Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

T.A. Norman

satan said dance



            I am banned from my university's alumni center. I'm not sure how they would even enforce it, but they made sure to tell me that the ban ends after my graduation. They couldn't risk a potential donor not being allowed in the alumni center.

            Believe in something, you stingy bastards.

            I remember waking up the morning before and being incredibly hungover. I went to the kitchen, got myself a cup of water, and drank it. Then a cup of milk, and drank that. I filled the cup once more with chocolate milk and walked out. I wandered into Kevin's room, a friend of mine. We blankly stared at the movie Anchorman on the TV, in which Will Ferrell's character is hungover after being ousted from his job. He takes a sip of milk after his friends snub him on the street and screams, "MILK WAS A BAD CHOICE!" I laughed and said to Kevin that it was ironic, because I was drinking milk while hungover. Then I had to explain what ironic meant to Kevin. Admittedly, he is not the sharpest tool in the shed.

            Another friend, Chris, burst through the door a moment later. "I got them!" he yelled. Kevin quickly perked up. I sat confused for a moment. Three more people walked into Kevin's room, following Chris.

            Chris reached into his bag and held up an ounce of psychedelic mushrooms in a Ziploc bag. Along with myself, Kevin was the only other person in the room to have taken mushrooms before. We inspected them, saying things like: "Not bad," "Could be better," "Not enough caps," and "I think you got ripped off." Logically, the next course of action had to be taking them. Chris and the other three were nervous—said they were only taking a gram. Kevin and I, simultaneously and self-righteously, barked "Pussies!" to the crew.

            "Give us an eighth each," we said, tossing back the seven grams between the two us. We piously smirked at the four guys and added, "Get ready, losers" and "I don't think you're ready."

            College campuses are great places to do psychedelics. There are so many crazy-looking buildings, statues, and works of art all around. I once took acid and got lost in the library stacks for three hours. It was the time of my life. Of course, our trippy crew-of-six had to do this. We wandered around for a while, simply waiting for the drugs to hit. The thing with mushrooms is: you are literally poisoning yourself. It's the mushroom's defense mechanism.

            Everyone began to get cold sweats. Kevin and I laughed at the guys' worried faces, thinking them to be naive and not ready. Then we came up—and we came up hard.

            We walked to the engineering building, but that quickly got boring. Then someone had the idea to go to the duck pond. It was a beautiful morning, ducks all swimming around the pond, couples and families having picnics, students throwing frisbees. I look at Kevin, who is scary pale, so I tell him. He says, "No, you're scary pale." Our pupils the size of quarters, we look around and the rest of the group had gotten over the rough come-up. They were running around chasing ducks and joining games of frisbee, all while laughing their asses off.

            Kevin and I just stared blankly at each other in front of the duck pond. We didn't need to say a word—we knew what we were both thinking: We were tripping far too hard. We lit cigarettes to calm down. In a flash, Kevin keeled over and projectile-vomited into the duck pond. I see him—red-faced, spewing his guts—and I start to vomit into the pond.

            Families of four were trying to have a nice day with their loved ones, eating picnics by a quaint little pond. Then there's us, smoking cigarettes and on hard drugs; pale-faced, sweating profusely, vomiting milk and mushrooms into their charming little scene. I looked up from my swirling cocktail of pond scum, milk, and mushrooms to see a duck eating it. So I vomited again. I pick up my head once more. I see a campus security guard walking out of the alumni center, headed directly for us. Milk was certainly a bad choice.


