Gin and tonics are known to cause hallucinations. Gabe and I start the night at The Thai Cafe. It is neither good nor trendy nor cheap. We are drunk and loud and the waiters all hate us. And yet we always find ourselves here. We order Thai Long Island Iced Teas, which are neither good nor trendy nor cheap. But one gets you drunk enough to take on the night. Too bad we never have just one. It is a Tuesday night on the Lower East Side, circa 2013. I had just broken up with my first real girlfriend and I would’ve probably already tried to slit my wrists if I had two hands.
After we slam back two TLIITs, Gabe decides we should cancel the Pad Thai we ordered, because “tonight is skinny.” As if we weren’t already making the worst decision since pretending to get engaged to one another, we order gin and tonics.
“Excuuuseee me, mmiiiisss? I love what you’re wearing.” I know Gabe is lit when he starts dragging out every word like silly putty. And when he compliments a straight woman wearing a straight-up hideous outfit. He’s such a bitch and I love it. Next up is a party in the basement of Acme. Gabe knows I’m drunk when I try to speak to Sophia Lamar in Spanish. She’s wearing a super kinky school girl dress with a floppy hat. She’s known for being nasty, on top of a complete icon. We both know she’s drunk when she’s nice to me.
After clinking champers with hot bearded gay men and skinny Asian models, Gabe whisks me off to a “sound exhibit” which just plays audio of a car crash over and over. Lady Starlight, dressed in a marching band costume, idly spins on a record player. Rob Roth dresses as a werewolf covered in glitter and sings “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” on repeat, striking himself with a violin. I desperately hold back laughter, thinking of all the saddest things I can possibly muster. You’re an orphan, both of your beloved dogs just died, the entire city is under attack, dead babies, I silently repeat to myself, trying to somber myself to no avail.
“The audience is blown away,” one cloaked platinum blonde gay man tweets as I read over his shoulder.
“Breathtaking…” I hear murmurs of wannabe club kids behind me. Probably art students from Long Island, much like me, looking for an escape. I finally get it together when I see that Gabe is genuinely spellbound. I practically worship him, so if he thinks this shit show is cool, so do I.
The entire scene is basically an SNL skit of modern art and underground NYC culture, and I feel cool AF for being there, finally straightening my grin and nodding enthusiastically at a man dressed in a latex suit, playing a trumpet out of tune.
“Take a picture with Susanne,” Gabe ushers me closer to the nightlife queen herself. I am with relevant enough people that she pretends to be gracious to recognize me. Her black eyeliner traces like a beautiful spiderweb around her dark eyes.
I already concoct what I’ll be writing for my creative writing class tomorrow. “So New York,” my professor would muse. I’d smirk at all the school shooter looking white boys in my class. Smug that I’m writing about real experiences instead of wizards or whatever the fuck it is virgins write about. I’d sit with my smudged eyeliner and feel cool for being hungover, but too much of a pussy to sip the vodka I brought in a Starbucks cup to class. I’m finally not writing about my ex-girlfriend, which my professor gently suggested I stop.
Coming out of my fantasy about my creative writing class, I start to panic that I’m not cool enough. My outfit is stupid. My hair is dumb. I check my top at the coat check and wear my fur over my lace bra. I still feel acutely, painfully self conscious. I want to lose control so I don’t over analyze, and reveal myself as the wannabe student 20 year old. I don’t like to fully lose control, except for that one time I did molly at Electric Zoo. I smear Coven, light purple lipstick, over my bright red lipstick. It looks kind of like diarrhea but I am so lit I think it looks like high fashion. Shit lips.
A gin and tonic. A manhattan. A shot. A kiss. A line. Vic’s. Pinks. The Pyramid Club. Jerome’s. Good times.
Someone who supposedly works for the Haus Of Gaga asks where my other hand is. I say “I got hungry,” and the bar erupts in coked-out laughter. A man wearing blue lipstick, who I was sure was gay, grabs my ass and asks if I’d like to sleep with him and his wife. I say no but accept a drink. I need another drink like a hole in the head. Amanda Lepore looks like beautiful wax. I grasp Gabe’s black painted nails and both our chests glisten with glitter.
“You’re the queen of f*cking Manhattan,” Gabe pats my tits and lights a cigarette. I feel like I’m in a scene that I had been writing in my head since I was 11. Bad girl in the big city. I was finally skinny for once in my life. Woke up one morning no longer giving a fuck. My life, for a straight year, played out like these sentences. Staccato. Random. Relentless. Dizzying. Trying too hard. But still free.
