My Friends Call Me This by Sarah Minnie Scarr

    We began in the big classroom. Our first days varied. Some of us were already disciplined, trained in the art of sitting. For others, the time in chairs shortened our hamstrings and left us with an unnatural gait to accompany the cramps in our hands. Workbooks with perforated pages and illustrations in place of instructions sat on the tables in front of us. There were blanks to be filled in. There were clock faces demanding arms to correspond with digital descriptions of time.

           On that first day, we presented ourselves to each other in the language. Hello. My name is such and such, but my friends call me this. And the speaker’s face would redden at the chorus of “Hello, this,”—at the strangeness of hearing their own name pronounced in thirty unknown accents. Names were expanded to names plus a carefully selected personal detail. Hello my name is this and that and I like movies. That detail was our first foot forward in conversation. With limited vocabulary skills it was crucial to choose correctly, to rely on the words we could pronounce best. The last thing we needed as non-native speakers was to lead with our status as non-native speakers. We practiced our presentations at every chance and filled the windowed hall outside the classroom with token greetings and goodbyes.

           The classroom was typical: tables arranged in rows, windows covered by blinds that clinked pleasantly when they were drawn, the linoleum floor a mottled, dirt-concealing grey. Long plateaus of incomprehension followed fugitive moments of understanding. We surrounded each other with far off looks of concentration. The rough, complex thoughts that still flew through our minds raced towards our tongues, shot past our teeth, stumbled on our palates, and landed on weary ears like broken bricks on brick walls. We lost even the familiarity of our voices as we spat strange sounds into the increasingly cluttered air of the classroom. Worse still were the uncommented-on misunderstandings.

           “You look angry,” the teacher would say.

           “It’s complicated,” we would reply.

           “Then make it simple.”

           We were reduced to our atomic selves, to so and so’s who liked just one thing or another.  

 

Our first afternoon spent grappling with untranslatable concepts left us longing for the tiny triumphs of object identification: pencil, snow, tree, tax bureau. Instead of pointing at illustrations in our workbooks, we jabbed at the air with our fingers, our voices rising, bored and frustrated by the inaccessibility of exactitude. The abstract idea of “just right” condensed into a single word taunted us with its precise measure constructed over centuries by cultural idiosyncrasies we did not share.

           Our weekends had been just good enough, thank you. How much milk would we like in our coffee? Just enough, please. Individuality had boundaries that didn’t fit with our newfound solidarity built on common sense and approximation. We grasped rules before we could apply them. In class, you shall not think that you are something. You shall not think you are as good as we. To think of me without we was isolation, was an unobserved holiday spent alone, or the sharp silence when new words failed to express opinions once assumed ubiquitous.

 

At two o’clock, the school paused for coffee in the communal kitchen. A colorful world map hung on the wall overlooking three round café tables. Cookies, fruit, and coffee were provided. We took mugs from the cupboards, scooped coffee into the filter, set the milk on the counter, refilled the sugar. We took turns watering the orchids on the windowsill and watching our reflection wield the watering can.

           Groups formed around each table, mirroring the hacked up world of the map on the wall. While the teacher took her coffee, we conversed in the language with exaggerated enthusiasm. The bus was late, the bus is always late, yesterday there was no train, we’re always on time, I like your jacket, blue is my favorite color, what’s your favorite movie, it’s complicated.

           Then, when the teacher went out and the door shut behind her, Southern sugar takers and Northern milk sippers alike reverted to their native tongues. We came dangerously close to answering the question we dreaded to hear but were always thinking—where do you come from originally? We allowed ourselves the respite from social regulation and reverted to delicate, complex communication. At twenty past, a line formed at the dishwasher. Mugs were arranged to fit, the empty milk cartons crushed and tossed into the recycling bin, cookies shoved into pockets for long bus rides home. Our verbal sentiments simplified. We resumed narration of our movements in the language as we returned the kitchen to a state of order, ready for the next day. A chorus of gasps filled the hallway as our thoughts, those rough protrusions of self that had regenerated during the interval of linguistic freedom, were shorn off by the sharp angles of the classroom’s doorway.

           

We were like new, from the clothes we wore to the way we perceived the clothes we might buy off the racks in the stores. Scarves distorted our bodies and dwarfed our heads, and swollen down jackets ballooned our torsos and withered our legs. We rubbed fabrics between our fingers and tried to imagine their ability to combat the cold. Could they keep out the wet? Did they dry quickly? We had been told there was no bad weather, only bad clothing.

           We tried to wear what they wore. Tried to keep straight the myriad words for hat. The princess and her husband were photographed in matching knit beanies topped with bobbles of fur. Sidewalks on the north side of the city became dotted with bouncing bits of dead rabbit. Then old town. Then the south side. They all wore this hat. So we all began to wear that hat. Then it was just us wearing the hat. It had become our hat. We were aliens, travellers in space topped with dead rabbit bobbles as we approached our new home and watched the grief on the faces of our welcoming party come into focus.         

