“Hey, fool! Get up!” Tom barks at me through the hole in my bedroom door. A hole that mysteriously
appeared, along with cut and bruised knuckles, after a particularly frustrating Ravens’ loss.
I open my creaky bedroom door to the shared living room. My head is pounding, and my eyes hurt as I
cross the threshold of my property and shared property. I groggily nod to my roommates laying on the
couches and they return the favor. I try to take another step, but the ground is so sticky that I tears the
bottom of well-worn sock.
I pick my foot up and examine the flap of dangling fabric. My roommates have popped their heads up to
watch for my reaction. Looking over at them, I realize they are all wearing their shoes on the couch.
Right as they smile and begin to crack with laughter, I throw my head back and cackle like a maniac. As I
stumble to the bathroom, I hear the other sock tear and the stick saccharine floor cling to my exposed
After I urinate and make myself a delectable waffle and cream cheese sandwich, a staple of this
apartment when all you’ve got is the monster 48-pack of off-brand Aygo waffles filling the entirety of
the freezer, unless you count the donuts, Pepsi and cigarettes that my roommate, Pepsi Dan, calls
groceries, I put my shoes on and stickily shamble over to my roommates on the couch.
I take a bite and savor its body harming ingredients. Rolling the congealed concoction around in my
mouth for a minute, I struggle to swallow with a severely dry throat. I chug a little orange juice to force
the ball of clay down my throat then ask them the only thing I can.
“How do you guys feel?”
“Dude,” is the collective response.
It takes us most of the Bears game to piece everything together, but we come to the unanimous
decision that last night had been an unbridled success. A true moment of lightning in a bottle that would
never be replicated. An outstandingly successful party.
I have never thrown a successful party. I felt I was incapable of doing it. People don’t show up, my place
is always too small or too dirty or too far away from everyone, it falls on the same night as someone
else’s bigger, better party. Someone is richer, more likable, or with better entertainment than just some
alcohol and old video games.
And when people do show up, it is never at the same time. They arrive sporadically and stand
awkwardly around for a few minutes the moment they take in the scene. I see them locating every exit
the setting has, checking for people hidden behind couches, looking for signs in my face that “this is a
Maybe it has something to do with my depression, anti-socialism, anxiety and OCD. I don’t really keep
too many friends and often find human interaction to be the most taxing thing on my energy. I could go
for a several mile run, hit the heavy bag for an hour, and feel full of vigor. But talking to a group of
people for an hour depletes me of all energy. Even seeing an unknown caller tag on my phone is enough
to fill me with some dark dread.
Now I should clarify that I have never thrown a “successful” party when judged by the above standards.
But this Halloween was the best party I’ve ever been to, let alone (co)hosted. It can truly only be
described by saying “it was” and then immediately using the chef kissing his fingers motion.
It’s the Saturday morning of Halloween weekend in Chicago in 2006. I’m living with my older brother,
Dave, a lifelong friend named Tom, and another guy I met at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Pepsi
Dan. It is a four-bedroom apartment in Little Italy that is incredibly spacious and fantastically priced,
something like 1200 dollars per month. Hard wood floors make it easy to mop the floors if we ever
chose to, and central air is the cherry on top.
The five of us, the fifth being our mutual friend James that frequently stays on our couch despite living
10 minutes away, have just finished cleaning the apartment to the best of our interest/ability. To us, it is
immaculate. No longer is the front coffee table hidden under a pile of uneaten fast food and wrappers,
Budweiser cans, and cigarette butts. No longer is our kitchen, which divides our living quarters, stacked
with a wall of garbage bags making it feasible for only one person to pass through the kitchen at a time.
The most singularly encapsulating description of our apartment’s usual cleanliness is the image of one of
us finding a pair of girl’s underwear under the couch and while holding them up to say “Hey, check this
out,” a cockroach fell out, thunked its back on the floor and then scurried away into a crack in the wall.
After the place was clean enough to be presentable, we split up to go and buy some food, beer, fruit for
the Jungle Juice, and a 10-gallon tub from Target to house said Jungle Juice.
For good measure, James and I buy a couple of cheap costumes from the Walgreens nearby. He in a
kids’ sized Sonic the Hedgehog and I in a kids’ sized Red Power Ranger. No matter the manipulations we
attempt to make while wearing them tonight, we give PTSD to our ballbags.
While Dave and Tom set to work concocting the Jungle Juice, I hook up the television to two speaker
stacks we own meant for live concerts. Their main purpose tonight is simple: to blare out the sounds of
MarioKart for SNES as they were meant to be. The bass of Bowser’s kart causing confusion in your heart
rhythm and the coin gathering sound stripping layer off layer of your ear drum.
This was at least something to keep us entertained when no one showed up, I thought.
And no one did. Basically.
An hour into the party and it was much less than desired but more than expected. In total, and including
us, we had maybe 8-10 people. BUT…all these people could now fit in the kitchen simultaneously, and
not as a single file line, so that was a win.
