The wall is cool and thudding, slightly. I know this because I’m leaning on it, my whole back, the backs of my arms. A little while ago I stuck my hands in my jeans, to avoid having my arms crossed. The wall’s a yellowed white and I can feel the slight bumpiness of its texture on my skin. The Haukland summer cabin paint has dulled.
I am seventeen.
The music is coming from the next room and I’m watching people tromp in and out of the kitchen in front of me.
One drunk blonde appears swaying in the doorway, making her way to the sink. She doesn’t see me, stretches, going on her toes to reach up into the already open cupboard, grabbing a glass and tipping it back so it falls in her hand. Later when I go back to America I will remember this, how parties in Norway always use glass and silverware.
I’m watching her plunge her hand in the sink, flip the lever up high so that the water violently gushes. She has thin blond hair, the dirty blond that hangs almost greasily at this hour. Strands that taper out at the ends, fall over her bony shoulders, the thin black cotton summer dress. Great tan. Even some light freckles. She might be the sister of the host. A girl who invited me to spend the weekend away from Oslo. Invited everyone. “Club Casanova is overrated,” she declared when I pulled open the door that morning to urgent knocking. “Come on, Evie. Don’t you still have a thing for Eirik?”
They’re dancing on the shag carpet in the next room. A chorus of mismatching voices rising loudly and then comically straining to hit the high notes. I can hear them stomping.
The girl doesn’t wait to fill the glass, snatching it out of the stream and letting the water run, drinking greedily. Water spills out over her chin as she drinks and she wipes her mouth with her forearm. She remembers the faucet is on and heavily slops a palm down on the lever, shutting it abruptly off.
It seems immediately quieter. The girl slouches, resting the glass on the counter, then curls her other hand around the sink, pulling her body back from the counter, suspending herself there. Her head hangs, hair streaming limply down over her face.
I am self-conscious of staring at her and then the boys come in.
“No,” she mumbles. The girl forces herself straighter, pushing herself up onto awkwardly erect arms, leaning her full weight on them over the granite, supporting herself sheerly through gravity.
“Aylaaa…” a boy sings out, laughing. “Aw, beauty queen.” They approach.
“What a mess,” says the other, curlier haired and wearing glasses. “Baby,” the first says, looping an arm around on the girl’s shoulder. Her elbows break out suddenly and she slumps into him, defeated. The boy is also blond, very tall, skinnier than is fashionable for a man. He’s not a man yet, only because he’s maybe the youngest boy here, around our age.
The one with glasses notices me. He must be our age too, but stockier and hairy enough to pass. He nods to me. We don’t say anything.
The blond boy is murmuring to his girlfriend. Glasses occupies himself and gets a glass, shuts the open cupboard.
The stomping in the next room gets harder, to the chorus. I remember how the luxurious shag carpet feels under my bare feet, think it’s time to duck out of the kitchen. When girls first arrive we all wear heels, it’s evening and the sun’s out. And then the sun goes down and at a certain point naked feet, little toes, smooth arches–become sexy. Free and dancing down the hall.
The dark-haired boy looks disgusted and immediately exits, leaving the half-drunken glass of water on the table. His friend doesn’t notice and then tries to stand up to his full height, lifting his head. The girl drops back onto him and he realizes she can’t stand.
He turns. His eyes lock on mine. “Hey.”
I know I’m supposed to help so I push back from the wall slowly, come next to them. I see the freckles on the girl’s collarbone. She flutters her lips, making a childish sound, breathing heavily. “Grab her arms,” the boy instructs.
I step behind him, his thin shirt marked with vague impressions of sweat.
He moves and suddenly the girl is in my arms.
“Can you take her to the bathroom,” he asks, but he isn’t really asking, and he’s looking directly at me, so I nod and he nods quickly back. Is he her boyfriend? He leaves me with the girl, turning swiftly around, padding away into the room with the voices and the shag carpet.
I’m holding her, lifting up her bulky, clumsy body against mine. She is breathing kind of heavily now, moaning. I struggle in the direction of the doorframe, the bathroom.
Then I hear laughter from under the closed bathrooms door. We need to get outside.
From the music room there’s suddenly cheering.
We make our way clumsily around the corner, the open living room in view.
The group has arranged themselves in a circle. Two girls are in the middle. They’re smiling at each other a little shyly but with a hint of daring. The group is chatting excitedly.
It is hard carrying the girl and I pause to catch my breath, watch. Against my chest she seems comfortable.
“You won’t!” a boy is shouting. “You think I won’t?” One of girls in the center shoots coquettishly back. The other makes a V with her fingers, playfully rolls her eyes back, wags her tongue between them. “Do it!” someone else shouts. “Do it! Do it!” A chant rises up. And then the first girl springs forward, landing her lips on the girl in front of her.
The room erupts in hoots and claps.
I lean closer to see, try to set Ayla down. She’s moaning audibly and we struggle there, and then I find the wall again.
As if enjoying the show the girls ham it up, moving their heads sensually around each other. Their mouths have come open, they are using tongue and you can see the muscles in their cheeks, their closed eyes. The brush of eyeliner makes them seem lush, in pleasure.
Something electric runs through me. I don’t want them to stop.
The girls come closer together as if they had done this many times, in crescendo, leaning on their hips so that they could lift up their hands, grasp the face in front of them, stick the fingers up through long hair. One of them makes a noise.
I snap my head back with new determination, pushing the body in my arms forward and ignoring the cheers. I move the girl’s weight to the crook of one elbow, reaching out with the other hand, pulling a doorknob forcefully, almost shoving her outside.
