30: My Initiation

30: My Initiation

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

My Initiation

The only people who are worth being friends with are the people who like you as you are.

~Charlotte Levy

She walked into our tiny room dragging a large green suitcase and carrying two shopping bags. She looked back at her parents and smiled — the kind of smile that makes you want to smile, the kind of smile that makes you want to share a secret with her. She was so beautiful that day, as she walked into our new dorm room at New York University.

Melissa drove a Jaguar in high school and hung out with rich and beautiful people. Her dad owned one of the biggest companies in the world, and basically, her life was perfect. The first day of freshmen orientation, she wanted to take me to dinner. I didn’t know what to wear, I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know how to act. I was from Texas. I thought New York City would be a cool place to go to school. I had no idea how to deal with people like Melissa, let alone live with her.

I chose an unflattering blue dress with flat shoes. I immediately regretted not wearing heels like Melissa. She picked a Louis Vuitton clutch and threw on some platinum earrings. I liked Forever 21, and I still snuck into Claire’s every once in a while to try on their bright pink hoops.

Melissa chose a restaurant in the West Village. It was the kind where the hostess pulled out the chair for you and handed you the menu as you sat down. I didn’t know what kind of animal ceviche was, and I got my five-dollar scarf stuck under my chair. Melissa flawlessly ordered an appetizer and entree. I never got both — I always thought it was one or the other.

At the end of our meal, I couldn’t bear to look at the check. Melissa coolly stuck out her credit card and said, “I’ve got this.” I looked at her in awe. I thought I could never compete.

The next night, Melissa invited me to go out with her. “I love to party,” she said as she curled her long, brown hair. “How much do you usually drink?” she looked at me and winked. I had never had alcohol before. My friends and I used to play board games for fun. “Oh, I don’t know,” I quietly laughed. “A lot, you know how it goes.” She laughed along with me.

That night, she and I went to places I didn’t know existed. She walked into bars and pushed through the crowds. When she got to the front, she would tell the bartenders to give her a vodka on the rocks, Grey Goose. The bartenders would lift their eyebrows a little, but I could tell they were interested. She looked back at me, “What do you want?” I calmly said, “The same of course.” It tasted awful.

The next morning, I couldn’t remember our night out. Melissa and I swapped stories, trying to piece together what happened. “Before you threw up, you were just yelling at everyone,” she said. She almost couldn’t breathe, she was laughing so hard. I had been accepted.

As the first day of class came closer, I got excited. I was the girl who liked to have different colored folders for each subject. I bought highlighters to match and college-ruled spirals. Melissa declared the first week of school, “Party week.” She explained to me that it was the best time to miss classes. This was the time to drink and have fun because no one would be learning anything yet. I nodded and hid my bags of school supplies. “Yeah, let’s go out,” I replied.

It was one month later that she asked me whether I did drugs. She told me about her drug dealer back home, and how much cocaine she bought each week. “I love it,” she said. “It’s such a great high.” I nodded and smiled. “Yeah, me too.” She looked surprised for one second. But then she touched my arm and said, “Wow. I love you!” I had never been happier.

The next morning, my heart raced. I felt weak and restless at the same time. Melissa and I were lying on our beds watching trashy television. I tried to say something, but I felt too awful. “That was awesome,” she muttered.

Melissa hadn’t gone to class in three weeks. I had managed to roll out of bed and attend a few. I always felt guilty because all I wanted was to sit in bed and talk to Melissa. We partied five times a week. I spent more money than I thought possible. My parents started calling me more and more because they were concerned. I started answering the phone less and less because I didn’t care.

Suddenly, one day, Melissa stopped talking to me. Just like that, in a matter of hours, there was silence. I would come home, and if she was there, it was a simple “Hey,” and that was that. Other times, she would never come home. I started calling her obsessively, but she never answered anymore. I wondered what I had done wrong. I wondered what I would do without her. I felt insane.

I learned a few weeks later that Melissa had dropped out of school. She had missed so much class that she couldn’t catch up. I learned that Melissa had a serious drug problem. I cried to no one in particular because, in a way, I hated myself. It was as if everything I had been working to become failed me. All of a sudden, the new life I thought was ideal had failed. I still wanted to talk to Melissa, to see if I could make anything better. I still thought maybe if I just apologized, she’d talk to me again. But I couldn’t. And she wouldn’t. It was over. But in reality, my life was just beginning.


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