It started innocently enough. I woke – hungover of course – to the sound of my older brother’s screaming one-year-old. It’s one of those special pains: being hungover, sleep-deprived and subjected to the most disastrous ear-trauma one can experience. But I took it all in my stride. ‘Twas my 25th birthday, anyway, and I wasn’t going to let anything get me down. I thanked the bro and his wife for their hospitality, jumped in the car and made a bee-line for Labrador – home.
Then it was time for coffee and a cigarette; no time for a nap, though I needed one desperately. Had to leave for Brisbane by 11.30am and was busy fielding birthday related phone calls and trying to organise the social festivities for the night. In the meantime there was the little matter of watching the Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra in City Hall, with a girl possessive of beauty that I can only describe, at this moment, as obstinate. Was wonderful: sitting by her side in such a beautiful old building, listening to such haunting and mostly old, although there were some modern pieces, music. There’s just something about Brisbane: it’s like an older woman who’s aged impeccably, and acquired a character at once charming and thrilling. As all special things do, the concert ended and we strolled out, pleasantly surprised the threatened storm hadn’t eventuated and the only thing we were in danger of being soaked in on the way back to the car, was sweat. The drive home was . . . lonely.
Finally, a nap. I can’t remember sleeping but, apparently, according to Jorash, my quiet Indian housemate, I did indeed lay there on my back in my grey, very comfortable – and soon to be combusted – undies until about 7.40pm. I vaguely remembered J saying he wanted to buy me some beers so, after scratching myself a bit and wandering around groaning softly, I said to J, ‘Let’s make tracks for Dan Murphy’s’. Or something to that effect. They closed two-minutes after we walked in. It was like fate. I dropped J back at home so he could come to Katie’s place on his motorbike, and I headed there. In some respects, I really, really, should’ve stayed home and drunk beer, smoked cigarettes and listened to some Bach while reminiscing on the day so far. But no, the craziness was like a hungry beast lurking in the bushes: it simply had to pounce.
Hard to get the next six-hours or so into chronological order, but I’ll do my best. As I arrived at Katie’s house, so did her grandpa. He wished me happy birthday and we shook hands. His hand cracked when I shook it. Perhaps time to loosen the old grip? But anyway, I walked in through the side-gate, beer in hand, and started drinking with Tina, the beautiful redheaded German; Suzie, the also beautiful but usually absent German; Bob, the also also beautiful and male (hey, I know looks when I sees them, regardless of sex) German; J; and Katie’s grandpa – whom I’m sure was a dashing young man in his day. Suzie wasn’t drinking. She’d soon wish she was. It was nice to chat with them. It wasn’t a blast, you understand, as we’d just started and there were cultural and language barriers to overcome. But we told some stories and shot-the-shit and started to loosen up a bit.
I told the following story, as an aside:
Once went to Byron Bay on New Year’s Eve with my bro Mitch, my mate Ross and a couple of my bro’s friends. We got there at about 5am in order to beat the blockade they were erecting to keep vehicles out of the centre of town. The plan worked. Only problem: what to do all day ‘til midnight? The answer: start drinking early! Additional problem: I started swigging champagne at noon, and was found passed-out near the beach at around 9.30pm. Apparently I started taking swings at Ross and Mitch as they heaved me into the back of the van to sleep it off. Also apparently, my bro’s best mate had sex with his girlfriend in the back of the van while I slept beside them. Madness. I woke at 4am on new year’s and stumbled around in search of a toilet while mumbling, ‘Happy new year’s’, to other zombies of the morn’. The poor van didn’t survive unscathed. We at one point the previous afternoon and year had about 10 drunken people on top of the thing, for some reason. My father discovered the newly customised roof as he pulled out the driveway a few weeks later, after rain. A large amount of water cascaded down the windshield after being dislodged from puddles on the roof caused by the weight of a group of drunks.
The Germans seemed to enjoy that one.
