“C’mon, come with me,” my roommate implores in an almost whiny voice while leaning over me. I turn over, keep my eyes shut, mumble for her to leave me alone and pull my covers over my head. Not getting the immediate reaction she was hoping for, my little Badgerista begins shaking my shoulders. She’s always such an unrelentess force when it comes to getting what she wants. “C’mon, c’mon,” she goes on. Her voice is particularly annoying to me, while I lay caught between naptime and real time. “You know it’s gonna be fun.”
Is Badgerista trying to guilt trip me now? Actually, I know it’s going to be no fun. A bunch of pretentious college kids thinking it’s appropriate to act stupid because they’re wasted? No thanks. But she has been excited about this party for days, ever since she got the Facebook invite and noticed that her crush had RSVP’d “Maybe.” This blasé response gave Badgerista enough motivation to get all dolled up on a Friday night and drag her tired, groggy best friend with her by whatever means possible.
It’s been a while since I’ve gone to a college party. The past six months have been spent in Madrid, far, far away from fraternities, keg stands and beer pong. And ever since I’ve been back, I’ve been in this funky mood. Like Madrid was maybe too much for me to process in such a short time. And it doesn’t help that all I do with my free time is sleep.
“It would be nice to go out and have a drink,” I sit up and say, rubbing my eyes and scratching my head.
“Yes! I promise it’ll be a blast,” Badgerista says all giddy as she skips out of my room and into the restroom.
“So if I had said ‘no,’ you would have just gone without me?” I ask loud enough so she can hear me. I’m surprised at how awake I am. Her giddy must be contagious.
“Oh no! I knew I would convince you,” she says walking back into my room with a blow dryer in her hand. She is wearing a pair of navy blue skinny jeans topped with an embroided maroon blouse. It’ll be fun to be her wingman tonight and help her out in the boy department.
“And shower! There might be cute guys there tonight.” After all, she always looks out for me.
As we arrive to the front door of the apartment where much revelry is to be expected, I see a thin girl with dangling earrings standing in front of a table with a money box. Cover?
“It’s a fundraiser!” Thin girl shouts over Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” blasting inside. I look back at Badgerista and give her this look to make sure she understands that she owes me. “College feminists are putting on The Vagina Monologues,” thin girl continues as if trying to convince us of the worthy cause. I hold up my index finger indicating the need for one sec, turn around, grab Badgerista and move us out the way so that we can discuss.
“Are you sure this is the party?” I ask still holding on to her shoulders. “I think it’s a lesbian party…”
“Yeah, yeah, this is it! C’mon! Where’s your sense of adventure?” Badgerista spits a little, and I reconsider having taken those shots of vodka before stepping out of our apartment. Badgerista seems super eager to mingle with the vaginas… but at least her boy crush will be easy to spot. So on we go to the feminist, theater, lesbian party. And I think, “Didn’t really need that shower.”
The small apartment has an unused chimney adorned with blue twinkle lights and the wooden floor is sticky with spilt beer. It’s crowded and hot in the living room, even though it’s February in Chicago and the windows are wide open. The body heat is stronger than the weather.
Much to my surprise, it’s not really a feminist/theater/lesbian party. From first impression, it looks like quite the assorted crowd. Later I find out that much of the social diversity that night can be attributed to the fact that one of the most popular actresses in school had just been cast in The Vagina Monologues, and she had used all of her party prowess to make the fundraiser a huge success.
Badgerista and I walk towards the kitchen after tossing down our coats. She keeps an eye out for her crush while I keep an eye out for the free alcohol. After we pour ourselves a red cup of jungle juice each, Badgerista has to use the ladies room because her bladder doesn’t know the concept of patience. I head out the back door to the alley so I can smoke a cigarette.
The smokers’ circle in the alley is being entertained by no other than “The Drunkest Girl at the Party,” whom I, of course, have the privilege of knowing personally. We lived in the same dorm, right next to each other, freshman year. She doesn’t come off as your typical feminist per se, but she is producing the show.
“Hey! You’re here!” She shouts in my general direction.
