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Chapter 7: What I Need

September 10, 2010

After seeing the truck nearly run over a dozen people on my way to the bodybuilding competition, the rest of the day didn’t go much better. I tried to shake it off, but when I got to the competition, it became clear that I was unfocused and overmatched by older, seasoned bodybuilders, like Tony, who walked away with every possible award. It was as if the trophy store went out of business and gave him its entire inventory. Then after the competition, I went out for pizza and way too much beer to soothe my battered ego. I woke up the next morning with a hairless body, fake tan, and a clogged head.

I was planning on doing another bodybuilding competition, but my body feels run down. So I’m going to take a break from the competitions, and try to have more fun. Tonight James and I are playing a drinking game with our roommate, Thomas. He’s tall with short blond hair, pale skin and freckles. He has an easygoing personality that makes it effortless for us to get along.

Kendra, a friend from one of my classes, arrives with a much needed thirty-pack of the cheapest beer a college student could dream of. Kendra is the definition of an old soul, and has been a sounding board for me many times. Her personality is as vivacious as the curls in her wild brown hair. She’s the type of person I enjoy being around in pretty much any setting—class, a party, the grocery store, even a preschool with frantic children running around, screaming and stomping on my feet. I’m thankful for her friendship.

Kendra and Thomas, James and I, are playing a partner drinking game called Corners. The four of us each guard a corner of a long, plywood table in the garage. In front of each of us is a horizontal pyramid of three cups filled with beer. In the middle of the table is a lone cup with water in it. The game is rapid fire, shooting a ping-pong ball diagonally across the table into our partner’s cups.

The game starts with James making a cup. I pass it to Kendra to drink and she gives me a begrudging look. I shoot, make a cup, and James passes it to Thomas to drink. That’s pretty much how the rest of the game goes until James and I have made all of our cups and have to bounce the ball into the cup in the middle of the table. It’s surprisingly difficult, considering we’re not even drunk.

Thomas razzes us about being college students who can’t do something a first-grader could, then Kendra makes a cup and I drink it. Kendra and Thomas sink three more balls into the cups, which James and I quickly chug. The beer is cold, tasteless, surprisingly filling, and absolutely littered with tiny debris gathered from the ball, which makes frequent contact with the dirty garage floor. The beer keeps coming, we now have only a one-cup lead, and bouncing the ball in the cup now feels like throwing a ring off a moving carousel.

Finally, James bounces the ball in for the win. We celebrate our victory by each taking two shots of Jameson. Then we shotgun some beers and cap the night off with pinches of chewing tobacco as we sit on top of the sound wall in the backyard.

Thomas joins us and sits next to me on the sound wall. The three of us look out over the street behind our house and find a rare opportunity to talk about things we wouldn’t bring up when we’re sober, things like car accidents. Thomas tells me that he too was in a bad car accident and had to cope with the physical and emotional trauma. It’s comforting to talk to someone, a friend no less, who has been through a similar experience.

We spend a solid hour sitting on top of the wall, talking about our experiences, the cool night air drifting between us,. I didn’t fully realize it until now, but I’ve needed this. I’ve needed to talk to my friends, not an apathetic therapist or the sleepy-eyed students in my psychology class. I don’t know if it’s just the buzz from the alcohol, but talking to Thomas and James feels cathartic. I may always have to live with the trauma from the car accident in some form but, in this moment, I don’t care. Opening up and releasing the emotional gunk inside me is what I need. And I don’t care about anything else.

Next Chapter: Chapter 8: The Onset