“What is essential is invisible to the eye.” -The Little Prince
I feel someone tap me on the shoulder. In the middle of this sea of people, I decide to ignore whoever it might be, but I receive a follow up tap. Turning around, I see a girl with glowsticks braided into her hair, wearing a gushing smile. She opens her mouth to say something: “Kiss him!”
Let’s back up. I’m standing in the parking lot of an LA Metro station with some of my closest friends, looking raved-out. We’re on our way to a music festival where Chromeo, our favorite band, is playing. I puff-painted my shirt with some of their song titles and lyrics with the words “NEEDY GIRL” written in big pink and green letters across my chest, and I’m wearing neon blue heart-shaped sunglasses.
“We have the tickets and the pills?” My friend LB asks. Tonight’s the first time I’ll be ingesting ecstasy since my ill-fated group sex night. But this time, there will be no orgies or panic attacks. “I double checked,” my other friend Dani announces before going back to yelling at her boyfriend. Everything is set for this to be a perfect night. What could possibly go wrong?
Here’s a piece of advice: never, ever ask that question because someone will always provide an answer. Dani stops laying down the verbal abuse for a minute when my phone rings. Both of us look at the screen. “What does he want?” She asks. My friends aren’t particularly fond of The Writer given our tumultuous history. “I don’t know. Don’t care,” I tell her and hit the ignore button on my phone.
“Good,” she says and goes back to laying the verbal abuse on her boyfriend. I put my phone on vibrate, but before I can even put it in my pocket, it begins to buzz. I really can’t hold a grudge, so this time I step away and answer: “What’s up?” “I’m trying to find a ticket to that music festival—are you still going?” “Yeah, but I don’t know anyone with tickets.” “I should be able to find one. Let’s meet up when I get there.” “Sounds good.”
As soon as I hang up, Dani is on my ass. “Who was that?” “He’s meeting me there,” I say, ands she gives me a disapproving look. But the thing is—what could he possibly do that hasn’t already be done? Once you’re burned enough, you’re eventually just ash. And the thing about ash is, it doesn’t burn anymore.
An hour and a half later, I’ve smuggled the drugs past security via an orifice (kidding!) and we make it inside the festival, lying on the grass and taking cute pictures of each other in our wild outfits. We’re smiling and drawing on each other and singing when I notice I haven’t heard from The Writer. Checking my phone, I see none of my texts are going through—the large volume of people is clogging the cell reception. I keep my eye on the entrance—people are pouring in. But then I see him. He’s off to the side, typing away at his phone. I sneak up behind him and grab him. “Boo!” He makes a weird startled noise before turning around to give me a hug. “Come over here,” I say leading him back to my group of friends.
I can see their slightly disapproving faces, but they stay in line. “This is The Writer,” I say. He smiles and introduces himself to everyone. “Cool make up,” he says to Dani, and her bitterness melts. He seems to charm each one of them. Of course he does.
Now that everyone loves him, he sits down next to me, nestling close. Someone pulls out the baggie, and we pass around the pills. I take three, handing one of them to The Writer. “Greedy!” He yells jokingly. “Patience!” I say biting a pill in half. He puts out his hand to take it, but I press it up to his lips, and he takes it into his mouth. I take a swig of water before handing him the bottle. “See you when I get to my happy place.”
A little later, we’re a couple dozen yards back from the stage, and Chromeo is blaring. The energy is intoxicating, and the performance is an amazing spectacle. Back up singers do their choreographed step routine in sexy policewoman outfits while P-Thugg rocks away on his keyboard, which stands proudly on a set of lady legs—fishnet stockings, red stilettos, and all. But Dave 1 has me swooning the most—he’s a sexy, excessively tall electrofunk Jewish boy, who is straight but who I also know would for sure flirt with me over a brew in a booth of some bar in Brooklyn. Maybe it’s just the E, but I’m completely electrified as I start into my unfortunate variation of shuffling. It’s quite a spectacle. Plus, The Writer is here with me on my turf seeing me at my brightest—it’s a win. And again, it might just be the E, but he’s looking at me—looking at me differently.
“I really want to make out,” he says. For a second I suppose that he just means in general, but then I notice that his gaze continues, and he begins to rub my shoulders, bouncing to the beat of the music. “That feel good?” He asks, and I almost laugh at how cheesy he is. “Amazing,” I answer, as the drug’s effects ripple across my skin.
I turn toward him and slide my hands across his chest. There I am, standing in front of him, wearing a shirt that says “Needy Girl” in big puff paint letters. No, the irony is not lost on me.
He runs his fingers through my hair. It’s a strange but intense moment. That is until some drunken bitch falls on him. I prop him up, but she goes down. The moment is ruined.
I’m getting kind of thirsty, and I can tell he’s getting a little antsy. Another great song starts up, pulsating into me: “I know inside of me, / sooner or later we gon’ be free.” At one point during the song, I turn and see him watching me with a smile.
