Try Everything Once

from Nick Suss

Jan. 18, 2013, 7:02 p.m.

So there I was, walking across Myers Quad as someone I had just met was grasping my three biggest fingers as if she was a baby rooting. I was nothing more than a glorified escort, sneaking across the field with four girls and only one free hand. We were playing the quiet game and everyone had to participate. I used that silence to think back, to return to the scene where everything began. This was a journey two weeks in the making, not merely a night of whimsy gone awry. Images from the entire ordeal flashed across my eyes as if playing on a projector. I couldn’t help but reflect upon my entire time back at school for the semester, as this is quite possibly the story of my whole life since I have returned home from home.

Everything began because of some innocent sarcasm. I am sarcastic on a regular basis, but never once has my sarcasm affected me just like this. I sat on my futon with my neighbor, my roommate and his girlfriend watching Alabama take it to Notre Dame on Monday, January 7. My roommate’s girlfriend brought up that her sorority was having a my-tie date night in ten days and some of her friends needed some dates. She mentioned that she had a frenemy that needed to be set up with someone and instantly asked my neighbor to take her out. Naturally, I joked that if she really wanted to get back at her, she should set her up with me. I’m sure you can assume what happened from there. I was coerced into attending a sorority date night. I, Nick Suss, would be forced to be some girl’s blind date. I was not permitted to learn this girl’s name, see her physical appearance or generally know anything about her. As many of you know about me, I am relatively closed minded when it comes to these sorts of things but I assuaged my doubts with the moniker “try everything once.” So I begrudgingly agreed.

The slow walk was painful. As she grasped my hand I didn’t understand how something that began so innocent can have developed into this situation. It was more painful for her. She consistently lost the quiet game we were playing almost every 15 seconds because her feet were cold. Let me explain that one. The weather in Athens has been more finicky than weather should be capable of being. As it is currently winter, the heat in my building was all the way up, and the Residence Hall Director, or RHD, Kyle refused to turn the air down as the process is tedious and too time consuming for it to be taken back down later. So we had to endure seemingly record January temperatures whilst our building was hotter than Satan’s sauna. My dorm room windows were wide open and my fan was on “power cool.” My door, propped open to allow for airflow, remained open during all non-sleeping hours of the day. It was really hot. But then the weather decided to not be really hot. The skies fell so hard that I had my P.E. class canceled four straight days. It was murky, as the humidity was unbearable. Finally, at some point Wednesday night, the temperature decided to drop below freezing. We are on constant snow watch even though it’s only been a week since we were peaking up around the 80s. The walk, across wet ground in sub-freezing point temperatures, nearly froze her feet off, but why were her shoes off?

My neighbor and I had to procure ties for the event. The gist of the my-tie date night is that a guy, generally unknown to the gal, gives a tie to a friend of the gal, the gal wears the tie to the event, and the guy picks her out in the crowd. I hate shopping. I always have and I probably always will. I was forced into a Belk with my roommate and neighbor and only brought 20 dollars with me. I refused to buy a tie more than that, and that was all I had in cash. I could’ve used my debit card, but I didn’t want my parents seeing I had purchased a tie. There would’ve been too many questions. So I was in and out, but not without some comedy. My friend made me try on a green button down shirt that was labeled extra-large because he thought I needed to be fancier. Trying it on, I looked like the Incredible Hulk had just won The Masters but was forced to wear a hand-me-down green jacket from Phil Mickelson. It definitely was not XL, and I explained to my company that I would simply wear shorts and a collared t-shirt, as that is what I own and that is what I feel comfortable wearing. Any girl that couldn’t respect that didn’t deserve me. (That’s not true. I would change the way I dress but I wouldn’t like it. Not one bit. But I would deal with it.) That is where a few things crossed. I said this at a time where it was 80 degrees outside.

I shivered. Nearly every part of my body was cold. I’m man enough to admit this. I should have been colder, but part of me knew it had to stay warm. I had to be the strong one in the group. I trekked across the sidewalk adjacent to her building, my hand still being clung to it was covered in Elmer’s Glue. At this point, I knew that the only thing that mattered was what had happened that night, but I am getting ahead of myself.

I tend to overthink things. And I overthought that night hard. Partially because of the heat but mostly because of the anticipation I couldn’t sleep. I have been tired recently. I have to explain that majority of my drowsiness can be traced back to the 1990s. Of course, what I mean by this is my floor mates will not stop playing the Nintendo 64 my roommate brought to campus which is nearly constantly on. Pokemon Stadium is the game most frequented. Until 2 in the morning most nights I have to endure the repetitive and monochromatic sounds of the original Pokemon soundtracks. This is unimportant to the narrative, I just felt that it needed to be explained why I couldn’t sleep. But sleep is the first casualty of college, so that didn’t bother me all that much. But the mental toll that the constant thoughts eating at me like I am a sandwich did take a toll.

