Thursday, March 29, 2012

Drowning in Peer Pressure

The air was heavy and made my skin sweat just standing still in it. Escaping it was near impossible. As the temperature rose throughout the day the more irritable and bored I became. No otter pop could satisfy my longing to be cool.

He was older than me but invited me to go with him and his friends on an adventure anyway. My heart fluttered at the idea of leaving the house. I longed to escape the summer.

I had bought my first bikini that summer before. It wasn't hard to dig it out of the drawer. I kept it right on top of all of my undies for this exact moment. I had been looking forward to this sort of adventure. Movies always portrayed people in summer carefree, laughing, and flirting until the stars come up.

At the time I was driving my mom's old green mini van. I called it the mob mobile. I loaded it up with snacks and waters thinking we might go picnic some place with shade. When I drove up to the apartment 2 guys and another girl were blowing up a giant floating pool toy.

"Hey, where are we going"? I asked.

The guy that invited me hollered back excited, "goin' to float the river!"
My heart sank. I have never done that before. It's never been talked about among my friends or family. Any time someone went on a river, it was white water rafting with a group of trained professionals. We were going in a pool toy. One of the girls I used to sit on the bus with died white water rafting the summer before. She drowned. They couldn't find her body because it was pinned under a rock at the heaviest rapids section of the river.

"Is it safe?!" I hesitated getting out of the van to help load the pool toy.

We put the giant raft toy in the back of the van and headed towards the river. He put his hand on my thigh for the ride over. I felt awkward having people in the car watching us. Never has this happened to me before. How did I end up as lead driver for an adventure with a guy and his hand on my leg. I smiled and turned up the radio.

We got to the river and it was windy. The sky was bright blue and we could hear the waves crashing near the shore rocks. He helped me down the steep embankment. The other girl from the group introduced herself. She had black and red hair and a stringy bikini. She grabbed my arm tight and squealed, "this will be so much fun!"

It was so much fun relaxing as we began floating down the river. We were lazily floating enjoying some of my snacks I brought along. The guys had paper bags with them and once the sun was directly over head they pulled out the glass bottles from the bags. I couldn't see past the girl sitting next to me and waited to understand what was happening as the bottle was passed down the mini raft towards me. The bottle had a big glass panther hugging the side. Deep brown liquid sloshed wildly around as people were trying to gulp at the bottle. It made it's way to me.I held it and felt the weight of my decision. Heaviness filled my heart. I was 18. I knew it was illegal to drink. My conscious swirled and I decided to just taste it. This went on until the bottle was half gone. I was sober among the group. They seemed pretty calm and relaxed. I laid my head back on the shoulder of the guy who invited me. The sun burned bright through my eyelids. White space filled my head. The water was cool on my hand when I dipped it in. Paradise. When I opened my eyes a while later the guys had lit up a joint. Somehow they managed to keep a plastic bag of weed dry in the raft and now were rolling their own joints. I had never tried to smoke it before this moment. The air smelled sweet and burnt at the same time. They offered me some and I said, "how is this going to effect me driving us all back home at the end?" I hated the pressure. Their reasoning was that I'd be fine in a few hours of rafting. Just chill out I thought. Truthfully I didn't want to look like the idiot who couldn't smoke. I tried a hit off the group joint but didn't pull any smoke from it. I tried again and got frustrated. How were they puffing away and blowing shapes out their noses with this thing.

"Here let me help you." He leaned in over the top of me and pressed his mouth over mine. My world stopped. I could only hear my heart beating wildly and loud. My eyes were wide open and I watched him. Hot smokey air filled my lungs. His lips tasted like liquor and vanilla chap stick. My head rushed and the raft lurched but he stayed locked to my lips. I tried to hold my coughing back but sputtered and he pulled away. Calmly and cooler than anyone in the raft he just sat back, smiled, and took another drag from the joint. The other two started cheering and laughing.

The clouds above us swirled and seemed inches from my face. The river wound up into the sky and I feared we wouldn't make it. I leaned over the edge of the boat to look down into the deep green water. Fish jolted back and forth under the shadow of the raft. Splash! I dove my arm quick and fast in towards the fish. Splash! Splash! I tried karate chopping the water in a haze. I couldn't catch them. Lurching forward I grabbed a hold of the guy's arm. "Get ready we are heading towards the current". My stomach fell again.

Cool mist sprayed my face and the sun was lost behind the cliff edges full of ivy. A cold darkness fell over the raft. The skin on my chest got goosebumps. Speed picked up as we took a dip down a small ledge. We began to plummet down river. My head was spinning. Water sloshed up into the raft and soaked my short bottoms. I felt dizzy and ill.

Large dark patches dotted the center of the river. White wave caps climbed up and spun in circles around them. The raft didn't have any paddles. I grabbed on tight to the guy next to me and whined we needed to paddle away.

Water filled my nose. The light was shut out as the waves crashed over my face. I sputtered and flailed. I could hear the current passing through my ears loud and thunderous. My legs were sucked below. I reached for the surface desperately. Oh God let me live I pleaded in my head. A tight grip wrapped around my bicep. The water above glistened. He pulled me up fast through the surface. My lungs ached for oxygen. I gasped several times. We floated down the river together arm in arm until we met the shore line again.