I was upset that I had acne, so I threw an apple at the back of my girlfriend's head. On impact with the asphalt, the fruit's skin shredded to pieces, and the core skipped a few times like a stone on still water. It came to a complete stop a few feet in front of her, and after she realized what I'd tried to do, she stopped too. When she turned around to look at me, I saw my shame reflected in her eyes.
The moment made my seventeen-year-old self even more enraged, and I would have screamed and cussed at her like I had been doing in the car if it weren't for the sudden realization that there were other students around who might think I was being an asshole. I've always been concerned with what others think of me. Also, I've always been an asshole, but I wasn't aware of these truths back then.
In my defense, I was on Accutane, a powerful drug used to treat severe acne that is known to cause mental health problems. Before I asked my doctor about the drug, another friend of mine who had taken it told me, "The shit makes you depressed. One kid took it and flew an airplane into a building, but I don't have acne anymore." I should have asked him some follow-up questions like, "What are some coping mechanisms for depression?" Or, "How did the teenager get an airplane?" But I was blinded by his clear, smooth skin.
When it comes to how you look, car mirrors are the most unforgiving, and on the way to school that morning, every time I caught sight of my pimply, puss-covered face in that side mirror, my anger grew. Accutane takes four to six months to work, and in the beginning, there is inflammation and terrible breakouts. I'd never seen myself as hideous as my reflection showed me, and I'm telling you this to explain the source of my anger; I felt that I was owed much more than what the world was giving me.
Because I couldn't control the way I looked, I tried to project authority onto Chelsea. I didn't want her to go to Holly Dodd's party, which is what I had been yelling about in the car.
"You don't like her or any of my group anyway; why does it matter?"
"Because you guys call yourselves the Notorious 9. It's stupid, and if I'm not going, you shouldn't go."
"Because I'm not going to be there."
"So, I want to go."
"I don't want you to go."
"Don't you and Chris and everyone call yourselves the Fab 5?"
"Only because you guys call yourselves the N9! We do it to mock you."
"If you guys weren't so mean to Holly, you probably would have been invited."
“We don't want to go! We don't care. I just don't want you to go."
"You're a bitch."
And that wasn't the only time I called her that, and I shouldn’t dwell on the argument any longer because I already told you what happened.
After the apple, she turned and looked at me, and I saw my shame, and we stared at each other like two predators lost in the woods; then the bell rang, and we walked away. On my way to first period, I was in a fit of internal fury. I clenched my teeth so hard I felt them sink into my gum line. Before entering the classroom, a short, weaselly kid passed by, and I heard him ask his friend if he was going to Holly Dodd's party. It made me furious that we weren’t allowed, but these nerdlingers got a pass, and I immediately directed my rage at the N9.
I don't talk to any of them anymore, but at that time, the Fab 5 were my whole world. The group was me, Chris, Mark, Andy, and Nate, and the N9 didn't like us because Chris had cheated on Mandy, Andy had hooked up with Lisa and Tiffany, and everyone thought Chelsea could do better than me. Mark was fat, so they left him alone, and I don't know if they had beef with Nate, who came out during his Sophomore year of college and never spoke to us again. What's crazy about that is that Nate used to scream the word 'faggot’ at random people to make us laugh. It doesn't seem that funny anymore. I wonder if he remembers and how much therapy he's had.
Imagine being 5 deep in a 4Runner, smoking weed and Parliament Lights, listening to the Killers and Nate shouting homophobic insults at strangers. It's 9 pm, and you're sitting bitch because you were too slow to call shotgun, and you're too skinny to deserve an outside seat. Your face is on fire from sketchy acne medication, and every time you catch a glimpse of yourself in the rearview mirror, your insecurity makes you picture your girlfriend in the pantry of Holly Dodd's house giving a BJ to a Senior with clear skin - That's where I was coming from when I told the group, again, that we should ruin the N9's party.
They didn't like my idea of egging the house and instead suggested that we crash the party. Chris had a fake ID and thought we'd be welcomed if we showed up with some booze. He was simple-minded.
