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Radical Excision: A Biff in the Snoot | 2009 | Schrödinger's Cat is Not Dead

06.27.09 2:41 a.m.

To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.  

-Agnes De Mille


Pants-On Dance-On

Jess and Rosie  
Jess and Rosie (being a lush)

As I wait outside Cabaloosa in New Paltz, my anxiety gradually increases. The neuroses in my head all gain individual voices, describing how this is the perfect combination of things I do not like and I ought to just give up. I hate loud sounds enough that I went out of my way to buy unfortunately violet earplugs, I hate enclosed spaces, I hate stifling air, I hate intentional gatherings of people more pretentious than I am, I hate being expected to do things in public at which I know I do not excel. All they would have to do it add crying children for 80's Night to be truly miserable. But, I suppose, I am currently filling that role.

Melanie keeps telling me that she wants to make sure I am getting out and having fun, perhaps unclear of the extent to which I do little else since losing my job. I am tired of all of this fun. I am tired of not having a job that would give structure to my life. I am tired of having money that I cannot spend because I do not know when next I will have steady income. 80's Night becomes emblematic of this aimlessness and the neuroses encourage me to hate it because they don't want me to enter. It is when I recognize this, when I look the neuroses square in their beady eyes, that I know I have to do my best to enjoy this experience, if just to spite them.

Finn walks up the street with some friends I don't know. I had opted not to wear glasses, both for stylistic reasons and because I didn't care to have them crushed while I danced, which reduced my vision to blurry figures beyond twenty-five feet or so. Still, I can tell even before he gets inside my sphere of clarity that no one with him constitutes someone I've met before. Finn slaps my hand, says, "Hey, punk," and walks away again, leaving me to pace the street until Jess arrives.

I try to remember the cautions Jess gave me, not that I found any of them especially worrisome. I just wanted to give my mind someone more to do than listen to hipsters bemoan Michael Jackson's death today as though they found him relevant before he was a corpse. Incidentally, below is that Jess thought it was important to warn me with my comments in italics:

  1. Copious gay people. All very friendly. Most very drunk. I also hear that on occasion one or two will flirt mercilessly with any man be they gay or not. Some of my friends need this warning, which is sad, but I figured I'd get it out of the way. No problem, I like gay people and can defuse flirts like a pro.
  2. We stay out rather late. Maybe not so much this week, depending on my work schede, but it's never before 2am. Also no problem, I can leave when I wish and will.
  3. Wear something you like to wear out, HOWEVER, make sure it is nothing that will get ruined by accidental spills, shoes that won't get ruined by being accidentally stepped on, etc... I opted for tight black jeans Melanie calls my "sexy pants" and a thin red shirt from India, along with steel toed boots. It seemed a good combination of utility and style.
  4. Me, Rosie, and Loren are... well we're enthusiastic. I'm sure you will again see a side of me you may or may not have expected. And I must warn you that I find [Finn] an almost unstoppable force of charisma at 80's night too. If I at any point in time make you uncomfortable, let me know and I will refrain from whatever it was I was doing at the time :-) Which shouldn't happen because I won't be drinking if I drive over. I mostly just laughed and told her that I didn't quite see how anything she did with other people (even sloppy Finn make-outs) really affected me and that she should kiss who she wished. She is single and kissing is fun, if a bit germy with strangers.
  5. There will be many many introductions I'm sure, but don't be upset if you forget them, they've probably forgotten yours already too. :-) I told her this would not be an issue, as I do not tend to remember names until I've already decided I like the person, find them utterly bizarre, or hate them and want to keep away from them. I didn't imagine the first or the last occurring and, anyway, I don't really mind not being remembered by strangers.

I have ample time to mull these over as I wait, leaning against a parking meter and scanning the street for Jess's arrival (she did say she would be late). Finn, who has entered and exited Cabaloosa with his cadre, approaches again and, motioning his friends toward to me, says, "This is the safest parking meter on the street."

"Not that safe, it's expired," I retort. In reply, he and his friends walk up and down the street, smoking.

Entering Cabaloosa is a steady stream of people whose every action screams, "Look at me!" something I am immediately disinclined to do. They may technically occupy the same space as I do, but I will be damned if I let them chew my scenery anymore than I have to. I have been them, which makes this all the more grating to me. I have worn elaborate outfits, I have dyed my hair multiple colors (and would likely have dark blue hair if I didn't have to care about employment), I have willfully confused hair length with identity. But it becomes abundantly clear in foregoing these thing that those who need to rely on them secretly worry they are not themselves without accessories. If your personality can be removed with shampoo, scissors, and plain clothes, there is a good chance you don't actually have one of your own. I do not trust people who feel the need to wear all their weird on the outside. To me, it speaks of such a vast fount on insecurity that I wish to give them a wide berth to avoid their trying to draw me in to their justification. This is said with full knowledge that I have close friends with silver teeth or who wear wings to social occasions. But I am further aware that these are not the first things they care to show off to people and that they have more then enough within them to both justify and offset outward eccentricities. (And, of course, people I know and like are given special dispensations by virtue that I know and like them and do not mind my hypocrisy.)

