I hate birthdays.
Nobody knows that about me. Well, I suppose they do now.
I have one of those mothers that never forgets to do something special every year. On my first birthday, she baked a cake in the shape of a giant Humpty Dumpty, topped with fluffy white frosting and a detailed face made from food coloring. On my third birthday, I got a giant chocolate kitty-cake. My childhood birthdays were filled with skating rinks, sleepovers, and once I got older, nice birthday dinners with a candle in tiramisu. When I moved to California, like clockwork I received money, gift certificates, cards, and happy-birthday phone calls every May 28. My mother is not the reason I dread the day; the voices of family members have brought a smile to my face in the midst of muffled sobs. This is why I feel a stab of guilt every time I’m sad on my birthday.
No, my resentment toward birthdays has everything to do with my friends, each passing year a reminder of the crappy people I end up so desperately seeking approval from.
My obsession in middle school was the popularity I’d never obtain. By eighth grade, I thought I had all the qualities necessary to escalate to the top of the social ladder of my cliquey school. I was prettier than a good hunk of the elite, and although I still had prepubescent Kate Hudson tits, I’d returned from the summer with sun-kissed blond hair, tan skin, and a braces-free smile. I was even so bold as to sit at the semi-popular-girls’ table at lunch. But I found myself on edge, petrified of saying the wrong thing. Every time a girl left the table for a while, the others would make snide remarks behind her back, then greet her with sweet, Southern smiles upon her return. I wasn’t kicked out of that table, but I was never warmly welcomed. The girls didn’t accompany me to the front of the cafeteria to throw out my tray, even though the rest of them went in pairs. Determined, I persisted. When Christmas came, I spent hours individually wrapping incense sticks in red and green tissue paper, tying the ends with curly gold strings to place in the cards I would distribute the following day. Writing the names of cheerleaders and beloved yearbook superlatives on the cards, I knew they would not be returning the Christmas spirit.
But handing out Christmas cards was not nearly as tortuous as my birthday-party invitations.
“Sorry I couldn’t make it, Maggie,” they all said. “I was busy.”
It was a fantastic party anyway. Four or five of my real friends spent the day with my dad and me on his boat and swimming in the lake. That night, after cutting birthday cake, the girls and I lounged in the hot tub. We squirted water guns filled with Dad’s liquor into each other’s mouths. Still, my insecure, teenage self could not laugh off the fact that the other girls — those stuck-up bitches — had missed out. I was engrossed in the rejection. Instead of focusing on the family and friends who wanted to celebrate, I sulked over the ones who didn’t. And, every May, I braced myself for disappointment: my birthday would reveal that my friendships weren’t real.
There is no place on the planet more desolate of real friendships than Pacific Beach.
The one birthday I did not dread was my 21st. Turning this age dramatically affects the lives of young, bar-hungry San Diegans. At 18, I’d moved to a very 21-and-over city. San Diego’s nightlife is packed with concerts, clubs, bars, and stage venues that all require one to be of drinking age to pass through their bouncer-guarded gateways. And when it came to fake IDs, all the bars I encountered were ruthless. As a 20-year-old Pacific Beach resident, my age inflicted a harsh blow to my social life. Sure, I could go to house parties, but it seemed as if they were often interrupted by some 24-year-old prick shouting, “PUB CRAWL!” My coked-out friends would stumble toward the bar like a herd of fat people rushing to a buffet, leaving me behind.
I moved to P.B. in February, and from that time on, I awaited May 28, 2006, as anxiously as a pregnant woman does her delivery date.
Two months! I squealed to myself. One month! Twenty-nine days and 12 hours!
I was convinced that my life would be changed once that date rolled around. I could join other gallant young adults in the quest to drink the entire Garnet Avenue strip dry, starting at a sketchy dive bar called the Silver Fox, which opened at 6:00 a.m. for the most dedicated alcoholics. Then the other 21-and-up warriors and I would depart, headed west for a mimosa breakfast that ended with tequila and Coronas at Cabo Cantina; this was a gringo bar imitating a Mexican tourist trap, decked out with fake palm trees, mini umbrellas, and salty tortilla chips. It later became one of my favorite bars because of its outdoor patio area. Instead of an ocean view, Cabo’s had white boys in wife-beaters shouting obscenities and glitter-coated skanks tripping on their hooker heels. At 21, I would be able to freely frolic through the strip and enter any building I chose. I felt that this must’ve been what it was like to be black after the Civil Rights Movement.
