To be absolutely honest, I thought that I had dreamed up the entire evening, until a few weeks later when I walked in and saw a massive package on our kitchen floor.
My American flatmate Jon – courtesy of Northwestern University – was on the ground folding out the legs to the table. Two of our flatmates, Mollie and Chloe – native to Great Britain – watched with fascination. Alice was also with us in the kitchen. She didn't live in our flat on Stanford Street. Instead, she lived on the floor below us and made frequent visits up to our flat to eat dinner with Chloe, her friend from college.*
My good friend – the first friend to whom I had made when I first moved into Stanford Street – Rachel, later came into the kitchen. She too thought that it had been a dream when we all drunkenly decided to pitch in the money to buy an American beer pong table for our tiny flat.
*High school in England is referred to as college. Whereas college is referred to as Uni.
Nope. We also invested on 50 red resumable solo cups and 50 orange ping pong balls like the true college kids that we were. At least while living abroad for both Jon and I.
Once Jon got the table all set up, the full length of the table was impossible to fit in our tiny kitchen unless we pushed the main circular table back against one of the corners of the room. So we set up the table in the middle of our hallway. However, the hallway was too narrow for us to play a serious game of beer pong so we took the affirmative action of pushing our table and all of our chairs in the kitchen against the side of the wall.
It was brilliant. At the time at least.
I didn't come across the Atlantic all the way from California just to brush up on my beer pong skills. It was September, and I had survived my first week in the United Kingdom.
I had adjusted to the 12 hour time difference, bought my books for my upcoming English classes, purchased some kitchen supplies and had apparently spent my first £20 on a drunken spending spree to invest in a crappy beer pong table for our flat.
And yet, I still didn't have any bedsheets.
This was before anyone told me about the shops on Oxford Street.
Besides, I had already explored a great deal of the city of London. I was overjoyed to know that my apartment was a five minute walk away from National Theatre. I had explored the Maughan Library – King's College's Library – and was entranced by its gothic architecture. London Fashion Week was taking place at Somerset House, a courtyard away from the main building where my classes would be held. Jon even took the initiative and invited everyone in the flat to wander around Borough Market before following him on the Tube to shop at Camden. I made a friend named Amy – who was also studying abroad from Northwestern – and she and I walked to Barbican Centre and then made our way to Kensington where we took to walking up and down the escalators at Harrods.
I guess I could have technically bought some bedsheets at Harrods, but everything at Harrods is ridiculously over priced.
Essentially, from what I could piece together from our drunken night of shopping on Amazon, was that both Jon and I were appalled when we learned that none of our British flatmates had never played beer pong.
"We've seen them play it on American movies and TV," Chloe had told us. "But what exactly are the rules to beer pong?"
That question alone might have been our ticket to the deep end.
But at that moment, Jon and I weren't thinking about the consequences.
We were thinking that we were patriots, giving back to the British after we declared our independence from them.
Or something along the lines of that.
It's times like these when I start questioning my adulthood.
The general gameplay – as Jon explained to our British flatmates once the table, the beer and the cups were all setup – is when you have teams of two in which each team takes turns throwing a ping pong ball into the other team's cups. Once a ball lands in a cup, the cup is taken away and the opponent then drinks the contents of the cup. If both teammates hit cups, the balls are rolled back and they get to shoot again. The team that successfully shoots all of the opponent's cups, wins the game.
Then of course because there are so many variations on the game, you could incorporate rules like racks and bouncing, fingering and blowing, the Bitch Cup, or the Island Cup. And because Jon had played plenty of beer pong in the past he included ALL of those rules.
It looks like I am making the letter "L" with both of my arms as I relax my wrist and lob the ball into the nearest cup from where Chloe was standing. I'm good at this. I'm not great. My god-sister Leah always told me that when playing beer pong, "The art is always in the arch." Considering that I was a moderately all right basketball player – when you're five foot three your basketball positions are very limited – I was a moderately okay beer pong player.
The fact that I can shoot a ball into a cup 33 inches away from me is a source of no small amount of pride. Plus, as I scored again and again against Alice, Chloe and then later Mollie, I could tell that they were irked by the fact that their poor beer pong skills was topped by an American girl.
I do have to admit though, when Jon and I played against Rachel, she was a much better player than our flatmates. She actually respected the "art of the arch" and scored several times.
Jon invited his Northwestern buddies over to our flat. Connor, Mel, my friend Amy and a whole handful of people squeezed into our tiny kitchen to spend an evening playing beer pong.
It was Brits vs. Americans.
Brits vs. Brits.
Americans vs. Americans.
It was an international coalition of beer pong players!
The first and obvious noticeable change was the sight. After getting wasted and staggering back to our rooms, the next morning we would wake up and find the entire kitchen in a disarray. It looked like someone had raided our kitchen, and threw red solo cups everywhere on the ground. Because we would force our kitchen table and our chairs to the corner of the room, there would be this massive ping pong table dominating the kitchen. I would have to climb over it, or shove the damn table aside just to get to my cupboard of food and kitchen supplies underneath the sink.
Second was the smell. So much beer would be played every night on the beer pong table that the table itself was always sticky with the yeasty odor of the alcohol. The floor would be covered with it too. Worse, we would always reuse the red solo cups for other beer pong games and sometimes days would go by before we would realize that some of the cups were accumulating mold at the very bottom because no one thought of washing them out.
The aftermath of the beer pong extravaganzas got so bad that two weeks went by without anyone cleaning the kitchen and I could start smelling the stench of beer from my door down the hall from the kitchen. And my room was the furthest away from the kitchen!
Interestingly enough, if you give a bunch of native Brits a beer pong table, they'll ask you for the rules of the game. And in a matter of weeks, those native Brits will get really good at playing beer pong and practice and practice until they have achieved the "art of the arch." It was as if all of my British flatmates had dismissed their innate British ability of proper etiquette to go full out American wasted.
It's kinda the exact opposite of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.
The Brits laughed and laughed, Jon and I were already losing badly.
"Oh, what now you Yanks?" Alice yelled smugly out to Jon and I from across the beer pong table. "We're coming back to re-conoloize you. Yeah, that's right."
I think beer pong is game to encourage people to socialize together. What I like about it is that it's a display of talent. The game isn't whether you clear out all of the cups, it's a race as to whether you're talent as a shooter will last longer than the alcohol that is currently entering your system. It's not like basketball where its a game based solely on socially redeeming values. It's not a game where you exercise and throw a half court shot. Nope. Beer pong takes place under the loud hum of crappy fluorescent light bulbs or darkened basements or dorms at fraternity houses. Plus, you drink beer.
In other words, beer pong is a game that you play in your early to late twenties before you enter the adult world. While Jon and I were college juniors, our British flatmates were going to have three more years of nonstop drinking and partying until the real world would stick its ugly head into the doorway and usher them into figuring out how to adult.
For me, my life will always be full of shots. Not just shots I would have to make into someone's solo cup, but shots I would have to make to get the dream job that I want straight out of college, or the shot I will have to take when I am forced to rewrite a draft to one of my stories.
While my British flatmates felt the need to rush, to practice, to improve their tosses when it came to playing beer pong, I have come to appreciate the ease of beer pong. How light the ball feels in my hand when I throw it into my opponent's cup. How weightless that ball is, but how loud of an impact it makes when it flies perfectly into the cup.
Oh, and in case, anyone was wondering, I did eventually get some bed sheets later that month on Oxford Street.