August 18th, 2012
Black Rock City, NV
There’s a pulchritude to brand new words, words that emerge into the sphere of your cognizance as your eyes scan over a page, continuously registering each word with a lazy familiarity, until your fluid commute through symbols is suddenly jarred—momentarily the brakes are slammed before a STOP sign you’d barely noticed was there—and you’re compelled to contemplate, for a moment, this new configuration borne of the alphabet with which you’re generally so familiar. Instead of taking the word in as a whole, you make discrete jumps from letter to letter, piecing the word together, determining its probable pronunciation. The sentence is revisited—you back up a line, maybe a few lines—in search of context that might give form to your shiny new lexical vagary.
That’s how it was when we met.
Granted, the context was just as definitionally elusive as the vagary in question.
In my memory, everything was bathed in dark red light—though that could just be me getting stuck in the mnemographic darkroom of my hippocampus, in which all memories are too fragile to appear yet outside of a controlled, Luciferian-hued darkness: perhaps the memories were never clear enough to be fully consolidated and subsequently added to the archives for my nostalgic perusal; perhaps I was too drunk or too drugged on enchantment to earn their retention…and yet some backstage part of me knew not to let those memories slip away, even if it meant viewing them in cognitive purgatory, as consciousness-sensitive as an undeveloped photo is light-sensitive; perhaps through will I held onto what should’ve been a blacked-out sort of night as one might will themselves away from waking up, clutching fast to subconsciousness so as to linger in a dream.
Or perhaps everything really was bathed in dark red light.
The scene is blurred in my recollection—people were everywhere but I was in myself, and otherwise focused sequentially on individuals, as on letters in a new word, never seeing the social scene in its entirety.
There was fire in plasma-cut burn barrels, there were floating loveseats dangling off the ends of chains, suspended from what must’ve been a sort of ceiling-esque shade structure, though I don’t remember any such structure firsthand and only say that because I remember the seats, and the chains, and it follows that they must’ve been hanging from something.
There was a lot of leather—I remember the leather rather than the people who were wearing all of it—and a man in studded goggles being dragged on his skateboard by a van from 1955, almost entirely obscured by the resultant dust, as I watched from out of the van’s back window. An older woman with blonde hair and feathered lines in her bubblegum lips and wearing a scanty, large-holed fishnet dress made of what appeared to be bicycle tires had sat down in my lap and purred to me what a pretty kitty I was while burrowing plastic French tips into my hair.
All of this occurred in a bubble of noise and leatherclad fiction around me—maybe a bubble fifty feet square—beyond the boundaries of which was a flat, vast, and empty flat vast emptiness. Salvador Dali’s desert sans melting clocks and stilt-legged elephants, but ultimately just as surreal.
By some synaptic misfirings I could no longer remember, I was wearing a suede brown loincloth I’d “found” in the kitchen of my former house in South Lake Tahoe and a denim-and-brocade jacket I’d been given during a photo shoot in Washington, D.C. that appeared to be the result of a Willy-Wonka-meets-Captain-Hook-meets-Michael Jackson-inspired aesthetic, only with a fit conducive to leaving nothing of the wearer’s body to the imagination. As a result, I found myself just as alien as my surroundings if not more so, and in a moment of misandry [after being groped by a man to whom I’d been talking about gold prospecting, admittedly trying to see if I could talk my way into a job operating heavy machinery] decided to drink away my crankiness a la bottomless rum and coke.
Summarily, there was really nothing in my sensory range that could serve as a reference point. Grouchily I drank, because the booze was free and I wasn’t feeling much like an interpersonal sort of being, and booze, at least, was something I could recognize.
This is what I’ve pieced together in a rough chronology:
Girl clutches drink as if it’s her one anchor to this strange world. Girl rebukes invasively touchy-feely older man, retreats to a section occupied by females, and receives comparable treatment from touchy-feely older women. Girl feels stupid for having worn uncharacteristically skimpy clothing, and forcibly relieves herself of urine in the shadow of a car, while drunken incorporeal notions slosh through her drunken head. Girl feels grumpy, tired, trapped, and uncharacteristically insecure.
Girl notices as group of seemingly happy people who also look out of place enter the premises, wearing jeans and Tshirts rather than blending in with the leatherclad norm. Girl witnesses tall, goofy-haired boy with large smile make deadpan satirical observation about the frivolity of social niceties that his peers fail to laugh at or [ostensibly] understand at all. Girl finds this observation funny; Girl laughs. Boy is stricken by this unexpected laughter and looks bemusedly at Girl. Neither Boy nor Girl gives much conscious thought to the exchange and each proceed with the night without much conscious registry of the other—Boy with his friends [most of whom were later revealed to be on mushrooms], and Girl with her inner bloviating.
Girl finds herself stuffed into van with throng of other drunk, laughing people—mostly of the abnormally normally-dressed clan she’d admired from afar—and is unconsciously hyperaware of the presence of the aforementioned large-smiled Boy [an awareness unearthed only in her retrospective analyses of the night]. Girl emerges at yet another end-of-the-world, jerryrigged Dalinian bar. Girl finds herself at some point being carried around by the jovial Boy and is surprised to discover she does not feel as if he is commoditizing her so much as simply being jovial. Girl kicks some nondescript would-be-groper in the face as he tries to reach under her loincloth while she is being carried in the arms of Boy; Boy laughs. They separate. Girl drinks more, already having forgotten Boy’s emergence in the vague perceptive whirlpool-dustcloud characteristic of inebriation that has been her perspective for the last several hours.
