I don’t usually drink, but: every now and then you just feel safe in the world. And in this world someone else is driving, anyway, and it’s a young autumn night, and you get lost for a while in downtown Minneapolis together because, frankly, neither of you actually knows where Hennepin is.
We’d decided to go out dancing on a Sunday night, and we’d dolled up separately and drove in together, paced the car up and down Washington Ave, found the glowing sign and chatted up the friendly cop outside to wander through the nearly empty bars to the second floor. Jamie wore heels like daggers, had swept her hair up and put on a slinky purple Star Trekian dress, and I was wearing a monocle, a lined vest, ripped jeans and leather boots: an ensemble that made me feel like I’d just stepped off some slutty time-traveling motorcycle from the 1850s.
Which is to say, we looked amazing.
I’ve learned that there is a power that exists solely in large empty spaces: maybe it’s the clear trajectories from one door to the next; or it could be the empty chairs politely lined up on the sides like an audience, awaiting performance; or maybe it’s just the space and freedom to do anything that comes to mind. In crowded rooms I try to be polite and out-of-the way, shoulders folded in. I feel like I’m usually in crowded rooms. I’m usually at my smallest, trying to let others in. But an empty room calls for ownership and display. The bass pulled at our hearts. Bartenders wiped off tabletops. We strutted through disco lights and neon carpeted walls as if all this had been built for us, and we found our friends upstairs.
Twenty minutes and two gin and tonics later, I was sitting in the third row of the drag show — full of good will toward humanity. For the first time since college, I was drunk; really, truly drunk. The euphoria surprised me. (Tipsiness makes me nervous; if there are two things I am afraid of in life, it’s throwing up or losing control. And I’ve found that if I want to dance, I need to be precisely aware of the location of all my limbs, and alcohol hinders that awareness. So I tend to drink half-glasses. Never anything hard.)
But right now, everyone was singing along and dancing in their seats. We screamed our support for each drag queen, clapping until our hands hurt. I didn’t feel spinny or ill, just overwhelmed with happiness, freedom, adoration. It felt like a door had been opened: not that the alcohol had created happiness, but it had emphasized it. “I thought I didn’t like to drink!” I hollered over the bass at Jamie. “Yeah,” she said, “just like how you thought you didn’t like to kiss girls.”
It’s not that I haven’t kissed girls before. I just had a different attitude about it. I identified more as “a straight person who’ll make out with anybody ever.” I kissed girls with no intention of taking it any further than that, physically or emotionally. Girls were friends who were fun to kiss sometimes; too bad they weren’t dudes.
When I moved to Minneapolis I decided: I am going to try dating women. To see what it’s like, and also, because they are attractive. Obviously.
Why the sudden change of heart? I don’t know. Only one life to live, or something. As my friend Sara said to me tonight, “you seem to go with your gut a lot.” I said, “that’s true, but only for major life decisions.”
It was the perfect storm of life happiness and great music. I think I danced to “Bulletproof” three or four times, a song that has been my ultimate guilty pleasure for months. The Gay 90s has a few different dance rooms with different themes, so we’d wander into one, dance to “Bulletproof,” wander into another, dance to “Bulletproof.” (It crosses genres conveniently that way.)
Burning bridges shore to shore, / I’ll break away from something more / I’m not to not to love / until it’s cheap!
I was wholly in my body; the alcohol hadn’t removed me from it, as it usually does, but enlarged my presence, made the air more tangible. Dancing has the potential to border on the spiritual for me, and that’s how it was last night: I felt possessed, connected to something bigger, moving in Platonic forms. Surrendered.
A woman in a silk and lace shirt sidled up to me, smiling. I reached out and touched her cheek, raked my hand back into her hair; she pulled me close and we kissed, and it was exactly the way I love kissing. Behind us, shirtless men threw themselves around on platforms.