Maybe the worst thing I’ve ever done

One million years ago, out at a classy establishment called UMASS, I moved into my first apartment with Lisa, a girl I barely knew.

We sort of accidentally moved into a notorious party house. (I know! I was cool for exactly one year.) It was a farmhouse composed of three apartments, a dangerous barn full of horse-med-size syringes, and a silo we should have stayed far away from. Before we knew it, bands were playing in our living room regularly, the cops were showing up regularly, and I was cooking breakfast for strangers who never left regularly. Life was good.

Typical Saturday night in the farmhouse. Jaya the Cat playing in our living room and a million people I don't know breaking and stealing what little we owned.
Typical Saturday night in the farmhouse. Jaya the Cat playing in our living room and a million people I don’t know breaking and stealing what little we owned.

Also living with us was a girl we knew–let’s call her Brooke, because that’s her name–and a girl who answered an ad–let’s call her Kim, because, you know.

Brooke and me, with our classy dollar store wine glasses and four cooking spices.
Brooke and me, with our classy dollar store wine glasses and four cooking spices.

Kim was a college dropout who scorned college students, so we were all an excellent match. She worked for Greenpeace and kindly took all of our crap out of the trash and left it on the table for us with notes along the lines of, “Dude, recycle!” That was always fun to come home to after classes and work. I really miss her.

Brooke was the worst kind of vegetarian: 20 years old and righteous. She lived by a set of Brookeisms, which included little nuggets like, “I only wear leather items that were made before I was born. Because then it’s recycling!”

Lisa…how to describe Lisa. I was the straight man to Lisa’s gregarious, extroverted awesomeness. Case in point: She wanted to drive a bus, so no big deal, she went and got a license to drive a bus with the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority. Then she made friends on the bus. Then she started inviting bus friends to our parties.

Me? I was a joy. No flaws here. When I wasn’t working, I stayed home and read books and wondered why I had three friends.

In truth, I was poor and what little money I made at any given time absolutely went to the wrong priorities. And when it came to food, I shopped at the grocery store that had weekly “buy one, get two free” sales. So a whole month of hot dogs happened once. Lisa started cooking them rolled in bread crumbs, just for something different. Then there was a month of 15 pounds of potatoes…

And it didn’t stop there. When I went home, my well-meaning mother sometimes would give me odd things to bring back to school. There was the industrial-size sack of flour. No joke. I really honed my inability to bake bread over several months with that flour. And I grew up on a small hobby farm, so every time I tried to leave home, Mom would give me three dozen eggs. I made 7,518 omelettes during my time at the farmhouse.

morning after
Kim and me. Oh, look–I’m cooking eggs and potatoes. Very likely for strangers who crashed from the night before.

One time Mom gave me meat. A huge sack of ground beef. Looking back, it’s clear that I was not bright enough to accept this gift. I was not at a point in my life where I owned Ziploc bags and thought to break things up and freeze them. So I threw the sack of meat into my shitty car and drove across the state to Western Mass. I probably got back to the farmhouse at midnight, and I know for a fact that I just opened the fridge and tossed the meat onto the open space on the top shelf. Done and dusted.

The next morning, I sat at the kitchen table talking to Brooke. Lisa be-bopped in and opened the refrigerator door and stopped cold. She turned to me, and I looked over Brooke’s shoulder at Lisa’s horrified face. She stepped out of the way, and I saw it–the bag of meat had started to leak. It was dripping gross raw meat juice all over Brooke’s personal meat-free shelf. All over her vulnerable fruits and vegetables. My sack of meat was poisoning her food supply.

Brooke kept talking as I got up and stepped behind her to check out the damage with Lisa. HOLY SHIT. Raw meat juice everywhere. What had I done?

At this point, Brooke started to get up and say something about breakfast. Lisa thought fast. She intervened, pushed Brooke back into the chair, and this happened:

Lisa: NO! You, uh, stay right here, lady! Kelly and I, we’re going to, um, ah, make you BREAKFAST! You’re not doing anything today. It’s BROOKE DAY!

Brooke: What? Really?? Yay! I like Brooke Day!

I do not know how Lisa did that. And so easily. It’s a gift, really.

Lisa then proceeded to cobble something together for breakfast and kept up conversation with Brooke. Meanwhile, I took each individual item of Brooke’s out of the fridge, over to the sink, and washed it like a newborn and placed it back on her freshly cleaned vegetarian shelf. All the while, I thought that if I ever got myself into trouble, Lisa would help bury the body. That, dear audience, is friendship.

Brooke never found out.

Some of you are thinking the worst thing I’ve ever done is not so bad. What’s a little raw juice, you might be thinking. Oh, you unconcerned carnivores… You clearly have not felt the wrath of a righteous young vegetarian. I can completely imagine the hell I would have endured if the scenario had gone differently. And hell, I get it. It was gross. But I was 20. And an idiot.

So Lisa, you crazy little rock star, what you did in the moment–and the laughs we had for years afterward (It’s Brooke Day!)–is the kind of thing that made you my bestest college friend. And Brooke, wherever you are, yes, I’m sorry. You absolutely ate traces of raw meat juice in the mid-1990s. To be fair, however, when you told me years later that you sometimes on the sly WENT TO MCDONALDS AND ATE BURGERS ALONE IN YOUR CAR, I felt less terrible about what I’d done with my sack of meat. To everyone else, let’s keep this little incident to ourselves, k?