Acid. Coke. Pot. Molly. Are these the worst things I've done? If my body is a temple, then it is in ruin. I don't exercise. I am not good people. I want to be, I think. I don't know what I want. I haven’t killed anybody. Some Mexican is probably dead from all the money I blow on pot. I've stolen a good amount of money. But these things, they seem very abstract. What is the worst thing I've done? Lied, cheated, stole. Blaming the arrest on Emma? That's probably up there. Stealing pills from Nana? Bad, not terrible. What is it? What am I most ashamed about? It's probably the things I didn't do. I've led Shannon on for over a year, while fucking around anyway. Is thinking about suicide a sin? Where are you, my past? What is the single worst thing I've done? I'm shallow and feel hollow. I am the vampire that sucks your emotions because I cannot create my own; I feel them for only so long 'til they disperse into the nether. I may have to atone for laziness, sloth. I consume time and that time is already borrowed. I feel as though I am running out of it. It is running from me and I am not very fast. Change. It needs to happen. Can this be the start of this metamorphosis I so long for? Will it ever happen? Something needs to change, something has got to give. (You stole that from Californication you fucking bullshitter.) Rack up another one to Satan. Satan said dance.I don't know where this stems from—how could I? Nature vs. Nurture. I think nature won this one. I am nothing like my parents, they gave me Catholic guilt and called it a day. Satan said dance.

Rack up another one to Satan. Satan said dance. I don't know where this stems from—how could I? Nature vs. Nurture. I think nature won this one. I am nothing like my parents, they gave me Catholic guilt and called it a day. Satan said dance.

            "November 24, 2015" is what is under "Date Created" of this note. I think it was written earlier. I write drunk a lot of the time. This was one of those times. I wish I could be more specific. At the very least, I wish I could provide some context. However, as those in AA will know from experience, as well as most college students (not that the two are mutually exclusive), when ethanol floods the brain and binds to the GABAA receptor in the hippocampus, it activates: disrupting the natural state of your N-Methyl-D-aspartic acid and its own receptor, making it incredibly hard to recall certain aspects of your night.

            Aside from fixing misspelled words, everything written here is the same. I am not sure why "I haven't killed anybody" was crossed out. Deadly sins: I have certainly done my share; this I have come to terms with. A mortal sin, though? I would be crossing a line of morality that I don't believe I could live with. When it comes to this specific night, pictures would have helped. Maybe they exist and they are just that incriminating. Maybe I am lying to you. Maybe my indolence has led me to believe that depositing this passage here was a good idea.


            Justin Louis Toz was his name. I hated him. While I was pledging my fraternity, he would go out of his way to make my life a living hell. I can recall sprinting the mile and a half from the freshman dorms to the chapter house, my lungs caving in and my face red. I would run upstairs and his only request would be for a cup of water, too lazy to get his own. On a game day, while the whole school was running around aimlessly drunk, cheering in the university's colors, I drove around three guys at Justin's command. Kem—an overtly intimidating individual, a large black man, 6'6—was in the front seat. I tried to explain to Justin that even though I wasn't drunk, I had about three beers and shouldn't drive. I followed his order regardless.

            Justin was blackout drunk, sticking the upper-half of his body out of the then-President's sunroof—which, of course, he did not ask if he could borrow. Kem blasted purposely-expletive heavy rap music out of the car, only lowering the volume to get an inch from my face and scream louder than the music.

            "Get to Beaver Ave," they yelled, so I did.

            "Drive to McDonald's," they yelled, so I did. That is where they picked up a bag of coke for themselves. That is also where the things started to heat up. Blowing down key bumps in the back seat, they turned the music on full blast, windows down. I saw a couple of families swallow their vomit at the debauchery.

            "Drive to campus," Justin screamed, so I did. I was already beyond-worried at this point. Driving onto campus seemed like a death sentence with all the police there. I still did it. Once on campus, Justin felt the need to go back out the sunroof. And once through the window, he began peeing out of it. Kem started screaming at Justin because some got on his shoulder. Expectedly, this became my fault. Note that the car is still moving, and I am nearing a four-way intersection by some of the on-campus apartments. Justin says something somewhat close to an apology for getting piss on Kem and says, "I'll get up higher." Kem is now in my face again, after Justin has apologized.

            I am not sure of Justin's thought process here, but his idea of getting up higher to pee was using the steering wheel as a stepladder. It was at this point four things occurred: One-I lost control of the car, not going through the intersection, but instead up a short hill toward one of the apartments. Two-I wholeheartedly accepted that this would be the end of my college career, as an underage DUI on a dry campus would not bode well for me. Three-Justin fell out of the sunroof going about thirty miles per hour, dick out, rolled over the car's roof and smacked his head on the pavement. Four-Through all of this, I was scary calm.

