Sunday, February 21, 2016

Night Games: Insomnia Was Fun When I Was a Kid

Oh deer, 12:02 AM and it looks like insomnia might be setting in. 

I don't think I've ever written two blogs in one day, but we are already into the midnight mark so, technically today has already turned into tomorrow. I'm sensing insomnia coming on, so I figured I'd tell myself some bedtime stories. If you want, you can read them, too.

When I was a kid, insomnia was fun. Staying up late meant hard core trick or treating, super fun sleepovers and, most importantly, Neighborhood Night Games. 

Night games usually took place up the hill in the fancy neighborhood at Jason B's house where we could romp around on manicured lawns. I think we played Kick The Can but really, the game did not matter. Night games were a time to flirt with your elementary school crushes. We'd all wear black and sometimes even paint our faces. If you were lucky, night games would end up in your friend's basement and you could play Spin the Bottle. I think I was "going with" Zach J at the time (or was it Ryan M?) and even though we were "going together," kissing was still scary.

On Halloween nights we would bob for apples and it was oddly exciting to stick your face in freezing cold water with chattering teeth, trying to catch a soggy apple in your mouth.

When I was in high school, on the eve of senior year, the cool girls had set up an elaborate plan to teepee the houses of the incoming sophomore girls (our high school went from 10th - 12th grade, so, the sophomores were the newbies). In my car I had my three best girl friends and we had stocked the trunk was dozens of rolls of toilet paper. I was driving my dad's old Acura Legend and we were wearing black clothes and dark football player lines on our cheeks.

I am not very good with directions, and on this particular night we were trying to find the locations on the printed slips of paper with our four or five houses to hit (this was a well-organized operation, conceived by girls who now hold high up government positions and work for think tanks). 

My friends and I had successfully teepeed two houses, and we were on our way to teepee house number three. I was driving down Hwy 7 and realized I had taken a wrong turn. Looking back, I should have just kept driving, but instead I decided to pull into an store parking lot and do a U-turn. That was Mistake #1.

Out of nowhere, a cop car showed up and his lights were flashing. I froze. Being a goodie two-shoes, lucky I was not drunk (in fact, I never drank until I turned 18 and that was in my best friend's house and I diligently chugged water between sips of Beefeater gin, no chaser. Yes, we were amateurs).

The sight of a police car with lights flashing was so foreign, so terrifying, I thought I might just die right there behind the driver's seat of my dad's old car.

I didn't even know the protocol. As the police officer started walking up to my driver's side window, terrified thoughts ran through my head as I vaguely remembered some mentor in my life - was it my brother? - who confidently told me that you do not have to open your trunk for a police officer. You could kind of plead the fifth and say "No."

You girls been out and about tonight, huh?

(Gulp) Um, yes?

Have you been out, say, teepeeing the neighborhood?

(Que hyperventilation) Um, no?

Seems you are dressed for some covert opportunity

(I looked in the rearview mirror, studying the faces of my friends, football face painted and dressed in all black.)

Um, no, not really?

Why don't you go ahead and open the trunk.

This was the moment.

Was I going to man up and tell him No Thank You, I Will Not Be Opening My Trunk. Was I going to be a brave Senior and get us out of this mess, unscathed?

I didn't say anything.

Do you, ah, happen to have any toilet paper in your trunk?

Um. No?? (Mistake #2)

Open the trunk, please.

Shit! I opened the trunk.

The police officer walked to the back of the car and studied the contents of my open trunk. What he would find were over forty rolls of toilet paper, cardboard cores pulled out (I guess we thought that would help?) and he just stood there. I wondered if he was counting them, adding up how many years we would be in jail based on the number of rolls he found.

My friends and I, we didn't say a word. All I remember doing is shoving the little slips of paper with the sophomore addresses deep under my seat so that I was sitting on them. I didn't want to indict the cool girls and ruin the entire operation that we had been so proud to be included in.

So, looks like you have quite a few rolls there. How many houses have you teepeed this evening.

Um? (this was the moment when my annoying honesty set in and I had to tell the truth) Two. So far we have teepeed two homes.

Okay, here's what's going to happen. You have until 5AM. I need you to go back to those two houses and un-teepee them. I will be checking these two addresses after 5AM and if they still have toilet paper on the property, I will be contacting your parents. I also need to know - was this a part of some larger event? Say, a group of you who have decided to teepee houses?

No. No, not at all. Just us, it was just the four of us doing it.

Are you sure?

Yes, I am sure (the papers with the other addresses sat under my butt; the red hot evidence that this was a part of a much larger organization).

Okay, girls, you better get going, you have a lot of work to do. Remember, I will be checking.

The punishment was steep. This was not going to be easy. The only thing more difficult than teepeeing a home is unteepeeing it. With a deadline.

It never really occurred to us that, not only did the cop not know where our parents lived (well, he would have known mine, after seeing my driver's license), but he also did not know the addresses of the already teepeed homes. This did not matter. The fear of god was in us and we used that fear as fuel to systematically unteepee the two houses, always looking at our watches for the dreaded 5AM deadline.

The next day, the first day of school, we showed up not as triumphant seniors but as weary war criminals, vowing never to involve ourselves in a senior prank again.

It's funny, making mistakes as a kid. They are swift and steep and then (hopefully) they are done. Mistakes as a kid are different than mistakes as an adult. Adult mistakes/misfortunes turn into unfortunate Office Fails or Relationship Disasters or Heath Crises that leave a lingering sense of wrong in your chest. Sometimes we are at fault and sometimes we are not.

I wish that I could go back to Night Games instead of parties where I worry about drunk people driving home or my drunk self being a dance-party-for-one, or, I don't know, going out for a night on the town and then hating it after 15 minutes. 

Sometimes the most fun I have are the nights like this, when I accept my insomnia and I go to town on creative projects. I try to embrace my odd sleeping instead of reject it.

Insomnia is like a temperamental cat. You can either try to pet it and love it or try to ignore it and fear it. 

If you are like me and awake at the odd hours, let's try to embrace the Insomnia Kitty and work toward acceptance of it.

Ok, off to draw a picture of Insomnia Kitty,

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