My excitement for entering the realm of the legally drunk went beyond bars and the booze — I really hadn’t changed since my 14th birthday party. Deep down, my one true aspiration was to be cool. This time, I was among a whole new league of popular kids.
All those people back in my hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, were now nothing to me. The popular girls there desperately tried to be Californian, bleaching their hair and baking in tanning beds until their skin fried orange. But they could have their country music, premature marriages, and hometown drama. I lived in a heavenly beach town. I had palm trees. I had beer bongs on the sand. I had the wildness of youth. My friends were thin, pretty, and naturally bronzed. They slurped vodka from the bottle while they drove. They roamed the streets in bikinis by day; by night, they wore skimpy dresses short enough to bare their ass cheeks when they bent over. They pushed up their breasts and snorted coke in the bathrooms of clubs before grinding their crotches into strangers until last call. And when the night came to an end, they romped through the filthy, gum-stained streets barefoot, too hammered to feel the broken glass. P.B. girls were wild, edgy, and dangerously carefree. I wanted to be exactly like them.
It seemed I was well on my way. I felt…popular. My Myspace page was constantly blowing up with comments from new friends, refreshing my memories of the outrageous things we’d said and done the night before. We joked about absinthe shots and the weird guy who fell through the glass table after trying to dance on top of it. We giggled hysterically as we filled memory gaps lost to intoxication.
I saw these people at parties. The girls welcomed me into their social circles. They hugged me, swearing that we were great friends. We all vowed to spend the summer parading the beach together.
Loads of people made promises about the glory of my upcoming two-one.
“Okay, well, we have to all go out on your birthday,” they chimed.
“Your birthday is gonna be so rad!” my friend James (not his real name) assured me. “We’re gonna rage like we’ve never raged before!”
I was certain that I would not face the horrible scenario of not having people to go out with on my 21st birthday. This was P.B., after all, a town where a person would hit a bar dragging an oxygen tank, if necessary. My birthday would land at the beginning of Memorial Day weekend. Who was going to stay home?
But as the big day approached, I faced a bleak reality: San Diego, especially P.B., is a town full of flakes. There is no such thing as making plans. If you throw a party, people who say they’ll make it won’t show, and people who say they won’t show, do. Everything is done spur-of-the-moment. This behavior clashed with the tenets of Southern etiquette that still lingered from my childhood. In the South, it’s extremely rude to back out of plans. You are expected to either keep them or call in advance to cancel. But the people I knew in San Diego didn’t give a damn about my plans. Whatever was good for them was the only thing that mattered. If I wanted to be a P.B. girl, I needed an ultra-laid-back attitude or I’d be considered uptight and dramatic.
I never could become nonchalant. I only pretended. When a friend and I planned on doing something one weekend, I knew it would never happen. I could repeatedly phone, but it would be in vain. Yet, I never spoke a word in opposition. I never called these precious P.B. friends rude, self-centered, or unreliable. And when my birthday came along, I never revealed how hurt I was when the dozens of friends who’d vowed to make the night unforgettable seemed to have other plans, to scatter, maybe, into the depths of the universe. Nobody apologized or even remembered that I had a birthday coming up. Unlike middle school in Tennessee, the P.B. popular kids didn’t even tell me they were going to be busy. To them, one day I would just magically be able to enter the bars and it wouldn’t occur to them why.
This city that I wanted to blend into was populated with lost little lambs — brainless, coked-out, cleavage-baring little lambs— unable to think or care a single footstep ahead of their four-inch wedges. Everyone, it seemed, had the attention span of a toddler on crack.
On May 27, hours before midnight, when I would turn 21, I fought the urge to bury myself in the sheets and cry until my birthday passed. I called a few friends. After enough borderline begging, I convinced Yolanda (not her real name), her husband Darren (not his real name), and Janet (not her real name) to go out with me.
