It was one of those weeks. Not one to be lost in well-restedness and routine, but to be remembered as soothingly inflamed, delicately engulfing, connectedly disengaging, pulsating with the heart of complex carnival. Delirium — aloof stages of drunkenness woven into ill-apportioned stages of sleep, feeding blood to a heart that isn’t just beating to survive, but rather, to imbibe in a different kind of chemical delusion of the mind.
Love, unattainable. A mental paradise, protected in a fantastic globe, unshattered by the reality of a ride unreined, bound to slow to a steady stop and pull.
In it, I found myself, not craving sleep, but the snip of the puppet strings. I knew I should have spent that Thursday in bed, melting into the sheets with a cup of Fit Tea and the newest episode of Teen Mom. Instead, I put on my stripper heels, Badlands, and my bravest face, practicing rants to him as I paced back in forth in a kitchen of nothing but Cholula and Bacardi. Click, clack. Each step became the soundtrack of the digital clock above the oven falling late. Treading water to a steady stroke. I was swimming in waters of passions that needed to be indulged. Surely, I would hit shore by about 6:00 AM.
But hitting solid ground only meant being faced with madness, paralysis. Day turned into night and night became a stumbling block for all that I simultaneously sought to embrace and suppress. All the dizzying visions–succulent and shameful–I hung from, cutting the cord in a chase for normalcy violated by the absence of a buffer.
“Just me,” I said to the bouncer, fully empty.
The same condition seemed to have fallen on the bar. One girl behind it, two girls perched on the corner, and the ubiquitous family in the corner that had overestimated the quality of the table service. I was far from disappointed, embracing my freedom to revel in longing amongst the tea candles and vintage glass tiles, elegance masking attitudes running concurrently with the surrounding frat-catered brick boxes.
I, in stark contrast to my loveless self, was ready to howl about my troubles rather than carry on like a brain stem rooted in a different dimension who just happened to have grips on a glass in the present. I joined the corner, where rosé was being being served out of an ice bucket three times the price of the bottle. The bartender’s expression lifted as she placed a second on ice.
Like me, she was part of the small neighborhood contingency — not tanned, toned, petite, like the college girls bused in from Dallas towering on every corner, making me feel so small at my high heights. But even within our mangy pack, there’s a rainbow of internalized neuroticism hidden underneath strings of black hair. This shade of gray was word vomit about how the rains the day prior had caused her to waste calories on soup and cereal despite a clear night giving way to an unsuspected stromboli. I shifted, losing my passing bout of extroversion, withdrawing into my wine.
Meanwhile, the two girls on the corner ran their mouths one in the same. Their hair was chopped just below the shoulder and sweaters slouched off sharp shoulders. It was the Glossier look I’m too ugly to pull off myself, but will gladly stare at for a while. As they revealed themselves to be twins conjoined by shared schools and living spaces, I only grew more envious, longing for the summer prior I had spent with my sister. I meditated on the hours spent but never lost, conjuring visions of some other dimly lit bar amongst other dimly-lit dives in Baltimore, discussing every detail of every move of the men we thought were everything — a self-indulgent hell only to be inflicted on willing family.
But, I accepted that It wasn’t on the list of accepted new bar friend conversation topics, so instead, I entertained the slightly slurring duo’s questions about tattoo acceptance, trying to reassure myself that behind every freak show there is a web of curiosity and respect. I was just starting to bob for air when I was thrown a bone.
“God, we watched, like, the best movie last night,” said the twin on the right. Her sister had wandered off to the bathroom, but she spoke as if she was still sitting right there. “It was about this clown who, like, was fucking his kind-of sister but they weren’t blood-related, but it was still weird. But weird in a cool way, you know?”
“Oh, I know,” I said with a laugh.
She didn’t take it as lightly, looking up from her absent phone scrolling, eyes meeting for the first time all night.
“Watch it by yourself. Or with someone you really know. Like, I watched it with her,” she said, gesturing towards the cardigan-draped seat beside her. “It would be, like awkward, with a big group of people, you know? There are some scenes that are really, like, fucked up, and you need to be able to focus on it.”
“Ahhh, got it,” I said, tilting my head back and throwing my gaze half-massed, as if I found doing anything alone to be a novel concept.
As I found myself burning out on a day spent trying to make sense of silent signals, I decided that finally doing Netflix in bed would be the much-needed plot twist to One of Those Weeks. But just as I got up to go, two young men came in to stay.
Kassidy looked at me and then at the non-DJ Khaled-looking one, smiling coyly.
Khaled went to go greet his buddies that had emerged on the opposite side of the bar, leaving his G-Eazy counterpart in my personal company. He told me my eyes were beautiful.
My bottle of rosé turned into two. He struggled to sip an IPA. But I didn’t mind. It was endearing, in his own way. I learned he had just gotten in from Orlando to attend law school, his spirit clearly not yet weighed down by Westlaw and the weather conditions of a clogged toilet. It was as if I was looking at myself two months prior, fresh off the tarmac in Kenner, ready to run every last street in the city there was to run.
Candlelight flickering in eyes, we bonded over common ground of freshly-emerging law careers, the validation of escaping our hometowns, and our hatred of our driver’s license pictures — it seemed as though I had stumbled into a first date I never recalled making.
“Can you believe how red my fucking face looks?” he snarled, ripping plastic out of his wallet.
“Psh, that’s nothing,” I said, squeezing his leg. “I have brown hair, sperm eyebrows, gypsy sister earrings, and my eyes look like I just left the Kottonmouth show.”
“Hey, at least that’ll come in handy if you ever get pulled over high.”
We took a second to hold a warm stare before putting tabs to bed.
As I struggled to regain my sea legs on the street stoop, he walked firmly on solid ground close behind. He asked if I wanted to go back to his place. I turned to hug him goodbye.
“At least let me walk you home,” he insisted as I held tight to his solidly slim frame. “You’re pretty drunk.”
“Nooo,” I chuckled before nearly toppling over like a newborn giraffe.
“C’mon.” He took my hand, gently.
Unfortunately, walks have been know to shift my moods like the tides. Every step on gravel was another shake on the globe inside me that was waiting to erupt into an avalanche, ready to leave me snowblind.
Further I sank as I got more than I bargained for as I opened my front door. I had two strays in my house — G, and a neighborhood tuxedo cat. The three of us were in varying degrees of embrace in the darkness of my kitchen. Whiskers on my leg, lips around my neck. My current vision obstructed by visions, past. The only man who I had wanted to stay had left too early in the night too early in the week. I had managed to fuck it up, leaving me stuck on 1:30 AM on a Saturday morning. I was losing control. I had to reassert my mastery of the ring.
I pulled back from his embrace.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait…” I slurred. “Is there a fucking cat in here?”
He cracked up, confirming my suspicion.
“Okay,” I said sternly, opening up the door as if I was trying to free kitty, but, instead, pushed him outside playfully. All alone illuminated in nothing but the streetlight, his sweet smile suddenly became menacing. His eyes looked ill. His chain looked like rope.
Without a second thought, I shut myself in.
Normalcy breeds viability breeds vulnerability. So, the mind, it plays tricks, running stock photos through the prism of fun house mirrors.
Love, unattainable. Beauty encased in a globe, but also a shell of safety utilized by those whose stability is indebted to self-isolation.
After a few moments I felt another brush on my leg. I scooped up my other visitor, putting my face in her fluff.
“Will you love me?”
She hung tight for a few seconds before she started clawing and biting to get down.
“Well fine then.”
I swung the door back open to let her out. She scurried, but not without stopping, turning, and taking another look, whiskers flared, eyes wide.