HANNA BAHEDRY / FACEWINE CULTURE
It’s Thursday the best day and the weekend lies before us flirtatious and coy toying with the edge of its skirt, ready to reveal anything. Class just ended and I’m on my way to the Cope (the Cope is where the boys live) to drink with the boys. On my way over I buy forties for everyone because the credit card limit at the corner store is $10 and Steel Reserves are $2 each. When I walk in the door with the forties clanking Max cheers and sweeps them away from me. “Baby girl,” he calls me, “baby girl, you came prepared.”
The sun is still shining but we drink inside because if we drink anywhere else we get in trouble with the campus police, whose ostensible job is to keep us safe but whose actual job is to stop our fun at all costs. For now it’s just me and the boys (Max, Drigo, Ricky, Milo). It’s fall so no one is sick of anyone or anything yet and the room simmers with good energy. Max slaps me on the back and his joy is infectious and we clink forties with our pinkies out. When we’ve drained the forties Ivy and Lily show up with the weed and then Smudge comes home from crew practice with two handles of Black Velvet and we begin in earnest as the sun goes down. We are underaged so we do beers in the side pocket and flasks in the back pocket and we drink like this is wartime, for necessity, to save our lives like whiskey is water and we are fish. The world is a black and green kaleidoscope by the time we step outside.
People are gathering on Pine so we go too. The biggest house on the hill is having something. There’s a keg so I fill cups with what looks like frothy dishwater and hand them down the line. In the backyard Max grabs Milo by the shoulders and tries to dance with him while Milo struggles with a gentle hand on his chest. Lily lights a spliff and passes it to me, and people we know come say hi and act all surprised and humbled when we offer them a hit like they didn’t come over here hoping for it. Lily is better at this part than me, the social butterfly part—I play the role of the friend who is deep down full of witticisms and wisdom but for the moment is slightly too stoned to share any of it (a moment I can’t seem to find the end of). Time passes before Milo comes to find us and smiles his sweet drunk smile. “We’re moving on,” he says. Drigo, Ricky and Smudge are by the keg chugging their last dregs and refilling their cups for the road and Lily, Ivy and I do too. The dishwater does not go down easy and lights rain through my field of vision as we stumble down the stone stairs, motion reminding my body I am drunker than I believe myself to be (almost always). We walk in the street instead of the sidewalk because we are too large, we cannot be contained, we need so much room to live and so much air to breathe. We don’t just walk: we maraud, fearsome and huge. We have expanded to fill the confines of our world, heads bumping up against the Milky Way, palms brushing the tops of trees. We are a single organism and we feed on Black Velvet and early 2000s pop and R&B hits.
We are passing one of the little laundry buildings on campus for seniors living in the nearby houses. Squat and rectangular, it recedes away from us and its short face has three long windows and a door. Then Max has a rock in his hand and the first window is shattering, one big puncture wound in the center, black and toothy. Shards of light litter the sidewalk. He’s laughing.
“Oh shit, Max,” says Milo.
“Fuck, Max,” says Drigo.
“What the fuck, Max?” I ask.
Max is garbling, tripping over wine-stained shoelaces. A head pokes out of a not too far away window. We decide the best thing to do is walk away because what Max just did is bad and we shouldn’t be around when the consequences arrive. We walk the two blocks back to the Cope and the music is still playing and the Black Velvet is room temperature and once we’re inside it becomes funny hysterically funny peeing our pants funny and we smoke one more spliff just to make sure it stays funny before we walk to the falafel cart for cheese fries. Down the street we can see a campus police car idling by the laundry building (a faint blush of blue and red lights) but it feels very far away, like it is someone else’s problem entirely, which I guess it is.
Friday morning I sleep through my morning class and struggle through my afternoon class with my skull on fire. When it’s over I go to the hill to smoke with Lily and Ivy and start to feel more myself. We fill a water bottle with vodka and bring it to the dining hall for dinner and slip it into cups of blue-flavored Gatorade. I eat French fries and dry cereal because it’s all my stomach will accept. I knock my cup over and leak a radioactive blue puddle across the table. It suspends itself on the plasticine surface like a blister. We throw napkins at it, already tired.
After dinner we head back to our dorm to get dressed. We blast Ja Rule and trade jackets and take a couple shots. On the walk to the Cope the stars are already pleasantly blurry, the temperature blissfully irrelevant. The soothing weight of the vodka water bottle in my inside jacket pocket is like a lead blanket. We knock and the boys let us in. No matter how many times the boys let us in I am always grateful.
We’re doing whip-its in Milo’s room and his new girlfriend is there. We are cold to her because she is a freshman and an interloper and also because it seems like the powerful thing to do. She isn’t sure about doing a whip-it but we egg her on and so she sucks from the icy cold canister while we cheer. There’s one tiny moment in which nothing is wrong and then it breaks wide open. The girl teeters and then tumbles like the statue of a felled dictator. Hard-bodied like she’s been petrificus totalised she crashes straight onto Milo’s drum set and takes out all the cymbals with a cacophonous exclamation point. Some of us are laughing but not all of us. The boys grab an elbow and heave her onto the twin bed. “I’m fine,” she says, because there is nothing else to say. One of us retrieves the canister from under the bass drum and we keep going.
