Tanya: Captain Hook

by anna on November 6, 2009

“I should go out tonight, because I’d really like to get laid.”
“Tanya, it’s pirate party.”
“I know.”
“So?”
“So what?”
“Phi Delt, Tanya.”
“Yeah . . .”
“The water polo team.”
“Isn’t pirate party a date party?”
“Technically.”

“Well, how are we going to get in?”
“Renshaw.”
“How do you know? Besides, everyone will have dates.”
“Haven’t you heard? There’s no dating at Stanford.”
“When did you see Renshaw?”
“Narrative Technique.”
“You went to class?!”
“I resent your tone.”
“Well, who is Renshaw taking?”
“Nobody. That’s what I’m saying. Technically it’s a date party. Really, it’s just a party. With a guest list. That we’re on.”
“OK . . . it has been so long since I got laid.”
“It’s been three weeks, Tanya.”

You knew everything about Tanya’s sexual escapades, whether you wanted to or not, and you questioned how much of it was performed for the benefit of . . . someone? You had never met a woman who talked — thought — this way about sex, and you did not believe it. You did not trust that a woman would authentically start to track her sexual partners in this way, lining them up literally as notches on her bedpost, whose partners already numbered beyond her age in years. It was an act, you thought, but maybe there was part of you that allowed for error, since just because you could not understand did not make it automatically false. And so you went along with it, like you did with all of Tanya’s absurdities, because with all of them there were just as many fascinating things, strange tidbits that hinted at a past and experience beyond what you would ever know.

Tanya was the kind of person that nobody back home would ever meet, much less know like you did. Nobody from where you came from would be friends with this kind of a person, or be able to teach themselves her language, as you had. And that was what made it all worth the effort.

Getting Tanya out of her dorm on party nights had become a giant pain in the ass of late. As far as you could tell, Tanya’s reluctance to leave her room was connected to her exaggerated pre-party beauty ritual. Perhaps it was because she was anosmic, but Tanya seemed to feel it was crucial to stay in the shower for upwards of an hour at a time in order to truly get clean, a fact which had annoyed and frustrated you more than another person’s personal maintenance routine ever should be able to do. You had explained, rather rationally, to Tanya that soap merely needed to be afforded a brief opportunity in which to bond with dirt on skin and hair, perhaps scrubbed a bit, and then rinsed off. That more than, say, twenty minutes — tops! — was just superfluous time wasting and skin drying tomfoolery! To no avail. Tanya was convinced her routine was essential, and if she did not start it by 7pm, the likelihood of her ever making it out was very low.

Tanya’s three-hour pre-party beauty regimen annoyed you because it often meant the difference between (over-)drinking alone or (over-)drinking with company. Because for you, the niceties of beauty routines ought rightfully be cut-cornered to the greater good of going out and drinking in a socially acceptable context. Perhaps Tanya’s alcoholism was not yet so pronounced. Or perhaps it was the fact that Tanya at that time had appetites that ranked higher in priority than drugs and alcohol ever could have, and it was to accommodate those appetites that she felt the regimen was necessary. So you went through this ritual of your own, carting over a 6 pack of Sierra Nevada in the early evening, and camping out on Tanya’s futon until she agreed to go to the shower. And checking in on her progress, periodically, in the hours that followed.

“Water polo, Tanya. Eyes on the prize.” You poked your head into the women’s bathroom at the end of the hall, and went back to drinking and hanging out with Cate and Linda, and talking about the evening to come. Time would pass, and Tanya would still not be ready, and after eseveral more attempts at gettin gher moving, you agreed to meet her at the party, and somewhere inbetween the brownish haze that descended after that pack of Sierra Nevada was gone and scrounging around for Old Smuggler in the back of Andy’s liquor cabinet at the end of the night, you remember seeing Tanya at the pirate party, talking to a guy named Brant that you had seen before but never spoken too. And thinking, what an odd choice, and going for more alcohol, and then everything went blurry again.

