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The Rainbow Game
The drinks are all lined up in a row; each different colored cup contains a different type of poison, reminding me almost of the way Christmas lights stand out against the dark night, a rainbow of color.
I’m not really used to drinking games. Sam tried convincing me to play beer pong last summer at Karen Roger’s twentieth birthday party, but I was scared of getting caught so I just watched. Tonight is different because Doug Ranke broke up with me on Thursday night for being a “p****”. I need to prove to myself that I’m not just a boring college girl; I hope I can prove it to Doug as well because I actually did like him before he broke my heart.
Sam is giving the instructions; actually, she is slurring the instructions. She’s been wasted for half an hour already. Sam has been my best friend since kindergarten. When you live in a small town like mine, you give thanks for a friend like Sam; someone who you know will always have your back, or will at least be knee-deep in all this sh** right beside you.
Tonight is Gary and Linda’s one-year anniversary. That was the whole point of this get-together. There are ten of us crammed into Gary’s garage and we’re all under twenty-one. Even Sam is underage and she is the most wasted of all of us.
Gary and Linda haven’t really had anything to drink yet because they’re too busy making out in the corner, Peter and his girlfriend Beth have had a few beers, Tina, who is Linda’s fifteen year-old sister is getting pretty drunk. Jack Hannover was the quarterback of our high school football team, he brought vodka and some dope and is getting high by the back window. Nicole already has one DWI on her record so she’s staying sober tonight. Doug is here too, he’s flirting with Beth and messing around with the stereo. Doug is into Jack Daniels but he’ll take beer over dope any day, he hates drugs.
Only seven of us are playing the game, Nicole is out, and Peter and Beth don’t trust Gary who was the one who mixed the drinks in the colored cups. Sam calls this the “Rainbow Game” because you use all different colored cups and each person picks one, usually their favorite color or because the person they like is wearing that color shirt or something dumb like that.
There really isn’t a point to the game, but everyone has to give a good explanation as to why they picked their color before they drink and after they drink it down they have to say whether or not it was worth it.
Sam told me that she heard about a party where this girl drank a yellow cup and supposedly it was filled with anti-freeze and she died. I’m not too concerned though because Gary goes to Madison and gets good grades, he’s not out to poison anyone.
Linda drinks first. Her cup is red, the same color as Gary’s hair. Afterwards, she is giggling, it was rum and coke in her glass which is her favorite drink. Sam accuses Gary of rigging the game.
Tina’s cup is orange and it’s filled with strawberry daiquiri. She’s angry because she wanted something stronger.
I drink third. I choose the yellow cup because it reminds me of sunshine and my older brother’s coveted lemon-yellow mustang that he bought for himself after he graduated. My glass must’ve had something strong in it because I immediately feel detached. It was worth it because I suddenly don’t care about Doug, all I know is that this was a good idea, I’m having fun.
Sam drinks after me. She picks the black cup because her dog Leah is a black lab. We all watch as Sam expertly downs the contents of her cup. When she’s finished, she barely has time to grin before she crumples to the floor.
Gary, who hasn’t had anything to drink yet, is immediately at Sam’s side, he’s feeling for a pulse, I think. I don’t really know what’s going on at this point because Sam is on the ground and suddenly I’m feeling really sick and tired. I want to lie down and take a nap.
The next things I remember is Tina crying and screaming. I think Doug must’ve left. Gary and Sam are still on the ground. Then I hear sirens.
I guess I must’ve gone down for my nap then because I don’t remember the rest of the night. I wasn’t awake for when the ambulance loaded up Sam and me, or for when the cops arrested Gary, or for when Doug Ranke was hit by a car around ten while he was trying to find his way home in the dark while still drunk. I guess he ended up paralyzed and in a wheelchair but I haven’t seen him since that night.
Sam was pronounced dead in the back of the ambulance. Gary had mixed a bad drink and Sam’s already-tanked body rejected the drug that was laced in the booze. I found out later that my drink was the same thing but my system didn’t shutdown like Sam’s did. If it had, I’d be dead too.
I didn’t go to Sam’s funeral. I didn’t think that I deserved to be there. I also couldn’t face her parents. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child. But I know what it’s like to feel responsible for your best friend’s death.
Most of us were charged with underage drinking. Gary’s parents got in trouble for letting us drink, even unknowingly, on their property. Nicole didn’t do anything wrong. Jack got caught with his dope as well and his football scholarship at Madison was revoked. Tina has to do community service as well for being a minor. She also has to see a therapist because Sam’s death messed up her head.
I didn’t stick around for the end of my junior year at college. I left town because there really wasn’t anything left for me there. I haven’t drunk alcohol since that night, I never will again as long as I live. Unfortunately, Sam doesn’t have the second chance that I do.
Today was the two-year anniversary of Sam’s death. I spent it lakeside, with my dog. We watched the sun set together. I thought a lot about my life and my life without Sam. I watched the stars way up in the sky; I noticed how they sparkle against the darkness.
Someday, I’ll be able to apologize to Sam in person. I’ll be able to hug her and hold her again. Until then, I’ll just keep doing the things I do in this world, and wishing that we made better choices with the time we have here and with each other.
It’s a little bit funny, but mostly sad, how on the night of Sam’s death I wanted nothing more than to be plastered. I wanted to prove to Doug that I wasn’t a little girl, I wanted to have a good time with my friends, and I wanted to make memories. Never once did I want to lose Sam, or even for Doug to end up in a wheelchair or for Tina to be in counseling.
I didn’t want any of those things. I can’t say I didn’t have a choice in the matter, because I could’ve chosen not to drink anything at all. I could’ve chosen to rat out Sam and Gary and everyone. Sam wouldn’t be dead that way. But I didn’t make those choices.
I try not to blame myself entirely for Sam’s death, and it’s very hard some days. I can only hope that all of us are making better choices for ourselves and the ones we love, and that wherever Sam is, she’s watching over us.