So I was feeling a little distraught that night. Catch thought it would be in my best interest to go to this club on Castro called The Cafe for some reason (how very postmodern). Scole was there, too; in fact, it had been a joint effort on their parts to quickly change my surroundings. At my insistence, sure. It was either here or home, and who knew what horrors would await me there.
Let’s face it: I needed a drink. More than that, I needed their specialty.
It was hot as hell when we walked in, and we were still in our fancy-schmancy digs, having come directly from that blasted company party, so we got as comfortable as we could.
We jostled our way through the tight crowd, a train linked by hands-on-shoulders. The gyrating techno beat was already both loosening me up and making me more agitated, somehow. Different parts of my brain reacting differently, I guess. I could feel this paradox oddly settling comfortably into my bones.
We finally reached the bar. “Liquid Cocaine,” was the order and my greeting, a nod.
The bartender looked at me with a raised eyebrow. I smiled confidently to let him know that I was serious. He smiled back, shook his head, and got to work while taking the orders of my companions.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” an always cautious Catch said when our drinks were placed in front of us.
We thanked Scole, who was getting this round, and I answered her by swallowing my double-shot drink in one fiery gulp. I scrunched up my nose, making the notorious Liquid Cocaine face, and took a moment to recover. “Yes,” and I felt the drink slowly making its way into the depths of my belly and my soul, taking big chunks of organ tissue and neuroses along with it.
Scole noticed Catch’s face long enough to stop flirting with the bartender. “What’s that face for?”
“Liquid Cocaine. Plus Vanya. Equals, do we even need to go there?” Catch answered.
“Oh, c’mon. It’ll make her feel better. Right?”
I nodded, a nod which made my head feel like it was going to fall off, and smiled, a smile which felt both genuine and psychotic.
“I don’t know…” Catch had one of her looks on. Her caution felt like a party pooper sometimes, but then sometimes we all needed it. I wasn’t sure which this was yet, but frankly I was trying entirely too hard to get out of my head to care.
“You weren’t there,” Catch was telling Scole.
“Was it that bad?” was his reply, slightly incredulous but knowing that Catch was never actually paranoid.
“Yeah, it was. I mean she’d never admit it, of course, but oh yeah, it was bad. I could practically see it leaking out of her eyeballs. She is such a drama whore. Or maybe just a drama magnet, sometimes I don’t know. And now I’m just worried that—”
“—That I’ll drink too much and it’ll all come tumbling out into one big mess of a—mess,” I said. “You know you don’t have to talk about me like I’m not here.” I smiled that smile again.
“Sorry,” Catch said. “But yeah, that’s what I’m thinking.”
“Well don’t you worry about me!” I felt phony and belligerent—drunk already.
I looked away from them. “Bartender?” I held up my hand, which held up my forefinger.
Catch and Scole exchanged glances. Scole was starting to look more and more like Catch.
It was Angel that brought me here. Well, no. Actually it was Catch and Scole that brought me here. It was Angel that drove me here. I was in The Cafe dancing, trying to keep all the booze in my system happy, but my brain was elsewhere.
She walks into that room like an angel (how appropriate) and my eyes feel trapped when all they really want to do is pop out of my head, bounce over to her, and slide inside that dress. It’s that dress, really. A formal party, I know I should have expected something—but this I can’t handle. My heart is suddenly beating to its own time, a time which has previously been inconceivable and is, at best, chaotic.
I force myself to look away as she greets some other people not even close to worthy enough to bask in her beauty, and thank the Lord above that I’m sitting.
I let out a visible breath and am startled to remember that Catch is sitting across from me. I look up at her, doing a wretched job of pulling myself together. “I’m sorry, what were you saying?” I say.
She says nothing, only looks at me, a lopsided grin on her face and her eyes peering straight through mine into the lust and pain which hovers just behind them.
I thought maybe getting off the dance floor would help. I climbed through to the mouth of the crowd until it eventually spit me out onto the outdoor patio. I found the emptiest spot I could and lit a cigarette.
