Sometimes, you're better off dead when you're staring at an ice cube reflecting at your head. Refracting through one of the frozen water cubes in my pricey vodka potable at the moment are various scenes of black-on-black wildlife and nipple-free lady torsos, oversized against the vaulted mahogany of a lifestyle proffered by transient wealth. There is crab dip. There is an iPhone on the bar. There are the cozy comforts of live smooth jazz and laptop lawyer meetings with papers strewn across tables; a falsified, untenable otherness of sorts, and I don't know who I am anymore. Then the ice cube cracks.
"Wow, you've got a nice rack!" slips out of my pursed lips, past the ample breasts of the bartender Ivy and into her ears.
"I've known you forever, Billy," she smiles through her eyes. "You've been at every rock show I don't remember. Remember Bauhaus?"
"Not really, but there was coke involved."
Such is the scene at our downtown pause in the Grand Bohemian bar. David, Justin and I have convened for an evening intended to go nowhere, a lifestyle choice of peace and quiet meant to deflect any ingrown hairs of social interaction in favor of a No-Drama-Obama sip-and-sigh without any threat of a story arc. We are frozen eggs in a carton, separated but packaged as one. At my age, I could learn to love this. We are going nowhere.
"Well, with the economy going like it is," David shatters the stationary shell with a temporal flip of his topical fancy, and all of the sudden the story is set into yolky motion. "Oh, no. Billy's on his Game Boy," meaning my iPhone. "Wait, are you tweeting?"
"Did you know that Betty Draper was just at her horse-riding lesson?" I Twitter-follow Mad Men. "Isn't that fascinating?"
Over at the other end of the bar, a cherry-faced heart attack of a man is regaling a semi-fuckable meathead and a former beauty queen about television history, unintentionally making it all look like something to avoid.
"I remember when it was Steve Allen instead of Johnny Carson, heh, heh, cough, cough, heh!" he boulevards his broken dreams. "Where are you kids from?"
"OK, then," David's eyes bulge. "Where are we going?"
"I'm going there," I Pet Shop Boy via British film veteran Joss Ackland. "But I like it here, wherever it is." I am always on my mind.
Inevitably, such cribbed (and pop-culturally obscure) existentialism only has one remedy, that being putting boot to pavement on the after-hours downtown crawl. If you close your eyes and go nowhere, you're bound to end up at Bar-BQ-Bar anyway.
"You should invite Defame Orlando," David lowers the brow even farther.
A text to the 3 a.m. red phone of She Who Hates Everything brings back the response, "It's only 10. God, you're old," or something, quite possibly followed by Paintbox web scribbles of "gross," or "gross," or "gross."
Our slip into the now is soon populated by a couple of friends from the scooter brigade, a fixed-gear personage or two and the leggy spite of Defame herself. It's as if we've purchased a miniature scene posse to make us look like we belong. Now, if only my jeans were skinnier.
Hello, tragic. It's me, tragic.
Our scene-grab does pay off, though, when into the forced vignette stumbles Andrew, a miniature Seann William "Stifler" Scott in an ironic jean jacket. He's adorable, not in that I-want-to-own-you-and-buy-you-things kind of way, but rather a you-would-look-great-in-my-pocket-and-be-fun-to-employ-for-coffee-table-dances-at-surprise-tea-parties manner. It goes without saying that in the presence of me and Defame, he doesn't stand a chance.
"So, what do you do?" he bends his never-ending smile into the shape of words.
"Well, mostly I'm just gay," I drop a handbag from my mouth. "Sometimes I write about it."
"Oh, that's awesome," he just doesn't stop. "I'm new in town and I work for Gatorade. We've been looking for ways to market to you people. But I don't know what you guys like besides bananas and rainbow sherbet!"
"Bend over and I'll show you," I pull out an imaginary banana and smear it with sherbet. "Just kidding. We like to rape boys like you."
The conversation only makes my head that much blurrier, and that feeling that our journey has yet to meet its destination kicks in. David, a man of high finance, has already erased his 4 a.m. gym trip from his agenda, and Justin is, well, still young, so within an instant, we're resigned to hangover self-destruction. Our hairlines are figuratively pro-ceding.
"Well, I'm on the list for Tricky over at Firestone," I 1997. "We could trip, then hop!"
And so we do, meandering our way down a presumptive big city avenue to the ketamine destination of my youth. But, like most drunken good ideas, it backfires the moment we force my credentials through the door.
On stage, a shirtless Tricky is going through the motions of something about "Jesus," "Jesus" and "Jesus," while an awkward girl in a too-tight-for-her-age dress warbles nonesuch over his dirge. The half-capacity audience is bobbing its collective head in a manner that suggests more of an attempt at, than actual, collective enjoyment. And within moments, I'm belly to the bar with Pom of Pom Pom's, bemoaning my financial fallout while sucking down a brown-colored mind-eraser. Blech.
Purple-haired ubiquity Mendi Cowles, also an old-timer of forgotten rock shows, allows her ear to be bent about my old friend Skotty, who died last year from an excess of brown-colored mind erasers, and then commiserates with David about their shared friend Mona, who also lost her life a couple of years ago. Our uninspired fake has effectively morphed into a poorly soundtracked wake.
Sometimes you are better off dead. Or at least standing still, in the firstname.lastname@example.org