            This incident, along with things like threatening to disaffiliate from the fraternity if I held an elected position, forcing my little brother to get kicked out of the fraternity pledge program, and a general spew of degrading comments, well past the days of my pledgeship, led me to truly hate Justin Louis Toz. A kind of hate that raises your blood pressure. The kind of anger you see in movies and don’t really believe that kind of rage is possible. It is, and it can motivate like nothing else.

            Justin was known for two things in my chapter: being an insufferable prick and having a bombshell of a girlfriend. Right after he pulled the same "I'll disaffiliate if you don't do what I want" stunt to get my little brother booted from the pledge program—a  kid who did not deserve that and was simply socially awkward—was when I turned to a friend of mine and said, "I'm going to fuck his girlfriend," and that's what I went and did.

For those who are unaware: hate sex is great sex.

            I am no Don Juan but such game has never been repeated. That next Friday, while Justin was drinking at the bars, I approached her and said some of the most coherent things I have ever said to a beautiful woman. She asked if she could "see my room," and that was that. For those who are unaware: hate sex is great sex.


July 20th, 2013. Noon.

            We sprinted past the cops with German Shepherds (couldn't risk having our bags being checked at security). Colin McGuinnis, Colin Hessman, and I got on the hot beach at Governors Island. We had Camelbacks full of jungle juice strapped to us—about a fifth of rum in each our packs. A girl we know, Emma, spots us and points out a guy sitting at a table. We feel the bass in our chests. The guy she pointed out is in a trance with a friend giving him a "light show" with the LED lights attached to his gloves. Lou Reed would say, "I'm waiting for my man." We wait under a tented area and the dealer finally acknowledges our presence. We work out a deal. Each of us buys about a gram of what is presumed to be MDMA.

2 PM
The bass is still in my chest. We dropped the Molly about an hour before. We are certainly on the come-up. McGuinnis is getting his bag searched for alcohol. He lies and the cop lets him go.

4 PM
One of the opening acts comes on. Hessman looks like he's more drunk than high. Our pupils are dilated. Drenched in sweat. McGuinnis lost his shoes. No moderation allowed.

5 PM
McGuinnis steals some shoes from the side of the stage. The guy who owns them sees him. He doesn't say anything. In his defense, McGuinnis looks like a cracked-out D1 tight end.

7 PM
We dosed a few more times. The excessive indulgence is at an all-time high. I have almost gone through my gram. McGuinnis offers some of his to me. I hit the chronic-blunt of the people next to me. There is a lot of coke in it.

9 PM
The headliner finally comes on. I bet my eyes look like tiny black holes. I tear the baggie of MDMA open. I lick the residue. Molly tastes like what I imagine licking the floor of a chemical plant tastes like. We lose Hessman—excess to a point I previously did not know.

I bet my eyes look like tiny black holes. I tear the baggie of MDMA open. I lick the residue. Molly tastes like what I imagine licking the floor of a chemical plant tastes like.

10 PM
I feel like I am on a roller coaster. My heartbeat is completely determined by the sound of the bass and the amount I am jumping up and down. I get a text from Emma. "Hessman is in a stretcher." I show it to McGuinnis. His already-massive eyes widen. The DJ presses a button and hundreds of blow-up animals rain down. I catch a giraffe. We consider not finding Hessman. We indulge in more MDMA. We weren't going to leave it behind.

10:05 PM
I get a picture from Emma of Hessman in the stretcher. He's looked better.

10:15 PM
We find the ambulance. Hessman is thrashing from left to right. He is in restraints. He looks straight out of The Exorcist, twisting and contorting. Emma tells us that he ran up to her, made-out with her. Took a pill of off some rando. Got in a fight with some kid. Took another pill off some other rando. Ran back to her, told her he wants to cheat on his girlfriend. Ran away from her, fell and hit his head on the wood trim around the venue. That's when he started seizing.

