This story also appears in Issue 4
College is massaging your eyebrows with the backs of your wrists in your dorm room with the lights out at 10:55 in the morning. Elbows on the notebook on the desk in front of you, Starbucks grande iced latte to your left, stack of short story anthologies to your right (Rick Moody, J.D. Salinger, Aimee Bender, others). Your Xbox is unplugged, you’re almost out of toothpaste, you haven’t done laundry in weeks. It will be harder to find fresh socks today than it was yesterday.
Keep the 1 pt 6 oz beer bottles and 12 oz cans you threw into the space between your bed and the wall covered so your roommate won’t think you’re an alcoholic. Take them to the trash tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.
Throw away the uneaten croissant you bought three hours ago when you thought you would be hungry later. You’re not. It will be stale when you get back from class.
Sit and watch your computer. Watch the reflection in a blank Word dot doc of the tall girl from class who said she’s never read anyone who uses words like you. Watch her frown at whatever you show her next. Just go back to your room to think about how to kill yourself with the empty plastic hangers in your closet. Don’t worry about it.
Masturbate frequently. Have sex if you want to, when you can, but don’t stop masturbating. This is important.
Don’t clean your closet.
Two more years and you can press your elbows against your very own Malm or Micke Ikea desk in a relatively unfurnished, lonely apartment where you can leave beer cans anywhere you like, and which feels like heaven from here. Think about that during class today, in the library, at the bar.
Go to class.
The drugs part of college.
This is what you have to say about drugs.
Anything that changes your brain is good. Even if it’s not strictly “fun.” If it speeds you up, or fuzzes you, or dunks you in water in warmishcold, spikysoft water. Floods your brain in velvet, pulls you forward by the forehead. Slides the world past you or shoots it right at your face. Anything that’s different. Anything but simple, same-old sobriety.
Here is a drug you wish existed: Something that mimics what you feel when you can’t think of a word. Just one stupid word, and it’s aaaalmost there, but it won’t come, and you feel like your head is exploding slowly. Something that does that but for everything, where you can’t think of anything, and your head explodes forever for like four to six hours.
You would give up every “drug experience” you’ve had so far to do DMT one more time with Amanda in the woods behind the cafeteria.
You wouldn’t actually.
You feel drunk in the best way when you read William Gibson. You want to make other people feel that way. You want to make the whole world feel drunk.
The sex part of college.
The closest you will ever get to a crazy college sex party is a blurry, wobbly video on Spankwire. You are pretty sure you had reconciled yourself with this fact before you even got to college, but you will always nurse a tiny flicker of hope next to your prostate, and you will be continuously aware that it’s not hope burning down there, it’s despair.
You wish you could have sex for the first time again. And again and again and again. You know you’ll never feel that tense and humiliated again, and you want to more than almost anything. You want to want to look anywhere but her face. You want to want to wish you could stop thinking about what she is thinking.
Take the croissant out of the trash. It’s fine, there were only old coffee cups and crumpled paper in there. Take a bite and grimace. You’re not hungry. You can’t eat in the morning. Put the croissant back in the trash.
You do not have enough sex to choose to be celibate, which feels disappointing. But this is not important.
Health problems in college, sexual or otherwise.
By your count, you have one, two, three, maybe four minor health problems. One of them might not be minor. You don’t know, and you don’t like thinking about them, but you can’t help but think about them.
You will talk about some of them but not all of them. Who you are talking to does not really matter. It matters a little. But in a different sense of the word “matter.”
There is not a lot you think you wouldn’t do to be instantly rid of these problems, but you are not sure because you can never think of things to do or not do. If you knew you would not die, you would probably allow yourself to be stabbed by a knife, if doctors would then fix everything else in the hospital.
You would pay all the money you have, but only because you have $36.38 in your checking account and $1.58 in your savings account.
You would not give up drinking or drugs.
Hygiene in college.
Yes you are pretty sure Christie broke up with you because your feet smell and you don’t wash your socks.
She didn’t say that. It can’t be why. That was only part of it. You leave beer cans on the floor.
You don’t write well. You could write so much better. You don’t try to get better. You ignore criticism. You ignore her criticism. She didn’t give you good criticism.
Don’t buy anything to spray into your shoes to make them smell better. Never take them off. Wash your socks tomorrow.
Spearmint gum is just as good as brushing your teeth. Floss occasionally, when something is stuck in your teeth. Become afraid you won’t be able to pull the floss out. It will be stuck there forever. Imagine Christie kissing you, sucking on the floss that’s stuck there, sliding her lips into a scowl pressed onto your lips as her tongue brushes your un-brushed teeth.
She broke up with you because you don’t brush your teeth.
You broke up with her.
The love part of college.
This is not a part of college. You will have to look elsewhere.
The friends part of college.
Your best friend lives with a bunch of Jewish frat guys. This is OK.
You walk into their house one day and realize you don’t know what to say when one of them asks you with a tilted head if you guys (you and your friend, he means) are “best friends or something” because you “spend a lot of time together.”
Think “does he think I’m gay he thinks we’re gay how are you supposed to say ‘I’m not gay’ it does not matter of course it matters it doesn’t matter.”
Imagine being gay. Imagine being attracted to your friend. Imagine kissing him. Imagine him tensing, reluctant, but relenting out of some combination of pity, curiosity, sluttyness.
Think about giving your friend a handjob.
Think about watching someone give your friend a handjob.
