Her and I, we've made our map, and I know she's going to be the friend I need. The one that Kai would have been.
HEY READERS!!!!! I AM PUTTING THIS MESSAGE IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE IT IS SO SO SO IMPORTANT!! THIS STORY IS INSPIRED BY REAL LIFE. NOT THE KAI PART, FORTUNATELY, BUT HARLEY IS BASED ON ONE OF MY REAL CHILDHOOD FRIENDS. BASICALLY, I WANT TO SAY THAT THERE ARE MANY THINGS THAT YOU CAN GET OUT OF THIS STORY. (okay I'm typing in lower case now for a more subtle effect :)) But the one thing I want you guys to get out of this story is that this basically shouldn't be happening. To put it bluntly, I am fifteen years old and my fourteen year old friend ("Harley") came up to me last night, drunk out of her mind. It makes me so sad to see this happening to her and other people around me. I see their potential and what they could do in life instead of sitting around, conforming to things that our world says is okay. I am not sheltered either, I know that people are going to do this but I want whoever I can make aware, to know that alcohol or any drugs for that matter are a temporary "solution" that only lead to more problems. Please be careful and aware that these things are not going to make you happy! And if you ever need to talk, talk to me!
Sincerely, Anna Mosqueda.