8 million stories: A Fifth for a Half-Pint

| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:13

    AS A NATIVE New York City kid, I always knew the best streets to pop a squat on. I had a fake ID so I could sneak into punk shows and smoked my first cigarette in Tompkins Square Park all before I turned 13. My tweles were also the time that my premature posse and I stuffed ourselves into Lily Papizio’s one-room apartment and raided her mother’s liquor cabinet.

    The three of us got drunk for the first time on red wine and vodka shots.We mixed the two together, and the concoction fought its way down our throats and curdled in our stomachs.

    Suddenly low on booze, Lily, Rena and I decided to do the only logical thing:We ventured to a nearby liquor store. Having found confidence in a bottle, we figured with enough makeup slapped onto our faces we could convince the storeowner that we had simply left our IDs at home. The man behind the counter was an obese, hirsute version of Bob Saget and didn’t bat an eye at our clumpy eyelashes and miniskirts.We were shit out of luck. Disheartened, we began to trudge back to Lily’s house, the wine buzz wearing thin, when at the corner of East Ninth Street and First Avenue, Rena had an epiphany.

    “Let’s get someone to buy it for us!” she slurred with excitement. It was the perfect plan.We would hike up our skirts, revealing more of our pre-pubescent legs than any non-pedophile stranger would want to see, and offer to pay for a beverage of their choice if they could simply buy ours as well. After what felt like our desired extra decade skulking outside the liquor store, the ideal plan slowly began to backfire. Most people shielded their eyes from us or crossed the street to avoid our pleas. One person even thought we were working for the NYPD as undercover investigators out to catch people buying booze for minors.

    We were about to call it quits when a young woman started to approach. Dressed in a short black skirt, thigh-high boots and wearing gigantic headphones, we knew this was our girl. “She’ll do it,” I assured everyone, “I’m positive.” Lily and Rena stepped back and gave me room. I waved my hands to catch her attention.

    “Excuse me, miss?” I said in my sweetest voice, as she hesitantly removed her headphones. “I’m so sorry to bother you, but my friends and I left our IDs at home and really need a bottle of Smirnoff before the liquor store closes. Do you think you can help us out?” I smiled at her and contemplated complimenting something of hers to seal the deal. The girl looked puzzled and hesitated for a minute.

    “Just how old are you girls, really?” She

    asked, lighting a cigarette with her hotpink fingernails. She seemed like a cool girl, so I told her we were 13. “It’s like being 22 in New York years,” I assured her. “We grow up much faster here.” The girl’s smile faded and was quickly replaced with a snarl. She morphed from young hipster into my mother in the blink of an eye. She called Lily and Rena over and began scolding us for being out late by ourselves, having loose morals and growing up too fast. “I should call all of your mothers!” she screamed, motioning to a near by pay phone.

    The night had taken a wicked turn and suddenly I could my heart beating faster and faster with the fear of our mothers finding out that we were drunk. The girl was fumbling with her change purse in search of a quarter. Being too far gone to realize that she didn’t even know our names, let alone our phone numbers, Rena looked at both of us and yelled “Run!” We ran the seven blocks back to Lily’s house, never looking back once to see if the girl was behind us. We only stopped to let Rena puke up what looked like blood but was really red wine. Ten years later, I’m 22 years old, and one day outside of Astor Liquors I come face to face with my 12-year-old self. Only this girl is wearing a Hannah Montana Tshirt that reveals her pierced belly button, and she’s yakking into a cell phone.

    I was on my way into the store for a wine tasting, when I hear her shout: “Hey Lady!” As a Ramen connoisseur, I still don’t think of myself as a lady. “Me?” I ask, bemused by her outgoingness.

    “Yeah! Can you get me a bottle of Smirnoff sour apple,” she asks, pulling a $50 bill out of her pocket. “You can keep the change.”

    I am stunned. I want to ask her where the hell she got the money from, why she would choose such a disgusting beverage and who, exactly, is Hannah Montana.

    I almost take the money and opt to help her out, when my conscience kicks in. There are so many things that could happen to her if she gets drunk. It would be all my fault.

    Suddenly I feel incredibly old. “Enjoy the ride,” I say, thinking that the next 10 years of her life are going to be the best ones, so there’s no point in helping her ruin them. “Fuck you!” she screams, and for a moment, I thought about calling her mother.