Girl sits on the ground in corner, tired but uninspired to hunt through the empty flat vastness for her trailer. Boy and Friend of Boy approach jovially and seat themselves in chairs next to her. Girl expresses that she feels somewhat sick. Boy and Friend laugh and titter in commiseration; Boy scratches Girl’s head as Friend strokes Girl’s hand. Girl is uncharacteristically soothed and even more uncharacteristically unsuspicious by this contact. Inspired and in the spirit of Universal Love, Girl asks Boy and Friend to tell her about themselves. Boy speaks with the sincerity and innocent swagger of a child about his life; Girl finds Boy’s enthusiasm infectious and truly registers his existence for the first time. Girl strokes Friend’s hand with genuine compassion, sensing Friend’s mild envy of Girl’s newfound fascination with Boy.
Friend departs to bathroom.
Girl and Boy continue conversation. Mostly Girl is feeling misanthropic and vaguely nauseous, and is earnest about these feelings but actively tries not to victimize due to a growing desire for Boy’s esteem. Girl scoots closer to Boy to proffer more of her scalp for him to scratch, as she finds this soothing. Girl lean’s head on Boy’s knee and kisses it in the spirit of Universal Platonic Affection For Strangers, or so she believes. Boy attempts to mask his mild surprise, but is clearly not displeased, and continues scratching Girl’s scalp.
Somewhere in the space of thirty seconds, Girl and Boy find themselves seated in the same clamshell-seat-suspended-from-chains, faces connected in what Girl notes with surprise is the best kiss she’s ever experienced, despite mutual drunkness and stranger-ness and never-having-kissed-each-other-before-ness. Girl cannot remember how kiss came about: when conversation fell away, nor by whom contact was initiated. Friend’s return either never happens, or goes unnoticed.
Universe becomes contained in chair, Boy and Girl become specimens in a perceptual fishtank looking in, in, inward…and then looking out:
Kiss dissolves. Antagonizing but harmless witty banter commences from both sides. Observations of social surroundings are made. Laughter happens.
Cycle repeats for some time.
Girl makes snarky comment about how Boy has probably been aiming to get lucky through the entirety of the night, and commends him on being a Smooth Operator and disguising his motives better than proximal other men.
Boy halts abruptly. Boy does not deign to good-naturedly humor Girl or dismiss comment with chuckle, but instead calls her out on her arrogance.
“Dude. That is such an entitled 'hot girl' thing to say. So you think I’ve just been trying to get into your pants all night? Because, of course, everyone in here is trying so hard to fuck you, right? Well, what about you--who says you’re automatically entitled to getting in mine? You just automatically assume that that's how I want to end the night? Maybe I wanted to go back to camp and party with my friends. Maybe you won’t get lucky because here I was enjoying our conversation, and then you started saying things like that and I realized you were just another 'hot girl'.”
Boy appears disillusioned and indignant and, it is worth noting, not the least bit horny.
Girl pauses, stunned. Slowly, Girl weaves her words together.
“Thank you…for calling me out. I think most guys—most people—would lower their standards once they’re making out with someone who’s curled in their lap, and just let unsavory words pass over without caring. I mean, most people aren’t seeking virtue in their booty calls. And you’re right…that attitude makes me a hypocrite. It makes me as simple as these men I’ve been getting mad at tonight, and it’s me playing the same game that they are. And if I want to be seen as a human, not a female, I should see other people as humans, not males.”
Boy is now the stunned one. Girl kisses boy on the forehead and humbly requests that he follow her to her trailer, adding that she is inviting him not to acquiesce his assumed interest, but because she herself harbors an independent interest. However, if Boy accepts he must first help her find a secluded patch of desert upon which to urinate unseen.
Boy exhibits signature large smile in sheepish agreement. Kissing continues until Girl’s bladder approaches critical pressure. Girl takes Boy's hand and they stand; the sudden reemergence into a Universe outside Adam-Eve-ecosystem they’d created renders her momentarily shocked and unsteady, abruptly woken into a dark red dream. Girl and Boy exit.
“Fuck, it’s cold. Let’s walk faster.”
“You’re cold? I’m wearing fucking skivvies and I feel great!”
“You’re wearing a liquid blanket.”
“You’re fucking drunk, too!”
“So where’s this trailer, fancypants?”
“You know what? That’s a really good question…”
“And strictly speaking it wouldn’t be fancypants so much as no-pants.”
“Oh, look! Blinking light things—I think those are people coming towards us.”
“Hey, good call….Excuse me! Hey—Excuse me! Do you know where the Commissary is?”
“Yeah, it’s over that way.”
“Holy shit, thank you so much."
“No problem, kids. We’re not really here, after all. You're just tripping balls.”
“We’re in your imaaaginaaaation!”
Cackling exhaustedly as the figments of their imagination bide them goodnight and pass them by, Boy and Girl shuffle in the direction of a warm indoor space. Boy acknowledges his approval in the form of a Whoa, followed by, “This sleeps like six people…what the fuck, DPW just gave this to you?”
“For right now, I guess. But hang on, I have to pee…”
Girl gets distracted from her quest to pee and instead jumps onto Boy, kissing his face in a display of transcasual affection. Boy laughs, but not uncomfortably.
Girl flaunts ability to pee standing up and stubs her toe on the skeleton of a disassembled geodesic dome. Toe bleeds, but not profusely. Boy laughs again, but not belittlingly.
Girl flatulates theatrically. Boy makes a tasteful joke involving bodily fluids. Banter continues in this high-brow fashion for some time and both parties exercise poker faces amidst vague whirlwind of incensed libido. Girl gets antsy.
"So, do you want to have sex tonight?"
"Of course I do."