Places I’ve Lived Part 5 (the New Dorms)

The New Dorms
1 Mead Way, Bronxville, NY
Sarah Lawrence College

I didn’t want to go to college, but my mom made me go. She thought my plan of driving around the country to experience life was flawed, and not just because I didn’t have a license.

So in the end we compromised and I went to Sarah Lawrence. My admissions essay was on The Story of O, which I’d written in rebellion to my mom’s demand that I write an essay at all.

My parents, together, both mom and dad, dropped me off at school. This was unusual. The times I’d seen them together were: at the custody hearings in Boston in 1991, going out for Korean food directly after that, at my high school graduation, and dropping me off at college. I cried when they left. I’m still not sure why, or why that still feels embarrassing.

My first year room was on the first floor of the New Dorms, aka the student projects. I was not super great at making friends, so every time I said hello to a new person I felt like I was stepping off a cliff. I started school a good few weeks before I turned 18, and I’m sure my naiveté showed. Looking back I’m sure that was true for all of us. Before I started I’d gotten a normal hair cut and rinsed all the Manic Panic out of my hair. I didn’t want to start with any preconceived notions. I wanted to be a first year tabula rasa, and I think I almost was.

(Note: I’m going to talk about sex, and I’m going to talk about drugs, so if you’re my family and/or don’t want to read about stuff like that, don’t read on.)

I’d wanted to try drugs since I’d read the cautionary tale Go Ask Alice some years before. The random STD inducing, pregnancy scaring, disgusting junkie bathroom street sex didn’t turn me on, but the hallucinations, the mental flights of fancy, the freedom of intoxication, really got me hot. After reading the book I made a deal with myself that I’d wait until I was 18 to try anything. This was going to be an experiment, and I wanted my brain to be fully formed; every experiment needs a control, after all. For the most part, I held up my end of the deal.

When I turned 18, I sat under a tree on the lawn by the Tea House and smoked up with C from the New Dorms, and a second year girl from McCracken. It felt very intense, the whole experience. The darkness, the publicness of the event, the lightness of the smoke, doing something illicit with people I’d only known a few weeks. C and I split a pack of Dunhill blues after that and talked about meaning.

This isn’t one of those stories where I did alot of drugs and got addicted and ruined my life and hit bottom and had a long road to recovery or anything. I did drugs. I actively sought out drugs I had not done. I did drugs I liked well more than once (at least). When I had questions I did the 1990’s equivalent of googling it: I asked people. I asked friends, acquaintances, professors. The answer to a question about pcp yielded this result:

“If there’s two of you, you can fly, if there’s one of you, you can’t.”

This was a rule to live by, and I applied it to everything. My mother gave me the best advice about drugs before I left for college. After the requisite disclaimer about how I probably shouldn’t do drugs, she said:

“If you’re going to take drugs, only take half of whatever someone gives you.”

Being high made me feel like the world was about me, that my experience and my perceptions mattered. I felt like I was in my own personal spotlight, that I could see myself to the exclusion of everyone and everything around me. Maybe I did drugs so I could see myself in relief to the rest of the world. It didn’t always feel right, but I kept doing it, because it didn’t always feel wrong, either. It felt like I was looking into a mirror, which gave me a real chance to study myself. Whether the experience was fun or depressing, I was still there at the end of it.

It was like being born into my own consciousness.

I was taking my mind and my body for a test drive. Even though I remember feeling uptight about sex, I enjoyed it. C lived upstairs. He was pretty uptight too, and we teamed up for a while in that way that an instant bond can make you inseparable. I think mostly we giggled alot. And talked about what we really felt about things.

There was just so much to feel about things.

My friend R from high school was at NYU and I started popping down on Metro North to see her on weekends. We ran into Dave in the courtyard and it turned out he lived in her same dorm. We hadn’t been in touch since graduation, but soon he was hanging out with us. Then it was just me and him.

We bought hash brownies from a religious icon store across the street from the Hell’s Angels. We ate them walking through Tomkins Square Park. I felt like I was bouncing. We went back to Dave’s dorm room. He shared it with three other guys, but they weren’t home. We kissed. We smashed teeth, just like we always did during that 5 minutes we went out in high school. We grappled with our awkwardness and embarrassment and our clothes. We were both so conscious of being ourselves that we didn’t know how to be together. It was dead serious. No giggling aloud. We wanted to be passionate, and we were passionately narcissistic. Y’know, and high. I could see out the window during the torrid encounter and a man in the building across the way was making pancakes in the nude. Later we both admitted it was the worst sexual experience all time. I don’t think I stayed over, I think I just went back to school.

I have no idea who else Dave was seeing during that period of our romance, and I didn’t much care. If I were to be honest about it, I thought that we there was something between us that couldn’t be touched by other experiences, other people. We had too much history of being awkwardly, intrinsically linked. We knew each other, without knowing why or how, it just was.

I don’t remember the first time I tried cocaine, although it must have been in the New Dorms, because I remember mixing it with a bottle of whiskey, or whatever it was C’s roommate had a case of in his room, and taking an acrobatic tumble down a flight of stairs. It’d been offered to me a few times in high school, but sticking to my rule, I’d turned it down.

LSD made the non drug induced hallucinations stop, so for a while it was my favorite. There were nights when everyone I would see on campus would be tripping too and we’d all smile at each other. It was like being in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Snapple was nectar. I don’t remember being hurt by anything new, I just remember trying to work through the old stuff, now that I had private space.

It’s so much less painful to remember being hurt than to remember hurting someone yourself. I actively sought out hedonistic experiences and I didn’t care if the consequences of that affected other people.

Things that are starkly clear while others remain blurry:

Listening to the Cocteau Twins while reading a borrowed copy of The Story of the Eye in C’s room.

The freezing cold room filled with punk show fliers directly next to C’s room.

My roommate sexiling me in the hallway while I was tripping, whereupon I yelled crude things and eventually just walked in using my key and went to sleep.

A hallucinated giant cat jumping out of my closet while I was trying to get to sleep.

My first laptop, an Acer Anywhere, that my dad got for me.

Reading The Story of O aloud to a friend in my room, and his reaction to it.

Counting how many drug offers we got while walking through Washington Square Park.

Wanting to sleep with everybody and for some reason just not knowing how to do that.

Walking through the city all night with Dave, feeling powerful and vulnerable at once.

Writing about it.

(The only pictures I have from this time are of me and other people. Other people can spill their guts as they choose, I won’t do it for them. Y’know, except for Dave, who knew what he was getting into. Thus the photos will remain in my photo album.)

I bought this in the Kafka museum in Prague and it lived on my wall.
Dust Bowl heroine.
Morrissey doing an Elvis puzzle.
A gift from JSK.
One of those punk fliers from the freezing room. How we heard about shows before social media. I don’t know how I got this though. Perhaps it was given, perhaps I stole it. 
A drawing of a mutual friend by JSK. I had a complete crush on this girl. 
The first page of a journal from that year. It’s all Henry Miller quotes. I blocked out the top of the page because a person needs to keep some secrets, even when she spills the rest.

next in the series

2 thoughts on “Places I’ve Lived Part 5 (the New Dorms)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s