It’s cold outside. You pull your shorts down because they’ve started riding up your ass, and you wish you had just stuck to your original plan and worn jeans. But now you are here, in front of a soulless collection of brick and human flesh, hoping to secure a warm keystone or two. Your friend stands next to you, bright eyeshadow glowing and sporting some blush on her nose. It should be okay as long as you stay together. You check your pockets for your ID, wallet, tis—
Yanking your arm, your friend pulls you into the warm glow of a house with rows of young men on the walls. You both sprint down a set of stairs, squeezing past a few other bodies with red cheeks. The floor is sticky: you finally understand the advice about frat shoes. You open the door. Around you, the air smells like a mix between a boy’s locker room and a cheap bar. Pong balls roll around on the floor and soar through the air with style. If you are quick, you know you can get the good drinks rather than warm beer. Soon you are both leaning, elbows forward, against a wobbling wooden bar pointing at whatever can has a fruit on the front.
Your friend gets called to play pong at a table, and you assure her you will be okay waiting for her to finish. For a short time, you watch the game and cheer for your friend, but soon get engrossed in a conversation with a classmate. You are both History majors and have differing opinions on a popular professor. Minutes tick by and numbers are exchanged and another drink has made its way into your stomach. When you finally turn around again, your friend is nowhere in sight.
It’s probably fine, you tell yourself. She is either in the bathroom or ran into a friend. By the time you can run into another friend, have the same nauseating face-timey conversation you’ve been having all night, and say “we should get a meal sometime!”, she will be back. So that is exactly what you do: a boy from your Spanish class is here, wearing a much flashier outfit than his usual zoom lecture pajama pants. Good for him, you think, as you deflect his subtle attempts at flirting. He coughs and asks about Friday’s assignment. When you tell him, he nods, smiles thinly, and waves as he walks away.
A sudden tap on your shoulder startles you, and you spin around only to see your friend. There is black mascara running down her cheeks; her top, previously pinned with great care, now hands lopsided from her shoulders. She tugs on your sleeve and, immediately, you know what happened. Perhaps not the exact details or times or people, but you know. You help her pull herself together enough to walk out the back door, ignoring people’s inquisitive glances. It is cold again and you do not know where you left your jacket — it is unimportant right now. Arriving at a patch of grass, you both sit for a few moments to collect your bearings.
She blurts out all the familiar phrases: it was stupid to go out, it was irresponsible to have four drinks, she should have screamed. You tell her it isn’t her fault and that, maybe, she should call someone. The suggestion is met with immediate rejection. She cannot bear the walk of shame that comes after bearing your soul to an administrator only to be met with annoyance. He will get probation at best, she argues, while she will be branded as an attention-seeker, a drama queen, a crazy hookup. They will only ask her what she was wearing, whether she said no enough, why she went up with him in the first place. You want to tell her she is wrong. You cannot; so you hug her tightly instead, rocking back and forth as she cries.
It is just another Wednesday.
The Dartmouth Radical