Think about watching Scarlett Johansson giving your friend a handjob.
Think about Scarlett Johansson giving you a blowjob.
Think about having sex with Scarlett Johansson.
Think about Christie.
Think about having sex with Christie.
Think about Christie.
The dating part of college
Do not talk to Elisa about Christie. This seems obvious.
Break up with Elisa because she wants to go to the “nice” restaurants in DC all the time and you can’t afford them, let alone the subway. Do not talk to her about this. Simply stop answering her calls. Cancel plans with texts and late emails. Listen while she shouts at you outside the English building as people turn their heads. Go into the bathroom and sit silently on the toilet, pants up, for an hour and a half. Desperately email the same tall girl from your computer screen the next day to find out if there was homework.
Think “you are not being a good person you can be a better person you can try to be a better person you should try to be a better person” as you text Amanda about something dumb.
Everything is fine.
Turn off your brain. Just do this for a while:
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See? Wait. Try again.
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Everything is not fine.
The academic part of college.
You know you know you know that grades do not quantitatively track intelligence, but you do not believe it. Anyone who gets better grades than you is not smarter, they only got better grades, but you are clearly smarter than anyone who gets worse grades than you do. None of this can be true, and you know it’s all true.
You do not excel, you only appear to excel. You work just hard enough to get an A. You can’t tell if you won’t work harder or can’t. Every week of every semester your brain bends under the certainty that finally, this will be the week everything falls apart and everyone will realize you’re phoning it all in.
You cannot tell if you hope life after college will be different, but that’s easy not to think about because you know it won’t.
The parties in college.
You will be invited to parties in college. You will turn down these invitations in favor of a night alone in your room with one 40 oz Steel Reserve, two 10mg oxycodone pills, and the ocean of pornography on the internet.
You will love these nights.
You will realize at some point in your sophomore year that you would always rather be alone. You will not meet or date anyone that will change this. There will never be a time when you would not rather be alone in your room drunk or high, crushing on Linda Cardellini (and James Franco, sort of) while watching Freaks and Geeks for the eleventh time.
You will never tell anyone any of this because you believe they would take it as a sign of depression, which you’re not convinced it is, and you’re not miserable there in the dark, you are enraptured.
You can see yourself in an empty apartment staring up through a druggy haze at two forks, trying to see which one is slightly less dirty. You haven’t done dishes for weeks and you’re out of plastic forks. In the dark in your dorm room, you see this vividly when you shut your eyes. Then you rub them so hard it hurts.
The waiting in college.
You’ll wait all the time in college. Just wait for a while.
Wait. Clench your fists. Squeeze hard. Waaaaaiiitt. br> Wait. For the test to start. For the test to end. For Amanda to call. For Amanda to answer. For the video to buffer. For the computer to start. For the song to end. For her to move closer. For her to fucking move farther away.
For the day to end, and the week, the month, the semester, the year, the whole damn thing. It’s easy to forget to wait.
Wait wait wait just a couple more seconds. You can do it. Wait.
Watch your breath outside in the cold as you wait for your friend to pull up, and when you arrive, wait for him again to walk around the car and check that all the doors are locked because the automatic locking system stopped working last week after you were hit by a car full of drunk sophomores, and wish while you’re waiting that your friend’s car would grow two, four, a hundred more doors because you don’t really want to go to a party, but then there you are inside the party in a hot, strobed, gyrating room, pushing your way through to the kitchen where you turn to face away from everybody so no one can see you twist the cap off the beer with your shirt because the ridges hurt your hand even though everybody else seems to have no problem, and then you turn away again, irrationally, instinctively, because that oh-my-god girl in the corner is stunning and your brain says to turn so she won’t see you, but it’s ok because as soon as she stops talking to those three tipsy, muscled guys you’ll go over there and maybe the night won’t be so bad after all, but she’s still talking and later she’s still talking so there’s time, you think, it’s ok, you can slip out into the hall, down another hall and into the bathroom where you shut and lock the door and splash water on your face and dig around in your pocket because you’re pretty sure that…yes there’s a couple pills left, and you down them with the last, flat mouthful of beer left in the bottle, which you leave in the sink, and you go back out and down the halls and into the kitchen, but she’s gone now, and you search the whole house, but she’s gone. She’s nowhere.
So here you are, in college.
Here you are standing in the cold, in front of your dorm as your friend drives away. You’re sober and angry because you thought he might want to smoke and drink and hang out for a while, but he has to pack for an early plane or something, so here you are.
In your room now, with the lights off. You’re even angrier because you can’t bring yourself to smoke the drugs on your own. You open a beer. Try to distract yourself with the internet. Chase that perfect, contented sadness on youtube. The slow songs that make you feel like you can close your eyes and sink into the mattress.
Nope. No good. Just look at porn. Of course, there’s nothing good to stream, so scroll down porn tumblrs for half an hour then start looking at pornstars’ blogs and finally give up and try to masturbate while you listen to Kayden and Stoya talk about the “industry” on a podcast and two bored looking Japanese girls silently feel each other up on a pink sofa.
Twenty minutes later, here you are. Everything is the same, and everything is just worse. A lot worse. You’re relaxed enough to hear every shifting crinkle of your unwashed sheets and every little clink as you drop another bottle down the side of your bed.
You know you’ll be asleep in an hour or two, but thinking about every dizzy minute between now and then makes you feel like waiting a little longer.