by Rudolfo San Miguel
It was only a little after ten in the evening when we got to the 1020 club. It was 2015, and I was still partying with Scotty. The club’s lounge was open, and a small crowd swelled around the bar. The mood inside was a little dry, considering it was early in the night, but there was no line to get in, and we were hoping to score first. Scotty was looking for his dealer while I was looking for that girl.
She had a wicked glare and a curvy waif frame. There were always many hot women at the 1020, but she was in a class of her own. I wandered around, looking for her all night until closing. The previous Sunday, while having lunch with my brother Ernesto near Valencia Street, she arrived with some of her friends. She looked toward us and offered a passing wave before leaving. She was on my mind ever since.
When the doors to the rest of the club opened, Scotty disappeared quickly, looking for someone selling Ecstasy. I lingered in the lounge, waiting for that girl to show up. Scotty was a regular at the 1020. He lived and labored for the scene, which started on a Friday or Saturday, usually lasting early Sunday evening. The club culture there was about music, mingling, dance, and Ecstasy.
It was hard to find anyone in the lounge. It was a small space with an oval bar in the center. People roamed around, wandering in and out. I sipped on a rum and coke before drifting deeper into the club. By this time, Scotty disappeared into the heart of the club, a vascular system of rooms and lounges. I wandered into the main chamber—a large auditorium where the featured DJs spun. A wired crowd was thrashing and circulating as the first DJ set a rhythm to a beat. He was ripping it up, playing some drum and bass that was driving the crowd into a frenzy.
A quick riff of drumbeats with some ambient tones in the backdrop, adorned with a collage of samples and electronic melodies.
Lights in the main room began flickering as everyone thrashed and danced, arms extended to the ceiling. I was lost in a surge of motion, amongst a crowd of idle passion. The smell of floral perfume and skunk weed lingered among the ravers, along with the stench of Red Bull and Absolut. I climbed upstairs to the smaller lounge, which smelled of sex and stale whiskey. It was a dank, black space with a bar in one end, and a window in the other. There was low-fi and trip-hop playing while small cabals of clubbers huddled in the shadows of the bar’s nooks and corners, either zoning out or chatting. A tall, pale bartender with sunglasses and muttonchops eyed me, so I ordered whatever he recommended. He handed me something called a Liquid Demon, which tasted like menthol and Sky Vodka. It was eight dollars.
I walked over to the bay window and looked down at the main room. The dancers were swirling in a frenzy of blasé mayhem while the DJ spun, seemly unaware of his audience. I forgot myself for a while—until the liquor began to fade.
That’s when Scotty slapped me on the shoulder. He got some stuff from one of his regular sellers, explain it was different, laced with a “special” ingredient. We walked down towards the main room as he passed me my Ecstasy—a small and orange tab. I swallowed quickly. We wafted into the feverish crowd, hovering about its boundary, and watching ravers thrash. Scotty bought some bottles of water and passed me one. It took around an hour before the “E” kicked in, and then the room’s motion changed as the lighting seemed more vibrant.
* * *
* * *
It wasn’t until Tuesday that I almost felt like myself. Scotty wasn’t joking. It was strong. Sleep was impossible until Sunday with the help of a bottle of cheap Merlot. The beginning of the week after was a nightmare I struggled through, giving the Ecstasy time to seep out of my system. Unfortunately, my girl didn’t show. I was sure that it would be my last party, until next month. We partied next Friday again.
Scotty disappeared until then, calling me right after work. I got on his shit about where he’d been while he told me about some girl he hooked up with. He asked what I thought about the Ecstasy we had last weekend. I explained how bad it fucked me up. He shook his head and grin. This led to a round of depraved humor at each other’s expense.
“You probably were so out of it you didn’t realize you’re like walking home in some dress and high-heels.”
“Shit, you probably woke up the next morning and noticed your new girlfriend has a mustache.”
Scotty shook his head, grinning. “Fuck that! So are you going again?”
“Damn bro, I think I’m going to sit it out for a couple of weeks. I think that “E” kind of drained me.”
“Come on, Let’s go, dude. The party is about to get started, and you’ll see your girl.”
“Shit, one more tab of that shit you gave me last week, and I’ll probably go home with some truck driver with a beard down to his belly.”
Scotty laughed. “Nasty, all right, if you change your mind, let me know.
* * *
* * *
I finally spoke with that girl several months later. Partying was out of the question, and I didn’t know what to do except wander around San Francisco. At some point, I started hanging out with a couple of other friends, usually for lunch or dinner. I ate several times at that restaurant where I saw her.
