The title will eventually make sense but this was something that happened many years ago….
It was cold, close to the holidays, and Sheree’s parents were leaving town. Sheree was a nice girl– I think. I don’t remember how well we knew her at the American Academy of Art back in the early ’80’s. But one day, she announced there was going to be a party at her house and we were all invited. Seemingly the whole school.
You see what’s coming.
So we headed out to the burbs, me in my stylish 1982 velour shirt, to Lemont and it was certainly a party. The relatively small house packed with people, only a few we recognized from school. And of course it was loud. So loud, you couldn’t hear yourself talk, with the crowd and the music. Our little group consisted of me, Lin, Pam, Doug and honestly, we usually had a fifth rotating member of the gang at that point depending on schedules, so it was either Neil, Martis, Jim or Mike, but of the five is us, we could barely see or hear each other because of the crowd.
The first sign that everything was going to hell, was that Sheree was already passed out in her bedroom. So no one was hosting, no one was in charge.
This… was a Rogue Rager.
The second, and infinitely more troubling sign of this party running out of runway were the guests in the kitchen. Sheree was very, very loose about invitations to this thing. Not only were there a number of college football players in attendance, but also, a group of bouncers from a club in Chicago.
Only now, nearly 40 years after the spectacle, am I wondering if maybe Sheree arranged for the bouncers to maybe keep things in line? Maybe she knew a friend of a friend? Don’t know. In any event, if there was any kind of plan in place, that plan failed.
Yeah, I don’t think there was a plan.
Because at a certain point in the kitchen, the football players and the bouncers were challenging each other to a game of quarters. A usually harmless drinking game where you bounce quarters into cups, thus forcing the opposing player to chug a beer or take a shot. It’s all well and good until someone gives somebody else the stink eye.
We were in the midst of the crowd in the living room when the music stopped and we heard crashing noises coming from the kitchen. The crowd seemed to be thickest around the outer edge of the kitchen. Curious, I started to insinuate myself through the crowd to go see what was happening in there. When I reached the edge of the crowd, I was frankly stunned.
Admittedly, I was very drunk by this point in the evening. The last hour was just a bunch of noise and beer. So it took me a minute to take in what I saw. To actually comprehend it.
The kitchen was utterly destroyed. There were holes smashed in the blood smeared walls. Scattered kindling that used to be a table with a quarters game on it before everything went to hell. And there were bodies flying around. Things were moving very fast, so I couldn’t count how many guys were fighting, just that they were big and capable of throwing their opponents. One of these opponents landed unconscious at my feet, since I was standing at the edge of the crowd. This was a very bad place to be standing, but that would be made clear to me in about 7 seconds.
I looked down at my feet and saw a guy laying there. I looked up and saw a large shadow fall over me. I raised my hands in — what I thought– was a “hey, I don’t want any trouble, I was just curious to see what was going on in here” gesture. Maybe my drunken face seemed like it had a cocky expression. Maybe he just didn’t like my velour shirt.
Large, looming shadow man interpreted my gesture in an aggressive way, resulting in three, rapid fire sounds.
CRUNCH. His first punch broke my nose, and as my head began rotating to the right,
KRONK. His second punch hit my cheek bone, continuing to rotate my head until,
CHUNG. The third and final rapid punch, now into the back of my head, had spun me around until my head was in the sink.
At which point, a massive dose of adrenaline kicked in, I shot to full sobriety in a nanosecond, and I was PISSED.
Evidently, I must have turned around looking like I was ready for round two, because at that point, several of the other bystanders pulled me into the crowd and to safety. The general message there being “Hey, he will easily kill you. Come here to safety. You’re welcome. Idiot.”
They deposited me back into the living room, away from the danger. I marched into the bathroom to assess the damage. There was surprisingly little pain, as I was still on an adrenaline high, along with the booze. THAT is an interesting mix. Looking into the bathroom mirror, it seemed like I got off pretty easy. Then the blood started streaming out of my nose. For the next minute or so, I tried to staunch the blood with every towel in the bathroom, and clean myself up.
Sorry Sheree, but bloody towels are going to be the least of your problems when your folks get home, I thought. Worst of all, I got blood on my velour shirt.
I wandered out of the bathroom into the living room, only to find it empty, with red and blue lights flashing and glowing in every window around the house. Coppers! Where were my friends? I would later find out that being separated, one pair thought I was with the other pair and vice versa, as they crawled out back windows with everyone else. But the point was moot. I was the only idiot left and in the kitchen, I saw a police officer placing one of the brawlers up against the wall.
Thinking quickly (80% adrenaline, 20% alcohol), I sniffed up as much blood as I could, hoping that because there was as yet no massive swelling, I wouldn’t be mistaken as one of the fighters. In hindsight, there was very little danger of me being mistaken for one of the fighters. Delightful countenance. Velour shirt.
But when an officer advanced on me as I entered the kitchen, I said “There’s a guy wreckin’ stuff in the back.” He went back and I bolted out the kitchen door.
Only to hit the driveway and find more party goers being thrown up against the side of the house by police. One came my way and I said “You might wanna get in there, two guys are beatin’ on a cop.” And sure enough, they ran into the house. All the partygoers bolted, a few of them saying thanks and a block away, I found my friends, who were relieved to see me. We piled in the car and got outta there.
By the time they dropped me off at home, the adrenaline had started to wear off along with the booze, and the pain began to creep in. They gang took a good long look at me under the streetlight in front of my house. The prognosis was not good. That blood wasn’t coming out of that velour shirt. The nose looked bad too.
But it would be okay, I thought. It was the wee hours of the morning and the very next day, before I would get up, mom and Vic were leaving on vacation and they’d be gone for like two weeks. I figured I’d heal up by the time they got back and they’d never know. I washed my face and went to bed.
The next morning, my mother, the behavioral forensic scientist noticed an almost microscopic speck of blood in the sink and immediately knew enough to interrogate me when they got back.
16 years later, I had to get nose surgery to repair the slowly escalating damage to the airways in my nose. Which caused another 15 years of sinus infections. I still have issues.
No idea whatever happened to Sheree.
The moral of the story? Never wear your favorite velour shirt to an even remotely sketchy party.