Min's head nods to the soundtrack that is trumpeting in her head as she struts past the bar towards the big scarlet couches that line the wall. She has her good boots on: high, black, and marvelous. All her angles feel sharp; she feels young and hot and in love with every breathing thing around her. Her weight is down in her hips, and within her boots her feet are arched, so that at any moment she can spring forward like a cheetah.
Glory nudges her with her hip, and Min looks over to see her bobbing her head to the same beat. Glory's eyes (now black holes lined with blue) ask if Min is feeling it. Min's eyes narrow slyly and affirm—her heart racing with the excitement of saying “I love you” for the first time.
Min looks over to Alex. His face is half-panic. Min reaches over and brushes his palm and leans in, “Little overwhelming?”
The laugh breaks out, and Min can feel it froth through him, up from his bellybutton, unleashing the good chemicals, pushing the fear away. His lips struggle to form around words and then a big silly smile erupts.
Mo is a few steps in front of them, listing a bit as he walks. Glory bounds ahead to him and he recoils, startled. She leaps up, batting catlike at the phosphorescent green streamers that hang from the ceiling like downward-growing glowing grass. Mo gapes up at the streamers, and he mouths the words “Oh my God.”
Glory calls over to Min, “Call a huddle!”
Min gives the game plan: “Okay Team, this place is huge. There is a dance floor and an ambient room, and a more regular bar upstairs. We are going to nab a couch in the lounge. Cigarettes out and on the table; they are community property now. It is great to go wander off but always tell Glory or me where you're going. Drink orange juice or grapefruit juice for now; too much beer can kill the fun.”
“Won't they know I am…?” Mo pauses, not sure if he should say it aloud.
“Rolling?” Min finishes, feeling woozy for an instant.
“That,” he says.
“Mo, they already know,” she assures him, regaining her balance without anyone noticing.
“No. It's great. Everyone can know…don't yell it, though…sometimes people yell it.”
“Ready…break!” Glory calls out.
They climb the three steps, spy the prized corner couch, and converge on it, tossing their back packs onto the cushions. Cigarette packs—Gauloises Blondes, cloves, Lucky Strikes, and Camels—tumble onto the coffee table in front of the couch along with Zippos, a zebra-striped Bic lighter, a roll of Sweet Tarts and soluble Vitamin C tablets. Glory flings herself buttward onto the couch, while Mo carefully lowers himself onto it. Alex sinks in, his hands discovering the rapture of the velour-like fabric underneath him.
Min spins around and takes in the picture. The lounge area is only half full; they are facing one of the bars. Everything glistens, the glasses hanging in rows above the bar, the mirrors on the deep red walls, even the brown wood paneling left over from when Down was just some rich hipster's basement. She closes her eyes and can still see everything shimmer in front of her, her skin warms, the air smells impossibly fresh, and sucking it in is deliciously indecent—almost erotic. She lets herself fall back into the couch.
She lands right between Glory and Mo. Mo is shaking his head.
“Oh, I am so glad I waited to do this,” he sarcasms.
“This stuff is so clean,” says Min. On stuff this clean Min felt like she was forgiven for everything and that if anyone was looking down from heaven they would be on her side.
“Eerily genuine,” says Alex.
“Now, there is some speed in this, I can tell…there'll be waves,” cautions Glory.
“Should we go dance?” asks Alex.
“Not yet,” Min and Glory both answer. “Have a cigarette.”
Min falls back on Glory, and Glory wraps her arms around Min's torso; Alex grabs a cigarette and lights up. Mo's arms are still wrapped tightly around his chest like he is stuffing himself back in, as he stares out at no one in particular. Min places her fingers on his warm head, and swirls his curly hair. He gasps at the first touch, and then muscles shut off one by one, melting their hold on him, his arms flop to the side and his head moves up to catch Min's hand like a happy kitten. Glory laughs at Alex who is farthest away and is sucking on his cigarette hard, as if determined to finish it all in one suck.
“Min!” A voice yells from across the bar. Min looks out and downward. It is a very tall woman in leather pants and a short, fake ostrich feathers coat.
“Hey!” Min calls back, “Jackie!” she adds suddenly recognizing her.
Jackie lopes up to the couch. “You guys having the usual!?”
Min stands up and gives her a long hug.
“Obvious? Am I clenching?” Min asks, referring to her jaw.
“I don't know. Turn around!” Jackie guffaws. “Like, the whole crew is here, and rolling to boot. Love, love, love! Hey, everyone, up here!”