 

The teacher in the big classroom was everything we aspired to be, a model of passing. She had an indiscernible accent. Her hair color was meticulously regulated along with her wardrobe choices and her interactions with students. We practiced saying her name to ourselves, but rarely spoke it. On occasion, she summoned us to join her at her desk, to fill out papers or explain an absence. At these times we heard the thoughts we dared not think reflected in her tone when she spoke of them, their fashions she had resentfully adopted and their bureaucracy, which she dutifully upheld. We recognized her authority as their representative. It was she who administered our exams, determined our progress. But in our eyes, it was the apparent success of her divided allegiance that secured her legitimacy.

           Each chapter sandwiched between the bright blue cover of our oversized workbook was given a letter—A through D. Each letter contained vocabulary, grammar, listening competence, and pronunciation, all presented under the umbrella of a unifying aspect of the culture that tied into the global context via current events. Newspaper clippings depicting human rights abuses in far off places and local train derailments provided an opportunity to evaluate the world using our new lens. Diamonds were a good investment, here we did not have to worry that our purchases were bloodstained. But of course differentiating oneself through displays of wealth was undesirable. Though it may seem outdated, the public transport system we rode each day had once been a model of modernity. Perhaps the trains would be on time, had track maintenance not been entrusted to an overseas contractor.       Students progressed through their workbooks at their own pace. The instructor moved around the room making corrections, answering questions, and selecting students who completed assignments within the same timeframe for discussion sessions in the kitchen.

           We were encouraged to listen to the radio.

 

Test B was administered in the morning. We answered questions regarding a recorded message that announced a train delay and the location of replacement buses. We filled in blanks, drew lines from words to objects, wrote mock letters to our neighbors requesting they not remove our clothing from the dryer in the communal laundry room before the dry cycle had been completed. We reproduced our imaginary family trees.

           Results came the next morning on official letterhead tucked into envelopes. Samaneh, Kathrin, Olga, Akberet, and Mary. We were to form a separate class in the room at the end of the hall.

 

We chose seats from the ergonomic chairs around the large rectangular table and turned to face the native woman at the front of the classroom: our new teacher, Anita. As we presented ourselves, our carefully chosen words and practiced pronunciations became stilted. Anita’s naturally blond hair, ruddy cheeks, and boxy clothing disarmed us with authenticity. Through the classroom’s one window we saw a lane lined with villas and harshly pruned apple trees not visible from the big classroom.

           She asked questions for which we had no prepared answers. She had us repeat what we said until we were sure what we said had no meaning, and shook her head at our perfunctory vowel sounds. She coached our mouths to new levels of compliance with the aid of pencils held in place under our noses by pursed lips. We snickered at the sounds we made. Anita passed out hand mirrors and we watched the spectacle of our faces as we taught them to behave. She pulled us apart, called us by name, and tailored her treatment to our individual anatomical configurations.

           At five minutes to two we paused for coffee. We passed the big classroom on our way through the windowed hall to the kitchen. Students were bent over their workbooks. Our old teacher paced between the rows. A man known for his unusual height stooped at the wall mounted pencil sharpener. A few watched us pass. Most continued working. We could hear the familiar thud of frustrated movements and exaggerated sighs. It seemed only natural that we, the first to arrive, should put on the coffee. Mary watered the orchids, and as she bent to read the thermometer we saw a uniformed postal worker pass on their bicycle, fitted with extra baskets and laden with local mail.

           The students from the big classroom appeared in the doorway, tentatively, as though re-navigating the ritual with consideration for the novel condition of our early arrival. The room filled in around us. Our table continued to speak the language with newly contorted faces, sustaining a strained conversation that felt like an extension of our classroom discussions. Anita had taken coffee and left the room, but she could appear in the hall at any time, could look in and see how our lips moved. A single word from a relaxed mouth threatened to undo our progress and challenge our newfound social position so close to one of them. The ties of the classroom web snapped around us. We nodded despondently to questions about the back room or replied in the language until the students of the big classroom ceased to approach us. Tenuous strands of allegiance to Anita—to the new ideal—emerged.

 

Anita showed us pictures of families. We passed them around the table holding them carefully by the edges. We wanted to know how to express that we liked the baby.

           Samaneh asked, “If we say that it’s sweet, will they think we want to eat it?”        

          “Samaneh!” we said. And to Anita, “But really, will they?”

           There was a rumor that a new culture could only be learned through the eyes of a child. It was possible to become one of them by renouncing yourself and starting again from the beginning, relearning each sandbox value, regarding high time celebrations with idiotic awe, and eating the foods of native school children. Akberet brought papers from her daughter’s school for Anita to decipher. Kathrin taught us the songs her son learned at daycare. They had brought motherhood with them. How could the rest of us think of children when we finally had the opportunity not to think about children?

           We discussed a hypothetical visit to the home of the family in the pictures for coffee. We did not bring food. They would provide it. We brought flowers because it was the host’s birthday. We took off our shoes by the door. They gave us a tour of their house.

           “Can we look in the closets?” we asked.

           “Wouldn’t you rather see the new appliances in the kitchen?” asked Anita. Yes, of course. We accepted more coffee the second time it was offered. We left a lonely bun on the plate even when plied by our hostess to take it. We said, “What a sweet baby!” and “He’ll be out running marathons before you know it” and when he was bad, “How good he is!”

