The subject of high school is pretty straight forward and transcends generations. You either loved it or hated it. While I would put myself in the "hate it" column, I did take one fond memory away from that place... I was a "streaker" at my high school homecoming...kind of...
Shaking, nauseous, and sweating profusely, I stood outside the bathroom entrance. I couldn't back out. I made a bet and I was dead set on getting my money, but more importantly I was going to prove some people wrong. I just wish there was an easier way. I wish I hadn't opened my big mouth.
A few days earlier, I was sitting in the cafeteria eating lunch when these guys all started talking about their plans for the homecoming game on Friday night. The football games were always the starting place for the evening activities. You never stayed for the whole game. Most people left the game to hit up the plethora of house parties and bonfires by halftime. Eventually, the guys at the table asked me what I was doing, to which I smoothly replied "Ummm, nothing I guess." They all chuckled under their breath. One guy - whose name escapes me right now, so we'll call him "Dave" - piped up and said "I know what Josh is doing. He is going to be the streaker at halftime." Homecoming was the scene of the traditional "streaking student" over the years and, since I was a seemingly easy target for ridicule, they all had a great laugh at my expense. Back then I had a tendency to let my emotions get the better of me, so I popped back "What was so funny? I could streak if I wanted to!" Dave put his arm around me and condescendingly said "If you streak,...I will give you a hundred bucks." I couldn't just let them embarrass me that way, so I instantly accepted his bet. There was no down side to it that I could think of at the moment. I could see and hear them make fun of me as I left the cafeteria, but I was pretty happy with how I handled the situation and I was dead set on proving them wrong.
During my next class, the negatives finally dawned on me. What if I actually chickened out and didn't do it? I would have to listen to those assholes make fun of me until graduation. On the other hand, what if I did go through with it? Being naked in front of a bunch of people on a chilly fall night wasn't high on my "to do" list. Sweet lord, there would be girls there, too! Mother Nature didn't give me much to work with as it was, but now I was running in my birthday suit and leaving nothing to the imagination! What the hell was I thinking taking this bet?
My entire high school tenure was riddled with absences caused by Cystic Fibrosis, but this week I was sicker than usual thanks to the self induced stress. I forced myself to go to school on Friday, homecoming day, because I knew if I didn't go to school there was no way my mother would allow me to go to the game. I thought of using it as an excuse, but the result would have been the same regardless: I would be humiliated on a constant basis for the rest of the year. I couldn't go through that. I had to do this, sick or not.
I managed to avoid the any interaction with Dave and his friends during school on Friday and went home to mentally prepare to make a fool of myself. My mom could tell something was bugging me and asked what was wrong, so I partially explained the situation. I told her I was going to run across the field in my boxers during halftime, but I was really nervous. What I didn't tell her was it didn't matter what I wore. I was going to lose the boxer shorts anyways and run buck naked instead. At that point in the conversation most mothers would have discouraged such behavior. Not my mother. She smiled at me and told me to go for it. She has always been a little eccentric , but it was another example of how much she always supported me in my life. She wanted me to prove these guys wrong. So, with the encouragement of my loving and enthusiastic mother, I headed to my doom.
When I arrived at the game the bleachers were starting to fill and I was getting nervous. My friends who knew of my plan wished me luck, but I didn't hear them. I was so anxious I couldn't fully absorb the moment. All I could think about was people laughing at me and possibly getting arrested for indecent exposure. The previous two years, it was my understanding that the person or persons who had attempted streaking were tackled on the football field and hauled off to jail for the night. This could be the beginning of a very long evening.
I looked at clock. Five minutes left in the first half. It was like a countdown to an execution. The trap door was ready, the noose was tied, I just had to make my way to the gallows. I forced myself inside the bathroom and started to undress, much to the chagrin of a lot of the other strangers. I was about to drop trough when three guys I recognized ran into the bathroom and started stripping down too.
"Lane, Clettis, Kyle? What are you doing here?" I asked.
"Mogs?" Clettis said. That was my nickname in high school. "We're streaking. What are you doing?"
"I'm streaking too." I said.
"No way! That is awesome! Come with us! We have a ride and everything all set up."
"Are you all going together? NAKED?" I asked. This was an important question to me. Why would you want to run naked in a group? It was silly enough to run by yourself, but with a few other guys it would be like a free ballin' flopfest out there that would probably be as uncomfortable to watch as it would be to participate in. Clettis eased my fears immediately.
