If you drink enough beer, things that didn’t seem appealing in the starkly sober light of day, things that didn’t interest you in the least, start to become the focus of your inebriated obsessions. Things like hot pockets, toothpaste brands, the names of your kindergarten teacher’s twin sons. Things like pollen build-up along the curbs in the parking lot. Things like Mace.

When I was twenty one I lived in an ‘undesirable’ neighborhood. The kind of neighborhood where you could peek out your front window to see drug deals and old ladies smashing windshields to powder with a purse full of bricks. My roommate at the time was an oft-deployed infantryman who was extremely invested in the armed forces lifestyle. I would come home to find him lying on the living room floor wrapped in a gilly suit (an outfit designed to turn you into a pile of foliage) pressing bullets for his sniper rifle.

Before leaving for a tour of Iraq he put together a ‘home security kit’ for me. It contained, among other things, flares, a hunting knife, the largest flashlight I had ever seen, and a police strength canister of Mace. I squirreled these items away around the apartment per his instructions and promptly forgot about them until a muggy summer’s night a few months later.

That night me and my friend Alex were sitting on the back porch drinking cans from a case of black label and watching a group of people scream and shove each other in a dusty parking lot down below. As a gunshot cracked through the air we both jumped and looked at each other with wide eyes. Then, because beer makes fear brief and because no one appeared to have intercepted the bullet, we laughed it off and cracked open a fresh set of beers. He asked if I ever got nervous living in such a sketchy area and I explained to him that I had nothing to fear because of the ‘home security’ tools hidden around the house. He thought for a second and then said ‘You know… I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to get Maced…’

Three minutes later I was wedged tightly against the far wall of the kitchen aiming out the door to the porch where Alex was bracing himself against the railing. We figured if we got some good distance between us that he would get just a touch of the mist and be able to control how much of a ‘true riot experience’ he really wanted to have. I centered my shot on his drunkenly smiling face and jammed down the button.

Mace, it ends up, does not come out in a gentle cloud akin to hairspray. Instead it comes out in a thick, dark red jet. My aim was tragically true; instead of the cloudy haze that he could back in and out of to control the burn he got a high pressure jet straight to the face. His beer hit the floor and started to gush over the edge as he slapped his hands to his eyes and started shrieking. As I ran through the space between us my vision clouded as my own eyes and nose started to tingle and pour. I pulled his hands down to see that his lids were already swollen shut and wherever the liquid had made contact his skin was a livid shade of purple.

He was screaming and clawing at his face. He couldn’t stop. I tuned into drunken emergency mode and decided we needed some ouside assistance. I dialed the hospital a couple of miles down the road and told them that me and my friend had been mugged and Maced. While lying is unpleasant this seemed a little more dignified than having decided to spend the night lighting each others’ mucus membranes on fire. They told me to bring him right in. As we sped our way towards the E.R. he lolled his head out the window like a dog and begged me not to stop driving for anything because the breeze was keeping him alive. I guiltily obliged and whipped through the first red light we came to. Sirens blared and as I pulled over to the curb Alex popped from the car and began doing a pain dance on the sidewalk. I started to explain why I was driving like a maniac when the two officers caught sight of Alex’s flaming visage and said ‘Oh shit, you’re the kids who got Maced. Go head, get going!’.

When we arrived at the hospital the nurses catered to us with sympathtic cluckings, gave us juice, and flushed alex’s face out for the next hour while asking us all about the details of our attack. The combination of the attention and the eye wash station soothed his panic and we headed home. I shifted shamefully in my seat imagining how much pain he must still be in given that my nose was continuing to run like I had a chunk of wasabi lodged in it. Then I thought of a way to make it up to him.

‘You know..’ I said, ‘I have some flares at home we could play with….’