The sad little party continued much as you would expect, some heavy drinking, a bit of beer pong, and a
healthy dose of ear shredding SNES. You’ve never experienced Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball until you’ve heard
that opening synth-bass line trumpeted out by two twin stack Marshall speakers. And if you’re not
familiar with the tasty riff, do yourself a favor and YouTube it right now. Not only is it catchy as hell, but
it is on continuous loop in the background for the rest of the party.
After the midnight mark, things get a little testy after a game of beer pong. One of our mutual friends,
Dan (a different Dan) gives Tom a punch on the arm, a clear power move in the arms race of mischief.
Tom, never one to back down from a Charlie Horse challenge, returns a thud to the thigh of Dan.
To keep our Dans clear here, I’ll rename the most recent one Dan The Murderer. On my birthday a few
years ago, and several years after this party, he was apparently drunk and/or high and in a toxic
relationship with a sweetheart of a girl. He was the toxin. They got into an argument and he ended up
strangling her to death and is now in prison. This was, obviously, an incredible shock to me when I
learned it. He was always a fuckup, but I had him pegged as a fuckup a tier on or just below myself. The
level of never amounting to anything and continuously having to learn the easiest lessons the hardest
way possible. I had only met the girlfriend twice, but she was incredibly sweet and friendly, and not
deserving of him or the shitty fate he brought her.
It should please you, then, that the thud Tom landed on Dan The Murderer’s thigh was so audible that it
brought all attention to those two. It was the sound of muscle of the right middle finger knuckle
punching a skeleton right on the femur.
“Fuck,” Dan The Murderer said as he stepped back.
“Well, don’t start what you can’t finish,” Tom answered back, followed by his signature high pitched
Everyone in the room was in agreement. You don’t throw a Charlie Horse without expecting to take one
back. This is Chowderhead 101.
Dan The Murderer went near the plastic tub housing the now 7 gallons of Jungle Juice. He slowly dipped
his cup inside.
“Yeah, well,” and he turned around and splashed Tom on the shirt. “There’s that.”
Without hesitation, Tom grabs him and manhandles him to the floor. Despite the weight difference,
Tom probably around 190 and Dan The Murderer around 135, the latter was pretty scrappy. Everyone
watched with glee as the two rolled around on the linoleum kitchen tile. For a good minute the action
went hard, as alcohol surged through their muscles like steroids. But as the action slowed down
significantly, and Dan The Murderer’s butt crack was exposed, Dave took this as the opportunity to
drizzle a bullseye stream of Jungle Juice right into the exposed crevice.
“Fuck, man!!” Dan The Murderer grabbed a piece of apple and threw it at me.
As the apple bounced of me and danced through the air in slow motion before landing at my feet, the
air grew still and the room completely silent. A tacit understanding had just fallen over the party. Food
had just been thrown during this fight. Our eyes darted from person to person in that room, silently
verifying the truth we needed to be confirmed. The rattle of a snake was heard, a tumbleweed drifted
across the floor, and we all crack our knuckles while looking at the tub of Jungle Juice.
We all bolt for the tub, pushing and shoving our way to and from it, grabbing as much fruit as possible.
Pineapple, apple, strawberries, lemons, limes, pears, grapes, watermelon, you name it. Basically, when
shopping for fruit, they just put their arms out and funneled everything into the shopping cart while
walking through the aisle. That would explain the couple of baby pumpkins floating around in the vodka
Starting off innocently enough, with fairly gentle tosses of the fruit at each other from close distance.
Nobody wants to be the asshole who goes 100 percent straight out of the gate. It is a subtle dance. Tit
for tat becomes TIT FOR TAT, which becomes WHIPPING, which becomes actively trying to hurt each
other with the harder pieces of fruit.
Alliances form and tables are flipped. Space-filling furniture that is never used is finally reaching its
potential as cover. I hide in the secondary living room behind an old wooden chair with minimal green
fabric and padding stuffing it. It is a chair that is designed only for viewing and never sitting, unless you
prefer an anti-ergonomic design and a plume of dust from the 1930s to kick up when you sit. Knowing
this, I slap the cushion a few times to create a dusty cloud of cover.
Dave is somewhere in the main living room off to my left, as is Buckley. Tom is behind the flipped
kitchen table and Dan The Murderer is using the bathroom door adjacent to the kitchen as cover. Pepsi
Dan is in his room that connects to the kitchen with the door wide open, which we all read as “it’s cool if
you guys want to throw a bunch of fruit in my room, guys.” The couple girls in attendance quickly hide in
the back room and James goes the mobile route, running from cover to cover. We keep a gentleman’s
five-foot rule: if they are within five feet of you, they are a temporary ally, or, at the very least, no
whipping from that distance.
It is sheer madness as fruit is being thrown all over the apartment. Colorful and delicious bullets
whizzing through the air. You wouldn’t think so, but a grape can offer a surprising sting when it catches
your ear just right, especially if it was particularly absorbent and squirts vodka into your ear canal. At the
very least, it’s like a clean jab that sets up the right cross. The right cross being a large segment of
watermelon launched at my head.