"We're not going naked! Are you nuts?! We're keeping our boxers on. It's just not worth it to go naked. Were you going to?!" he questioned. "NO!" I lied, relieved in the fact that someone else had some common sense working because mine was clearly on hiatus.
Clettis, Lane, and Kyle clued me in on their plan. They had two routes with a driver ready to pick them up. All I had to do was follow their lead. Looking back, I suppose having my own battle plan would have been a better way to go about this whole ordeal, but it honestly never crossed my mind. I was just going to run like there was no tomorrow. I figured I would get caught because I had other factors going against me. Because of the lung damage from CF and a mild case of cerebral palsey, I was not the very accomplished runner. My fastest long distance run was a brisk walk for most. Somebody up there must have been looking out for me because when I explained this to the guys, Clettis laughed and told me to go a little ahead of them and they would catch up to me. I had to admit I was nervous, but the worry that was overwhelming me earlier was transforming into excitement. This was turning into a lot more fun than it was supposed to be. We chucked our clothes in a bag and handed them to the driver who headed to the getaway car. Then, this big group of people surrounded us until we made it to the fence surrounding the field. This was it. No turning back now....
A slap on the back for encouragement from the guys and I was off! I ran like...well, like a toddler taking his first steps. It was kind of pitiful, but I was doing it! Just as I started to build up to kindergartner speed, a blur of three bodies passed me and the crowd rose to their feet. Clettis, Lane, and Kyle were beyond me in milliseconds and I nervously watched where they were going. They headed to the left, where a seven foot fence stood. Those three seemed to leap over it like gazelles. "Come on, Mogs! Move your ass!" I finally made it to the fence and, by the power of all that is good and holy, I climbed over the top with little difficulty. Mustering all the energy I had left, I headed toward the adjacent woods. Just then, I turned to glance over my shoulder and could see security headed our way. There we were sitting in the woods in nothing but our boxers as the security guards continued their search. They gave up quickly and headed back toward the stadium. When the coast was clear we jumped into the moving car and sped off into the night.
We were all laughing and cheering as we made our way to a near by house where we could re-clothe, recover, and review our triumphant and somewhat idiotic accomplishment. "You weren't kidding, Josh. You are slow as hell! I thought you were gonna get caught for sure!" Lane said. I laughed and thanked the guys for letting me tag along. Even though we weren't the closest friends (lets be honest, I was a dork in high school) they looked out for me. It was a special moment for me sitting in that basement with them and was one of the few times I actually felt like I was "normal" in high school. I will never forget that.
A half hour later we made our way back to the game to sit in the stands. I got high fives from people I didn't even know and smiles and laughter from the ones I did know. I was about to sit down when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was "Dave" from the lunch room. "You didn't streak. You just ran across a football field in your boxers. I'm not giving you money." Just then, Clettis saw me and asked me what was going on. I told him about the bet. He looked at Dave and said "You owe him something, man. He was going to do it on his own. We just invited him to come with us. Meanwhile, you sat on your ass in the stands and did nothing." Reluctantly, he agreed and gave me twenty dollars. We shook my hands and called it square. I didn't care about the money anymore. I had so much fun I'd have paid to do it, but I happily took it from Dave with a huge grin on my face.
The next week I found out where the yearbook club met and inquired whether or not they had any pictures or footage of me streaking. "How could we miss it. You were there long enough." With an annoyed look on my face, I got a copy of it and kept it for my own memory. You couldn't see my face, but the boxers were unique. Handmade Wile E. Coyote boxers that were given to me as a gift. It's there on the tape in living color. I was also excited that the yearbook staff got some pictures of us, but unfortunately they weren't developed yet. I would have to wait until the yearbooks were distributed in May to see the finished product.
Seven months later, we had our yearbooks in hand. I was so excited! I flipped through the year book looking for some kind of pictorial immortality. What I got was a black and white blur that didn't even include me in the caption. I was so disappointed. Lane came up to me later and smirked at me. "You just don't get any breaks, huh Mogs?" He signed my yearbook right by the picture and told me I should write myself in. So I did. I even circled myself. Not that you can tell it's me, but I know it is so you'll just have to take my word for it. I did try to find my streaking footage to post on here, but the tape is currently stored somewhere safe within the confines of my basement or my mother's home. I swear I have it! I'll post it someday!
Even if it wasn't "all the way", the story still makes me happy twelve years later. It amazes me that one of my proudest moments is also one of my most foolish. I am so glad it happened that way. Life has always provided me with the tools to succeed even in the dumbest adventures.