There are some stories that are so great it’s almost stunning that one person can live through them to come out on the other side to tell it. Naturally, most if not all of these great stories tend to involve alcohol. At the time, this incident was just about one of the most humiliating, mortifying, and painful moments of my life during college. It was the first Big Moment that I ever walked away from with the thought c’est la vie in instead of my usual that is going to destroy your reputation paranoia. Everything happened in less than 24 hours and while the fallout from that one night was the equivalent of a tidal wave rolling in and destroying a small village, I’m really happy it worked out that way. Sometimes villages aren’t meant to stand when poorly constructed to begin with. This incident would shape and ultimately change the rest of my college experience for the absolute best. I don’t regret a thing that happened and the nice thing is that luckily, I can’t remember enough of any of it to regret it.
This is the drunken wheelchair story.
It was the start of the fall 2009 semester in college. This is a weird thought to think back on because it feels like it happened not too long ago when in actuality it has been almost 3 years. Continuing on, I was 21 and a senior in college. As per usual, I was busy as a bee, working in the school’s marketing department, as a writing tutor, on the school newspaper, and would soon be taking on a non-profit internship in addition to a full-time course workload. In my spare time, I did a lot of blogging. Blogging in college in the time before Pinterest and when Tumblr was still relatively an infant was a learning experience into itself and one that I had to self-teach myself every step of the way. At one point, I found myself spending more time with my blog than some of my classes which would later prove to work in my post-grad career favor. In retrospect I’m really glad I did that. I’m even more happy that I tweaked a lot of my assignments to revolve around working on Facebook, even if my senior year departmental honors project was referred by my closest friends as “Heather’s Glorified Facebook Stalking Project.”
When I wasn’t working nonstop and squeezing in the extra nap(s) between classes, I was out drinking and dancing with my friends. The post grad life has proven to me that I can’t do that anymore. And by “anymore” I don’t mean stop dancing and drinking in general, psssh. I mean I can’t go out dancing until 3 AM on a Wednesday and go to sleep for a few hours, wake up, get dressed and have a glass of wine with leftover cake for breakfast/lunch and then go tutor some kids. That is clearly just an example of one day I lived through of course- I didn’t have cake for all of them.
When the semester started, I was living with Sweden, my ex roommate and friend. That will remain her name throughout this post. Sweden was from Sweden (hence the moniker) and we had met the year prior when rooming together during Christmas break. I’ll spare you the long backstory of the summer we spent together and cut to the chase. We were going out that Saturday night to attend a birthday party for this guy B (initials only here) that we were mutually friends with in Hollywood.
I used to have the most hopeless crush on B. He was 30, a lawyer, drove a BMW, charming to the hilt, and insanely gorgeous with huge brown eyes. And somehow quite single, though the “somehow” aspect of that I suspect had to do with the fact that he still bunked at his parents’ house. But that didn’t matter to me. He was one of those guys that looked good on and off paper, and in an ideal world, we would have made a great couple together. But those were my expectations. The reality was that he thought I was much too young for him.
B was friends with another guy R whom I always suspected was into Sweden. But then again, who wasn’t? Dudes were always clamoring over this girl, stumbling into our shared bedroom together and saying the dumbest shit on the planet to get her attention. She was bizarre enough once you got to know her. Weirdness would trickle out and I don’t mean normal people weirdness where it’s just a quirk and you still love ‘em for it. She used to believe that one glass of Jamba Juice sufficed for an entire day’s worth of a meal - no other food, just a shake. She’d have Facebook Chat conversations with guys, then print them out and tape them to her wall. She went on a grad school tour at a different university with a cute tour guide and came home and announced exactly how long they’d start dating and the exact date when they would break up so she could go to grad school. Now hold up here for a minute… this guy wasn’t even dating her yet. She even got her mother involved on that one - trying to set the two of them up over and over again on dates.
She was also convinced for a minute there she would marry this guy (not the college tour guide) she kept hooking up with who was a psychopath.
His hobby? He enjoyed killing baby bunnies on his spare time.
Carefully reread that back to yourself and see if you can spot the problem there as I did.
There’s much more crazy I promise you, but I can’t recount it all because it gets to be too much. The gist to get here is that this girl was spoiled rotten, nouveau riche to the max, and one of those friends that your normal friends can barely tolerate but do it because they like you and hope that eventually you get that this person is not on your level. On this particular Saturday night, I decide that since the crowd that will be at B’s birthday party is going to be full of vain, shallow, and $$$ based thirty somethings, the only way to tolerate any of it is start pregaming.