We stumble out and it is cool. The girl is still moaning and I make her walk some paces away. Haukland is beautiful in summer, the wide flat barn houses and cabins far from the actual beach, randomly scattered across fields. Mountains encircle the dotted plain. From here the water does not have a single ripple.
I lower myself and the girl down. She buckles. I sit behind her.
In the house I can still see the group beyond the glass doors. The girls have stopped and there’s lots of clapping, and then a kind of a pause. Someone makes a loud comment that gets people to laugh. Then the room stutters into action, figures getting up, cutting against the light.
I look at the girl next to me, breathing deeply, her eyes closed. Her dress has bunched up around her butt, one leg jutting open and out, her underwear brightly visible. White with a lacy fringe. I don’t make a move to adjust this. Let her steady herself. I sit back on my arms, look up.
And then I notice the two girls have moved upstairs, in the window.
Just their heads, one’s shoulder visible. They’re facing each other, not even looking out. Was it the upstairs bathroom? I try to see if there are more faces behind them, how big the room is. Something isn’t right. Neither is masculine. They seem to enjoy their conversation, they’re both grinning, maybe from the rush, but in a very specific way. The kind of way you see in movies.
They get up, vanish.
The drunk girl in front of me has her hands in her hair, clumping it in exasperation. Her face is pushed up into pain, a taunt grimace. She sucks in her breath. Gasps. “Rahhh!” she utters, moaning. “Make it stop, oh my god, make it stop, I’m going to puke.”
She throws herself down on hands and knees like an animal. Her dress falls back down over her underwear, her hair dragging on the grass. She grips the blades.
“You need to puke,” I tell her.
Her head shakes vehemently. “I don’t wanna puke.”
“You have to.”
“No. I don’t want to puke,” she blearily insists again, louder. Her body is rocking forward and back, as though getting ready to race, lurch forward.
“Come on,” I say helplessly. I get down next to her.
“Mmmmm.” The sound pushes loudly out of her, her lips firm, her head shaking furiously, no longer committing to words.
“Sit back,” I tell her.
She opens her mouth and breathes rapidly.
“Come on.” I move, gently pushing her shoulders down, then more firmly. “Sit back,” I say again. She stops swaying and acquiesces, letting me push her to sit back on her heels. Her head is thrown back, she thumps down awkwardly. Panting, she swings her legs around.
I walk on my knees behind her. Carefully I touch her hair, sweep it up between my thumb and forefinger. Hold it back.
Her eyes are closed. Her brows furrow. She faintly shakes her head up at the sky.
“I can’t,” she barks out.
“You just…stick your finger in your mouth.”
The girl doesn’t move.
I need to leave her. “Do it,” I say more savagely, suddenly annoyed.
She picks up her hand, puts it weakly in her throat, a wince rippling across her face. She pushes. Gags.
“You’re not going deep enough.”
She drops her head down and I let go of her hair. She launches onto all fours again. Lifts a dirty finger, tries once more. Gags. Her breathing is softer, weaker.
I move in front of her. “Deeper.”
She tries again, gags in spite of herself. “It’s supposed to hurt a little bit,” I say coldly. I am scanning the windows.
She spits weakly.
“Look up,” I say. She does.
Her watery eyes gaze up at me. What a fucking disaster.
“Open your mouth.”
Her jaw drops open.
I peer into the cavity of her mouth and then stick my finger in, striking.
The girl’s hands fly instinctively to my hand, her eyes flashing open, gagging, staring at me in horror.
I hold her chin firmly in my other hand, turning my shoulder to ward her off, her arms batting weakly against me.
In her mouth the crevice grows smaller, my finger shoving into the wet warmth.
Suddenly she lurches forward. I jump back. A harsh rasp of fluid is conjured up from her throat. Something splashes to the ground.
I wipe my hand on my jeans.
The girl pukes and continues puking, one after another, her shoulders heaving up around her as her body quivers, still on her hands and knees. I don’t reach for the hair, scraggly caging her face.
Then the girls who were making out appear in front of the house.
They are creeping up to the hay rolls. I hadn’t seen the ray of light from the front door slide across the lawn, the sound of feet on grass. The two girls climb up the bales of hay.
Are they actually gay?
They could be sitting there to see the beach, the Norwegian mountains darkly forming against the sky, the faraway water a bright, distinct shape. Or they could plunge down inside to the bound, flat dry blades, pointed and sharp in unpredictable spokes. Or they could drop behind the rolls, to the grass.
My heart is beating and I feel something sweet, sharp and demanding inside my body. I want them to make out again. See a pale hand snaking up rolled denim shorts, reach into a loose summer shirt. I imagine a warm palm on my own breast.
The girls stop, standing on the top of the bale, balancing on the unsteady curve. I control my breath.
They jump down, moving away from the bales, walking onto the road, disappearing. In the country you can watch someone leave, see them grow smaller and smaller. There is no engulfing crowd to obscure the girls, their clasped hands.
Next to me the girl has gone silent.
I look at her. She’s sleeping.
Her mouth is open and she is not quite beautiful but she is calm, one arm strewn over her chest, maybe she had just fallen back after throwing up and never adjusted to lay down comfortably. She breathes.
I study this unmoving face, all its details relaxed and bared. I could kiss her, on her beautiful, rotten mouth. She is still and crude, folded out of the world, unaware of the cooling summer air, the grass dew. I don’t kiss her. The scent of vomit filters up into the clean night and I creep away, quietly, back to the house.
Isabella Esser-Munera teaches English to fourteen year olds and is an advocate for children everywhere. Her work has appeared in Faded-Out, Anti-Heroin Chic magazine, and Maudlin House Press. She tweets at @esserisst and is currently working on a novel.