I Am A Rock, I Am An Iiiiiiiiiislaaaand
Robbie was happy for his friends, yes, but he was also, well, kinda over it. He’d turned 37 in January and already had six Save The Dates stuck to his refrigerator for weddings that calendar year. Robbie wasn’t dumb, he understood the allure of wanting a committed human parter to watch movies with and eat spaghetti with spend your life with. He also wasn’t a dick. He liked the women and men his friends were marrying. But he felt strongly that time alone and unattached was so culturally underrated.
And Robbie wasn’t an introvert, either. He loved parties and festivals and all kinds of people. He loved to cliff jump and sky dive and rock climb. He just didn’t like having to plan those trips around another human’s work schedule, activity preferences, or dietary restrictions. He was trying to explain this to a group of his closest high school and college buddies on the first night of an epic bachelor party on Lake Austin in Texas in August of 2012.
“I’m happy this way,” Robbie shrugged while a friend pulled up ultrasounds pictures on his phone of his soon-to-be-born triplets. Robbie gestured to the screen,
“And I’m happy for you, dude. I truly am. But I do think that spending time with just yourself isn’t given enough credit. My practice is finally busy, I’m in my physical prime. I want to see my friends and the world and not the end of an alter.”
There were the expected guffaws of married and soon-to-be-married men but Robbie wasn’t fazed. He was used to being asked when he was going to “settle down” and it didn’t bother him now like it did five years before. Or, nobody thought it did. Robbie seemed perfectly happy with his life and his decisions as he brought a round of beers into the living room.
Eleven dudes were spread out in a well- equipped cabin catching up with each other. There was the usual banter of work and kids and who was going to compete in the Iron Man that year. A bunch of them had gotten into triathlons over the past decade and were not exactly shy about their competitive streaks. Robbie had taken some time to get through medical school, a year off here for travel and another year off there to intern in a developing country. Now he was finally building up his dermatology practice so he didn’t have the time to spend twenty a hours a week exercising which, from what he could tell, was what his friends were now doing. The night devolved into arm wrestling and then full-out wrestling and no one was thrilled when Jaden, the skinniest and least workout-obsessed of the entire group, won every time. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, as he coached three of his kids in the sport and was wearing a “Loxahachee Wrestling” T-shirt, but everyone was drunk enough that those facts sort of slipped by them.
“Tomorrow!” Declared Chris, the friend most annoyed by Jaden’s wins, “we’ll take this competition to the water. That’s where you make up time!” Everyone agreed even though no one had any idea of what kind of “time” Chris was referring to.
The next day was sunny and hot and promised to be perfect lake weather. The guys dragged their hungover asses to their rental cars as Robbie admonished everyone to bring sunscreen while Jaden stretched in the driveway. One by one, the dudes straggled out. They overdid it the night before because, as Robbie not so gently pointed out, none of them went out enough.
The drive to the lake was short and uneventful. Austin was quiet. That year, the Southern US was unfortunately suffering from the worst drought in a century and the lake was clocking in at sadly low levels. By 10am, it was hotter than balls (this is the official interpretation from Jaden’s weather app) and the guys hopped on the boat at the rental place ready to crack open a few beers and have some fun. And, obviously, to find some girls.
“Where are the girls?” Asked Jaden to the man on the dock.
“A bachelorette party left, oh, say, thirty minutes ago,” the very sunburned man handing out life preservers let them know, “and, be careful of rocks. Water’s so damn low, you should be able to see all of them, but, ya know, keep your eyes peeled.” He smiled with a mouth full of gold teeth and patted the side of his waistband absentmindedly, possibly revealing the outline of a handgun.
Remember, Robbie told himself, Stay in your lane. You are, after all, in Texas.
The man could have been 30 or 75 for all anyone could tell and it took a lot of Robbie’s self control to not point out an oddly shaped mole on his neck. Hazzards of the profession….
Carl, the bachelor of the group, pulled out a map of the lake. By some very hungover and not at all scientific calculations, he deduced that the likelihood of finding more party people would be greatly increased if they headed West. So, West they went.
They kept the boat towards the center of the lake, afraid of how shallow the water would be anywhere else. They dodged branches and rocks poking up from the surface and crowded under the surf boat’s awning to stay out of the blazing sun, now directly overhead.
“There have got to be other people, other boats out here,” Pete, the party magnet, remarked to no one in particular.
“It’s Austin. It’s August. It’s a freaking Saturday. There have got to be some other people out here.” And Pete was not wrong. As if the party gods were listening to his every word, suddenly their boat turned around a bend and twenty yards in front of them were people. Maybe a dozen of them. And they were swimming around and sitting on… a rock. Not a small island with vegetation or a banana stand. No, just a rock protruding from the water that would have been invisible had the lake been at a normal level of water.
“Land Ahoy!” Pete yelled out to Jaden who was driving the boat with one hand and doing a tequila shot with the other. Robbie squinted into the devastating Texas sun. The water looked clear and inviting. He was so used to doing exactly what he wanted without checking in with another human, that it only took seconds for him to pull of his New York Jets hat and execute a perfect dive into the lake. He swam to the rock, watching four other friends overtake him in serious dedication to their promise of racing the night before. By the time he came up for air, he could see that the other rock-visitors were guys just like them. Dudes who were also looking for the alleged bachelorette boat, and, dudes who were also into triathlons and wanting to race.
Oh god, thought Robbie, these guys are ridiculous.
