I never belonged to a fraternity, but I still had the whole "frat boy" experience in college. Drink until you black out, wake up sick as a dog, drink until you don't feel it, repeat the next day with no idea who you hung out with, where you went, or who you screwed the night before. All I'll say is that while I look back on it with no semblance of pride, it was an experience I feel I'm a better man for living through.
I formed a strong bond with a bunch of guys back then, and while they'd be the first to say "no homo"... come on. Let's be real here, there's always at least a little "homo".
I don't think about the dudes I liked nearly as much as one I didn't connect with at all, however. His name, or rather, the thing everyone called him, was "Creepy Joe". I don't even know if "Joe" was his actual name.
Creepy Joe was the kind of guy who hung around at the edges of the party. He didn't talk to many people and was generally awkward. But hey, he didn't drink much of the booze and never got into shit-fights, so nobody really minded his presence. With Joe, "presence" is the perfect word because you could sort of feel him coming into a room. Long before you saw the wild, already graying hair and the unshaven muzzle, you'd just sort of know he was skulking around nearby. Even if you could barely make out his favorite powder blue hoodie through the crowd of grinding bodies, you knew it had to be him.
The last time I saw Joe was at one of those parties. The kind where you could have sex with someone and no one would really be able to tell because of how everyone was packed into the place. Creepy Joe was hovering around the liquor, as usual. This was always odd because, again, he didn't really drink.
I didn't pay him any mind at first beyond the customary "Creepy Joe be creepin'." comment that we had started repeating the moment one of us saw him. It was like our own competitive game of Where's Waldo.
As I mentioned, Joe never really spoke to many people... but when he did, it was always a girl. On that particular night it was a strawberry blonde I'd had my eye on as well. I don't remember much about her from that night other than her hair. I wanted to bury my face in it like a fucking caveman. I'd never seen her at a party before, and apparently no one else had either since she managed to draw a lot of attention by doing next to nothing.
I was happy to see one of my friends pull Joe off his game, but not as thrilled when the same friend brought him right up to me. This friend of mine was known for drinking much faster and much harder than any of us, and this night was no different.
Apparently, he had a great idea for a game he wanted to try out with a few of us - especially with Creepy Joe.
"The $20 Game", he called it, claiming it was something everyone tried at least once. The idea was that a few of us would pack into a car, drive to the local 24-Hour Superstore, and spend up to $20 each while buying the most sinister and outlandish items possible. The intention was for the combined items to freak out the cashier and make them think we were up to something terrible. The winner, as he explained it, would get their $20 back, evenly split among the losers.
It made little sense to me, as you'd imagine, but I was always up for a prank. One harrowing, completely wasted car trip later, about five or six of us were rushing through the automatic doors and into our separate aisles.
I couldn't really think of anything particularly intelligent at the time, so I went for the most obvious choices; duct tape, a meat tenderizer, and trash bags. Pretty straightforward. I found out just how uninspired I had been when we all gathered back outside and laughed about how frightened our cashiers had looked.
One of the guys has purchased a bag of candy, Dora the Explorer band-aids, and an Exacto knife. Another picked up a tub of Vaseline, a zucchini, and a "For An Awesome Dad!" greeting card. There was also something with a candy bar and a rat tap, but I can't recall the other item. I was essentially the laughingstock of the moment for picking such basic stuff.
Creepy Joe was surprisingly tame, as well. Just some zip ties, a sleep aid, and a shovel. That was it.
Needless to say, neither of us won though I have no idea who did. Likely it was the guy who came up with the idea in the first place, since that would only make sense. I don't even recall how we judged the entries. Another curb-hopping car ride back to the party, and the whole thing was just a very stupid memory.
I would've forgotten the whole thing, just another escapade drowned to death in one too many drinks... but as I mentioned, that was the last time Creepy Joe came around, and there's a reason for that.
Come morning, the strawberry blonde he'd been chatting up was nowhere to be found. As weeks turned into months, and months into years, people stopped looking.
Also missing from the house... some zip ties, a bottle of sleep aid, and a brand new shovel.