The Contract

By Ana Noriega Olazabal

Art by Kaitlyn Anderson


Content Warning: Misogyny, Substance Abuse, Homophobia.


5:56 am. It’s another one of those nights. This would be so much more humiliating if I wasn’t still drunk.


~


I left my dorm in a hurry at around eight, putting on an outfit guaranteed to give my mother a heart attack: a flared white mini-skirt and a lacy pink bralette that went just slightly below my chest, all accented with the dramatic eyeliner delineating my face. It wasn’t even comfortable, especially since it was 37 degrees outside, but I’d already become accustomed to entering buildings with numb legs and borderline-frostbitten fingers. I hastily put on my large brown winter coat and left my dorm. The door closed behind me as I went downstairs into the common room. I looked ahead through the glass doors, traces of snow covering the pavement next to the building. Instinctually tensing my muscles in a vain attempt to preserve heat, I walked outside, cold air slamming into my lungs as I hurriedly made my way to one of the halls across campus. Sally, Mia, and Brandon, friends whom I met in my Art and Design class last semester, were waiting for me in one of their dorms, located all the way up on the third floor. Since this was one of the older halls and lacked elevators, I had to painfully drag myself up several flights of stairs in what felt like a sisyphean effort — thanks, Dr. Morrison, for the metaphor — before reaching the door completely out of breath.


Fuck, I need to exercise more. Make a mental note of that for my New Year’s resolutions.


We began the pre-game with a handle of cheap, disgusting vodka — at this point, almost a staple of “the college experience.” When my turn came, I took as many big gulps as I could handle, straight from the bottle, entirely unaware of how many shots that had been — “Three? Maybe four,” I thought to myself. I suppose this is the Ivy League difference. I took another shot at Brandon’s insistence, the realization of how fucked up I was about to get hitting me with impending doom.


~


Two hours later we had just entered our second fraternity, having thrown in a couple of beers and a few hits off from someone’s weed pen to this night’s binge. The stench of drunk 20-something-year-olds attacked us as we made our way through a crowd of sweat-drenched people. Descending an old, rotting staircase, we arrived at the dance room, the floor covered in half an inch of some variegated, effervescent mystery liquid. My top turned different colors as the lights flashed all over the place, music booming and shaking the foundations of the house. I began to dance awkwardly, my movements limited by how slippery my shoes were — I really wasn’t looking to fall backward and crack my skull open in front of all the Zetes. Moving my head to the music, I seemed to have caught the sight of someone standing nearby. I turned to look, as he made his way towards me. He was around six feet tall, his dark hair shimmering in the purple lights, lit cigar in mouth, smoke tracing his drunken steps — he was almost as cartoon-like as he was attractive.

“Hey! I’m Ben, what’s your name?” he shouted, the loud music drowning out his voice

“I’m Liv!” I shouted back.

He smiled, taking the cigar out of his mouth and offering it to me. Rolling it with my fingers in a desperate attempt to look “sexy” and “hot,” I held on to it for dear life. I had only recently been introduced to the world of flirting and being noticed by men — low quality, probably sexist, predominantly WASPy, entitled men, but still men! — and so I had no better idea than to inhale the smoke, walk up to him, and exhale it into his mouth.

Instant. Coughing. Fit.


Wanting to crawl into a hole and never come out again, I handed the cigar back to him and lost myself in the crowd. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuuuuuuuck my life. I need more alcohol.”

Stumbling, I reached the empty fraternity bar. It was covered in spilled White Claw and, judging by the loud moans, the bartender was probably off hooking up with a sorority girl in the nearby bathroom. I slowly sneaked over to the back, ensuring that none of the brothers would see me, and began looking around the dirty cabinets for more drinks. After a few minutes the moans had died down and all I had been able to find was an almost-empty case of Keystone — God, why do we drink that shit? I stole two cans and quickly shotgunned them in succession, seeing the bartender walk back to his post from the corner of my eye. At this point, my top soaked in beer, I realized I had already lost Sally, Mia, Brandon, and the other two girls who joined us between parties.

It is always in these moments of solitude amongst hundreds that the objective look of things dawns on me — that is to say, all of this felt a little forced. As a teenager at Brown Oaks High School, I had never even truly been drunk. I attended a total of one party, a club social organized by some guys in the debate team. Nothing of note happened except that 30 kids were leeching off from someone’s poor parents’ liquor cabinet. Eventually, as guys began to brag about all the girls they’ve fucked — none of which were me, of course — and girls began drunkenly shouting and dancing around, I resigned myself to calling my dad and asking him to pick me up. Even thinking about this makes me cringe down to my very soul to this day.

To an extent, I sometimes wish I had dared myself to go beyond these limits. Teen girls are always sneaking out of their homes in every cheesy 80s movie, but I had the misfortune of having an insomniac mother with special hearing superpowers. I swear that this woman can even hear my cat making her way through the living room in the middle of the night. So, when everyone was outside on a Friday night, I’d be talking to online friends, eating pizza, or watching a TV series while making sure to be on the lookout for my parents, who would always walk in during the spiciest scenes.

It’s not like I didn’t try to be around people more often: I occasionally managed to score a few friends, and it was always nice while it lasted. However, this is where parental repression began to play a role: while my dad always begged me to invite friends over, worrying that I’d end up becoming a socially-inept hermit, he never approved of the friends I did have. They were all a bit too goth, queer, weird, or a combination of the above for his liking. Things eventually blew up when I began going out with Cathy. Let me put it this way: their perfect Christian daughter hanging out with “the gays” was one thing — me being one of “the gays” was something else entirely. Hello, bi-weekly church groups and religious “counseling.” By the time I turned seventeen, I decided that being openly bisexual was too hard, and at eighteen, sitting inside a Starbucks with my college acceptance letter in hand, I resolved to become the radical opposite of my pathetic high school self: a hot, popular, athletic girl who gets any hot, popular, athletic guy she wants (and is also an alcoholic).