Robbie turned onto his back to float in the peaceful lake. He felt his body gently bobbing up and down, supported by the water, and felt like he could breathe in the sunlight, grateful for the SPF 60 that he had applied so liberally that morning. Something about the lake and the heat totally relaxed him. He felt the muscles in his back release. He thought about how much work it had taken to get his dermatology practice to a place where he now had seven doctors working under him. He thought about how grateful he was to have taken his time getting there. The little sun spots shining through his closed eyelids reminded him of a trip to Marrakech where he performed cleft lip surgery. Robbie was grateful for his life. His gratitude was so pure, so sincere, so deep, that he floated for longer than he thought. He didn’t know this because he had a watch or knew how to tell time though the sun’s placement in the sky. No. He knew this because when he swam back to the other side of the rock…
Everyone was gone.
He couldn’t even see the boat through the trees sticking up on all sides of the lake. Now Robbie was alone. In a lake. On a rock. With no cellphone, no water, and, he tried not to freak out, no more sunscreen.
Robbie tried cupping his hands around his mouth and yelling, “YOU FUCKERS WHERE ARE YOU?”
But he couldn’t even hear the echo of his own voice. He thought that he should get back in the water, maybe swim to the shore? But he wasn’t a competitive swimmer. It was over a mile at least, maybe two, and Robbie wasn’t in shape for that. Furthermore, he’d seen how Jaden had been driving the boat and was sure that there were other drunken idiots cruising around the water and knew getting hit by a speedboat would be the end of him. Robbie submerged himself in the water and held onto the rock, willing his idiot friends to come back soon.
On the boat, his idiot friends were having a ball. They’d recently discovered Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg’s SNL sketch, I’m On A Boat. And even though they couldn’t remember any of the other lyrics, repeating that one line over and over and over seemed to make them all crack up as though they’d just heard it for the first time. Yay, beer.
They drove the boat over to the West side of the lake as Pete had initially suggested. No one was there. Then they drove North where they found a small boat dock with gas and cold-ish six packs and loaded up on both of those. At checkout, Chris tried to do a little non-creepy re-con as to where the alleged bachelorette party could be.
“Y’all lookin’ for some GIRLS?” The man behind the counter who looked even more like a pirate than the first sunburned man at the boat rental place, said with a wink.
“Actually,” Pete was really good at correcting people and maintaining control over the narrative, “you see, it’s my buddy’s bachelor party and we’re just looking to have a good time.”
“Course y’are,” the pirate said with another wink. It might have been a twitch. One could have described him as a twitchy fellow. He also may have had a gun but Robbie was obviously not there to be the only one to notice.
“Gotta go to the South. There’s a little cove when you get past the trees. Everyone’s favorite swimming spot.”
The guys shrugged, cracked open another beer, hopped in the boat and tried to find “South.”
The cove wasn’t hard to find. Because there were people there. The same people who’d they’d met at the rock. The other triathlon-loving bachelor party on the lake in Austin. Pete was going to get to the bottom of the situation.
“Yo!” He called out to the guys, gesturing for Jaden to switch off the motor. They waved back.
“Have you guys seen any girls out here? Like, a bachelorette party?”
No. They hadn’t. Yes, they’d been looking. A guy at the gas station had told them to come here. Pete chuckled to himself at the idea that there were zero women in zero boats on this lake with almost zero water and that weird, sun-fried old Texan men had put them up on a wild goose chase.
“It doesn’t matter,” Pete said to his buds, “let’s let Robbie decide since he’s the only single guy here.”
Pete looked around for Robbie’s smiling, well- sunscreen-ed face. It was, of course, not there.
Nope. The confusion that followed was only funny in retrospect. It took these marathon-running, smart, educated guys way too long to search the 20-foot motor boat for their friend who, obviously, did not turn up.
“WHERE THE FUCK IS ROBBIE?” Jaden asked his tequila bottle.
“Didn’t you leave a dude back at the rock?” One of the other bachelor party guys asked with utter sincerity.
“Green shorts, lots of sunscreen? He was just chilling and floating when we left.”
Our hero’s shared a very long, very drawn out “OH SHIT” to each other, immediately starting up the boat, leaving without thanking the man.
But did they know where they were going? Did they know how to navigate from the cove to the dock to the rock in Lake Austin 30 beers and an entire tequila bottle in? No. And we have no way of knowing how long it took them to find their friend. Sixteen plays of Timberlake and Samberg singing “I’m on a boat?” How many wrong turns and curse words and dialing of Robbie’s phone which they could hear ringing in his beach bag but called over and over anyway? Oh god, who knows. But they did, eventually find the rock.
It wasn’t hard. And it wasn’t the rock they saw first. It was a boat much cooler than theirs. With a lot of people on it. And all those people were in bikinis. Except for the one gentleman drinking out of a faux-coconut cup in freshly applied sunscreen. Someone had been unlucky enough to have been left on a rock in the middle of a Texas lake by his drunk friends, yes. But he'd also been the only one lucky enough to have had a few hours to party with the bachelorettes.
Robbie is still, eleven years later, pissed at his moron friends for leaving him on the rock. You know who’s not pissed? Becca, his now - fiancé who was the one who saw him that day and got her friends to pull over.
Robbie still gets to do stuff, he wasn’t castrated or shackled at the end of the alter. Now he has someone to do it with. He’d like us to tell you that he’s not having a bachelor party. But, we have a feeling that Pete has other ideas.