“Yup…” I say, unwilling to match her enthusiasm. “Anyone got a light?”
“Oh here you go,” she lights my parliament. “So what have you been up to? Haven’t seen you in ages.”
“Just got back from Madrid…”
“Oh yeah! So was it everything you ever imagined and so much more? Are you going to do that whole ‘coming back from study abroad’ speech about how being in that foreign country for, like, half a year totally changed your life?” She says so mockingly that I almost take her seriously.
But all I can be when it comes to Madrid is earnest, so I say, “Yeah, actually. It did.”
“I love reading all those stupid study abroad blogs,” she ignores my genuine response and goes back to the mock show. “You think you’re the only person that’s ever gone to a different country and had culture shock? And it’s culture shock about the dumbest things, like, ‘Oh, you can order beer at McDonalds?’ Fucking get over it!” She shuts up for a minute, perhaps afraid that she might come off bitter if she keeps going. I happen to know that just earlier in the school year, her plans to study abroad in Prague had been scrapped due to a dismal GPA. “Did you start a blog while in Madrid?” She asks in a more serious tone.
“No… but I did write a lot. I started a journal. I know, it sounds cheesy… but some of the things, I just had to write down,” I notice that the circle begins to lose interest in what I have to say. So I stop. I save my best stories for an attentive audience. I stomp out my cigarette and walk back inside. I make my way through the crowd of people mingling in the kitchen, refill my jungle juice and go back to the living room looking for Badgerista. She’s probably still waiting in line to use the restroom. It’s almost midnight, and the dance party has already gotten started. The tipsy underclassmen grind and groove in the dark, moving in slow and out of order patterns as if submerged in water. The blue twinkle lights shine on.
Through all the commotion, I notice a boy swimming in his own world towards the back of the room. The boy with a face like an indie singer. A face I’ve never seen before: thin pink lips, wavy brown hair and bushy eyebrows above eyes the color of dark chocolate melting under a heat lamp. He is dancing with his girl friends completely unaware of his allure. Wearing Bermuda shorts, a sky blue thrift shop tee and tan sandals, he’s not at all concerned with concept of matching. I like his spectrum. His wrists are wrapped halfway up his forearms in a disharmony of hues. A heavy metal watch on one wrist, a thick black leather wristband on the other, mingled with orange, lime green and plum rubber bracelets and thin threads and loose bands from summer camps gone by. Around his glistening forehead, a cherry-colored bandana soaks up the light sweat caused by him bobbling and bouncing to the beat. The rest of the room suddenly turns black and white, while he is sharp in Technicolor. And I vividly remember thinking in that moment, “That’s the boy I should be with.”
“Ah, isn’t he super cute?” Badgerista asks interrupting my daydream and joining in on the adoration brigade.
“I think he might be…”
“Gay! Yeah, a girl waiting behind me in line for the restroom told me. Right before she headed out the door to try to pee in the front yard.”
“Wow, you had quite the adventure…” I say handing over my cup of jungle juice offering for her to take a sip. “So what’s this guy’s story?”
“He just transferred from some school in North Carolina,” she says after drinking from my cup and handing it back to me. “According to the girl, he’s kind of shy, doesn’t but gets really silly when he drinks. And he has all the girls here swooning over him tonight. He doesn’t have many guy friends. You should go talk to him.”
“To a complete stranger? And what am I going to say to exactly?”
“Isn’t that what you do to guys in Boystown? Figure it out!” She says implying I should have more game.
“Haha, don’t pretend like you know what I do in Boystown. Besides, this is different. Completely different.”
Right at that moment, “The Drunkest Girl at the Party” stumbles in to the living room, turns off the speakers and slurs in a loud voice, “Ok guys! Party’s over! Cops are here! Everyone out through the back. Come on. It’s over.”
Badgerista and I grab our coats from the pile that’s accumulated by the chimney and make our way out.
I didn’t get to talk to the Boy in Color that night. And after weeks of not seeing him around, I gave up. But my memory of him that night never faded.
It wasn’t until the beginning of my senior year, when I was moving in to my new student house on the off-campus party block, that I saw him again. Moving in next door.