Here is how it would be:
I would look like a nice girl. I would be in flats, jeans, hair in a ponytail. I would have makeup on but not too much makeup on. I would be able to explain our act to you in detail, maybe we would rehearse it. I would tell you all about the kooky van ride here: the bag of Harvest Cheddar Sunchips and peanut M&Ms I’d had for lunch/dinner (no water! Why do I always refuse to buy water), the fact that the more I get to know these people, the more I tend to forget that these are stage names — and the singalong to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” that made me feel like a total poser.
The rest of the van had just belted out the entire first half of the song, punctuating octave shifts with diva hands. I was swaying in the backseat like an anthropologist, trying to memorize the song as it played and smiling hesitantly. This is fun, right guys? Somebody whooo! Somebody whoooo!
Sugar had turned to face me, and was slowly beginning to look more and more perplexed. “Wait a minute,” she said, then. “. . . Have you never heard this song before?”
“Uh, well . . . I don’t think so, actually. But . . . maybe. Who’s this by, again?”
“Oh my God! You haven’t been to enough gay bars.”
“You’ve never heard this song before?” Miss Gingerita cried.
I was haggard, thirsty, unwashed; jacked on salt and neon candy coatings. And it would begin with this confessional. I really want to belong here, but I’m afraid that I don’t. (Everything I have written about confidence has been fiction. I am a ruse. You’re about to find out. What on earth am I doing on a stage in New York City?)
Let’s just put that on the table, human to human. I think that would be really helpful, actually: recalibrate expectations. Yes. Before our act.
An email exchange, the evening before:
From: Adrianne Mathiowetz
To: Brendan Sullivan
Date: Wed, Apr 29, 2009 at 7:39 PM
I was going to do my solo at this thing but Jurvis is in it and came down with the Swine Flu. Want to be in my dance?
From: Brendan Sullivan
To: Adrianne Mathiowetz
Date: Wed, Apr 29, 2009 at 7:53 PM
I don’t know Adrianne. My girlfriend is really getting me down and she just emailed to say that she hopes I grow up to be half the man her new boyfriend is. Then she called me unoriginal and insulted my poor, defenseless writing. I don’t think sitting in a room while your friends take off their clothes, make jokes and dance will be any fun.
No wait: my god that would be perfect. Yes! A thousand times yes!!
I told you to wear a suit. The anal retentive in me almost emailed you an MP3 of the song, with a breakdown of exactly what happens at each line. It almost demanded sensible details: your phone number, when exactly we would meet and where. It was nearly freaking the fuck out.
But something stopped me. Let’s do this,” you had written last. “Let’s break out of the matrix.”
“Do you have a suit? The show starts at 10.” These are the details you had.
We arrived at The Slipper Room early enough to do some run-throughs, but the bar was already open so we couldn’t. We tried to arrange our costumes in the changing room, but only four of us could fit inside it at a time. There was actually a toilet in there with no door or curtain or anything, so that technically, from the right angle, someone in the audience could watch you changing a tampon or relieving yourself during a show (I actually have recurring nightmares about these things. And it can happen in real life! Who knew?). Everything was chaos.
“Oh hey, by the way. Can we reach the changing room through another door . . . or only through the stage?”
So we’d need to be in costume by curtain, and this is how I would actually meet you for the first time, you whose day-to-day thoughts I have been reading for the past seven years, through glamorous night shifts and beautiful girlfriends and breakups and getting fired and parties and songs and books about whales and writing in cafes and agents, you whose face I’ve seen in pictures and whose voice I’ve even recorded on tape, here is how it would actually be: White frilly booty shorts, sequined waist cincher, bedazzled white bra, silver and gold heels, thigh highs, opera gloves, wedding veil. Seriously.
And the freaking pasties were making serious efforts to go rogue; I had to keep jamming them back into my bra. This could be the most awkward meeting ever, titties all over. Pardon me while I use the restroom. We could wind up leaving for Vegas and be married tomorrow, I looked goddamn ready for it. Every time I go to New York City something absolutely insane and wonderful and/or terrible happens.
I exit through the red curtains to some cheers, stepped down the catwalk, and see you immediately. You’re handsome, skinny and taller than I expected. You know it’s me. I know it’s you. We walk right up and cheek kiss.
The talented Brendan Sullivan’s version here.