Mark was less sure. He was constantly waffling, "It's embarrassing to go somewhere where you're not invited. We shouldn't go," then he paused, "but it's boring just driving around."
Andy desperately wanted to be seen as popular to get back at this Sophomore girl who dumped him, so he was eager to go, "We got to go. There's nothing else to do, and they're not going to kick us out."
Nate took a long drag on his cigarette, and in a strange voice, said, "Alright, we’re doing it!" Nate was always making strange voices.
I texted Chelsea that we were coming, and she immediately called me. I got nervous and didn't pick up. Then she texted me,
"You shouldn't come. They're not going to let you in."
I didn't tell the guys.
We pulled up to Holly Dodd's house around 9:45 pm. It was a massive two-story lit up by accent lights that looked like it belonged in Architectural Digest. Its U-shaped driveway, which was perfectly framed by a combination of rose bushes and trimmed hedges, was packed with the N9's parked cars. The streets were also full of cars, some of which we recognized from our school parking lot. I felt jealous.
Getting out of the car, we were silent. I knew that we’d get turned away, and if the guys had hoped that we'd be allowed to enter, I couldn't sense it. The closer we got to the house, the louder the music became. Chris was carrying the beer, so he was the one who climbed up the entrance steps and knocked on the door. We stood behind him in the driveway, looking up.
Loud pop music streamed outside the house like it was gasping for air when Holly, Chelsea, Mandy, and Tiffany stepped outside. Their foreheads glinted from sweat, and their cheeks were flush. Chris took a step back down the steps so that we were all looking up at them as if they were on a stage. I tried making eye contact with Chelsea, but her eyes passed over me; she seemed too independent to be my girlfriend.
Tiffany was the first one to speak, "What are you guys doing here?"
"We brought beer," Chris said, raising the eighteen back.
"We have enough beer," Holly said.
Mandy chimed in, "You guys weren't invited. You shouldn't be here."
"I told you," Mark whispered to us, turning away from the girls.
"C'mon," Chris said, "Can this all be water under the bridge?"
"Yea, we just came to be part of the fun," Andy said, gulping a can of beer he'd opened to try to look cool.
"Not tonight," Holly said, "The parties full anyway."
Nate stepped forward, and with his arms in front of him in the prayer position, begged, "Please.”
The door opened, and Ashley, another N9 member, stepped out of the house and stumbled to a stop next to the rest of the girls.
"What are you doing here?" She slurred.
I kept trying to make eye contact with Chelsea, but she avoided me.
Chris asked, "You're really not going to let us in?"
"Why would we?" Mandy barked back, then in unison, as if they'd choreographed it, they all crossed their arms and glared at us.
"Let's go," Mark said and pulled my and Andy's arm.
As we took steps backward, I looked at Chelsea once more, our eyes finally met, and I saw she was smirking at me like she'd won some game.
"Chelsea," I shouted, and the girls' eyes all focused on me like a spotlight on a criminal. I choked up, not knowing why I felt the urge to call her name or what I was going to say. With the weight of them looking at me, I asked the first thing that came to mind, "Where are you spending the night tonight?”
They laughed at me for being an overbearing boyfriend. Their cackling made the zits on my face itch, and I had the compulsion to scratch them until they bled.
"You're a bunch of stupid bitches,” I muttered under my breath as I walked away.
"Yea," Chris said.
"What was that?" Tiffany asked.
Andy, who had just finished his Coors light, crushed the empty can and dropped it on the driveway.
One of them said, "Real mature, Fab 5," But I don't know who it was; by then, they all sounded the same.
Back in the car, the guys were just as pissed as I was, and as soon as I re-pitched the idea of egging Holly's house, they were onboard. Nate drove to the grocery store as we smoked Parliament Lights. Ash and pieces of the cigarettes’ flames flew everywhere like fireworks.
We were like maggots on flesh inside the grocery store, quickly finding the items we needed and taking them to the checkout. We got twenty-four rolls of toilet paper, three dozen eggs, and four sticks of butter. The haggard-looking cashier glimpsed at us with regrettably knowing eyes; we were too old to be causing this type of mischief but too young to care about the consequences.
