The second I opened my eyes, I felt like something was wrong.
I was curled up in a ball, in the fetal position. I slowly uncurled myself and sat up. As I did so, I immediately noticed I felt woozy. Light-headed. I blinked the room into focus. My brain slowly started to recognize my surroundings. It was my friend Candice’s* bedroom. I was in her apartment. I slowly looked around and realized that I had been asleep on the floor, with no pillow or blanket. It felt like morning. I looked down to see that I was still wearing the clothes from the night before.
I racked my brain, trying to figure out how I had gotten here.
Nothing. My mind was blank.
I was only left with a feeling like something was wrong. Something was out of place.
I looked down at my body, which confirmed something was definitely wrong.
My toenails, which had been painted perfectly the night before-- were now all chipped and scratched up. I looked closer and realized my toenails had scrapes through them.
My legs were badly bruised and scratched, and there was a deep cut on my right ankle. I was no expert, but based on the injuries I had seen my little brother sustain over the years, it looked like it could use a few stitches.
I had been wearing a white, knee-length, flowing A-line skirt. I cringed as I registered that it could no longer be classified as “white”. It was now brown, dusty and dirty. Like it had been dragged through the mud. My stomach flipped as I realized I wasn’t wearing any underwear anymore.
I looked down at my arms and realized they were just as badly bruised and scratched as my legs. I looked closer and realized there was a bruise that resembled the shape of a handprint on my upper left arm. I could see finger marks.
I got up and unsteadily made my way to the bathroom and looked in the bathroom mirror. My face was bruised and swollen, and my hair was a mangled mess. I slowly touched my face and quickly discovered my face and jaw were sore to the touch. I leaned closer to the reflection, trying to make everything come into focus.
As I stared back at this girl I barely recognized, I felt the panic well up inside of me. I again racked my brain—but there was nothing. I couldn’t remember what had happened.
What I did know was that I was in Texas, visiting my friends and family. It was the summer in between my sophomore and junior years of college at Arizona State University and I was only planning to be home in Texas for a few days, for my brother’s high school graduation. I had attended a party the night before, at my friend Candice’s house.
I had never been happier to get on a plane and go home to Texas. I was looking forward to this much-needed break. I had just broken up with my boyfriend of a year and a half, after finding out he had been cheating on me. I knew I had made the right decision by ending it, I was at peace with the situation, but it was still fresh in my mind. I had planned to bring him home with me to Texas for the celebration. But obviously, now that we were no longer together, I had come home alone.
The family party had been the day before. And after it was over, Candice came over to whisk me away to her apartment for our party.
Shortly after Candice and I arrived at her apartment, people started showing up.
Everyone that came through the door had made a beeline straight for me, excitedly grabbed my hand and said something along the lines of:
“It’s so nice to finally meet you!”
“It’s so great to put a face to the name!”
“It’s so nice to finally, finally meet you! We’ve heard so much about you!”
It was clear—they had been expecting me.
Everyone was friendly enough, but that didn’t stop me from feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Everyone that came through the door had known MY name, but I didn’t know any of their names. I felt tense and guilty for not being able to keep everyone straight.
There were people everywhere, and loud music was pulsating.
I had a weird feeling... but I talked myself out of it. I was at a party... my favorite thing on the planet was to meet new people and hang out. Why was I so tense?
I looked around the room one more time. And told myself to relax.
“If these people are friends of Candice, then they’re friends of mine,” I remembered telling myself. “Right?”
Less than an hour later, the party was in full swing. It was an epic party, by any college student’s standards.
There was a particular guy that had caught my attention. He was pretty cute... and there was some mild flirtation going on... but I was being fairly coy. I was still feeling the after-affects of my break-up and didn’t want things to become too serious. I was just there to have fun.
In the midst of all the madness, about eight other people and I sat down to play a drinking card game. I felt a little wave of excitement when the cute guy sat down right next to me.