ALUMNI WEEKEND PT VI

Post-match

I couldn’t believe it. What did I have to do at this point? As soon as I walked in the door at the Rugby House, Taz approached me, both of us still caked in dirt and in our jerseys and short shorts and told me to find a mirror, and “Say goodbye to your hair.”

I was the last remaining unshorn FNG. But come on! After my performance at the Diamond Club last night, and my performance against the Alumnus today, what did I have to do to keep my hair?? After a quiet moment with my hair in the bathroom, Taz and Vinny led me out to the back porch. Taz was once again running his hands through my hair as Vinny was prying the new hair clipper loose from its plastic packaging. Bald man walking.

On the back porch, there were a couple Alums leaning against the railing overlooking the backyard, smoking cigarettes and talking. Among them were Bobby Meuser and Shaggy. The energy in the air was palpable. The seniors had almost come to blows numerous times over who would get to shave my head. Taz was giddy as a kid on Christmas morning as he and Vinny unpackaged the clippers and looked for an outlet.

I was tired of all this. I could no longer put on a brave face. I had done everything right! I had done everything anyone had asked of me! I became a stripper! I stood toe-to-toe with a legend. This was bullshit. But I was resigned to my fate.

They found a stool for me to sit on, as I was much taller than Taz. He turned the clippers on, and tilted my head forward so he could get a good angle on the back of my head. I heard the buzzing of the clippers getting louder and louder until…

“Stop!” It was Meuser. The Alums had been watching what was going on. “You really don’t want to lose that hair, do you? You can be honest.”

This sounded like a trap. But what could possibly make this any worse? “…No- I really don’t, sir.”

Meuser deliberated for a moment. Taz held my head and the clippers, frozen, waiting for Meuser’s next words. With the magnanimy of a feudal lord, Bobby Meuser delivered his verdict. “He’s a good kid, a hell of a rugby player, and has a great head of hair- he can keep it.”

My sentence had been commuted! He had remembered that email I sent him months prior. Just like that, I became the first FNG in the history of Scranton Rugby to not get my head shaved. The seniors were clearly crestfallen, but they had no recourse. Taz sullenly switched the clippers off and placed them in the window.

Vinny was not so graceful in defeat. “You’re fuckin’ lucky, Sparkletits! But you still have to do your Zulu Warrior!” He waved his arm at the Alums defiantly, almost daring them to give me a pass for that, too.

Vinny led me to a vacant bedroom adjacent to the kitchen with windows looking out onto the back porch we just left. The all the blinds were closed. “OK, so… what do I have to do, exactly?” I asked. Muffled party sounds crept in from all sides as the party began to hit it’s stride.

Vinny walked me through it step-by-step. He had clearly put a lot of thought into this. “You’re gonna get naked- you should probably keep your shoes on, though. Next, you’re gonna run through the house through this door, exit through the front door, make your way around the side of the house, go through the back yard, and run up the neighbor’s fire escape- got it, Sparkletits?”

“Got it.”

“OK- you got one minute to get outta those clothes. Don’t come out till you hear the chant.”

I was still not sure if he meant ‘boxers naked’ or ‘naked naked.’ I figured he meant ‘boxers naked,’ but as I stood there deliberating in just my boxers and shoes, Vinny popped his head in and made himself clear. “Sparkletits- what the fuck are you doing standing there in your boxers??”

“Oh- I wasn’t sure if you actually meant all-the-way naked or-“

“Don’t be gay- get those fucking boxers off and get out here already!” He slammed the door behind him and began the chant at the top of his lungs. “HEEEEEY ZULU WARRIOR! HEY HEY!” There was a brief pause in the regular party din, but the chant was soon taken up by rugby players, followed by the rest of the party. They must’ve been able to hear the chanting all across the Hills Section. The voices grew louder and more numerous. People began keeping time by stomping their feet to the rhythm. The scene had a timeless, tribal atmosphere now. It felt as if this was a ceremony that has been going on for millennia. We were touching something deep within our common humanity that unites drunk savages across the arc of civilization.

