My senior year in Art school, I lived with my good friend, Monika, a short, round faced, sparkly ice blue eyed, Polish girl. We were pretty much inseparable. We had the same major, and had all the same classes together, almost every single day. We were the only 2 Senior Printmaking students in the school. It was phenomenal!
We had the attention of all our instructors. I mean a 1:2 ratio? Come on! We also had little attention from our instructors. Since there were only 2 of us, they pretty much let us run free and create insightful works of art. We took smoke breaks all the time, and always together. We giddied ourselves on strong Milwaukee based Alterra coffee from the school Union. I can’t remember a more free and creative time than that, or another time when I got the least amount of sleep throughout a year’s span.
To honor our first night together in our new apartment, we picked up a cheap bottle of champagne. The apartment was nothing spectacular, as most college apartments are. It was sizable for 2 people barely home, but basically resembled an attic with carpeting. The ceiling slanted to a point, the back porch was straight up roofing tar (no shingles or wooden porch). The place was obviously thrown together at the last minute due to our moving in.
Our landlord, Rich, the most metrosexual slumlord we’d ever met, had pumped up arms and a shiny face. His voice was high and scratchy, like if Billy Crystal had inhaled a balloon of helium. He was unreal. He was late to show us the apartment initially…so poor first impression right off the bat. Second, he was an oddball. We should have known better than to sign any papers for him or write him any checks. But we were in college and it was down to the wire to find a place to live before the fall semester began.
We went to Rich’s office for the lease signing. He was late, of course. In his office, he had these barrels of Super Protein Powder all stacked up all over the place…like a fort or something, something like Fort Beefcake 4000. It seemed so sheisty, but we needed a place…and all utilities were included (Rich disagreed about that when we finally moved out, but that is another story). So we moved in.
The champagne was mid-level cheap. You know, not the $3 cheap, and not the $12 cheap. I think it was around $6. Perfect for a carpeted attic apartment’s christening. We went out to the tar porch to pop the cork. Monika made me do it for fear of stoving herself or I in the eye with the cork. I think all ladies share this fear. I wasn’t too keen on my appointed position, but it had to be done.
I shimmied the cork up further and further and twisted and twisted. The anticipation! We laughed harder and harder the londer it took. I closed my eyes and pointed the bottle straight up. I winced- Monika flew inside the door and peeked out the screen, sheltered from the blast, nearly pissing herself when the cork finally climaxed to it’s ‘pop.’ There was minimal foamy overflow, which pleased me. Not wanting to waste any of our precious $6 Brut. The cork was nowhere to be found, which didn’t surprise us. but we both stood outside on the tar roof trying not to piss our pants from hilarity as we peered over the railing into the street and backyard downstairs. No cork. No broken windows or eyeballs, no worries!
Of course, we drank directly from the bottle, passing it back and forth. We sipped outside at dusk, smoked a cigarette or two, and discussed our upcoming senior year. We strolled inside to play some music. I think we picked either Stevie Nicks or Stevie Wonder- some sort of a Stevie. Instead of sitting on the black Velour 80’s couch from Monika’s parents, or the green and yellow plaid Loveseat from my parents, we laid on the floor. We laid on our bellies, sprayed out in opposite directions. As the bottle grew emptier, it actually grew heavier and it took more concentration to lift and drink from.
‘Kate,’ she said, ‘I’ve got my fucking period.”
Not expecting this to come out of her little rosy red Polish cheeks, I nearly spit out my $6 sip.
‘And?’ I said.
‘And I don’t have any pads!’
‘Lord, Monika, pads? We’re going to be seniors in college and you are still using pads? Have you ever used a tampon?’
‘Yeah, I’ve tried, but it hurts to put it in and I get frustrated,’ she grew more serious.
‘Cardboard or plastic?’ I asked
‘What?’ She looked at me like she was at a grocery store.
‘Here,’ I said as I hopped up and ran to my room and fetched her a plastic applicator tampon. I explained that if works better if you have a little ‘moisture’ to ease it up and in, on an angle, not straight up. Without even blushing or feeling stupid, we talked about tampons. Not that I cared, but I could tell she was a little embarrassed at first that she hadn’t graduated to the more discreet and clean tampon.
‘Go try it!’ I cheered. I was glad to see she was less tolerant of alcohol as she was really very excited. Her cheeks a bright pink and her eyes glossy. I gave her a few moments of silence, well, whichever Stevie it was was still cranked. I’m deciding right now that it makes sense for it to be Stevie Nicks, being sort of a female evening and all. I can hear Stevie in her deep voice singing ‘Gypsy’ to me waving a tampon around.
Monika busted out of the bathroom.
‘What? Well, what??’
‘This…is…’ she paused, ‘A-mazing! How have I not tried plastic before? Oh my God. It was so crazy. It worked! It’s in there! It’s in there and I can’t even feel it! My life has totally changed.’
‘This, my dear Monika, is all you’ve been missing in your life,’ I stated.
We laughed. She was drunk and amazed. I was proud to have shown her the ropes. This was the beginning of an exciting senior year together, after all, full of Stevies, tampons, laughs, and cheap champagne.
I also found the cork in the street the next morning, half a block away, close to where my car was parked. I kept the cork in my car for that whole year, and I still have it tucked away in a little trinket box with other strange items from those college years.