Illusion

The walk of shame is a cultural treasure. Around university campuses, college towns, and neighborhoods occupied by twenty somethings all over America, Saturday and Sunday mornings are not marked by yard sales, church bells, and bike rides–they are marked by these lost souls in last night’s clothes going home, shamed or proud of last night’s licentiousness. The walk of shame may be a cab ride, a bike ride, a trip on the bus, a drive, or even an actual walk. It merely refers to the trip between where one ended up crashing and where one lives. As an undergrad, we would sit at the windows and rate walks of shame.

I have had two proper walks of shame in my life. They were misbegotten.

You see, as an undergraduate, I was rather boring. Sure, my friends and I threw parties that crowded our apartment. People would leave with stories to not tell their parents. These were good times. But, you see, I never went to other people’s parties. I had a rule: Don’t get wasted outside of the apartment.

I didn’t enforce this rule on others, but I did use it as a guiding force in my life at school. I just didn’t go out and get to the point where I would be wasted enough to warrant a walk of shame because I didn’t want to have to find a place to sleep. I liked having things at home because, once I was done, I could curl up in my own bed and sleep. In the morning I could make myself, and anyone else, breakfast. I could go about my day as normal.

I lied. I’ve had three walks of shame.

The first was my super-senior year at university. At that time, I went up to Squill every Friday night to play Rock Band with some friends. We’d drink about a fifth of rum (I was twenty-one at the time, so I can say this) and whatever else we found if we decided it was necessary. Once we finished playing Rock Band, we’d put on movies or anime and all pass out. I kept a toothbrush there, and usually brought a clean shirt. My day would start from Squill, rather than having it be a pickup note to the phrase. One Friday, I was going to the theater, so I had on heels, a dress, and makeup. After the show, of course I went to play Rock Band. In the morning, I walked home. I hadn’t brought any clean clothes.

On the way home, I found myself walking towards someone I knew. We made eye contact for long enough to mutually acknowledge that we were both there. We quickly looked away.

Wait, there’s at least two more in there. Let’s say five.

Sometime after that, there was a Carnegie Mellon party. Any more details are not relevant. I walked home in the morning. In a bridesmaid dress. There had been no wedding.

In Korea, I had what felt like a walk of shame. I didn’t do anything that makes it a proper walk of shame. I was wearing normal clothes, but I did smell strongly of tobacco and alcohol.

When I first got to Korea, I made contact with a friend of a friend, L, who took me out with her group of friends. We followed a fairly traditional Korean night out: dinner, norebang, dancing. At the norebang, it got late. When forced to make a decision about getting home that night, or condemning several-hours-in-the-future self to a 5am train ride, I did the right thing and picked hanging out more. We went to a club in Hongdae, a university district, where someone L knew was DJing.

This was a misbegotten walk of shame. It appeared, to the outside observer, to be such a thing. However, it was not.

After moving to Boston, I went to a party at an MIT house. In the morning, I biked home. People who were there will tell you DH fell off the roof, when in reality he climbed down to find his glasses. In the morning, we sat around eating hummus and bread, using each individuals memories to construct a complete story about what happened.

In October, I went to Pittsburgh for a wedding. It was the first of my university friends to get married. After the reception ended, I met up with D. D, with whom I made Arduino cookies. D, who I lived with as a suburban house wife. D, who co-hosted those Rock Band nights with N. He picked me up from the wedding and took me home.

We watched a lackluster Japanese movie and some anime. We played with the cat. We drank the alcohol that had been there, untouched, for so long. He put something else on and we both fell asleep. In the morning, he drove me home. I was still in my clothes from the wedding.

Most of the time I spent with D is this sort of secret joy I have. Those are some of the memories I am least willing to share with others, as though they are somehow more real or more special when they are mine alone. I don’t want to give them up, in the same way I don’t want to give up so many of my memories of AS. Most of these stories, these little walks of shame I have had, skip out on the most important details. I don’t talk about how DH ended up on the roof in the first place for his glasses to fall. I don’t talk about why I was wearing a bridesmaid’s dress or who I was with in Korea. I don’t talk about the show I went to, or who I was with, what happened when I arrived to play rock band, or what happened afterwards. I display these stories not as stories, but as facts. The details that make them worth remembering aren’t details I want to share.

Sometimes I do this thing where I write someone a story. These are stories from my own life. When I give them to someone, I stop telling it. In a way, it’s no longer mine. Similarly, once a story passes from my experience into the public domain of experiences, it’s appropriated by the people I’ve shared it with. Now, in turn, they can share it. It becomes something for everyone.
None the less, I look at these memories and realize that at some point I will have to share them. What makes these people in my life special, the reasons I love them, are these moments, the little parts of these people that shine through and come out from our small interactions. These moments define the people I care about and by sharing them, by merely writing them down, I–selfishly, egotistically–give these people small chances at immortality. In my own head, this is something I think they deserve. I think they ought to exist, in some sense, forever through these little bits of who they are–who they were–to me.
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