Pete the Party Freak
I was 18 in 1988. It was summer break. Washington, D.C.
Bethesda was a suburb between Friendship Heights and Rockville, Maryland. The local public school was Bethesda Chevy Chase High (BCC), and Red, Blink, and Pete had all attended it at one point. BCC wasn’t your typical public school. Montgomery County, which encompasses Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Rockville and other neighborhoods, was one of the wealthiest districts in the United States. It was home to many politicians and foreign dignitaries, so BCC had plenty of funding; Washington’s powerful made sure of that. Parents could make the statement that their children went to public school, yet in reality, BCC was as nice as its surrounding private schools. It was summer break from high school for most of us. Only those with bad grades or those who had skipped too many days had summer school.
Late Wednesday afternoon, I woke up just in time to drive over to Bethesda and meet up with everyone getting out of BCC summer school. The days were running out before I had to start working for Father again to pay off a new legal bill. I wanted to have as much fun as I could before I had to put the suit on again. I parked off campus so I wouldn’t have to deal with their security. Then I walked over to the smokers’ hangout, looking for Pete. Pete knew about every party, even if it was more than an hour’s drive away. I found him sitting at the top of some steps. Ben sat next to him. Where’s the party, Pete? was all one had to ask.
“There are G.D.S., Saint Albans’ and Field parties,” said Pete.
“Which are you going to?” This was always a stupid question, since I knew he would be going to all of them.
The night began at Pete’s house. His mother and sister were numb from his friends hanging around the house all the time. We hung out there for an hour, some drinking and some smoking weed on the back patio. When walking through the living room, one had to maneuver around a six-foot wide cement fountain that endlessly circulated water and was plugged into the wall. The room was sparse with the exception of a single chair in a corner and the fountain inconveniently placed in the center. It was time to go; everyone piled into cars and caravanned to the party. Depending on the night, whether it was a weekday or weekend, there would be three to ten cars in total. The directions were always wrong. If Pete dictated them over the phone, you had no chance of finding the party and that’s why everyone met at his house and followed him in their own car. No doubt Pete gave lousy directions to ensure his entourage would stick close to him. But there was always a party that he just heard a rumor about, for which he had no directions at all. He had a mystical ability to hone in and find the locations, even if it meant driving around in large circles for hours until we eventually made our arrival.
“Come on, Pete, let’s just go home,” I said.
“Just one more time around,” he said with exceptional ease, as if we had just begun driving. Pete’s information on the parties came from a number of sources.
“I overheard this girl at the supermarket talking about her parents going out of town,” was one among many.
His answering machine was full of them. If you were having a party, Pete would be the first person to call. Pete always showed up and was never alone.
“That’s it,” said Pete, pulling over without any warning for the cars close behind us. We parked in front and waited for the rest of our group to catch up. Walking in, we doubled the size of the party. We spread out through the house, passing through the kitchen to raid the refrigerator, then out to the backyard where the keg would be. Thinking back, it really wasn’t that much fun. It always took such a long time to find the party, and when we did, it was usually almost over. All the couples had already hooked up, and the girls who hadn’t hooked up yet, no one liked. But it was something to do and I didn’t want to stay at home. Once the beer was finished, Pete would take up a collection for more.
“Pete said he’d drink whatever is in the glass for fifty bucks,” Ben addressed the party. Bills were tossed into a pile. Pete counted them. The first count would never be enough. More money was raised. Ben poured a bit of mystery fluid from every half-emptied, abandoned cup he could find into his glass, throwing in some cigarette butts for texture. Ben spit into the glass just before handing it over to Pete, who then picked up a bottle of dish soap and added a squirt, as the crowd let out a collective groan. Without hesitation, Pete gulped it down.
“Come on. Let’s go to the party in Potomac. It’s going to be a rager,” Pete assured. The clock on the wall read 2 am.
“That party’s gonna be over,” I said, even though I knew he wasn’t listening to me, and I had no choice since I was riding with him. His other friends knew the drill and came in their own cars.
In Potomac, we arrived at a ranch-styled house that was set back among a few trees. Only stragglers were left. The girl having the party tried to discourage us from coming in, but she didn’t understand that Pete wouldn’t leave until he was satisfied. We pushed past her to the kegs of beer. One was tapped. Discarded plastic pint-sized cups littered the house and yard as the party neared its end. Pete picked up the cup nearest to him, dumped out what was left, and pumped out half beer, half foam.
“I stopped by BCC looking for you the other day, but you had left or something,” I said as I looked for my own empty cup. Finding one, I washed it out with the hose and wiped the rim with my T-shirt.
“They put me in his office,” Pete said.
“The principal’s office?”
“Yes, they just left me there. I missed too much school or something. Anyway, I was just sitting there looking out the window. It was a nice sunny day, so I climbed out, dropped to the grass and went home.” Pete spit chewing tobacco into a cup.
“Did you get in trouble?” I asked Pete.
“No. They didn’t bring it up, so I didn’t, either.” I thought about when I’d stabbed Tyler. It was sort of the same thing.
-Ethan H. Minsker