And by large segment I mean a quarter of the whole melon. We didn’t take time to make the fruit pretty
before throwing it in the tub.
I manage to narrowly duck underneath the vodka-soaked melon bomb, but it comes so close to my head
that I hear its Mach one speed with my non graped-up ear. As it smashes in the wall behind me and
sends rind and juice all over the ground and Stucco, I laugh to myself both out of successful evasion and
belief that this will not be clean until the day we move out. Immediately after that thought, a segment
of a full-sized pumpkin arrives and splashes its sinewy insides on top of the watermelon.
“Definitely not being cleaned until move out,” I say to myself.
The battle rages on for a good five minutes, which may not sound too long but is an eternity in a food
fight. The will to fight is outlasting the available supplies, however, as the more the fruit smashes the
less available ammunition we have.
There is, of course, a few whole pieces of fruit left in the tub, but that is directly in the middle of the
kitchen, where all lines of sight meet and there is no hiding. Only a fool or the very boldest of us would
dare charge in there, even if it did seem as though the action was halting. And James is the boldest fool I
His assessment wasn’t wrong. If you absorb a couple of cherries, strawberries, or grapes en route to
picking up an apple wedge or pear, that’s a net win. Like taking a jab to the body in exchange for landing
a hook to the head. James ran his calculations and concluded it was a perfect time to restock.
From his hiding place behind the broken tube television, he began his resupply run smoothly enough.
Feeling the smaller fruits barely miss and barely connect. His loose-fitting t-shirt also helped to dampen
any direct hits. But perhaps carelessness, nerves, or simple bad luck caught him at the tub. Had his
hands been more sure or fruit less slippery, he may have been in and out.
But Tom is a devious and calculating man. And he can throw an apple slice like a stone set to skip the
water 30 times.
As James fumbled while groping for a projectile, Tom had unsheathed his In Case Of Emergency apple
half. Critics and historians will argue whether or not he was outside of the gentleman’s five-foot rule.
And if he was inside that demarcation, was he knowingly so? Vantage point and war alliances lend
themselves to different conclusions, but one fact is certain: the apple half hit hard and it hit true on the
exposed ribs of James’ right side.
POP! It exploded with the intensity of giant bubble wrap. The apple hit with such a force that it did not
shatter into smaller pieces, it simply disappeared. It hit and de-atomized, evaporated, and became
matter lost in the world.
The sound brought a temporary cease-fire to the entire apartment. Everyone stood up, arms slack at
their sides. Concern on the faces of all except Tom, who was never more pleased with himself.
As for James, he went wide-eyed and dropped his pear back into the tub. A simple “ugh!” was all he was
able to utter as he clutched at his liver and took a knee before going full fetal position. Perhaps he was
breathless and unable to articulate anything, or perhaps that concussive blow had rocked him to his very
existential core and he realized there is no point, we are nothing but worm food in the end.
He didn’t have long to recover, however, as the hyenas gave no more break than what curiosity allowed.
As he lay, in came the remaining pieces of fruit the combatants had, albeit with a little less vigor behind
James is my good friend, so I choose the route of compassion and run out to drag him to cover.
Suddenly, everyone unleashed their secret stashes and grapes and strawberries came hot and fast,
peppering me as I get James behind the green chair. I check his ribs and an apple wedge welt has
already started to form, complete with a barcode imprint and “Fuji” from the sticker that was on the
Not long after, everyone else has congregated in the kitchen where Pepsi Dan and Dan The Murderer
are now wrestling in the kitchen over the last pieces of fruit. As these two scrappers go at it, I decide to
up the ante to the fight and notice the fire extinguisher next to the kitchen awning.
The tank reads half empty, but I am an eternal optimist, so I decide to see it as half full. Having never
used one before, I yank at a pin and free the hose ready to blast. I don’t know if this is a water
extinguisher or a chemical one, since I intelligently forego reading any of the instructions.
Briefly considering whether this is a good idea, I decide now is not the time for thought but the time for
action. I grip the tube and squeeze the handle, spinning 360 degrees and up and down to make sure no
one is left untouched.
We all quickly learn that we have a chemical extinguisher in our apartment. Eyes watering and lungs
burning, we all scramble to the front windows or back deck coughing and covering our faces with our
shirts, gasping for clean air.
When we return, we all agree to a Halloween Armistice. The kitchen is still foggy from chemicals, so I am
logical forced to grab beers from the fridge for everyone and we hang out in the main living room. With
the SNES still pumping out the sweet sounds of Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball, we have a mock jam session to
the tunes before settling in for a Mariokart tournament.
As red and green shells are tossed about, we clink beers together and shake hands, laughing off all
hostilities of war. We regale bits of the battle that we missed from our separate pockets of fighting and
everyone, including James, crack up at the apple to the ribs.
The party winds down and we one-by-one head off to our rooms.
The mess stays in the apartment until the day we move out, 2 years later.