On Easter weekend of your freshman year at Dartmouth, you and two friends, Rick and John, decide to rent a car and drive to New Haven, CT, where you once attended a summer program for high school students. The Ford Escort, fittingly obtained at an agency called Rent-a-Wreck, the only place that will rent to a nineteen-year-old, is half your age. That makes it an octogenarian in car years. In New Haven the three of you have it valet parked at the Omni Hotel.
Tonight you are the guide to the bar scene instead of Rick and John because you were once almost arrested for drinking here under-aged. That was so long ago you draw a total blank when trying to decide where to go first. On a sidewalk along High Street, each of you full of okay pizza, you notice three girls walking your way, a lovely compliment in number only. One is attractive and one is not attractive and one is neither. Take the initiative by saying, “Excuse me.” Tell them you don’t go to school there. Ask about the bars where most people go. End it with an ironically cordial, “If you don’t mind.”
“We don’t really go to bars all that often,” one of the girls says, “but we’re going to a party right now. Want to come?”
“Um, well,” you say, exchanging an unnecessary look for approval with John and Rick. They realize concurrently that fortune does indeed favor the bold, just as all three of you will soon learn the same goes for the drunk. You say, “Sure, why not?”
Follow the girls and make small talk. The attractive one is obviously most interested in John, leaving you and Rick to vie, reluctantly like Jules et Jim in reverse, for the affections of the less catastrophic of two train wrecks. The party is at a residential college called Calhoun. In line for a beer, a guy in front of you flings his hands into the air and says, “The keg is floated,” after which Rick and John ask him to step aside. They tap the keg again so that beer flows. People in line behind you give a cheer.
Either as a form of admiration or as a means of explanation, one Yale student whispers to another Yale student, “They go to Dartmouth.”
John goes outside with one of the girls who brought you here, while Rick is asked to dance by a girl from the keg line. You stand in the corner, of course, jealous as all hell. At the end of a song, Rick comes to you and says he needs help because “some big-legged girl” is trying to get in his pants. Rick is not fond of girls with big legs. Tell him to relax, hand him a cigarette, pat him on the back, and say, “Go outside.”
“But I don’t smoke.”
Start dancing with the girl once he is gone. You do not have a problem with big legs. Get sweaty with her for the next few hours.
[/div:right-wrap]In the courtyard of Calhoun, according to the story that will be told tomorrow, a girl passes Rick and goes, “You’re cute. Want to come to another party?” He says sure. At a house lived in by members of the Whiffenpoofs—you have never understood the appeal of a cappella to girls up north, and that group’s name hardly reconciles the cognitive dissonance—Rick is nursing a beer, taking its temperature and counting its heartbeat, when the cops arrive to break up the party.
All scatter but him. With a distinct lack of vowel control, Rick says to the cops, “I don’t even go to school here. Was just at a party at some residential college. Ended up at this place by accident. I don’t even like singing!” The New Haven police tell him they will let him go if he tells them the name of the residential college. Rick responds to their proposal after giving it as much consideration as he would give a sneeze.
Five minutes later, somehow having managed to outrun the police to the college, Rick finds you on a spiral staircase, him going up as you are going down, a double helix of coincidence. He says the cops might be showing up soon. You ask why. He says because he told them about the party. Rick does not conclude with, “Duh,” but he might as well have. Both of you have to climb the wrought-iron gates of Yale University to escape capture by the town police.
You look back and you just feel stupid.
You can’t forgive yourself for falling
or believing all the lies.
You reread every text.
You relive every memory.
And it all starts making sense —
he never wanted love.
He only wanted attention.
He only wanted validation.
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