(Part One) Let’s Meet The Girls
Pulling my head out of the toilet, the smell of rancid acid and last night’s Chinese food permeates the air. Wrenching, my stomach turns at the smell, spewing forth another stream of puke into the already soiled bowl. Gripping the cool porcelain sides, I try to still my racing heart, desperately praying for my body temperature to drop at least five degrees. The bathroom is warmed by my labored breathing, steaming the small mirror above the sink.
Shaking, my hand wipes the sweat from my brow and neck. My long brown hair, straight but thick and usually kept in an unassuming ponytail, clings to my neck and shoulders. A few strands streak across my face and into my mouth, clumped by bits of rice noodles and sweet and sour chicken. Trying not to gag, I pull the hair from my mouth, hastily pushing them away from my face.
When I try to push myself off of the cold tile floor my knees start to buckle, forcing me to grip the sides of the toilet for support. Steadying myself I reach out and pull on the handle. It takes almost every bit of strength I have. The flush of the toilet does little to quell my stomach as the swirling mess disappears.
I silently curse Jess’ brilliant idea to make a midnight food run. “I’m going to kill her.” My voice, barely audible, ricochets off of the bathroom walls. My hands go to my temples as I try to massage away a dull ache that has started to grow at the back of my skull.
We had been up for twenty hours trying to cram a semester’s worth of information into one night for this morning’s final exam. At eighteen and finally free from the shackles of our parents’ hovering eyes and old-fashioned ideals, we had spent our first semester in college chasing boys, downing vodka and cranberry drinks, and challenging every single known barrier we had to endure as minors. We got drunk at noon on a Tuesday and went to every single morning class in our pjs, hair tossed up into a messy ponytail and grande mocha lattes downed with a side of Advil. I tried my first cigarette and immediately promised it would be my last.
Jess even pledged a sorority and I eagerly followed along hoping to join in on the fun but unable to afford the fees and costs associated with looking your best. It was a whirlwind first six months of adulthood that coveted independence, sex, and partying. Condoms were traded like playing cards amongst the girls; some preferring the ribbed tip while others enjoyed the glow in the dark and strawberry flavored. We would giggle in hushed tones about the boys we had made out with the night before and whether or not he really did look like Brad Pitt or if our drunken state had made him that much hotter. We were brazen in our advances, throwing casual, sidelong glances towards every six pack in our path.
Jess was particularly good at this type of foreplay. With long, wavy blonde hair and crystal blue eyes, she had been able to perfect that sun-kissed skin look, which suited her tall, athletic five foot six frame perfectly. She had a small spray of freckles across her nose that gave her that all-American girl look. And Jessica was the type of girl boys panted after and girls envied. Funny, smart, and always ready with a smile for anyone she deemed worthy, she could wrap even the toughest frat guy around her little finger with a brief sway of her hips and lip out. And I worshipped her.
We had been paired as freshman roommates. When I first walked in the room Jessica was there next to a bed of bright purple sheets and a stuffed dog, hanging up posters of nineties teen heartthrobs Devon Sawa and James Van Der Beek. I immediately liked her – James was my own fantasy boyfriend.
“Love the poster,” I said, pointing to James.
“You do?” she squeals. Her voice was light and musical. “I’m so glad. My Mom told me not to bring them. She said they were for little girls. But I just can’t love but looking at him.” She sighs and a faint shade of pink crosses her cheeks. Looking down at the floor she mumbles “I mean, he’s super-hot,” before jumping from one foot to the other.
It takes me a moment to realize she is nervous and it makes me like her all the more.
“I agree. I love James. Sometimes I like to pretend he’s my boyfriend,” I admit slightly embarrassed myself but happy to have made a connection.
“Me too!” Running up to me she extends her hand. “Hi, I’m Jessica, but everyone calls me Jess.”
“We are going to be the bestest of friends Tammy.” This time her squeal is one of laughter. Jumping up and down she claps her hands before looping her arm through mine and dragging me over to her bed to look through her old high school yearbooks. From that moment we became inseparable.