'Cause I Never Could Stay Sober on the Corpus Christi Bay

As Corpus Christi is about to face the wrath of Hurricane Harvey I can’t help but feel nostalgic. I realize that is a weird feeling to have as an entire community is about to endure a massive natural disaster and I don't mean to be insensitive but my brain never works like it’s supposed to, most times I’m lucky if it works at all. My social filter needs fine tuning and like most people, I will frequently walk into a room only to realize that I have no idea why I walked into the room in the first place, but there are other more concerning moments. Like when I’m dancing on stage and I suddenly undergo a mental paralysis; Where am I? What is this song and why is it so loud? Who are these people and why are they all looking at me? For that brief second I probably couldn’t tell you my own name. I explain away these brain farts like you would an overheated engine. My brain is in overdrive, too many neurons firing at once so everything shuts down. Let things cool off, hit the restart button, and all systems are go.

For almost two years I called the gulf coast my home while I made a lame attempt at a higher education at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi. Unfortunately the only high I actually pursued included binge drinking and recreational drug use. Perhaps that is the real reason for my failing mind but in the words of Robert Earl Keen “if I could live my life all over / it wouldn’t matter anyway / ‘cause I never could stay sober on the Corpus Christi Bay.”

Today I find myself in bittersweet reminiscence of that time in my life. I think of the hundreds of times we had “H.E.B. feet”, a name we used to describe the bottoms of our feet when we went to the grocery store barefoot wearing a only a bikini to buy beer and ramen noodles. I think of Dino, the homeless man who kept me company behind the bathrooms at the beach while I tripped on mushrooms, and wonder if he has a safe place to go. I fondly remember how I discovered day-drinking and boxed wine and now marvel at how I had even managed to live before them. I not so fondly remember the pawn shop to which I sold my N64 and MarioKart cartridge so that I could buy a case of Keystone Light and wonder if they still have it. I remember jail. I remember taking day trips to the border so that we could bombed on cheap tequila shots and party in dirty discotecas. Much to my parents chagrin, I remember maxing out my first credit card buying Whataburger, Abercrombie & Fitch jean skirts and party kegs. I wish I remembered campus and classes more but I hardly ever went and spent my last six months there on academic suspension. Then I never went.

More importantly, I remember the friends I made who now act as recurring characters in my memories through hilarious conversations and ridiculous (often illegal) shenanigans.

I also remember how it all eventually came to a rather painful end:

I was stumbling across a parking lot with a serious case of swervy legs, my heels sounding like a broken washing machine as they made irregular contact with the pavement. I had just consumed my own weight in Goldschlagger and Red Bull Vodka’s in celebration of my best friend reaching the legal drinking age. I probably looked like a bear who has just been shot with a tranquilizer dart, desperately holding onto consciousness while it blunders about like a drunk David Hasselhoff. It was also my first night out wearing shoes that weren’t doctor-ordered. I had spent the previous 5 months in a series of casts and orthopedic boots because I shattered my ankle in a car accident. You’re not quickly given the all clear after a reconstructive surgery that requires extracting bone marrow from your own hip, bone from a very considerate cadaver and a handful of hardware that could’ve just as easily been used in assembling a dresser from Ikea.

I was drunk and parading around on the dance floor to Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz which made the “sweat drop down my balls”. We were headed for the apartment swimming pool which we would throw ourselves into still fully clothed. Skinny dipping was reserved for beach parties when you felt slightly less exposed because your body wasn’t being spotlights by underwater floodlights.

When constructing the two-story barbeque deck adjacent to the pool, the property architect clearly didn’t consider how tempted a foolishly courageous and inebriated coed would be to jump from one into the other, stupidly ignoring the four-foot gap that existed between the two. I survived the trip from the parking lot relatively unscathed and apparently saw this as a victory that was to be celebrated by clamoring up the deck stairs, bouncing between the railings like a sloppy pinball. I’m sure someone in my entourage attempted to dissuade me from this but I was too concerned with maintaining forward momentum so as not to topple over backwards down the stairs. Reaching the top I heaved myself onto the rail, pulling at my Abercrombie & Fitch tube top so as to avoid a wardrobe malfunction while completely disregarding the fact that I was wearing a miniskirt that prominently displayed my freshman-15.

My intention was to jump out far enough to clear the sidewalk below. My intentions were thwarted by too much alcohol and not enough balance because I quickly found myself in a heap on the pavement below. I felt nothing.

Under normal, less boozy circumstances this could be blamed on the sudden secretion of adrenaline or that falling three stories left me in a state of emotional distress and shock. In this instance it would be safe to assume the analgesic effects of consuming large doses of alcohol numbed me to my certain injuries. I’m sure I slurred something like “just need to walk it off” while rolling around like a fart in a mitten, making poor attempts to gather myself as my equally impaired friends caused all sorts of commotion.

Getting my feet underneath me was my only goal, unfortunately they were both broken.

Sometime after the casts came off I left South Texas. You can’t really drive in casts.

In the end, I owe that community and those people, a lot. Probably a serious apology for my wild antics to start, but in my state of nostalgia I also send out prayers and positive thoughts to the people and places that left such a lasting impact on my life. Except that damn bbq deck. I won’t lose any sleep if Hurricane Harvey decides to take it out to sea.

#CorpusChristi #RobertEarlKeen #HurricaneHarvey #creativenonfiction #memoir

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