“Oh jeez, she’s smoking.” I heard Catch’s unmistakable voice and looked up from where I was looking at the sidewalk three stories beneath the balcony to see that she had joined me.
I laughed. “Yeah, yeah.” I offered her one. She lit it and we stood there in silence for a moment—well, as silent as silence can get, surrounded by dozens of loud conversational clubbers, music thumping just inside, and the sounds of the city just below.
“How’re you feeling?” she finally said.
I smiled wistfully. “Another drink might do the trick.”
“That good, huh?”
“Why do you do this to yourself?” she said, innocently enough.
I half-snapped back. “You think I choose this?”
“Well, no. But maybe that’s just it. Maybe there’s not enough choice.”
“Say what?” even though I pretty much knew where she was going with this.
She took a moment to carefully think out her response, something I always tried to do but never seemed to manage. It’s not that I was always in a hurry; I just forgot to. “You’re so driven by your emotions. Which I admit I am sometimes jealous of. I’m always so stuck in my rational brain. But you always fall for these straight girls. And I know you don’t choose it. But maybe your choice could be to—I don’t know, counter that. Because I know you always kick yourself for it.” She laughed. “Maybe you should be a tranny and not just gay.”
“Woah. What? That’s not even true.”
“What about your last girl?”
“Olivia? She was bi. Had been for years.”
“What did she tell you in the beginning?”
I was growing to resent this. I didn’t respond.
“Didn’t she say that she had never been with a woman before?” Catch said after a moment.
“She only said that because she thought that’s what I wanted to hear.”
“So you see.”
More silence. I went to speak a few times to defend myself but couldn’t figure out what to say. The cigarette was adding to the bucket of fog that was becoming my brain.
Finally I groaned. “Goddamnit.”
“You know you’d better watch your mouth with that stuff around her,” she said. I laughed bitterly. “Sorry,” she said. I shook my head. “Well, I certainly suck at the whole consoling thing,” she said. I shook my head again and smiled.
“I don’t think talking about it will make it anything other than worse.”
“What will help?”
I thought a moment. “Another Liquid Cocaine.”
She’s right, you know, that Catch. But it’s not like I have any say in the matter. I never have.
But this one… oh, this one. This one is an evil curse which just may send me running from anyone even remotely femme for a long, long time.
The attraction is layered: on top a schoolgirl crush; hidden beneath, primal lust. It’s a silent whimpering, knee-locking-leg-twitching kind of infatuation. Where any part of her I can catch an extended glimpse of is a fixture to be studied, memorized, and dreamed about. Where any encounter—a passing glance and a smile and a greeting, small talk, conversation over coffee—is a treasured one.
Oh, my Angel… who is straight as the sky is gray in London and if that weren’t enough—Christian. Not just Christian, but very Christian. As in mass every Sunday and Saturday evening, little fish sign on her car, volunteering for the parish and not just on holidays kind of Christian. Not that I have anything against Christians—it’s just that many of them have something very much against us. You know, that whole mankind layeth down with mankind and not womankind (and vice versa) as a sin of the worst kind to be punished by the slowest and most painful of deaths kind of something. And I don’t know how Angel herself stands on the subject, as I’ve been entirely too terrified to approach the subject with her. She does consider me a friend and isn’t afraid to touch me and catch my evil disease or anything like that, which may say something, but then maybe not.
I know I should let it go but I just can’t. She brings way too much color to my life. I couldn’t think of losing the way the sound of her voice cuts into my brain and runs beautifully down my spinal column, not even to free myself from the occasional awkwardness I must endure in exchange.
But times like these cause me to reconsider.
It’s suddenly very warm; I loosen the collar of my shirt. Catch is still across from me, still looking at me in a way I feel is inappropriate.
“What,” I finally say.
Her crooked smile widens, evens out. “You are awful.”
“I am not.” I feel like a small child. Am not. Are too. Am not. Are too. I know you are but what am I.
“She looks good.”