10:30 PM
Hessman just punched the EMT in the face. Why they let him out of the restraints, I do not know. They pull a syringe and sedate him. The three of us get into the ambulance.

11:30 PM
We are at New York Presbyterian. McGuinnis and I are in the waiting room.

Still in the waiting room. Both of us are coming down heavily.

1 AM
Hessman is released. I take the rap sheet from the doctor. It reads, "Abuse of ecstasy. Abuse of alcohol. Abuse of research chemicals."

2 AM
My cousin, Sam, is in the city. Trains have stopped running. Hessman has just pissed in the median of Broadway. I am desperately trying to get out the city. Hessman's father comes to pick him up. McGuinnis and I watch him from across the street. We did not want to be in that car ride.

3 AM
We are meeting my cousin in Hoboken for a ride home.

4:30 AM
I see Sam. She was out clubbing. Her car is full, so me and McGuinnis sit in the trunk.

5:30 AM
We make it to her house. We are covered in sweat, so we hop in her pool.

6:30 AM
McGuinnis is passed out on the couch in Sam's basement. We are an hour from our homes. I have sex with Sam's best friend in the laundry room.

8 AM
We called our friend Nick to pick us up. We need to get out of Sam's house before my uncle wakes up and starts asking questions. Nick brought us bagels—thank God. It's the first meal I've had in 24 hours. I take a sip of chocolate milk and immediately throw up out of Nick's window.

8:50 AM
Sleep is the only thing I need. Nick pulls up to my house. The cars are gone and I sigh with relief. I walk into my house and my head immediately hits the pillow. I would trade all the coked-up sex in the world for this moment of rest. Ending a night of excess and ecstasy.

8:52 AM
I get a text from my mother. It reads, "I'm disappointed. You're missing mass."


            Gilly and Vik were roommates. Gilly was a really good guy (and still is). He's an artist and spends his free time with autistic children helping them through art therapy. Vik was probably a good guy, though I never knew him that well. I always thought he was sort of a pretentious dick; he had a reputation of being irrational, psychotic, and a hothead. Regardless, Vik was a collegiate boxer. He went to the national championship twice for his weight class and won the title his sophomore year. Needless to say, nobody fucked with Vik.

            In high school, I had slept with three girls. In my eyes, college was my chance to really expand my sexual horizons. I wanted to have crazy sex, passionate sex, rough sex, shower sex, hate sex, sex in public, sex any and every way I could. Though I had always been of the belief that girls really weren't that forward, and many didn't even like sex. A girl by the name of Jenna quickly changed that for me.

            She grabbed me during a party with her tan arms, dragging me up the stairs to where all the bedrooms were. We made out in the bathroom for a minute. I suggested shower sex but she didn't want to walk home wet. I was not waiting to get back to my dorm room. I wanted her, and she wanted me. I was doing this at that moment and at that house. So, I started checking the rooms on the floor. The only room that was left was unlocked, and it was Gilly and Vik's room. I thought about the repercussions. Gilly was a sweetheart, could I do that him? What about Vik? He was a psycho boxer—what would I do if he walked in? Jenna got naked and all of this left my head. Years of Hollywood movies had hyped-up sex in college to be a different animal than all other kinds of sex. We started on the couch, but she quickly moved us to the bed. I bet I didn't last five minutes. It didn't matter, it was my first fuck of college and it was great.

I wanted her, and she wanted me. I was doing this at that moment and at that house. So, I started checking the rooms on the floor. The only room that was left was unlocked, and it was Gilly and Vik's room.

            Not even ten seconds after I finished, it hit me: I was in Vik's bed. We got dressed in under a minute and we got out of there.

            A few days later, Kem asked me if he should give Jenna my number. She had asked him. I thought I was hot shit and thought Kem would think more of me, so I told him, "Nah." I've always regretted that "Nah." I saw Gilly that same day. He was in bad shape. Apparently, he was blackout drunk that night and passed out naked in his bed. Vik later walked into the room and saw the condom, amongst the other remnants of coitus, in his bed. Then Vik saw Gilly passed out naked and beat the living shit out of him. Gilly said he didn't deserve that punishment, even though he didn't remember having sex. I opened my mouth to apologize, but nothing came out. After all, Vik's a psychopath.


