The Rescue Mermaid

It was Hampshire Halloween and I was bored.

These kind of parties always get to me. Normally when you put a group of people in a room, I’m hard pressed not to want to jump out a window. This even when we have projects to devote ourselves to, conversations to have, stories to share. A fete like this was the same sort of gathering, except with a sense that it should be something more. Therefore nobody seemed willing to just sit and talk, or especially to put themselves to some sort of activity. That would have felt a betrayal of the specialness of the event. Therefore, in the pursuit of more, it ended up being far less even than your average Hampshire day.

The fact that Hampshire Halloween had become a bad parody of itself was certainly a contributing factor to this. Once it had been a symbol of the counterculture. Strange drugs were done, rituals performed, music made, Bacchus praised. Now it was as if the Walt Disney Company had taken over. The daytime gave you cotton candy, inflatable jumping stations, a dunk tank – in short, an adolescent’s birthday party without the funny hats. At night people stumbled about drunkenly, the hallucinogenic experimentation of earlier years made to seem somehow noble by comparison. Then again – what else was there to do?

That night, as ever, I settled upon an unhappy medium. I wandered about the campus, looking for fun, and brooded.

I had been walking for about two hours. Girls I shared class with had bumped into me, kissed my cheek, and went off to vomit. Fellows whose final projects I had assisted took off their shirts and stood about, admiring themselves in the absence of those to admire them. People yelled and ran around. I walked around, and felt guilty for not being able to enjoy the fun, and doubly guilty for not being able to find a way to make it enjoyable, and triply guilty that I still could not bring myself to admit defeat, and walk away.

Hampshire’s is not a large campus. In four hours of dydpeptic peripateticism I had covered most of the grounds many times. I was now making the rounds through the freshman dorm, wherein I lived, looking to find people I knew in particularly comic states of dismantling. Thusfar this sort of schanderfreudian curiosity had been, if not particularly productive, at least not hard to satisfy.

I was walking through the basement of the building, and it was empty. It was a corridor which followed the shape of an open bracket, mirroring the shape of the building above. To follow it from one entrance to the other was a five minute walk at least. The lights flickered hollow and soulless. But one place is much as another, when you are wandering, and lost as well.

The corridor was so selfsame from length to length, and the lights that filled it so surgical in their suffusion, that I saw something on the floor when I was still thirty feet away from it. As I drew nearer I could tell easily what it was that broke the shape of my walk. It was a cigarette.

I came to it and bent down to pick it up. It was unsmoked, unbroken, truly in better shape than most cigarettes are by the time you’ve smoked the first half of the pack. It was a Marlboro Light, which had never been my brand, even when I allowed myself the occasional indulgence. Still I pocketed it. I was sure I could find some nic-fitting young dirty who would be more than willing to suck it down.

I walked on, and turned a corner, and there on the ground just before me was another cigarette. I bent down to examine it. Same brand, same pristine condition. I pocketed it.

I walked ten paces and came to another such specimen.

Ten paces or so again, and another. Then five paces, then four, than three. Soon I had half a pack in my pocket. I felt like the hipster Hansel and Gretel.

Then, at the turn of the corner, I found, on the floor, the rest of the pack.

Well, not all of it. There are twenty cigarettes in an American pack and I had found only nineteen all told. Yes, I am the sort of fellow who counts these things. I carefully maneuvered the cigs I had found into the pack, and kept walking.

I turned the corner, and found the twentieth cigarette.

It was unlit, though not for lack of trying. The cigarette was in the hand of a girl I didn’t know, not more than eighteen and not unlikely younger. She held the lighter in her other hand, but had not been able to connect the two. Very glad, I thought, as smoking indoors would have had the fire department there inside of five minutes.

That was the second thought which ocurred to me. The first was, Holy shit.

The girl who was so loose with her smokes was passed out cold on the floor. She must have been trying to smoke for the last hundred paces or so, constantly drawing out a cigarette from the pack, constantly losing hold of it before she could get it lit, trying again while stumbling off down the halls. For there she lay, unconscious, in the middle of the corridor.

Okay, maybe ‘lay’ does not quite describe her position of repose. Her cheek was to the linoleum. Her arms were stretched out past her head. Her knees were on the floor. She was ten feet in front of me, completely comatose, her ass in the air like she was presenting it for inspection.

I should also mention a modern phenomenon known as Mean Girls Syndrome. So named for the movie in which it was first brought to prominent discussion, it tells how Halloween has ceased to be an opportunity for young people to build creative costumes and live their decorous fantasies amongst likeminded peers. Basically now its just a way for women to dress up as total skanks. To dress as slutty as they possibly can, under the guise of Halloween. So that nobody shall adjudge them whores for so doing. Or, perhaps more importantly, so they shall not have to see themselves in that light.