So the day itself rolled up. Thursday January 17, 2013 has been one of the most eventful days of my short life. I woke up at 8:30 a.m. to go to class. I only have two classes on Thursdays, so I was pretty open schedule wise. However, my body apparently thought it was going to be a big day. And, as I have chronicled in the past, my body hates itself on big days. So, that morning I awoke to a sore throat and a pounding headache. I was stuck to my bed sheets from an episode of hot sweats during the night. I moaned, climbed down the bed frame, took two Motrin and started my day. It was supposed to snow that day, but it was just two or three degrees too hot, so I naturally walked across campus in nearly freezing rain with some sort of physical ailment wearing nothing but a t-shirt and some khaki shorts. My first class was unnaturally painful, as my nose began to run at the beginning of class and refused to cease. As I was sitting in the front row of a massive lecture hall, I could not just walk out of the room, so I had to suck it up. Literally. I soldiered through, trudging my way back to my dorm just to sit down for three minutes. The aforementioned roommate and neighbor and I had scheduled an appointment to tour some dorm rooms at 11:30 that day. I hacked and sneezed and sniffled and voice cracked during the entire tour, stopping only to analyze what was just a few hours away now. I had a date that night.

I sniffled. We were entering the building trying to be inconspicuous. I had my arm around her waist and she around my shoulders. Her friends held on to her other arm. We looked like a regular group of lifetime friends. Oddly enough, it had been just hours that I had known them cumulatively.

Nighttime was upon me. The date night began at 9 p.m. and I began to get ready at about 7:30. The girls on my floor had to approve of my outfit. My neighbor had to approve of my facial hair being cut. I barely let him, as he was one step away from grapping a razor and chopping all of the hair off of my face. I scoffed at how much these people cared about a seemingly meaningless sorority social on the outside. On the inside, I was awkward, because after all, I’m still me. I was afraid that once again my awkward instincts would kick in and I would be like Charlie Kelly preparing for a date. Luckily, unlike Charlie, I forwent eating an entire block of cheese before my blind date. I forgot to mention that part. I had no idea what my date would look like. I had no idea who she was, what her year, her personality, or even her name was. But everyone else did. Her pictures were passed around in front of my face while I had to obscure my vision as if I was to date Medusa. But everyone assured me she was very pretty and the one person in the group that knew her assured me that we would hit it off. So I sat in silence in my room for a half an hour before we would embark for the night. I was alone, as usual, because my company for the night wanted to “pregame.” And pregame they did, ranging from unaffected to unconscious in their drinking habits. I, serving as the designated driver even though we took a bus, harbored no hostility towards their imbibing on this night, as I knew that if there was one situation on the earth where drinking would be condoned, it would be a sorority social. After what seemed like months of anticipation, we finally left. I was cool as a cucumber in a microwave. I had finally settled upon wearing a black collared shirt and a pair of white khaki shorts with white sneakers I had never before worn. To use a term I coined myself, I felt frouchey. I knew I would be the most underdressed person at the establishment, but I didn’t care. I didn’t care in the slightest.

After a four or five minute bus ride, we arrived at the bar. It is merely off campus and name Magnolia’s. As much as I was looking forward to macking on cupcakes at the bakery with all the bomb frostings, it was not that Magnolia’s. A bouncer outside was IDing everyone who walked in; I looked at him and said I didn’t plan on drinking for the night, so he could just draw a black X on my hand with his sharpie. He did. He did that for all of my friends. I, the only one not to race up the two flights of stairs and into the bathroom to wash off my X, leisurely took my time taking in the scenery. As I strolled up the stairs, I peered around the corner and into the bar area, slowly gazing across the chest of every girl in the bar. I was looking for my tie your perverts. However, to no avail, she wasn’t there yet. I had no choice but to take a seat and wait. A basketball game was on the TV, Duke vs. Georgia Tech, but I couldn’t focus on it one bit. I looked at everyone who walked up the eternal staircase for five to ten minutes, but it seemed longer. Finally, there it was, my blue and silver striped tie hanging across the neck of a girl. It was a real girl. Nick was finally on a date.

