I am drunk. Not sloppy, but that magical intoxicated where the night is alive with the promise of glory. Dean and I are running the beer pong table, packed fifteen tight into our double because today we got bids to Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
We woke to the DKEs stampeding through the freshman quad, rallying the sleeping with a shofar. Three blasts of the drinking horn and two white envelopes slide under our door. A strip of paper that reads:
HOUSE AT 9.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO SET FOOT ON THE PROPERTY
WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF A BROTHER.
Eight and a half hours later it’s cup after cup. All I do is make cups. Out for blood tonight. Four games on then we kick everyone out. Handles and racks left everywhere, we can clean them in the morning. Down to the chapter house, whole college before us.
Dean strutting like he’s the luckiest guy in the world, smiling like an idiot. There’s this southern belle Alison Milner in our sociology class, President of the Kappa Kappa Gammas. Real platinum blonde type. Last week she ratted on Dean for cheating so he almost didn’t get to sign his bid. Had to go before the Academic Honor Council and things were looking bad for a while, but Dean’s dad is a wealthy DKE alumnus whose generosity earned itself a name on the school’s new fitness center. Fuck Alison Milner.
Past the library and the soccer fields, there’s a group of guys standing by the street with their hands in their pockets. We nod at the faces that look familiar. Dean and I make twenty-one. None talk. On the other side of the street, there is a three story, four columned fraternity mansion. Dark except a candle hanging above its golden doors. Three men in blazers roll out, all smoking cigarettes. They approach slowly as my new comrades fall into rank around me. Two of the blazers stop at the end of a marble walkway and one of them comes forward.
“Freshman. Welcome to the most exclusive brotherhood on this campus.”
I compose my face into my best imitation of stone.
He drags from his cigarette, savoring tobacco and silence. “Tomorrow, you will descend into the abyss that is known as pledging, a process that may culminate with your indoctrination into the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, if we decide that you are man enough to call yourselves our brothers. Tonight, you are our guests. Until tomorrow, we will drink with you as if you were our equals.” The last word empty from lips well-rehearsed. “Any questions?”
There are none.
We single file across the street and Dean and I get separated. The men in blazers lead us forward into a house echoing with darkness. Stopped at the doorway, let in one at a time. Ten guys ahead of me, by five I am nervous. I breathe deep and step inside and I’m blindfolded.
“You speak, you leave,” someone whispers by my neck.
Left to stand for a moment, my eyes adjust to the black. Ahead, there is a door opening and closing. The welcome glow of fluorescent light spilling into the room at body-long intervals. Someone strong snatches me by the collar and drags me forward. I enter and descend.
I am herded into a crowded room that reeks of stale beer and pizza. My blindfold is removed. Standing shoulder to shoulder are guys in blazers, covering every inch of wall and sealing us inside. There is a delicate silence. Every one of us rigid with fright, they cheer, “WE’VE GOT PLEDGES!!!”
A bottle is thrust into my hand.
I remember Miley Cyrus and forties in a sweaty room. Dean, smiling like an idiot. Blazers patting us on the back, “Have you ever played Civil War?” Three cups, then five. Cigarettes outside. A keg. Natty Light. Girls. Racks on racks on racks on racks. Turn tables and a fog machine. Strobe lights and techno. Brothers dancing on tables, girls dancing on us. Dean throwing up into the fog machine. A keg stand, “I LOVE COLLEGE!”, making out with a redhead. Svedka. A trash can, throwing up. More girls, more Svedka. Ten cups, then twenty-one. Cigarettes inside, another forty. Dean’s doing a keg stand. Dean’s throwing up on me. Someone telling me I smell disgusting. A trash can, my North Face. High heels and cleavage. Blazers. Miley Cyrus. That same fucking song. A girl with dark hair, “Do you want to get out of here?”, cold air, cold pizza. Junior dorms in a mini-skirt. A single on the top floor. Kissing on a desk, on a bed, under sheets, under pants. Welcoming darkness. Warmth. Party in the USA.
I do not know what time it is. A voice. I am naked. There is a light in my face, turn away from it. The bed is empty. The voice, the light, why is it moving? Get out of bed and there’s a fucking Campo officer standing there telling me to put on some fucking clothing. Shoes and socks by the bed. My boxers hanging on the desk, why are they wet? Can’t find the rest of my clothes so I guess I’m wearing shoes and underwear.
He takes me outside. “Son, do you know where you are?”
He is waiting for me to say where.
“Yeah. I came back with this girl.”
“The girl who lives here called Campus Safety because she says you broke in here.”
“What? No I didn’t.”
“The girl who lives here says you did.”
“Sir, I went home with this girl. She must’ve went to the bathroom or something. She’ll come back and explain everything in a minute.”
He is calling someone. “Do you know where you live?”
He is telling someone. “Follow me.”
We walk outside. Very late or very early. Past the library but not the soccer fields to the freshman quad. Up the stairs and there’s his partner waiting for us inside. They let us into my room. Handles and racks, just like we left them. Cheap gin and Captain. Two cases of Keystone Ice. Dean in bed, someone else on top of him. Both lying naked and asleep and here is the goddamn Campus Safety brigade. The partner wakes them up. Naked chick gets dressed and kicked out. Dean puts on clothes (I’m still not wearing clothes) then they breathalyze both of us.
I blow a .17.
Dean blows a .24.
“A .25 and you would’ve gone to the hospital. Now what are we going to do with this all this alcohol?”
Down the drain, you fucking pigs, that was my birthday money.
They leave without taking names and Dean and I share accounts of the night. It doesn’t add up. Besides my jacket, shirt, and jeans, something is missing. We decide to leave it for the morning.
I am drunk. Not magical, but that terrible intoxicated where hangover is beating its way into the space between your brain and your skull. I wake without Dean and try to piece together the night. Worry I might’ve said or done something to the girl I went home with. Maybe she even tried to kick me out. Begrudgingly, I’d refuse, then Campo shows up and I’m naked.
I remember a single on top floor of one of the Junior dorms. I dress then venture outside to meet a raw September sky. Pass the library for a third time and up two flights of stairs to knock on the doors I find. Don’t have to guess. A pile of clothes outside. With relief, my wallet and phone, but dammit, no jacket.
Knock on the door, she’s inside. Doing the laundry or making her bed. Not looking at me. I decide it’s best to try to apologize.
“Look, I don’t really remember much of last night, but I woke up to a Campus Safety officer telling me that I broke into your room. I don’t know if I said or did something-”
She looks up. “You don’t remember anything?”
“No, not really.”
She drops a blanket and folds her arms. “Last night around four, you got up to go to the bathroom. You woke me up coming back so I went to go and when I returned, you had pissed in my bed, stripped off your clothes, and left.”
The officer’s story begins to make sense. I blacked out at the house, went back with this girl, left her room, and went somewhere. But where did I go, and where did I return?
Back to West to fill Dean in. He is still in bed. Only the bedsheet on top of him, again fully naked. Turn on my laptop to puzzle things over, find a new message that makes things fit.
He rolls over, buried in hangover.
“Dude…I need to be euthanized.”
“Dean, look at this.”
“I need to be…fucking, euthanized with marijuana right now.”
“Dammit Dean, look at this!”
Dean drags himself out of bed and towards my laptop. There’s a message from Alison Milner, President of the Kappa Kappa Gammas, that reads:
So I wasn’t here this weekend, but last night you broke into my room, got naked in front of my roommate, hung your soiled boxers on my stuff, got into my bed and wet yourself. Apology?