Janet was a 24-year-old Georgia gal. She was book-smart but seemed as naïve as a Sunday-school girl. When she drank, she did so continuously until she was either purging or naked with someone who would take advantage of her; she was a date-rape waiting to happen. Men were drawn to Janet, though there was nothing remarkable about her appearance. She had a cute-but-quaint round face and a short chestnut bob with the tips touching her chin. Her body was petite and pear-shaped. No, it wasn’t beauty that attracted men, but the fact that Janet was such an obvious disaster. When it came to standards, she had none. Even in my drunkest, sluttiest moments, I was a hundred times more selective. She’d bang anyone who gave her the time of day. But there was innocence to the way she did it — she was like a child manipulated by pedophiles. Janet’s men were the worst kind.
I legally entered the doorways of a bar on May 28, 2006, around 12:30 p.m. The bouncer looked at my ID, smiled, and said, “Happy birthday.” I wanted to kiss him. It took only one Long Island iced tea to make me forget about the people who’d stood me up, including James, who I’d seen with his crew at another P.B. bar that very night. By the second Long Island, I was posing for goofy pictures and throwing darts with Darren, happy with the three friends who had come out. By my third or fourth, we had company.
Janet had invited a boy named Tony (not his real name) she’d met online. Tony was short, standing at about five-foot-six, with short brown hair, a five o’clock shadow, and goofy big ears. He looked as if he’d stepped out of Jersey Shore. Tony was accompanied by a friend. I paid little attention to both of them because I was focused on getting hammered, assuming that I wouldn’t have an appropriate 21st birthday if I didn’t.
After the fourth or fifth beverage, my memory of events gets spotty. The next thing I recall is falling flat-faced onto the sidewalk — wearing heels had been genius. Suddenly, Yolanda and Darren were gone and it was just Janet, Tony, his friend, and me crammed into my tiny living room. I sat on the cheap loveseat, the friend sat in the circle futon, and Janet curled up with Tony on the carpet; he had his tongue down her throat. A happy couple for the night, they stumbled into my roommate Bianca’s bedroom.
I should confess that I was not always the greatest roommate. My rent was on time and I did the majority of cleaning in the house, but I occasionally stole Bianca’s tampons and allowed people to have sex in her bed while she was gone. When I was really mad at her, I drank her vodka.
Once Janet and Tony disappeared, the friend and I were alone. We had yet to exchange a word. As he fumbled through his cell phone for cab numbers, I took a good look at him for the first time. Hot damn. He was attractive. Very attractive.
He had brown hair that wasn’t sticky with gel, but I could tell he had styled it by the way it swished to the front and flipped into a little wave. His face was long and rectangular, with a strong, masculine jawline. He had olive-tan skin — the shade of a white boy who spends his days lounging on the beach — and chocolate-brown eyes below neatly groomed brows. His long legs hung off the side of my round little futon, and I remembered how tall he had seemed (at least 6´2˝, I thought), and he had a lean, lanky build. He wore a white button-down shirt that hung over a pair of blue jeans. This guy looked clean and well kempt, unlike the scraggly surfers that usually hung around P.B.
I have a theory about men. When I was at the height of my promiscuity, it seemed as if they could smell my availability, as if it were part of the evolutionary process of the male knowing which females are ready to mate. If that was the case, Tall Guy’s reproductive instincts must have been in full swing. If words were exchanged between us, they were few. He put his phone in his pocket and followed me into my bedroom.
The next morning, I woke up to the sunlight shining through the window.
“Dammit!” I gasped. I jerked upright in my bed, knocking Tall Guy’s arm off my waist.
“What time is it?” I asked, but I didn’t really expect to get an answer from the unconscious man beside me.
I jumped up and ran into the living room in search of a clock. It was 9:00 a.m., and Bianca would be home any minute.
“Janet, you guys have to get the hell up!” I said. I slapped open Bianca’s door to find Janet and Tony naked.
“Get up! Get up! Get up!” I ordered like a boot-camp drill instructor.
We shoved the guys out the door mere minutes before Bianca arrived. I hardly looked at my birthday boyfriend as I sent him out into the morning without a goodbye.
As James would have put it, I “raged” into 21-dom with full force.
