“It’s only hazing if someone dies,” says bruised, snot-faced pledge

Chris Bryant arrived alone to Bama Bound Orientation, traveling some 900 miles by air to Tuscaloosa from his even smaller hometown in Pennsylvania. Only twelve students from his high school had ever attended the University of Alabama; he was the first in more than five years to make the trip. Without existing connections to his new home at the Capstone, Chris understood the personal challenges ahead. He had a plan, though. Come Fall, Chris would pledge a fraternity.

He’s here now, sitting across from me with a pillow under his tush to protect his bruised behind, this coming from weeks of illogical servitude dangerously mixed with days of heavy hazing –

“You’re wrong. It’s only hazing if someone dies,” he says.

Is that what they told you, buddy? Ooooookay. If you say so. Here’s a tissue. Your eyebrow’s still bleeding from when they threw broken beer bottles at your face.

“Thanks,” he says. His boring, unreasonably-priced dress shirt rides up as he reaches forward to grab the tissue. I toy with the idea of holding it farther and farther away until he falls out of his chair altogether, but the guy’s eye is so bruised that I decide against it – not because I feel sorry for him but because I don’t want to clean up the mess when his fragile body splats on the ground. (In his words, it would be hazing if he died.) Besides, his sleeves rode up enough for me to see the handcuff marks on his wrists.

“Nice stains, man,” I say. “Who gave you those? Your brother, abuser, or both?”

“You’ve got it all wrong. You don’t know.” Well Chris, neither do you. He dabs the blood off his swelling eye and trades the tissue for a glass of water, a practical treat I prepared for him in advance. I don’t think he’s noticed the additional Advil and sunglasses lying next to it, so I point them out to him. Completely instinctually, as if he’s performed this same ritual every day since landing on Old Row, he expertly downs the pills and pops on the sunglasses.

He sighs, and I imagine myself in his situation… I can’t, so I think of the next best thing – Never mind. There’s absolutely nothing good about this, and there can’t be. I ask him for confirmation.

“Chris,” I say, catching enough of his pupils through those dark lenses to make sure he’s awake and not hung all the way over. “Answer some questions for me, will you?”

His back twitches in a way I interpret as “I would love to.” Either that, or his welts are starting to split.

I ask him if he considers himself a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse. He asks me to repeat, so I reprise myself and drag out the words for full effect. Have you ever been physically (paddled into submission), sexually (raped with a sharpie), emotionally (blindfolded and kidnapped), and financially (paying thousands of dollars for print-screened t-shirts, because you can make life-long friends for free) abused?

I wait thirty minutes for an answer, though I know I won’t get one. It saddens me, too, because I’m sure he had a good one to give, but as evidenced by the unresponsive freshman to my front, he’s passed out from exhaustion. I’m happy for the guy. Eroding physically beats nearly dying from alcohol poisoning any day, even if they both only happened because of the same group of people (let alone his fraternity brothers, his family away from home).

I suppose the interview is over, though I never got the quote I arranged for. I look down at Chris Bryant, not because he’s passed out in a chair while I stand but because he willingly involved himself in Greek life. In my mind, he’s the physically older and sexually opposite version of the Twilight fan, the latter loyal to possibly the most developmentally-detrimental book in history, and the former loyal to a college culture thousands of times more destructive. And sorry, but any mention of upside in the case of hazing drowns itself in reasons that should be painfully obvious by now.

Even if hazing statistics favor his lifestyle, the fact that those statistics exist tells me otherwise. Nothing so useless is worth your own well-being, right Chris?

I walk to him and grab his dehydrated lips. I know the answer he would have given, so I move his lips up and down and mouth it for him, taking careful measure not to mistakenly kill the guy because as he says,

“It’s only hazing if someone dies.”

  • Anonymous

    well written and more importantly, meaningful