By: Josh Malett
In late September 2016, my co-op threw a party. When we have a party, we designate one person to be responsible for the house. If the police come and everything falls to shit, it’s their responsibility to take the rap. That night, it was my job.
By 10:30, there were hundreds of punks and college kids in the living room, spilling out into the front lawn, packing the porch and loitering on the sidewalk. People chain smoked on the porch, taking refuge from the pounding music in the living room. If you donated four dollars in exchange for a red solo cup, you could drink from the keg all night. The dining room table and a couch, both laid on their sides, blocked a hallway to the bedrooms, and we slid a light grey couch upright and into the door frame of the hallway which leads upstairs. Lights which changed color with each stomp of the bass drum were hung on the walls of the living room. Next to the stage stood a shiny mannequin, formerly the property of a Forever 21, wearing a floppy sun hat and a necklace of skeleton string lights. In the stage area, a small corner of the living room, between the amps, drums and P.A. system, there was barely any room there for the band members themselves.
There was a mosh pit during the set of a crust punk band called Daddy and the Choke Me Harders. Someone danced while wearing a dress resembling a police uniform, stiletto heels and a riding crop. The floor bent under the weight of the crowd like the back of a weightlifter who’s incorrectly doing a deadlift. I walked into the cigarette smoke haze outside of the bathroom and saw someone waving their arms next to an open window, trying to get the air moving. Someone else tapped me on the shoulder and told me that the fire alarm was going off and the fire department was coming. People needed to get out of the house.
I grabbed the microphone in the middle of the set and told everyone to go to the front lawn. After trying to herd people outside, I went into the driveway and saw the first band huddled in a circle, smoking a joint. Outside it was quiet. There I could call the fire department and tell them not to come, that it was being handled, that some idiot smoked a cigarette inside and the thick smoke of their bad decision set off the alarm. While on hold, I worked my way through the thick crowd of people spilling onto the lawn and saw the fire engine come to a stop right by our front door.
Three firemen sat in the front seat and leaned out the window to ask me about the situation. I explained there wasn’t anything they needed to come and see. They offered to come in and turn the alarm off. In that moment, I thought if I let the fire department inside, the police would come. I wanted to attract as little attention as possible, so I told them to leave. Back inside, as they drove away into the jungle of West Campus, my housemate pressed the silence button on the alarm. The beeping and blinking stopped, and the party continued.
The mechanism to turn the alarm off sits in a red locked box in the living room, where the bands played. Written on the inside door are codes to arm, turn off and silence the alarm, and a phone number you can call for assistance. After the fire engine left and everyone packed back into the living room, the beeping and blinking started again, since silencing the alarm works only temporarily. I called the number written on the inside of the door and spoke to someone on the other line. We arranged for a technician to call me back sometime in the next half hour, around midnight. My band was supposed to play next, so I handed the phone to my friend Who Ray, who answered when they called back halfway through my set. He spoke to the man, and somehow over the noise of the party, managed to shut the alarm off until the next day.
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Later that night, I stood on the sidewalk with a friend at three o'clock in the morning. Most people had left about an ago. Two of the last people there walked down the front steps holding a half eaten jar of nutella.
“Is that your jar?” I asked with the tone of a parent who’s caught their child doing something they know they’re not supposed to do.
“I brought it with me to the party,” the smaller one said, looking down at his feet and the jar in question, refusing to meet my eye.
“That’s ridiculous, who brings that to a party,” I said while taking the jar out of his hands.
“I want to fight you for it,” he said, standing up and eying the Nutella jar I held. The jar that used to be between his fingers.
I puffed out my chest and stared him down, the nutella jar in my left hand and a drink in my right. The strange nutella thief repeated that line four times as I silently sipped, waiting for him to start something.
His friend placed an arm over the Nutella thief and told him it’s not worth it. After what seemed like five minutes of staring each other down like two squirrels about to rip each other apart over an acorn, I went to check if it was indeed our jar. Just hours before two jars of Nutella sat on the shelf. When I checked that night there was only one. Incredulous, I walked back outside to lock the door. The thief and his friend still stood on the sidewalk.
“We open our doors for a party and you steal our food? Shame on you", I shouted as they walked away slowly, embarrassed and caught red handed. Feeling quite like a vigilante I went back into the house and half-heartedly put some cans in the recycling before passing out.