Tonight is Friday, which means there is a show we must attend. Event security is checking student IDs at the front door of the frat. I recognize the guy from my astronomy class. I am never this drunk in astronomy class. “Space, am I right?” I tell him. He pretends not to know me.
Inside it’s dark and a little sticky. We beeline for the back patio and pretend we are not checking everyone out and they pretend the same thing. We light the spliff and suck on it like a pacifier, giant adult babies in creepers and torn tights and beanies with obscene graphics on them. Inside the band comes on but I don’t particularly care about it. I came because someone told me I was supposed to care about it and I’d rather not be alone tonight while everyone is here caring about the band. We drink from the bottle in my pocket labeled POISON.
We go upstairs because we know someone here and because it’s a badge of honor to know someone here and to go upstairs. If you don’t know someone here and you try to go upstairs, someone will block you with their arm and ask, “Who are you here for?” and stare at you until you dissolve into the carpet. We are just drunk enough that we don’t fear this possibility and we make it upstairs to our friend’s room, even though I don’t really know the person who is supposed to be our friend.
I sit on the corner of someone’s bed and try to feel like this is somewhere I should be. I stare glazed eyed at my cuticles like they suddenly have important news for me. I try to become a person who would be comfortable in this room. The shots we take help but the lines make it worse. Time goes and I black back in and I am suddenly charming, at the center of the room, the life of the party, and someone is calling my name.
For some reason we are back at the laundry room, where Max is pointing at the hole he made the night before, covered by tape and cardboard. Ricky is holding a bottle of beer and he is throwing it right at the second window and the glass of both the window and the bottle is breaking, unclean jagged and mean. This time we are already running away. Half of us are laughing and half of us are screaming and I don’t remember which half I am.
We are back inside the Cope, where time stops, and we are watching a video on Milo’s projector of a little man running along a long green line that loops like a mountain range through and past and beyond the screen we are watching him on. We follow his journey and I am first enthralled and then anxious and finally bored but he is still going even when the music changes. I don’t know what they googled to find him. The night fades out slowly and then all at once like an old movie.
Now it’s Saturday which everyone agrees is the proper weekend so I don’t have to even pretend to be good. I start drinking in the shower to ward off the hangover. I call it Shower Beer to make it a thing. I’m up too early so I pace my balcony clutching my bubbler like a weapon waiting for everyone else to wake up. Finally Ivy emerges from the next room like a creature from the black lagoon, tang-colored cornrows sticking up from her pale scarecrow forehead, and I hand her a beer to let her know how her day will go.
We walk down the long sloped street we are always walking down. We want brunch at S’wings and the boys are on the way so we knock on the boys’ doors until they come out all shirtless and sleepy and smelling like old socks and whiskey. They’re a little less mad when I light them a spliff as penance. I perch on the edge of Max’s empty bedframe and pass it around the room while the boys throw on shoes and coats. Ivy and I have beers clanking in our pockets and once we get to the patio outside S’wings we drink them surreptitiously and then less surreptitiously. We eat pancakes and eggs benedict and the worst hashbrowns in Connecticut. Max skips acorns at me from another table where he is inexplicably sitting alone. “My dad was an apple and my mom was an orange,” he says, which explains everything. There are other people at brunch probably definitely but none of them are in this scene.
Milo pokes my shoulder and reminds me we drank all the Black Velvet last night so we stumble to the liquor store on the edge of campus. We buy bottles of Andre and boxes of wine and handles of gin and whiskey. We don’t buy chasers. Some blessed soul we know is also at the liquor store (someone we know is always already at the liquor store) and they give us and our spoils a ride back up to campus in their car. There’s a baseball game on the field by the hill which we don’t care about but it means we get to drink outside while the sun is still up. It’s hot and cold at the same time and my shoulders burn and my thighs goose pimple. I bring my bubbler from the dorm and it sits in my lap like a little dog while I watch the game. We pass it around our circle which for whatever reason includes a child of indeterminate age from I don’t know where. I wonder why a child is smoking my bong but it seems rude to ask him so I don’t. I spill the bong water and fill it up with gin because it feels reckless and winning and it’s what we have. Someone whacks the ball with a bat and the sound is hard and woody and clean and it arcs through the sky and everyone cheers.
By the time the sun sets our bottles are empty so we go back to the Cope which is like going home like sinking into a warm bath and we pop a bottle of $6 champagne because it’s a celebration because everything is a celebration and we don’t have cups so the froth bubbles over Milo’s face and then Drigo’s face and Ricky’s beard smells like peaches. Max is sitting on a tiny pink chair he has placed on top of his cupboard and he opens and closes his hands towards our drinks from far away. I feel impossibly fed and impossibly sated: a cell in a body in a note in a crescendo in a keg that can’t be tapped. Somewhere around the time that other people are eating dinner Ivy throws up something colorless all down her dress. Going home is not an option because that would be like admitting defeat so I peel her dress off and throw it in the tub and hand her a pair of Smudge’s old running shorts to go with her sports bra. The shorts are green and impossibly big and the long white strings at the front are knotted too tight. She washes out her mouth with cold water. “Boot and rally,” I tell the girl in the mirror. “Why was Ivy ever wearing a shirt?” she asks back.
