My first week at college…I think it was my third day…I found myself inarguably drunk at a bar with some of my new insta-friends. This establishment–just off of Washington Square–would serve anyone with an NYU ID. Birth dates and legal drinking ages did not matter.
My drinking experience was limited to a few theoretically raging high school parties. The idea of ordering a drink of one’s choosing was amazing. I was accustomed to consuming whatever my friends had managed to scrounge together (imagine a lot of Zima and fruity liqueurs). So I ordered almost every drink I had ever observed being consumed in movies. All of that hard-earned summer job money, spent on gin & tonics, rum & cokes, and an ill-advised bottom shelf martini. “College is going to be amazing!”
One minute I was sitting in the corner laughing with some musical theatre majors. And then I was sitting on a bench in Union Square with a boy from Dartmouth. I was in the midst of listing of my excuses for not making out with him, when I suddenly realized where I was.
“How did we get here?”
In a car, of course.
“I was in a car?”
I rubbed my eyes, hoping that action would magically transport me to my dorm on Washington Square West.
Instead my feet did the job. I waved goodbye to my companion, as he mumbled something about NYU girls being “crazy bitches.” I sang Liz Phair songs as I walked along, hoping the horrible racket would keep me conscious.
Despite my best efforts, I could never remember meeting that guy. I can’t imagine why we went to Union Square.
This is the only time I have very blacked out at the hands of alcohol. I’ve become a master of the art of “Passing Out Before I Do Anything Regrettable (Yet Easily Erased from My Memory).”
Drugs are another story. Tablets and powders blur my memories with the greatest of ease. Conversations and pictures are shredded before they can be carefully filed away. I am left with only scrambled up bits of sentences and headless strangers.
As soon as I open my eyes this morning, I know that I did something foolish last night. No, it isn’t the realization that I am still wearing leather pants and a cut up t-shirt, my outfit for the previous evening. And I am unfazed by my unplugged telephone. I don’t care about Ryan’s absence. Even the smell of stale liquor seeping out of my pores means nothing to me.
I can’t remember what I did last night. I have no idea where I went. Or who I saw. What I said.
I rub my head. Really hard. Practically scalping myself. I swear this helps me remember things.
I’m trying to make a straight line along my lashes with a 99 cent eyeliner, when Ryan bursts into the bathroom. “Guess what I have in my pocket?”
I’m hoping it’s a few hundred dollars to buy me a plane ticket home for Christmas. Or the earring I lost at his house last week. Really, I would be satisfied with a handful of kitten stickers.
I feign naiveté. And I slip into my “Delight” face when he reveals the true contents of his linty pocket: $500 worth of Ecstasy. All of my energy is required to hold back my urge to roll my eyes. I’m holding my breath so I won’t scoff or sigh. The ever skillful actress.
Well, now I know why last night has slipped into a black hole.
I stumble out of my bedroom. I smell really, really bad. One more side effect of drugs. Weird metallic body odor.
My bathroom mirror reveals smeared makeup and puffy eyes. And yes, my contacts are still in my eyes. Except the magic of sleep has transformed them into splintery bits of glass. Time for a shower.
Lathering up my hair…I can see us walking into a bar on Ashland. Somewhere I have never been before. Everyone is there. The birthday of someone I pretend to know. Wait, the birthday girl does seem to really know ME. Ryan disappears into the bathroom with some of our friends. Cash and pills will be exchanged.
It’s my job to buy drinks for us. I am so thirsty, because I took 1.5 tablets of Ecstasy. Ryan’s really into half doses. Precision. Calibration. He fancies himself a pharmacist.
I buy myself a double cocktail. An entire pint glass. I down it in record time, before I even have a chance to walk away from the bar. I order another. And then I start talking to some guys standing nearby. They are asking me something about the band on my shirt. I have a lot to say. It’s all a bunch of grandiose “blahblahblah,” but they seem impressed. Suddenly I’m so social and charming.
I hit a wall. I can’t remember what happens next.
Brushing my teeth and removing the mascara that the shower missed. I’m trying to so hard to pick up the story thread. My head is starting to hurt.
I’m staring at my eyes–bloodshot and tired–when I catch a glimpse of Ryan’s face. I have lost track of time. He’s probably wondering where his drink is. When I approach the table, he is sitting with Andy. His eyes are all pupil. He looks like he has seen proof of God. He is ecstatic (no pun intended). I’m jealous. I feel pretty great, but he is somewhere else altogether. I guess that’s the difference between 1.5 and 2.5.
“Guess what? Andy and I have something to tell you.”
I foolishly ask, “What?”
And then I swept away by a paragraph with no punctuation. One long sentence. I only catch the important phrases. “Well, Andy and I know we aren’t gay” and “it’s just really important to try everything once, right?” And then the last part. “So, I’m going to stay at his house tonight and just see what happens.”
For the first time in months, I don’t care if I look confused or surprised or horrified. My face is betraying my true feelings. I choke down the rest of my drink…because at least I can’t say something stupid while I’m swallowing. Hopefully some of things I want to say will be washed away.
I put my glass on the table, before walking away. Out the door. Down the block. I unlock my bike.
I sigh as I shuffle to the kitchen to make coffee. Yet another night of coming home alone. Or rather, sneaking out because I know experiencing another minute of jealousy and sadness will just kill me.
It’s so cold as I bike up Ashland. I’ve left my coat behind. Taking it would have only revealed my intention to leave.
A wave of desperation washes over me. I swear I can feel it as it happens, slapping my face with its icy crest.
Oh fuck. I’m never going to escape any of this. I tried to kill myself, and even that didn’t work. I’ll never be free of Ryan or drugs or regrets. I need him in this way that betrays all logic. In a way that betrays me.
I have to burn this bridge. I have to do something so terrible, so unforgivable, that he will be forced to set me free. But I don’t want to sleep with any of his friends. And I don’t want to lie to him. Only something terrible will finally sever these seemingly indestructible shackles. I won’t be able to forgive myself for a crime of the required proportions.
Tears are making it hard to see the lines on the road and I’m just telling myself to finish the trip home. I’m almost there.
The sight of the unplugged phone, tossed in the middle of the floor reminds me of my last moments before falling asleep.
I struggle to get my bike up the stairs. This forces even more tears from my eyes. I swear I’ve never felt this sad before. Ever.
Soon I’m in the kitchen, drinking gin from the freezer. Many gulps later, the bottle returns to its home next to the ice tray.
In my room, picking up the phone. Dialing Ryan’s number. I don’t want him to worry. He will check his answering machine as soon as I notices my absence. I’ll say something cheery. I will not share my sadness. He will think that I had the best night ever. Alone. After sneaking out of the bar. No really, I’m fine.
The beep indicating my turn to talk catches me by surprise. I’m not sure what to say.
“I came home because I can feel all of the threads that hold everything together are ripping apart. Can you feel it? I’m going to call a psychiatrist tomorrow because I know that my grip on everything is slipping, slipping, slipping. I’m not who you think I am. No one knows who I really am. I am wearing fifty masks and you’ve never seen my true face. And now I’m going to unplug the phone and go to sleep. So call me tomorrow.”
I think I forgot my lines. It always falls apart in the second act.