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Drowning
By Kelsey Sutton

 I didn’t say “yes” out loud, but I may as well have.

I let him come close. I let him press his body along the length of mine. The night had been a haze of drinks and laughter. During the day, I was someone else. A girl of diligence and practicality. But in those few hours, I wanted to be have freedom and let my impulses rule me. They eased through my veins like a drug.

The boy had been watching since I entered the room. Even in the grips of oblivion, I noticed. I let my friends lead me into the sea of flying elbows and thrusting pelvises. Our eyes continued to meet, and he drew nearer. When I smelled the sourness of his breath, I felt the first stirrings of unease. It reminded me of another night, another boy, another mistake.

His hands asked me to dance. They slid around my waist and dug in. His skin was warm, too warm. We were surrounded on all sides. Silently, I chanted words like only and just. It was only movement. It was just a night. But the boy pulled me tighter against him, as if he were trying to absorb all of me. He was rough and insistent in a way that made me terrified to change my mind. My friends were too lost in their own experiences to notice.

I turned and put my hand on his chest. I smiled, as if to say, This was fun. The boy must have seen an invitation in the curve of my lips, because he only yanked me toward him again. It felt as though I were underwater, being dragged deeper into the depths. The lights were too violent and the music was too loud. I clawed for the surface, gasping. Water filled my lungs.

Finally, someone saw the danger. Out of all the people that could have taken my hand and brought me back to the air, I didn’t expect him. The shy one, the quiet one. With awkward maneuvers and a strained grin, he forced his way between us. I wanted to thank him, but the chaos would have swallowed the words. And the boy with the cruel fingers was already circling, trying to pull me under again.

Quickly, my rescuer guided me to the shore. I gripped the edge of a table like it was sand, gasping. He put his mouth next to my ear. “Do you want to leave?” he shouted.

I nodded. But that wasn’t enough. I lifted my head and met his kind gaze. “Yes.”

His damp, nervous hand curled around mine, and the boy led me toward the door. A cool breeze drifted past us. I lifted my face toward the moon and released a long sigh of relief.

***

 

 Wrong Yeses

By Nick Adams

I needed a change so I challenged them. For twenty-four hours I would say yes to whatever they asked of me.

I demanded my peers prove their mettle or worthiness. I needed them to show me some light before I could believe in us again.

It began excitingly enough when just after midnight, in my first hour, I was asked to dance to a 1980’s Alan Jackson song. My partner had learned how to dance in the week previous, and her enthusiasm made up for our inadequate skills. We twirled around as though she wasn’t drunk and I wasn’t working, until a bearded man of about fifty years shouted, “Hey, Barkeep! Ya’ got any beer left back there or is this a BYOB joint?”

But presently—after nearly 24 hours of assumed allegiance to their word “YES”—I am a traitor. I continue to utter the forbidden phrases: No, not that. I’m sorry I can’t say yes to that, either. You cannot possibly want me to do that.

I have really tried. I golfed eighteen more holes than I wanted to golf because the man behind the counter asked if I wanted to. I went into bars I did not want to visit. I told truths no one should know. I gave an acquaintance my fleece and shots of Fireball.

But I can draw a line where that one sits and I will not put it up my nose. I will not go home with them. I cannot afford to buy another round of shots, and driving away from here is not an option. I will not fall in line with those requests.

I am finishing my third gin and tonic—a drink I waited fifteen minutes to order and paid five dollars to receive. The drink lacks a lime as well as courteous amounts of gin or tonic. In fact, the only thing my short glass has going for it is ice.

The dimly lit basement of the pub is packed with musty shoulders and euphoric faces. It’s all very exciting in the pounding-out of patriotic songs over the karaoke machine. Now that Obama has declared war on Isis, drunks are wrestling in a friendly craze to prove their colors on the mic by singing the next Toby Keith selection.

I watch guys entertain for the girls, whose eyes are trained on flashing lights of cell phones or dance floors—but rarely another human being’s eyes. They all have plans, but little do they include each other.

I want to be disappointed with myself—I am so miserably failing in my task of saying “yes.” I want to feel like my conforming is bringing about something incredible, like the movie Yes Man so idealistically proposes. I need them to show me that it is possible to find happiness in agreeing.

But as my minutes wane and the cloud around my brain thickens, I am sure that I am not a Yes Man. At least, not their Yes Man—joy is hard to find when it comes to obeying their customs. Their offers of a blurry-eyed, for-the-night-friend, or a drug, or a naked run around the police station, cannot hold gratifying impact for me. So I am beginning to think that my own judgment and timing are far better roads to satisfaction than those gleeful lies they herald.

I am beginning to think that I am wise in seeing beyond their gravity.

I am feeling like I can be whoever I want to be, when my pal finds me.

“Hey bud, my chase is over. Bitch left with Shawn again. You tryna dip out? I been drinkin’ water for like an hour. I could give you a lift home,” he said.

“Yes.”

“Wanna snap a selfie in front of the popcorn machine before we go? I spit in it earlier.”

“No.”

 ***

 
Kelsey Sutton and Nick Adams are seniors at Bemidji State University.