I smelled vodka and scorched hair before I even opened the door. “Cute outfit!” I was greeted by Sarah, a fellow freshman, “See, Jess, I want something more like that. This outfit doesn’t show off enough cleavage; I want to get into Psi U.” There were about seven other girls in the room, our usual group.
About an hour went by of vodka, house music, and outfit changes. Drinking before going out was truly unnecessary; the frats were never deficient of drugs and alcohol, but no one wants to go to a fraternity without a good buzz first. Once everyone was ready, both dressed up and slightly drunk, we made the walk across campus to Vernon Street, better known as “Frat Row.” As we walked over, Sarah texted one of the again, English brothers she knows to make sure we could skip the line. This turned out to be a superfluous gesture—the frat brothers love naïve freshmen girls.
The houses on Frat Row are surprisingly pretty from the outside. During the day one might even mistake Vernon Street for quiet suburbia. Psi U is a large, pastel yellow colonial house with contrasting forest green shutters. The entrance is grand, a gable juts out over the large door with snowy white columns at every corner. We did not use this entrance. As we went along the broadside of the house drunken clatter grew louder. We were met with a large line of our fellow students leading up to a heavy metal door, the basement entrance. I thought back to my chemistry class earlier that day. “I can’t wait to blackout tonight,” my lab partner sighed, fatigued from work.
We moved to the front of the line, convinced the pledge guarding the door that we knew a brother, and were let in. I walked into a wall of noise and waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. The concrete floor was sticky with beer and vomit. Inside, the house was barren of furnishings, sans beer pong tables. I was thrust from side to side in the throng of sweat-sticky gyrating bodies.
I made it to the bar and asked for a drink. The brother, a stocky football player that I recognized from Calculus, extended his arm with a red Solo cup of “jungle juice.” The cup was usurped before I could grab it. A senior in a oxford Polo smirked. “Don’t drink that, bro!” said the football player from behind the bar, he winked. “That’s only for the ladies.” The drink was shoved back my way. I turned and left, cup in hand. Once far enough away, I spilled its contents on the floor.
The room smells like pipe tobacco and whiskey. Ten of us are crammed into Nick’s room to watch Hitchcock’s Psycho. It reminds me of high school: sneaking into my best friend’s basement with some of her dad’s vodka and watching TV. Our hearts would race as we stole sips of the burning liquid. Except now we are confident, comfortable; this space is our own.
It’s a Friday night. The library is empty save a few bookworms voraciously studying. Some people head into Bronxville to catch the train into the city. They go for the clubs and bars. On campus, people assemble in crowded dorm rooms. Some form small dance parties. Some clandestinely smoke weed by open windows.
The overwhelming majority, however, are just like us, having a good conversation as the bottle makes its way around the room.There is only another twenty minutes or so left of the film and Norman Bates becomes background noise to banter and conversation. I only know three of the people in the group previously, but as the night progresses, we get to know each other. We share cigarettes and stories.
Five of us go outside. (Two of our original group absconded during the first twenty minutes of the film to hook up, and three went to go smoke a joint and have yet to return) There are clusters of people on the North Lawn. This is my favorite time of night. I love listening to the conversations that surround me. To my right, a senior in a Strokes t-shirt is appalled to hear that his friend had never read Ginsburg’s Howl. He hurriedly looks up the poem on his iPhone and begins passionately reciting. I look back to my friend and watch her exhale after a long drag. The smoke swirls languidly in the night air, slowly making its way towards the cloud- obscured stars.
**All names mentioned in this piece have been changed.**