I wasn’t sure if the punch was spiked or what, and I didn’t want to offend anyone by asking. These were supposed to be good Christian kids, but I really didn’t bank on that phrase having much significance anymore.
My had invited me back to his hometown to attend a friend’s birthday party. She was still in high school, but that didn’t make me feel any more secure about the status of the punch. Devoid of what I would consider “real” adults, the youth center full of arcade games and pheromones was severely off-putting.
My boyfriend wandered off with his hands shoved awkwardly in the pockets of his khaki cargo pants to say hello to whatever girl he had dragged me along to meet, leaving me alone in the middle of the chaos.
I looked around the overcrowded room. A very tall young man who seemed to be the life of the party had captivated the laughter of about a dozen girls with stories of drama club bravado. He was one of those people, I found out later, whose charisma could get him almost anything he wanted.
Blink-182’s single “All the Small Things,” blared from the crappy sound system and something in my brain cracked. Everything in sight fractured into tiny particles the size of rainbow sprinkles. What time was it? I looked up at the caged-in clock. It seemed to be melting like a Dali painting, dripping down on to the snack bar like the nacho cheese being pumped onto greasy tortilla chips. The light in the room turned orange, like every nightmare I’ve ever had. I ran outside into the rain.
My boyfriend ran after me and found me shimmying down the wheelchair ramp with my back against the building. I needed my back protected; someone was out to get me. I hadn’t yet figured out how I was going to escape when I reached the end of the building, but planning ahead wasn’t my strength at times like these. “Where are you going?” he asked in alarm. “Away. Out.” I didn’t have a better answer. He grabbed my shoulders, “You can’t just leave. How will you get back to school?” I looked around as if the answer was hidden on the branch of a nearby pine tree, or in the back seat of a parked car. “I… don’t know,” I finally stammered. He linked arms with me and turned toward the door. “Come back inside. Please.”
I let myself be led back into the Crooked Man’s house, his logic winning out in spite of my terror. I collapsed onto a ragged couch obediently, but I preferred the palpable autumn rain to the hurricane in my head.