When representatives of the six investment groups gathered for the Splash Time ground-breaking ceremony, I remember seeing it on the news and thinking it would probably take a summer or two for me and my buddies to make the trek to Jonesboro. I remember thinking that 3,200,000 square feet of water park sounded pretty freakin’ big, but -- like most square-foot measurements -- I couldn’t picture the size. I remember imagining the ease with which a 20-year-old might blow $100 in an afternoon there, and I remember feeling anxious about the infinite number of girls a guy might meet at a place like that. On the contrary, it never occurred to me that I would become the largest news story in the destination’s history, just 14 months into its existence. All of those things turned up true.
August 12th had been perfect. Hank Zeller’s birthday had been circled on the calendar since late June, and our numbers rounded out somewhere near 11. This meant three cars, but three cars in comfort. We never had anything planned that far in advance, but it didn’t matter if we had a spot in mind six minutes or six weeks in advance: Who -- outside of Hank -- would drive was always a ridiculous conversation. Because he thought his ride was slick, and because he wanted to be in control, Hank always drove. Always. Plans, then -- when we had them -- would become concrete, and a seat assignment cage match would ensue. When the group was bigger than five, the excuses would come out like cellophanes of Molly at a Disco Biscuits show.
Everybody had a car; none lacked employment. A current minor malfunction, a lack of fuel, the want to party, the need -- true or otherwise -- to depart early were forever front runners. Often it would come down to the loser of a round (or rounds) of Reaux Chambeaux (the rock-paper-scissors version; not the testicle kicking one). It had long since been determined, however, that Hank would be a passenger on his big day. When we gathered at Mary’s parents’ that morning, a few of the committed chauffeurs brought out their spoiler attempts.
“You guys,” Luke said. “I’m going to need someone else to drive.”
“What the fuck for?” Ivan scowled from across the kitchen but was quick to slap a hand over his own mouth when Mary shot him the Dude, my mom’s upstairs look.
“My mom said my brother gets to use the car since it’s just going to be parked in the lot all day.” A silence hovered over the Warner breakfast nook after the words had come out of Luke’s mouth.
“Dude,” Lane said, retrieving his cell phone from his shorts pocket. “What’s your mom’s number?”
“Wouldn’t do you any good even if I did give it to you,” Luke said. “We argued about it all night last night.”
“I’m sure you put up a huge fight.” Stefan nodded then crossed his arms. “What it been? Was it freaking spring break the last time you drove?”
“Dude, I just drove last weekend.”
“Luke,” Stefan said. “It doesn’t count if you roll up fucking solo to the party after work. The idea is that you drive us, the same way we drive your ass around every God-damned night.”
“Seriously,” Lane said. “What’s your mom’s number?”
“Like my mom’s gonna listen to your stupid ass.” Luke pleaded for the notion to be dropped.
“Oh,” Lane said. “She’ll listen when I say, Betty -- Jimmy will have to make other transportation arrangements today since Luke’s car will -- Yes -- be parked in the Splash Time parking lot -- where he -- Yes -- drove it to -- like the good friend that he is -- this after-fucking-noon.”
Mary stopped loading the cooler and turned to Luke.
“Your mom’s name is Betty?”
“Yes! My mom’s name is Betty!”
“Bro,” Mary said. “If you yell my mom will make us leave, so knock it off.”
“Sorry,” Luke said, returning to his normal, louder-than-everyone-else volume. “You knew that. Why is that a surprise to you?”
“It’s just kind of ironic that your hot-ass mom’s name is Betty,” she said.
Mary raised her hands in submission when the group exploded with hollers and moans.
“Mary,” Stefan said, pausing to stand and change into his Sacha Baron Cohen voice. “You like-uh the ladies?”
Mary’s face transformed from that of cautious, dish-doing daughter to something resembling sinister.
“Yeah, Stef’,” she said. Mary turned off the kitchen-sink water and dried her hands on a towel that hung from the oven door.
“You get me a little juiced and I’ll be looking for just the right female to cozy up to,” she said. The room, for four strong seconds, sat silent as we watched Mary close her eyes and place her hands on her inner thighs. She ran them along her waist and up her rib cage, stopping to growl and cup her breasts. In the quiet, Mary opened her eyes and scanned the group, stopping to stare at Stefan. “Unless she’s as ugly as the woman that gave birth to you.”
