Her cumulative appearance is that of a feral animal, filled with a playful meanness that might edge into violence if the trip takes a turn. Crooked nose with a little bulge at the bottom, hooked and splayed teeth. Her eyes are brown and dilated plus size. Freckles and frayed brown hair. An agent of chaos in a leather jacket and a gossamer white skirt. She dances capoeira on the subway, spanks passerby, and picks fights with girls that vibe her the wrong way. It's New Years Eve. Brooklyn was a nice 50's dance party filled with queers and freaks and people with Palmade and pocket combs for the occasion. A wise partier would have stayed there all night but the group wanted to venture, the girls seeking adventure, as they do, talking about 'the bars' like they're out there with a magic offering, the perfect vibe, instead of more drunks and more tabs and more logistical confusion. Venture we did at 2:00 am, into the following predictablities:
Cold corner/no cab
G Train/glare of light on unclean tile/the collective faith of the platform/train will come.
Happy New Year's love onboard/the mob swelling as we approach manhattan/the mean city's post-new years trash beginning to manifest.
It started at the L Train transfer, with people throbbing and twisted on bad substances, the cokeheads angry and empty, furiously rubbing their noses, the drunks bumbling and roaring, covered in marker, mounting a cry on the crowded train: "Sex. Sex! SEX!" Literally yelling the chant. People share glances, alarmed or annoyed, then shrug. "I guess that's a sentiment we can all get behind." Girls on E asking for things. This stop, that stop, In my way, in her way, don't kick the baby. The subway was filled with life but the life was adventurous, as it dared to give public transit a try, and the communal spirit in the crowd was cheerful and harmless.
Above ground on 1st Avenue, however, life was a Hunter Thompson caricature, peopled mostly with Jersey Shore types instead of slick overweight hamster-wheelers. 'Men' (boys) with fake tans and jewelry were shouting at and being shouted at by sobbing women in heels, women whose identities had googled 'sexy girl' and selected the first page of results.
Still unpretty A_ was dragging her ragged earthy chalk line through the streets with her nails, heckling, hissing. I made escape plans of disassociation should she get punched, though if held at gunpoint I'd take her approach over the guido drama. She was more like me than I cared to admit, though enviably she was still sure of things. We settled into a bar and the host asked our names. He was well dressed, with a polished mustache and a game right hand, which meant he went for a reverse lefty handshake. The next time he comes back A_ pounces. "What are our names?"
Host sweats and stutters, and accurately names 3 of us. Not A_.
"I'm sorry. I'm bad with names" He says, eyes bouncing, wringing his hands. My heart falls. First mistake, dude.
"What are you doing with a job like this if you're bad with names?" she growls at him, and I slink deeper into my chair. The place is pricy and cute, a faux-speakeasy with a hidden entrance in a phone booth. The kind of place that tricks customers into an attitude of exceptionalism. The drinks are shockingly good, but should the lights come up and the edge of the buzz fade one might notice the mahogany finish is a veneer. One might notice that the hidden hip spot with the secret number has a yelp page and a phone listing and a jackelope at the wall, your own personal court jester reminding you not to take things too seriously.
A_ continues to demand the host's attention, glaring into his eyes. He concedes to remember her name and escapes the table.
I straighten up.
"A_, that wasn't fair. The reason he didn't remember your name isn't because he's bad with names. It's because you're a routine to him, another table. You didn't do anything memorable."
She holds her hands up. "Now I have."
"Yeah, now he thinks you're a jerk."
"So? He'll remember me, and I'll be able to get a table. The fact that I was an asshole is unimportant. That's a detail. In time all these details fade, names fade, the content fades. All you're left with is THIS, this right here." She points at her two swirling, black-magic eyes and draws a line to my own.
You're right, A_, the content fades. My job is to record it. To remember not that you thought yourself exceptional and therefore were, but to remember that your superiority was based on the browbeating of others in a canned stereotype of a speakeasy, where class divisions between patron and server are marked with an cliche New York colored pencil. That you needed to take advantage of that is what I'll remember. Your posturing was based on a manipulation of a sick culture that we should strive to undermine and do without, rather than pimp it to our advantage. These are the takeaways of the night, those and the dangerous, rabid emptiness behind your eyes.