“I got a six-pack of tall-boys for me and three coolers for you.” Roxy breathlessly bursts into my apartment with a large paper bag. She’s ready for action in her Norma Kamali jacket and short black skirt and, judging by the way she’s swaying slightly in the doorway, I know she’s already had at least one on the walk over. I don’t think we’ve ever gone out sober together.
I twist the cap off my first cooler, taste the sweet tanginess of the bubbles on my tongue, and examine myself in the mirror. Tonight I opted for a black wraparound top and black miniskirt. Got my infamous “witches shoes” on, the little pumps with the four straps across the top and grommets pinning them all together.
“Can’t wait to meet some awesome guys tonight to sweep us off our feet!” She says enthusiastically, smiling broadly as she hikes up her skirt to adjust her tights. I’m not sure I need some stranger to sweep me off my feet, but I’ll settle for some attention in light of my recent breakup with Christian. I don’t mention him, because she’ll scold me for pining over him again.
“Ugh! The line is so long!” Roxy whines melodramatically, as though there were a hundred people in front of us. In fact, there’s all of ten people, mostly men, waiting outside Café Iguana.
We’re in less than ten minutes later. Even though I’ve been here a half-dozen times, it still inspires a little bit of awe upon first entering. It’s not a big place, but it’s always wall-to-wall people. As in, I don’t know what the fire code is, but they’re dangerously close to a violation.
The wide, L-shaped bar is already three deep with people, the dance floor full, and the path around it all is crowded with bodies. Looking up to the open second floor, past the giant iguana wrapped in Christmas tree lights and suspended from the ceiling, I see people lining the railing, overlooking the dance floor, jamming to Everybody, Everybody.
The male to female ratio seems to be about eight to one, and Roxy and I are probably the youngest ones in there. Most of the men are older, still wearing the suits they wore to work today. Simply put, the place is a meat market, and she and I are passing inspection by dozens of shameless eyes. I don’t much care for the place but she talked me into it, promising a good time. Whatever. It’s always fun with Roxy. If nothing else, it’ll certainly be entertaining.
As I push my way straight ahead to a small clearing near the DJ, I feel a hand brush my ass. What the hell! It’s almost impossible to avoid contact in a bar this crowded, but I suppose if you don’t like it stay home. It’s also so crowded it’s not only difficult to know what was intentional and what was not, but who you made contact with. Roxy is giving someone the evil eye.
Once we get to the clearing I turn back to face the “dancefloor,” which is one step down from where I’m now standing and looks like a writhing, rhythmic movement of limbs and bodies. Everywhere, people are scoping people out. I scan the sea of faces and spot a cute one, at the moment his eyes rest on me. He’s smiling at me, but there are far too many people between us and the bouncer gives me a nudge.
“Keep it moving!” he bellows, his voice booming over the thrumming beat in my ears.
“Go to the bathroom!” Roxy shouts into the back of my hair. I can hear the irritation in her voice, and I know without looking she’s got the look that kills all over her face. But people are moving so damn slow, some not moving at all, that it’ll take us an hour to get where we’re going. Someone’s spiked heel sinks into my foot. Ow!
I wonder why people come here. Why am I here? Oh yeah – I wanted to have an evening no other bar could offer. I can’t explain why, except that the people who come here are a little wilder than what I’m used to. Café Iguana is not our “usual” bar scene.
Anyway, ten minutes and a few bruises later, we finally get into the bathroom. It’s always steamy and the hairspray has literally burnt a hole in the air supply. There are already five girls in here, one doubled over the attendant’s stool with her head between her knees. The stall directly in front of her is empty, with the door wide open. I hear faint moans coming from the one next to it, a pair of red shoes peeking out from under the door. The attendant looks frazzled and I feel sorry for her; this is a thankless job and tonight is no exception.
“He’s so awesome, you know? He said I have the most beautiful eyes he’s ever seen,” a short brunette in an orange bustier says to a taller version of herself, who is wearing a black cropped top that barely covers her breasts.
“It’s so hot in here,” Roxy says to me, patting the back of her neck with a paper towel. She bends over and flips her long hair to make it fuller. I pull out my lipstick and lean into the mirror. The two girls, leaning into each other giggling, open the door to go out.
“Guess who’s getting a ride home tonight?” I say sarcastically, watching them stumble out the door, the sudden splash of loud club music pouring in as the door slowly closes behind them.
Another girl in a spandex outfit, who has been primping herself at the mirror since we walked in added, “yeah, every guy in here is only after one thing.” Her eyes never leave the image in the mirror. She grabs one of the hairspray cans on the counter and sprays her six-inch blonde bangs, as if they would dare to move anyway.
“Yeah, just once I’d like to meet a nice guy in a bar… my knight in shining armor!” Roxy says flippantly, laughing at herself in the mirror.
“Oh yeah – tall, dark, handsome, rich, nice red Porsche…” the tall blonde adds with a thoughtless smile. I guess there’s no harm in dreaming. I don’t think I’ll meet Mr. Wonderful in Café Iguana, or any bar for that matter. Any relationship just seems, I don’t know, doomed that way.
Roxy and I head out to the bar – a formidable attempt to get a drink. She plows her way through the crowd of dancing drunks like a boss. Something cold and wet spills onto my arm, and I feel a tug on the back of my hair but I don’t turn around. Roxy’s going full speed ahead and I don’t want to lose her.
When she finally reaches the bar, she leans seductively over it, waves her AmEx card, and orders two Long Island Iced Teas. I stand behind her like a shadow, waiting for her to hand me my drink. She’s talking to some guy with a pony tail next to her so I survey the crowd, hoping to catch sight of my friend with the gorgeous smile.