The wails that erupted from that sequence brought Mary’s mom’s voice echoing down the staircase.
“Sorry, Mom,” Mary said. “We’ll keep it down.”
It was almost two o’clock by the time we’d arrived in Jonesboro, parked, purchased tickets, and claimed lawn chairs by the “Mad-i-terranean Adult Pewl.” Our group -- six guys and five girls -- stayed intact for about the first 45 minutes. We were discreet in the beginning with our ice-and-canned-beer-laden duffle-bag operation, but once the first drink or two was down, and we’d all hit a few of the slides, we splintered. Pete and I had wound up with Mary, Erin, and Lane, but after a water-gun fight at the Awkwa Artillery Stand, we lost Lane. Once we’d decided to stop worrying and do our own thing, we’d acquired two new girls and a guy from Fayetteville that’d lost their group.
Denise stood out because of her huge tits. I mean, these were the kind of tits that no one could not look at. And she was cute, too, but I’m wired in such a way that that much attention tones down the level of attraction on my end. I don’t like heavy competition. They were some nice tits, though. I can picture them to this day. In fact, it’s a little tricky to remember the details of her face as much as I do the massive amount of curved skin fighting to free itself of her bikini top. She had blond, curly hair pulled back in a pony tail, and you could see small streaks of her natural brunette state peeking from beneath her locks. She was also super tan, which just meant that my boner for her would’ve been lost in a sea of hundreds. To cap it off she wore a pair of those mirror-lens aviator shades that just blanketed the beholder in suggestion and self-consciousness.
The dude that joined our group was named Ravi. He was Indian or something. Super cool. It was their Hispanic friend Millie that had me on the verge of soiling my trunks, though. She was just as hot as Denise and probably in more ways than her friend, but her features were much more realistic. Millie had this smile that turned me to goo every time I saw it, which -- since I couldn’t stop staring at her and she couldn’t stop catching me -- was often. By the time we’d hit the Link-In Spray Park, gone down two slides, and gone for a beer, I was working out the details of our long-distance relationship in my head. And by “working out the details” I mean finalizing my plans to move to Fayetteville.
By dusk I was pretty drunk and I had that extra layer of all-day sun funk about me, too. It was hard to tell if I was buzzed and tired or buzzed and preparing to peak or just unaware of how intoxicated I was, which was always the worst option of the three. In this case, option three applied to my situation, but a mystery layer that I added to with every new swallow of beer had me convinced that I was on par with everyone else. I’ll never know if that was accurate or not. I only know that our four, along with their three, had become about 20 and claimed a pair of the remaining vacant tables on the massive deck of the Samoan Slammers Bar & Grill. Tiki torches lined the deck’s railing, and beyond the light they provided, it was pretty dark on that deck.
Beyond it the laughs rained across the water park and huge street lamps illuminated each area with rides, but we sat there telling stories and drinking -- with remarkable ease considering how many of us were using fake IDs -- and the drunker I got, the stronger my lust for Millie became. I could tell the feeling flirted with some level of mutuality, too, as she’d twice laid her head on my shoulder and once placed her hand on my knee as a group of us sat around a fire pit with seats on one side, a portion of the deck’s railing bench on the other. I’d zeroed in and was trying to calculate an opportunity to ask her to walk with me. I was confident we’d make out, a little uncertain if we’d have some sneaky, in-the-wood-chips sex beneath some fake palm tree in the dark. I badly wanted to get laid, but didn’t have a condom on me, so as hot as I was for her, a part of me hoped she wouldn’t let me, an indicator that she was not on the pill and not in the practice of granting access to whomever the dick of the day belonged.
I was torn, but with conviction on either half. And then I was something else: in need of the men’s room.
The facilities -- at least the ones on the deck -- of Samoan Slammers were a little too casual for my liking, especially considering everything that goes with having to relieve yourself while donning swimwear. I’d never seen stall doors -- if they can be called that -- like them. In frame and hinge they displayed the sturdy standardness most public restroom-door counterparts offer. It was their opacity that could only be described as lacking. Inside, focused on my duty, I decided it had been a choice of chic, like those urban stalls bearing glass panes that “fog” when the door knob clicks. The choice seemed curious at best, but no one appeared to notice my presence in the stall or my absence in the group. Or at least that’s what I thought.