You would sleep on Cate’s floor, too drunk to drive, and in the morning attempt to piece together the disparate parts of the evening, to reconstruct the narrative that you had certainly been a part of but could not wholly claim subjectivity for. And as you and Cate were chatting, in came Tanya to the two-room double they shared that year, her black leather biker’s jacket and eyelash curler still intact, her hair looking only slightly worse for the wear. She headed over to her bedpost and carved in another line.

“Who?” you asked, never surprised by the circumstances of the notch, always curious to hear the notchee.
“Some pirate.”
“Right.”
“No, really, he was a pirate.”
“Dressed as a pirate, yeah. Brant, then?”

“Was that his name?”
“That’s who I saw you with.”
“Well, the only way we’ll know for sure is to examine him.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was calling him Captain Hook. For a reason.”

“He was missing a hand? Strange.”

“No, it was more of a reference to the shape of a crucial piece of his anatomy.”
“Oh Tanya.”
“Captain Hook! AAAAAR!”

With that, she put her hand over her eye and chased you down the hall, and the two of you were off to the sunporch where you could further deconstruct the evening, unfortunate references to the shape of people’s penises and all. And if Tanya’s insistence upon the casual insignificance of it all still seemed forced, well at least there was some intimacy forged there, in spite of it all. Because at the heart of all the destruction and hazy recollections, was laughter, and the precious bond of two lost souls clinging to each other, and clawing back to themselves, one shared cigarette at a time.

{ 6 comments }

Denise November 6, 2009 at 11:06 am

Yay! I was just wondering when we’d get another Tanya story.

I want to picture that she outgrew all the college drama and is happy in french suburbia. Methinks I might start a petition for you to use whatever income you eventually make from this site to hire a detective to find her because we. must. know.

The Stiletto Mom November 8, 2009 at 7:46 am

Love these stories….great Sunday am read with a cup of coffee and eternal thanks that I am no longer in college.

Amanda November 16, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Anna, I just happened upon your blog and I just finished reading all the Tanya posts…brought back some memories for me. You may not remember giving it to me, but I should tell you that I kept that A on my wall until I graduated, when I then willed it on. Wonder if someone on campus still has it. How you got it is such a great story – and you’ve struck a lovely tone in the way you write about Tanya and your relationship with her. Even to someone who didn’t know her well, and certainly wasn’t close to her the way you were, she was always a constant mystery to me – and someone you could sense was so deeply, deeply wounded, in a way that still made her somehow appealing to be around.
Anyway, your posts are much more thoughtful than I’m being here – perhaps someday I can tell you the story of how Tanya caused a hold on my registration for two quarters, and I ended up having the somewhat scary, totally surreal experience of speaking to her parents on the phone and threatening legal action against them. Ha! Pretty sure I had NO idea what I was dealing with.
Glad to see you doing so well.

anna November 16, 2009 at 3:43 pm

HOLY CRAP, Amanda! How are you?! I have to email you to get that story. You’re right, I had totally forgotten about giving you the A! Thanks for stopping by, I vaguely remember something about her having a book from the library that had been checked out in your name, or something like that? My goodness. You could probably write story about “the Masons” that is even better than what little information I had on them.

Amanda November 19, 2009 at 10:14 am

Yep, not just one book but more like twenty-five or something ridiculous. I think it was close to $1000 worth. I ran into her in the library when she was trying to check out but didn’t have her ID…and instead of just asking for a favor, she said, “Hey, pledge!” and tried to make it some sort of weird hazing/initiation deal. Charming. And even just a phone call with the Masons was vaguely menacing.

Anyway, so glad to have found you – love to see you writing, and, especially, happy and healthy. The blog is fantastic.

jennifer, playgroups are no place for children November 16, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Minus the sexcapades, I had a roommate who was well versed in marathon getting ready to go out sessions. Hours and six packs and cigarette packs later, I’d barely be able to leave the house. I finally learned to start getting ready about 4 hours into the night and hold off on drinking and smoking.

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