As I mentioned, the men here are mostly mid-to-late twenties; some businessmen judging by the suits, some look like they could be models – a veritable sea of dark-haired men (haven’t quite figured that one out yet). There are few standouts – meaning, they don’t fit the unspoken criteria for entry and yet here they are.
I accidentally catch the eye of this scary-looking, slightly balding older man. I quickly look away, but in this arena I already know it’s too late. I made eye contact. He empties his glass and slithers over to me. I try to engage Roxy in conversation, but she’s deeply engrossed in Pony Tail and she merely hands me my drink and turns back to him.
“Smile!” Baldy leans in and smiles at me. “Aren’t you having a good time?” He says something else but I don’t hear him over the noise.
“Observing. It’s what I do.” I don’t look at him, but continue searching the crowd for someone. Anyone.
“Well, I was watching you and you have the most gorgeous smile I’ve ever seen.” What a line of bullshit! I feel like saying something rude, but instead pretend I don’t hear him. Go away, go away, go away….
“What’s your name?” He’s not getting the hint. I’m getting annoyed. I take a long sip of my drink, and shut my eyes to savor the dizzying effects of the liquor. There’s really nowhere for me to go; I’m surrounded by people and I don’t want to lose Roxy.
“Hey!” Roxy yells into the back of my hair, slapping her hand down on my shoulder. I spin around, nearly spilling what’s left of my drink. She introduces me to Pony Tail, whose name is Damon. He is something to behold. He smiles a perfect smile, and his eyes linger briefly on my breasts. Jesus Christ. I turn around again, annoyed.
Baldy has disappeared, finally, so I resume my people-watching. Ice Ice Baby is rocking the entire bar and the dance floor is one big, cohesive seizure. Things are starting to get a little blurry.
The entertainment is now up on the bar, and all eyes are on the two lovelies who get up there every night and proceed to reveal their latest lingerie. Tonight it’s red lace panties under very short dresses. This is what attracts the sleazy assholes who hit on me. I wonder why I degrade myself by even coming here.
“There you are!” This man, dressed all in white with his shirt unbuttoned to the navel and a small gold medallion resting on a tuft of chest hair, says to me with a broad smile. I glance around me. He can’t be talking to me.
“Ven…..conmigo!” He grabs me by the arm, confirming my worst fears. He’s certainly very sure of himself, and I’m suddenly worried about what’s coming. Lambada is playing, of all things. For the love of God, why?
He pulls me tightly to him and begins to move. I’ve never been good at dancing with a partner. My body doesn’t understand someone else leading. It can’t get much worse. We’re moving so fast it’s making me dizzy and I’m just too weak to get away. Now this is funny. I’m so drunk that I can’t help but laugh at this ridiculous predicament I’m in and that I look like a complete fool. I am laughing so hard I can’t even dance anymore, his body and his arms pulling me along like a giant rag doll. Might as well go with the flow, as Roxy always says. Am I really doing the Lambada?
He eventually gives up on me, bless his little Latin soul, because he thanks me and kisses my cheek like a true gentleman. Still, I try to lean away from his kiss, but I almost lose my balance. Someone’s hand presses against my back. Lambada King moves on to his next victim and I’m suddenly alone. With no drink. And no Roxy.
I start to make my way back to the bar to buy another Long Island Iced Tea. “Hey beautiful!” I hear someone say. I don’t bother to look. Besides, if I turn my head around too fast I’ll get dizzier and fall down. No, really, it’s happened before.
Dancing people are bumping into me but I’m numb and just allow myself to be propelled by the crowd. I wonder where the hell Roxy has gotten to. Probably in a dark corner upstairs with Pony Tail. I hope she doesn’t leave without me. Not that she’s ever done that, but alcohol can really mess with your sense of security in a public place surrounded by strangers when you can’t find your friends.
Fresh drink in hand, I’m about to start searching for the two of them when I see him again, the guy who smiled at me from the other side of the bar what seems like hours ago. He’s seen me too. He’s smiling shyly at me, so I smile back and take a long sip of my drink. It’s going down like water now. He makes his way over to me. God, he’s hot! I take a deep breath.
He’s from Brazil, and now living in New York. He’s asking me questions and suddenly leans into my neck. He says he likes my perfume and leans in again, this time brushing my neck with his lips. Holy wow! That was forward. My stomach flips over.
“So… are…?” What did he say? I can’t hear him over the music. I just smile and bask in the warmth of his proximity and attention.
And then all of sudden Roxy appears, screaming in my ear something about a song and, “we have to dance!” She pulls me along, shoving her way up onto a bench and dragging me with her. I try to protest, but there’s no stopping her and she can’t hear me anyway. I’ve never seen her dance this way before. I down what’s left of my drink that didn’t spill on the way to the bench and start dancing. I’m laughing but have no idea why or what’s so funny.
“What battery are you on?” I hear someone shout at us. Roxy is trying to tell me, as we’re dancing, how she kissed Pony Tail and he wanted to take her home but she wasn’t ready to leave yet so she gave him her number. I don’t know why they bother. They never call anyway.
I start to tell her about Marco when I realize he’s gone. I scan the crowd and see him standing nearby, talking to some girl with boobs spilling out over her top, and he’s leaning into her neck. I can’t believe it. What an ass!
Some guido grabs me by the waist and is dancing behind me. I make a drunken attempt to unwrench his hands from me but he seems determined to hold on. “Get your hands off me!” Works like magic.
Roxy has been seized by his friend and, laughing, she performs some bizarre dance on his leg. What the hell is she doing? The two guys offer us a ride home and Roxy starts to follow them but I say no. I may be drunk but I’m not stupid.
We grab a cab from the line of cabs waiting outside, and head home.
Creative writing. Original piece written in Spring 1992. Any similarity or resemblance to persons, real or imagined, is not intentional and solely for entertainment purposes.
Clubs Shatter Peace of Gramercy Park