Despite the friends who had disappeared, my birthday weekend was everything I dreamed it would be. Instead of embracing our hangovers, Janet and I treated our aching, dehydrated bodies with more booze.
Why the hell shouldn’t I be drunk by noon today? I thought. It’s my birthday.
When I opened my door, I realized that the rest of P.B. agreed.
P.B. was always a bit hectic, but on holiday weekends, it transformed into what looked like MTV Spring Break. It was a shocking sight the first time. What was once sand had been replaced by a mass of flesh. The aroma of sea salt was overpowered by the stench of stale beer baking in the sunshine. Early birds arriving before sunrise had already set up tents and coolers packed with alcohol. Some were equipped with food and beer funnels, which would later be shoved down the throats of young ladies in bikinis. Every guy wore his own unique pair of board shorts patterned with Hawaiian flowers or Rip Curl lettering, while every girl wore a bikini, sometimes topped with a short, denim cutoff skirt or a little tube dress.
That night Grizzly (not his real name) escorted Janet and I to the bars on the Garnet strip. Grizzly was my age but looked much older because of his fuzzy, reddish-blond beard and husky, six-foot-five build. He treated his female friends like cubs, protecting us from aggressive assholes and never making a move on us, even when we were half conscious. A native of upstate New York, he was a small-town guy with a big-brotherly attitude.
“Screw all those bitches that didn’t want to come out tonight,” he said to me. “It’s your 21st birthday. I’ve got your back, girl. Let’s get you a redheaded slut” (a shot made with Jägermeister and peach-flavored schnapps).
Grizzly bought me one redheaded slut after the other.
“Have you ever had an ‘adios’?” Grizzly asked. We stood at the edge of a musty, dark bar packed with drunk guys in baggy T-shirts and backward caps.
“Nope,” I said. “What’s in it?”
Grizzly laughed. “A lot of stuff, darlin’. But once you drink it, it’s adios!”
After a long day of alcohol consumption, I was pretty far gone by the time I got the adios in my hands. A tall glass was filled with what looked like Windex with a cherry on top, but it tasted sweet, and I slurped it down. Two cocktails later, I understood the name. I remember nothing after that. Apparently, I lost my ability to walk. Thank God for Grizzly’s strong, fuzzy arms.
The next morning, I downed my second liquid breakfast. I was still in awe of my new ability to walk into the liquor store and buy whatever I wanted. It was Memorial Day, and I entered a mass of greasy, half-nude bodies to meet some girlfriends for another day of drinking. I weaseled my way through the madness. Young adults, many under age, I’m sure, were funneling beer and doing body-shots off each other. Men played grab-ass with skin-baring girls who batted their bloodshot eyes. Couples groped each other on beach towels and in the sand. I saw every bikini pattern imaginable, from bright yellows to ruffles to zebra prints, in every cut and shape.
Through the miracle of a good cell-phone signal, I spotted my friends Tiger and Ceci (not their real names).
I knew them through some of my guy friends who they’d been banging, though the romances had fizzled within a week or two. Both girls were attractive, but Tiger was a stunner who outshined everyone. Ceci was petite, five feet tall with short legs. She had a round face, dimples, bleached-blond hair, and angelic blue eyes. Ceci had been the belle of her small Idaho town before coming to California to pursue her dream of acting.
Tiger was the epitome of a P.B. girl. She’s what middle-aged men call a “firecracker,” and they all probably fantasized about taming her while jerking off in their showers. Tiger was the type of girl every other female hated, because of a flawless body she never had to work for. Five-foot-four with a fat-free figure, she had a shapely, firm ass and a naturally full set of tits. I’ve always secretly loathed skinny girls with big boobs. How the hell does that happen? When I lost weight, the D-cups were the first things to go. Anyway…Tiger’s body was almost always fully visible. She didn’t hesitate to romp around the streets in a string bikini with boots or heels. When she did wear clothes, they were skimpy shorts, skirts, and tight-fitting dresses with her cleavage visible. Sometimes she wore more outrageous items, like black lingerie beneath a fishnet suit, or she’d don a hot-pink wig. When she dressed up for Halloween, it was always in a bikini — a zombie girl in a black bikini or a gangsta bitch Barbie. I envied the freedom Tiger felt to run around everywhere practically nude without fear of degradation. She’d obtained her killer bod with a diet of cocaine, Cheez-Its, and late-night Jack in the Box drive-throughs. She wasn’t a typical blond California girl. She dyed her natural, ash-brown hair Hot Tamale red, and she decked herself out with tattoos and a bellybutton piercing. She was a beach babe with rebellion, always the spirit of the pregame ritual before pub-crawls, blaring her music and dancing around her apartment while draining a bottle of rum into her mouth. Jumping on her couches and pulling us up atop the vodka-stained cushions, her voice was the highest WOOOOOO! in the room. She’d fill her purse with dozens of mini liquor bottles so we could get wasted on a budget. A night out usually ended with us bringing guys home to snort up their blow or with five girls stumbling down an alley, rolling each other around in a stray grocery-store shopping cart.
