I struggled to hold in the Taaka Vodka and Kool-Aid filling my bladder as I swung open the door of the Porta John, and what I saw made me lose a few drops in my khakis. Sitting atop the plastic throne was Pudge with his pastel green pants around his ankles. Straddling him was his equally-portly date, her pink floral print sundress hiked up over her bare, pasty ass. The round and lovely couple was fast asleep — a pair of Easter eggs nestled in a basket of shit.
Carolina Cup is one of the most cherished traditions at universities across South Carolina. Every spring, students descend en masse upon a large, grassy clearing in the otherwise sparsely populated countryside of Kershaw County. Rows of white tents are jam-packed with people in their finest Sunday dress, drinking and grinding and vomiting. Technically, it’s a horse race, but as everyone says on the dizzy bus ride home, “I didn’t see a single horse.” Older folks may flock to the lone grandstand to catch a glimpse of the D-list stallions before they snap their legs and end up in a tortilla at a local Taco Bell, but for the youthful, the event is about emptying the contents of their painted coolers down a liquor luge as fast as possible, then finger-blasting their dates in broad daylight. It’s the Kenfucky Derby, and everybody’s a winner.
When we arrived and hopped off our charter bus, I walked hand-in-hand with my date, pulling my cooler behind me as we headed towards my fraternity flag billowing in the distance amidst a flurry of rival colors. The surrounding scene was one of decadence and depravity. Men shouted and wrestled and made vulgar gestures at passersby from the beds of pickup trucks. Women cried and took selfies and lied unconscious in bales of hay. Everybody was dressed to the pinnacle of southern gentility: bowties and suspenders and big floppy hats uncharacteristic of their behavior. My fraternity brother, Balls, sprinted past me. He wore one of those plastic horse masks and was howling like a lunatic.
When I reached the shade of our tent, the party was already in full swing. People bumped and grinded as rap music blared through crackling speakers pushed to their limits. Brothers hoisted women up for keg stands, jokingly pretending to cover their eyes as the undercarriages of their dresses went sunny side up. A few pledges stood cooling the liquor luge with mini handheld fans, an exercise in futility and degradation.
“Boooosh!!” Sendawg called. He danced with a group of people on top of a table.
I grabbed my date by the hand and went to join them, but before I could hop up, the metal legs of the table buckled and the group collapsed to the ground, tossing PJ all over themselves. Suddenly, a stern voice pierced the air.
Just outside of our tent, a police officer pulled Nettles off of a golf cart labeled “Security” and whipped out his handcuffs. Blake stood nearby with his phone trained on the ordeal, shouting something about “unnecessary force” and majoring in pre-law. He was soon detained, as well. Then, someone tapped me on the shoulder.
“Dude. We gotta go to the horse race,” Dirty Dill said.
“What? Noone actually watches the –“
We made our way to the side of the track and pushed to the front of the crowd. We watched a flock of horses sprint by. Then another. The nasally, monotone voice of the announcer droned from a loudspeaker mounted to a post.
“Coming around the bend is Rapid Step, followed closely by Gunner and Morning Flash.”
I turned to Dill to express my disinterest when, suddenly, I saw Balls out of the corner of my eye, horse mask and all, straddling the fence.
“No. Fucking. Way.”
In an instant, Balls was over the fence, then over a second fence. He sprinted on a beeline for the pack of horses approaching from about 100 yards out, the plastic jowls of his mask flopping wildly from side to side. The somber crowd turned rabid. Almost instantly, three big men in bright yellow jackets were fast on Balls’ trail. The announcer continued to narrate the real race, the events of which happened to fit in perfect synch with the impromptu race unfurling before us.
“Will they catch him? It looks like they might! He’s been a leader all day but now he might be…”
As Balls came within 50 yards of the real steeds, he made a hard cut and started running alongside them. Two more guards had now joined the pursuit, coming in hot from the opposite direction.
“They’re gaining on him now… could this be it!?”
Balls turned towards the crowd and threw his hands in the air when he was blindsided by a man in yellow and pile-drived into the ground. The three other guards dog-piled on top.
“And Gunner takes the lead!”
The crowd gave Balls a thunderous ovation as he was led back to the sidelines, a guard on each arm. The horse mask was ripped from his head. He stuck his tongue out for the sea of adoring fans, then yelled at the top of his lungs into the clear blue sky..