Tag Archives: nonfiction

In The Air There’s Aftershave Lotion

23 Jun

You sent your kid here to get an education, and, boy, are they ever getting one. Your daughters are learning about laxative cycles, how to time them right so the body doesn’t become immune to them, and to drink lots of water with their meal – it fills the stomach up faster, makes the food easier to get up and not taste so much like bile. Your sons are learning just how much grain alcohol to put in the punch to get the girls incapacitated but keep them from the emergency room, what to say in order to linger after carrying her mumbling, lifeless body into their room, how much is costs to have Planned Parenthood tidy up the aftermath.

Many will walk out with an uncredited minor in pharmacology. If your family physician hasn’t already slapped them with a prescription back in middle school at the first site of restlessness, they’re learning about Addies. First as a study aid, then as a party aid. After awhile, they’re learning to empty the RX capsules and crush the little wax pellets to get around the time release. Dextroamphetamine, amphetamine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, benzodiazepine – they’ll know the going street rates and how much you can drink on them before blacking out by the time they’re sophomores.

They learn quickly which bars serve unders, which sorority is the easiest, which fraternities have been slipping GHB into drinks, who’s got the best coke. They figure out a few tricks – washing the X’s off their hands, carrying a flask, memorizing the astrological signs on their fake I.D.’s, how to spot herpes, what to say to the doctors to get bumped up to fifteen milligrams, which gas station caffeine pill gets you through when the script runs out early. When funds begins to dwindle near the end of the semester, they’ll learn to fleece their books for alcohol money, like junkies at a scrapyard. And like junkies, they learn every which way to make it hit a little harder – beer bongs and gravity bongs and keys carved into cans. The odds are staggeringly high they will learn all too well about the interest rates not mentioned by the loan sharks offering pizza and t-shirts, or about what withdrawl feels like, or the pullout method as a form of birth control, or the habits of the crab louse, or which HPV types cause warts, or that no doesn’t always mean no.

Your daughters will be taught that they were asking for it – what with the short skirt and the drinking. Your sons will be reassured of the same, told that bitches do this sort of thing all the time, make up lies to cover up their indiscretions, offered up a steady stream of alibis to refute the girl’s story. They’ll all become more comfortable with its inevitability, slowly but surely, until it reaches various degrees of acceptance. There are rules here, after all — if she doesn’t have the capacity to slur a protestation loudly or forcefully enough, then it wasn’t rape rape.

Thursdays kick off the weekend in this town, but Friday still holds it’s traditional place as the steam whistle to signal freedom and abandon, where the real learning takes place. The bustle begins a little after dinner — trips to the liquor store, across the state line to pick up kegs and moonshine, to the apartments of grass dealers slinging Kermit green chronic for fifty an eighth (seventy-five to unwitting freshmen), to dorm pharmacies to get a slice of Adderall re-ups and dentist office Vicodin. They’ll return home to shower and get ready, everyone chatting about frat parties, house parties, their buddy’s band’s show, while they have a few drinks and put together song mixes for the pregame, where they will get themselves drunk and stoned enough to go out and get drunk and stoned.

By the time the carnival spills out into the streets and up the hill to the bars, most of them have drank away the better part of their common sense, what remains easily talked out of by slurring sycophants. Your credit card pays for their shots and five-liquor concoctions, served in plastic, as none of them appear to have learned how to handle glassware. They have learned how to play the game, live within the tribe, and they do it well. Your daughters know that your sons want vacant, seductive promiscuity, and they deliver, their Friday night banter more hollow than a porno, their bodies toned and tanned and on display. They need but sixty seconds of flirtation to get your sons to put it on your tab. Your sons see this willingness to appease, and the game is played, liquoring them up on your dime, every word not a line of communication, but an angle or a pitch, just waiting for a chance to strike. Sons use daughters, daughters use sons. Everyone has an ulterior motive out here, and everybody knows it.

Come closing time, the main drag of red brick is littered with trash and vomit and broken bottles as police lights flicker everywhere, tending to bloodied fight victims, freshmen passed out in the bushes, acts of mindless vandalism. Glassy-eyed drunks, separated from their pack, rendered incapable of rational thought by Jagermeister, lurch through the dark alleyways like vacant zombies, driven only by a search for food, alcohol, sex and sleeping arrangements. Girls sit slumped against trees in sundresses, holding their shoes, weeping aloud with no regard to the public as their carefully applied make-up streams down their face. Couples engage in white-hot screaming arguments that ring out across blocks. It’s as noisy and messy and drug-fueled as any forgotten ghetto. And you pay five figures a year to send them here.