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The Education of Elisabeth Eckleman

Pimps & Ho’s

Elisabeth Eckleman just left home, and has a lot of difficult decisions ahead of her. In this installment, Elisabeth goes to a sorority party and isn’t sure what to do once the theme takes over. You decide what happens next.

In our last installment, Elisabeth met Shelley, a sorority-girl-in-waiting determined to bring Elisabeth into her social fold. She also discovered that Wesley—a mysterious, handsome film student she’d met on her first night at college—was in one of her classes. When he vaguely asked her on a date, Elisabeth had to decide whether to bring hipster Wesley to her Pimps & Ho’s fraternity event or keep her two tentative worlds separate. You voted for her to invite Wesley to the party. Let’s see what happens...

 

It’s two minutes till 10 p.m., and I can’t stop pacing in these spike heels. I’ve been nervous all day, distracted even as Kat zipped me up into a hideous off-the-shoulder leopard-print dress, stuffing a condom into my bra along the way. I can’t keep my mind from galloping ahead of me, thinking about Wesley’s lips, about Wesley’s fingertips on my back. It’s nuts. I never thought this way about Brad until after we broke up. Before that, any sexual act was a kindness I extended, almost like a favor for being such a good boyfriend. It’s not that I didn’t like making out; just that it often bored me, like watching his debate tournaments, when moments of excitement punctuated what was, for the most part, an hour-long bore. Plus his breath had a weird lingering odor, and afterward, my face always smelled like wet cheese. But with Wesley I keep having these flashes—bodies crushed against each other, a perfect silhouette—visions so powerful that I almost want to push them away with my hands.

Kat drapes a hot pink boa around my neck. “There,” she says, patting my ass, “I’ll buy that for a dollah.”

“It’s too short,” I say, yanking the hem down to cover the heavy part of my thighs.

“Elisabeth, you’re supposed to look like a hooker,” says Kat, leveling her gaze. “You’re gonna have to make a few concessions.” She hands me an empty bottle of pills and a flask. “I just love props, don’t you?”

I wobble downstairs to meet Wesley in the lobby, and the sight of him makes my stomach hitch. He’s wearing tight leather pants and a purple jacket. No shirt underneath. I hope this is his pimp costume. We walk over to the frat house, mostly in silence, which becomes more agonizing with each unsteady step. Three times, I ask how he’s doing.

“You know, I never pegged you for a sorority chick,” he says finally.

“Oh, I’m not,” I say. “I just eat lunch with them. And my friend Shelley begged me to go to this. It’s like the biggest party of the year.” The truth is Shelley also spent last week pulling strings with the greek council to make sure I can rush, even though I’m a week late. Shelley figures since I’m from a small town and don’t have legacies that letting me rush would be a kind of cultural outreach. So far it seems to be working. I have my first Tri-Delt interview on Monday.

“Sorority chicks weird me out,” he says, lighting a cigarette. “All that streaked hair and pink lipgloss. Like Stepford wives. Have you ever noticed their bangs fall exactly the same way?” He shudders. “Not that I mind going to the party with you. I’m just glad you’re not one of them.”

“You don’t have to worry about that,” I say, a bit too eagerly. “Mind if I bum a smoke?”

 

To get into the party you have to walk through a massive oval cutout covered with curly black yarn that hangs like streamers.

“What is that?” I ask Wesley, who stands with his fingers up to his lips and stares for a while before answering.

“I do believe that’s a giant pussy.”

I gasp and grab his arm. “No it’s not!” I look again, and spy a few tampons dangling in the yarn. “Good Christ, it is.”

He laces his fingers through mine. “Come on. We can do this.”

Inside it’s a crush of people, winding hallways and strobe lights. I’m looking for Shelley, but everyone looks like Shelley. And I can’t take my mind off Wesley’s hand—inching down my back as we push through the crowd. I absently scratch my shoulder, wondering if my skin feels fat or weird or rough, but it feels normal, like any other flesh, which is a tremendous relief.

“C’mon, let’s go outside,” he says, tugging on my bare arm, which I happen to know feels a little plump. “What do you want to drink? Oh wait, let me guess: a Diet Coke?”

I scrunch my nose and nod. Maybe it’s the heels, but I feel like I’m swooning.

We go outside on the balcony, where I see Shelley sitting at a table with a group of girls from the Plantation House.

“Oh my God, you look hot!” she says, grabbing my shoulders and looking me up and down. Shelley looks better than everyone in the room and therefore seems to spread compliments as if they were consolation prizes. I feel almost certain that if I actually did look hot, she’d eat her fist before telling me. “I love the flask and bottle, by the way,” she says. “Very Marilyn.”

“Thanks,” I say, tugging at my skirt. “Where’s your date?”

She rolls her eyes. “Upstairs watching the football game. Can you believe it? I dress like this, and he’d rather watch TV.”