           

Anita took us into the city. Old town had narrow cobblestone streets that radiated from the castle. The waterfront was lined with pastel plaster facades, classical columns topped with gilt scrolls, and the sea was frozen black and unmoving. We took our coffee at the state library, a modern cube on the corner of two streets of austere, compact buildings built in the functional style that dominated the newer quarters.

           Copies of The Count of Monte Cristo, translated and converted into “easy reading” for use by the program, had been reserved for us at the main desk. Books such as these—simplified classics—were available in all of the paperback shops, as well as the many branches of the municipal library system. Anita passed out vocabulary lists and we mumbled as we walked: traitor, treasure, fate. The large state library was a shell, a massive rotunda lined with books. We carried our copies as we ventured beyond the easy reading section, our steps echoing in circles around the empty core. Our stilted sentences smeared across the bindings of native poets to whom we would never be introduced.

           We waited for the bus to take us back to our classroom. Our breath formed crystals in our noses. Anita had mittens; we all had gloves. She told us we could keep warm by not shivering. We spotted the man from the big classroom known for his unusual height behind the wheel of a taxi on the other side of the street.

           “Yohannes!” we said. “He’s gotten his license.”

           “He offered to show me his driving manual once,” said Anita.

           “He was saving to buy his own car,” we said.  

 

Akberet invited us to her home after class. We rode the train together, then the bus, and walked flat-footed over the snow and up a steep hill. At five o’clock, it had already been dark for an hour. We moved towards floating rows of glowing dots, single candles set in each of the windows of Akberet’s building. We were awkwardly empty-handed, except Mary who brought flowers in case there was a birthday.

           Apartment houses were erected in a ring around the city as the number of new arrivals skyrocketed thirty years ago. There was no program then. The apartment houses were built at the end of the bus lines to a just-right height barely visible above the trees. Their square simplicity refused adornment. Apartments in these buildings followed the standard layout of one or two bedrooms and a kitchen. The walls were lined with cabinets lacquered the same white as the walls. The ground floor housed storage rooms for bicycles and communal laundry facilities.

           Akberet’s building had a glass elevator, one of the few possible variations. We were too many to turn and face the same direction. Akberet’s daughter, Genet, opened the door, then hid behind her mother. We lined up our shoes by the entrance. Genet rearranged them while Akberet put the flowers in water.

           “How good she is,” we said.

           The language and universal experiences guided our conversation. We exchanged tips on layering our clothing for warmth and asked after each other’s families, offering updates on fake relatives we had used to populate our fake family trees.

           “Your father, Mary?” we asked.

           “The same,” Mary answered gravely. We nodded sympathetically. The hole left by excised sincerity was easiest filled with feigned concern for false characters. Music we recognized from a lecture on the coming celebration played on the radio. We sipped coffee and eyed the last bun on the plate. Akberet’s daughter fell asleep dangling from her mother’s breast. We sorted our shoes quietly to leave. Olga took the last bun and we looked away.

           We returned to the bus stop to begin our journeys home. One side of the glass bus shelter had been smashed, the tiny pieces of shatter resistant glass held together by an “x” of orange tape. Through the glass the lights in the windows of Akberet’s apartment house glittered between the pines like gravel in a skinned knee. Chains on the tires of passing cars scratched at the road. Headlights searched our faces and flung our shadows across the snow. An older couple arrived at the bus stop and we smiled sweetly, standing to let them sit.

           “Always late,” said the man to the woman. His fur-trimmed hood slid from his head as he craned his neck in the direction of the bus’ impending arrival. They shook their heads and sat.

           The bus arrived, heaved and screeched, and sank for boarding. We let the older couple board first. We sat near the front, shook our heads at one another in pleasant camaraderie, and said, "always late."       

           We heard the couple behind us mutter, "Always early."

 

The next Monday, a new woman joined us. She had been promoted after completing Test B.

           “My name is Renata. My friend’s call me Rena. I like to dance,” she said.

           “Hi Rena,” we said. We asked about the big classroom. The teacher had been given an assistant, a man sent by the employment office to teach job skills. He sweat through his shirt, was unpleasant, and had an accent no one had heard before.

           The program was designed to make us employable. It’s purpose was to teach us how to behave at a job: to ignore hierarchy unless called into an office, to participate in After Works when invited out by colleagues, and to name the parts of a computer. After the program, there would be an opportunity to take tests at the employment office to determine what profession we were best suited for, and for which job we would settle. Everyone was required to attach their picture to their resumes. The employment office was always crowded.

 

We felt there were things we were not being told. We discussed the snickers we got, the whispers directed at us. What was it about our efforts to become them that made us feel we were moving backwards, farther away from our future selves? Our vocabularies grew and we heard one another’s accents more clearly. We learned customs, but without occasion to practice them outside of the program. We strived to form the connections that made their jokes funny, but our misinterpretations diverted our efforts and formed another type of humor—one that further separated and marked us.

           Anita told us the days were getting longer. The sun stayed in the sky, behind clouds and falling snow, until five. We wanted the spring to melt us so we could become undetectable, like the snow Anita promised would eventually melt into the gutters and rejoin the waterways of the city. We moved through the program faster than expected. The date of the final exam was pushed up.