And I do.
Two Bacardi Ices (my warm-up) followed by an entire bottle of wine (the pre-game) whilst waiting for Sweden to get off of work. There’s another bottle of wine in the fridge but I’m already loopy.
I cut my drinking teeth with my former coworkers from Subway and let me tell you, there are no finer people on this planet to introduce you to the art of hard drinking than that crowd. The first time I drank with the Subway crowd, they bought literally every type of alcohol in the liquor store in all of the best brands, mixed me a million drinks, threw a huge house party, and filmed me getting drunk (I’ve seen some of the footage and it is hilarious. You know how some people are happy drunks or slutty drunks or sad drunks? I am literally all of the drunks and then some in that video.)
Sweden gets home and sees me already tipsy on my bed and asks if I’m sure I can go out. For a brief moment, staying home seems like a good idea. But then I decide I’m good and can go.
We go to a place in Hollywood called Highlands which is across the street from the El Capitan movie theater. There’s a dinner for B. I don’t eat anything. Classic me, drinking on an empty stomach. Then we go to the club next door and while waiting outside in the cold, cold, cold air wearing a skimpy dress I begin to sober up. I hear one of B’s friends talking about real estate values and it makes me need alcohol.
Once we’re inside the club, I immediately head to the bar and get a vodka Red Bull. Sweden is being a bitch already and is calling some of her friends to come pick her up and get her (we got there in R’s car). How rude. I tell her to just wait it out for a bit because B’s table has free bottle service and there’s no way in hell I’m missing out on that. And I don’t. Here comes the cranberry and vodka! And another shortly after (the sheer fact that I can still vaguely remember B mixing me these drinks is astounding.)
Then I decide to head back to the bar. Now I’m drunk as can be and so comes the last great memory I have before blacking out in which I am attempting to get the bartender’s attention and she won’t come over to me. In my head, this means the only way I can sufficiently get her to pay attention to me requires me to get up, climb onto the bar, and crawl (CRAWL) across the surface to get to her in which it is so quiet suddenly you can hear a pin drop. But not drunk me! Drunk me can’t hear anything but the sound of more booze!
"Another vodka Red Bull pleaseeeeee." I slur out, throwing a twenty at her.
"Ma’am I’m gonna need to cut you off." She says firmly.
"That’s fineeeeee, there’s more than one bar in this club." I reply and carefully (I think) climb off of the bar and head across the room to the other bar. Two bars in one club. God bless America. Sweden is over there and I tell her what I did. She doesn’t believe me but she’s pissed. About whatever, I don’t know and I don’t ask. All I remember doing next is throwing my credit card at the bartender and slurring once more for that vodka Red Bull.
The next memory I have I’m opening my eyes. Everything is very bright and loud and my head and stomach are stabbing me with the pain of a thousand piercing sun rays. I’m in a wheelchair and someone is pushing me. My purse is gone and my heels are in my lap and I am clinging to them for dear life. For one moment, I think I’m in the hospital. At this point I have drunk enough to warrant a good stomach pump. I panic and frantically ask for Sweden who reassures me that she’s right there and we’re in a hotel. A hotel? What? Where? How? When? Why? WHY?
My eyelids close once more and the next time they open, I’m outside getting into a car with a guy who’s friends with Sweden and driving back to the school campus. I am rambling on incoherently about the show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and freaking out about my handbag not being with me. When we all get back to the campus, I have to be carried to my dorm because I can barely stand up. I’m crying. And once more, freaking out about my phone’s whereabouts. Loudly. It’s 5 in the morning on a Sunday. People are opening their doors and staring. None of my other roommates are home. I lie down and wake up sicker than I’ve ever been at about 11 AM.
Here is a list of the things that occurred (that I have been told about) during my blackout:
1) First off, I got kicked out of the club. I passed out in our booth which is a big no-no because clubs don’t like to have drunken passed out people in their booths. But the more amusing part of the story is that before that occurred I invaded a table of people eating and attempted to sit there with them and eat the food off of their plates for myself. Huh.
2) My phone, credit card, and handbag are all gone. THIS IS THE MOST TERRIFYING MOMENT PERIOD. Call it selfish, call it materialistic but damnit these things are my Achilles Heel in life. Like Samson with his hair cut off, I am powerless without them. I will not see any of these things for a good week to come (more later).
