Big crowd events are not my thing but my friends pressured me to join them. It’s called a race but it’s more like a mobile Halloween. Sometimes it’s cool if you go all out but my friends’ idea of dressing up is to put tutu material around your waist and glitter on your face.

It was a toss up, look stupid in public or miss out on a good time with my friends. What really motivated me to go was Gretchen was going too. I’ve had a thing for Gretchen for like forever, hoping someday she gets to see what a great guy I am.

I let them pin a pink fake tutu around my waist. All the girls were wearing neon pink leggings. You could see the outline of their i-phones on their thighs.

We were feeling no pain thanks to long swigs of tequila and two beers each before we arrived. Also, Dana handed everyone a pill that she said would give us energy to get up the hill halfway through.

We didn’t register so we didn’t have numbers pinned on like everybody else but nobody stopped us from entering the crowd from a side alley. It was such a wild scene. I could stop worrying about looking stupid.

I got fascinated by a family of crocodiles and didn’t realize I had outrun my friends who were back hovering around the porta-potties. The lines were ridiculous. I saw Gretchen and Emily skip down an alley and pull down their leggings and squat and pee right in somebody’s driveway. I had to pee too. I waited in line, and told my friends I’d catch up. The race was now more of a walk than even a jog, so it would be easy.

I caught up fast. The race had barely gone a full block. For some reason everyone was stuck in place. You could tell, the exuberance was already draining away and people were getting bored.

“Where’s Gretchen?” I asked. Amy pointed toward a warehouse-type building. Next to it Gretchen sat on the sidewalk, her pink legs splayed in front of her, her head hanging to the side. She looked like she had a stroke or something.

“What’s the matter with her?” I asked.

“She puked,” Caroline said.

“She’ll be all right,” Amy said. “Jason called her ‘retchin Gretchen’ and she spazzed.

Jason smirked, like he always does.

The crowd started to move again. “I’ll wait for her,” I said. “We’ll catch up.” I didn’t want them to think I was dumping them.

Maybe it was not an ideal time, but here was a chance to spend private time with Gretchen. “How you doing?” I asked her. Her tutu was half unpinned, sticking up in the air. There was something on the side of her face I would have wiped off but I thought it might freak her out. “Jason hates me,” is what I think she moaned before she rolled sideways. That she was moving seemed like a good sign until she opened her mouth and more puke came out, mostly liquid. I watched as it inched its way back toward her. I ripped off my tutu and made a sort of dam with it, about the worst material for that kind of thing.

“Let me help you up,” I said. “You should move, do some deep breathing.”

“Leave me alone,” she muttered.

I couldn’t just leave her there. She needed help. I stood off the side a little, leaning against the building. The race was thinning out to the stragglers, the ones who missed the party entirely. A cold wind had come up and I figured it was a good thing because all Gretchen wore above her tutu was a lacy halter top. The cold would sober her up.

After a while the street sweepers drove by and the big trucks that collect the porta-potties. The guys driving were looking at us and shaking their heads. Regular traffic rolled down the street. I was freezing, but Gretchen didn’t seem to notice the cold. She just sat there. The pill that was supposed to propel us over the hill obviously wasn’t working for her.

“Gretchen,” I said, “get up. Now.”

“I wish you’d leave me alone,” she said with the kind of fury that made me think I didn’t have to call an ambulance. I decided to do just what she wished. It would prove to her, maybe later if not at that exact moment, what a great guy I was.


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