 

We sat in the classroom around the long rectangular table making strained, uncomfortable faces that matched our mental exertion, but not the meanings of our words. The spring sun had arrived and we longed for the walk to the bus stop, to listen to the trickle of melting snow, to unwrap our scarves so the sun warmed our skin and the wind whipped it. Rena stood at the white board attempting an extended self-presentation.

           Rena had left a job at an ice cream factory. She had arrived with her husband, Benjamin, and her teenage son, Martin, a year ago. She lived with her family in an apartment house near a pizzeria. Her husband was in the large classroom. He carried a brown leather briefcase. Her son wanted a skateboard. He had begun to walk ahead of her after they disembarked from the bus, as though they had not boarded and sat together. She paused and looked at Anita.

           “What else? What else?” asked Rena.

           “Tell us what you want from your life,” we said. She didn’t know, she didn’t know.

           “What about University?” we asked. She thought about taking classes once she finished the program. What in? Who knows!

           “Have you exercised all of your rights? Have you voted?” No, not yet, but she would.

           “Have you taken sick leave? Been to the doctor? There is healthcare to be accessed!” we cried. “There are freedoms to be enjoyed!” And she had, and she had, and she would.

           Rena turned to the board. She drew a house surrounded by t’s. “Berry. Berry? Buried?” said Rena. She pointed out the window. A cat sunned itself on the veranda across the lane. Smooth new shoots radiated from the apple trees. She pointed to the house in her drawing. She stabbed at the t’s, grabbed a dictionary from the table, and began to flip through the pages.

           “Burial!” she said. “Burial! I want to bury my family in my yard.”

           “You want to bury your family in your yard?” we asked. Of course she did! She wanted a large house—a villa—with a yard large enough to bury every member of her family. The ones in unmarked graves! She would have them shipped here. There would be space for her husband, her son, herself—one day. They would all be together.

           “Is that all you want?” We clicked our pens. Olga went to the wastebasket and dropped in a crumpled piece of paper.

           We told Rena that was not allowed here.

           

There was a new sign posted outside of the kitchen advertising monetary incentives for those who began the program after a certain date and completed it by another. We did not qualify. New students stopped us in the hallway and asked us to read the sign to them and explain its meaning.

           In the back classroom, we watched movies to learn what was worth telling stories about. We spoke to one another until we were understood, no matter how long our turns became. We read their news and history, learned who was and had been important. We learned idioms. In our eagerness to become them, we ceased to search for the words to describe ourselves. The words we might have used disappeared from our vocabulary. Rena stopped coming to class. Her husband said she had found a job that did not require speech.

 

 

Ten Cool Tips for College Girls! by Jody Donahue for GalsOnCampus.Com/GirlTalk by Emma Arett

In honor of Quarto's new website, we are republishing the winners of last year's Quarto Awards. Emma Arett was the winner of the Dylan Landis Fiction Prize for her piece, "Ten Cool Tips for College Girls."

Hi!  My  name  is Jody and I am a sophomore at a GalsOnCampus affiliated university on the East Coast. It’s so fun here-­­sometimes. Sometimes, though, it is not that fun at all. That’s alright! I am super glad you that clicked on my article. No matter where you’re enrolled, college can be really hard once in a while. I have compiled the ten tips that have really helped me succeed for the last two years, and maybe they will help you, too!

1. Always make sure to look fun and flirty! Nobody wants to befriend a sad­-sack.

 Cute girls should always nab the booths at The Kingdom. We spend the early part of our residency on the pool table, glancing casually at the booths over our iPhones, waiting for them to open up, and swooping before other, cuter girls discover that one is free. Tonight, our booth is perfect: equidistant from the front door and the bathroom, we can see everything, a hundred percent. We are cute girls and sometimes our lives are easy. The last group of cute girls sitting at this particular booth each walked outside tangled up with a good­-looking rower. A rower for every lady. Some of the rowers had freaking Patagonia vests on. Do you know how much a Patagonia vest costs?

2. Prioritize your body. A happy body is a happy girl!

 I tell the girls to go and order me a vodka soda extra lime and I will hold the booth. Claire says she doesn’t know why I do that to myself. I am spending tonight experimenting with vodka sodas, because vodka tonics, my favorite drink from last year, just have so much sugar. They taste terrible to Claire and Dora but I almost like them more. Sometimes boys will ask you what you are drinking, then when you say “vodka soda” they will pretend they’ve never heard of it and ask for a lil taste. When they taste it they say, that’s disgusting, why you are drinking that?Always say you say you’re drinking that vodka soda because of the calories. The boy will always say something nice about your body. That’s why you do it.

3. Surround yourself with people who get you feeling good about you.

 It’s almost three and I feel like we’ve done everything in the world. It’s only September and I feel like the world is so blehhh already. We’re too old to go to frat parties and at two-­thirty the only bar you can dance at starts playing John Denver. The rowers are all already shacked up and the rest of the dude situation here is dismal. This is where I ask Craig Muldofsky if he really (and I mean really­really) wants to see me tonight.

Craig Muldofsky is a football player and I slept over in his room six times between March 16th and May 22nd during my freshman year. The second and fifth time we had real, grown­-up intercourse and then we put it on pause for most of April because we began seeing other, better people. He discovered Julia Klein, blonde economics major and VP of Standards for Delta Delta Delta. Not to be vulgar, but last semester I listened to her poop in the student center bathroom. I feel that this a fact which holds some weight when discussing Julia Klein.

