Your body hurts. Cramping stomach, bruised legs, lipstick stains on your arms, blistered toes. One shoe can be found behind the couch, the other under your pillow. You try to piece the night together. There was drinking, of course. Heavy drinking. Toasting to never remembering, to the benefits of moderation. You promise your friends you won’t drink much; you offer to pay for a round to empty your wallet faster. You repeat an empty mantra about how you’re too old for this and you don’t like the taste of vodka and you remember what your therapist said about gin being the drink for people who want to get into fights. You opt for cheap bourbon instead. It reminds you of cocooning yourself in bed with someone worthy of loving and watching informercials about things you could never need. You laugh with the person you love because they feel soft and, somehow, their teeth carry every single happiness you could experience. The infomercial is comically loud, absurd and wretched.
The bourbon doesn’t burn like it used to. It envelops your heart in liquid warmth. You shake your head and exhale loudly. Repeat. Repeat. Laugh. Tell your friends you love them. Repeat. Repeat. Drunkenness.
Someone suggests dancing and everyone enthusiastically agrees. You look to your cellphone for the time. Everyone throws out opinions of the best places to dance with the cheapest drinks. Everyone agrees on a two story club a few blocks away because people are too easily distracted now, are finding it hard to walk.
Line. Bouncer. ID. You’ve entered a den of unpleasantries. You hear the tired lines of men and women who are too scared to be honest. The sound system, for lack of a better word, sucks. Everything is red and black. Your friends are hidden by manmade shadows and for a second, you consider leaving, hoping they won’t realize you’ve gone. But one of them sees you looking disoriented and intertwines their clammy fingers with yours. They reassure you that everything will be fine, that the music is live, that the people really know how to dance here, that you will have fun. And you do have fun, when you stop thinking. You quickly learn the lyrics of songs you don’t know and mouth along as you dance. If you let go enough, if you just let your hips sway, you might feel empowered. Strong. Worthy of holding.
Sometimes strangers creep along the invisible lines of your personal space; sometimes they barge in and hold you. Some are good, respectful dancers. They don’t try to seduce you, they just want to be near you. Because you swing your hips well. Because you smile when you dance. Because you have the ability to make someone feel like they are a quality individual. So you gyrate a bit, and maybe you learn each others names, or maybe you don’t. Then quiet separation.
You remember there is a specific person you want to show up. A person you don’t feign interest for, a person you willingly ignore for childish reasons. Reasons that you’ve tried to work out but the result of every deduction is that you haven’t yet found the value of your words. This person texts you. They say they are coming to meet you, you better get ready to go hard. You are now that person with the blinding iPhone screen in a dark place. You try to sound cool in your reply — not drunk, not excited, not friendly — just cool. You shove your phone in your pocket, tell your friends someone else is coming to meet you. They make joking sexy eyes at you, and you tell them it’s not like that.
Your specific person shows up. You repress the flush that bubbles into your stomach and drops into your private parts. You give your specific person a hug, throw their coat into the pile you’ve already started with your friends, and ask if the specific person wants a drink. They say yes, and you are thankful. They order a drink and you ask for a glass of water because you’ve already planned to kiss your specific person and you don’t want your mouth to taste of sour mix and bourbon. You crack a joke. Specific person tries to one up you and fails but you laugh vigorously anyway. You suggest going back to the group. Specific person acquiesces and reaches out for your hand.
Top 40 songs are playing. You are moving frenetically and, hopefully, seductively. Your specific person dances next to you and you concoct a way to dance with them. You ask them nonsensical questions — who’s this artist? what did you have for dinner? are you having fun? — and pull yourself so close to their face they breathe you in. As they speak a reply, you smell the alcohol on their breath and think that if you kiss them on the cheek, you will make your intentions still ambiguous, but known. Your lips meet their face. They thank you. Your lips meet their face again. And again. All over the side of their face. Their cheek is covered in utterances of the things you wish you could say. They do nothing. They just smile and look away. You think you have to try harder. You don’t know why you want to try harder and you aren’t so drunk that you don’t know what you’re doing. You just want this person’s face with yours. So you ask them if it would be okay if you kissed them on the lips. They agree. Not in the way you want. It’s like they are unwillingly signing a contract — draining the romance — and the only reason why you kiss them is so that they know you aren’t joking. You mean it and, even in rejection, you’ll keep going.
But then you feel your stomach plummet when you kiss them. You see them close their eyes. You close your eyes because you don’t want to be rude. You think that your lips are chapped and the other person thinks you are a terrible kisser. You think the last person you kissed was someone you wanted to fall in love with. You think the second to last person you kissed was the person you genuinely thought you’d marry. And you think of all of the people you kissed and how much they meant to you and how you felt when they left.
The specific kiss with the specific person ends and they look away. You want to kiss them again. So you do. And they kiss you back. They never kiss you first, and you are okay with disappointment. You realize that you’ve wanted to kiss this person for weeks. You understand the unusual dreams you’ve been having about this specific person. You understand that you are shy. You want them to know this but forget they are shy too.
You and your specific person separate and continue dancing. Everyone is having fun. Everyone is smiling. You get another water from the bar. Sip. Soda water. Garbage.
It’s not late but specific person says they need to go home, get some rest. You repeat going home and they nod yes. You don’t know why you do that. You just want them to stay. Or you want to leave with them and watch infomercials. You want to do something but you do nothing. You say goodbye and walk away. You continue dancing and remember the book you were reading before all of this. And how the author made it clear there is no safety in our silence. So you send specific person a text that says wait. are you still outside? And they don’t reply. They don’t reply and you think you’ve come on too strong. And you think, you’re pretty good with words. But you’re not brave enough to say that you want to sit with this person and watch something mindless. You don’t know how to express interest. You don’t want interest misconstrued for love or desperation. You just want the company of this person, with no funny business. There could be some funny business, but that’s not what you’re expecting. You want to talk to someone honestly. So when an hour passes — and they don’t answer — you explain to your friends that you are too drunk and need to go home.
Walk. Metrocard. Wait. Wait. Wait. Subway. Wait some more. Regret living so far in the Bronx. Subway. Cab. Home.
You prepare your bed with a snack, water, a basin and a towel. You don’t think you’ll vomit but you never know. You lay in the dark with your aching feet curled up. Your back hurts and, even in darkness, the room is spinning. You lick your lips and remember the taste of another person. You think that if you had a dollar for every night you slept alone, you’d have too many dollar bills and no bodega would want to exchange all of those singles for larger denominations.
You don’t fall asleep immediately. You like feeling heavy and light at once — this moment of suspension. Then your mattress vibrates from your phone hiding under your pillow. Specific person. They apologize for taking so long to reply, they just saw the text and they feel stupid. You tell them not to and you wish an emoticon could sum up heft of your joy. You tell them you walked into a rock and hurt yourself. They say you shouldn’t have. You hope it’s flirtatious. It’s late and your eyes are too heavy with the anticipation of sleep. You wish them a goodnight.
Leaving your window open has appropriately cooled your comforter and you cannot wait to grow warm. You hope your specific person is thinking of you.
You have a simple dream: you and your specific person — coiled together, having no use for words — communicate every desire with a supple embrace.