I went to visit my brother at college last month. It was the weekend leading up to his graduation, and I was full of excited thoughts like, great: I can party like I’m still in college and great: I can get drunk with my bro. But I was also nervous. Like, what if I accidentally fall asleep at 11? What if I just talk about adult things, like artisanal cheese? Oh god – what if I’m not even cool anymore?
My brother, Tommy, was living with 11 other dudes in a place called Trash House, a converted motel owned by one of those slumlords who drink the sodium-rich, ramen-infused blood of college students.
Tommy gave me a tour. Trash House wasn’t just messy; it was on the verge of collapse – my father would later rename it the less-catchy but more solutions-oriented “Code Violation House.” The furniture was molding, the walls were sticky, the wiring was frayed. The porch was littered with cigarette butts. Green crust covered the dishes in the sink. In the kitchen, a five-tier shelf made out of PVC-pipe sagged under the weight of Spaghetti-Os and applesauce.
The design aesthetic hadn’t changed much since my own college days: generic posters of Biggie and Malcolm X, a living room bong, a collection of empty Captain Morgan bottles on the kitchen counter. Each common area was crammed with salvaged couches and tables, and every room was saturated with the scent of college life: weed, stale beer, and boys.
As a college pad, though, Trash House was pretty sick. There was an indoor bar leftover from the motel days and a pool table that could be covered up for beer pong and family dinners. There was also a separate apartment in the basement where my brother lived, equipped with its own kitchen and a bathroom that could have doubled as a set in a summer camp horror movie.
“And this is Trash House after we’ve cleaned it,” my brother whispered.
I put my stuff down and we headed into the basement kitchen. Two of the roommates – the Trash House Boys, or THBs – were sitting at the table drinking beer.
Okay, here we go. Were these guys going to find me cool or pathetic? Would I uncontrollably spew advice like “the real world is balls” and “start looking for a rich spouse NOW” like some kind of embittered, mentally-ill aunt?
But I had nothing to worry about.
“Wassup! It’s Tommy’s sister!” one of the dudes shouted, pulling me into a bear hug (soon, I would realize that all eleven of the THBs are clinical giants).
I opened a bottle of Bulleit I had purchased for the occasion. This would be the only part of the evening at all reminiscent of the life I currently lead as an adult in Los Angeles. I had wanted to drink something less hangovery than Smirnoff – or at least, that was my intention before the last vestige of my post-grad life disappeared and I was once again trying to get fucked up like it was a Zeta pre-game before Toga.
The kitchen steadily filled with people, none of whom seemed to think I was pathetic (maybe it helps that I look 17 and not 25? Maybe no one could tell I was an elderly fraud?).
We all headed to the bars. It seemed like no one over 22 lived in this town. Every place was packed with college kids eager to be out with their fake IDs or new alco-legality.
Tommy bought a round of tequila shots and the kids threw them back like pixie stix. I tried but ended up choking and dribbling Tequila all over my shirt.
“Ah too bad, brah,” said one of the giants, pity in his eyes.
At about 1:45 AM we ended up at a club where a DJ was pounding 90’s electro to an empty room. Desperate to relive my glory days, I herded the group onto the dance floor and began to pop off in that stupid, jerky way only drunk college kids can dance. One young buck kept trying to grab my waist, not knowing (or caring?) that I was a mature lady. Another guy was tripping on Ketamine. Wow, I thought. This is definitely college!!
But an hour later, the adrenaline had worn off and I was alone in the Trash House basement eating from a jar of Value Brand Peanut Butter with a knife. It was 3 in the morning and I couldn’t remember where my brother had gone. My phone was dead. I went through half a jar of sugary peanut butter before I decided to call it a night.
But I couldn’t find the light switch. Exhausted, I finally unscrewed the entire light bulb. I fell asleep with my pants on.
The next day Tommy was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as if he had spent the night in a Korean spa. I looked like roadkill. He made a pot of coffee and I drank it on the porch steps. I watched joggers and bicyclists making the most out of this beautiful Friday. I hated them.
Our parents would arrive later that morning. Graduation festivities would begin that afternoon. I would take a break from playing college to hang with my parents, do a crossword puzzle, and watch my brother graduate. I slept a terrible night on a hotel rollaway bed. I ate a giant continental breakfast.
On Saturday night, I returned to Trash House with my parents after the graduation ceremony. The THBs had, like the heartwarming giants they are, catered a big dinner for all the families in town for graduation. They had spent two full days cleaning the house and hiding the bongs. They spread aluminum tubs of food over the pool table and set up tables and chairs outside so we could all enjoy the perfect summer evening.
Though the scene was idyllic, I had had a long, busy day hating myself for becoming a loser since my own graduation. I was ready to get drunk. So, sitting between my parents, I steadily consumed an entire bottle of Sutter Home Chardonnay and then proceeded to interrogate the graduates about their life plans.
My parents looked on with worried eyes, but said nothing. As they were getting ready to leave, they asked if I wanted to come back and stay in their hotel, or continue to drink here and sleep once again in the rat-infested basement.
Without hesitation I said basement.
My mother hissed “be careful” on her way out.
The transformation was instant. As soon as the parents were gone, Trash House filled with college kids ready to party. Someone brought a fresh keg. Someone else laid out cups for a drinking game. A weird-looking freshman started to DJ from his MacBook Air.
I failed the drinking game and then refused to drink the beer because I don’t do gluten. One of the THB Giants was kind enough to drink it for me.
I found a group of girls who looked like they could be my friends and I asked them about their astrological signs.
“Who are you sleeping with here?” I shouted. “And omg you should totally study abroad!”
“Are you…still in college?” one of them asked.
“No, I graduated! I love being out of school!”
“That’s cool. What do you do?”
“OMG girl I do whatever I want! Life after college is GREAT!”
They looked bewildered, but I didn’t care. “Let’s all go to the bathroom together and put on more makeup!” I cried.
Eventually everyone headed to the bars. I grabbed my new best girlfriends and followed.
It was a lot like the first night, only this time I hadn’t technically been invited. There were a lot of pool tables and denim shorts and very cheap mixed drinks. I was getting ready to rage again when suddenly everyone latched on to their significant others and withdrew to have close conversations with their real friends.
I sat between two couples and sipped a whiskey-ginger. They gave each other Eskimo kisses and ignored me. I thought about how graduation was going to ruin their love and felt satisfied.
I also felt very drunk.
That night, I once again found myself alone in the Trash House basement eating Value Peanut Butter with a knife. I couldn’t find my sunglasses. My phone was dead. I passed out in my jeans.
I did, however, find the light switch.