There is something frantic about the way we are drinking now like the weekend is an hourglass and the sand is slipping away faster than we can bear it. We chase our shots with handfuls of stale Cheerios and the projector keeps playing the next recommended YouTube video on mute as Milo picks songs from his collection, pulling tracks from the golden age of bar mitzvahs from our youth while on the screen a man throws spaghetti at another man. Then Buzz comes over and starts hollering so we’re all hollering. He thinks it’s hilarious that we’re still or already this drunk and when do we find the time to do anything else? We boo and make him do boneshots with us (a boneshot is a shot that’s half liquor half chaser so you can do a whole bunch without getting too drunk and we wonder aloud how hard it would be to get the concept patented). The Film Center is playing The Lion King at 8 pm so we are there in the back row passing a water bottle up and down the line in an endless loop and making a scene that a guy I hate calls “uncouth” out the side of his mouth. The next time I know where I am I am back in the Cope and we need refills because we always need refills because there is no bottom in our collective cup and if things were great one drink ago imagine how great they’ll be in one drink more?
The thing we have become strolls down the street. I imagine us like one of those monsters from Greek myth, something with the head of an ox and the body of a lion and the legs of an ostrich and the tail of a snake. Can’t fly can’t slither can’t digest our prey, incompetent and stumbling smashing things with our gorilla arms I’ve decided we also have gorilla arms. The fenceless backyards of Fountain all stretch out holding hands into one giant backyard and the party expands to fill it in like gas. The party has been poorly edited there are too many jump cuts and I can’t for the life of me find the narrative. I stand on a porch. I stand on the grass. I stand on another porch. The open mouth of my drink comes into focus again and again. The tip of a spliff lights the foreground. In the background shuffle people I’m supposed to know. I have a conversation with someone from my American Studies class who keeps laughing and looking over my shoulder. I clutch Lily’s shoulder. I clutch Ivy’s elbow. I am dancing with Max and then we are on the ground. Someone dabs at my knee in the bathroom with wet toilet paper and we laugh hard at the blood. Back outside Milo says this party is ending and we gather our many limbs and rustle our feathers and we toddle away.
Of course we are back at the building with three eyes two of which are plastered over with cardboard patches like a pirate triclops like an old-fashioned game show set where the prize is behind one of these doors and we just have to know which one. It seems too improbably stupid to happen again so when Ivy flings her fist at the third window it is almost like a joke that someone is trying to tell badly: the punchline in a gag about a priest a barber and a jester all walking into the same laundromat the beat that satisfies the comedic rule of threes almost like we should be laughing and knee-slapping but there is blood everywhere and the anxious whine of a siren and the red and blue lights bathe her as she twirls and fights like a drunk ballerina like a boxer in her bra and gym shorts the beads on her orange cornrows smacking the public safety officer in the face as she elbows him off her the blood on the glass staining the bottoms of our sneakers as we scatter ox head this way lion torso that way snake tail bleeding a path back to the party ostrich feet limping behind it. As we watch her get taken from us we bleed back into the crowd. Then the car and the lights and the wailing are all gone and the yard is nice and dark and quiet again with just the glinting of red glass in the streetlights to remind us what we did.
Tomorrow I will wake up in a bedframe with no mattress, bruises blooming up my thighs and hips like cruel flowers. I’ll roll over and release Drigo’s arm which must be numb by now but he won’t move. Max will be sleeping in the corner with his shoes still on. With enormous effort I’ll sit up on the edge of the plywood tongue thick in my skull craving water knowing every cup in the room holds liquor or a put-out cigarette or both and I’ll stare at the handle of Black Velvet almost empty but not quite empty standing upright among all the discarded bottles and hastily mopped spills and loose whip-its covering the floor like vile confetti and it’ll look right back at me like a dare.
Tonight though we have lost a solider in the fight against something. The moment feels like it needs commemoration so Lily orders us all on our knees. The boys and I kneel in the dry mud and we turn our heads up to the dark sky, no stars tonight, mouths open like baby birds. Lily takes the box of Franzia and turns the knob over each one of our mouths. We are deadly serious like Lily is the queen and we are being knighted, like we are offering this moment the dignity it deserves. Sunset Blush fills my mouth faster than I can swallow it and I stain my shirt pink and I think about Ivy’s white knuckles stained with red.
Hanna Bahedry is a writer and editor from Los Angeles. She studied creative writing and critical theory at Wesleyan University where she won the Horgan Prize. She once cut her hair into a mullet and flew to Nashville to be David Bowie for a 70s cover band show.