You know how before you do something really exciting, you get butterflies, and time seems to pass slower? Before we fucked up Holly Dodd's house, the boys and I shared an hour like that. Back in Diablo, around the corner from Holly's, Nate found a house under construction at the back of a cul-de-sac that we snuck into. We had a little party in the unfinished kitchen, surrounded by 2x4’s, concrete, and insulation. We drank more, smoked more, and talked all the shit we could on the N9. We talked about how they were sluts. We said they weren't pretty (even though we'd hooked up with nearly half of them). We spoke like ignorant, arrogant, privileged, assholes; like how my inner-self talks to me. But what I remember the most is that I felt like the leader for once like I'd gotten what I'd wanted. The way we were acting and talking, what we were about to do, was all me, and I relished it.
When the buzz was strong enough, we left the house, slithered back in Nate's car, and executed our mission.
Every car parked in the driveway got butter on its front and back windshields: Ashley's, Holly's, Tiffany's, Mandy's, and a couple of others. As Andy and I were doing that, Mark, Chris, and Nate threw toilet paper on the rose bushes, hedges, and the oak tree in the side yard. It looked like it had snowed when we were finished, and the windshields were smeared with yellow grease.
We squealed like pigs as we ran back to Nate's car and got the eggs. At this point, Mark got scared and tapped out,
"I'm staying in the car. I'm not throwing any eggs, man."
Chris and I called him a pussy, but he didn't budge. Nate stayed in the car too because he was driving; he'd be ready to take off as soon as we finished the job.
Andy, Chris, and I each took a carton of a dozen eggs and walked to the front of Holly's house. I was the first one to throw, and unlike the apple that I'd chucked earlier that day, this egg hit its target, splattering all over the side of the house. I quickly picked the rest out of the carton and threw them at the house and cars. Chris and Andy did the same. There was a certain violence in watching them explode on impact, and I liked it because it was a release.
When we finished, we raced to Nate's car, cursing the whole time with frenzied excitement. I think it was the fastest my heart ever beat.
That night I got a taste of what it's like to throw something and hit; to get revenge on the world for not giving me what I was owed. At first, we were high on the act, peaking on adrenaline, but then, as we came down, Mark started stressing out, saying that we would get caught. We tried to calm him down, but soon, the only noise in the car was the wind coming in from the rolled-down windows, and in our silence, there was a sense that Mark was right. Chelsea texted, but I didn't pick up. Then she called, and the guys saw the light on my phone. They begged me to answer it to see if the girls thought it was us, so I did.
Chelsea asked where I was, and I heard the girls crying and screaming in the background,
"The butter's not coming off!"
There were men's voices, too; I pictured the whole party outside on the driveway witnessing our masterpiece. I'd hoped they'd think it was cool, but I kept hearing the N9 in the background,
"This is property damage!"
"I can't believe they'd do this!"
And Chelsea asked me again, "Did you guys do this? Where are you?"
I hung up.
The following day, Holly Dodd's parents called all of our parents, and we got our asses handed to us. We had to go back to Holly's house and clean up everything, which took six hours, and the N9 watched us the whole time. I felt like one of those inmates who picks up trash on the side of the highway. It was terrible. I spent most of the time cleaning the butter off windshields, so I kept seeing my reflection and the horrible acne that had destroyed my face. I felt so bad about myself.
At school on Monday, the chatter wasn't of how cool the Fab 5 was; it was of how the Fab 5 ruined such a cool party. And rumors swirled about what trouble we might be in with the law and how no one would invite us to another party. There were talks that Chelsea would break up with me too, but that didn't happen for a couple more months.
Since the whole thing was my idea, resentment built up in the group, and by the week’s end, the guys looked at me with the same shame that I saw in Chelsea's eyes after I'd thrown that apple.
And there's a lesson to learn in all of this, and I'm seeing that now. I brought everyone down with me, you know? And for what?
I don't think forty-year-olds think about high school like I do, but I wish I could have learned that lesson then and changed, but even now that I see it, I doubt I will change; I'll probably just keep on throwing all these fucking apples.