There are things that can only happen to you while you are in college. The following scene is one of them. It's about 4 PM on Valentine's Day, and I stand alone on a checkout line in a Tops grocery store in Oswego, New York (now defunct, according to their store locator). Well, not exactly alone: I am accompanied by a shopping cart full of enough beer to stop several hearts. Outside in the parking lot my roommate Sean, who is still a few months shy of twenty-one, anxiously awaits delivery. Back at our dorm, about ten or so other lonely hearts do the same.
As my turn to be rung out approaches, I start schlepping this ungodly amount of alcohol up onto the counter. The checkout lady takes one look at me and immediately knows everything there is to know. In a tone of voice dripping with the sort of judgment usually reserved for members of the Westboro Baptist Church, she looks me in the eye and shoots: "Planning a party there, are ya?" Gauntlet thrown! I stare her right back in the whites of her eyes with a look that makes it clear that I am not one to be outgunned with the sarcasm, summon the ghost of the sneer of Johnny Rotten, and return volley: "No, just an exceptionally bad day at the office." She snorts and starts scanning faster, clearly looking forward to my exit. Ah, to be twenty-two and full of swagger, sarcasm and shit.
Back at the dorm, my deliveries are made, monies collected, and the clock marches towards evening. Those with dates have disappeared, leaving the miscreants and misanthropes to drain the bottles and rule...well, nothing really, save their own domains. An evening of drinking games - oh, Asshole, how I once loved you - and general moon-eyed debauchery is planned throughout the dorm hall. Being the type to be single-with-style, I decided to dress for the occasion: nothing but Johnny Cash black, from the Converse on my feet to the dyed hair on my head. The sort of getup that simultaneously announced myself as both DEEPLY, EXISTENTIALLY SINGLE - and also, you know, available. Some stances should change on a dime, folks. Not on that night, unfortunately; for years, and for whatever cosmic reason I'm not meant to ever comprehend, I couldn't ever seem to get laid on Valentine's Day if I were the only guy without syphilis in the entire brothel, and wearing $100 bills taped together as a shirt to boot. Or perhaps fortunately, as several disastrous quickie trysts, and their resulting gossip, punctuated the evening. One of the more memorable ones involved Emma - right, the one you met yesterday - and this hippie kid around the corner, a dude who was neither well scrubbed nor, as was unfortunately confided in me later on, well hung. Had she picked better, I could have saved her both of those fates. Of course, had that happened, perhaps we never would have dated later on, thus negating the worst vacation ever (a good thing), and the path my life took several months thereafter (which would be a very bad thing). The mind reels at the possibilities.
Of course, the mind also reels from prodigious alcohol guzzling, which brings us back to dear old Oneida Hall. None of this story would be true if it didn't turn into a blur, so I'll just mention in passing the few highlights I remember. We invented a sort of human Mario Kart involving flatbeds and rolls of toilet paper snatched from the bathrooms that surprisingly didn't send any of its participants to the hospital. I remember a certain amount of public singing going on for whatever reason - or, perhaps, I just decided that Therapy?'s punk rawk classic "Screamager" would be a good thing to sing on a lonely Valentine's night that really wasn't all that lonely: "I've got nothing to do but hang around and get screwed up on you", how apropos. Speaking of which, I also remember how I ended up the evening: sitting in Emma's room, talking her through her poor choice of heavy-breathing partners earlier that evening, having checked my then-jealousy completely at the door. Apparently, black clothes don't quite hide a nice guy's heart. Do we finish last? Some folks think so, but I can tell you that we generally also finish best.