Music was loud. Techno tunes were blasting from the boxes with ear-piercing highs, and basses that shaken one’s bones as if they were thunders exploding one after the other. Darkness was cut by laser beams green and red, and also by diffuse spots of yellow, blue and purple lights coming from the ceiling here and there. As a result from both the dry ice generators and the smoke from the cigarettes, there was a soft fog in the air, turning every corner and every face a little bit blurry. All around the crowded club the smell of perfume, mint and beer were mixing together in unlikely harmony.
Annie’s plans started to take shape inside her head the second Suzie told about Elizabeth’s invitation, about two weeks before. It was perfect. O.R. (Only Revolutions), the club chosen by Liz for her celebration, had the policy of allowing birthday parties’ guests to go up the DJ’s booth and say a few words on the microphone in honor of the birthday boy or girl. Annie planned on using this prerogative, going over the booth and then saying not few, but many words, to Liz. She was going to put that bitch in her place, and it would be a public assault. Liz would have the spotlight right over her, with nowhere to hide, with no other choice but to listen, blasting from the speakers, all the insulting and nasty truths Annie was going to scream at her.
“Happy birthday, Liz”
Karen had grabbed Suzie by the arm a while ago, dragging her friend to the bathroom along with her. Something about Karen’s braces hurting her upper lip when she tried turning over a Dry Manhattan without using her hands. That was very good for Annie. Karen had reached the “look, no hands!” stage of her drunkenness. That meant very soon Suzie would be leaving to sit on one of the couches that encircled the club, in order to assist Karen into getting herself together. Karen didn’t like the way her sister looked at her when she was in that stage, so she always counted on Responsible Suzie to help her out.
Anyway, Suzie was out of the picture, and so was Karen. Mary was now leaning against a pillar, trying to sound as nice as possible to the young drunk man hitting on her, but scared he might think that meant she was being anyway reciprocal to his intentions. Even if that random guy wasn’t distracting Mary, Annie knew she would never try to stop her. Not only because it was not in Mary’s nature to meddle in somebody else’s business, but because sometimes, Annie noticed this particular look on her. It always happened when Liz was about to tell one of her self-centered, obnoxious anecdotes. Mary would first turn her head, and then she would look down, as if asking God for enough backbone to order Liz to shut the hell up. Yes, Annie could pretty much bet Mary was also fed up with Liz, and eager to see her being brought down from her imaginary pedestal.
Liz. There she was, beautiful, right in the centre of the floor, as she loved to be. Kissing a handsome stranger, one among the many others she would probably also end up kissing by the end of that night. Strangers, carefully selected by their jeans’ and tee’s brands, as well as by the scent of their no-less-then-$100 priced perfumes.
Annie stopped dancing. Everything went pitch black and all the white lights started to blink frenetically, as if for a minute reality became a series of photographs. She noticed this photograph of a young moving man coming closer and closer, stopping no far than a coupe of feet from her. He was looking at her. Even with the schizophrenic lights, Annie could notice in his eyes that he desired her. Those big, childish eyes, immediately reminded her of someone, and she hated herself for it.
Those eyes were just like Johnny’s.
Deep down, Annie realized, he was the reason of all her present anger, not Liz. She was just the last drop of crap in Annie’s cup, one which had been filled almost to the top by nobody else but Johnny. He was like a bad hot-dog, one which smell remained on your breath and fingers for many hours after you ate it. Annie could still sense the stink of Johnny’s idiocy all over her body, and this fact aggravated her beyond belief. And if with the bad hot-dog sometimes not even all the soap and water in the world could help taking the stink off, it didn’t matter how many times Annie cursed, cried or wrote songs because of Johnny, it never seemed enough. She needed more. She needed a night like that. She needed Elizabeth Lowe.
“C’mon, boy with the eyes like Johnny’s. Won’t you make your move?” – Annie thought, looking at him through the mantle of blinking lights.
