At that fractured instant dangling in between "I'm an idiot" and "I'm going nowhere," like a choking participle or a day-old dingleberry, a light flashes over my corneas in such a way that it cannot be ignored: a small reminder of existence, if you will, in the form of an ironic diversion. There's an Evite in my in-box — which in and of itself is the most passive-aggressive form of communication known to man — and it reads, I'm so not lying here, "Mary Nguyen of WFTV Channel 9 has sent you an Evite Invitation."
Mary Nguyen of WFTV Channel 9 has sent Billy Manes of Orlando Weekly an Evite invitation? Mary Nguyen, the first Asian-American to win Teen Magazine's Miss Teenage America, the UCLA communications graduate, has stretched her virtual pageant arm across the media albatross — thereby transcending the decades-old schism between mere alternative print and superstar televised media — to welcome me to her fold, like a professional insider? Is she giving me her crown? Am I the new Miss Teenage America?
I click, fingernails giddy with anticipation.
"Join me for happy hour on Wednesday, Sept. 20 at the Beacon to benefit Cystic Fibrosis!"
Oh, but I haven't got a cyst to wear! Ouch.
Realizing that jokes about diseases are not funny, even in the unfortunate context of a "happy hour!" (yes they are), and that jokes about fiber are just gross, I do what comes third naturally and pull out my giant Hypochondriac's Dictionary for Those Who Like to Drink and turn to "C," only to find the word "fatal" next to a picture of a woman's swollen hand, fingernails miserable with fear. I've never felt so happy in my whole death.
Traversing the downtown condo metaphoria of Beacons and Sanctuaries, barely able to locate my Vue, I arrive a few minutes late, noting that in an odd twist the Beacon is within the Sanctuary, which is enough to make me spin around until I feel dizzy and religious.
None of which is enough to remove the sting of being charged $20 at the door, being assured that there is an open bar, ordering a Grey Goose and Sprite and being charged $8 for it.
"Just so you know," snides the blond bartendress. "For your next one, you can try this vodka," pointing out some dive-bar rotgut with a red label. "It's free."
A couple of nasty, loose-collared, salt & pepper lawyers shove me out of their finger-food, bar-slouching realm and into a giant, poorly placed pillar covered in pinky, pearly, bumpy wallpaper. In addition to feeling like I've been violated in Pamela Anderson's bathroom, my head-knock resurfaces last night's pinky pearly dream.
In a nutshell, I was unable to sit up (giant board on chest, whatever), relegated to that in-between space of sleep and wake, when a surprisingly radiant — angelic, even — gypsy-garbed Britney Spears grabbed my hand and led me out of the room and toward a harem cave. To get in, I had to climb these bright orange and red coils of sand that made up an unlikely stair setup. The sand squished between my toes. Britney totally understood. Once inside, Britney started telling me everything that there is to know about life and science in a sweet and level voice, all the while acknowledging that it was my mind from which she was culling her facts and not Wikipedia, and she wanted me to know that I was actually very smart.
"Then why do I always act so stupid?" I whimpered.
"I think we both know why," she whispers. And then, and then ….
"Oh, no, not you!" Jim Faherty slaps me back to Pam Anderson. "You outed me! I've kissed you more than I've ever kissed any man. If I could ever have a boyfriend, it would be this guy."
Past Faherty, Beacon partner Jason Lambert swoops over and introduces me to communications gal Keree, who offers me a tour of the boobalicious bathroom fare, taking me directly to the centerpiece: a chain-mail room divider that is apparently cutting-edge in the bar world, and very Las Vegas. Lambert and I pose for a photographer, pulling aside the metal curtains to reveal smugly Orlando grins, while around the room girls struggle to keep their shirts on while cokehead lawyers attempt to legalize pulling them off while wiping their noses. Mary Nguyen flits around the room like she's still a winning teen, waving and swooping her hair from side to side. I feel too deep in it, and pull away back to my giant misplaced Britney pillar. That's where I meet Rebecca, a marketing ally of Faherty's. She has dark hair and a smart face, and clearly hates this as much as I do.
"It looks like somebody ordered South Beach," I blither. "But was mis-shipped a double order of Naples."
"Yeah, I think I can hear the ocean," she conchs.
"There are exactly 45 girls in here named Misty," I abacus. "And all of them have hair the same color as their skin."
"I hate Misty."
Rebecca and I take to behaving like any back-of-the-class goth sluts would, and initiate our own desperation mingle. A resurrection of the old standby, the "boyfriend game," is in order — the one where you try to find a hot guy, pretend to stand girlfriend next to him and act like you're ready to leave and you're totally going to break up with him if he doesn't come NOW! — but in a crowd like this, finding a host is hard. Over here? A belly. Over there? Botox. Right there? A toupee.
Then, out of nowhere, a potential filet of urban masculine perfection enters the room. What's more, he breezes right by us, scuffing both of our pointed shoulders. He's asking for it! He's the boyfriend! He's … he's … he's. He's going directly to a wall mirror to straighten his own hair in a bar. Soiled again!
"Do you want to go somewhere else and get a drink?" Rebecca deflates.
"Like where?" I rhetorically frown, possibly at all of dying Orlando night life. I'm going nowhere. I'm an firstname.lastname@example.org