In high school, I was obsessed with my drama class. I know what you’re thinking because you’ve seen enough “This is High School, These are the Drama Nerds” cafeteria tables onscreen in your day. Hollywood, for the strangest reason, de-glorifies high school drama. They dress these characters in all black, make them societal losers, and/or remove any depth to them. Strange, as most of their money-makers lived and breathed their adolescent days in those classes.
Our drama class was a mixture of all kinds of people, ones that you wouldn’t necessarily think could even hold a conversation together, but for some reason all melted into kind of this perfect puddle. I mean that almost literally, as we would lie halfway on top of each other on the floor of the auditorium, trying to inhale hard enough to move the head of whoever lay on our glorious 15-year-old abs.
Naturally, when the Jaycees came a’callin’ for volunteers for their haunted house, we all flipped.our.shit. Only a few of us were willing to give up our Halloween to do it in the end, which wasn’t disappointing because that meant we all got to be stars.
Along with some other recruited youngins, we cleaned out a giant building in a sketchy neighborhood to build our fabulous house of horrors. By the end of the night, it was past all of our bedtimes and we were all dripping with black stuff from every pore of our body. It would’ve been okay if I’d’ve known what the hell the black stuff was.
We spent nights planning and practicing. We brought the old staples to the table (Michael Myers, Leatherface) and added some newbies as well (Hannibal Lecter, The Jackal). It was honestly brilliant and terrifying. It’s not one of those things that’s lost its awesomeness as its memory has aged because it was, in actuality, awesome. There were over 10 rooms to be tortured in, and none of them were fluff. It was horror from the moment you stepped in to the moment you were chased out via chainsaw.
When the night finally came, the adrenaline was palpable. We were like kids on a mega sugar rush, minus the crash. T, one of my best friends, and I were in the same half of the house. Her fortune telling was the cue for the rest of us to speak up scream as loud as we could. When she gave us our first cue, it was exhilarating.
I looked over at the boy dressed as a preacher beside me and smiled before I began screaming my heart out. In an effort to overcome my lifelong fear of Reagan from “The Exorcist,” I became her for the house of horrors. He spoke loud prayers as I continued to groan and scream as I heard the terrified shrieks from the audience as they got closer to us, room by room.
I didn’t realize it, but I was the fake-out finale, the “THAT HAS TO BE IT!” before the final scare chased them down a lengthy hallway to their freedom. When they finally entered my room, they were shut in on both sides without their knowing. The priest told them of my troubles as I writhed in the bed and gave my best “man inside a woman” voice I could muster. He turned to pray for me and this is when I picked him up and threw him on the bed beside me. I then crawled onto the floor after the last of the group, forcing them into a corner where they screamed louder as I moved closer, reaching out to them, almost touching them, when BAM! The door opened and they were free to roam.
What they didn’t know was that the inconspicuous mirror on the wall was a two-way, and there was a team of two men that manned the door: one looked through the mirror to see when the door needed to fall away, and he signaled the second man to drop the door when it was time. They didn’t know that the priest and the possessed chatted after their performance all night long. They didn’t know that we were just kids, plucked out of the halls of our high school to have some fun. They believed that we were these horrifying, doomed people. One pair of grown men so believed it that they kicked me in the face before I reached them, broke the two-way mirror, and we had to stop the show for a minute. The lights went up, a strong man lifted my bare feet from the floor, and they nursed my stinging face. I loved every minute of it and was absolutely ready for the show to go on.
It was a perfect opening night, and I woke up the next morning ready to do it again. Only problem was, I sounded like Kathleen Turner after smoking 10 cartons of cigarettes. I could barely speak, and when I did, I couldn’t get anything scare-worthy out. I’d blown my voice, but I needed to go back. I arrived and told them of my dilemma, and that’s when the endless insensitivity began.
I still had fun being shuffled around from room to room with my friends, but the ringleaders were going from “SUPER AWESOME HUMAN BEINGS!” to “Y’ALL ARE SOME HUGE PENISES!” on my ratings list very, very quickly.
I began as Reagan, trying to scream only when the victims entered my room, but I couldn’t do it without straining my voice. They sent me to the window to stare dauntingly at people and pretend to be making noise behind the glass. This only worked for a few minutes when my act got old as the line seemingly never moved.
I moved on to being a victim of Hannibal Lecter’s, but for some reason, the semantics of this didn’t work. We decided to scrap the idea and I was sent to another room to talk people through a gory surgical procedure by a doctor not quite right in the head. This room soon no longer needed me, so I was finally dressed in all black and demoted to being unseen and unheard behind the faux walls of the house.
This turned out not to be horrid. I didn’t have to talk, except to J, the nice freshman they put me with. I got to make a new friend and contribute to the house.
It wasn’t long before I realized I hadn’t used the bathroom in hours. I’d been thrown left and right by an increasingly angry mob of Jaycees. Before I could protest, I was placed behind the door that held people in the room with the new Reagan. I tried to make clear that I needed a break, but I was literally denied access to that privilege.
I began that sort of dance that children do when they really have to use the bathroom. The kind of legs twisted, hopping around, wiggling little jig that is supposed to stave your bladder from rushing open. I begged and begged for an hour to be given a break, but they went from mean to hateful faster than Ouiser Boudreaux.
I considered how embarrassing it would be for a high-school girl to piss herself. I had a lot of pride back in those days, but more so, I had a rivalry with authority. (Didn’t we all?) I battled with them both, trying to explain that I could simply leave and no one could do anything to stop me. But my pride wanted me to stay and hold it in, and my grudge with the man wanted me to stick it to ’em and piss all over their floor. Not to mention, above all of these mental squabbles, my bladder was a ticking time bomb. It was Jeff Goldblum’ing me repetitively: “When ya gotta go, ya gotta go.”
That’s when my face dropped from it’s stressed contortion trying to hold in any pride and urine. I was going to walk away forever or defy their inhumanity by letting it flow all over their floor, whichever came first. My bladder was obviously an anarchist as well.
I was embarrassed for approximately 3 seconds before I laughed and called to a man whose name I now don’t even remember.
“I pissed on your floor, man.”
“Well, you shoulda let me go to the bathroom. I’m calling my mom to pick me up.”
“YOU GOTTA CLEAN THIS!!!!”
I simply walked away, leaving these befuddled adults to deal with the consequences of their own doing. I followed the behind-the-scenes maze to our headquarters hidden from the view of the public. I called my mom and told her my ordeal. She laughed as hard as I did, and she arrived swiftly to pick me up. I walked by the still-large line of people outside, still dressed in my now-handy all black outfit, and jumped into my mom’s passenger seat. She had lined it with a towel. I simply looked at it, thanked her, and we laughed the whole way home.