Quarter to midnight – I was sitting on my floor. Now I’m in line. It’s cold and it’s intimidating – so many beautiful people laughing confidently, gold chains and slick handshakes, a big man at the door making the decisions. He nods another one through – all the girls get in as long as they’re wearing a lot of skin. “Stylish dress encouraged” it had said. I look at my shoes and doubt myself a couple times but I get in too and then sheath my ID without smiling as I start to scan the dark room. The first bar’s crowded. It takes me a minute to wade through the shoulders and latch onto a stool for stability. “Bacardi & Coke,” I yell into the ear that leans toward me. “What?”
“Barcardi – ,” – the bartender nods like he knew without me telling him the first time and flips a bottle before dropping it into a sleeve.
People are pouring in now. The girls from different groups are checking each other out, hating each other’s beauty like jealous peacocks with painted eyes. It’s unnatural – all these suave, attractive people concentrated so tightly into one place. Anywhere else you get like one bright spot in the grey, one or two people dressed to the nines in a group of average looks. Even in the glamorous cities it’s usually spread out enough that the attention can flow normally so there’s enough recognition to support the effort. In here it all crashes together, like a pinball that’s spazzing out in the machine on an endless turn.
The people in the room all seem to know somebody, all have something to scream or laugh about, they all sing the words that come blasting out of the speakers hidden in the ceiling. I stand at the bar purposely, like I belong. I used to know this scene well – I did, but now I find myself wondering who they are – like who they really are before they walk through these snazzy doors. Most club types have this certain edge and bravado – like “if I’m going out, I need glass palm trees and flaming buckets of champagne.” All the over-the-top decor and absurdities are normal, expected, and deserved – an ice sculpture of a cheetah and a nude – “of course.” $16 martinis – “Gimme two and keep the change.” I wish I could see them at their day jobs and with their mothers, waking up in the morning and brushing their teeth at night. I wonder if some of the moments of their lives are as dull as mine can be, if they ever find themselves sitting at home looking in the mirror, doubting the color of their shirt and the shape of their nose. In here everyone’s always on, wound up and at life’s throat.
In the next room over there’s a 10 foot black and white mural of a woman’s face on the wall. It kind of looks like Kate Moss in one of those David Yurman ads where she’s all wet and afflicted over a shiny wrist watch. The other walls are covered too – big aggressive panel canvases of lips and teeth and hair all snarling at you with seduction. I love it though. I love extremes. Everything in here twitches with possibility – each new person flashing into your periphery with a threat or an invitation, demanding attention and an opinion as the thoughts swim through the alcohol in your brain. For a moment, it feels right.
The main room’s got two bars and a balcony hanging out over the floor. In here the stimulation starts to overlap – the hypnotic pulsing beat, fog machines spewing sweet vapor, the strobes whipping us into movement – it helps to have a drink or two to dull it down, make it mix together into one half-manageable homogeneous effect so you don’t bug out. Two go-go dancers are hanging from the ceiling in a red cage, folding themselves in and out of rhythmic contortions. One curls a finger toward her, sticks out her tongue. This guy whips out his phone to take a video that he’ll delete in the morning. Someone bumps into me hard. “Sorry,” the server mouths, her breasts lurching out of vacuum-packed blouse as she turns to deliver a tray of shots and lit sparklers to a dark couch in the corner. I wipe some beer off my jacket. Looking around it just seems like it’s all going to break – all of it – like there’s a pane of fine glass hanging overhead that’s waiting to shatter and crash us all back to a reality somewhere with the lights on. I see a bouncer chop someone into a head-lock and decide to head off to the bathroom for a breather.
to be continued…