Sometimes you get caught in a moment, whether it's yours to embody or not. The lights dim to a dull yellow, a glass clinks with another off in the distance, a rose petal dances in the smoke-filled air before lighting on the top of your rouged cheekbone, and suddenly you're Bad Girl Donna Summer, dripping in lace and ambivalence as the night spreads its legs in front of you. A throbbing Moroder beat signals imminent predation of the 1979 kind, the warmth of polyester-packed body weight shifts rhythmically from side to side, and fuck those dishes because I just got three new ounces of Charlie and they've got "tonight" written all over them. Toot toot. Yeah. Beep beep.
It can be a little overwhelming.
"I've just turned into my mother, for lack of a better muse," I greet Tony-in-a-tie at the door with a stiff cocktail tumbler and some plated spanakopita. "Dim All the Lights" is blaring at the maximum volume. "I am now, and shall forever be, a drunk single mom awash in the sexual opportunities of the gas crisis."
"I can't thank you enough for that paperback copy of Fear of Flying, Carol," Tony settles into my soundtracked role play. "I nearly never left the bathtub!"
Admittedly, it's a bumpy ride down the press-on nails lining my cliff of time-machine insanity, but Tony's hip to my bordering-on-maudlin eccentricity flare-ups and well-equipped to endure the storm. Within a few acclimating moments, any and all souvenirs of present-time Internet immediacy have rattled their way out the door atop a savage disco melody line, dissipating in that great night with whatever inhibitions or reservations were borne of them. We're now just a couple of hot-tempered office ladies with neon "singles bar" signs for eyes.
"Just do like I told you. Put out a little and you're a shoo-in for that head teller position."
This, we collectively couch-bounce while surmising, is how it should be. A birth control pill next to an electric back massager in the top drawer of the nightstand, 27 itching dollars in small bills to rub between us, and purses full of car payment coupons to selectively leave lying on bars in anticipation of full rides. Some hot Italian named Vincent from the dealership has been lingering a little long over his deposits lately, saw him out at the Red Diamond last week, says he wants your number.
This, after all, is what feels right.
"I think we're about to be rather disappointed," my mouth approximates an amplified needle deeply scratching the surface of a vinyl promise. "Because once we leave this imaginary apartment illuminated only by the suggestive glow of an imported Löwenbräu lion lamp, it is going to be now."
The "ooh-ooh-oohs" of "Last Dance" are a little more poignant than they should be. The wafts of body oils blended with perfume puffs are giving way to the dry stench of burnt hot dogs at Comiskey Park, a "Disco Sucks" bonfire sparking a new conservative connectivity of hot air and cold balloons. There is nowhere for this to go but down, or rather, Republican.
"I bet that Jimmy Carter is going to be out of office after just one term," Tony spits up a sad peanut in the car.
It's true. We have hit that wall of the '80s, the thatch of Thatcher and the gun of Reagan, with the garbage-strike panic of a failed pregnancy test. Tonight's reality is completely drained of any come-hither anticipation. Tonight's reality is a suspicious new gay night on Church Street downtown.
"The Republic is the birth of an entirely new night out for the boys. This night will be: excessive, exorbitant, extravagant, fancy and more than swank. What it won't be is: cheap, inexpensive, low-priced, moderate or reasonable," the preceding Facebook page clumsily thesaurized, adding the caveat: "no drag shows."
What it will be is immediately superfluous upon entry into the oak-heavy showroom of Club 23; what it is is a nightmarish vacuum. The few signs of life present betray a world of hair plugs and credit cards, $400 jeans and vacant stares, an unseemliness on the wrong side of seediness. The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" assembly-lines its inherent lie about a "good, good night" while a lawyer's pompadour makes out with an ass-revealing slip dress.
"This is Republican disco," I borrow a line from Smash Hits.
The less said about our 90 minutes at Republic the better — that you can't build a gay night on a closeted theme, that you really should prepare a little better and force your friends to come before midnight on a Tuesday, that you shouldn't staff your bar with breast implants, that maybe it's not a good idea to have a curtained-off VIP area in an 800-square-foot room when there's nobody in attendance, and, um, fuck you — as it won't last.
"Well, I just rehung the pictures in the bathroom," Tony dismounts the toilets.
"No, they were all hanging upside down. They must have thought it would be hip."
Back at my house, the party's over. The Löwenbräu lamp is now tucked away in some rental storage unit, the keys to which are lost somewhere in the bottom of a crystal bowl of pills. Donna Summer, along with her custom line of Halston gold-wear, has been slipped back into her glossy reissue digipak to find Jesus and never matter again.
In her place, a new icy stillness of sociopolitical defeatism fills the room with resentment.
"Everybody needs love and adventure/Everybody needs cash to spend/Everybody needs love and affection/Everybody needs two or three friends," The Human League Dares us to pick up the pieces and move on.
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