3) I have a series of painful, red scratches on my arms. Upon waking up at 11 AM, this terrifies me to the same degree of the missing phone. Sweden informs me that the scratches are because I was apparently fighting off people in the hotel because I wouldn’t stop running in and out of the elevators.
4) After being kicked out of the club, we all went to the hotel where B had a room. The concierge was terrified I would twist my ankles running around in my skinny stiletto heels so they put me in a wheelchair to get me from point A to point B. But before that incident occurred, we went to B’s room where I passed out on his bed for an hour.
5) In a public restroom I drank a glass of wine I found in the bathroom stall.
6) I yelled for quite some time about “stupid blonde whores” which I do have vague memories of doing. This was not unlike in high school during my routine summer surgeries in which the anesthesia from my shots would wear off and I would limp into the house barely able to walk, crying and screaming about how much I hated all of my classmates in school, none of which would ever have to endure being on generic Vicodin (if you’ve never had it, imagine a weak form of Tylenol and you feel me) and wearing a foot brace and bandages for three years worth of summers.
7) THE GREATEST PART OF THE RECAP. At one point, Sweden looks at me with disgust while recounting some of the night back to me because I find the fact that I drank a random alcoholic drink in a public bathroom to be hilarious.
"You know I can’t even tell you some of the things you did!" she snaps at me.
You can’t? My brain is momentarily amused. A little lightbulb goes off in my head hearing that and the next thought that rolls in is I bet I called you the c word didn’t I? YEP I TOTALLY DID!!
Now granted I don’t actually know if I did because I never confirmed it with her but I know myself fairly well and it probably did slip out. They say alcohol will make you say the things you are really thinking deep down (this is 100% factual) and I had been thinking that particular four letter word about her off and on for a good three months at that point. It’s really rare I think of girls as that word too. But you’ll see why that word suits her like a glove in a moment.
The next week rolls along in a slightly different manner than most of my typical weeks. For one thing, I’m hungover for about a week. I throw up before class each morning and am on a liquid diet of OJ. Now I may never be completely sure about this, but I do believe that to some degree I did have alcohol poisoning. Because a week long hangover, by any standard, is not normal. At all.
Also, one of the things I lost in addition to the stuff in the handbag was my photo ID, both state and school IDs. I had to go to the DMV and fill out a form for a new one and then buy a new school ID too. By the time I graduated from college, I had purchased about four or five class ID cards because I kept losing them constantly, to the point where I had to fill out a special form stating reasons for why the hell I was going on my fifth ID card in less than six months. But back to that state ID - THAT one wouldn’t arrive to me until after Homecoming. More on that in a minute.
I tell this story to all of my closest girlfriends, my favorite professor (we have that kind of relationship together where you can tell these stories) and some of the members of the former Subway crowd. They are blown away that I’m even functioning but everyone thinks it’s hilarious and all are sympathetic to the bad bits. Several of my girlfriends on campus bring me orange juice which is both delicious and very kind. R brings my beloved handbag with my phone and credit card back to me (card has since been frozen and both my state and school IDs are permanently lost for good) and that’s the last time I see him again. This may sound especially awful, but when he comes to my school campus and meets me there at the gym to give me my things, I run to greet him, take the purse, check the contents, thank him and run away. I am a woman with a one-track mind and now that my phone is back with me, I feel dynamite. Everything settles down and I am content with life once more.
Then some unnecessary (but necessary in theory) shit hits the fan.
A week later, I’m in my dorm bedroom studying for math class when Sweden comes in through the door and throws all of her books to her bed in this drama queen fashion. I roll my eyes before asking her what is wrong.
"I have no friends left!" She huffs out, "Because of what you did at that club!"
… What? I ask her why that is and she says that none of her friends will talk to her because of how I behaved. (It should be noted that these “friends” don’t include R or B who are still to this day pretty cool dudes. This is a reference to the douche who drove me home, A.)
Okay then. Ignoring the fact that this is old news and occurred like two weeks ago, I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person in the history of college to get severely drunk off of my ass and that people judging other people for drinking in our age bracket is a dick move. I mean, what kinds of friends do you have when they won’t talk to you because of something your other friend did when drunk? Those aren’t friends. Not in my book anyway. If this were one of those situations where said friend did this on a routine basis then yeah I get telling them to cool it off but one time at a birthday party in a nightclub in Hollywood? That’s like a rite of passage in LA!