Jess and Rosie walk up the street as I am fishing my phone out of my pocket to inform them that I am too anxious to wait on the street for them any longer, though they didn't ask me to. Jess is dressed in a black and green bodice that summons cleavage up to one's attentions. Her pants are tight and black, decorated with chains. Rosie, on the other hand, is dressed in a peach t-shirt too large for her and demur blue jeans, with a large silver unicorn pendant. Neither outfit seems to be parodying the 1980's, for which I am grateful.

"I couldn't enter without you," I explain to Jess, more than a little embarrassed. "And I pretty much wanted to squish most of the people who passed by. They're all trying so hard. Like this guy in an ankle length pleather jacket. I'm hot and I'm wearing the lightest outfit I can!"
Ryan and Rosie  
Ryan is judging your profile, Rosie!

"That's Finn's friend. He's actually not trying at all and he's really proud of this coat."

"You can be proud of it and not wear it at the end of June!"

As we wait on line to enter, Rosemary yells to me that she likes to stand in the corner and make fun of the hipsters and, somehow, gathers that I will be useful in this capacity. Have I shown my hand so much, so quickly?

"Are you going to write about this?" Jess asks.

"I have to," I tell her, meaning precisely that. This is an experience, I am having thoughts, why would I bother subjecting myself to potential discomfort if I cannot later regurgitate it into something worthwhile?

We walk in and I put earplugs in. Instantly, I have distance from what I'm doing, as though I am observing and participating rather than existing wholly in the moment. I can hear the music and people talking to me, but I do not feel my insides tightening against the din that would otherwise cause my ears to ring into the next day. I do not cringe at every wave of bass that assaults me, though I can feel the urgency of the vibrations on my skin. Even better for me, the earplugs grant me an inner monologue to compensate for the fact that I know I cannot write until I am free of the club again. I can and do repeat quietly what I will wish to write later.

Jess, Rosemary, and I dance very little after getting drinks - I have nothing but water; even if I were a drinker, this seems like it would be the majority of what would be in my glass anyway - quickly heading to the smoking area on a fenced in concrete platform. I dodge the clouds of clove smoke with due deference; I am the interloper and, while I don't much care, I will give the smokers their space. Jess tries to introduce me around, but I smile and nod until the social cues are given that will release me to wander.

Finally, Jess and Rosemary say they wish to dance again, which is, despite my having no idea if I can dance, my secondary reason for being here (seeing them being my primary, fighting my fears my tertiary). We three dance and quickly a middle aged man in an orange t-shirt begins trying to dance with Jess and Rosie. I glare at him and smile, not that he sees, then direct myself between them and him. I may not be useful for much else on the dance floor, but I am an expert cockblocker. Eventually, but not soon enough, he gets the gist that neither of these women are going to be available for his misdirected woo and cabbage-patches his way to a slock of girls wearing the wristbands given to the under-21s.

Jess wanders back to the smoking area, but Rosie and I don't leave the dance floor. Tentatively, I establish that I want to dance with her, not simply in her proximity. To a degree, I am here as much for her as for Jess, given the thirty seconds of dancing we shared in her apartment over the weekend. Dancing with her was a new flavor to me and I wanted another taste, hopefully a longer one to determine high notes and undertones. We dance through several songs, our contact varying depending on the beat and our collective mood. I know she is safe, that she is not going to misinterpret, so I have no inhibitions in dancing with her.

I ease off of her after this, though I am enjoying my time with her, because dancing with me only insulates her from negative experiences. It does nothing to increase her potential for good experiences with new and possibly rewarding people who are not categorical neuters. My goal of dancing without reservedness may constitute nothing more than bait to her and I would be loathe to interfere more than I need to.

Later, Rosie tells me how nice it was to dance with me, how I was the only one who wasn't thinking about how her dance moves would look in bed. While our dancing was not the type that left space for the Virgin Mary between us and she is certainly sexy on the dance floor, it seems to me like such a waste of a night to try to vertically screw someone who only wants to feel the music from her shoulders to her hips to her ankles.

"Be nice when you write about this," Rosie says as I am making my goodbyes around 2AM. "I'm very narcissistic."

"Oh, I believe I can accommodate this need." I leave the club, take my earplugs out, and hear nothing but the night, all those niggling whispers of insecurity trampled.

Soon in Xenology: Job hunting. 80s Night again. Vanderbilt.

last watched: Night of the Living Dead
reading: Tao of Pooh
listening: Cyndi Lauper

Radical Excision: A Biff in the Snoot | 2009 | Schrödinger's Cat is Not Dead

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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