At the same time, I found John Bell, a history major, who traveled in a social circle tangential to mine, because Claire went to Choate with John’s roommate Drew and sometimes she dragged us along to smoke with them. John had easy sex with me after one really positive Smoke Sesh, and twice after that, and the fourth time he took me home after half-­price margarita night at El Gatito. We were smoking outside of his dorm and then we were kissing, and then he put his hand up my shirt just for a second, and then I leaned over and vomited on my skirt, legs, and shoes. John removed his hand from my shirt, and immediately terminated his invitation with the words You’re a fuuuucking mess, and witnessed me barf my way back to my own bed. I don’t see John around so much anymore.

It’s unclear exactly what happened with Craig and Julia Klein but I’ve done my best to reconstruct it. He quit coming to Spanish class for two weeks, citing a sports injury, and then a photo of a definitely uninjured him and Julia Klein at the Tri­Delt spring formal on May 2nd received 32 Likes on Facebook and one comment from the VP of Recruitment that said “cute.” Two weeks later Julia Klein updated her relationship status to “in a relationship with Danny Henderson,” a medium good looking basketball player. Five days after she updated her status, Craig texted me for the Spanish homework and we slept together a sixth time.

We texted over the summer if one of us was drunk or high but he was interning in Minneapolis at Target, working in Distribution and with a concentration in Rugs and Carpeting. I stayed in the city and worked at the college’s housing office, and spent my spare time writing copy for Jewelry by Julie, an online jewelry store. In July, he told me he was high on coke and that he really missed me, wished I lived in Minneapolis, couldn’t wait to see me again in the fall. I can’t stay mad at him for so long. Few people I care so little about care so deeply about me.

4. Make an impression in every single class you attend!

 Last spring, Craig and I took 4:10 Español Intermedio II with Profe. Hank Franklin. There are very specific games a girl has to play in order to be considered fuckable in a class like Spanish—there are fifteen people tops, so you can’t run the same games that you would in a lecture hall. In Spanish you have to milk the five minutes between when you get there and when Profe. gets there: you must be the subject of conversation. I distilled my game down to a matter of targeted, themed outfits. I was most often a khaki­-skirted Working Girl (oh, yeah, I just had an awesome interview! Thanks for asking, I’m really excited), a Hangover Princess (Profeeeeeeeee puede turn off los luces pleeeease???), and a Yoga Warrior (I’m just, like, soooo into hot yoga right now, it’s kind of ridiculous).

Look how charismatic and vibrant you appear! Working Girl gets whoever your Craig is thinking: hmmmmmm, she seems like a very real person with real aspirations and goals, and I both respect that and want to have sex with her. Hangover Princess will make him say: wow, this girl has not only intense job prospects but is also a lady who likes to have fun! If I see her at the bars tonight, I will probably buy her a drink and then bring her home. I am looking forward to that. And even though yoga is only maybe the third sexiest form of exercise, it is the most interesting, especially if you brag about how hot hot hot your yoga is. Hot hot hot yoga! I like it hot!

So Craig and me knew each other from class, but it wasn’t like we started off with a capital­-C Coffee Date. I’m pretty pleased with myself about how we met, actually. For Dora’s birthday I invited our friends to pregame a Friday night with cake and Nikolai, and we put on our hooker looks because the football frat was hosting this random spring party and it was the only thing going on. We were medium excited at the beginning, then we drank too much too quickly and got really excited due to the alcohol and, on a much deeper level, because bulky bros make us feel skinnier, smarter, and definitely way prettier.

 Anyway, so we got to the football frat and of course Craig was there. He was sitting on the couch and I was dancing in the corner with the girls and finally I saw him and I was like, whaaat? And Craig was like, whaaat? I didn’t know you went to this kind of party, and when I tell the story I say something clever back like, Haha, I bet there’s a lot of stuff you don’t know about me! But truthfully it was something along the lines of HAHAHAHAHAH YAAAAHHHHH. We left shortly after and I woke up very late the next morning. Dora says that I disappeared and she thought I got girl-knapped, she doesn’t know where I’ve gone off to until I show up the next morning all gooey talking about how I went home last night with Craaaaaiiiig.

5. Make sure your parents know that you’re doing well!

 I played it cool on the Monday class after the first hookup, rolled in five minutes late looking like a freaking queen. I answered many questions correctly and Profe. was very thrilled I had suddenly begun to take an interest in Español. I wasn’t planning to keep seeing Craig but he would talk to me in the hallway and ask how I was doing all the time, and then once, during a lecture about el subjuntivo, I asked if he would do my Stats homework for me and he did it without too many questions, and then he did it again without any questions and two more times after that.

I don’t care much about improving my math skills. My dad believes that with the right teacher and a correct amount of personal wherewithal I could be an amazing statistician. This is untrue but it is still a cute thought. I’m getting an A in stats, I told Dad over the phone towards the end of the semester. Dad was so proud he got right on the computer and ordered me this jeans jacket I had been lusting after. You’ve gotta keep Dad happy.