This girl was no exception. If she was dressed in homage to a character from fact or fancy, it was a porn star. She was wearing knee-high plaid socks, high heels, a shirt which the Victorians would not have called a negligee, and her hair was done up in pigtails. Also I should mention that, in that position, her miniskirt was mini enough that I had I tripped on the slick linoleum I could very well have landed mid-coitus. Her scarlet thong nonwithstanding.

Had I a marker on me, I would have drawn things on her. As reinforcement of the idea that cute little girls dressed like Sasha Grey probably should be more careful how they allow themselves to become defenselessly inebriate. In my high school, anyone who overindulged was treated so. We called this ‘looking out for each other’. As a result, nobody ever indulged so much that we had to call the paramedics.

I took the twentieth cigarette from her hand and added it to my pack. Then I called the paramedics.

I pushed her ass to the floor, then sat down and waited.

Of course, Hampshire Halloween is not exactly a rest night for our local EMTs. Now they even bring in med techs from off-campus to assist. For the moment, however, they had enlisted our interns (the Shire equivalent of RAs, or prefects, or the like) to act as a first line of response. When I called in the difficulty, the first person to show up was, by chance, my intern.

When I recognized her, that is.

She was nineteen years old, a few inches over six feet, and a student of marine biology and aquculture. As I write this I am only now realizing how her costume was an homage to her academic discipline. At the time, and for the few years thereafter, my thoughts on the subject were less analytically inclined.

From the waist down she had no legs. Her entire lower body was encased in scales, terminating in a tail like a whale might have. From the waist up she was completely nude. She was wearing blue body paint up to her hairline and held a trident in her right hand. She towered above me even as she shuffled forward on her flipper. She did not look pleased.

One of the clearest memories of my collegiate existance is of her bending down next to the World’s Worst Smoker, stroking her hand with the hand not holding the trident, and whispering sweet nothings to her while waiting for the medics to arrive.

I stood there, and waited, just to be sure. I felt that the Ass-In-Air Girl was my responsibility. I had found her, after all. I waited until I could see the blinking red lights of the ambulance coming down the hall from the door. Then I left the two of them and made myself scarce.

My intern caught up with me a few minutes later, just down the hall, where I was hanging out with my back to the wall. I was brooding. What are the odds? But strangely enough, I wasn’t unhappy.

In fact, I felt rather good about myself.

My great problem with parties, especially those like Hampshire Haloween, was that nobody was doing anything interesting, nothing productive. They were dull affairs, and I was not willing to drink until they became entertaining (or until I became so reduced in my abilities that things like smoking, or staying conscious, were challenging enough to be interesting). But here I had found, quite accidentally, a way to make the evening productive. I had done something to help someone. For a few minutes, my night had been interesting.

Of course, all I’d really done was enable them to safely indulge in the kind of behavior that I felt wasn’t good enough for me. But, you know, when a little girl isn’t raped because of you, these things are less important.

My intern came and found me. “Thanks for calling us,” she said. She looked at me a little skeptically. Like she couldn’t quite believe I hadn’t dragged the girl off behind something. Perhaps one day I’d think of that as a wasted opportunity. But I didn’t fucking think so.

“Don’t mention it,” I said. “Glad I could be of service.”

Her curiosity was no little increased by the fact that I seemed to really look glad about it.

Wierdo that I am.

“Have a good night,” she said, and started to shuffle off, when I thought of something. I called her name, she turned, and when I was able to raise my eyes to hers – it doesn’t help that her bare breasts were at my eye level to begin with! – I pulled the pack of cigarettes from my pocket.

“Found these lying around,” I said. “Want ’em?”


I grinned. “Keep me from smoking ’em myself.”

She looked at me just a second more, then took the pack from me. “Thanks!”

Least I could do.

She went back to make her rounds, a woman who had managed to look like a mermaid and do good in the world all at the same time. I wandered around for a few more hours, but finding nothing to interest me on land, nor any more stories worth a visit from a creature of the sea, I went to bed. In the morning I jogged around campus and viewed the wreckage. I was the only one awake for five hours. It was nice – though not much different than the previous night had been.

I keep wandering around Hampshire each Halloween, but I haven’t had any experiences like that one. Every year I come damn near to spending the evening off-campus. But on the offchance I’m able to stumble across something that makes the evening worthwhile – or hell, maybe even think of something myself to make it more than the ugly orgy it otherwise is – I have to keep going back. That’s my philosophy of Hampshire Halloween. And of Hampshire, I suppose. And college.

Or maybe I should just start drinking.


~ by davekov on 31 August 2009.

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