The walls were sweating, the heat becoming increasingly unbearable. As more people poured in, I decided to leave the dance floor and go up to the living room. By this point, the music had died down and people were beginning to talk amongst themselves. In the midst of downing my who-knows-what-number-th beer, I saw Jeremy coming out of the basement as well, looking around the main room before spotting me and walking in my direction. We had just met earlier that day at the student cafe, him offering to help me carry my heavy book bag.


We chit-chatted for a few minutes as we walked towards the library, his impetuous wandering stare landing all over my body — which, as ego-boosting as it might be, came off a bit too strong. He had an unmistakable dorky aura to him, his hair resembling a messy wet mop, his glasses fitting a little too well on his slender frame. He was still wearing the same obnoxious gold watch he had on when we first met — almost makes you wish he’d spill a Keystone all over it.

“What are you doing for the rest of the night, Liv?”

“I guess I was just gonna hang around and then go to my dorm,” I answered.

“Nice. Where are you living? Freshman cluster?”

“Oh, yeah. Passing Peabody.”

He took a hesitant step forward, appearing to tower over me in spite of being slightly shorter — there must be some feminist pamphlet that explains this.

“Oh shit, that’s really far, and it’s freezing. Are you sure you’re fine walking back by yourself?”

Oh, God. It’s happening.




~


Thirty minutes later I was entering his dorm room, the intense combined smells of marijuana and rotting food assaulting my nostrils. There were dirty, unwashed clothes everywhere on the floor, forming multicolor mountains. Buried underneath, just barely peeking below an old, stained shirt, laid an ancient piece of pizza that had long ago fused with the gray carpet floor.

“So uh, you’ve had sex before?” he asked, breaking the awkward silence with the most awkward question I’d ever been asked.

“Uh, yeah. Totally. Of course,” I said, nodding and lying through my forced smile.

“Well… Let’s do this,” he said, coming up to me. Oh God, oh God.

We started making out, as his hands explored my body. Grabbing my top by the bottom, he began to slip it off — Oh God, oh God, oh God. Fuck. It’s happening, and I’m terrified. A feeling of regret began to inundate me. Was I really about to lose my virginity to a guy who can’t even clean his own room? He might be rich, but from the two interactions we’d had thus far, I could tell that he was the textbook definition of lazy, spoiled brat. I forcibly overrode this feeling of impending disaster, remembering the commitment I had made in that Starbucks: This is who I am now. This is good. This is all I ever wanted.

Ten minutes later, I was on top of him, the lights in his dorm turned off, the window shamelessly open — it was so dark outside that nobody would see anything anyway. He must have been inside me for three minutes at most, me feeling not much beyond a mix of discomfort and dirty pride. After he finished, he stood up, mechanically put on a pair of pants, and began rolling a joint, all without saying a single word to me. I laid in his bed, looking out the window, as a strange feeling began to sink into my chest. I did it, and yes, it sucked, but hey — a guy thought I was hot enough to be fucked!

God, that’s pathetic. I’m pathetic. Simone de Beauvoir must be rolling in her grave from second-hand embarrassment.

“Yo Liv, want a hit?”

I inhaled, blowing the smoke out of the window so as to not let the smell give us away — unnecessarily, as the room already smelled that way on its own. He looked at me and I looked at him, shame beginning to consume me. I had to get out of there.

“Hey, uh, this has been lovely, but I really should get going. It’s really, really late.”

“Aight. Have a good night,” he nonchalantly replied. I put my underwear and skirt back on, quickly grabbed my coat, and headed outside.

The morning had begun to shimmer through the downtown buildings. I walked down 5th Avenue, purple-orange clouds looking down at me, beginning to starve for some morning coffee as the most brutal hangover of my life crept on me. Seeing that the local Starbucks was already open, I walked in and ordered two shots of espresso. As I sat next to a window, looking at the occasional car zooming by, I began to think.

As of today, Olivia Berkshire is no longer a virgin. I am well-liked, I play club lacrosse, and I get blackout-drunk every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I am the hot, popular, athletic girl I swore I’d become, and yet, I feel just as pathetic as I always did — the only difference being that now I’m an alcoholic and seem to derive validation from how many guys flirt with me on a given night.

Part of me feels like this is the sad truth of the “popular girl” archetype. Nobody truly embodies it; we’re all faking it as we chase the impossible. I would have never had sex with someone like Jeremy — much less lost my virginity to him — had the pressure to constantly hook up with conventionally-attractive frat types not been there in the first place. You can’t ever win. If you don’t hook up, then you’re ugly and unwanted and less of a woman. If you do hook up, then not only do you end up fucking guys who don’t actually deserve your body, but you also begin building a bit of a “whore” reputation. It’s almost like it’s rigged. Women can’t ever win. My only consolation is that Simone de Beauvoir has probably stopped rolling now.

Teenage me would be so proud — my conservative, Christian parents would be so upset. Present me, however, keeps looking out the window, sipping on my second espresso shot, bowing my head down in defeat as I renew the contract I made with myself a year ago.


~


5:56 am. It’s another one of those nights. This would be so much more humiliating if I wasn’t still drunk.