6. Check in with friends throughout the night to make sure everyone is OK.

 SO. When I know it’s going to be a long night, I text Craig something like, What are you doing tonight... at elevenish. With boys I like a lot, I’ll start off with something coy like where u headed 2night?(; but I don’t need to play with Craig. I super don’t want to see him at a bar. He tries to resist me but it often only takes a half a minute for him to write me back. Not much u. By the bottom of the night we’ve been talking long enough that it makes sense to ask if he wants to see me. He usually does and he will walk the four blocks to make sure I get to him safely. He does not complain about doing this.

When I tell the girls that Craig the football player is coming, I have to clarify, because they think I’m saying Greg the football player, as in, Greg Pesellano, this unbelievably good-­looking freshman football player, who kind of looks like the world’s strongest, tallest toddler. He’s just so vulnerable looking—we see him and we want to weep, we want to hold him while he weeps. He’s in Claire’s geology lab and sometimes we get cute and go meet her when it lets out. We lounge around on the benches outside the science building and smoke and look at Greg Pesellano lumbering towards the athletics bus, off­-kilter due to the weight of his duffel bag. Claire says, at the beginning of the year, he was almost her lab partner but then our stupid friend Jordana decided to take the class last­ second and,  collective ugh,  Claire had to work with Jordana because that’s, like, friendship 101. Greg worked with some dipshit civil engineer.

Everyone gets thrilled, and I take Dora’s head and bring her ear to my mouth with my hands so I can specify: NO—CRAIG, AS IN CRAIG MULDOFSKY—DO YOU REMEMBER HIM? NO HE’S, LIKE, REALLY WEIRD—LIKE, WE’RE SEEING EACH OTHER STILL, BUT YEAH—I DON’T KNOW—YOU KNOW?

She has no damn clue.

7. Stay humble! Don’t forget to be thankful for all the wonderful opportunities that come your way. 

Just after he sends a text agreeing to stop by is when I like take a moment and thank the universe. For example, I am thankful right now because I am the only girl in my friend group who any boys from freshman year even remember, and also because Craig hasn’t seen me since before the summer, which I spent practicing very, very hot yoga, taking long runs while listening to Planet Money, and reading mostly Great Literature but also some badly translated Swedish mysteries. I don’t think I’ve been this skinny or this smart in forever.

Dora and I trot out to the smoker’s plaza to really get our arms around what is about to happen. We smuggle our drinks behind Dora’s Longchamp bag, which is roughly the size and color of an alley cat’s belly. Dora and I are flirty with Joey the bouncer and he wouldn’t nag us anyway. He thinks it’s cute that me and Dora are nineteen and we break the rules. I light us each a cigarette and try to explain properly: Craig is that guy from your birthday party, remember, the guy from Spanish? Ohhhhhh yaaaaaaah, I remember; you showed me his Facebook. Dora and I laughed at his profile picture, where he is standing on the pier, posing with a large swordfish, proud like a dad. We laughed together, but her laugh was the same one she uses when we see freshman girls going to frat parties in six­-inch heels. I didn’t know you guys still talked!!!! That’s so cute!!!

Craig arrives in gym shorts and Adidas slip-­ons with socks. He isn’t supposed to drink during the season so he stayed in tonight. Dora spots him when he’s half a block away and points—oh my God that can’t be him hahahahahahahaha look at him he’s so funny. Often when Dora gets like this I think it’s cute but right now I wish she would just keep quiet and act cool. She makes me act so cool when we’re around whatever creepy, small-­mouthed boy she likes. She’s waving at him. You’re being sooooo weird, Dora!!! My eyelashes feel crispy.

8.  Respect your friends. Just because their choices don’t make sense to you right now doesn’t mean that they won’t pay off in the long run. 

Here he is. Hi Craig! I take a long drag and offer it to him. You want? Dora tries to minx him inside to have a drink with us. She’s using all my best moves. She’s freaking touching his forearm. In my heart I know she’s just drunk but I feel defensive in the same way I imagine Andy Warhol used to feel. I feel like Dora is looking at my Campbell’s soup can and saying: I could do that. But IIIIII am the famous painter here. She has to deal. I look at Dora as meanly as I can, saying with my eyes, Hey, girl, you do not even want to be having sex with this large, ugly boy, so cool it down! I will have a talk with her tomorrow.

He says: Naaaahhh, let’s head out, and I smile at Dora and tell her I’ll see her later. The Warhol sells for a million billion dollars! Big winner! Craig and I walk slowly together and I smoke and blab about how much fun tonight was, and most of it is true but some of it is a little made up. We are walking past the chapel where I got ashes last year now, and he is holding my hand. He kisses my face. Quit it Craig I’m cold. On Saturday nights, you have to look pretty enough to be such an asshole.

When we get outside of his dorm I fumble in my handbag for another cigarette. I love drunk smoking, I tell him. You got a light? Of course he doesn’t.

He says, Jeeeeeesus, come on, you’re gonna make yourself sick, and my heart just swells, like, a million times bigger than I ever thought it could get. I push back, though, try to squeeze out a little more kindness: oh look I found my lighter! He looks frustrated, exasperated. He has the same eyes TV dads get when their daughters are acting bad.

