Names have been changed to protect the identities of students.
On a chilly Friday night two weeks before the end of the semester, and one hour before they plan to hike Uptown, first-years Ava and Lily clean out their room and take a statistics quiz, respectively.
Ava, a curly-haired blonde who speaks softly but deliberately, dangles her broomball shoes over her trash can.
“Should I throw these out?” she wonders.
Lily, a serious, straight-haired blonde who already has plans for grad school, glances up from her laptop.
“Just keep them,” she says. Ava tosses the dirt-caked shoes aside, into the pile of other things she’s keeping.
She had apologized for the mess upon letting me in, explaining that she’s packing up to leave in two weeks. Both sides are decked out in swirling Vera Bradley prints — blue for Lily, pink for Ava. Both sides are crammed with black plastic storage boxes, and the walls are adorned with Polaroids, painted canvases and string lights. And both sides display notes from the girls’ mothers, pinned to their bulletin boards, encouraging them to “have a great day” and to “study hard.”
Now, the beds are unmade. The boxes are overflowing with textbooks and makeup. Most available surfaces are crowded with clothes, binders, Malibu rum and Gatorade bottles. Lily’s side is populated with books (“Closer to God”), DVDs (“Mean Girls,” seasons three and four of “Friends”) and glossy prom photos grinning down at her bed.
Ava’s walls are mostly bare. Her mom and sister are coming tomorrow, to collect most of her clothes and leave her a car for when she herself returns to Northwest Ohio for the summer.
Ava is ready to go home. Lily isn’t.
A little after 7 p.m., Lily’s boyfriend of two weeks — though they’ve been unofficially together much longer — breezes into the room.
“Hi,” Chris says. “I’m drunk.”
Ava, who’s turned her attention to the mini fridge, offers him a Natty in exchange for $1. He declines, then pulls Smirnoff Ice after Smirnoff Ice out of his backpack, as if it’s Hermione Granger’s bottomless handbag. He stuffs the drinks into the fridge.
Chris has been a member of their tight, 11-person friend group since last semester. He’s compact (though quick to point out that he’s of average American male height), and says everything in a controlled deadpan, including the phrase, “I wanna get hyped.”
“Every week at Miami is just a grind to get to the weekend,” he says, perched on the edge of Lily’s bed. “Or Thursday.”
“Sometimes Wednesday,” Ava pipes up.
Chris puffs on his Juul, then snuggles up next to Lily.
“This is my girlfriend,” he says proudly, and without taking her eyes off her laptop, Lily stretches her arm around her drunk boyfriend. They both stare at her stats quiz.
When she finishes the quiz (she’s surprised to receive an 86 percent), they notice an email for an “adulting 101” workshop offered by Miami in her inbox.
“I need to go to that,” Lily says.
“Eh, I can learn to be an adult later,” says Chris, who thinks of money in terms of how many Trashcans it can buy.
Lily decides it’s time for her and Chris to go get dinner at Maple Street before it closes, and offers to bring Ava back coffee. She wants the same thing Lily gets, but without the caramel drizzle.
“White girls,” Chris scoffs.
He pauses on their way out, catching a glimpse of his outfit — green-and-gray striped polo and gray basketball shorts with lime-green stripes — in the full-length mirror hanging on the girls’ door.
“Huh,” he says. “I didn’t realize how well my shirt matches my shorts.”
Lily and Ava respond in unison:
* * * * *
These kids are archetypal Miamians, students who epitomize “work hard, play hard.”
These first-years, and the six other integral members of their friend group, have figured out the Miami underclassmen weekend-night game: use your fake I.D. or upperclassmen friends to buy alcohol. Pregame in a dorm. Hit up a house party or Greek life-sponsored social. Then hike or, if it’s really cold, take a cab Uptown.
By 8:30 p.m., the friends gathered in South Quad are tired. But Lily and Chris have her formal to attend, and Ava’s boyfriend Sam (who’s running late) has promised her and their friend Charlie — who burst into the room half an hour ago — piña coladas at his friends’ house party.
