Blouse unbuttoned, feverish, and hair mangled like a Tijuana cat— I was strewn on the damp linoleum tile of the public dorm restroom, hardly conscious. Congratulations, girl, drawled a voice like a chain-smoking goddess in the back of my mind. You just blacked out!
It had been a long week. New York winters require endurance, and I was not in Olympic shape. With sudden shifts in weather, the whole city had come down with both the sniffles and a mood disorder. Like many young women at my school, I am able to survive on coffee and the occasional self-esteem boost from a flirty employee at the supermarket. Who needs sleep?
Yet part of growing up female is realizing that sometimes you can’t do it all. I know this is true, because Mother Nature told me herself. It happened on a snowy day in February.
In the morning, I strode down Broadway with a maniacal grin, on my way to the local delicatessen. A self-congratulatory feast was in store, for I had just spent a few sleepless nights conquering a lead for The Eye and an essay for film class. Like Joan of Arc triumphantly scaling a mountain of firewood, I climbed a stool by the counter. An espresso, please, I told the attractive Jewish waiter. Make it double. Angling for a discount, I threw in a disoriented wink. He charged me $4.29.
While the chefs prepared an egg, I switched on my phone. A fresh whiff of anxiety flooded my senses. I was expected to make a delivery for my internship downtown. The deadline was in an hour.
I ordered two more double-shots for the road. Like a boozy celebrity on her way off the A-list, I slammed the espressos, threw the rest of my cash on the counter, and fell on the icy sidewalk on my way out the door. With some extra swing in my hips—since I was completely fine—I limped to the subway.
As the bitchy hand of fate would have it, the subway was out of service. Weather forecasts promised a blizzard that evening. Without the cash for a cab ride, I got in line for the bus. The M104 was just what I had hoped for: overcrowded and full of spite, like a pregnant dachshund just before labor. Luckily, I had come caffeinated and quick on my feet and was able to snag a seat in the back. I smiled at my good fortune. It took a few alarmed glances for me to realize that I had begun laughing aloud as well. Worse than that, I soon noticed that my knuckles were badly wounded from my recent fall. I had bled onto my khaki pants in unfortunate places—where my hands had been folded right above the zipper.
I buttoned my coat to hide the bloodstains and made the delivery without fail. With a short stretch of free time, I did what any girl would do: I paced the city streets in search of answers to life’s biggest questions, or even better, a boyfriend.
By that time the temperature had dropped, and it had begun to snow. The strange thing was, instead of feeling the need to bundle up more, I had become swelteringly, menopausally hot. Mama Fate kindly intervened by placing a 16 Handles on the next corner, where I could buy a plain frozen yogurt on my debit card. Unfortunately, there were no boys inside.
On the bus ride back to campus, without warning, a froyo headache assaulted my brain cells. This time there were no open seats; and since the snowstorm had begun, we moved slowly. I swayed on my feet like an anemic stork. My head throbbed; my temperature simmered; my body was doused in a cold sweat. I lapsed into the reverie of a delightful nap in my dorm bed. And then, I realized that I still had an evening film class— and I sure as hell wasn’t going to miss turning in the essay I had written.
Arriving just late enough for a grand entrance, I limped into lecture, crying through every last pore of my skin, and handed in my essay before an enraptured audience. At some point on my journey, I had taken off my coat and slung it over my shoulder. I looked down and realized that my bloodstained trousers were in plain view.
That is the last lucid moment I could recall before I woke up on the bathroom floor bewildered, bedraggled, and braless. There are a few hazy flashes of other things—the shrieks of car horns, vomiting in the snow, a really hot sex scene. (The last of the three, I am certain, could only have taken place in that night’s film screening.) I raised myself from the cool tiles, crawled down the hallway, put in my retainer, and passed out on the floor of my dorm room.
The next day, I stopped by Health Services. After a gentle frisking, the doctor told me grumpily that the only diagnosis he could muster was lack of sleep. When I started ranting about deadlines, he handed me a pamphlet advertising free therapy on campus and asked me to leave.
That afternoon, thanks to the weather, all of my classes were canceled. Mother Nature made the skies blizzard and made me rest. These days, I choose tea over coffee. I decided to drop my film class.