It occurs to me that I am misbehaving an awful lot tonight. I blink a lot and say just keeeeeding. It’s fine. I’m feeling unbelievable and the idea of the second cigarette just melts away, back into the pack, back into the purse.

9. That being said, it’s important that your friends also show you plenty of respect. A good friend will support your decisions just as much as you support theirs.

Last year, Craig had a roommate named Dave who would never leave when I came over. Their beds were so close together that, if both boys were laying in bed, they could reach out their arms and hold hands like cute pals. In the morning when all three of us were getting up, Dave would ask how I was doing. Really good, thanks, Dave! Now Craig has a single but I see Dave everywhere and he never says hi to me. Like, we’ve both got 2:10 classes on Wednesdays and he always walks by me during my 2:00 cigarette and, it’s like, come on. I know you know me. Remember that one time you saw me a little naked because you didn’t know I was there and I didn’t know you were looking? I remember! Like, Dave, just say hi.

In the elevator I show Craig affection. He lives on the fifteenth floor which is enough time for me to take his hand and bring his arm over my shoulder, then I put my body against his body and we look at the front of the elevator. Oh, I like Craig so much right now.

This year Craig is living in a primo senior dorm on the east side of campus with a bunch of boys I don’t know. His suite has its own kitchen and a living room with two sofas. Every surface in the suite looks icky. The boys have an Xbox and drums of protein powder on top of their fridge. I look around the kitchen and say: You know what’s on top of my fridge? A box of Raisin Bran. Should I start eating protein powder? Craig thinks no, definitely not, and you don’t eat protein powder straight up, you mix it with water. The television is on. Gross!

We sit on the couch and look at TV for a minute while I take my shoes off. They’re just so complicated, I complain, and Craig laughs. There’s a special on right now, My Child is a Monkey, and we’re looking at some footage of a mommyish Midwestern woman swaddling a tiny capuchin monkey in plaid cloth. This can’t end well but it breaks to commercial right before the face­clawing gets started. I make fun of Craig, watching monkey shows. This just started, he explains, it was When Animals Attack!!!!! before. It was a marathon and he coulda seen the end but I had to take up so much time doing all that smoking. That gets my mind totally throbbing, like: he was sitting here alone, by himself, drinking beer and watching animal attacks? That’s nuts! That’s so antisocial!

This gets me so nervous. I’m nervous and I need a pee. Like, what if he’s not well­liked? What if he’s secretly a dick? Unpopular? I’m nervous. I ask if I can get a beer. He says he doesn’t think I should, maybe would I like some water? And this, man, this is the freaking key to my heart. This unprecedented level of caring about me gets the mood correct like no other. I watch him rinse me a plastic dining hall cup in the sink and fill it less than halfway, so if I spill it I won’t get the plastic sofa wet. Wow, cute.

He brings me the water and sits near me on the couch. There is not really enough room for both of us so he puts his hand around my waist and brings me onto his lap. It’s pleasant but I also feel like I’m at the mall, sitting on the Easter Bunny’s lap, like there’s some dope in a suit who doesn’t know me just holding me. The Easter Bunny isn’t like Santa, he can’t talk through that mask. He doesn’t even know me. I can’t even hear him.

Craig is talking about something like how cute my hair is, he has taken my ponytail out andIamfrustratedbecausehewill lose the hairband and I will have to look so shameful tomorrow. He is patting my hair and rubbing his face upon my face. I am watching the commercial for a girly movie I would really like to go see. I say maybe we should go see it together. He smooches me on the face and says what we really should go see is his room. I’ve already seen your room, shitmouth. Woah! Too far! I’m sorry. I haven’t seen his new room, that’s true, so I let him win and we go. His new room is not decorated except another can of protein powder in the flavor of Tropical.

Craig is messy in bed and, as someone who focuses a lot of energy on her bedroom skill-set, that irritates me. Tonight it goes the way it always does: my dress comes off and becomes a small pile of weak, sweaty fabric (if I wash it, it will shrink, it cost $50 at American Apparel and if I wash it it would be like throwing $50 in the laundry machine, bye­-bye. The dress smells so gross but nobody smells my clothes that often.) He puts me on the bed and slips his fingers inside of me and just kind of leaves them up there until I’m saying something like, yeah that’s good but like a little faster? He moves them around for a just second like that’s all it takes. He says something silly like, do you got whiskey dick right now?, because it doesn’t get me even one little bit closer, so I go, yeeees, it’s true, I’m so wasted.

If I am not feeling rambunctious enough to fuck him joyfully, f I am only sleepy and drunk and ready for bed, he’ll try and push just a little bit—awwwwwweeeee c’mon Jody—but gives up on the second or third try. His body overwhelms me in its size and solidity. The only time I earnestly enjoy this body of his is when I am positioning it around mine, instructing him on how to hold my breasts while I sleep. I like to be held in the same way the kids clutch their stuffed pets. This is the only time when his body feels nice to me.

He tries to get what he wants again halfway through the night­­ you’re killin’ me, Jo, you’re just killin’ me!  Usually I am sleepy and impressionable and work my hand around on his groin area for a little while, but it’s always only for a little while because when he does come it is prolific­­it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen! It’s nuts! But always there is some big issue of finding paper towels or a rag, because I don’t want sticky hands with that when I’m in the vulnerable area between very drunk and very hungover. If I don’t help him out I tell him I’m having a nice dream and to just deal with it himself.

