Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
All heads turned when the door opened, followed by an outburst of cheers and wild applause that completely drowned out the loud house music blaring through the home stereo set. Red cups flew through the air, its contents gracefully tracing after them before turning into local showers. One of the guys, definitely belonging to one of the fraternities, jumped on a chair and shouted: “All behold…The Tank!”
Frank patiently waited for the next wave of applause to end and the music to seize control of the airwaves again, then walked further inside. People came up to him to shake his hand and girls kissed him on the cheek while having their picture taken, probably to post on some social network. He didn’t know a single one of them, but this didn’t surprise him anymore. Any party he walked into — and there were many — presented him with this grand welcome. At first he had loved it. He was popular. Popular enough, even, to receive a cool nickname. ‘The Tank’ sounded like he was indestructible, a force to reckon with. Nobody messed with Frank “The Tank”. He had friends, loads and loads of them. Friends who invited him to all the parties. Friends who cheered for him. Friends who, and this is when the bitter realization came, left him to pass out in his own vomit. Friends who now didn’t even bother to laugh behind his back anymore. Friends who had passively stood by as his ‘tanking’ behavior slowly transformed him from a good-looking young man into a chubby, fat alcohol addict. Frank had been made into an attraction and he knew it…hated himself for it. Hated himself for his weakness. Hated all the others for letting him become like this.
Of course there was a really simple solution to all this: stop drinking, stop partying. Only, it wasn’t that simple. Frank could have mustered all his willpower to fight his addiction. He would have managed. He did not have the willpower, though, to fight the countless numbers of fellow students who would come knocking on his door. Everywhere he went, he was in their reach. Internet and smartphones were great, had opened doors to freedom in countries like Egypt. Frank’s door to freedom, however, had been slammed shut and locked tight the moment he had clicked on his first ‘Join’ button. Every additional one had added another lock to his nicely decorated little prison, gently sealing his fate. Frank had willingly placed the bars in front of his window.
A beer was pressed into his hands by another anonymous person the moment his phone beeped. It was an e-mail from a councillor, a person connected to his university who offered help to anyone needing it. She sent this e-mail around every month and it had begun to catch Frank’s attention recently. It could be a way out. Maybe he should go over there the next day. But first he had to answer to the shouts that had started up around him, repeating the words tank!, tank!, tank! over and over again.
He downed his beer in one go and people applauded. Then he received the next one and did the same. After all, he had a reputation to uphold.