When I take to reflection, no one Purge night seems to stand out from the others. Perhaps that’s the natural curve of a catharsis: relief followed by a sudden widening of focus, heightened senses, an ability to take it all in. My birthday falls exactly one month after the annual Purge, and for me, purging itself has grafted into the birthday ritual of self-assessment. I imagine the same is true for everyone who purges, regardless of birthdate, because really the Purge is all about taking stock of one’s basic needs, and attending to them through assertive and self-preserving action. It’s a time to sure up our personal borders, and to be strong in oneself. Joan Didion wrote an essay on this subject for Vogue that I find helpful, and often recommend to friends who are ambivalent on the subject of purging… I think I have a copy around here somewhere.

The first purge I remember well was in the early days. It stands out only because one of my younger cousins (the runt, whom I’d been teasing all weekend) actually tried to purge me. I was ten at the time, and he seven or eight, so it would be a bit crass to go into the details. Suffice to say, his attempt to purge failed. My mother’s subsequent attempt on him did not, and for this reason my extended family no longer gather on purge night.

Immediate-family purges were the norm from then on—until my junior year of high school, when my parents were unexpectedly, miraculously, to be out of the country during the Purge vacation. This meant I’d be allowed to spend Purge at school with my friends, rather than Locked Down at home—always a huge drag, because over the Purge long weekend there were no assignments, curfew was extended, and the campus food was mysteriously edible. There was also a Purge dance that was basically unchaperoned, and rumored to be anything goes in spirit.

“The Binge” was our reclaimed nickname for the evening because, compared with the usual standards of order and discipline, our teenage lawlessness became a purge of its own, separate from the rest. What’s more, we were at the age where having parents who didn’t care about you was the height of chic, and with the majority of students at home enjoying traditional purge nights with their families, only the coolest kids were left to “binge.” It was the social event of the year, and it was mine to savor. Or at least it would have been, were it not for Richard Ashe.

There was no government-issued siren to sound over New Hampshire’s peacefully thawing hills. Instead, the parochial block of granite constituting our campus chapel announced the commencement of the Purge in a school-wide ceremony, its modest bells straining above us. Built in the school’s hodgepodge spirit to resemble an English country church, the chapel leant a certain medieval glamour to the familiar warning. By candlelight, under the watchful eyes of the deans; this is how the Purge began.

After some announcements forbidding any and all unsanctioned rule-breaking—including murder—the select Women’s Choral Ensemble performed a Britten arrangement, something lugubrious from War Requiem, and we rose for the school hymn. Scanning the crowd I sought out Blaine, whose handsome, unseasonably tanned face I soon made out in the shadows of the transept. He seemed to be looking straight across the nave to where the seniors stood, and following his gaze I picked out Richard’s own candlelit face, grinning back at him with saccharine malice. His tongue poked lewdly at the inside of his cheek as he mouthed the part about the “dark satanic mills.” I watched his features arranging themselves into an expression of mock spiritual fervor. After the last, thundering notes of Jerusalem died, we were seated again, and then dismissed.

Through the pulsing throngs I was able to catch Blaine’s eye as he stood in line near an exit. I jabbed a finger in the direction of my dormitory before turning to follow the procession into the inky March twilight.

I was alone then, in my narrow, high-ceilinged dorm room. Naim, my roommate, had been whisked back to Ankara for the week by his parents. Drawing the shade, I swooned at the sudden, electric privacy. You’re never alone at boarding school. Not while you’re sleeping. Not in the shower. Not on the toilet. There’s always someone near. Last fall when I discovered a small, unused bathroom in the basement of the north-wing of my dormitory, I felt like I’d stepped out from a cave into Shangri-La. All year I’d been frequenting the place for long, undisturbed showers… or shits… as well as, lately, for other private activities.

Unfortunately, our prefect Richard—we all called him Dick—had discovered and claimed that bathroom as his own sometime over Christmas break. He’d since caught Blaine giving me head there during a Junior class assembly, which of course we were cutting. The punishment had been merciless.

Blaine and I had been best friends for lacrosse season, three years running. He was kind, a born athlete and straight-A student, a follower of the rules. It pulled at my heartstrings to see him go pale at this fall from grace, especially at the hands of that ass-kissing jerk. To get us off the hook I’d cut a deal with vile Dick Ashe, the terms of which involved my serving detention through assisting him with various domestic tasks. In exchange he had agreed to keep mum about us, though judging from my classmates’ stares I’m not sure he did.

This arrangement became too odious to bear when Dick decided that I would also miss the Binge dance to help him “monitor” the dorm. Unnecessary; absurd. The only person left in the dorm on such a night would be greasy little Kip Minton, reading Proust in the lounge and mouthing the words aloud to himself. The Purge was coming, and I knew it was time to take matters into my own hands.

I pulled off my tie in a deliberate, burlesque gesture, and smiled, remembering Blaine’s eagerness to help my plot along. This was partially grateful and affectionate—and partially self-serving, since his breathless alacrity had really turned me on, and I had anticipated this night as a virgin with a slut date anticipates high school prom. I removed my Blazer, undid my belt and shirt, and let my khakis drop down to my ankles. Stepping out of them, I switched on my desk lamp, walked to the window and raised the blinds. I glimpsed my reflection there, white boxers silhouetted in the green glow of the banker’s lamp, before raising the window sash and climbing into the top bunk to wait.

Any other Friday night my roommate would’ve been up there masturbating, his bulk shifting the bunk beds in slow oscillations while I sat below doing homework or watching a DVD on my laptop. I was just beginning to wonder how the Purge went down in Turkey when a rustling at the window caught my breath. Fingers emerged from the darkness, and clutched at the windowsill. A grunt came forth, followed shortly by Blaine, who pulled himself through the narrow opening with improbable grace. He landed softly on the floor with his legs folded beneath him.

“He’s coming,” he whispered, quite excited. “I pretended not to see him when I passed the porch, but he’s following me for sure—thinks he’s being really sneaky.”

Through the window I could indeed see Dick Ashe’s stooped figure skirting the portico, his backside clearly visible above the low balustrade. He seemed to think it was was concealing him.

“What a dumbass,” I murmured, as Blaine flattened himself against a dark corner. “At least we know that freak won’t have any trouble reaching.”

Blaine stifled a giggle. Outside I saw Dick lope across a short stretch of lawn to crouch outside the window; he paused for what seemed like a while, probably debating his entrance. Then— there he was, grunting and heaving himself up. In the green light his face looked bloated and reptilian. He hissed some line about knowing that the only thing the two of us wanted to “binge” on was dick.

Wrong, Dick. I slammed the heavy sash down across his back, pinning him to the sill with a satisfying crunch. His whole body tensed up, front row seat to an electrocution, and he began to buck and toss, rather like a fish on the deck of a boat. He didn’t speak but offered instead a few wheezy syllables, strained and bemusing and beautiful as music.

Blood roared in my ears as I leapt down from the top bunk. Blaine was already approaching the window with a field hockey stick—roommate Naim also played men’s field hockey, this was private school—and as he brought his first, powerful stroke down, I thought of the Maenads, the savage Greeks that we’d read about in Euripides. In Dionysian frenzy, they descended upon their victims to tear them apart. This was my first true purge— and like a first love, I will always remember it more powerfully than any other.

— Arthur Gobillot