That’s when I feel it. A tap on my shoulder. It’s this girl with an ecstatic look on her face like she holds on the great secrets to life. “Kiss him!” She tells me. “Huh?” I ask, confused by this complete stranger. “Kiss him! He wants you to. You won’t regret it!” I smile nervously. “No, I can’t,” I tell her. For a moment I think I’m going to explain the whole situation to her right there, but all that comes out is, “we’re just friends.” And that’s my choice. He’s being affectionate with me, and this is the perfect opportunity to try one more time to make this happen. But where will that get me? At the end of the night, he’ll be back at home with Dalton in his bed. And even though nothing is going on between them sexually, I’ll still be the one who’s sleeping alone. So, no, I don’t kiss him. Maybe that makes me a coward, but at least it’s a decision and one that I made for myself.
The faboosh little oracle girl with glow sticks in her hair disappears back into the crowd, looking a little disheartened. I wonder if The Writer heard what she said, but I remind myself that it’s irrelevant.
“I need some water,” The Writer says. I look around, and we’re all out. “I’m gonna go get another bottle,” he says. I know that once he leaves, he’s not going to be able to get back up this close. And the lack of cell reception means this might be the last time I see him tonight. I give him a hug and tell him I’ll look for him after, then he disappears.
After two songs, I become increasingly anxious and thirsty. “I need some water,” I tell Dani. “You can’t go! They haven’t even played our song yet!” She turns to a random girl behind us. “Can my friend have a sip of your water?” She asks them. “No lips, hun,” she says to me, putting the bottle above my mouth and pouring. I try to leave again, but she makes me stay. I’m glad she does—there’s nothing like having your song played live. You own that moment, and you live it with every ounce of you. It’s a wave of fleeting youth.
As soon as the set ends, I tell my friends where to meet me and go searching for The Writer. Once again, my texts won’t go through. I can’t find him anywhere, so I decide to go buy a bottle of water. Standing in line, I hear his voice: “I can’t keep the cap?” “No sir.” “Why not?” “I don’t know, we just have to keep the caps.” I walk up and interrupt: “It’s so people don’t throw the bottles and hit someone. Without the caps, they can’t do any serious damage.” “That’s real interesting,” the cashier says. “Yeah, people are total animals. Can I have a bottle, too?” When he turns around, I grab a cap off the counter and hide it in my fist.
“You’re sneaky,” The Writer says as we walk away. “I prefer ‘crafty,’” I tell him.
We meet back up with my friends, still riding the wave of energy from the music. I do a crazy little dance. We all hug and laugh and roll around. We take a group shot, and we all look great. And then I take a picture with The Writer. In all the time I’ve known him, we’ve never take a picture together. This is a night I’ll want to remember forever.
But it starts to get cold, and my friends are ready to go. “He’s been super coupley with you tonight,” Dani says. “I’m kind of surprised.” “Really?” I ask. “I thought he was too, but then I thought maybe it was just me.” “No, for sure. He’s really cute, by the way. You two together are,” she says. Not helping. “He’s alright,” I say with a smirk. I turn my head to watch him chatting away.
I walk over and drag my fingers on his back. “I’m gonna go get on the train,” I tell him. “Do you want a ride home with me?” He offers. “You’re not driving, are you?” “No, Dalton is picking me up. He’s here too, but he didn’t drink or anything.” “Sure,” I say.
I tell my friends goodbye, and then it’s just me and The Writer sitting on the grass. It’s super chilly now, and I begin to shiver. “Come here,” he says, and his warmth comforts me.
A few minutes later, The Writer’s phone buzzes. It’s a text from Dalton. The Writer moves just an inch away from me. “Hey, you were keeping me warm!” I protest. “If Dalton sees us, he’s going to hate you.” Going to? “I’ll risk it,” I tell him, scooting into him
The lack of cell reception buys some time, but the energy between us becomes more and more anxious. Finally, The Writer spots Dalton and stands up to wave him down. The clock has struck midnight. Whatever…glass slippers aren’t exactly ideal footwear for shuffling, anyway.
When we get to the car, The Writer pulls his favorite jacket out of the trunk and hands it too me. “Thanks.” Farewell, Prince Charming.
* * *
As the water washes over me, something happens. It’s like my mind asks me this question point blank: “Do you think you would be happier with him?” Yes. The answer shocks me. What is extremely apparent to everyone else is really just hitting me for the first time. It’s amazing how many times I’ve told myself the same lie. “I’m fine without him.” But I honestly now it’s time for confession. I believe that my life would be better if I was with him. I thought I was past this, but it’s programmed into me. I list out every aspect of my life in my head, and try as I might not to, I believe my life would be all around better.
So I was right. He can’t burn me anymore. I’m all ashed out. But I’m left with a bigger problem–me. Luckily, this needy boy is the one piece of this disaster that I actually have control over. It’s time for a change.
To be continued…