I do a big no-no and start laughing. Loudly. At the mental image I get of everyone on campus shunning her for my behavior in the cafeteria while I sit at some table nearby, lording over it with laughter and drinks for all. And also at the way she said, “I have no friends!” which was done so over the top and whiny that you can’t help but chuckle. #whitepeopleproblems
It’s in this moment that I also realize just how much I openly hate her. That’s an interesting revelation to get while laughing.
My laughter is pissing her off and that only provokes me to keep it up. But I stop laughing immediately once she drops this bomb:
"You know, I would have left you there that night! I was planning on leaving you there!"
This insult gets followed up by the fact that she also hates my other two roommates (who had nothing to do with this) too and badmouths them in front of me.
My jaw drops and all I can get out next is this, “You have to move out NOW.”
It’s certainly one thing if someone doesn’t like me. I get that. I get that I make things difficult and provoke arguments from time to time. But when you start trashing my friends who are nothing but innocent bystanders in the whole process, that’s not something I’ll stand for. This insult is especially baffling because my other two roommates were nothing but nice to her.
And yes, I will admit that it is especially bruising to be told by someone who was your closest friend that they would have dumped you in favor of random guys. All alone, in Hollywood, with no cash or transportation or contact method. That breaks ALL the rules of Girl Code to me and also of being a civil human being.
What a c word! (I told you she deserved it.)
She begins to move out that week and I start sleeping on the couch to avoid her. The tension in our dorm is very thick so I busy myself with work, Tumblr, writing, essays, and going out for Golden Spoon/dancing/drinking (clearly I didn’t learn shit from my drunken wild night) with my best girlfriends.
My final “talk” with Sweden comes on the night of Homecoming which she doesn’t attend and I do. My state ID has not shown up yet and I don’t get to drink at the dance even though I’m clearly 21 years old at the time. But don’t worry because one of my friends gets me a beer at the bar anyway. Homecoming was a hot mess of a night (there were a lot of cops involved and our school got written up in a very unflattering and highly over exaggerated way in the SoCal newspapers) and I get back with a tiara on my head and beer in my belly.
We exchange some words and she says at the end, “Are we cool now?” which provokes me to snap back, “No! No, we’re not cool after one talk! We’re not going to be either.”
And there’s that. A chapter of my life that closes with me slamming the door and laughing as she leaves the dorm with her last box o’ stuff.
To date, I have not spoken to Sweden again. That bridge has been burned to ashes and I saw it coming. I saw it before the drunken wheelchair incident that summer when I began to get a curious feeling around her. The feeling was as though we were standing on the same sidewalk but it was cracking between us and the broken sides were rising and falling and splintering. I remember I wrote a short story about our friendship falling apart (but in the way I do things, in a fictional setting with substituted names) and gave the story to my favorite English professor to read that August for feedback.
My professor and I met up during the first official week of school (the last week of August) to discuss what I had written and she told me something that profoundly moved me. It was my epiphany. She said, “Maybe this person isn’t meeting your needs.”
You don’t often think to consider within friendships there are needs there. I believe it is a thought reserved for relationships and that is unfair to me. Friendships are relationships. Both parties invest a great deal of love and caring for the other person and genuinely do have all the best interests for their well being. But my professor was right. Sweden didn’t meet my needs. That and my needs had changed. The strongest revelation I came away with was knowing that I would not fight for our friendship together. I only have a few friends I would fight for because our friendship together runs deep: they would fight for me too.
I had no idea of knowing it at that moment but I would meet one of my nearest and dearest friends shortly after Sweden moved out as well as a series of other people who would, for better or for worse, impact my life that year. (Note: this particular friend is an incredible story all on her own and I honestly can’t imagine how my life might have turned out had I not known her.)
I’m glad that this all happened the way it did and that I didn’t know what was to come. It’s the not knowing aspect of life that is by far and away the most fascinating and beautiful and also equally painful in its own right. You need to not know things in order to grow.
But I do wish I knew what I said to Sweden that she could never repeat back to me… What I do know is that before she moved out, I dragged at least a dozen or so people into our dorm room to look at and laugh at those Facebook Chat conversations that she had taped to her wall.
Oh honey. You had to know I wasn’t going to let that one go without a good laugh.