“Mermaids have to swim,” Zara tugs at my arm, her light brown eyes sparkling among the Palm Springs mountains. She is pulling me towards the pool, discarding her multitude of accessories on the way. If I ever drunkenly lose Z, I know I can just follow the bread crumb trail of hair flowers, lip gloss, and bangles.
She senses my reluctance. “Mermaids HAVE to swim,” she repeats, as if she is reciting the most profound spoken word poem in the world.
Well, I can’t argue with that logic. I was born missing my left hand and haven’t taken my prosthetic off in public since I’d gotten it two years ago. It can’t get wet. Maybe it was something in the air or Zara’s way of convincing me to do whatever or the 5 bottles of rosé, but for whatever reason, I rip off my prosthetic and plunge into the pool.
“This is the blue dark, this is what Lana Del Rey was talking about,” Zara muses, backstroking towards the stars.
A few hours before, we were having a civilized drink at the bar with a reveler named Jules we had met at The Dinah Shore the day before. For those of you who don’t know, The Dinah Shore is like the lesbian adult Disney and: the happiest place on earth.
A few hours later, I’m strewn across a lounge chair in my damp bra and underwear, without a care in the world that my $80,000 prosthetic is carelessly hanging out on a bar stool next to Zara and I’s Chanel purse. (We share custody.)
I light up a cigarette even though I don’t smoke, but I feel like Lana would want me to right now. And much like good Christians adhere to What Would Jesus Do, my mantra, especially when drunk, is What Would Lana Do?
And somehow, through the cigarette smoke and chlorine and rosé and blue dark and mountain air and rich moms and tan kids and tattooed socialites, Jules’ mouth finds mine. I only met her two hours ago, but we kiss like she’s my long lost husband returning from war. Zara is distractedly fiddling with her phone and making an Instagram story.
We’re all piled onto the same lounge chair, ceremoniously sharing one cigarette, although we seem to have magically acquired a pack. I picture Lana handing them to us with her long acrylic nails, but suspect they were really from the creepy guys trying to hit on us, who now sit on the lounge chair with us, sporting their backwards hats and vodka sodas.
“We’re lesbiansssss,” I hiss, which is super out of character because I will flirt with anyone (I’m a Leo). Jules and I keep sloppily kissing while Zara facetimes her wife and the boys eye us hungrily. Nasty.
They cheer and watch and presumably hope to join but it quickly becomes apparent this isn’t for them. It isn’t really for us either as we are way too drunk and might as well be kissing the slobbering mini yorkie in a rich woman’s Louis Vuitton next to us. I’m surprised the chair hasn’t crushed under the weight of us aggressively smashing our faces together, of Z furiously typing, and these guys just, well, existing. I accidentally burn my thigh while passing the cigarette to Zara. She then passes it to imaginary Lana (she drops it).
The boys move. Zara scared them away with a feminist rant. I love that for her. I picture them stealing my prosthetic, posing with it for Instagram pics, or stealing our Chanel and selling it for cocaine.
The beautiful and terrifying thing about being drunk, like drunkety drunk drunk, is that the night plays like a highlight reel. One minute Jules and I are kissing in the blue dark, then the next Zara and I are getting another carafe of rosé.
The only time I take off my prosthetic is to sleep, shower, work out, and have sex. It is incredibly vulnerable to remove it in front of this chic and rich crowd. But the equally beautiful and terrifying thing about being drunk is that you just don’t give a fuck about anything. I don’t give a fuck that I’m in my bra and panties, armless, sauntering into the blue water, into the blue dark. I feel electric. Too electric, like I can’t be contained. I understand what Whitman meant when he said we contain multitudes. I contain multitudes of wine and Jules’ saliva.
Zara and I are in a very, very long Uber ride into Pioneertown. Lana Del Rey: the musical. Americana personified. A bold move as we have a flight to catch in a few hours. But we are reckless with wonder, with abandon, with the desert, with $300 worth of Ace Hotel rosé.
The Paradise album blares as we sip tequila from water bottles and let our hands dangle and dance out the car windows. Our fingers surf the air as we speed through sand. The next hour is a blur of mountains and Harley Davidsons.
Pappy and Harriet’s is filled with biker daddies and strung out girls. There is a band playing Born To Be Wild. We order ribs. Zara is no longer a vegetarian. There are no rules in the desert. Where is Jules?
Flash. Jules’ fingers under my dress. Flash.
Outside surrounded by tumbleweeds and stars. Flash.
Back to palm trees. Airport security.
Flash. Dousing ourselves in glitter in the bathroom.
We’re in platform pink jelly sandals. I’m in a mini dress that says come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be. Zara’s in a neon cheetah two piece set. We either look mentally ill or iconic, or both.
We traipse through the desert, passing the abandoned movie set that is Pioneertown. We know it’s a movie set, but for some reason, we go along with the delusion that it’s an authentic artifact. We feed into the compulsive liar and actress in both of us when we drink. It’s one of the reasons we are best friends.
“Who do you think stayed here?” I ask while trailing a red manicured finger along a motel door, posing for no one in particular.
“The same cowboys that used to drink here,” Zara muses selfie-ing in front of a saloon.
The stars seem to multiply in the sky.
New York is far away. Mountains and motorcycles. Lights and liquor. Sequins and sweat. We don’t want this night to end.
And maybe it won’t, because there is zero fucking cell service in Pioneertown. I mean, we are literally in the middle of the desert. There are no Ubers coming to get us. No man’s land. No woman’s land. Not even a daddy on a Fatboy stops to offer us a ride.
Our phones are dying. Our buzz is wearing off. So we drink more– which is clearly more important than charging our phones. Another thing about being drunk is you feel no fear. We have no sense of urgency as the night creeps closer to our flight. I have no sense of my usual shyness when I sweet talk the hostess into driving us to the airport. Our inevitable future of sleeping on the side of the road, missing our flight, and getting eaten by rattlesnakes evaporates. We fuzzily hand the hostess fistfuls of $20s, and slur I love yous. We follow her on Instagram. Jules texts me that she’s still at The Ace and we should come back because the boys are getting bottle service.
Flash. A man argues with his wife while their daughter sadly trails behind them, sunburnt and neglected.
Flash. I’m hypnotized: I don’t care that Jules tastes like sweat and chlorine (and kind of like fritos?), or that my spray tan is leaking all over her white bikini.
Flash. We’ve made it through airport security. We’re soaking wet. Somehow Zara and I have switched outfits. Thank god my prosthetic is safely fastened back on to my arm. “Did you have fun tonight? Went swimming?” the TSA agent rolls her eyes at me as she swabs my prosthetic for gun powder or whatever. My bikini drips onto the floor and I fetch my pink jelly sandals from the x ray machine thingy.
Our flight is canceled. We could’ve stayed in the desert, and it wouldn’t have mattered. When we realize there are no more flights until tomorrow, we call an Uber back to The Ace, back to the blue dark, back to the night.