Tiger was loud and bold, unafraid to shout out “Screw you!” to anyone who bumped into her or who mumbled a sarcastic comment under their breath.
On Memorial Day, Tiger, Ceci, and I filled Diet Coke bottles with Bacardi. Ceci taught me to do a beer bong, which I’d never been successful at before. She held the hose with her right hand while some shirtless guy prepared to pour beer in the funnel.
“Now, Maggie,” Ceci slurred, “open your mouth. Wider. Open your mouth, bitch!”
A group of boys crowded around us, aroused by Ceci’s dominatrix tone.
“Open up. Put it in your mouth and SUCK, SUCK, SUCK!” she screamed. “Open your throat and SUCK IT! SUCK IT, BITCH! SUCK IT! SWALLOW IT ALL!”
I obeyed. With all the will I could summon, I slurped down the beer, fighting the urge to vomit it back up. As the bubbly liquid filled my belly and dribbled down the corners of my mouth, a mass of rowdy guys cheered.
“WOOOOOO! THAT’S HOW YOU SUCK IT!” they shouted, giving Ceci and I pats on the back.
Before long, we had a group of cute boys following us down the P.B. strip. Ceci dubbed one muscular oaf her boyfriend, holding his hand and dragging him everywhere she went.
The guys were Marines. I had my eye on one named Jay, who had dark-brown hair, chestnut eyes, and olive skin. I remember little about him now, only that he was sweet and that, at some point, the two of us drunkenly danced to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” in a bar. All of the guys seemed polite and down to earth. Few were from Southern California, and they had that small-town quality of treating women like ladies, opening doors, and paying for our drinks. They reminded me of the aspects of the South that I missed.
At the end of the evening, Ceci and her boyfriend for the night took off to her place. Tiger went home. The other three boys headed back to my apartment. All of us were slowly sobering up and were exhausted from consuming so much alcohol in the heat. We sipped water and hung out in my living room.
We began chit-chatting about their hometowns and their enlistment. The boys were stationed at Camp Pendleton.
“How long have you been in?” I asked.
Almost two and a half years, they said.
“Oh, so, we’re the same age,” I said. I was giddy from Jay’s returning smile.
The second guy — also friendly — picked up on my attraction to Jay and offered to set us up. The third guy sat in the corner, watching us talk. He was skinny with a rectangular head, the most quiet and awkward of the trio.
My parents rarely lock their doors, and my cousins will carry on easy conversations with mentally ill homeless men for as long as they’ll follow them. But time in California had taught me not to trust the human race. Still, here I was at 21, regularly sharing my bed with random men, and I welcomed anyone into my domain.
I don’t know if it was my frequent use of foul language, my eye contact with Jay, or the messy state of my apartment after a weekend of partying, but in the midst of pleasant chatter, the quiet boy in the corner was suddenly no longer the quiet boy in the corner.
“LOOK AT YOU, YOU PIECE-OF-SHIT SLUT!” the boy snapped. It was as abrupt as a gunshot in a prayer circle.
“What man will want you?” he said. “You’ve been drinking all weekend. Your apartment’s a wreck.”
I usually kept my apartment spotless, but I’d been drunk all weekend, for my birthday. I’d left the house-cleaning up to Bianca, who’d let it go.
He moved closer and the other two boys got up to protect me. Their eyes widened. Both looked embarrassed.
