I firmly believe everyone should have a period in their life where they can look back and say, “Damn, I was wild.” A reckless, free experience they can call upon during their most mundane moments. When life is filled with mortgage payments, sick babies and arguments over who’s turn it is to empty the dishwasher, you can stop and remember a time when you gave zero fucks and ran wild with desire.
Mine was one summer in a dive bar in Brooklyn.
I was 17 years old and already looking for a way out. Out of my house, my life, my own head. As a child, there was an emptiness inside me that I could never quite fill. A void I can’t remember ever living without. I never truly felt like I belonged anywhere, so I tried to fit in everywhere.
I wasn’t driven enough for the nerds, not cool enough for the ‘Mean Girls.’ I’ve always had a wicked sense of humor, which probably saved me from being a complete social pariah, but school was tough for me. Deep insecurities would rear their ugly heads and I would find myself locked behind a bathroom stall in a state of panic, swearing no one liked me because I was such a loser. I couldn’t wait to graduate and move on to something else; to what, I had no idea. I just knew I wanted out.
One night in my senior year, my older brother invited me to a birthday party at a bar in our old neighborhood. It was for a close friend of his, a kid my parents knew very well so they didn’t have a problem letting me go. What could possibly happen, right? So off I went with a $20 bill my dad have given me to a bar I’d heard about for years. I have to add this was pre-gentrification Brooklyn; when what is now referred to as Kensington was called Flatbush and it was pretty sketchy. Not an area you’d walk around in at night. And this bar, well, if you didn’t know it was there…you’d never know it was there. The front entrance faced the train tracks, the back door led to an oft-deserted street. It had stools, a dartboard and the most amazing jukebox I’d ever heard. I’ve been to many bars since and still have not found a better one. It was dark. It was dingy. And it was perfect: the kind of place where a lost 17-year-old girl could raise some hell and find some trouble.
My brother and his gang of friends were regulars there, and I tagged along whenever he would let me. Soon enough, I didn’t need him to bring me anymore because I became friendly with one of the owners. Seventeen-year-old girls don’t realize bar owners are ‘friendly’ with all the pretty jailbait. I’d find this out much later. The first time I went there without my brother, I brought a friend. The owner asked what we were drinking. I probably said something lame like a Sea breeze. He, ignoring my order, proceeded to pour out shots for us. “They taste like bubblegum,” he said. They did, so we had two more. Then two more. We started talking to two guys I had met there a few times before. We ordered more drinks. My head was spinning. The night ended with us getting sick in the bathroom and grabbing a cab from a (thankfully) very trustworthy driver. I woke up the next morning with a hangover that could have killed a horse and a smile that lasted several days. I decided then and there that drinking was fun and something I wanted to do more of. Ahhh youth.