            "You're cut off," he told me.

            Well fuck, I thought. "Fine, Dad," I fired back. "You don't have to be an asshole about it." I slammed the phone down and popped a Xanax, or maybe it was a Klonopin. Benzodiazepines have a tendency to do that to you. My three freshman-year roommates looked at me, eyes widened. Tress, the religious one, made some crack about how I should honor my father. I think I told him next time his girlfriend comes and visits I'm going to fuck her in his bed. Alex did not say anything, per usual. Will just looked sad. He had lost his father a few years prior. However, I didn't know that at the time, so can you really blame me? I distinctly remember him looking at his Rolex that was belonged to his father, and me thinking to myself that I needed one.

            I left the room. Made the kid down the hall, who I thought was just a loser loner-stoner, come to the quad with me and smoke me up on his pot. The benzos were really starting to kick in. I walked to my friend's house after ditching the loner-stoner once the roach was tossed; his room was raided the next day. However, I doubt I had anything to do with that.

            I walked down to my friend Chris's place to smoke more pot. He reminded me that we had our dues payments due at the end of the month. Then Beau showed up at the door with more pot, so we smoked some more. After a joint or two, they started bitching at me for never buying pot. So, I said, "fuck you guys" and left. I walked back to the freshman dorms and grabbed a small black leather pouch from my desk drawer, not saying a word to my roommates. You see, here's the problem with college campuses: the libraries are huge, and college students will do everything in their power to stay away from a library.


            I walked to the library, then into the stacks, looking for the section with the least amount of students studying. Now in the stacks, there are desks with small lockers attached to the study-carrels. This is often used by commuter students or those who live off-campus, but especially by those who have to take the bus and don't want to lug textbooks back and forth. The keys are tiny.

            I sat down at one of these desks and looked around. I pulled out my tiny leather pouch, gave a few more looks around, praying that no one would walk by. I unzipped the pouch and pulled out my tools: first, the Torsion wrench, which I placed in the keyhole of the locker. Then my snake pick. The important thing with lock picking is that you must keep tension on your Torsion wrench at all times, or you will have to start over, as the pins in the lock will fall back into place—a task that is much harder than you think, especially when you are in the heat of a benzo binge. I placed the snake pick into the keyhole and began to work. There are not many things as satisfying as when you feel the tension on the wrench budge and the lock turn. And just like that, a stack of books was out in the open in front of me, which quickly found their way into my bag. I would do this about four or five more times that day until my backpack was full.

            I walked downtown and made sure to rip off all the stickers and barcodes from the books. I brought them to the register and sold them for a tenth of what they were actually worth. Economics and engineering books are the gems of this trade as they undoubtedly cost the most. At the end of the transaction, before they give you the cash at the bookstore, they ask for your student ID number. I gave them my religious roommate Tress's ID number.

            I walked a few blocks down to my dealer's apartment with a couple hundred dollars in my pocket and bought as much Xanax and pot as I could. As I walked out of his apartment, I looked down at the bags to make sure he didn't short me. He didn't, but I remember thinking I should go back to Chris's place and reciprocate the previous smoke-up. Loner-stoner didn't cross my mind. Then I said fuck it, popped a Xanax, and made my way back to my dorm. I think I would have lost sleep or at least felt a hint of guilt, but Benzodiazepines have a tendency to do that to you. To be empty. To feel hollow. To feel absolutely nothing.

The web of lies you weave can strangle you, unless you are very good at lying. I believe I am. The reason that I lie most of the time is so that those around me will see me in a better light. Often, I am too ashamed. The man I create with my words is not me.

Paenitentia I

            People talk too much and talk is very cheap. I am guilty of this myself. The web of lies you weave can strangle you, unless you are very good at lying. I believe I am. The reason that I lie most of the time is so that those around me will see me in a better light. Often, I am too ashamed. The man I create with my words is not me. However, if you lie to yourself enough, you begin to believe it yourself. O.J. Simpson and I have that in common. Though, if you become your facade, is it still a lie? This is my repentance. All of this. Do with it what you will.