They really want piña coladas.
Lily and Ava sip their iced coffees. Charlie buzzes with that so-tired-you’re-wired energy you get from an all-nighter followed by four Friday classes (all of which, Charlie is proud to report, she attended).
“Okay,” she says, scanning the label on a bottle of caffeine pills, courtesy of Chris. “That’s, like, two-and-a-half Diet Cokes. And I’ve already had two Diet Cokes today. I should’ve brought my Red Bull over.”
“Chill,” Ava says.
Charlie pops two of the pills and settles onto Ava’s bed. Chris, who’s traded his ambiguously matching ensemble for a crisp navy suit, lounges on Lily’s bed while she does her makeup. Ava asks what he wants to drink.
“Two White Claws and a Smirnoff,” Chris orders. The girls stick to White Claws and pink margarita mix that Ava uncovers among her to-keep pile.
She invites her friends to meet her mom tomorrow, but they decline; they’ll be day-drinking. Ava says her mom is one of the cool ones who’s aware of and unconcerned about her daughter’s alcohol consumption at school.
“My parents would pull me out of Miami if they knew,” Charlie says.
Sam returns to the dorm, and at 9:08 p.m., they decide to walk rather than take a bus to his friends’ party. They regret it immediately.
“Fuck,” Sam says, upon entering the location in his Google Maps app. “It’s not that close.”
“Onward!” the girls declare, unfazed. They link arms and march out of South Quad, with Sam trailing behind.
The girls wonder how well Sam really knows the people throwing the party, and how much of a “party” it promises to be.
“Less people, more drinks for me,” Ava cheers.
“I’m sure there’ll be plenty of drinks for you,” Sam says.
As we near the house, I ask Charlie if she knows anyone in the club hosting the party. She shakes her head.
“I hope Sam does,” she says.
* * * * *
To the girls’ surprise, he does. To their disappointment, they’re out of piña colada mix.
The place looks like a mostly-built film set of a college household. The kitchen is crowded but clean, with most people stationed around a beer pong table in the corner. The connected living room, adorned with a Miami flag and Christmas lights, is populated by a few guys watching basketball on TV.
On the couch, Sam and Ava sit beside one another. He alternates between resting his hand on her knee and around her shoulders, and she leans into him.
“I forgot what it’s like to go out with them,” she says.
After awhile, Ava dispatches her boyfriend to refill her drink.
“You’ve got, like, half left,” Sam protests, swishing the Solo cup’s liquid around.
“Come back, I’ll drink it,” Ava pleads. Sam shakes his head, but he grins at her.
* * * * *
Around 11 p.m., the residents of the house kick us out. They’ve got to get to Chipotle before it closes.
Sam, Ava, Charlie and their two friends who joined the party later, Haley and Emma, head for the bars. Lily, Chris and all their other friends are waiting.
A couple blocks away from Uptown, Ava stops and peels off to point to a nearby house.
“I found our house!” she shouts. “For junior year!”
She calls for Haley, already a block ahead with Charlie and Emma.
“Do not come,” Sam says.
“You need to come!” Ava says, as Haley makes her way back down the hill. “It’s so cute!”
As the girls run off to snap photos, Sam tells me there’s been “lots of drama” with their junior-year housing search. Their first choice fell through, then one of the girls they planned to live with bailed. Even though it’s more than a year away, they’re worried.
Sam’s not concerned about his own living situation junior year. He plans on rushing Chris’ fraternity next semester, and is confident he’ll be able to live in the house.
His attempts to coax the girls away from their potential future home are useless. They return to the street corner after they decide they’ve snapped enough photos and, tipsy, admired their camerawork.
Charlie, Emma and Haley bound ahead, up the sidewalk, while Ava falls into Sam. She’s tired.
“It’s only 11 p.m.!” Sam says, flinging his arm around her shoulders. “The night’s just getting started.”