I tried to shake myself out of my mood.  Everyone has tough times, I told myself.  Sometimes it just comes down to attitude.  I tried to embrace the enthusiasm the others were showing for their night out.  Maybe it would help?

            I made jokes with the others on the subway ride that night, laughing with them.  I pretended to surf against the movement of the train, not holding onto safety bars.  I had dressed for the night out, wearing dark jeans and a stylish top, gelling my hair on Dan’s advice.  I tried my best to seem like a happy university student out with his friends.

            But, on the inside, I was dying.  I knew it was a lie.

            Teri was practically sitting in Dan’s lap the whole ride, making a big deal about his last minute appearance, as predicted.  She held onto his arm as we entered the club, looking up at him with stars in her eyes.

            The music was loud, and I didn’t know whether to call it dance music, house music, or something else.  The walls gleamed with iridescent colours under the various lights.  The crowd writhed and gyrated to the music, and the combined effect caused a sensory overload for me, making my senses swim.  I felt hemmed in by the press of bodies, trapped…

            I excused myself to the bathroom, refocusing myself in solitude and relative quiet.  I returned to our table, and was subsequently dragged onto the dance floor by Mandy.  Teri and Erin took their turns as well.  Dan had come along, but refused to dance.  He sat at our table drinking, and drinking in Teri’s attention as well.  In between, I would return to the restroom, to restore my sanity.  I hated the crowd. 

            Towards the end of the night, Daniel disappeared from our table.  The girls scattered throughout the mob to find him.  I checked at the bar, and then the hallway leading to the bathroom.  After all, the girls couldn’t go in there.  It was empty.  Beside the restroom was a set of stairs, leading down.  I assumed they led to storage rooms.  I could hear voices, however, so I crept down the concrete steps.

            I descended, and peeked around the corner of the wall.  One of the storage rooms was open, and contained a small crowd.  Daniel was there, speaking with a tall man in a dark coat.  He had pale skin and sunken cheeks.  They shook hands, and I thought I saw Daniel pass him some money.  The man gave Dan something back, which he deftly palmed and hid in a pocket.

            I backed up the stairs and stood against the bathroom door.  When Dan came up the stairwell a moment later, it looked as if I had just exited.

            “Hey, there you are!  We’ve been looking for you.”  I exclaimed, acting glad to see him.

            “Everyone ready to go?”

            “Yeah, the girls don’t want to miss the last subway.”

            “No problem, I’m done here.”

            Two subways and a bus ride later, we were walking back onto campus.  Dan strode ahead, and Teri hurried to keep up. I hung back with Mandy and Erin and the rest of the returning crowd.  I had my hands buried in my jacket pocket, my head down.  I looked up at Dan and shook my head to see him on his cell phone, ignoring his girlfriend.

            Dan’s friend Jon and some others met us at the res building.  He kissed Teri on the cheek and then walked off with this new group.  I imagined he would be sharing whatever was in his pocket as soon as we were out of sight.

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