the first party

Today I was reminded of a really great story. Or at least…I think it’s great.

The story of my first college party. My first party, really. I didn’t drink or do anything crazy in high school. I lived my life by the rules, went to school, went home, maybe went to a football game here and there…worked my senior year. I was pretty low-key then. And I knew I wanted that to change in college. I knew I was more adventurous than the person I was in high school. I knew I wanted to do a lot more. But at the same time, I didn’t want to totally lose myself.

I failed. And I’m pretty glad I did. Now I’m the crazy friend. The always-down, is probably-doing-something-insane-as-you-speak friend with enough stories to fill a very intense novel. Some of those stories are incredible, wonderful, out of this world. Some are tragedies. You can’t have flowers without a little rain.

But my first college party definitely started it all.

I remember absolutely everything about this party. I remember the warm summer night, I remember my gray and light cognac leather flip flops from Charlotte Russe. I remember (and still have) my pale yellow double pork chop shorts from Forever 21, Lover #2 picked them out before we broke up, and the sheer navy crop top that tied around my waist with white owls dotted over it (also Forever 21) and the white bandeau I wore under it, which came from Hollister. I never wore anything like that before. The day I bought the top and bandeau, a friend of mine from kindergarten went to the mall with me so we could get some new clothes as we set off for college. It was the last time I hung out with her. I remember two things: trying on that top and feeling like I wanted to crawl out of my own skin for showing off what little of my midriff it revealed and buying it anyways because she told me I looked great in it, and a comment she made about her ex, who was also once a good friend of mine.

I remember setting out to meet Coffee that night, before he was Coffee, and when I knew him as his real name only. But eventually, he became Coffee because his skin is a dark roast brewed almost to the point of burning it. They really did call him Coffee, I didn’t make it up. He is a really cool guy. We stopped hanging out after our first semester, which was my fault. But I’ll say it: he kind of started it by taking me to this party, which led to a string of other parties where problems arose. But it wasn’t his fault. It was entirely mine.

But on this night, I remember walking next to him, overwhelmed with excitement and nervousness. Unsure of what to expect, but full of expectations. Young, naive, recently heartbroken Haleigh was headed to her first real party. We met at Burger King and walked up past the 7-11 and the street that shared Lover #2’s last name. I thought maybe one day I would climb up that pole and steal the sign for him. Surely that would keep our love alive. I never stole that street sign for him, but every time I see it, I think about that plan.

We walked quickly but it seemed like it took forever. The temperature was not overbearing, but the humidity hung just thick enough to stick to my memories.

Then we arrived. The sound traveled out through the narrowest alleyway. Coffee had to duck, we both had to rotate our shoulders sideways to fit the opening. Crossing through that small passage was like entering Wonderland. The din of voices, talking, yelling, and the faint bass of the stereo hidden in the wall of the two houses suffused into the terrace between them. It felt like what I would imagine being in an Italian city would feel like. String lights lined the patio, creating a yellow hue. There were people in lawn chairs and standing around. Coffee introduced me, and I didn’t understand how he knew so many people there when we had only been at the school for about 3 weeks. I awkwardly received waves and hey’s, then we went inside. That’s where I met Butch and Bella. They were on the rugby team. They tried to recruit me.

And that’s where it all started.

The rugby house.

*I never even tried to join the women’s rugby team.

Eventually, someone realized I hadn’t been drinking. They got me a beer from the keg. It was awful piss beer, and I said so, even though it was the first time I had ever had a beer. Somehow I wound up with a PBR. The guy who bought the PBR said “Oh, I see you got a PBR. That’s interesting.”

I came back with “I don’t know…someone handed it to me. It’s pretty good.”

He was convinced I stole it and tried to cop a dollar, but he let me keep it even when I refused to pay up. PBR became my favorite beer for the academic 2013-2014 school year. This is What Makes Us Girls by Lana Del Rey became my theme song solely because of the line “Drinking in the small town firelight, Pabst blue ribbon on ice.”

I ventured back out to the terrace because Coffee had disappeared. I sat down in a lawn chair and started talking to people because I didn’t really know what else I would do. I wasn’t as addicted to my phone then, I suppose. Eventually, I got kicked out of my seat by someone who was drunk and said “that’s my seat, bro.” I wasn’t in the position to argue.

I stood behind the seat I was sitting in and started talking to Ian. I have not seen Ian since the night I met him. Ian was from New York. He was tall, handsome, and stupid. We talked for a long time.

Then a guy who I would encounter many more times jumped off the roof. He always scared me after that. He also would later manage to spray me in the eyes with beer, trying to kick everyone out of a party he wasn’t throwing. I still see him around and we both have an unspoken agreement to pretend we don’t know each other. I don’t even know his name.

But that guy scared me right into Ian’s arms that night. And then Ian kissed me. After which, another guy came up and offered me a shot. I refused because I was at least smart enough not to drink a drink I didn’t open myself or pour myself. He handed the shot to Ian and Ian tried again to hand the shot to me. “You don’t want to waste it!”

“Then you take it.”

His hesitation told me a lot. I got tired of being at the party so I said I was leaving. He insisted on walking me home, and I figured I probably shouldn’t walk home alone. I lost Coffee for the remainder of the night, I figured he had left me there. We took a different way home down the neighborhood streets of the borough and got back to the dorms way faster that way. Ian said he knew the town really well, but I don’t remember why. He stumbled and I ended up walking him the last leg of the journey. It was cooler than when Coffee and I embarked and groups and pairs of freshmen girls huddled together and scurried back into the building. Ian and I stopped about 30 yards from the doors. He sat on railing that followed the walk, and I stood in front of him. He asked to come inside. I said no. He begged to come inside. I said no. So he asked for my phone number and I put it in his phone.

He texted me every few days for about 2 weeks. I deleted his number.

And then the second party happened.

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