We were confined to the closet in a home I knew well. It changed owners often and I visited with every new iteration. This was round 3 in the rotation and the oddest one yet.
The girl of the house, the oldest one, was a year my junior. Her father was a cop and her mom was a Southern Californian trophy wife. Circumstances forced them from the idyllic west coast to the Nebraskan prairie.
I remember meeting them two years before my occupation of this closet. They seemed nice enough. The girl told me she liked Pokemon and I told her I did too.
The mere act of living a few seconds away from a person creates a bond between them. We were as good as strangers, this girl and I, and yet here we were. My best friend was there too.
We entered this closet in this former LA cop’s home with the intention of exploring one of life’s great mysteries.
A bottle of Malibu Rum sat as centerpiece to the three of us. The sound of Big Sean repeating the phrase “Rack City” seemed worlds away beyond the closet door. I could hear my heart beating in my chest. Thump-thump thump.
Our hostess opened the bottle and christened it by taking the first swig. She was more familiar with this stuff than her two counterparts. That first sip was a gesture. See? Not so bad.
She passed it first to my best friend. The bottle hovered near my friend’s lips as she sniffed it before cringing. I urged her to do it and she did. Her comment affirmed the gesture of our hostess.
Not so bad, she said before handing the bottle to me. I mimicked her approach with a sniff of my own.
The smell was a weird blend of strength and sweetness. A too-strong essence of coconut lingered in my nostrils. With reluctance, I brought the mouth of the bottle to my lips and tipped up.
Malibu rum is a unique drink. For a first-timer like me, I was surprised at how pleasant the taste seemed. Sweet and smooth, the liquid burned once it struck the back of my throat. It burned as it descended deep into the pit of my stomach. I took a long pull, letting the taste wash over my young tastebuds before swallowing. Pleasant, I thought.
This first impression wavered with the sharp after taste that followed. My face morphed into unexpected discomfort as I relinquished the bottle. Seconds passed and my final judgment was one that mirrored the others. Though the after taste was far from enjoyable, it left in its wake a warmth in my chest.
Not bad at all.
And so our game went. We would pass the bottle between us. My neighbor, the shaman, encouraging longer pulls from her two grasshoppers. We obliged, getting more daring with every proceeding round.
The setting for this life event was an odd one. My neighbor’s father had not been just any cop back in LA. He dealt in the area of narcotics and alcohol as his expertise. This thought lingered in my mind as we passed the bottle.
My paranoia would melt away with every intake of rum. After finishing half of the Malibu in record time, we concluded our ritual. My neighbor took the bottle and replaced it in the hiding place she fished it from earlier. My friend and I eyed each other, our expressions dewy. She laughed, I laughed.
We moved to the basement. Limbs began to flail, rhythmless to the hip-hop of that year. My neighbor’s father made an appearance to check on the unlikely trio in his basement. We feigned innocence and thought we very well succeeded in fooling him.
Looking back on this event, I am certain he knew.
My home was a snowy 2 minute walk up the hill. Both my friend and I snuck through the garage in quiet and drunken stride. Giggles were passed between us as we headed to my bedroom victorious.
Yes, the first sip of this mind-altering drug was an exhilaration. The experiments that followed varied in their enjoyment. The forbidden fruit that was alcohol was a coming of age moment for me.
Like Eve with the apple, I imagine.
I remember when I was younger, swearing to my father I would never touch the stuff.
At 17, my heart changed. And a rocky courtship between myself and the bottle began. No worries, bearings were gathered around age 23. The road to that was a rocky one, though.
Those tales are best left for another day.