Unfortunately, she never showed up again.
Eventually, I was going out drinking with two friends, Manny and Roman. We were hanging out at this corner bar on Valencia, shooting pool. I went for more beer. The bar was empty, so the waitress wasn’t busy. She noticed me coming and turned. I was face to face with that girl. She took my order, acting as we had never met, while I introduced myself. She kindly reciprocated, took the money, and went off taking some empty bottles. I laid the tip down and grabbed the beers.
* * *
* * *
I started hanging out with Scotty again after that night. He was still doing the same thing, clubbing and hustling for pussy. We were at the Matronix over in Potrero Hill. It was Friday night and early. We were hanging out near the back of the main room, where the bar lined the wall. Scotty was looking for his dealer. I was looking for that girl.
The bass was thumping—a high tempo rhythm of beats accompanied by a rapid flow of electric melodies with a garnishing of horns riding the bassline.
Scotty was scanning the room for his dealer while we stood back from the dancers. He began telling me about some girl he started dating. They met at the 1020. They started chatting after the club closed, then went for breakfast and talked through the morning. He’d been spending a lot of time with her and doing the relationship-thing.
She was “super-hot” and really into the club scene. She loved Drum and Bass, which nearly brought a tear to Scotty’s eyes. She was a designer like me. She worked at this major company in the financial district but quit to return to school for a master’s program.
“That’s awesome! It sounds like you’re really into her.”
“Totally, she’s going to be here tonight. I think you’ll totally dig her.” Scotty spotted his dealer and began walking toward him.
When Scotty got back, we walked around a bit, then headed to the smaller room where a DJ was spinning some Nightmare on Wax.
The space was mellow—lots of mingling and lounging. The ratio of men to women favored the guys. It was a total sausage factory, which was slowly driving the women out. We were surrounded by a mob of dudes with bottles of Heineken and Anchor Steam. Most of them wore designer jeans and collared shirts with their chest prodding out like they were in some urbanite Battle Royale for top stud.
Scotty slipped me a tab of “E.” We migrated back to the main room while dropping our tabs. I danced with some girls. By this time, Scotty did his disappearing act. That was when I spotted that girl.
The bass hammered—electronic tones flailed over a tight beat while a wall of ambient phrases embraced all of it.
She was dancing alone in the middle of a bunch of guys, oblivious to their attention. She was wandering away towards the smaller room as I followed. She cruised by the bar. I hung close, blending into a cluster of dancers just in sight of the bar. She was looking for someone and bought a bottle of water. She started drifting into the main throng of ravers. That’s when Scotty slapped me on the shoulder. I looked behind, wondering how long he’d been there. He was grinning ear to ear with a bottle of water in his hands. “Dude, That’s her. Let me introduce you.”
It was at that moment the Ecstasy kicked in. The surge of warm euphoria and energy blanketed my nervous system. There was a slow cadence of mellow music at that moment, a smooth melody of ambient tones that accompanied the crooning voice of women lamenting the weakness of being a lover.
Scotty grabbed her hand and gently led her out of the crowd of ravers. She had dropped and was wasted on Ecstasy. I followed behind. We then drifted into the smaller room, which was almost empty now. They kissed and turned to smile at me.
“Hey Lauren,” Scotty said, “This is Ernesto. He’s been my best friend since high school.”
We shook hands as she smiled warmly and leaned into me. The “E” hit her hard. “Hi, it’s great to meet you finally.”
She didn’t remember me, but I didn’t care. My mind was draped in “E” by now. We wandered around the club in a nebulous state of euphoria. I lost touch with reality and time, unaware of what was going on but enjoying the ride. I couldn’t tell if I was still with Scotty and Lauren and didn’t care. There were smiles and screaming—strobe lights and hot women. The music blended into a maelstrom of chaotic beats and smooth melodies, which I could make sense of—nor did I care.
My awareness returned as one of the bouncers explained to my face that the club was closing. I smiled and shook my head. He stared at me a second and wandered off to tell another group of ravers. I wandered out of the half-empty club with a small group of girls and saw Scotty’s text message. They had left with Lauren already, heading to an after-hours club. He invited me, but I declined.
* * *
* * *
The following Monday was a nightmare. I got to work, burned out on the “E.” I struggled through work for the day, explaining to everyone it was insomnia. Arriving home, I drank some more wine. I ate a little sandwich before crashing, repeating the same routine for the next couple of days while recovering. I stayed away from the scene the following weekend, partly because of the Ecstasy, spending time instead with Aunt Julie and Uncle Julio, who raised me. We watched football and ate enchiladas and fideo. On Sunday, I crashed on the couch and watched television with Ava, an ex-girlfriend. When Wednesday came around, Scotty called. He and Lauren were going to a big electronic music festival in Cow Palace. He said they were getting in free and wanted me to go. I said yes.
