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  • “Are you the brown people?” The shadowy figure stumbled across the sand and squinted inquisitively through the dark, a far-off look in his eyes, as he peered down at Lizand me lying on the beach. My muscles tightened, and my brain got a boost of adrenaline, preparing my body to flee should the need arise.
    “Are you?” he demanded. “Huh? Are you the brown people?” he asked again, his words slurred and jumbled together. This was it. This must be the mandatory catastrophe to accompany any stunt that today’s rowdy teen-ager decides to attempt. Fearfully, I glanced over to Liz for some sort of reassurance. She simply cast a quizzical look at the drunken man’s face and replied, “No man, I don’t know who the brown people are, but this girl’s pale as a ghost so I’m pretty sure they aren’t us.”
    The meaning of the words seemed to barely register on his face, but after a few long seconds of holding his incoherent gaze, we watched him lurch off down the beach, mumbling to himself and occasionally stumbling over his own feet in the sand.
    My body relaxed, letting out a chuckle on the way. I gave Liz a friendly jab as punishment for the not-so-flattering remark on my complexion.
    “I am not that pale.”
    “Girl, you practically glow in the dark, let’s be honest.” We laughed at ourselves, feeling a little foolish in hindsight for being so frightened by the harmless loon.
    “So that’s not going to stop you from sleeping on the beach tonight, is it? I saw how scared you looked.” I barely even considered the question before answering.
    “No. We have to do this. I’m not going to let some nut-job ruin our chance to practice our hobo skills.”
    Liz laughed, “Well alright, but maybe we should move down the beach to where there’s less people? I could do without the ‘nut-jobs’, personally.”
    “Sounds brilliant.”
    We gathered our things into my backpack and headed down the sandy shore to where the lights of the town seemed further away.
    Liz and I had spent the whole day together. We made sure to schedule our time off from our summer job on the same evening and felt determined to turn it into one of those wildly fun summer nights. It would be the kind of adventure that makes you want to write home to your best friend, divulging each juicy detail until she is practically salivating with envy at your glamorous life. Only one tragic flaw existed with our plan; we had overlooked the fact that we had limited transportation and a lack of funds to get us through the evening. Desperate, we entertained the lack-luster option of spending the night at her uncle’s lake house, until a new idea congealed in our minds. We called it: “hobo night.”
    It was perfect. Just thinking about it made us feel like rough-and-tumble teenage vagabonds, tough kids who knew their way around shady alleys, chicks no one in their right mind would try to mess with. But in reality we knew what it was: stupid, naive, and brash as all get-out. Still, I, at least, felt entitled to one night governed by a dumb idea.
    I had spent my entire adolescence tip-toeing around within the boundaries of what had been deemed to be “safe”. Although there had never really been a strict regimen of rules and regulations in my house, the horror stories of rogue high-schoolers told to me by other adults, newspapers, and local television stations kept me petrified with fear within the rigid lines of what society had determined to be “a good kid”. In an attempt to seem mature and level-headed, I scoffed at the kids on the news who had thrown parties, talked to strangers, and took chances, thus destroying their lives and ruining the livelihoods of those around them. Convinced that teenagers were awful people, I joined in the adults’ chorus of “What is happening to kids these days?” and “He was just being so ignorant,” hoping to demonstrate that I wanted to be no part of them. I was trying to act twice my age, to cram the passions and curiosities of adolescence into the back of a closet so I could mask any youthfulness underneath a composed and pragmatic persona, silently begging for approval from lord-knows-who.
    That evening with Liz I came out of the closet. I was ready to scream my youth to the world. I was tired of suffocating my emotions for the sake of a cause that had probably gone unnoticed anyway. I was beginning to realize that no matter how long the teen years seem to stretch, they aren’t going to last forever, so I might as well try to have a little fun with them. Now, I’m not suggesting that I’ll start racing motorcycles, or try to throw the next “Project-X”, but I think it’s high time I let these foolish teenage emotions have a little say on what’s going on in my life. If I have a crush on a boy in my math class, you can bet I’ll be covering pages of my notebooks with his name and crudely drawn little hearts. If I have a bad day, undoubtedly I will be found curled up on the couch in front of a cheesy Lifetime movie eating ice cream straight out of the carton. And if my favorite band were ever to break up, I will definitely be channeling Lola from “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” by wearing all black to school for a week to mourn the end of their music.
    It may not have been the most profound thing I’ve ever done—or smart, for that matter. But that night I slept on the beach I swear something must have gone off in my brain. Maybe it was the little switch that had been trying to suppress all of the irrationalities of teen-hood. Or perhaps I just blew the whole event out of proportion in the way that your average melodramatic seventeen-year-old girl would. I think I’m okay with either of these notions. Whether or not I fabricated this whole epiphany, I’m still grateful that I realized that I need to appreciate the ephemeral joys and sorrows of adolescence before it’s too late.
    When Liz and I woke up the next morning we were sore all over and covered in sand. Liz yawned and rubbed her eyes before turning over to rummage through my backpack, producing a bag of M&Ms;.
    “Breakfast!” She declared with a laugh, as she dug her hand into the bag before shoving it in my lap so I could participate in the feast.
    I groggily stirred from my sandy bed and cast her the most scathing look I could muster in my cranky, sleep-deprived state.
    “Oh, stop being such a drama-queen. I know you’re only this grumpy because we don’t have any coffee to feed your massive caffeine addiction.” Liz snorted.
    I smiled. It was probably the first time that I heard someone call me a drama-queen and was okay with it—happy, even. I accepted the candy and we passed the bag back and forth, pausing frequently to toss a piece to a friendly seagull that had been hovering around us all night. As the three of us sat on the beach, eating M&Ms; and watching the sun rise up into the cloud-streaked sky, I felt a great relief. The successful completion of our hobo night meant a lot more to me than a sandy bum and a bag of candy. It meant that I could express my youthful desires and impulses without suffering the price of self-loathing or becoming the headline on next Sunday’s paper. Even though I was sandy, and sore, and had probably just broken some law or another, I had never felt so pure.
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