Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hook-up II

A short story:

Thus I entered the hook-up culture of college life. Never mind that the dorms smelled like vinegar for the rest of the week and my friends were a bit pissed that their shoes were ruined. I had started living life the way I thought was right. And I could say that I was doing what everyone was doing—hooking up. It was so much a part of the conversation; hundreds of young, hormonally charged co-eds stuck together in confined quarters, drinking and smoking. It was inevitable. We were living to forget; making our mistakes to please our most basic instincts.

Every weekend there were two or three parties I would go to. We would get smashed beforehand, stumble into a sweaty and crowded room, and strike up a conversation with some girl from Anthro 101 or something. I’d pretend to care about our long assignments, our clumsy professor, or some other bit of random small talk. I’m not sure if it was pretending though, with that much intoxicating beverage in one’s system, everything seems interesting, even the facial tics of the old cooters that taught me what I already knew. And the girls seemed to like the attention too. Alcohol makes everything blurry, as if I were talking to people through water. Motion gets blurred. A smiling face; and a light grazing on my arm was as good as a done deal if I pursued it to its fullest.

The trick was to build up tension. Seem maybe interested. After that it was all about the maybe factor. How close am I? What did that touch mean? Maybe. Then to erase that doubt in a moment. Seduction with the assistance of carelessness. Some people I never talked to again; others I would say awkward hellos to in passing; still others I became cordial friends with. It was the pillow talk factor. Some I could laugh with after our indulgences. Others were worse than the hangover.

Overall, I never lost my bearings. I would stay oriented to my friends. They were constants; more personal to me than anyone that I shared a kiss with. The physical, the space we had been told as kids to keep so personal to us, had become a meaningless barrier—defeated with a couple drinks, a cute-ish face, and a half-way decent body (often only two of the three were required, and sometimes just more alcohol). I would let myself go. Who cared when I could just blame it on one night of craziness? And the girls—termed biddies, hos, bitches, sluts, skanks, honeys, girlies, anything but a woman—seemed to use the same excuses. No matter how dirty I felt the next morning I would go out again. And so would the girls.

The personal thus became something beyond my body. My secrets, dreams, and insights were my greatest asset. Sharing experiences outside of the ones I couldn’t remember is what defined my friends to me. And as I progressed through it, I found that I had very little to say or do. I didn’t think, I acted on impulse; hoped for the best. And it annoyed me. What was my worth if I was just a pile of flesh waiting to contract disease and shut down from liver failure? I wasn’t sure what I thought anymore. So I romanticized and justified. I would have time to think later.

It wasn’t until one night when we all wanted to stay in that it became apparent. We were sitting around in one of my friend’s rooms passing around a bag of wine and shooting the bull that the topic came up. I had become notorious among my friends. I was promiscuous to say the least. As we counted off our conquests, my friends kept their count to one hand—two didn’t even have to count (one was chaste, the other in a relationship). I quietly lost count. Then we started talking about our crazy nights. I was there for the first half in all of them. Then I would drop-off as a character somewhere about the middle. And there was much more to those nights. My friends laughed about things that I had no idea had happened.

Whose life was I living? The rest of my nights were not filled with the hilarity and excitement that my friends described. Rather it consisted of awkward sexual encounters and difficult morning conversations rife with lies about early morning meetings. I was getting barely passing grades; I had lost touch with my friends, and I felt empty. I was constantly scared of contracting an STI, wasting money not on dates but on medical tests (I had been to the doc four times in twelve weeks).

I had come to college to experience life. I didn’t want to miss out on a single moment, and in that pursuit, I had been missing out on my friends. Satisfying my intrepid little explorer had become a base degradation of me and the women I interacted with. I thought about where I started. I expected that my college life would be a way to fall in love; to find something fulfilling. Nothing I was doing was bringing that possibility any closer.

I went to bed that night, resolved to save myself, somehow. I still found pleasure in the allure of maybe. Maybe tomorrow I would be a better person, maybe next semester I would get good grades. Maybe I would spend more time with the people I loved. Maybe I would actually fall in love. Maybe.