Off the Beaten Path

June 20, 2011
The Fireball screamed down the back of my throat as I reached for the two litre Pepsi and took a brisk swig straight from the bottle. The cool Pepsi only calmed my burnt skin cells for a second before the taste of the cinnamon flavoured whiskey erupted again.

“Ya Jefferys!” Nico yelled as I took another drink of Pepsi, “The first one is always the hardest, it only gets more fun from here!” He said as he poured me another shot.

I’d never been to Nationals (or Nats as we ultimate players call it), this was my first time playing summer Ultimate and it had been such a good time. I met a lot of people, made a lot of friends, and improved my game at the same time. This year Nationals was in Sherbrooke, Québec, but thankfully it didn’t get nearly as hot as the notorious Québec summers I had only heard about. The coaches had placed me on the practice roster at the beginning of the season, after the tryouts. Practice roster basically meant that the only way I could go to Nationals would be if someone got injured or had an emergency and couldn’t go. I knew this meant that the coaches thought I wasn’t quite good enough to be on the regular roster and it was my goal from the beginning of the season to prove them wrong, and show that I deserved to be on this team. It was certainly an uphill battle, but I got lucky enough to go to Nationals due to the misfortune of one of our other players whose grandfather in Singapore passed away. I felt sorry for him, but at the same time…I was going to Nationals! I was pretty excited to be competing, this was the highest level of competition I’d ever achieved in any sport, and I have played my fair share of different sports so this was a great opportunity. I worked hard all season, never missed a practice not even the ones at Saint Georges which is a real pain to get to using public transit, it involves a lot of walking before and after practice which is not that easy after ending practice with a half hour of fitness and conditioning. Anyways, I worked hard and all of a sudden I was getting on a plane to Québec, yet another moment of growth in my summer of growing. It was the first time flying without my parents for me; luckily I booked the same flight as a couple of my team mates so it wasn’t all that scary. The next four days went by in a flash, we were playing three to four games a day with fifteen minute breaks in between and a thirty minute lunch break. Believe me when I say I was exhausted by the end of the tournament. The team worked really hard during the four day tournament and personally I worked my but off to earn that playing time and ultimately (pun intended) earn respect from the team and coaches.

The tournament was over, and now I was on the bus back from our last game (a loss, we finished eighth in the country for the juniors division in case you were wondering) listening to the non stop music of our team speakers and DJ two seats in front of me. I was rolling over my summer and everything that had happened when Gurm poked his head over the seat and asked me a question.

“Hey Jefferys, you wanna drink tonight?” I was kind of taken aback to be honest, it wasn’t something I had even though about during Nats, or anytime before for that matter.

“I’ll think about it,” I said, a nice open ended response. It gave me a little more time to decide what I wanted to do, think about the pros and cons and all that.

“Ok,” said Gurm, “it’s the last night of Nats and kind of tradition to have a team party, me Stanky and Kaveh are going to the liquor store for the team so let me know what you want to do before we get off the bus ok?”

“Will do.” I replied. I had never been drunk before, never had all that much booze at one time to be honest, the most I’d had was a glass or champagne on New Years with the family. Yeah sure underage drinking was illegal and perhaps morally wrong and yeah sure I tend to be on the goody two shoes side of moral decisions but….there were just too many parts of me wanting to experience the other side of those decisions, and too many reasons to do that tonight. I tapped Gurm on the shoulder, “I’m in.” I told him.

“JEFFERYS IS IN!” Gurm alerted the bus of my decision and it surprisingly snatched a small round of woohoo’s and yaay’s before people went back to their conversations. “Whattya want?” He asked me.

“Honestly, I have no idea so whatever you get, I’ll try it.” At this point I was all in, I was ready. You can argue against my decision all you want but here’s my reasoning behind it:
It’s the last night at Nationals and it’s tradition
I’m going into grade 11 next year and honestly most people have been drinking since grade 9, it’s about time I get ready for some real parties
It’s a very safe environment and the whole team is going to be looking out for me knowing it’s my first time.
If I have too much, at least we’re in a hotel and will basically always be within twenty feet of a bathroom in need of emergency.
What the hell, I’ve been waiting sixteen years to do something off the beaten path, time to live a little.

That thought process landed me in a chair in the hotel room 314 with my summer Ultimate team as we took the first team shot of Fireball and the night began. We followed up the Fireball with a shot of Jaeger, using a Monster energy drink as chase (chase = something to wash away the taste of alcohol i.e. pop or energry drinks etc.) and a Smirnoff / Coke mixture after that. I learned that you never really know how drunk you are until you stand up and the blood / booze circulates throughout your whole body. I steadied myself on my friend, the chair, before heading over to the table to refill my cup. It was during these moments that I realized why people and especially teenagers drink alcohol. People can say it’s wrong and give us the whole spiel but the truth is, it makes life a hell of a lot more fun. Your acquaintances suddenly become close friends and sitting quickly turns to dancing when the music gets turned up, the mood just lightens in general and people become more carefree and much much much more social. I thought it was bad to drink for a long time, I thought the kids who did were being dumb and rebellious. The only way to say it (my apologies for this cliché) is don’t knock it till you try it, because that’s what it took for me to understand. And I had a great night that last night at Nationals, a night that changed me more than I ever thought it would.

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