Everyone’s Zulu Warrior was different. It depended on the circumstances, time of year, and individual. OG had to run to the statue of St. Ignatius Loyola at the center of campus and back. Aton sauntered down the stairs smoking a cigar and swaggered around the party like a Godfather. Mine would be at the biggest party of the year, in the middle of the day, and stone sober.

I wasn’t necessarily self-conscious about my body; I was in-shape and had nothing to be ashamed of. I just never felt like it was my best look. Call it class. Call it Catholic guilt. I was not looking forward to this. But I’m a stripper now. I had hundreds of people maniacally chanting to see me run around fully naked- who am I to deny the people? The boxers came off.

One of the small pleasures of rugby is inspecting all the battle wounds after a match. Finger marks across my back. A boot imprint on my thigh. Scrapes around my eye. Chafed and bruised nipples. As I made my inspection, I paused, my gaze downward. I was looking at what looked like my dick- but smaller. I had heard of guys getting stage fright before, but I was wasn’t prepared for this.

No!

I frantically tried stretching it out, spinning it around, anything to try to loosen it up- but nothing worked. I certainly wasn’t planning on starring in any adult films anytime soon, but I really didn’t want to misrepresent myself out there. Damnit. Someone began banging on the door in rhythm with the stomping and the chanting. I knew it was Vinny. I knew it was show time.

I used the same rationalization that I used in my Public Speaking class the semester prior. Since this was an inevitability, stressing over it was futile. Might as well search for whatever enjoyment I could find. I was going to get mine.

With a hand on the doorknob, but sucked in one last breath, and suppressed the final remaining screaming instincts of resistance. I opened the door and bolted out.

Vinny had his back turned to the door, leading the chanting. As he turned, I was already past him. The chanting broke into frenzied screams; roars of entertainment from the men and shrieks of surprise from the women. I could feel every face in the house looking at me as I darted from room to room. The house as packed, but I wasn’t standing on good manners today. I juked and shouldered my way through. I noticed that even the most pissed-off of the party-goers stood helpless as I knocked people down and pushed people out of my way.

That was when I learned a very important lesson: no one fights naked people. Think about it. Unless it was self-defense no one would stand toe-to-naked-toe with a naked person. It was a lesson that I used to diffuse countless physical altercations throughout college. Another valuable lesson I learned from rugby: no one punches posters. That came in handy when we were on the verge of running out of unmolested walls in the Rugby House my senior year.

With this lesson in hand, I really started getting mine. I didn’t slow down, but I knocked every beer within arms’ reach out of it’s owner’s hand. Every girl in my path received a firm atta-girl as I raced by. People began throwing their beers on me before I had a chance to reach them.

I made it to the front door and managed to harry several cigarette smokers as I jumped down the steps to the ally and turned the corner. Even the side pathway was congested, so I hopped on top of the short cement median between the two houses, bypassed all the traffic and burst into the crowded backyard.

People in the backyard had heard the commotion follow me around the house and had been preparing for my arrival. Unlike inside, they all backed out of my way as I headed straight for the fire escape stairs across the backyard.

As I climbed, the cheers from the backyard rose with me. I felt like Peter Pan soaring above the melee on a pirate ship. As I made it to the top of the fire escape, I turned and raised my arms in acknowledgment of the crowd three stories below me. From my vantage point, I could see across the Hills Section, clear across campus.

I hurried back down, the adrenaline pumping so manically that my legs were numb. I entered the room where I started through a door opening from the back porch. The alums patted me on the back as I passed them. “You got one sweet ass, Sparkletits!” Another great performance.

I was only collapsed on a chair a moment before I realized that the cheering hadn’t begun subsiding yet. Slater, another senior, slipped into the room. His tone was sympathetic. “So Vinny is adamant that you need to do two Zulus since you scored twice today… We tried explaining to him that you can only score your first try once, but he’s not hearing any of it. I’m sorry. I think it’s dumb, but the Alums agreed. Get your sweet ass back out there.”