Shelley’s top looks like a sequined handkerchief tied delicately over her breasts. Her miniskirt is slung low to reveal a flat, tan belly and the tattoo of a sun perched above her right hipbone. “Check out this top,” she says, turning to offer me a clear profile of her bare breasts. “It’s so slutty, I love it!” She turns to Wesley and claps her hands together. “Oh my God, you must be the filmmaker!”

“Not quite yet,” says Wesley, reddening slightly as he takes her hand.

“You guys have to join us,” she says, linking arms with him and walking toward the table. “We’re playing Truth or Dare.” And we’re in desperate need of a cute guy.”

 

I hate Truth or Dare. It’s a stupid game. A bunch of stupid people grasping for stupid excuses to do things and say things they’re too embarrassed to admit they want to do and say in the first place. In under 30 minutes, Shelley has stuck her tongue in Wesley’s ear, admitted to screwing her high school English teacher on the senior trip to Puerto Vallarta, and forced the table to take three shots of a green liquid referred to as “The Jolly Jizz.”

“Your turn, Elisabeth,” says Wesley, slightly slurring the last part. “Let me guess. You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!

The table cracks up at that one. I glance down at my watch.

Wesley lights a cigarette, and Shelley claps her hands together. “Oh my God, I love Marlboro Lights!”

He hands her one and tries to light it with his Zippo. He fumbles twice and they both collapse into giggles. “OK,” he turns to me, “have you ever... had a threesome?”

“Ummm, no.”

He pours himself another shot. “Guess it’s Shelley’s turn.”

I’m not mad, exactly. Wesley and Shelley haven’t really done anything wrong. I just feel shoved in the shadows like a stupid little girl. I can’t stop staring at Shelley’s chest, and I can’t stop staring at Wesley staring at Shelley’s chest. And I can’t help noticing that she seems to lean in closer to him, her long blond hair brushing his arm. Maybe I’m making it up. I’d like to think that these aren’t the kind of friends who would fall into each other’s beds right before my eyes. But maybe neither of them is who I want them to be. What do I know about these people, anyway?

“I know what you’re going to ask,” says Shelley, “and I would like a dare, por favor.”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I can’t think of anything.”

The table starts chanting. It starts as a rumble and grows to a roar: “Show your tits! Show your tits!”

“Fine, whatever. Show your tits,” I say, and before the words are out of my mouth Shelley is standing up with her sequined handkerchief raised high to reveal two perfectly round breasts, buoyant as water balloons. The balcony explodes into applause.

“Give her a hand, ladies and gentlemen!” says Wesley. And I watch as—almost in slow motion—he reaches up and squeezes her right breast.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” I say, managing to leave the table before the first tear hits my cheek.

 

“Stop blubbering, I can’t understand what you’re saying,” says Kat. In the background, I hear what sounds distinctly like a porno.

“Shelley showed her boobs,” I say, crouching in the bushes, “and then Wesley touched them.”

“Jesus, are you guys playing doctor?”

“No. Truth or Dare.”

“Even better.” Kat lets me cry for a while before speaking again. “Look, do you really want to run away from this?”

“Well, I would if I weren’t wearing these heels,” I say.

“No, sweetie. I mean do you really want to turn your back on this? Think about it. This guy is your date. He came with you. Go in there, grab him by the balls and tell him to stop fondling the high-class whore.”

“I can’t do that,” I say, “Maybe you can, but I can’t.” The last time I confronted Brad, I ended up volunteering to do his laundry for a week out of sheer guilt. I don’t like confronting anyone, ever. And the last place in the world I want to be is at that table. I’d much rather just disappear into the alleyway, slide into Kat’s filthy car, and hide in my dorm room for the week, give or take a few semesters.

“You have to go back up there,” says Kat, munching on something that sounds like popcorn. “I’m serious. You need this.”

There’s no reasoning with her. I take a deep breath and swipe the tears off my cheek. “I feel like I’m losing my mind,” I say. “I go on one bad date, and I’m falling apart. How do people deal with this crap?”

“Oh, honey.” Something in Kat’s tone reminds me of my mother. “They do drugs and binge drink.”

 

I order a Long Island Iced Tea at the bar and go back out on the balcony. By now, Wesley has taken off his jacket, and he’s dancing shirtless with three girls from the table while Shelley does some sort of pole dance in front of them. I take a big sip. It makes me feel all warm and fizzy.

Wesley spies me standing there. “Hey, Elisabeth! Come join us!” he says, waving me over as one of the girls pinches his nipple.

If I were an actress in a movie, I would walk over to him, smile politely, and throw the drink in his smug little face. But that’s not me at all. (Also, the drink cost seven dollars.) Instead, I take a seat at the table by myself and finish my iced tea, wondering what comes next.

“Excuse me, is anyone sitting here?” asks a guy wearing a shiny black pinstripe suit. “I’m Kyle,” he says, taking a slug of his beer. “I seem to have lost my date over there.” He gestures to Wesley’s gangbang.

For the first time at the party, I smile. “You’re not the only one.”

Should Elisabeth politely tell Wesley off and return home or flirt with Kyle and try her best to make Wesley jealous?