Turning 21 would fix everything. I had been in an abusive relationships with the Bloomington bars before I came of age. I had to depend on my rich friends to score invites through the coveted 'side door.' I would wait outside of that thing for hours like a groupie hoping to be invited backstage. Every fake ID that failed me hurt deeply, like a romantic relationship gone awry.
"It's ok," I would tell myself, "Some day I'll actually belong. I'll stop showing IDs that say Chris from Virginia or Mike from Texas. I'll show an ID that says my name, and it will be good enough."
As we got further into Junior year EVERYONE around me turned 21. Sure I would get invited to the parties, but you know it was never me. Always a bridesmaid. I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me. WIll I ever turn 21? I started to lose touch with all my old friends, "Hey you guys wanna go drink at the frat?"
"Sorry man, we're just too busy now. Being 21 and stuff."
As January 29th grew near it became apparent that I wouldn't have the Kilroy's birthday I had dreamed of. I was going to have a DESTINATION 21st birthday. I was studying abroad spring semester and my flight was January 28th. Sure I was a little bummed that since this was a destination birthday not everyone would be able to make it…but still BIRTHDAY IN ITALY.
January 27th I drove up to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I was flying out of Detroit with my buddies Chase and Hunter. We celebrated our last night in America by going to the Detroit Auto Show and then getting drunk at a Buffalo Wild Wings.
The next day we got to the Detroit airport and spilled out of a large SUV. When we unloaded our bags from the trunk I accidentally knocked over a large box of shotgun shell casings (Hunter was a world champion skeet shooter) This got me a side eye from a few police officers, but apparently this is normal enough behavior in Michigan that no further action was taken. We get to the gate about three hours early. Chase and Hunter immediately begin smashing gin and tonics. I wanted one so bad, but I was still about 12 hours from turning 21. I didn't dare show a fake ID at an airport for fear of blowing my entire abroad experience.
Five minutes before we get on the plane Chase opens up a small pill bottle. "Hey, my mom gave me these Ambien for us to take. She said to take one, but we're guys and she only weighs like 70 pounds. I think we can all take three."
We take all the pills and board our Lufthansa flight bound for Florence. 15 minutes into the flight we find out that there are unlimited drinks. We take full advantage. I don't even think we had reached our cruising altitude when Chase and Hunter were on their 10th drink of the afternoon. I was pretty far behind, but intent on catching up. It was never to be though because about half way through my second drink I looked over at Hunter and knew something was wrong.
He was a hue of green that can't be found in nature. He looked ill but also unaware that he was in trouble.
"Uh, Hunter, do you need to use the bathroom?"
"Yes. Yes I do. Right now."
"Uh, ya ok."
Hunter struggles with his seatbelt a bit and then walks calmly to the section of the plane where the bathrooms are. He tries each of the four doors. They are all occupied. With no further recourse, Hunter proceeds to drench the entire bathroom foyer with 10 gin and tonics worth of vomit. He then calmly returns to his seat, looks at me and gives a thumbs up.
He passes out immediately, I think he woke up in Italy.
Moments later, a male flight attendant comes back to our row. Chase is trying to figure out the headphone controls.
"Excuse me sir."
"Your friend puked all over the hallway."
The flight attendant stares incredulously.
"He got sick EVERYWHERE. The smell is abhorrent."
"Well I suggest you do your job and clean it up!"
With that Chase closed his eyes and proceeded to take an 8 hour nap.
Before the flight attendant could finger me as a co-conspirator I immediately faked unconsciousness. No more drinks were ordered the remainder of the flight.
By the time we actually get to Italy, it's the 29th. We are checked into a 5 star hotel in downtown Florence. There is a mixer with all of the people in our program. I'm reunited with my other 9 roommates (7 from my frat) that I'll be living with for the next 6 months. We are drinking scotch and calling dibs on various smoke shows from east coast universities. It's great.
Somewhere along the line I venture out to go buy myself some champagne. I also realize on this excursion that there are no open container laws in Italy. So I treat myself to a couple bottles of champagne as I wait for my friends to shower up post dinner.
By the time we are all dressed and ready to go I am in really bad shape. As we walked up to the night club YAB (You are Beautiful…LOL) I was shaky on my feet to say the least. But I was ready for this moment. Everything in my life had been leading up to this.
I proudly walk up to the front of the line and show the guy my passport.
"What are you doing?"
"It's my birthday!"
"Oh, ok…well you don't have to show me."
"Don't you need to see I'm old enough?"
"This is Europe man…"
I stumble and barely catch myself.
"Are you ok buddy?"
My friend Steve steps up showing the guy that I'm with 10 friends and they'll keep an eye out for me.
The bouncer steps aside and I take my first step into a bar as a legal adult. Only the step is down a flight of stairs and I slip and fall down 50 stairs coming to a stop on the bottom bleeding all over my sport coat.
I vaguely remember Steve carrying me home and throwing me in bed. I then remember being woken up at 5 in the morning to hear that we had been kicked out of the hotel because one of us had called the front desk girl a cunt.
Italy was not off to a great start, my 21st birthday had come and gone, there was no shot book. No picture of me and my bros in matching green polos. No epic story about the girl from Marist College that I slated on the first night. Nothing. My big day had come and gone without so much as a blip on the radar. It didn't go the way I planned.
Over the next 6 months I went to 20 countries, I interned in Chicago, I discovered Austin. I had an unbelievable senior year, I got arrested for peeing on a cop! And yes, I finally walked into Kilroy's with my real ID. It started off a 2 year run in my life that will never be repeated. I made so many good friends, I did so much cool shit. It's almost surreal that it all actually happened.
It's now 8 years later. That fateful day in Florence is a foggy memory. I'm now 6000 miles away in Los Angeles and I promise none of this has gone the way I planned it…
But it's been an adventure.
Some of the most exciting parts of life lie in the great unknown. I have know idea what I'll be doing eight years from now, but I want to thank all of the people that have been a part of my story to date.
Who knows, the best could be yet to come.