“I’m really sorry,” Jay whispered. “He went through a lot in Iraq.”
“You are so unladylike!” the guy shouted. “This is not how a woman should act!”
With that, his friends dragged him out of my apartment, apologizing. I was alone with my mess and my alcohol comedown.
I partied hard the rest of that weekend. I partied at a level that I would consider myself too old to handle by my 22nd birthday. I had fun. It was everything I’d expected my 21st birthday to be. But something about the PTSD Marine had left a sour note. My hangover depression didn’t help. I’d been happily drunk for three days straight, and what goes up must always come down. Something about that guy had frightened me — it was the way he’d unexpectedly turned on me. His heartbreak and mental disturbance were obvious, so I pitied him, but he’d given me a glimpse of how the most unexpected people could become fierce, angry, and vengeful.
I cleaned my apartment, showered, and retired to my bed.
“Screw those stupid Marines!” Tiger laughed. “They were so dumb.”
I loved how she could let conflicts roll off her back — as if to say, “Damn the world!” — and continue having fun.
Tiger and I became good friends as the summer progressed. It began on a regular Thursday night. I didn’t have to be at work until 1:00 the next day and felt like going out. Tiger must’ve been on the same page, because she called and said, “Nobody wants to go out tonight, and I want to party.” I was glad to satisfy her. We had a blast and agreed to become party buddies.
In my family, I was one of the oldest in my generation, and my younger brother and cousins looked up to me when I was a kid. When I did something dangerous, like climb a tall tree or jump off a ledge over a creek, they tried to mimic me, often getting hurt because of their miniature stature.
“You have to be on your best behavior when you’re around children younger than you,” my grandmother warned. “They look up to you. They want to be like you, so they’ll copy whatever you do.”
Tiger had the same effect on me. I looked up to her. I wanted to be like her. Without realizing it, I began mimicking her. I dyed my hair, constantly experimenting with the color, the way she did. I started with professionally done bright-red streaks in my blond hair. When that faded, I dyed it such a bright red that it looked almost hot pink. I spent the next two years dying it every shade of red, brown, black, and blond.
Tiger was like a drug, hyping me up for nights out. We were getting high off the freedom of our early 20s. Together, we stormed P.B. in high heels, our tits to our necks, and with a determination to get crazy. She made me feel free. With her, I could be in drunken stupor while screaming obscenities and grabbing the balls of any man I desired. Tiger was even more promiscuous than I was.
“How many men have you slept with?” I asked her one night.
We were sipping liquor out of the bottle while putting on the finishing touches of our makeup.
“Thirty-five,” she said.
“Oh.” I felt a bit inferior. “I’m only at 14, but you’re two years older than me, so that makes sense.”
“I’m just a slut,” she laughed.
I thought about how her numbers had piled up. It wasn’t so much that she was more promiscuous than I was, but she was more desirable. I wanted to be like her, but even if I dyed my hair wild colors, jumped atop couch cushions, hid a hundred mini liquor bottles in my purse, and forced myself to be a ferocious, confident life of the party, I could not be as beautiful as Tiger. She had the sort of personality that only the thinnest, prettiest girls can get away with. She was a sexy firecracker. When I showed that kind of personality, I was white trash. I couldn’t wear a black-lingerie/fishnet ensemble and be dubbed “hot.” As it turned out, neither could I grip the balls of any man, assuming that he’d be turned on.
As much as I loved Tiger’s company, it also haunted me. Watching her strut through clubs in her thigh-high leather boots or at summer festivals in her string bikini, I was reminded of my shortcomings. While she was the hot chick everyone gawked at, I was the semi-cute, second-string blonde the boys went for when they struck out with her. This had everything to do with my weight, an issue I’d struggled with since before puberty. Even though I’d lost a significant number of pounds over the years, I was not halfway done.
At the beginning of the summer, I began boxing, and despite my drinking habits, I worked out harder than ever before. After an intense two-hour workout, I’d shower and meet up with Tiger, only to find her in one of her bikinis, a burrito in one hand and a cocktail in the other.
“Damn, I wish I was as motivated as you. I need to get my ass in shape,” she’d say as I stared at her firm, pierced belly.