He’s been working so hard, making me feel extra­-special, so I crawl down to the bottom half of his body and give him what he wants. Here are some things I think about while I am doing the Ultimate Indelicate Act: Julia Klein pooping, whether it will be sunny tomorrow, the size of Craig’s penis compared to John Bell’s (roughly the same, despite their notable difference in body sizes), monkey attacks, and, finally, how much I wish Craig would quit pushing on my head. Then: woah, wow! One time, in high school, someone wrote graffiti on the second floor bathroom that said “Jody Donahue SWALLOWS!!!!!!” This is often true.

I had such a weird time in high school. Afterwards Craig brings me close to his body and tells me I am so cute. I dream about cute things. I sleep well. I dream about monkeys and rabbits.

We wake up early because he has team breakfast and wants to go running beforehand. Craig gets these kind of crazy eyes when we’re walking out in the morning—like, he looks all googly and bewildered, in an “I can’t believe I just did that with this girl” kind of way, where that and this girl are either good or bad things depending on inflection. I think it’s endearing. He holds my bra out to me like it’s a very heavy thing.

This time, we do not show affection in the elevator. I feel like I am at a business. We get to the bottom floor and he realizes he has left his iPod upstairs and can’t go any further without it. Alright. Whatever. I don’t even bring my iPod when I go running. I don’t even have an iPod. I don’t even listen to music. Alright, whatever. Bye, shitmouth.

On the way home I buy a coffee from the halal cart near my building and smoke cigarettes and tell myself that I am the freaking queen of the world, I am a superstar. I look like trash but I’m a winner this morning. Again, it’s not because I’m so obsessed with Craig, it’s almost exclusively because I am the only one of my friends who is sleeping with anyone. When I get back to my room, I text all the girls asking who wants to do brunch. My eyeballs hurt really, really bad.

10. Never accept anything less than the best. Strive for success in each of your endeavors. These are the best times of your life. Good luck!

I think I have developed the perfect scale to measure human beauty. I have ranked all of my peersin every aspect of their lives which matter—physical attractiveness, cultivation of hobbies and extracurricular activities, fake ID possession, and on and on—and given them scores from five to ten. Fives are so forgettable you hate that you met them, you feel angry you wasted your life on the forty­five seconds they took to introduce themselves. Based on their Facebook presences, most of the fives I knew in high school have graduated to solid sixes—they have more than 50 likes on their profile pictures, a scanned Polaroid where they’re holding a margarita, a status that got two or three funny comments. It’s good, I’m glad for them.

Claire, for example, is a seven. She’s got a nice kind of prettiness, a forgettable prettiness but she is still pretty in the way that girls with strange, horsey faces often are. She doesn’t smoke and sometimes that’s plus one or minus two, depending on who you’re talking to, and she’s really into Tumblr which is a big negative. Once I saw her check Tumblr at a bar and oh God that’s embarrassing. Eights are exciting: eights have naturally arched eyebrows and perfect teeth, and own BB cream that exactly matches their skin tones. Eights are the people who find really nice clothes at vintage stores and go to Brooklyn on the weekends, but always have some fatal flaw, like they won’t stop talking about that one time they did half a line of coke. Yaaawn.

When it comes to nines, when you see one in Econ or walking out of the dining hall, you focus on the reason she isn’t a ten: maybe her mouth is so full of teeth it looks like her smile got warped in Photoshop; maybe she can’t curl her eyelashes right. Her nose or voice or the way she carries herself is weird somehow but you aren’t sure exactly what’s wrong with it, it’s just weird. Her hands, which look normal­sized in real life, look gigantic in every one of her Facebook pictures. It’s off­putting. Strange. She’ll get married right after college and everything will be so great for her. And you won’t miss her being in your life. Dora is a nine because she talks a lot about her six­year plan, which is absolutely bullshit and she thinks her life is just so figured out. Also, she just dyed her hair red and it really clashes with her eye color.

Concerning tens: perfect, beautiful, tens—they hardly exist anymore. You don’t even know what a ten looks like. Your brain can’t imagine it.

I concern myself with how attractive I can become and I don’t know why anyone else wouldn’t. In the right light I’m an eight, borderline nine if I’m really minxing, seven and a half if I’ve been in the library for four hours or if I’m thinking too much about how maybe I should just grow up and start dating Craig like a good girl, join a sorority and let him take me to formal. I eat vegetables for dinner when I want pizza. I will respond to every 4AM booty text with “haha ok.” I condition my hair and put it up like a princess. I remove the crispy contact lenses from my eyes and replace them with fresh, salty, round ones.  I am a haha girl. I am a good girl. Haha.

At brunch we sit on the patio. I order eggs and a supersalty bloody mary and Dora asks me if I did good last night. I don’t even think about it. Yahhhhh girl, Craig is amazing, I did so good. It’s still too warm to wear my jeans jacket and I can feel the salt from my drink invade my veins. I can feel my electrolytes replenish with every sip. The red blood cells in my body are getting bigger. Everything is so good, ya feel?

Ya, I feel. I feel so good right now. I feel so good. I feel so much.