Before I gave myself time to think, my legs carried me back out again. This time, everyone saw me coming. It made for a quicker run. Plus most hadn’t had time to refill their beers and douse me again. I took the fire escape stairs two at a time and only pointed skyward at the top before descending. An encore performance. That’s another Norseman first. I guess my ‘misrepresentation’ wasn’t as bad as I thought.

It was after the encore Zulu Warrior that the weight of the past 24 hours came crashing down on me. Once the adrenaline of a rugby match wears off, you’re hit with a monstrous come-down, but this was something else entirely. I collapsed into the same chair and wanted to sit there forever. I leaned forward to gather up and put on my clothes while still sitting down. When I emerged, the energy in the house had dipped just like mine. I was greeted with more congratulations from my teammates and alums. Even the seniors shifted their impressions of me. Without saying a word, I knew I’d never have to fill up another beer again.

A roaring hunger gripped me to match my fatigue. I knew I had to get out of there and eat. I was utterly drained and had nothing left to give to this party, or the rugby team tonight. The clear, midafternoon sky dazzled as I stepped out of the dark, dank house onto the front porch. Out there was a group of seniors, and freshmen, and a three-man slingshot. Combover Pat was gathering water balloons. Greggypoo and Wifebeater were holding the ends of the slingshot. Slater was spotting, and Aton was the triggerman. Their target was clear. A block down the alley was the back deck and backyard of Stonehouse, which stood across the street facing campus. They were having a lively Cinco de Mayo party that was about to get livelier.

Greggypoo and Wifebeater stood statuesque, with their hands in the air, straining against Aton’s pull. Aton pulled the center of the slingbeast back as far as he could- with his immense back rippling, leaning back at a severe angle. “Steady… steady… a little lower… OK- one… two… three!” Aton let go as soon as Slater gave the call.

The balloon took off with such force, you could see it fighting against the air as it sailed in a sinking arc towards it’s target. At first, it looked like it would probably just land harmlessly on the deck and illicit some annoyed shouts. But then a heavyset blonde girl in a flowered sundress and a lay came into view, heading towards the stairs. The way she gripped the railing made it clear she was already pretty drunk, and definitely too drunk to be wearing such precarious heels.

We were all holding our breath, frozen. The balloon hit her square in the upper arm- the one that was holding her beer. Her arm and beer went up in the air as her legs gave out and she tumbled down the rest of the stairs. The balloon exploded and pandemonium erupted. The ‘Stone Bros’ were sent into a blind rage, but most of the party goers were terrified as if they were under attack by Al Qaeda.

Our front porch erupted too. In jubilation. Fist bumps and high fives all around. Their cheers drew the attention of the frantic and beleaguered victims. When they saw who was harassing them, the Stone Bros only looked up at us in sullen silence, defeated. Wars raged throughout the Hills Section amongst various sports teams, but to retaliate against the rugby team (especially on Alumni Weekend) would be foolhardy.

I decided it would be prudent to sneak out through our neighbor’s property onto the adjacent street, instead of walking through the slingbeast line-of-sight and past Stone House. The caf was nearly empty when I got there. Why was my ass so sticky? Oh right- all the beer thrown on me while I was naked. As I sat there in the empty caf, watching Sportcenter, eating a Quiznos sub, I couldn’t help but feel a strong sense of alienation. It felt like I had just stepped out of the wardrobe, back from Narnia. It was strange thinking that the world I had just left, with all the savagery, nudity, and chaos, was occupied the same plane of existence as the one I’m currently sitting in. These lunch ladies had no idea what I just went through. These sports highlights seem ordinary and insignificant now.

After a long shower back in my dorm, I still didn’t feel completely clean. I still found some glitter in my arm hair. I closed the blinds, locked my door, and turned my phone off. As I climbed into bed, I glanced at my clock radio for the time. The little red digital display read, 5:30 PM.