“Here we go,” Julia hands me my drink, which she spills on me in her enthusiastic delivery.
I take a sip. Gin and tonic with a hint of peanut butter.
We dance in a big circle underneath the disco ball. The music distorts and we jump on the couches. I practice my white-girl booty-pop – impressive since I don’t have a booty to pop. I lose Julia and see her leaning against a wall with David, who is a trance party fiend from our class. She smiles widely at him, eyes partially closed. I wonder if that’s her flirt face or her drunk face. Malini and I grind against each other while Amala takes photos of everyone and everything.
I walk outside to cool off and chat. The salty sea air stings my nostrils and electro beats are now the background to our conversation.
“I still can’t believe what you did today,” Nick, the coolest guy in our class, says to me. There are only four guys in our class, but still. Nick has the ability to make dumb words sound intelligent, which is why I like him.
I smile at the memory of what happened earlier.
“Wait, what happened? I keep hearing about it but I wasn’t there. I just heard Shane saying that one of the students said all men are rapists,” asks Allie, a woman with long curly blonde hair.
Everyone looks at me. I clench my teeth in irritation.
“Well, basically, at my presentation today, Shane was stirring up stuff about how I was saying any man can rape, when that was just the title of my thesis, and something one of my participants said, and not what I was saying at all, so …” I shrug.
“She demolished him,” Nick says.
I don’t want to talk about it so we move on. Allie, Nick and I debate religion. At most parties, controversial topics like religion, politics and rape probably won’t come up. At a party with psychology students you don’t really find us talking about things that are not controversial. With regards to religion, they are atheists and I’m not.
“But how can you justify believing in God when there is so much evidence against Christianity?” Nick says. He clearly thinks I’m an idiot.
“Listen, I’ve read all of that stuff. I know that most of Christianity has pagan origins and I’m not idiotic or close-minded enough to think everything I read in the Bible is true or perfect. But, in my life, I’ve had too many experiences with things that I can’t explain. With powers that are too great to be simplified to a coincidence and I consider myself extremely lucky to have experienced those things. I think everyone chooses to translate this power in a different language, some call it God, others call it Buddha or energy or science or choose to close their minds to it. I just can’t.”
I don’t know if my words make sense or not, but it doesn’t matter. A bit later, a group of us walk to the beach. It’s about twenty meters away from the house. We stride into the brisk night air. We climb over rocks to get to the beach until we see the ocean. Nick and I sit on the rocks with a few other people.
We laugh and laugh and talk about nothing at all. Malini’s shoes get wet and she walks back to the house.
“Loser!” I shout at her back. “People in this day and age have really lost their adventurous spirit.” I sigh in mock disappointment.
She gives me the finger.
The wind whips through my jacket and the sea sprays softly on my cheek. I breathe and feel alive and happy. I have survived one of the hardest years of my life and I kicked ass.
In the distance, Julia grabs and kisses David. Their passion overwhelms them to the extent that they meet the rocks head-first more than once. The rest of us, as appreciative spectators, cheer them on. The waves are a strange, luminous green colour. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
Around midnight, I am tired, sober, and ready to leave. I have only slept for about three hours in the past two days. I am physically and emotionally exhausted. I am also sick of people. I just want to shut out the world for a couple of hundred hours.
As I think this, one of the girls comes up to me. It’s one of the other students. This girl doesn’t want me to use her name, or describe her, and so I won’t. From now on she’ll be “my friend.” It could have been any one of them.
“Mich,” she touches my arm. “Can I speak to you?”
She looks down as she says this. I grab her hand and lead her outside. We squish close to each other on a beanbag out of earshot from the rest of the party.
“So, what’s up?”
“I have to tell you something.”
“When I was listening to your thesis today, it just brought up some stuff. While I was listening to you speaking, I didn’t want to be there. I felt so uncomfortable.”
It’s clear she has something on her mind. While conducting interviews for my thesis on rape, several girls came to me and asked to be interviewed. Even though my study focused solely on male students, these female students ignored the instructions and came to me anyway. It was always because they had experienced some type of sexual abuse. One girl had been raped three times by three different men from her local community. Their stories were different, but they all spoke with the same sense of urgency. They wanted – needed – to be heard.
As she starts to talk, another girl from our class comes and sits down with us.
An awkward silence follows.
“Do you want to go for a walk?” my friend asks me.
“Sure, of course.”
Question: Would you have said yes to a walk on the beach?