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The Power of the Fake I.D.

On the heels of the release of his new book, Justin Taylor shares an unpublished coming-of-age story.

Brooklyn-based author Justin Taylor, the man behind the lauded collection of fiction Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever, shares a new unpublished story about getting a fake I.D. during his college days—and the havoc it wreaked. His new collection of stories, Flings, comes out this week.

The story:

This is a Florida story. My sophomore year of college, I got my hands on a fake I.D. that was unstoppable. It was my friend Peter's older brother Chris' first driver's license. The funny thing about it was that Chris and I didn't look anything like each other. He was taller than I was, had different eye color, a bit thinner, golden hair to just above his shoulders. It was the hair that did it, actually. For a lot of reasons either too esoteric or too obvious to get into here, I stopped cutting my hair as soon as I moved out of my parents' house, so when Pete went home for the summer after freshman year and found his brother's old license in a drawer, he realized that my hair was about the length of Chris' in the picture, and getting longer; plus, I'd grown a beard. I flashed that I.D. for three straight years, and the only time it was ever rejected was at a gas station by our house a couple of months after it expired. I'll never forget what the clerk said to me as I stood there with my beer in-hand: "Chris, man, I'm so sorry. I know you, man, but this is my job we're talking about."

But that was later. The story I want to tell is about sophomore year. I'd had the I.D. long enough to get comfortable with it. I was Chris. So me and Pete and a couple of other friends all drove over from Gainesville to Orlando to see a concert at the House of Blues. (Who was playing? I'm actually too embarrassed to say.) Since I was the only one of us who could order a drink "legally" (and since drinks at the Orlando House of Blues were criminally expensive anyway), we'd snuck a flask of whiskey in to the show with us, and though we'd done our best to be careful, HoB security clocked us almost immediately and soon sent their goons in. They grabbed me and Pete and hustled us outside, where we were delivered directly into the hands of two Orlando cops, who they'd gone ahead and called before nabbing us, just to be dicks.

Pete, the saner if not the more sober of the two of us, I remember as being apologetic, deferent to the officers. He was, quite reasonably, trying to keep us out of jail. I, on the other hand, was furious and indignant. I insisted that there had been a mistake, and as proof of this whipped out Chris' I.D. and thrust it into the hands of the cop nearer me, who took it along with my whole wallet, at which point it occurred to me how massively I'd fucked up. If he opened the wallet, I was obviously outed, and we were probably both sunk.

"Hey, this one's 21."

"And he was drinking with the other one?"

The cops told me I was going to be arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, i.e., Pete, and I realized that what I'd thought of a moment earlier as the massive fuck-up wasn't even the tip of the fucked iceberg. They were going to arrest me under a false name, charge Chris with a crime he hadn't committed in a place he hadn't even been, eventually the whole truth was going to come out, and I'd probably do time for identity theft, never finish college—

But in the end, it was Chris' I.D. that saved us. The other cop, the one who'd been dealing with Pete, put our two I.D.'s together and realized we were brothers and something about that fact made him suddenly sympathetic to us, plucked some heart strings—I don't know. Who can say what generosity lurked in the heart of that redneck nightshift meatball back that day a dozen years ago? All I can tell you is he talked his buddy down some, took me aside, and gave me a stern talking-to about the importance of looking out for my little brother. Of making sure he grew up right. On and on he went, and me agreeing with him just as fast as I could—yes, sir and yes, sir and thank you. I wondered who he was really talking to: his own older or younger brother, the father whose absence had forced siblings to try and raise each other. Maybe he was talking to his own kids.

Anyway, he gave us our I.D.'s back and me my wallet, unopened. I might be misremembering, but I think they actually said good night to us.

"Come on, bro," I said to Pete, and we walked off into the parking lot to sit on the hood of the car and wait for our friends to get out of the show.


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—Justin Taylor is the author of the story collections Flings and Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever and the novel The Gospel of Anarchy. He lives in Brooklyn and can be found at @my19thcentury and at justindtaylor.net.

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Image of author courtesy of David Benhaim.
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