Senior year was in full swing, pumping blood and running wherever it took us. We found independence together before we’d have to find it on our own come Fall. We saw our parents and our teachers less and less. I had just spent my first New Years away from home — maybe the last time I enjoyed the taste of champagne. So throwing a party on Purge Night was logical with just a few months left in our last year of high school. It was our time, and it’s not like the purge was the way it was five years ago. It was fine.

Purge Night was on a Tuesday that Spring, a school night. We had AP Lit homework that we weren’t gonna do — purge or no purge. Most of our parents agreed to the party, so long as Evan’s dad hung out in the guesthouse. Pretty much everyone was there except for Ashley, which sucked. I wouldn’t get a more romantic opportunity to be with her before graduation. She didn’t even know that I liked her at that point. Well, she probably knew. When that Soulja Boy song came on, I sent her a Snap of the fire pit and drew a sad face over it. I swiped through all the Purge Night filters, but there weren’t any good ones.

We got a bunch of alcohol but we were mostly purge drunk. Our usual fear of the cops coming met the even scarier reality that they definitely weren’t. Downstairs, a pot of soil had been dumped out on the center of the beer pong table. Surely a blue baptisia had once been planted in it — the official flower of the purge that kids nowadays smashed like jack-o-lanterns. Upstairs, someone had torn the head off of the life-sized stuffed gorilla Evan’s girlfriend won him at the state fair last summer. It bled an endless stream of tiny, styrofoam beads that filled the hallway up past our ankles. Out on the deck, there was a paperback of The Poisonwood Bible charred on the grill next to some uneaten shrimp.

I checked Snapchat. Ashley had opened the Snap but no response. I sloshed through the styrofoam beads and climbed out Evan’s bedroom window onto the roof. Sam was already sitting out there lighting a blunt. I sat down and we passed the blunt back and forth for a bit, both of our arms crossed on our knees, staring out at the neighborhood we were slowly growing apart from.

I got a Snap notification from Ashley and opened it right away. It was a snap of a page from our second grade yearbook. The black and white picture showed the two of us sitting at a table getting our faces painted Christmas style staring blankly at the photographer. I replayed the Snap and thought about screencapping it but let it go. The less that was left around in the morning the better, I guess.

“Growing up is like purging,” I said.

“Yeah,” Sam agreed, teary-eyed and still, as a trail of smoke snuck up his fingers from the cherry of the blunt. “Life is the longest purge.”

I used that as my senior quote.

— Keaton Ventura