Travis found another bottle of lighter fluid in the back seat of his Jeep and clumsily tossed it over to Marcus, a guy in a black hoodie who then drenched the remaining branches and tossed them into the fire. The world around us didn’t matter in this moment. Before, we all piled into trucks, jeeps, and a Rav4 and managed to remain conspicuous while trespassing on private property. We pulled over on the highway, turned off our headlights, waited till what seemed like the last car rolled passed, then pulled in between a few trees where a path had been created, not normally seen while passing on the road rolling at 70 miles per hour, that is unless you scoped it out a day ahead of time.
This path must have been created by kids with motorbikes or four-wheelers. With twenty-some people crammed into a Dodge, Chevy, Jeep, and a crappy Toyota the stutters left bruises on each other’s heads and the tight quarters to awkward small talk. The guys in the trucks slowly rolled over every whoop as the rest of us in the Jeep and Rav4 took the risk and skipped over every jump and crashed down into the pits until our entire vehicle’s bright red and steal blue body was coated in a thick layer of mud.
At the end of the trail the scenery opened to where we could see the crescent moon gleaming against the river. The trucks were parked along the edge of the river to block the sight of the houses that lay across the water. It was somewhere between one and two in the morning when we first pulled off the highway, but when we were here time didn’t matter to us. We were in the age of invincibility and may as well have worn “F You” across our foreheads. To me this was my family, the twenty some group of people with whom I hung out with after school but wouldn’t dare acknowledge in the hallways. This was our group, our army of weirdos, popular kids, jocks, and drop-outs that could no longer stand the cold breathe of conformity, so instead we lit the world on fire.
From behind the two trucks could easily be seen a community; mansions owned by the rich with their opaque outer shells that cover up dysfunction and lose their allure at night. In front of the two trucks was a blustering fire, lit with rage, and fueled by lighter fluid and excess gasoline poured into glass bottles and launched into the flames. We fed off of the sound of breaking glass and the appeal of an erupting fire, a gust so strong there is no doubt it grew higher than the truck barricade hiding the pearly houses.
We drank, we yelled, and we smoked. We sank deeper than the pits we drove into but screamed the entire way. Together we were falling, a clan of overly emotional and angry kids that saw nothing but the hatred that blinded them and the overwhelming heat of flames. Our minds were dazed and fuzzy but that was a feeling we embraced.
Travis stood on top of a dirt pile and yelled obscenities with no real meaning, however, the message was all too clear. In response we yelled back, a strange sound along the lines of animals roaring and chanting, mixed with the revving and grind of four-wheelers that were brought along in the beds of the two trucks.
Nothing in that moment made sense and that was more or less the point. We all carried so much stress from attending or formerly attending a prestigious high school, living in a community with the weight of normalcy pulling us down, fighting to find common ground with our desires and reality, and facing the day with a fake smile when all we really wanted to do is run away and never look back. When we were all together and as far away from being sober as possible is when we felt that we had finally made our escape, but what we didn’t know is that eventually one day we would be forced to face reality with nothing to show but the hatred behind our eyes and the mud stuck in the treads of our shoes.
Eventually this day came and we had to make our decisions. A few found their realities in jail, some in college, one continues to run, and one saw facing their reality all too much. For me, I continue to write and rewrite my reality, taking control of what I am instead of leaving fate with all the power. And in my reality, I found that none of my friends from our adventures deep into the night, surrounded by nothing by trees, flames, and beer bottles had a place.