Panic on the Patio
Loud, obnoxious music rang in my ears. The room stank of cologne, and I needed some air.
After accidentally knocking into some bigger senior boys, I slid open a porch door. My breath spilled out like I had been protecting myself from the weed and cigarettes.
When I agreed to join my friend and sister for a party downtown, I didn’t expect this.
“What the hell have I done?”
I leaned over the balcony, resting my arms on the metal railing. From up here, the city hummed and chirped. Red and white lights blinked on the street, hazy from the last of the summer smog. The sun was setting over the New Amsterdam skyline, turning the city pink and orange.
The bass bumped through the window and pulsed through my head. At least here I could breathe, even if the city’s air still stank. My denim jacket helped me feel less of the whipping air.
I leaned forward slightly, taking in the breeze as much as my lungs could hold. I didn’t need to even wonder why I was there; it’s because my sister said it would be a better way to spend my time than being alone and feeling sorry for myself. She’s never been wrong before, to my deepest frustration.
What was I supposed to say? ‘Oh, I don’t want to go on some crazy adventure with your friends in the middle of the school week because I care about grades and not getting into trouble.’
“No, you don’t,” She’d say. “Genessee was so focused on getting noticed by people that you said you’d do anything to help her. C’mon. It’ll be fun. Mom doesn’t have to know.”
I wondered if any of this was a good idea. Maybe Indigo was finally going to be wrong, and what a perfect night for broken promises, huh?
A guilty pang pulled at my stomach while my eyes watched the streetlights turn on down below. Maybe I should try going back inside again? At least I won’t feel so bad while I fail to speak Dutch.
“Hey, what’s going on?”
I whipped around in alarm. The last thing I wanted was to speak with a stranger so soon. Things like that need time for me.
My older sister closed the open patio door and moved towards the railing. My shoulders sank.
“N-nothing, Indigo. I just needed some air.”
She leaned forward in her arms. “Yeah, it’s pretty crazy in there. So many New Netherlanders here are speaking Dutch. The weed sucks, though. I can tell by the smell.”
“The music sucks, too,” I eked out, almost like my mouth didn’t want to say anything. I stared ahead, watching a boat float lazily down the Hudson River.
“I know you’d rather be at home, Caiti,” she said optimistically,” But, this might still be a salvageable night.”
“It’s fine,” I waved her away defensively.
“Genessee looks like she’s having fun,” I pointed inside, where I knew she was hanging out with a bunch of seniors. “If it makes her feel better that I’m here, it’s worth it.”
“To be honest,” Indigo blurted out, “I think she feels so guilty that, y’know, she has to bring you places.”
“That’s not true, Indi. She doesn’t have to bring me anywhere. She just tells me everything afterward. Maybe she just wanted me to be here for her.”
“Maybe,” She answered wistfully, in a tone that sounded like she wasn’t sure I was right. “But, I think we can work on your Dutch, in the meantime. Just go in there and make a fool out of yourself.”
“Why?” My head dropped. After I was about to go in, suddenly I changed my mind.
“It’s how I learned. You have to just go in there. Forget the drinks or the weed. You don’t need to take anything. Peer pressure is bullshit anyway.”
“Says the girl who’s trying to get her sister to talk to strangers,” I scoffed.
“Oh, come on,” Indigo rolled her eyes. “You take so much after Mom it isn’t even funny. You gotta relax. Mellow out. No one will remember what you say, provided it’s nothing too funny.”
I straightened up slowly, meeting her by her eyes, even though she was taller than me. She didn’t have to compare me to Mom again.
“That sounds really dumb.”
Indigo smirked. “Extremely. You ready?”
Her smile faded. “Caiti, this is ridiculous. You’re standing in the middle of the city and hoping nothing happens to you. Well, I’m sorry to remind you, but you came here for your friend, and she’s on her own inside. She might even need you.
“Now,” she motioned to the door. “Get in there, and show us what you’re made of.”
“Jesus, Indi,” I said, trying to change the conversation. “You’re being really desperate right now.”
Indigo dropped her shoulders and exhaled. “Well, something has to happen to make this all worthwhile.”
Suddenly, a girl in braids with flashy eyes and a dark sweatshirt slid open the door and leaned out onto the patio. Her smile widened when she saw us.
“I knew I’d find you two here.”
“Well, there’s that ‘something,’ I guess,” I muttered.
“What?” The girl tilted her head.
“Nothing, Genessee,” I waved it away with a scratch to my ear. “What is it?”
“A couple of guys want us to visit a cruise ship being dismantled,” she said. “They say it could be fun to explore a dead ship.”
A cruise ship, on the water? A ship that could collapse at any moment and send us all to a watery grave?
“Sounds like fun,” Indigo said with a smirk. I could feel my heartbeat racing through my head. No way was she serious. Why the hell would she say yes to that? I stared at her silently, hoping she’d laugh and claim she was joking. But, she never did, and Genessee smiled and slipped back into the party.
Indigo reached for my sleeve and pulled me towards the smoke and bass thumps again. My legs stumbled a bit as I pulled back.
“Is this what you were looking for?” I snapped.
“Yep,” Indigo smiled as she opened the door. “This’ll be fun. Get a little looser, for Christ’s sake.”