* * *
* * *
The next weekend was a blur. Lauren and Scotty were dosing “E” more than once a night. On the other hand, I could handle half a tab. It was enough. The half dose was as solid as the stuff we took two weeks ago. I was mostly better by Sunday night and ready for work on Monday. A month or two later, I was hanging with Lauren while waiting for Scotty. We were at a bar close to the 1020, sipping house wine and sharing chicken strips.
“Scotty’s cheating on me,” Lauren said casually after nibbling on a piece of chicken.
“I’ve caught him talking to the same girl a couple of times when we go out. Then I checked his phone. He’s been calling this thing called Aria regularly. They’ve had an hour-long chat over the phone. Do you know an Aria?”
“Aria? Never heard of her, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a relative or something.” She scanned her phone while I answered. “Yeah, of course,” she muttered.
Lauren looked more offended than hurt about the possible infidelity, which made her feel that Scotty ran along the shallow end of love. I was still in love with Lauren, and though I didn’t want to wish anything cruel to anyone, I felt high with the possibility of hooking up with her.
“There’s Scotty. Don’t say shit. Okay?” Lauren said, putting away her phone.
* * *
* * *
We meandered into the 1020 Club early. As usual, Scotty was meeting up with his dealer while I stayed with Lauren. We stared at the party people packing the lounge before the rest of the club opened. I wandered off to the main room and listened to some super dry House music. Lauren stayed in the lounge. Around an hour later, she bumped into me and passed a tab of “E.” “Are you ready?”
I dropped the tab, confused as she wandered off. Was she talking about Ecstasy, or was she talking about something else? I followed her onto the dance floor. The problem with “E” is it always took a while to kick in. We started dancing as she wandered around in circles, entangled with a group of guys who gravitated around her. She danced with them for a couple of minutes before meandering away. I followed.
The Ecstasy caught up with me nearly an hour later. By then, Lauren had disappeared into the shadows and lights. I spotted Scotty amongst the crowd, thrashing to this DJ playing some rabid Drum and Bass mixes.
Thrashing beats were lying on top of one another with a bassline throbbing over a simple electronic melody. Everything was hyper and cacophonous.
This “E” was something different. It wasn’t long before my consciousness entwined with the fury of the scene. Everything was a blur of bass, beats, and light. Barely aware of my surroundings, I realized that I was talking to somebody I didn’t know, then it seemed like I lost track of time because I was then wandering around the venue, dancing. I found myself with Lauren for a while, then was alone, was talking to Scotty but then surrounded by strangers. The beat kept throbbing, wallowing in circles as I drifted through different spaces. I snapped out of it as Lauren started pulling me out of the club by the arm. I asked her what was going on, and she hugged me, explaining it was after two. The club was closed. We had to go.
Lauren got us a cab and gave the driver directions to her place. I asked when Scotty went. She didn’t know and didn’t care. The “E” was still hitting me hard, and I couldn’t exactly understand what was going on. I could feel my heartbeat throbbing, wallowing circles. Lauren was grinding her teeth like me and began chewing some gum. She offered me a piece. We remained quiet. The cab driver caught on about us and was quiet too. Lauren gave him a decent tip when he dropped us off.
She lived in the Outer Richmond on Cabrillo Street. We spent most of the morning and afternoon watching TV and eating Chinese. We chat about a variety of useless topics. Mostly, we talked about television shows and books. Lauren called Scotty several times, but he never answered. We were still high, but it was mostly the meth now. I spent a lot of time talking and trying to stay calm. I realized it was going to take a couple of days to come down off of this stuff. How could I handle work like this? It was Saturday, so I still had Sunday to recover. I went down the street and bought a couple of bottles of wine. We drank them together until we both ebbed from the speedy high into a drunken stupor. Lauren wandered off to her bedroom. She explained her roommates were gone for the weekend, and it was cool to crash on the couch. She got some blankets for me and went to bed. I finished a bottle and slept for a couple of hours.
* * *
* * *
I lost my job the following week. I called out sick Monday and didn’t show up on Tuesday. After returning on Wednesday, I was spacy most of the morning and muddled through with a project due the day before. It wasn’t the first time I showed up in that condition. Work had already issued several warnings. They released me, and I was out of the office a little after three p.m. I had some money saved and was all right for a while. I went home and slept through until the next day. The drugs were wearing off. I made some eggs and slowly ate while watching the news.