Anticipating that the visit wouldn’t necessarily be a quick one, I’d brought my phone into the stall. I tended to my business and scrolled my Twitter timeline, following links, responding to a few interesting tidbits, until the time spent on the latter shadowed the former; the task that sent me there had been complete for a while. Still I sat, reading and clicking, no longer bothered by the butt-cheek skin tingle from wearing trunks all day. And then my phone buzzed, the contents of a text message from Millie streaming across the top of the screen. She’d noticed my absence and reached out to me -- with an attachment -- to indicate her desire for my return to the group. When I opened it, I had to look over my shoulder twice -- like Red in the Buxton hayfield -- to make sure I wasn’t being watched. I’m not sure how she’d managed to capture such a seductive selfie in the dark, but as I stared at it, I needed to adjust the way I sat; my parts that were once below seat line no longer had an interest in staying there.
And the minute the rearrangement was complete, it became clear that I had another task -- literally -- at hand. The idea was to take Woogie’s There’s Something About Mary philosophy and clean the pipes. The idea was to calm my self and return to Millie cool and collected. The idea was that with newfound composure, I would not act foolish. The idea…was a bad one. What I hadn’t considered was the amount of alcohol in my veins and the effect such intoxication has on one’s desire to, uh, release the tension. In short, the harder I tried, the further away the goal got and the more I rattled my coop. The group adjacent to the stalls -- whether they were part of my posse or not -- noticed. Or rather, one of its members did.
When I found Millie, she was eager to gauge my response to her message. As we made plans to wander off, we were alerted that one of our guys had been asked to leave, that there had been a skirmish by the Fun Dipp. That capped a long afternoon and evening at the park, which had been heavy on the fun and heavier on the ride home. In the morning -- and into the afternoon -- however, a now-less-interested vibe I got from Millie was not my only discovery. It turns out that someone outside the Slammer restroom had suspected what I was up to and decided that it would be a good idea to try and capture the moment with a cell phone. My unsuccessful attempt to show a private appreciation for the contents of Millie’s message had become a touch public. In this case “a touch” was in line with some 267,000 views on YouTube and apparently growing by the hour.
That lack of opacity in those stall doors could best be described as the screen entryway on an average tent, only darker. That material had made it impossible to determine who the star of the footage was, but it was clear in which scene the actor was engaged. Even better: the other “talent” in the snippet has more than a couple of cameos. If that was the beginning and the end of the whole deal, the only harm done would be that well, two people made poor public choices. As it turned out, the action segment preceded a 47-second chunk of non-action, and then the depicted exits the stage, decently illuminated by tiki-torch light. While motion and lack of direct light shield the actor’s visage, it is when the star turns to shut the stall door in silence that the footage ceases and captures -- in freeze frame -- the shoulder-blade skin ink depicting the series of symbols from Led Zeppelin IV. In this case, my tattoo.
August 12th had been a Wednesday. By that Saturday I didn’t know anybody in the county that remained unaware. I -- as I imagine many might do -- withdrew from social engagements and when the clip made it to my Facebook page, I had to shut that down, too. There were stages of processing, and they ranged from horrified to enraged to embarrassed to the fear of getting arrested to the depression associated with never again getting a date for the rest of my life. I moved out of each of these stages and became stuck in a feeling of violation; the idea that my most private of privates was out there and had been broadcast left me feeling vulnerable. Then, before I could make sense of which direction my emotions were going next, a strange bit of social justice appeared and the “news” became more about the person (who bore the dumb YouTube name CompaCabana before he deleted the account and with it the clip) that decided to capture the moment.
That helped. A little. For like 12 seconds.
It didn’t detract from the whole seed of the instance, though, which was the fact that it was me in that stall. The videographer suffered a wrath I’d wish on no one, except for maybe the person that filmed me having an intimate moment on the toilet and I often feel somewhat vindicated by that.
But I also often wonder if I know the person that made it so that every person I know -- including family and some co-workers -- and many I’ve yet to meet have a tagline by which they can refer to me and me alone. They haven’t unveiled it yet, but I know -- on some late-night gathering in the future -- that it will emerge and some will be sympathetic while laughing, and it will probably fit and I will probably deserve it and resist it little.
Perhaps above all, my moments like that -- which since have been uber-private and will likely forever be so -- have undergone durable change. The bird in the hand could have been two in the bush, but was instead beaten.