Old New York has been gone for a while, since before I was even 18, when I was still watching Nickelodeon and drinking juice boxes, but I pretend to viscerally reminisce on it. The grit. Beat poets, drugs, backroom sex, beautiful, dirty, rich. Now I’ll walk through the LES and exclaim, “it never used to be like this! Now it’s all frat guys and Instagram influencers.” Like when my dad drives through Bushwick, where I live, and yells in a thick Italian accent, “this used to be blown out like f*cking Beirut! You couldn’t even get a cup of cawffee here.”
5 am nears and I’ve already concluded that I’m taking a $200 Uber home instead of the Long Island Railroad. I drunkenly got locked in the bathroom on my last train pilgrimage and I’m so not in the mood. Let my card overdraft, I think, fuck it. Glamorous 20 year old logic.
A burlesque dancer manically fingers her vagina and squirts into shot glasses. I forgot to mention that we have sailed through the gin river to my favorite club, The Box. Gabe eyes me, and we clink and drink. I make a mental note to Google if I can get STDs from a shot glass that’s been squirted in.
And, like every other night, my mind drifts back to Grace. “Faded” by ZHU plays. The bass vibrates my boobs and the lyrics hit a little too close to home. All the pretty girls at our table get up and dance on stage, getting covered in dayglow bubbles. I stay still in a drunken haze, feeling ugly, sad, and out of place. After all, alcohol is a depressant. The time to leave has come and passed. I think of my father saying nothing good happens after midnight.
Grace and I went out every night when we were together. We were Long Island club rats, and we loved it. I especially missed her whenever I heard house music — it reminded me of the time I licked whipped cream off her chest at the bar and won a dildo. We were so in love in grimey clubs. It was as if the light of day cast too harshly on our lives, and we had to escape to the night to be ourselves.
I order another gin and tonic to quell my sappy thoughts. We’ve all been there — thinking you could out drink a person. I was almost here — each time I skipped a line, each time I got a free drink, each time I sat at an exclusive table, breathing the same air as burnt-out legendary club kids– I escaped in the same way we initially did. It all felt like a beautiful mistake. A gorgeous mess. That’s what partying makes you feel: like everything is fake. Nothing can really touch you when you’re on a NYC party circuit high– you drink enough to drown a small child, you desperately miss someone awful for you, you’re in school for creative writing and convinced you’ll never get a job — but it all becomes a distant abstraction under the strobe lights.
Now a performer is lighting her penis on fire dressed as Anna Wintour. She shits on stage. I know it’s fake because I’m friends with her, but how fake is it really if it’s coming out of her ass? A finance guy gets a blowjob on the bench next to me. Seats are hard to come by at the box. I refuse to get up. I sip someone else’s champagne. I’m wearing a dog collar and tight black pants and I look like everyone else.
I want to go home desperately. I tear at the thought of my bed and my schnauzer. It all seems so far away even though I could easily call any of my codependent Italian family members to come pick me up.
The music seems to get louder and louder and I think of this “Goosebumps” book I used to masturbate to in the children’s section of the library when I was in elementary school. I remember this scene where all these teens got trapped in a car and the radio got louder and louder and they couldn’t escape and their eardrums burst and they bled to death.
I head to the bathroom, fantasizing about slipping off my towering stilettos (Long Island girls were late to the memo that heels aren’t cool). A woman in a gown is fumbling through her Chanel clutch. She’s as beautiful as a painting, maybe because she’s not real. Gin and tonics are known to cause hallucinations.
She’s wearing a lace mask and reaches out for my ass. “How beautiful,” she muses, as if she was picking up an expensive scarf at Neiman Marcus. I like being regarded as a beautiful object. I want to say thank you, show some form of recognition, but my pure wasted-ness is hitting me hard and I get lost on a loop of my reflection and water splashing over my hands. She follows me into a bathroom stall. I guess I can’t puke in peace.
Everything is spinning now. She gives me the most sensual caress. I think she must be on molly because she just keeps tracing her hands around my ass cheeks like a child finger painting. Somehow this feels sexier than sex, like she is worshipping my ass.
I think of Grace. You can try and outrun your pain, but that bitch is fast. So why not have fun while you’re hurting? You can hook up with a random stranger and drink vaginal secretions in shot glasses all while missing her. The masked stranger twirls my hair. Our mouths near one another’s, air full of hot breath and champagne and saliva. Our tongues dance. Then the moment passes.