It looks just like those glorious videos of collegiate nights out with friends. The flashing lights, everyone smiling and singing along, surrounded by new friends having a good time. Even the music is exactly the same.
Those videos always do something to my dopamine levels. Everyone looks like they’re having fun, like they’re in the process of having the kind of nights they’ll tell their future kids about.
And in the middle of the dance floor, sporadically lit up by the flashing lights, is where I take up space. The space someone could use to dance like they don’t have another care, or thought, in the world. The space someone could use to enjoy the night. The space someone could use to not think about school or work or that to-do list sitting on their phone as the music blasts through the speakers.
The music, they’re the same songs I dance to in my apartment with friends from back home. I look around the room, and I mimic what others are doing. I’m largely aware of how I might look, wondering if they can tell I’m copying them.
Why would I take up this space in the first place if I’m only going to shadow those who are enjoying it more than me?
I always liked those videos, I always yearned for nights like this, I traveled half of the globe to have a night like this. The more I want it to be a night for enjoyment and stories that start with, “when I was a girl”, the more sobering it becomes.
I tell my new friend with fabricated excitement that I would love a drink of her margarita. At the bar, I had ordered last so nobody could see I didn’t put any alcohol in my soda. I meticulously stirred the ice around in its cup to create the illusion there was rum in my Coke. One sip of alcohol won’t hurt me though, I stay hydrated enough that it will flow right through my stomach.
Tequila knows how to cause damage long before it even gets to your stomach, though. I didn’t expect it to be so strong with all the fruit hanging off the side. It leaves an acidic trail in my mouth and I can physically feel it as it moves down my esophagus into my stomach.
In that three-second action that seemed ultimately harmless, there I was, transported back to my childhood bedroom at 17 years old. When my head would hurt so bad that eating food would leave that same acidic feel in my throat. All I could do was sit on my floor in the dark and focus on the corner where my dresser meets my desk. Once again I am reminded that I cannot have the same kind of fun I should be able to. I cannot drink like I should be able to. I cannot have these glorious nights like I should be able to.
My phone buzzes in my pocket and I take it out as an excuse to stop jumping long enough for the burning to go away. It’s only 7 p.m. on the East Coast and a man I reached out to on LinkedIn is responding. He said he’d love to talk to me about working at the United Nations. LinkedIn is the absolute last app one should want to open at 2 a.m. in a Spanish club.
I turn my phone off to see a drunk man twerking on my friend. She’s laughing and spilling her margarita over the sides of her cup. I laugh with the rest of my group but make sure not to make eye contact with the man and when he looks in my direction I stop smiling. I hope this gets across, even drunk, that I want him nowhere near me.
When it gets to be 3 a.m. we decide to leave. This new group of friends and I had been in Toledo all day and were absolutely crashing. A boy who lives in Maeve and I’s apartment complex walks us home. He gives us cereal in his apartment since we haven’t bought any groceries yet. He tells us that when girls hit on him, they tell him he reminds them of Ed Sheeran. He has red hair and a beard, but the resemblance stops there. He told us that his school is 80% girls and he’s just looking for female friends. He seems nice enough, but there’s something that doesn’t allow me to fully trust him.
Back in my own apartment, my shoulders drop from up next to my ears as soon as my bedroom door closes. Even in the room I only just moved into two days ago, I feel entirely more relaxed here. To have more than my exact body width of space, and have the deafening noise be silence instead of Daddy Yankee.
As the shower heats up, I sit down on my bathroom floor and scroll through photos I’ve taken in the past few days. I reach the videos from just a few hours ago. It looks like a glorious collegiate night out with friends. Flashing lights, everyone smiling and singing along, surrounded by new friends having a good time.
And despite the night of anxiety I just had, for some disturbing reason I feel that same little ping of dopamine in my brain. I wonder how many other people are posting those videos while sitting on their bathroom floors.
Leave a Reply