Even more discouraging, I knew that when we emerged into the sunlight at P.B., men were staring and comparing.
The drunkest, most obnoxious boys reminded me of my insecurities.
“I want her not you,” one spat out as I tried to talk to him after Tiger turned him down.
“I’m a trainer,” another told me. “You’re a pretty girl, but you need to work on this area here.” He rubbed his lower belly.
“Screw those assholes!” Tiger said. “Enough about weight. Don’t you dare be insecure.”
Easy for her to say. In P.B., the hotter you are, the easier it is to not care.
I could work out every day but saw no hope in reaching Tiger’s level. So I did what I’d been doing since my teens: I tried to fill my lack of confidence with male attention.
Tiger didn’t care who judged her. She did whatever she wanted and screwed whoever she wanted. She was free and empowered. She motivated me to increase my number. Why the hell not? When would I get another chance in my life to walk into a club and shag whoever I pleased? I decided that this was exactly what I would do.
Typhoon Saloon was a casual bar by day and a dressed-down club by night. The front area had a peanut-shells-on-the-floor saloon look while the back tried to be more elegant, with strobe lights and stripper poles. Every time I walked into that place, I got into trouble.
The pattern began the night I met my Number 15.
I don’t remember his name or what he looked like — I wanted to hook someone from that bar, and Number 15 just happened to be in the right place at the right time. That night, I was conducting an experiment.
How long will it take me to hook up with someone from here? I asked myself, already drunk from pre-gaming with Tiger. It took less than an hour.
Upon entering Typhoon Saloon, Tiger and I slurped down the doubles we ordered, then headed to the club area. The club had several levels, all circular areas of people grinding against each other with hip-hop music blaring. We veered to our left and climbed stairs that led to the highest level with a minibar. We began dancing with some random guys, and there he was, Number 15.
We talked briefly. He was as drunk as I was. He was a Navy SEAL, young, tall, and thin, though I can’t recall the details of his face. I suppose I released my slut signals strongly, because he was soon kissing my lips, ears, and neck. He backed me into the corner of the bar. Although we were among a mass of people, we were also in a private place. The club was loud, dark, and hectic. I looked at him with a smile and whispered something like “Do me here” into his ear. I don’t know what I was wearing and I don’t know how it happened — but I do know that penetration took place while we were right there on that dance floor. He also managed to wrap on a condom. After a couple of minutes, we decided to take it outside. I grabbed his hand, and we stumbled out of the club, walked a block, and into somebody’s garage. He lay down on the cold cement floor. He looked as if he was about to pass out but managed to keep his erection.
As I straddled him, something about the situation gave me the creeps. I imagined our roles switched. If I were the woman drunk and passed out on the garage floor and the man continued banging me, the situation would have been morally wrong. I thought about the virginity I had lost while unconscious and looked down at Number 15. Despite his supposed Navy SEAL profession, he appeared so weak and helpless, crippled by intoxication. I shrugged off the eerie feeling. He’d been willing enough to put his condom on. As I maneuvered myself on top of him, I watched him slip in and out of consciousness. I continued anyway.
Suddenly, my phone rang. It was Tiger. Still on top of Number 15, with his barely open eyes looking up at me, I answered.
“Where are you?” she asked. She sounded concerned.
“Hey, I’ll be right there,” I said. “I’ll meet you outside of the bar.”
“Maggie,” Number 15 mumbled as I got off him. “Maggie, wait.” He seemed paralyzed.
“I’ve gotta go,” I responded. “Bye.”
I left the garage, Number 15 still mumbling my name.
I should have helped the poor guy up or tried to get ahold of his friends. At first, I felt terrible, but I shrugged off the feeling as I skipped to meet Tiger. I even giggled.
This must be what it feels like to be a man, I thought.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was angry with men and the way I needed them. It wasn’t so much for sexual satisfaction because, in retrospect, most had given me very little of that. It was the way I used them to validate myself — to make me feel as if I had worth. I wouldn’t learn this until many more encounters with men, who, despite our intimate relations, were strangers. I was a prisoner of that need, and because of it, I surrendered my self-control. I thought I was taking it back with Number 15, but I was wrong.