“Let’s find a motel,” he said to me for the fourth time in as many minutes. I realized we were still in the car, which was moving faster than I liked, fleeing the quiet streets of New Brunswick I’d called home for years and heading towards the highway. Even though I was high and very drunk, something felt off. My body was heavy, stuck in place with a mouth which seemed welded shut. He was urgent, too insistent. My friend from high school was gone. How long had he been gone? How long had we been driving around? I quickly tried to make sense of the moment but everything seemed fuzzy, my mouth unable to say what needed to be said. Do not take me to a motel. I do not want to go there with you.
It was late—2am maybe? I’d just ruined my plans of sleeping at a Rugby house because I had sparked a fight which resulted in the casualty of someone else’s home furnishings. Chaos. The night hadn’t started like this—that’s a phrase i’ve said to myself more times than I care to admit. Some of my old college friends and I had reunited to revisit some of our old stomping grounds the night before Homecoming. There were mandatory drinks at all the old watering holes — Old Queens Tavern, Golden Rail, Stuff Yer Face, Olive Branch before crashing a college party to play beer pong (at my insistence).
While my friends decided they’d had enough and would go home to sleep so they could actually enjoy the next day’s activities, I decided i’d just gotten started. Three or four bars was a warm-up. When on a college campus, do as college students do! I told myself repeatedly. Also, this wasn’t just any campus — it was my alma mater, ergo my opportunity to do what I used to do five years prior but if i’m being honest, something I never stopped doing. Binge drink. If i’m being really honest, I hate being alone. I especially hate being alone with myself so drinking helped me camouflage those feelings and replace them others. If I was truly lucky, I’d blackout and have no recollection of anything — which makes the lie of telling yourself the night was a fun success easier to stomach.
Falling into old routines is easy when you never quite break them. Since I couldn’t stand the thought of going home at midnight I did what any good alcoholic does, I snuffed out another party. I played rugby in college and for the most part the houses were fairly traditional, they were passed down through generations. I found such a gathering in no time. But not long after, a scuffle happened and both the hosts and New Brunswick police invited everyone to leave the premises.
My plan had been to crash on their couch. With that option erased I headed back out on to the streets. New Brunswick is a college town but unlike NYC, it calms down. I found myself walking those quiet streets with no where to go. The thought of cabbing home seemed like a waste of money. I then happened upon a classmate from high school I hadn’t seen in 10 years. Greg. We hadn’t been actual friends back then, mere acquaintances but I wasn’t in a position to ignore that thread of a connection. This seemed like an easy way to kill more time so without a second thought, I said yes to getting high in his shitty hatchback with a stranger behind the wheel. I contributed weed for a couple of blunts and we proceeded to hot box his car. Something happens. I’m unsure of what exactly because i’m in a brown-out. The state which exists between far from sober and full-blown blackout. His girlfriend, a friend, someone turned up and Greg left. When I finally came to, i was still smoking weed (HOW?) but had relocated to the front seat.
Guy: “Where are you going tonight?”
Me: “No where.”
Guy: “Let’s drive around and get high.”
It seemed like a good idea. We’d drive around and get high. Not get pulled over and then it would be morning and I could drink more and watch a college football game. I often wonder how many people share my deranged thinking. I realize it’s impossible to smoke weed and drive around for hours until daylight comes but that night, it seemed like a low-cost alternative to going home, to being safe.
“Turn right here, there’s a place up the street I know,” I said, realizing French Street was the only street between me and a motel room with this stranger. He took the right and to both of our surprise we faced two stop signs and twice as many cop cars.
“There’s something I need to tell you,” he said, “I’m an illegal immigrant, this isn’t my car and I’ve got warrants, so if they stop us, I’m running.” My heart began pounding — the way it does when you suddenly become aware of everything you stand to lose. I’d dodged the bullet of going to a remote location with a stranger but was suddenly aware of a new self-imposed danger. I had a lot of drugs on me. When you’re accustomed to numbing yourself out — carrying drugs doesn’t seem illogical or illegal, it’s necessary. I was painfully aware of what getting pulled could mean for my life, yet I knew I wasn’t in charge. I said the only thing that made sense to me at the time, “Do not roll through these stop signs. Please just stop.”
I felt the glare of the cops as we made our way past them, I also felt the sweat cold against my rugby jersey. How long had I been sweating? After successfully passing the second stop sign I asked him to take a right and stop. This was my chance. I got out of his car and pissed on the side of a parking garage while he waited and watched. “I’m good,” I shouted, waving him off. Realizing he’d hoped I was getting back in.
It was some time after 4 am and I was downtown in New Brunswick with a dead phone and no where to go. I walked the two blocks to the train station. I remember placing my watch, phone and wallet in my bra, strapping my book bag to my chest and passing out in the glow of a 24 hour Dunkin’ Donuts as other homeless alcoholics and addicts slept, wept and argued. I remember thinking how fortunate I was, that I wasn’t one of them—the notion of sleeping in a train station lost on me.