As the Waikiki fireworks rung in 2014, I left my sister to go say hi to a friend, and meet up with a few more friends. I was herded into a snake of people trying to get off the beach.
It seemed they didn't want us traipsing through the hotels to get back to the street. My frustration was peaking about all the backtracking I would have to do, when all i wanted was to cut through the hotel nearest me. Opportunity arose in a bright eyed man asking if I wanted to get a drink. I watched the bartender pour my Grey Goose greyhound, and we toasted to the New Year. Friendly banter flowed, but as we stood up to leave he commented that I had barely touched my $12 drink. Recognizing social mores, I took a few more sips. He said he needed to go to the bathroom. I said aloud, "I need to go puke." He said, "oh, I didn't realize you were so drunk or I wouldn't have got you that drink." I sensed manipulation in his comment, but assumed this was the last I’d see of him, and headed off to the restroom in the hotel lobby.
I didn't actually feel drunk enough to be sick, but my stomach felt top heavy and unsettled. When it comes to drinking, I never try to be a champion. If my innards are irked, I puke—better now than in the morning with a blasting headache. As I finished purging in a stall, I realized that I really didn't feel good. Minutes before, I had been vibrant and buzzed, ready for a fun night. Now I felt like everything was spinning. Or maybe it wasn't spinning - unusual tracks followed my vision. I realized that what I was feeling was suddenly different than drunkenness. I pulled myself together and exited the bathroom, unpleasantly surprised to see the man seated in the breastfeeding area of the ladies room. I wasn’t sure what to do, I didn’t know if I could trust my feet to find help. I wasn’t even sure if something was really wrong with me. I sat down in a big chair with side table between him and I. He immediately began suggesting all kinds of things about how I felt:
"You're just tired…. I should get you somewhere you can rest…. Where should I take you to sleep…. I want to help you feel better."
I looked up at him and said, "I'm not going anywhere with you. I don't want your help." He then turned to flattery. He said, "I love your legs." I replied flatly, "I like them too.” I avoided eye contact, left cold by my confused state and the now unwelcome presence of this stranger. He tried kissing me, saying that he just wanted to wrap his arms around me and that he wanted to get me somewhere I could rest and feel better. I yelled at him and pushed him away, "Don't touch me! You cannot take me anywhere!"
At this point I had gathered puzzle pieces that made me feel uncomfortable around this man, but what I later realized was effects from a drug was blocking me from connecting them to see a big picture.
My head was spinning with thoughts. I didn't want to make him angry. I didn't want to give him an opportunity to take my phone away. I didn't want to fall asleep. I didn't want to lose understanding of my surroundings. The bathroom stall at least offered a door and privacy. I retreated back to the restroom, remembering that I was just a call away from help. I spent more than an hour unsuccessfully writing texts, but failing to finish, or send them. Time escaped me. I could hear bits of conversation the man was having on the phone. I could make out that he was describing my symptoms to someone. After some time of silence in my stall, the door began to swing open at me. I stood up to slam it shut, yelling, “get out of here!” The cleaning lady chased him out of the restroom.
I locked the door, sat down again, and thought, "Why have I not reached anyone yet?" I attempted to dial a friend, but without the area code so it wouldn't place. I don't even know whose number I thought it was, but the remnants of those addled moments were preserved in my call log. I wasted more time thus before giving myself a pep talk:
"Natalie, you feel crazy right now. No, don't fall asleep! This is your phone. See how nicely it fits in your hand. You use it all the time. You know how to call people. Actually, you’re really good at it. There is a tunnel of reality that you can get to if you try really hard. Call someone now."
I at least took a figurative deep breath, but knowing me I probably took a literal deep breath before diving into this tunnel of reality. I found it. I successfully completed a few calls to friends around 2:30am, but they didn’t pick up. I called an 8 digit number several times, not understanding why it wasn't working. I finally got through to a friend, and in a weak and slow voice, but desperate to be articulate I said, "please come get me." I described where I was, and my friend said he was on the way. Still keeping track of me from the women’s lounge, the man heard me speaking and stood up to check. I could see him in the bathroom doorway through the side slit of my stall door. I loudly told him that my friend was on the way, and he muttered "Happy New Year" as he ran off. I waited a few minutes before winding my way through the hotel to Kuhio street. My friend pulled up within minutes. I got in the car and apparently didn’t let go of his shifting hand until I got home.
**This New Years Eve, if you see a girl who appears out of sorts, ask her if she needs help. The most problematic symptom I experienced was internalization. If a person was more than a few feet away from me, they were not in my sense of reality. I didn't have the wherewithal to ask for help. It's always better to ask, just in case.
Thanks for reading, make good choices! :)
Thank you Deborah for helping me edit this piece. I couldn't have done it without you!