The College Experience

Submitted into Contest #93 in response to: Write your story about two characters tidying up after a party.... view prompt


Coming of Age Teens & Young Adult Fiction

“Cindy?” You lightly shake your roommate’s shoulder. Her neck is bent almost ninety degrees against the couch armrest and drool is sliding down her cheek. Lovely, you think to yourself as you also spot the dried vomit mere inches from your feet. “Cindy, it’s past noon. We need to clean up.” Cindy moaned and slowly sat up clutching her neck then her head. “I made some coffee but make sure you drink some water. I’ll start in my room then we can tackle the living room together.” She nods, winces, then slowly gets up and walks to the bathroom. Hopefully to shower. 

You walk into your bedroom where you can partially make out your floor and bed under the many piles of clothes. You give a heavy sigh and go to work sorting through Cindy’s clothes and the few clothes that belong to you. As you hang up the pretty long sleeve you started the night in, you relive the embarrassment that had followed:

“Wait, you’re going to wear that?” One of Cindy’s friends had chided. There was a gaggle of girls in your room, each sipping from those red solo cups. All staring at your outfit.

“You should wear something nicer- it’s a party!” Another said, others nodding along like a group of bobble heads.

“Don’t you want to find yourself a boyfriend?” One added.

“Boyfriend? Why do you want something so serious.” Another said with a wink.

“I like my outfit,” you meekly say looking down at your pants, long sleeve shirt and sneakers. “It’s comfy... and more … me.” The looks the girls give you brings heat to your cheeks and stops your arguing as they sort through your closet. 

“Do you have anything that even shows your skin?” One chuckled as she pulled out more clothes and dumped them on the floor. 

“Oh! I have some stuff that’ll look great on you! One sec.” Cindy left to gather a collection of her ‘Slutz R Us’ options as your chest starts to tighten. 

The memories of how the night started were attached to each garment of clothing as you sort your stuff from Cindy’s. Your mind tumbles through the many, many outfits and clothes the girls had to go through before the party even began:

“No, that’s not a good colour on her.”

“You can’t wear a bra with that.”

“Maybe a dress will show more curves.”

“C’mon! Show the ladies!”

“You need at least a little make up.”

Each outfit you take out of the pile brings more embarrassment. The girls had settled on a tube top with high rise pants and these god-awful high heels that you’re pretty sure still had your dried blood on them. Thankfully the runway showing took so long they could only put on a little bit of makeup. Which was now permanently smeared under and around your eyes making you look haunted.

You clear your head as you separate the clothes and carry Cindy’s stuff back into her room and throw them onto the already existing pile on her floor. Cindy herself was in the kitchen, hopefully cleaning her dishes from the week and working on the mess from last night.

You pass by the piles of red solo cups and now empty bottles strewn all over the college dorm as your environmental heart breaks at all the plastic that will end up in another landfill. The table had been stacked with all kinds of alcohol, but now there were only empty bottles, bringing back more memories:

“C’mon Lacey, you’re still on your first drink.” The music almost drowns out the chatting around the crowded living space of their dorm apartment. 

“Yeah you’ve gotta at least get a buzz on! It’s the pre party!”

You take a sip of your sugary alcohol and wince at the taste as it burns down your throat. ‘Why do people do this?’ You think to yourself as you watch the college kids around you chug and laugh, feeling isolated despite the sea of people.

“Lacey! Chug it!” Everyone around her turns and starts chanting, “Chug! Chug! Chug!” But you just shake your head.

“C’mon Lace, we’re all drinking. It’s no fun if you don’t drink,”  Cindy shouts in your ear as she throws an arm around your shoulder. “Trust me, we’ll take care of you. Plus, you’ve gotta have the college experience!” 

You stare into your cup as if it could solve your calculus homework. Then you shrug and look at Cindy before bringing the cup to your lips and throw back your head to chug the drink. You flinch at the taste and the burn as it travels down your throat, but you shove the distaste down too so no one will notice. Cheers erupt around you at your resignation. 

“Thata girl!” Chimes Cindy before stumbling off to the kitchen for yet another refill.

You cringe at how naïve you were the night before. Believing Cindy and the others could take care of you when they could barely take care of themselves. You know better than that. You amble around the place picking up trash with your headache starting to clear as you sort through the hazier memories of the night. 

You remember walking to the house party a few blocks away in those unfortunate shoes. The girls all swooning and walking with arms over shoulders laughing at nothing and everything as if all their problems disappeared so long as they were drunk. Trying to join in some fun you halfheartedly laugh along with them, trying to feel carefree too, but wishing you were tucked into your bed after some tea and a book. 

The party house was like all the others she had tried. Of course that wasn’t many, but still, all the same. Crowds bustling around, alcohol and mixers assembled in the kitchen or living room. Cups full, empty, broken, discarded all around the house. 

“What’s your name, pretty thing?” One rather attractive boy had slurred at her as she walked towards the bathroom.

“Lacey,” you respond hesitantly.