Soon there is a small crowd of friendlies gathered around. Gary and Todd were always a funny couple. Gary comports himself like a homophobic redneck, with stubble, torn blue jeans and a sweat-stained baseball cap. While Todd is his cut, just-short-of-Calvin-Klein-Ad boyfriend in the tight tiger prints.
Annie and Bell were ditsy E-heads, but when Annie, wearing a dress that reminds Min of a cartoon character, goes over to Mo with a puppet of Ernie and Bert on each hand she knew that the two of them were going to be fine. Bell, whose freckles, plumpness, and rosy complexion made her shine with disconcerting adorableness, practically swoons when she sees Glory; could this be the girl Liam tried to trick into a threesome a few months back?
Well Liam doesn't have bad taste, I'll give him that.
Jackie distributes E-toys: lollipop rings, Playdough and Vick's Vaporub.
“Hey Glory, do you think this is a sign?” Min calls down to Glory after a few minutes of this.
“Praise the lord!” Glory says.
Mo does not hear; he is transfixed by a discussion of Ernie's sexuality while fervently squishing a palmful of Playdough.
“Mo-Momo, do you want to stay?” Min asks. “You can stay here with the nice people if you like. We're going to go dance.”
“No! What! No! I'm coming, too!” Mo springs to his feet, and is swept back into the circle by Alex's thick arm.
Min aims and they march towards the flashing lights and the muffled pounding. From the distance it is one shadowy mass of heads and flailing hands, but as they grow close they see a good crowd has shown up for DJ Ghost. They are coalescing, fusing into a moment she entered the first time she ever took this drug and now felt she has never left. Glory squeezes her hand. It sends a charge through Min's bones.
They step down onto the dance floor and weave deeper into the crowd. The dry-ice fog stings Min's nose in a blissfully familiar way. People are moving everywhere, but they find space to set it down. Glory's shoulders and hips are already moving. She leans over to Mo and she has to yell, “Watch Glory!”
Min looks up at the stage. DJ Ghost is a shadow, standing above his mixing boards. She can't see his face, but his glasses have tiny flashlights mounted on both sides. His lights jog up and down, methodically to the beat, as if he is some dazzling android conductor. He moves a switch and a buzzing plows through one of the rhythms bringing, with it streams of sound forming their own rivulets.
Min closes her eyes; her shoulders jut up and down, her hips swivel, her knees rock without commanding. She feels long and sleek. Every nerve is coming up now. She swims in it, until she opens her eyes again to see Glory. And there she is, eyes half open, feet falling on points and balls and heels with speed and precision from routines burned into her nervous system over years and years of study, her muscles so strong they hold her in impossible suspension as her hands and hips move seductively around the music, making room for it, spreading it out.
Glory is in it. Min could watch her all night.
She looks to see that Mo has stopped dead watching Glory dance. Min laughs right at him, he laughs back. “How am I supposed to dance close to her?” he says. “I'm like a public nuisance!”
“Easy!” Min takes her index fingers, touches his eyelids lightly, and pulls them down.
It works. Mo breaks into his Beastie Boy-inspired steps, with one foot forward like he is about to snap into a windmill or a head spin, but then pulling it back like he is far too cool to do that just yet.
She spins around to see Alex. His eyes are closed, too, and his ribs and hips jump and groove. He's good, and not in the funny way; she isn't expecting this. His hands are low, his fingers flaring like independent creatures. There is a pattern. Min can see it. The music is coming to his hands; he is grasping at it each time one particular beat strikes. He is drawing torrents of music through the dance floor and down beneath his hands and dipping his fingers as it passes under his grip.
Min feels as if she has a secret—a secret she wants to scream out to the dance floor, to the club, to the greater Philadelphia area. “I want to make out with Alex Gromov,” she whispers to herself, “like a fifteen-year-old girl.” Scattershot doubts that came from the weeks of tipsy heart-to-hearts over fried chicken, or wonton soup, or chicken paprikash, seem like libels now.
How could a past Min have ever doubted? Good thing that Min is gone now, left somewhere in the Precambrian era, the era before she entered the club tonight.
All rights reserved.
Spend the night on E with Min and afterwards everything changes.
You can follow X every week by joining this group: http://bit.ly/zVjRM9
I am very much looking for feedback here so please do let me know what you think is working and what I could do better for some future X 2.0.
For the next chapter, please go to: http://fictionaut.com/stories/benjamin-matvey/x-chapter-9-the-confessions