"Abandon hope all ye who enter here" is not scrawled in blood on the side of the Waverly condo at Lake Eola, but as the glass door swings open, surely the desperate handprint smudges of failed exits prior can't be a good sign. This tower of glass-paned transparency, after all, isn't the Chemical Bank of Bret Easton Ellis' blankly vituperative American Psycho, nor is it a nosebleed-stained postcard from the glorious, emotionless '80s. I check my yellow plastic watch. I check my bleached and blurred reflection. Well, maybe it is.
"We're here for Neil on the fourth floor," Yanki peers down his nose at the security guard, who, it should be said, doesn't really seem to care one whole eye-roll who or what we're here for.
"Do you know how to find the pool?" she glazes over.
"That's where he is."
Yanki and I pour ourselves, our grocery bags full of liquor and fried chicken, and our dignity into a mirrored elevator and press "C" for club level. We are going somewhere. He should know. He's been in this club before.
"I can remember when there were no security guards here," he offers a brief shot of nostalgia devoid of concern. In fact, Yanki, a successful attorney, can remember a lot of things, not the least of which being the good times spent scaling the outer pale-blue concrete waves of the Waverly architecture in fits of inebriated invincibility. He used to have a corner apartment — back when they were apartments — and rues the day that he was greeted with a noisy next-door neighbor. A conversation about the social ills of communal living follows, with both of us reaching a tacit agreement that communal living is in no way desirable for the modern man. Privacy is key.
Outside on the pool deck, the stage is set for an afternoon of lazy entitlement. Our group of successful 30-somethings, led by Neil, a real ladies' man, has congealed into a leisurely formation, gathering its sunbathing conviviality around the swimming pool's central tent structure and making it their own. There are peers and colleagues noted in their absence, though; some are out of town for the Labor Day holiday, others are contemplating dermatological lawsuits for facial surgery errors and therefore avoiding the punishing glances of the hovering fireball of eternal truth.
"Seriously, if that's true then I'll need to document it," I explain to finance professional David, who has just let me in on the lowdown.
"It is," he briefs. "And you should."
There is small talk and there is serenity; some discussion of the wrongness of khaki as a color trips over discussion of my bloodied toenail, itself having tripped over a fan in the dark of the previous night. There are quiet judgments and cautious smiles. In the background, the distant percolations of the Bee Gees evoke lifestyle choices nobody's really choosing anymore. David stands up to leave with his girlfriend and her girlfriend.
"Where are you going?" I snap my head toward their exit.
"Where do you think we're going?" a knowing squint comes back.
In the elevator, the girls in their bikinis are giggling the precise giggles of those grainy beachside recollections that appear when a knuckle presses my eyelid into my eye. I look over into the mirror I'm pressed against and see a dark, endless terrain.
"You know, I think Huey Lewis' Sports is completely overrated," my lips part. "For me, it's always going to be Fore!"
David looks confused. I explain to him that upstairs in Neil's condo unit I fully intend to further expound upon the virtues of "Stuck With You" and "Hip to Be Square" when placed in the shadow of "I Want a New Drug," but first there will be hookers and there will be blood, probably accompanied by sexual pursuits and mirrored walls. It will be fun.
There aren't, and it isn't. Instead, it's a bizarre world of windowed walls and balconies, white carpet and about 20 pairs of shoes inexplicably paired just inside the front door. There will be a questionable cigarette and some more giggling, more giggling, more giggling. Neil, who is a successful Australian, keeps Vegemite in his refrigerator. In our collective incredulity, the girls decide it will be hilarious to put a Post-it reading "gross" on its lid, even funnier to put another one crumpled up inside. It is. Also funny is rearranging all of his shoes on the way out the door.
"Put the flip-flops under the boots," one girl giggles. "He'll never find them."
Back outside there's been a shift; it's as if the acts have changed in a particularly binary theater arc, and but for our self-imposed intermission, there would be no explaining why. Somebody buff and wet with a football permanently attached to his hand has provided his own iPod dock, resplendent with its own Hot-Chip-by-way-of-My-Morning-Jacket sonic tourism. A large group of presumed homosexuals, each with exactly one tribal tattoo, has gathered in a collective bronzed frown at the opposite side of the pool. An Asian girl pouts and removes her wrap, but not her large Gucci sunglasses. Somebody hands me a grilled sausage in a hot-dog bun. There is conflict in the air.
"I think it's probably best that I go," I dictate to everyone and no one. "I'm suddenly very tired."
And on the way out, there is not a sign above the doors covered by red velvet drapes reading (in red letters matching the drapes), "THIS IS NOT AN EXIT." Why? Because this email@example.com