When my other housemate Garret arrived with his girlfriend Sally, her housemate Jess and a friend of ours, John, who we met through someone we don’t talk to much anymore (long story), the drinking game started. This is where things started to get hazy. Besides drinking, the game involved truth-or-dare and, of course, all the truths or dares were directed at me, the birthday boy. When Sally pulled a truth or dare and aimed it squarely at me, I replied, ‘Truth’. The question, on a slip of paper, was ‘Do you have feelings for Tina?’ My answer wasn’t honestly a simple yes or no. Tina was only in the country for a few months, she was staying with, and was friends with, my friend Katie. Plus, my interest in her had more to do with my initial attraction to redheaded ladies than any kind of possible depth of emotional connection, under the circumstances. All of these factors complicated the situation, unfortunately. I asked Sally if the answer had to be yes/no, and she said, ‘Yeah, it’s a yes or no question.’
I took a swig of beer—probably—threw back my head and announced, ‘Yes!’ From that point on I became extremely shy with and mostly avoided Tina for the rest of the night.
I don’t know exactly why or when my clothes disappeared. I assume I responded ‘dare’ to another offering of truth or dare. Probably thinking it was the safer option. Either way, my pants, shirt and underwear melted away before I promptly took off down to the end of the street, with Sally following after me with a camera to ensure I ran all the way to the end (apparently part of the dare). I used some junk-mail to cover my front and rear for the return trip to the table. I was eventually told to remove a birthday card that took its turn covering my pride and joy, and sit at the table completely and utterly starkers. I think it’s around about this time that Katie appeared. I saw her dart in and out of the kitchen like an exotic but startled fish snatching a tasty morsel. I’d later find out she was upset at the news I had feelings for Tina. She found out pretty quickly. I think I wandered into the house twice in order to say hello and ask what the problem was. First time without pants; second time with them. Managed to get Katie out of the shower and give her a hug; it was my birthday after all, and she was one of my fondest friends.
Time for another naked trip down the road. I found myself, spread eagle, face-up, lying in the T-intersection at the end of Katie’s cul-de-sac. Next thing I knew, everyone was outside with me (except Suzie, Gramps and J), and there was just random, drunken, nude stuff going on. The pictures all looked like your normal shots of a group of drunks, just with an inexplicably birthday-suited guy thrown in. I ended up ripping a for sale sign out of the ground, then set off down the main road with it. A couple of drunk, tattooed, skate-boarding guys came along and I must have suggested to them that it would be a good idea for them spank me with the sign, as I pressed myself up against a random car while everyone else looked on. I can’t remember much of it, but the pictures revealed they also used their skateboards to paddle my arse. At one point, the owner of the car peeked his head out of his front-gate to ask what the bloody hell was going on. I responded with something to the tune of, ‘I’m turning 25 today, and need to be punished.’ This seemed to leave him relatively speechless.
The grand finale for the night, naturally, involved fire. This is where it gets real hazy; if it wasn’t for the video evidence, I wouldn’t remember a little bit of it. Pretty sure I’d put my pants on by this point, which is reassuring. Oh, I’d put my pants on, but minus my undies which were still on the floor. Bob the German decided he was going to light them on fire over Katie’s garden. They took a bit of effort to light, so John used some Johnny Walker – Green Label!!! – to try and more quickly flambé my delicates. I should’ve worn a pair I hadn’t washed in a couple of days. They probably would’ve gone up quicker. Anyway, they did catch alight eventually and, boy! Did they go up in flames! Bob dropped the undies, which were combusting as fast as Tom Cruise’s career after he jumped on Oprah’s couch, and they lay there smouldering for a surprisingly long time. I sat there and watched them until they stopped burning, saying, repeatedly, ‘This is kind of sad.’ Then Garret and Sally took me home to pass out.
The aftermath of the night was that Katie avoided me for a while, after coming ‘round my house for a debrief the following day. Also, Tina was reportedly ‘mortified’, which I found at once kind of funny but also mortifying. Suzie apparently walked around the house for days afterward shaking her head and saying, ‘Colin, Colin, Colin.’ But I knew beforehand that she was pretty conservative. Everyone else would simply never, quite, look at me exactly the same way again. Which I partly take as a compliment. All in all, ‘twas an awesome night. Garret said I’d never forget that night and, though there’s somewhat ironically much of it I can’t remember due to the alcohol and intoxicating freedom from clothes, he was right.