There are no up-to-date statistics on the number of women who experience having their drinks spiked with substances such as the sedative flunitrazepam (commonly known by its street name ‘ruffie’ or ‘roofie’), or other similar substances. This is because the vast majority of cases go unreported and therefore we mostly know about drink spiking cases anecdotally. This short story by Anjum Nahar retells the account of a University of Bristol student who had her drink spiked during Freshers’ Week.
I woke up dry-mouthed and confused. Completely unable to figure out where the guy from last night had gone, I stumbled out of the bed, desperate for a glass of water. Perhaps I had turned him out at three in the morning. I couldn’t remember. The water tasted sweet. I had forgotten how dry my throat could get after a night out. It was seven thirty, I should have been packing my bag for a visit to the library. I picked up a book from my desk, a book that wasn’t going to read itself, and flicked through it. I thought fuck it. This wasn’t the right time to be studying. There were other pressing issues.
I put the kettle on and when the water had boiled, I stirred it through the brown granules that would make my instant coffee. Breakfast. Memories were flooding back to me from last night. Where was Emily? Had she made it back to her room? Lara would know. She was the sensible one, the one that watched out for you as you embarrassed yourself grinding on mysterious strangers. Seriously, where was Emily?
No reply on facebook messenger. No reply on whatsapp. I was desperate to know what had happened last night. A knock on Lara’s door couldn’t hurt.
So I knocked again.
‘It’s a bit early isn’t it!’ Lara moaned, pulling the door open with great violence.
‘It’s not that early,’ I responded. I could tell she wasn’t her usual self.
‘What happened last night? I mean, like, after I lost you in the club,’ I asked as I sat down on the end of her bed while she sat back in her desk chair with a great sigh.
She told me that it was a long story. I told her I had all morning.
‘Ok, so do you remember when me and Emily headed to the bar and you went off with that random guy?’
‘Let’s not talk about that,’ I groaned.
‘Well, that’s when we bumped into Jack, you might know him, he’s quite tall, has brown hair and wears glasses. I know, I’m terrible at describing people. Emily knows him from Sixth Form. He seemed quite nice. Emily and Jack got talking about something and they looked quite engrossed in conversation. I couldn’t hear it over the music obviously, but I remember thinking that they looked as if they were edging closer and closer, speaking into each other’s ears – you know when it seems like two people are exchanging secrets? It was that kind of conversation. I was suddenly feeling like a third wheel when out of nowhere one of Jack’s mates showed up and offered to buy everyone a drink. I didn’t really know these people and was feeling a little excluded so I left in search of more people to dance with.
Later, I found out that the other guy, Jack’s friend had bought them all tequila shots. Or was it Jaeger bombs? I can’t remember. So at this point, I think it may have been just past midnight, I was wandering around the club, saying hi to a few vaguely familiar faces. I can’t deny the fact that I was growing worried though. I couldn’t find you or Em, and you weren’t answering your phones.
Ok. So I was abandoned in the club. On my own. Great. That’s not even the worst of it, the situation really started going downhill when some dumb fresher barged past me and spilt her drink all over my new trousers.’
‘That’s such a shame, I love those trousers,’ I added.
‘I know! I’ll show you the damage later, I’m so pissed. Anyway, I obviously wanted to go clean myself up so I headed to the girl’s toilets. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found Emily in there. It was horrible. I opened the cubicle door and there she was, cheek pressed against the toilet seat, body left almost lifeless on the wet, dirty floor. She looked like a broken doll in her little dress. Part of me really thought that she could be dead. I blamed her of course. She had probably been drinking on the sly all night, without me realising before she had passed out. Other girls were coming in and out of the bathrooms, some staring and others offering help. One girl told me that the club has a first aid room…..’
‘Wait, clubs have first aid rooms?’ This was new information to me.
‘Yeah, some do I think. The bigger ones. I remember flushing Emily’s sick. She had started talking now but whatever she was trying to communicate was alien to me. I did my best to pick up the poor girl and dragged her to the first aid room.
It was a strikingly impressive room actually, it looked kitted out and ready to give proper medical attention. I mean there were plasters and bandages on the counter and a wheelchair in the corner. The bright white light was jarring though. I put Emily on a chair and a lady in a black shirt put a bucket next to her and told us the maximum stay in this room was one hour. I could hear the muted thud of the music. It hurt my head a lot. Emily threw up again. The lady in the black shirt was no doctor but she seemed as if she had some authority. She told me that my friend’s drink had been spiked. That’s when I was able to put two and two together.’
‘Oh shit,’ I said. I had never met anybody who’s drink had been spiked before, it was one of those things that only happened to other people.
‘So an hour passed. And then another hour. Emily just grew worse. She threw up again and she kept looking as if she would slide out of her chair and pass out once more. It was clear to me that we had outstayed our welcome in the first aid room. I desperately wanted to do something helpful. I glanced at Emily and honestly, the sight of her made me feel ill. But, the lady watching over us wouldn’t let me call an ambulance. She said that it would ruin the club’s reputation. Looking back, I’ve realised how this was such a bullshit excuse. But in that particular moment I didn’t want any trouble and so I complied. As a last resort, I remembered that I had a friend in the city who lived fifteen minutes away and so I called her. The lady in the black shirt asked us to leave. She seemed pretty sure that Emily would be able to sleep off whatever was wrong with her. I wasn’t as confident.
A bouncer carried her out of the club, unconscious. The friends I had called had made it to the club and together, the three of us pushed, shoved, dragged and carried our dear Em back to the flat. Trust me, she’s not as light as she looks. When we got there we laid her on the sofa and the delirious murmuring started again. I think she was trying to talk about politics? Whatever she was trying to say it didn’t seem right. I wanted her to fall asleep now. Out of nowhere, another boy appeared, I don’t know his name but I think he was my friend’s flatmate. I was a bit wary around him. He started to talk to Emily in an engaging way and although I didn’t want to leave her with him I was happy that she was starting to come back to her senses. He bought her a glass of water but it did no good. She threw up again. He told me to call an ambulance. I didn’t hesitate.’
‘No wonder you’re tired, you’ve been to the hospital haven’t you?’ I asked, already knowing the answer.
‘Yeah, I got back a few hours ago.’
‘She’s still there.’
Lara’s room grew silent as both of us paused for reflection. I suppose I felt guilty at that moment. What kind of friend was I, to let all this happen under my nose?
‘I’m planning on heading to the hospital now. Join me.’
‘Do you know who spiked her drink? Was it Jack? Was it Jack’s friend?’
‘Does it even matter?’
Lara, as usual, was right. It had been fate that had dealt Emily a bad card that night. And I’m not going to lie, I was relieved. Partly because I knew that the night for Emily could have taken a much darker turn if she hadn’t had the support from Lara. Partly because I was glad it hadn’t been me.
Illustrations by Isabel Kilborn