Originally published in Willow Springs 79
From the author
Notes on “B.Y.O.B.”
“B.Y.O.B.” was inspired by the accidental overdose, in 2012, of a young man in Olympia, Washington, where I have often visited but never lived. It’s a beautiful place, but it’s a place that makes it easy for people to lose sight of the line between happy hippie and drug addict. I didn’t know this young man well, but I was close with someone who did. I saw how the sudden loss shattered her, of course. I have also known beautiful young men who died too young, and have been left empty-handed by grief—writing about grief makes me feel, or hope, I suppose, that I am making something from that emptiness which I can hold onto. But for my friend, there was also a second, unexpected, great loss: the community she and this boy and all her friends had created for themselves shattered too. When they lost him, they also lost the youthful dream they were living in together. I wanted to examine a shard from the lives of each of the characters as they faced their grief alone. I was determined not to let the characters coexist together past the first section, to force a lot of time and space between them, but I still wanted the story to feel cohesive, and that was a challenge I rather enjoyed.
From the first page, I knew I had also set myself a challenge I did not enjoy: Of writing about those who were once and sometimes still are my people—knots of artsy, mostly middle-class, mostly white Pacific Northwestern kids whose love, friendship and art-making inspired and comforted me so much as I grew into an adult. Now that I am an adult, I am painfully aware of the privilege, fragile optimism, and frivolity of my friends (and myself) in those years. So, writing about these characters made me feel pretty damn vulnerable.
Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.
So, I have a mild Diet Coke addiction. It’s latent right now, because in Laramie, Wyoming, where I live, the roads and sidewalks are the devil’s ice rink and it’s not worth trudging to the Loaf N’ Jug even for that sweet, sweet sauce. The relationship—I mean, the bad, bad addiction—flowered when I was 23 and drove my 1996 Jimmy SLT across America. It was summer, and Jimmy doesn’t have air conditioning. Solution: soda filled with ice. But sugar! Solution: Diet Coke. But it’s bad for you and Coke is an evil corporation that covers the world in plastic bottles, lobbies against public health initiatives, and buys up indigenous water supplies. Solution…move 7,200 feet up in the mountains, where mild addictions just aren’t worth going outside for 9 months a year? Ah, but back when I used to daily cross the lonesome highway for my fix, I once met the soda-fountain shaman. It was late at night at the Loaf N’ Jug, and I turned the corner and was startled, being used to having the soda fountain area to myself at such an hour. He’d selected the biggest size cup available—44 ounces—and this prince of pop had sweetly laid down his sodas and syrups in layers, green, blue, yellow, green, pink on top, like an elaborate cruise-ship cocktail. The soda-fountain shaman is tall with curly surfer-shag hair and wears what we in the Northwest call a “drug-rug” (a cheap fake-Mexican poncho-coat-thing) and, like any proper yogi, sandals. His arm-hairs are golden. He comforted me in my shock and amazement, and tried to help me understand What it was he had created, and How he had created it, and Why. But it was beyond my understanding. I had thought myself a master of the soda fountain. But I was wrong.
I never saw the shaman again.
About Lilly Schneider
Lilly Schneider’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Green Mountains Review, Hobart, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Briar Cliff Review, The Summerset Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and elsewhere. Raised in the Pacific Northwest, she is currently an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Wyoming, where she loves and fears the wind. You can follow her on Twitter at @LillySchneidrrr, though she cannot really figure out how to use that website, for the record.