She arranged sloppily enough to suggest that she might have a trace of apathy in her personality, carefully curating the mountain of assignments in a shameless and scattered way so that some of the failing grades were showing in plain sight, because she did have a sense of humility, for god’s sake. She noticed that all of the glossy posters on the wall were still composed at right angles, but whatever, at least she had posters to cover up the frayed and piecemeal Providence room, succumbing to the heat and humidity of a tortuous summer. She was actually a really neat and orderly girl so it kind of hurt her to see her room messed up but this was worth the trouble.
Composure was essential and she was very careful to look in the mirror and breathe carefully and stretch out and touch her toes and recite all the Yoga crap that she had learned over the course of three precious years at this higher institution, which was probably the only club she actually cared about going to. Everyone was doing all those frivolous clubs like Underwater Basket Weaving or Celebrate Your Neighbors and she always felt guilty about just wanting do Yoga. Anyways she said all her namastes and chakras or whatever they were called and carefully disheveled her bangs so that a wispy strand of hair hung in front of those acidic green eyes. She really did have these laser eyes that could cut you in half.
She watched her watch as the brass piece swung around the quartz piece that measures time, ticking some inscrutable amount of hertz to a cadence of lust that was slowing down as her body aged, supposedly peaking around thirty. Everyone said that women peaked around thirty and she was already two-thirds of the way there so she better hurry up. Oh well, she said, ten more minutes, but more like fifteen because no one is on time, especially for things like this. No one’s ever on time. So she took a casual relapse into the past, thumbing through the photo album beside her bed that she received senior year in high school when everything was glamorous and idyllic. Her friends in high school were convinced the were the new lost generation. Everyone loved The Sun Also Rises.
“How are things going with Graham?” Ella had asked her.
“They’re going really well, actually,” she responded. “We’ve been hooking up for a while now and I think we might, you know, like actually...”
“Oh really?” Ella’s eyes twinkled with that human tapetum lucidum called lust, showing off her vestigially white canines.
“He’s really nice and all and I think I really care about him.”
Which was true.
“Didn’t you have a serious boyfriend in high school?”
And she looks at the glossy photographs of Andrew imprisoned in the laminated scrapbook, feeling that bizarre throat-compressing nostalgia that you get from listening to Bon Iver or Ruth Simmons speak. I swear if Ruth is the Gettysburg address of our generation I’m going to hang myself. Not that she’s bad or anything, but it always cracks me up to see all those parents and students just leaking tears every time she opens her mouth about social justice of the many rather than privilege of the few etc. That’s really great, let me just put on my money jacket and eat my money cereal and then go out into the world and dust off the old ladle at the soup kitchen.
Anyways, this whole revelation with Andrew got her real choked up and for a moment she even faltered with the preparations for the night because somehow that constellation in her memory had reignited and she was somehow in that awkward place of trying to convince herself that she’d done it. We did it, didn’t we? Didn’t we do it? She remembers the prom, wearing that saccharine smile and the salmon dress, and afterwards when she would have given anything to have his hand up there but she’s remembering it into existence, yes, we did it, didn’t we do it did we?
She even looks at the LED screen on her beautiful phone that some graduate in Cupertino designed, undoubtedly rolling around on his money mattress and coming to campus dance for the goddamn tenth time or whatever to show off what a courageous servant to the world he’s become. She’s in some entrepreneurship class where everyone and his grandma is pledging his soul to altruism and all she wants to do is get laid. “Be there soon,” reads the text. But no Emojis. That’s a bummer. She’s a really thoughtful, sincere girl, and she loved the heart Emoji.
It’s too bad texting is like drafting the goddamn Marshall Plan these days. You use one extra punctuation mark or smiley face or silly little goddamn heart and your partner thinks you’re just gushing with lecherous intent. Everyone’s writing like Hemingway on Twitter these days, just stoic little constipated remarks like, “Whats up,” or “You up,” or “Lonely and cold.” Emojis are too soft and punctuation is too generous. None of that prize-writing that you used to do in English class where your teacher would swoon.
And she relapses into the nostalgic tearjerker again, deciding to open Facebook on the old Internet, so she could look at the mugshots of her beauty queen friends from Greenwich or wherever the hell she’s from so she could make some eloquent delivery about this occasion about to come into fruition. “Yeah, it was really good,” she would say with a wink, as if the goddamn sexual apotheosis had happened and she was doing them a favor by not telling them all the details. Like it would be too much to handle. She would be so coy about the whole thing it absolutely kills me.
Well now she’s got to go delete some of the history so that he won’t realize that she’s actually been stalking him on Facebook all along. That would be far too involved or emotional for the lifeless waif that college has conditioned her into becoming. World servant and American Apparel junkie. God, that killed me. Where do those Venn diagrams overlap? She goes back to her phone and checks the countdown, expecting him in less than five minutes. Her heart starts to flutter. And it starts to flutter harder.
Would a drink help her regain her composure? Well it’s a damn shame that the only stock she’s got in the pantry are warm, lite beer and cheap vodka that slithers in your throat. Not exactly the Bordeaux that she hoped to consummate her deflowering with. Goddamn, then she notices that the pillows on the bed might be a little composed so she tactfully ruffles them up, because that will give the impression that either she is a careless and messy person or that the bed has this ethereal look of having been slept in by two people before, maybe at least once.
“And he’s on the swim team?” Ella asked.
“Yeah. I told him I’d go to his game this weekend. He’s supposed to be really good.”
“That’s so hot. All the guys on the swim team are hot.”
“Where’s he from?”
“Manhattan. The Upper West Side.”
“Oh nice. I bet he’s loaded.”
She’d actually met his parents once which, was kind of ironic because at the time they hadn’t even been romantically entangled or hooking up or however you call it. She’d been to graduation and his parents were alums so she actually saw them when they went through that whole elaborate alumni procession. All of the men in their fifties have this uniform haircut, where it’s kind of pushed up and backwards, wearing little reflective sunglasses and colorful ties. They come back to Brown for a day and try to convince all their old friends that since graduation they’ve become a dignitary or CEO or anyone important, for God’s sake. And all the women have this really pristine Connecticut look on their faces, smiling their teeth out and radiating every square inch of skin that they can muster, candied with layers of white scarves and pearls like grown-up dolls. His parents fit right in.
She checks her nightstand drawer to make sure she has two condoms, discreetly placed beneath a whole trainwreck of sloppy paperwork and jewelry. Her phone buzzes on the desk and she waits a second to check the message so that he knows she won’t be too eager. Her heart beats harder and she checks it, reading one letter at a time and then reading it over again.
“Don’t think I’m gonna make it actually. There’s this party here. Sorry!”
Maybe she should have put in more effort. She feels that hot and heavy ball sliding back down her throat to the coldness of her gut, sitting down suddenly on the bedspread and reciting all of their recent interactions in her head. She scrolls through their recent texts, finding no hint that she had misspoken but every indication that she could have done a little bit more. Maybe she should have argued with him or at least sent a coy text. Losing your virginity these days can be so hard. It’s like you have to write a goddamn novel or nothing at all.