There’s something about looking back on your personal timeline, through photos and clear-as-day memories, and finding yourself disappointed with what you see, that’s so thoroughly, irrevocably sad. Even coming from a place of happiness or fullness, it’s hard not to feel a pull that’s deeper than regret when there are moments in your past that make you upset about yourself.
“I’m bored. It’s Friday night, and I’m bored. I feel like this is summer camp or something,” said Camilla, her enviably long legs draped over the armrests of an under-stuffed faux-leather chair.
It’s two weeks into school, and apparently we’re not very good at being college students. Our social activities have, thus far, consisted of far too many orientation programs and seemingly endless awkward ice breakers. I’ve met a lot of people, Camilla included, but very few interactions have gone beyond a brief meet-and-greet. What happened to the wild parties I was promised? If I’m honest, I have never tried alcohol before. Ever. I can’t tell if that’s a badge of honor or a mark of freshman naiveté. Both, probably.
My hall neighbor saunters by, waving and smiling vaguely in our direction. Stricken suddenly with a burst of outgoing energy, I hop up and call after her. She’s come home hungover the past two nights, which I take as incontrovertible proof that there are, in fact, parties to be found.
“Nora! Wait! What are you doing tonight? I’m so bored,” I intone, rolling my eyes and flopping to the side in an exaggerated motion.
“You know it’s Friday, right? There’s no bored on weekends! You should come out with me!” Nora grins and grabs my wrist, pulling me toward our hall. I look back and motion for Camilla to follow, smiling widely at my accomplishment. We’re finally going to ingratiate ourselves with the extracurricular wonders of higher education.
The first two weeks at Halston College have been relatively underwhelming; I didn’t come in with any solid preconceived notions of what my experience would be like, but I certainly thought my induction into this little society would be more exciting. I had never been a party animal, aside from a curious and oddly covert sip of beer (which I found disgusting) at a high school classmate’s house during my senior year. But this was the new me, the college me, and I felt like that should mean something. New me probably loved beer.
Camilla, Nora and I walked into my room. We all stared dubiously at my closet. I owned nothing that could be considered college party-appropriate, just a lot of American Eagle and an absurd amount of workout clothes. Camilla, embarrassed for the both of us, dragged me back down the hall to her room and told Nora we’d return when we were dressed.
“You can wear my clothes. Try these on,” Camilla tossed a pair of leggings and a long blue tank top in my direction. I stared doubtfully at Camilla’s significantly taller frame, but grudgingly pulled on the new clothing.
Upon Camilla’s suddenly-experienced instruction, I returned to my room to grab a pair of never-used high heels. I slipped them on, and was shocked by my appearance in the mirror. The college environment, at least when first experienced, seems to have a polarized transformative effect on self-esteem; I’d gone through the whole anorexia thing in high school, and I still had a residual level of self-disgust, but looking at myself in the mirror in that moment, I felt different. I was confident, suddenly, which is never a word that could have described me in the past. Long black leggings, combined with the impossibly tall heels, made my short legs look long and toned. Grinning again, I wobbled back down the hall to Camilla’s room. She was wearing a short green dress and black ballet flats; her long legs didn’t need the help of heels. We both smiled with the knowledge that our first college party was upon us. We were ready.
College parties at a small liberal arts school are, apparently, vastly divergent from the national stereotype. I didn’t have a clear picture in my head of exactly what I was expecting, but there were certainly more people involved in my vague preconceived notion. Camilla and I hesitantly followed Nora’s confident stride into a diminutive little house; had we not known we were still on the College’s campus, it would have been a place I would have been warned against entering. Nora yelled and ran into the arms of a slurring, muscular junior wearing an odd assortment of clothing; I would later learn that frumpy, geriatric-looking outfits in varying shades of neon were the new norm for college men. Let’s be honest, they can’t yet be considered “men”.
Nora gestured vaguely in our general direction, and her friend refocused his bleary eyes on Camilla and I. He lumbered forward, his arms spread wide in a drunken gesture of welcome.
“Ladies! You need beer.” This was more like my mental image.
As we wound our way towards an unidentified part of the house, we passed a multitude of unfamiliar faces; it was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. I always liked being in control of my own actions, and my idea of what exactly alcohol would do to me was on display all around me. People were close-talking in corners, easy flirting was happening everywhere I looked, girls were yelling excitedly as their friends paraded through the doors. And everything was dark, except for sporadic flashes of a strobe light that seemed to be reluctant in acquiescing to its role as a mood-setter.
Our acquaintance gradually lead us to what I knew, from my limited experience, was a keg. Camilla and I looked at each other nervously, both wanting desperately to pretend we knew what we were supposed to do.
“Pump!” Yelled our friend, gesturing at me and holding a red cup under the spigot.
Looking wildly around at Camilla, I grabbed the pump on top of the keg and, not knowing what else to do, began pumping furiously. I figured that, even if I was doing it wrong, I’d at least get credit for effort.
“Okay, okay, chill. You can stop now.” Our friend looked at me sideways, obviously thinking that he had been tricked into dealing with a lunatic. He finished pouring and handed Camilla and I our beers. “I’m Brian, by the way.”
I took a sip of my beer, nearly gagging at the unexpectedly bitter taste. “Thanks. I’m Amy.”