I had not rehearsed how I was going to approach her yet. I stood spellbound next to my friends for about ten seconds before I turned to one of them and remarked my date was here. They asked what I was going to do. I had no reply. I was in foreign territory. I am no ladies’ man, nor do I ever pretend to be. You can’t just walk up to a girl and say “that’s my tie,” because that is as dorky as using “you’re pretty” as an icebreaker. Conversely, you can’t slowly start a conversation with someone on a blind date night without arousing suspicion. I was caught between a rock and another rock. I know I am clever around those who I am comfortable with, but I am capable of being clever beyond that? Would she see me, be disappointed and jump out the window? There were too many bad things that could happen, so I waited. I waited entirely too long, probably standing in place for a solid ten minutes while a horde of new people introduced themselves to me and tried to give me advice. I declined all advice, because I’m stubborn and just approached it my way.

She was talking to a friend. I walked up and said something along the lines of “My name is Nick, what are your names?” because I am a doofus. One girl introduced herself and said that her friend was my date. I remarked that I was aware of that, and that was why I had come over. Then my date squealed a few incomprehensible phrases and stumbled over to me. She was wearing five inch heels and a really tight dress, so I imagined it was tough for her to walk. As she got closer to me, I slowly realized it wasn’t the clothing that was inhibiting her movement. Rather, her movement wasn’t inhibited at all. Her balance and fine motor skills had been wrecked though. She looked my dead in the eyes, opened her mouth and slurred “You’re my date?” Then she introduced herself by name and followed that with the fact that she was really drunk. I was in for quite a night.

So we got to talking. I had talked to the inebriated in the past. I am quite company for the drunk because of my weird sense of humor. As we conversed, we came to realize that we were both journalism majors and we actually shared a class together. Furthermore, she is also a member of the Honors Program like me and we actually share a class. She went on to ask me what I do for fun, what my religious preferences are, what I do for fun, what my major is, and what I do for fun. Her short term memory was shot. We were standing during this conversation. I had my hands in my pockets and she had her hands everywhere. They were on my shoulders. They were on her hips. They were on my face. Finally, she reached into my pocket and grabbed my hand but didn’t remove either of our hands from the pocket. She just wanted to chill in there, and I guess I was fine with that. Her breath reeked of the sauce, and I only noticed that because in addition to being a touchy, feely drunk, she was also a close talker. She walked circles around me asking me more questions. There was never a dull moment, until I realized that I had to sit her down. She simply could not maintain her balance. Ladies, here is a note for you: don’t wear really high heels and a short, tight dress if you drink half a cup of pure, undiluted vodka. I learned second-hand what result would come from that. (Guys, just don’t wear high heels and short dresses. That’s kind of weird. If that sort of thing is your bag, by all means go for it. But seriously, people will stop and stare at you and you will start to feel objectified. Trust me, it might be tempting to look pretty, but you shouldn’t want to. It’s just plain weird.) She proceeded to ask me, three times, if I had a fake ID. The first two times I replied “No, I don’t drink.” The third time I said no and showed her the black X on my hand. That’s when she decided she would have none of that and needed to get rid of the X, so she licked my hand up and down for thirty seconds until she got discouraged and gave up. I literally had no clue how to react to that. Is there a good way to react to a drunk girl you just met within in the past half hour licking your hand like it’s an ice cream cone? I decided just to maintain conversation. We talked, but that devolved into her getting closer and closer to my face with her face without actually touching them and grabbing my forearms with her hands. I have never been the biggest proponent of being touched, but I let it slide that time because a) she was really drunk and b) c’mon, would any guy have stopped a girl he was on a date with from touching him? At this point, things just got plain odd. She started apologizing to me after every sentence she said, seemingly ashamed of her drunkenness. Every sister of hers that would walk up to her was met with a kiss on the check and a whisper of “I love you.” If there was ever a stereotype for a drunken person, inappropriate touching, constant apologies, saying affectionate clichés, she encompassed the entire stereotype. I constantly assured her that she was fine, saying that it happens to everyone and we should just have fun. She said she was a terrible person and I was so sweet and she was sorry I had to be with her. I told her she wasn’t terrible at least once a minute, but she was dead set on correcting me and saying she was. Then her friend walked over.

Her friend, a girl who I gathered to be both very nice and the actual DD for the night, had been at the pregame with my date and was well aware of how far over the cliff she had gone. Her friend decided to steal her phone, disallowing drunk texts, and force fed her water like she was a camel at a stream. She had to sober her up. Let me tell you now that this was about at 9:45. Everything I’ve told you has happened in just over a half hour radius. And we, myself and the friend, were well aware we would have to take her home within the hour. Adamant against it, my date kept saying she was fine and had to wait for her roommate to come downtown so they could party. That turned out to be hokum. She dropped her cup of water on my shoe, and little ice chips got stuck inside of it. That didn’t feel all too good, especially as I was sick already and it was below freezing outside. But we got her some more water and a straw this time and I held her cup as she sipped away. I know it is sad to say, but I felt as if I had gone from a glorified escort to a glorified babysitter. As good of a babysitter as I am, and I am a good one, I had not prepped for the thought that it would happen that way that night. She was long gone. We had to get her home.