“Lacey… wow, such a pretty name. For such a pretty girl.” He raises an eyebrow at you which, when sober, may look sexy but it looked dirty when mixed with the alcoholic reek that seemed to be oozing out of his pores. “Do you wear lace too? Lace panties?” You freeze as he steps around you, moving you into a quiet hallway. “What kind of panties are you wearing?” Your chest tightens. You press your back up against the wall while he towers over you. 

“Leave me alone,” you try to sound bold but it comes out so weak. You push past him, trying to keep your head up, but end up staring at the ground while the world tries to spin.

“Aw, c’mon! It was only a joke,” he says as he lets you by, but not before shoving his hand between your legs from behind, far enough that he gropes your crotch. Your heart jumps into your throat and the haze from the alcohol adds to your nausea. 

Going over that painful memory brings you back to the present. You’re back in your bedroom but your stomach starts to knot and shame washes over you, threatening the start of tears. But you know that what came next was so much worse:

You head into the kitchen and finally find Cindy and her group of friends.

“Lacey!” Cindy shouts to you. You suddenly hate your name.

“Hey Cindy, can we get out of here?” You ask stermly.

“What? Leave? We just got here!” She says and hands you a cup. “Here, this will help. You’re way too sober.”

You take the cup but hesitate. You’re already at a buzz and don’t want to push it.

“Trust me,” says Cindy. “You’ll love this stuff. It’s so sweet, you can’t even taste the alcohol.” 

While you don’t really like to get drunk, it would be a shame to feel like you’ve missed out on what so many people call the best years of your life. So you take the drink and sip the sweet nectar thinking, “What could go wrong?”

You sit on your bed, the haze lifting from your memories as tears spill down your cheeks. You had one drink at that house. One. The buzz you felt was not enough to explain what had happened next. You choke on a sob when you realize something must have been in that drink.

You can’t feel anything. Pain does not exist. There is nothing outside this moment. Euphoria exists and it is called dancing. You move around the crowd, ignoring the muggy scent of sweat, bodies and alcohol as you get tossed around. Hands are on your hips but you barely notice. You can’t think. You can’t stop the man from pulling your hips against his as he grinds into you. You can’t feel anything anymore except the deep rumbling of music that thrums up through the floor. His hands are roving all over you but you can’t climb out of the deep haze you’re in to even think, let alone regain control. The swaying movements, the sticky floor, spilled drinks, strobe lights and beats. You don’t like that this man is touching you, but you can’t seem to get your mind to cooperate. You can’t control your thoughts, your body, your situation. A deep part of you becomes terrified, but you can't’ fight the current that pulls you under…

You don’t remember anything past that point. You had woken up on a couch in the party house in the early hours of the morning and stumbled home to collapse in your bed, still piled high with clothes.  Cindy was passed out on the couch in the living room, somehow making it home. You feel thankful that she made it home, but your heart drops knowing she left you out there on your own. Your thoughts are suddenly stopped when your phone buzzes.

“Hey, mom.” You say into the phone.

“Hi sweetie. I’m just calling to see if you had fun last night?” The sound of her voice breaks something in you.

“Um,” you hold back the tears. “I don’t think I’ll be going out again anytime soon.” 

“What happened? Drink too much?” She asks.

“I guess.” You try to decide how much to tell her. “I don’t think partying is for me.”

“Well… if you’re sure. I just don’t want you to miss out on college life. I hate having you stay in all weekend while your friends are out having a good time.”

You pause, then say quietly, “I don’t think these girls are my friends.” 

“Well, maybe it’s time to find some new friends,” her voice is soft but encouraging.

“Yeah, I’ll try to reach out to some people in my favourite classes.”

“That sounds like a good plan,” she says sweetly. 

“I’ve gotta go, mom, but I’ll call later tonight,” you promise before hanging up. 

You look up and notice Cindy is standing in the doorway looking downcast. 

“I’m sorry you didn’t have fun last night,” she says. Then she looks you in the eye with a steel expression on her face.  “But it’s not our fault you can’t handle your liquor.”

You sit up straighter, feeling a small fire flicker in your chest. “You’re right. It’s not your fault that I don’t like alcohol. Or parties. Or staying up late.” You stand up, finally admitting to yourself something you knew for some time. “But it’s also not a problem, or it shouldn’t be, that I don’t like drinking, or staying up late, or trying to … hook up with boys. I am sick and tired of trying to fit in with a crowd that I don’t belong with. I am the way I am, and it’s not your job to try and change that.” 

Cindy stood there for a second looking shocked at your outburst. Then she gives you a calculating glance before nodding. “Fair enough. At least you know what you want.”

You stand there feeling more settled than you have in a long time and realize that you do know what you want. Who you are. You face Cindy who is smiling at you, as if she’s looking at you for the first time as she says, “C’mon, let’s clean this shit up.” You clean the apartment together, feeling more sure of yourself. The college experience for sure.  

May 15, 2021 00:07

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