Dear owner of the white house at the corner of Northvale and Southvale Avenues in Little Silver, New Jersey,
I’m sorry for throwing rocks at your house.
That was me that night, back in the winter of 1987. I was a sophomore in high school. My friends Will and Ted and I were coming from a party at Nancy Dorn’s house, down the block. We were loud, laughing, wasted-drunk. Someone had brought a bottle of vodka. We sat around a coffee table in the den, filling tall glasses and chugging long gulps-daring each other to do more. We had to go fast, Nancy’s parents were only out for the evening. One time when it was Ted’s turn, he said he needed a chaser, and asked me to get him some water. I went in to the kitchen and found a bottle of gin-Nancy’s parents’ I suppose (there’s another apology due)-poured a healthy, refreshing-looking glass of that instead and took it back to the table.
“Here you go, man,” I said. Ted took a deep breath, downed half a glass of the vodka and quickly reached for the chaser. “Ha ha,” I said, as he ran into the bathroom to puke.
Everyone except Ted really liked that joke. He would get me back, though, more than a year later (memory like an elephant, he had) with tequila disguised in a bottle of light beer. “That’s for that time at Nancy Dorn’s house, asshole,” he said, as I was leaned over a garbage can in Kevin Thistle’s backyard.
Anyway, this is the kind of idiots we were. And we were full-on that night, still early as it was, probably around 11 o’clock, when we spilled out of Nancy’s. No one knew what to do. We had nowhere to go. Everyone else left. So we just started walking. Ted was extra riled up, I think, because he’d left Nancy’s house without making-out with her, which is something he got to do sometimes but not always, and particularly not after his supposed friend had made him puke in front of everybody by giving him gin instead of water. Upon getting out on to Northvale, he tried to karate kick a little wooden lawn display thing in a neighbors’ yard, but he’d missed and caught his foot over the top, and fallen flat on his butt. This was about the funniest thing that Will and I had ever seen. And Ted soon joined us in laughing and then just shouting curse words at the sky. “Fuck it!” he shouted. “Yeah, fuck it!” we shouted. “Suck my dick!” “Yeah, suck my dick!” Cursing just to curse. Punishment, though, basically, for anyone unlucky enough to share our sleepy suburban town with us.
None of this is to excuse or even explain, really, the fact that as we staggered, cackling, past your driveway, I picked up a handful of gravel from your driveway and threw it at the faÃ§ade of your house. It could have broken a window. I’m very glad it didn’t. For all I know, you had children, even babies maybe, sleeping inside. The question of what I was thinking barely applies. That I was some kind of rebel? A punk rocker? In my Army-Navy-store trench coat, like Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club, and L.L. Bean duck boots, laces left loose, but just so, with little knots tied at the ends, to keep them from slipping out of place. Embarrassing to remember.
We must have been making enough noise on our approach for you to be on the alert, because not ten seconds after the pebbles strafed the shingles-I’ll never forget the sound, a clatter like shuffling cards-your garage light flicked on. Then you were there, in your yard, a bobbing flashlight beam racing towards us. “Holy shit!” Will shouted, and we took off.
We crossed Northvale and bolted into someone’s backyard. You followed us, close, maybe thirty yards behind. But you didn’t say anything. Not “Stop” or “Hey, you kids!” Nothing. There was just the herky-jerk bounce of the light when I turned to look. This made me think you were very serious and I realized that you had more in mind than just chasing us off your property. “Go! Go! Go!” Will said, from right next me, all of us still laughing as we ran. “He’s coming!” It was clumsy, sprinting all bundled up, and so drunk. But we kept our lead. Maybe you were wearing slippers? Maybe you were old?
Adrenaline cleared what had been a blurry night. I remember the particles of mist in the halos of back porch lights as we went from one yard into the next. In front of us, hedges appeared. Ted lowered his head and charged into them. I followed, thinking we’d burst through like football players or something. No. There was a chain-link fence inside, or just on the other side, that absorbed us for a moment then flung us backwards and then onto the hard winter ground. Stunned, amazed, we got up quickly and kept going. Will had found the perimeter and we went around that way. Another yard. Then came a tall wooden fence, the kind with flat, pointy pickets and two horizontal crossbeams. Will, who actually did play football, and very well, for the school team, jumped up to climb over. I watched as the whole length of it, forty feet probably, all tipped forward with his weight and fell flat with him on it. We howled and kept going. Will scrambled up, Ted and I passed him. Then there was the pool that the wooden fence had enclosed. Covered in a taut, springy tarp for the winter. We didn’t see it, and screamed when we found ourselves stumbling, splashing, knee-deep in very cold water. I fell forward and caught myself with my hands, soaking my coat before scrambling out.
We kept running. Slogging, really, now in wet clothes, to the edge of the next yard, where we slowed, and then walked, panting, not believing what had just happened. It was like the scene in The Naked Gun when the guy drives into the oil tanker and then the missile launcher and then the fireworks company. I don’t know when you’d stopped chasing us. Before we’d hit the hedges? After we’d knocked over the fence?
Back on the street, we split up, in case you’d called the cops, and headed off in separate directions to sneak into our parents’ houses and make up lies to tell the next day.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had more fun. Still, I wish I hadn’t done it, for what it’s worth.