Scotty felt bad about my situation and said he would speak to his boss about a job. I was a graphic designer but worked in a restaurant in college. The manager was a middle-aged woman who ran three restaurants in the city. She needed someone to replace a server who bailed on her last week. They had me start the following week, shadowing someone during lunch. Well-dressed people filled the restaurant from the financial district who order pricy dishes—many seemed to be entertaining. They tipped generously.
I started hanging out with Lauren and Scotty more. Lauren didn’t bring up the other woman again. I guess they had resolved whatever was going on. We spent most of our free time in clubs, dropping Ecstasy. I, personally, struggled with my adoration and the rush of the scene. Whenever I was out partying, I could feel it all, swirling around my nerves and rippling through my skin. I seethed with the euphoric rush that brought back those feelings, which I would relive repeatedly. And then it would pass.
* * *
* * *
There was a major party at Matonix for the New Year’s celebration. By the time we got there, everything was receding into a chaos of music and motion. Lauren drove and just parked. We were walking around the corner towards the club. Scotty was texting some dealers he knew. It was around 11 pm on Saturday, and there was a small crowd that weekend. We were chatting with one another until we saw the girl Scotty supposedly was cheating with on Lauren.
Lauren spoke dryly, walking past us into the club. “Hey Scotty, isn’t that your friend, Aria?”
Aria looked away and kept talking to the girl next to her. Scotty didn’t say anything. I didn’t know whether to be upset or happy. Scotty quickly wandered off, explaining he was going to look for Lauren. I was alone in the club and decided on a drink. I started talking to some girls for a while then went out into the raving crowd. Time evaporated in the fury of music, drama, and alcohol. I don’t remember much after that until the place was closing. I was still out of it when Lauren grabbed my arm from behind. The drama and bourbon had eviscerated her disposition.
She looked at me. Her eyes were red, and she could barely hold her head still. “Let’s go.”
We slowly walked out of the club without saying anything and somehow made it to her car without getting lost. There was no point in driving. We were both too wasted and burned out. I passed her a bottle of water I just bought. She drank it all quietly.
“What happened,” I muttered.
“I don’t know. I lost Scotty somewhere around an hour ago and just got wasted at the bar.”
I was getting a headache, and my stomach was killing me. We hadn’t eaten before leaving. I looked at Lauren. Her eyes were closed, and she was leaning back against her headrest. I looked around and thought I saw a patrol car up the block. “I’m going to get a rideshare. Are you okay about leaving your car here overnight?”
“I don’t give a shit.”
I sent out a request, and, sure enough, a rideshare popped around the corner in ten minutes. We slowly changed vehicles and began riding back to Lauren’s place. We both sat in the back. The driver was friendly and quiet. Lauren leaned her head against my shoulder, and I suddenly felt a lot better.
“I’ve got frozen pizzas at my place,” Lauren muttered. “Is that all right?”
I smile. “Yeah.”
* * *
* * *
By the time we got to her place, we both were feeling a little bit better. She put a combo pizza in the oven while I sat on the couch resting. When she returned from the kitchen, she laid on the floor next to the television.
“Scotty is kind of a dick,” I said with my eyes closed.
“I don’t fucking care.”
“I’m totally into you. Do you know that? I mean, sorry, never mind. Sorry, I’m being a dick too.”
“It’s all good, buddy. Yeah, I know you kind of like me. Sorry, I’m just not into you, but, like, your one of my best friends.”
“Seriously. You just have to play the game as these say, get on the prowl.”
“Yeah, just remember to stop doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”
“That’s the story of my life.”
“What do you think I’ve been doing with Scotty? Hah, no more of that shit.”
We sat there quietly for a while. It began to rain outside, and I felt a warm, comfortable feeling inside me, a sensation free of booze or meth or Ecstasy or lust. It was brief, but it felt much more refreshing than any way I’d felt in a long time.
“You think I can get a girl easy?” I asked
“You can get a girl. You’re pretty cute and fun and nice. You’re just not a dick, so I can’t be with you.”
We both laughed, loosening up. My next memory was lying on the couch. What day was it? Did I have work? I eventually figured out I didn’t have to work till Tuesday night. It was early. The apartment was quiet. The rain had stopped falling. I didn’t want to wake anyone, so I cleaned up and wrote Lauren a note under her door. I got a cab and went home.
Rudolfo San Miguel earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. He has written fiction for ten years and continues to develop as a writer, drafting stories that amuse him. He hopes they amuse you as well.