One time during my last year of college I got really drunk and stole something off the walls at one of the off-campus bars. This particular venue, Mug-Z’s, while I was there anyway, it was the unofficial senior bar. Trust me, that was about its only noteworthy feature. All of the off-campus bars, there were about three or four of them, they had pretty much an identical layout: an open space and then a long bar. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, the place would get jam packed with students. Looking back, I really don’t get the appeal of standing in a crowded space drinking overpriced cheap beer.
But whatever, everybody went, everybody got drunk, I got really drunk, especially on this night. And I don’t know if it was the impending pressure of knowing that the remainder of my senior year was evaporating before my eyes, but I started going out harder than usual, pregaming earlier, staying out much, much later. With the lack of sleep and excessive alcohol that accompanied these benders, naturally my decision making process started to suffer accordingly.
So at Mug-Zs, every year right before graduation, there was a sort of open class photo in front of the bar. Anybody who wanted to could head over, they’d snap the photo, and not too long after, this shot would be blown up and framed, hanging on the far wall across from the bar. This tradition must have been going back at least a dozen years, because they were starting to run out of room, all of these poster-sized prints, different groups of identical looking twenty-two year olds.
And this one night, I was partying pretty hard, I had just enough alcohol in my system to where I was definitely beginning to lapse in judgment, but I hadn’t yet reached the point where it started to slow me down. In other words, I was acting like a crazy person, pounding beers, singing along obnoxiously to the jukebox. Out of nowhere, I don’t know, maybe there was a lull in the non-action, I looked over at the nearest class photo, I thought, should I? And I did. I grabbed it off the wall, kicked open the side door, and started sprinting toward my apartment.
I honestly have no idea why I did such a thing. The whole time I was running, I kept looking over my shoulder, really expecting somebody to be following me, providing me with some sort of a drunken chase. But there was nobody. Who knows, maybe I was a really fast runner, or maybe nobody saw me. I got inside my off-campus apartment, I was the first one of my roommates back for the night. I must have had enough wits still about me that I was able to put a nail through the drywall to hang this thing up, and then I passed out.
Over the course of the next few days, everybody kind of laughed at my accomplishment. Apparently nobody had seen me bolt out of the bar, and when everybody finally got home later that night, I guess it had the intended effect, a, “What the fuck?” moment as everybody tried to figure out how this thing had wound up on our wall.
But that was it. I was kind of worried that the next time I’d step inside Mug-Z’s, the bouncer might recognize me right away, a, “You!” followed by a severe pummeling. But again, nothing happened. And the photo stayed on the wall for the rest of the year, largely invisible, the way that framed photos and artwork have a way of blending into the background after you get used to seeing them every day.
Graduation came and went, and all of the roommates spent our last twelve hours or so packing up and getting ready to move out. But then it was this question of the photo. What do I do with it now? I thought, I guess I’ll just throw it out, but for some reason now I started to feel bad. Like what kind of person just rips things right off the wall? I thought back to every time I’d been to the bar since, noticing that gaping hole in the wall of photos. Why was I all of the sudden feeling remorse for being such a scumbag?
I hung out around the neighborhood until a little later in the day, and when I was sure the bar would be open, I headed over with the photo in hand. Everybody else had already moved back, so the normally crowded bar had a really dumpy, hollow vibe with only two or three people inside drinking beers. I walked over the bartender, “Hey man, uh, I found this in the dumpster when I was moving my stuff out. I figured someone stole it from you.”
I cringed at my inability to even fully fess up for my misdeed. The guy’s face lit up, “Oh my God! I can’t believe you found that! I’ve been looking everywhere. I’m friends with a lot of the guys in that photo!” and he immediately hung it back on the wall, shaking my hand, thanking me profusely. “Come on,” he gestured to the bar, “Drinks are on me.”
And normally I would have loved some free drinks, but I couldn’t. I had to get out, fast. “No thanks man, I’ve got to be heading home.” This guy was giving me a hero’s welcome, and I was accepting it, while in reality I was the thief, I was the dirtbag who ripped this thing off of the wall in the first place. Whenever I think back upon the incident, I always still feel pretty stupid, like why did I do that in the first place? What made me think that it was OK? What the hell was I thinking?