“Here she comes.”
I try not to look but of course I do. And then here she is, sliding into the booth next to me. My heart, which had settled, skips a beat or two just to remind me of its infinite and ultimate power.
The dress is powder blue, bordering on cerulean, and is a stark and stunning contrast to her hair—black, so black it highlights blue in the light. And her eyes the same, but only if you don’t look closer and notice they’re actually brown—dark, so dark her pupils are almost one with them. And I do look closer, oh boy do I, whenever I can take a chance and not be too glaringly obvious.
“Vanya.” She smiles and hugs me. It’s all I can do to only hug her back.
“Catch.” She looks across the table to my friend who has managed to alter her face back to normal. My dear, close friend.
“How are you girls doing tonight?”
“Good,” Catch says.
“Just great.” My smile widens. “You look fantastic.” Half-coquettish; why do I do this to myself?, I think.
“Why thank you.” Did she just sound flirty? She could have. But she’s probably just joking around. But maybe she’s not. Maybe she doesn’t even know she’s not. Oooo…—oh shut up shut up shut up.
Small talk fills the table three ways for a while, its flighty puffy substance slowly releasing the tension lodged somewhere between my cerebral cortex and tongue.
Then she gets called away by other demanding co-workers, my dearest angel of an Angel, and as she stands to leave, with promises of return, an inkling of buoyancy creeps into my head from God knows where. I catch it in time only to ensure that my next line—“Hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave”—is (however mockly) peppered with mock.
Her hair is thrown casually and comfortably over her shoulder as she looks back at me for a beat, smiling at my “joke.” She turns back to whatever lucky bastard has won her time for the moment and I look away. I am forced to wonder if that swagger in her hips only appeared to pick up after she turned back. I bite my fist, my top teeth settling into the crevice between the knuckles of my first two fingers.
That look is on Catch’s face again. I thank her for curbing it through Angel’s visit. She laughs, says that I am very welcome.
She gives me a moment to recover then says, “I think she’s into it.”
“Why? Don’t say that.”
“You saw how she looked at you.”
“It was a joke. That I said. She was smiling at my joke.”
“She wants you.”
“Afraid it might be true?”
I laugh. “Afraid I’ll begin to believe it.”
“I trust your judgment. Don’t you?”
I ponder that briefly. “Just don’t let me drink, ok?”
A few drinks and close calls later is how Angel drove me away. I couldn’t take it any more so I asked Catch to get me the fuck out of there. She called Scole and whisked me away.
But now, after several more drinks, we had to pee. All three of us, if you can believe it. Our train was led by Catch, me at the end. The crowd was relentless. We were paused and I didn’t notice Scole was talking to a guy until the attention was on me.
“Check her out,” Scole said to the guy, gesturing to me.
The guy was smiling very widely. His fingers grazed the bare skin of my arm as he made a “tsss” sound like a fire going out. “Very nice.”
Before I could respond the crowd was moving again. When we reached the bathroom I asked no one in particular: “What was that all about?”
“He was hitting on you,” Catch said.
“He was gay.”
Scole laughed. “I was using you to hit on him.”
“You know like fag hags?”
Catch laughed. She was obviously getting something that I, in my drunkenness, was not.
“Yeah…” I said.
“He’s a total andro-dyke hag,” Scole said.
“Oh my god.”
“And you look hot in that wife-beater.”
“Undershirt. I feel so used.” Suddenly I puffed out my chest and grinned a toothy grin. “But I like it!” Scole and Catch laughed.
“Glad to see you’re feeling better,” Catch said and winked.
“The fourish Liquid Cocaines helped.”
Scole gave me a big hug. “My hero!”
Eventually The Cafe closed. The music jolted to a stop and the lights brightened, blinding us and causing me to scream.
We stumbled the dozen or so blocks home. I crawled into bed and closed my eyes, the halo outline of a beautiful woman in a blue dress emanating in the blackness of the back of my eyelids. An angel, I thought.
Praise the Lord.