I was staying over at a friend’s house who I knew from camp. She lived in a different town, one where you could walk to shops and restaurants and even to school. My town didn’t even have sidewalks, so this was always a fascinating place for me to visit.
We were at the age where we started to sneak out of the house at night. For anyone who used to do this as a tween, you understand the intoxicating adrenaline rush you would get. Not like we did anything really bad when we made it out of the house. But there was nothing more exciting than waiting for her mom to fall asleep, creeping out the door with exaggerated stealth, and then running down the road, cackling at our freedom in the night.
It was always a big event when we were going to sneak out. There was probably more anticipation to sneak out than go out for a night at the bar. We would plot quietly in her room, whispering about our escape routes and back-up plans, what our excuse would be if we got caught. We would eye her mother on the couch, waiting for her eyelids to grow heavy until she finally turned into her bedroom and shut the door. We would dig through her closet searching for the darkest clothing to disguise ourselves in. We would pack a bag of flashlights, cameras, pocket knives, other random items we know we’d never have to use but brought anyway to make our adventure that much more legitimate. We would get all dressed up, arranging pillows under her blankets to look like bodies, strategically turning off lights and unlocking doors and windows so we had a way back in.
And then the time would come. We’d hear the light snores coming from her mom’s room, and then at a sloth’s pace, we would creak open the back door and slip outside.
On this specific night, we decided to try smoking pot. We put a bowl I had taken from my brother into our backpack, along with a little bit of weed. We hadn’t the slightest clue what we were doing. We just thought it would make our escapade that much more dangerous, and as a result, more exhilarating. So when the time came, I slung the drawstring backpack over my shoulders, snuck out her back door, and we ran down the hill of her road muffling our giggles.
When I snuck out in my own town with my friends, we had to run down the side of roads, jumping behind bushes or trees whenever we saw a car coming. Having to hide was all the excitement we sought while sneaking out. But in my friend’s town, we walked down sidewalks and up and down streets lined with houses and shops alike. We could go anywhere we wanted in her town, so we explored everywhere we could.
We decided to go to one of the schools that had a large playground behind it. This would be the location where we’d try this mysterious drug everyone talked about. We sat on a drawbridge that attached two parts of the playground, and started to pull our goods from the backpack. We snapped a couple of pictures with our digital cameras, striking poses on the playground we weren’t allowed on past dark. We felt like we epitomized rebellion. We lay our cameras and flip-phones on the planks of wood, then began to resemble what we believed was packing a bowl. We took a few incorrect hits each, not knowing how to actually inhale, how long to hold the smoke in, when to release your thumb from the hole on the side. All we knew was that we were doing something bad, and we liked it. After a few moments, of sitting there, waiting for a “high” to overcome us, headlights flashed into the parking lot. We froze. And then we saw the lights on top of the car.
“A cop!” We both hissed. I shoved the bowl into the backpack, jumped down onto the woodchips, and we took off running across a field in the opposite direction, just as he shone a spotlight onto where we were sitting.
When we finally stopped running, we stood along the edge of the woods, panting. “Oh god, oh god, we’re gonna be in so much trouble!” My friend whimpered, her eyes darting around to see if we were being pursued. I couldn’t tell if I was high from the weed or from running for my life, or so it felt like. “We have to get home without letting him see us,” I wheezed.
Although we were terrified about getting in trouble, the thought of a cop searching for us made the walk home utterly thrilling. We stayed off sidewalks and out of the light from streetlamps like fugitives. We ran across streets and dramatically dove into bushes. We army-crawled across patches of grass before breaking into sprints. Finally, we made it up the hill to her house, locked the back door behind us, and collapsed on her couch, exhausted yet still pumped full of adrenaline.
Until I looked in the backpack. And realized both of our digital cameras were missing, as well as her cellphone. They were innocent pictures, but we immediately thought ourselves doomed from leaving behind evidence.
“What do we do?!” My friend let out a defeated groan. “We can’t go back! What if he’s there waiting for us?!?”
Only one person came to mind to help us: my brother. I knew he’d be awake, I knew he’d be willing to help, and I knew that he would never, ever judge me or the situation. He wouldn’t scold me, or tell on me, or caution me about how dangerous our actions were. I knew he’d laugh. And he did.
“Alright Kel, what’s her cell number? I’ll try giving it a call.” He called us back moments later. “The cop answered,” he chuckled. “He wants you to call him. I explained the situation. He said you’re not in trouble and he’ll give everything back.” My friend and I looked at each other. “What if he arrests us??” I heard him let out an amused sigh on the other end. “He won’t arrest you, Kelly. You’re a 13 year old who snuck out of the house and sat on a playground. You’ll be fine.” I thanked him, hung up, and with my friend’s eyes burning into me, dialed her cellphone number. A man’s voice answered right away.
“Hi, um, I think you have my friend’s cellphone. Um, my brother just called you,” I gulped. “Can we get it back? Please?” The cop’s voice was deep but friendly. He had the same amused tone that my brother had.
“Sure thing. I have your cameras with me as well. Can I just ask you something? What were you doing out of the house so late at night?”
My friend and I looked at each other again, terrified of an adult finding out. “We… we snuck out. I’m staying at my friend’s house.”
“So her parents don’t know where you were?”
“Are they awake now?”
“Do you think you can sneak out again?”
“Okay, give me the street address and meet me at the end.”
A few minutes later, my friend and I were back outside, yet there were no giggles being expelled into the night air. We shook as we quietly walked down the hill to the awaiting cop car at the bottom, its headlights turned off.
“Are you sure we won’t be arrested?” My friend asked me, her voice high and tight. I shrugged, nervous myself but trying to exude confidence for her sake. We finally approached the cop car and the man rolled down his window. He gave us a big, bright smile.
“Hey girls, you have any trouble getting out again?” We both solemnly shook our heads. I pictured my Mom being called, her arriving at the police station and seeing me in a jail cell, handcuffed.
“Now listen, you girls aren’t in any trouble. I spoke to your brother, and he was very nice, and explained to me that you wouldn’t be out there doing anything wrong. Was he right?” We nodded.
“But just as a precaution, I do have to take down your information. We aren’t going to contact your parents, but in case we find vandalism somewhere on the playground, you will be suspected and we will contact you. Was there any vandalism done?” We shook our heads sternly.
“Okay, now.” He held out the two cameras and the cellphone. We each took what belonged to us. “I saw you had a backpack. What were you carrying in there?” We both became panic-stricken, waiting for the other to answer. Finally I said, “Flashlights. We had some flashlights with us. And these.” I held up my camera and my friend cooperatively held up hers.
“Good, good. That’s fine. Is your mother still sleeping?” My friend nodded, and he gave us another broad smile. “Well, get inside safe girls. Next time you see a cop, don’t immediately run away. You wouldn’t have been in any trouble.” We nodded. “And you’re lucky you have such a nice brother looking out for you.” I smiled at him, and nodded again with vigor.