❖ I tell people I was a three-year varsity starter in lacrosse with a collegiate scholarship from the school that won the DIII championship in my freshman year of college.

➢ I played two years. The furthest I got was JV. I did get an offer from the DIII championship school, but it was for academics, which is a stretch, considering Catholic colleges really just want to enroll students who attended Catholic high schools—which would be me.

❖ My Italian professor bumped me up a full letter grade because I told him I was too busy being president of my fraternity.

➢ I was the Vice President. I was never that busy. I just hate Italian.

❖ One of my mother's proudest memories of my high school years was the moment I walked up on stage to receive the Mandarin Speaking Award.

➢ I just wasn't a dick to the teacher like everyone else. I know zero Mandarin.

❖ I've had more grandparents die than I have fingers.

➢ Professors will buy it every time.

❖ A DJ friend of mine constantly asks to collaborate on songs after I showed him a song I created.

➢ I know nothing about making music and played him an obscure song on YouTube that I found with a couple hundred views.

❖ People assume that because I am an English major, I am a great writer.

➢ No, I am not.

❖ My parents believe I attend Mass a few times a month.

➢ I have not been in well over a year.

❖ I tell people I was relatively popular in high school.

➢ My only friend until late sophomore year was my cousin.

❖ During my fraternity induction, when asked to state my full name, I said my middle name was Anthony.

➢ My middle name is Norman.

❖ Sometimes, I will come out of bathrooms at bars and clubs and say, "Some guy just gave me a bump. I don't think it was coke though. I think I’m rolling."

➢ I have never done a random stranger's random drugs in a random bathroom.

❖ In my high school math class, a linebacker told me to move to a different seat. I told him to take a kid named Johnny's seat because he was just talking shit on him.

➢ He got his ass beat after school that day. He never said a word about the linebacker.

❖ One of my duties as Vice President was handing out punishments.

➢ I loved to keep "shit lists." If I liked you, you would get no punishment. If I didn't, I’d throw you to the dogs. Corruption at its finest.


Paenitentia II

            Five Hail Marys. Five Gloria Patris. Ten Our Fathers. That is what I think I would be told if I shared one of these stories with a priest during the sacrament of confession. I wonder what would happen if I revealed all of them at once. I don't believe a well-meaning man of the cloth could give me much in terms of penance, as I wholeheartedly believe I would have, in-turn, given him a stroke.

Five Hail Marys. Five Gloria Patris. Ten Our Fathers. That is what I think I would be told if I shared one of these stories with a priest during the sacrament of confession. I wonder what would happen if I revealed all of them at once.

            This is my sacrament. I lay this out into the nether, with hope and honesty. Once these words are out, I hope to be absolved—not by a higher power, but instead, by my own crippling consciousness. I have paid for my Pride. I am still banned from the alumni center, but not for much longer. I paid for my Sloth in this word count. I have paid for my Gluttony and indulgence, as Colin overdosed. I paid in exhaustion and fear.

            I atoned for my Wrath by admitting to Justin that I slept with his girlfriend. I was sweating and stumbling over my words as I admitted it, but I did it. I atoned for my Lust by revealing to Gilly before he graduated that I was the one who had sex in Vik's bed, not him. He laughed. I cannot atone for my Envy. I cannot atone for my Greed. The people I wronged in those library stacks, I don't know who you are. I don't know your names. I don't know what you look like. I do not know if you are rich or poor. I do not know how my sins have affected you. This is my apology. This is my reconciliation. This is my penance. I wish to atone for all of it. This is my plea. I suppose we all must atone for something. We all must ask for forgiveness. Will anyone answer? Is anyone listening?

T.A. Norman is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University's English program with a concentration in Creative Writing. He has written for Kalliope, Penn State’s literary magazine, as well as The Shield, a nationally published fraternal magazine. Norman is also a contributing editor for, a sports news website. For more about T.A. Norman, visit his blog.