I pulled my “ID” out of my wallet, casual as usual. The Belmar is our usual spot on Fridays and they hardly ID at the doors before 9. Tonight was different; the bar was packed for a Thursday. The bartender squinted down at the ID, looked at me, looked at the ID, looked at me again. The double take is always a bad sign. I tried angling my face lower to match Julia’s in the picture.
“You got anything else with your name on it? Credit card or something?” Shit.
I looked dumbly down at my wallet.
“Uh, no, just my debit card…yeah, no, that’s all I have.”
“Ok. Well, I can’t let you in.” He handed the card back.
“Alright. Sorry dude,” I said to my friend, who had his valid ID out and ready. I glimpsed a few of our friends sitting inside at the bar. “Damn.” The feeling is not unlike the time in second grade I was told I couldn’t go on the far cooler, bigger wooden playground with the monkey bars and tire swings because it was only “for big kids,” when I knew I could use the monkey bars just as damn well as any fifth grader.
We walked back to Chestnut Street, Adrian stopping to pick up a six-pack of Saranacs from Cavanaugh’s. I pouted about the bouncer most of the way, trying to rationalize why I got bounced. Honestly, my “ID” isn’t all that great, but the rejection felt like a weird sort of personal insult. There were several college students milling around Leroy Street near the package store, making some final purchases for the final night before everyone vacates for Spring Break. Our break comes later than most of the other U.S. colleges for some reason, meaning we go 6 straight weeks without any sort of long weekend or day off. There are worse things out there, but it’s enough to turn a lot of students into apathetic sleep-deprived zombies.
That night I just wanted to drink, honestly. Not get shit-faced, but the pleasant sort of floating-above-everything feeling that comes after a few beers. The Belmar is my choice place because the beer is decent, the crowd is older, and it’s designed to be a sit-and-sip sort of place. Not like the bars downtown on State Street, which are always overrun with rowdy college students dancing or looking to hookup.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy dancing. That’s why the one or two beers in a relaxed setting are an important pre-requisite. They let you shed just enough of yourself to dance without that inkling of dread that comes with sober self-awareness. Perhaps I’m too methodical when it comes to all this.
“Awww you look, like, 10 years old!” Yuki shouts at me when we walk into the Chestnut house to meet up with everyone. After splitting the Saranacs, we headed downtown to catch the drag show at Merlin’s. Two beers in and I had cultivated a decent buzz. Outside the bar, we ran into Zoe and a guy who’d been in my Israeli-Palestinian Conflict class last semester. I hadn’t seen Zoe since freshman year. Zoe was a crash course in college radicalism: president of Democracy Matters, ardent feminist, agendered, chain-smoking, tall, androgynous, argumentative and extremely well-spoken, she (actually, I think she preferred ‘zher’ as a pronoun but I’m not sure) was the exact opposite of everything I’d lived with during my 16 years in the suburbs. She scared the shit out of me freshman year. And yet I felt this strange psychological need to impress her, or win her favor or something, because she was completely uninterested in me. I was just another white girl from the suburbs to her. And she was right in a way. I am just another white girl from the suburbs. And there’s a part of me that fears and resents it.
When we ran into her she’d been out bar hopping with a friend and was wearing a tight blue crop-top and had her black hair straightened. Her ectomorphic frame is intimidating in itself; she towers over me by at least six inches, her exposed stomach was hard and lean, she’s both strangely sexual and not-to-be-fucked with.
I was drunk and surprised to see her. “Zoe, wow I haven’t seen you in a year! You’re so tall!”
Even just being around her seemed to bring my stupid, know-nothing suburban kid out. Hell, I couldn’t even get myself into the Belmar before.
“Hey. Yes, that is my favorite part about myself,” she responded cooly, not making eye contact. She has never made eye contact with me. Her gaze is perpetually fixed somewhere over my head, which maybe contributes to the strange psychological need to gain her attention.
I think some of the more psychologically fucked-up nightmares I’ve had mostly involved people refusing to acknowledge me or look me in the eyes for some reason or another.
We get into Merlin’s, my ID works just fine and I get the honorary 21+ wristlet. The drag show was just getting started when we walked in.
“I need to drink,” I said and made my way to the bar with Adrian. We got a pair of bitchy pink cosmopolitans, which I was near-ready to chug if not for Adrian telling me to take it slow lest I hit the drunk-wall.