Remember those stairs I referenced six or seven times? How about her heels? And her drunkenness? Add all of those elements together and you get a really bad combination. I imagined I would have to carry her down the stairs, but that would be about as inconspicuous as holding up a public intoxication sign above her head and dumping her in the gutter. So we had to ease her down the stairs. It was like driving cattle; I constantly had to whisper “slow down, one step at a time, you’re doing great.” I held her any time she wavered, which was constantly, and her friend watched her from the back so she wouldn’t fall backwards. When we finally got down the stairs, I had realized that her friend, who was driving us back to the dorm my date lives at, was parked relatively far away and I would have to keep her occupied enough not to stir suspicion from the always present Athens PD. I sat her down in a chair outside of the bar and she continued with her barrage of apologies and self-loathing. I continued with my assurances and my disagreements, as any good date/protector from the police would do. About three minutes later her friend’s car pulled up. I sat down in the back seat and pulled her in with me. Do you at all remember taking long trips as a child and having to wake up really early so your parents would half carry you into the car and slowly acclimate you to the conditions? That is what I had to do. I had to find a way to buckle her in, because there is no way she would be able to stay still in a car without a harness. I was two seats away, but she still wanted to touch everyone, so she grabbed my hand again. I didn’t object, but this time it was more out of the thought of being on a mission than out of being on a date. As some people may have experience in their tenures in college, escorting a drunk person to their dormitory is a daunting task. Her dorm has a policy where anyone caught intoxicated will be reported to the proper authorities. The two sober ones among us, well aware of this policy, had to call in backup. We used her confiscated phone to call her roommate and her other hall mate to help us get into the building. As we pulled up to the quad, she asked us to remove her shoes, so we did and she held them as we walked across the aforementioned cold, wet sidewalk into her dorm.

We entered the building. The building security was nowhere to be seen. All you could see active in the building was a person behind the front desk monitoring activity and four dudes playing a role playing board game at a table in the lobby. Finally understanding the context of the quiet game, all five of us snuck past the unsuspecting desk monitor and made our way to her room. Though far from the building from “The Shining”, the building gave off a certain air of creepiness that night. I stuck out like a sore thumb, wearing a tie and a short sleeve polo shirt on an all-girls floor at 10:45 at night. I didn’t care. There was very little activity and I was going to carry out the mission. And I did, as we finally made it to her room. I was out, as her dorm was just a minute walk from mine. But then she turned to her three friends and said “I want to talk to my date. Leave us alone.” So I laid her on her futon. That came out wrong. I put her on her futon so she could sleep closer to the ground. She apologized once more, complimented me for being such a nice and sweet guy, and then said quite possibly the most disconcertingly awful thing I had ever heard anyone tell me. It was a secret I will take to the grave, but at that point I decided it wasn’t the blind date from hell, but rather I actually had a bit of fun. It was a date, an adventure, and a public service announcement all in one. So I found a pen and a piece of paper and left her a note for when she woke up in the morning, signed and accompanied with my number at the urging of her roommate. I told her on the note I hoped she felt better and that I had a great time.

The next morning came. I awoke once again to a sore throat and a pounding headache. I rolled out of bed, took some Motrin and got ready to start my day. Before putting in my contact lenses, I saw a green light was flashing on my phone, meaning I had received a text message. It was from her. She apologized once more, this time probably sincerely and soberly. I asked how she was feeling and she responded well. We traded three or four more messages before the conversation naturally fizzled. I saw her on the street three times that day. She either didn’t see me or didn’t recognize me. I had gotten through the most eventful two weeks of college life I have endured thus far and I can ever imagine enduring. But I ploughed through. I survived the good times, the bad times, the confusing times, and the downright awkward times. I looked back at the two weeks introspectively and realized something. I had joined my first club on campus, the school newspaper, without the urging of friends or family. I went out and looked at places to live for next year. I lived through being moderately sick without a mother to look after me. I bought myself an article of clothing. I went on a date at a bar. I took care of another human being I had barely known. I gave a girl my phone number. In just two weeks, before my own eyes, I had transformed. These weeks weren’t about the tales of an awkward teenager anymore. This was told from a different perspective. This was told with very little throwaway gags, with very little silliness, and in a complex and nonlinear structure. Can it be? It seems this journey may not have been just any journey, but my journey into mature adulthood. I think I like it. What do I always say, you’ve got to try everything once, right?


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4450 words

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