The Study Abroad Fair is Decadent and Depraved


Written under duress by Trapper P. Johnson [2014]

CHAPEL HILL, NC– I stumbled out of the NU bus around 10:30 am, pulling my hat low to block out the offensive morning sun. The Student Union was predictably overcrowded–I took up my usual perch in the far corner near the art gallery. From here I could observe, drink in the top-dollar eye show, the aimless comings and goings. I pulled a flask out of my briefcase and took a long swig of the Dewar’s I had filled it with. Good stuff, and fiery. I had yet to foresee the chaos that would come later.

I was waiting for the gruesome carnival to begin–the Fall 2014 Study Abroad Fair. My editor had yet to come around on me–pinning me under this assignment like a squirming insect was a bum rap. What the hell? As if you could walk into any two-bit newspaper office and slip in the name of The Minor and they’d have half a clue of what you were talking about…but they held the checkbook, and I held the pen.

So I was doomed to cover an exhibition of human monstrosity, self-titled world travelers wandering from stall to stall and professing their enlightenment. They were bums disguised as Buddhas, buried so far up their own asses that they were choking on their own excrement, spitting it out on their shoes and proclaiming it holy.

I was halfway through the Dewar’s and had started browsing the newspaper headlines. Deaths everywhere, airstrikes, melting ice caps and imploding celebrity careers. The house of cards was being blown over and the people voted for American Idols on the TV set. I ripped up the paper in disgust, throwing bits of it around me and laughing manically, feverishly. I chewed a ragged strip for the taste, but it didn’t do much and I spit it out. Soon the whiskey was gone and I was feeling the urge to prowl…

Eleven am was nearing and I knew it was time to kick myself into gear, lest I succumb under the monstrous weight of self-righteousness that I knew would soon be thrown at me. A quick visit to the men’s room to cleanse my karma…I had a pocketful of oxycodone, mescaline tablets, Xanax bars. The mescaline I took first, accounting for the delayed reaction that would rearrange my headspace. I decided to save the pills for later, when I was really in the thick of it.

From the moment I stumbled out of that bathroom, wiping my hands on my khakis, I was in their world, playing by their rules…these were the people worth hunting, worth crucifying. I could smell their terror as I entered the fair, alcohol sweating out of my body and down my chest. The rows and rows of triptychs spread across the room in neat lines, like gravestones. I latched onto the nearest presence, who also seemed the least fascist, and whispered in his ear.

“Some shit this is, huh?”

He looked into my drunken eyes with the fear of a wild beast trapped at his watering hole.

“There’s a lot of…great options here, that’s for sure.”

“Let me tell you something about study abroad fairs,” I said, leaning closer and pulling my shades to the front of my nose. “They’re veritable cesspools of the damned. One minute you’re reading brochures and the next they’ve got you on your ass, pumping you full of bullshit until you’re shelling out 10K to have an Austrian family stuff you and mount your head over their fireplace.”

My companion seemed perturbed by my assertions, backing away and pretending to check out a booth for Study Abroad Australia. The monstrous spiders of Melbourne would eat his eyes, I foresaw, and later the Aboriginals would drag him out in the desert and flay him, making libations with his blood to dark, musky gods.

And then we would airstrike them.

I knew the mescaline was kicking in and bringing the prophetic visions…the aisles twisting like serpents, horrifically mutilated vendors leaning out and peddling bits of human flesh and viscera. Someone handed me a brochure; I tried to make it out, and decided that it was an advertisement to study abroad in Hell itself, with glossy pictures of brimstone stalactites lining the edges of the flimsily folded paper.

The mescaline was pummeling the back of my eyes and soon I was in the corner of the room, hastily swallowing the oxycodone and Xanax. From there I descended further into rank madness, swallowed on all sides by mad gorillas eager to be spoon-fed toxic culture by international snake-oil salesmen and academic terrorists…my memory was flaky and peeling, though my scribbled journal notes capture the essence of the remaining events:

– Vomited on a pair of leather loafers, not mine. Return to bathroom, gathering thoughts and organizing shattered headspace. Wandering the aisles again, asking which study abroad experience could help me regain my childlike sense of wonder…cold stares serving as sufficient response.

– Spoke briefly with spokesman for study abroad Spain. My broken Spanish sounds like Korean. Realize it is actually broken Korean…my collection of brochures and pamphlets is growing rapidly. I hand them to the nearest booth…she returned them….

– The grotesque mob is closing in, choking; I worm my way through this intestinal tract of futile academic possibilities. Vomit again, but this time in the corner where it goes unnoticed long enough for me to sneak away and hide in the shadow of a six-foot tall Arab (or Ecuadorian? Inconclusive…).

– Bad, bad vibes. My karma is lost on some Western highway, hitchhiking towards Nirvana…faces blending together like running water and sheets of blood…drowning in the nightmare swamp, I make it to three more booths before swiping a wallet and calling it quits.


Thirty minutes later I was sitting near the Davis ATMs, scraping my scattered brain off the hot pavement. I lit a cigarette, vomited once more in the bushes, and was off.

As the bus pulled up to the curb and I saw my distorted reflection in its windows, I realized what was perhaps the most disturbing part of the ordeal–with my pile of study abroad brochures, name tag, and notebook, my face the color of processed meat… I was exactly the same filth that I had been pushing away, mocking. The lecherous weight of the realization filled me with dread, haunting me as the bus carried me to my apartment, haunting me as I write these words…foul, foul evil at the Study Abroad Fair…

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