“You will fail. You won’t have me. But will you just stand there, like an idiot? Like him? Can’t you see I’m looking at you? Will you just settle for going home without knowing what could’ve been?”
“That’s so Johnny.”
The lights returned to normal. Techno gave room to the sexy hypnosis of slow hip-hop beats. Annie pretended she was never looking at the man in the first place, and took another sip of her drink. He was obviously confused, and kept going with his clumsy dance, trying to drive his look at anywhere but Annie’s.
She was pretending, and he was pretending. In Annie’s head, pretenders were all they were. Every boy, girl, man and woman at O.R. or anywhere else, out there in the night, were nothing but players in a game of illusions. Smoke in the air, mirrors along the walls. Inside the temple of music and liberty, everyone was free for being whatever he or she chose to be. A shy smile could hide the perfect lover; a no could hide a yes; a photograph with five pretty girls could hide all of their dreams and fears.
There were no parents or children, no bosses or employees. There were only senses. See what’s attractive, hear the seductive whispered words, sense his touch, taste her lips. Hormones were the thirteenth note in the orchestra of scents. Blazers, dresses, lipsticks and car keys were the shields and swords, and the night, a battlefield for immortal warriors, their laughs threaten by nothing but the impeding daylight. With the morning, came the expensive tab to pay, a crushed napkin with the precious phone number, some puke in the gutter and a long way home. By 5AM, all carriages revert back into pumpkins.
Welcome back to the real world, nightwalker.
It was time for Annie to make a move. Her traditional poetic reflection on the elements of a Saturday night out was a signal she had enough Margaritas to move forward with her plan. Lights were a little bit brighter. Random guy was still hitting on Mary, and was still unsuccessful. Suzie and Karen, who was laughing hysterically, were still sitting over the other side of the club. The boy with the eyes like Johnny’s was still pretending to not stare at her. Liz was now alone, arms crossed, with a somewhat disoriented glance which alternate between her surroundings, Mary, and the floor.
“This is it.” Annie began walking towards the stairs which lead to the second floor, and there, the DJ’s booth. While Annie passed by Liz, however, something unexpected happened. Liz threw herself into Annie, arms wide open.
– Thank you very much for being here, Annie. It means a lot to me.
Liz’s voice was affected, as if she was about to burst into tears. It was a one-way hug. Her tight embrace had paralyzed Annie, who for an instant saw all her preparations for that moment flash before her eyes. The careful choice of words, the anticipation as the date was getting closer, every fake smile she had to give. All day long Annie had been envisioning that moment. It was the first thing she thought about when she opened her eyes in the morning, the one thing in her mind during lunch. In the afternoon, as she was rehearsing for her later performance at Poe’s, and during the set itself, all she could think is that she wanted out. She wanted to go home, take a bath, meet the girls at O.R. and then, finally, unfold her revenge.
But then, something struck her. Liz’s eyes were not only disoriented, they were sad. Annie could tell what was bothering the birthday girl. Truth was Liz didn’t want to be there with Annie and the rest. She wanted her other friends, the ones she felt little when standing next to, to celebrate her. But none of them were there. None of them cared, so she had to settle for Suzie, Mary, Karen and Annie.
Annie knew Liz saw them as inferior, ordinary girls. Nonetheless, each one of them four girls had her way of leaving a mark: Crazy Karen, Responsible Suzie, Charming Mary and she herself, Annie, the fifth girl in the photograph. Without having to pose as easy sex rides, they managed to leave a longer lasting impression them Liz could ever do. In the end of the night, Liz was just Liz. Stripped from eyes she could judge admired by her presence, Liz remained as the uninteresting, lonely, scared little girl she was.
It came on Annie as the clearest of thoughts. Liz didn’t deserve the revenge she planned. The girl had taken a step back, still holding Annie’s arms, and was now smiling at her. Annie came close to her ear.
– You’re pathetic.
Liz laughed. – What? – She asked, as if trying to make more sense of what has been, obviously, a joke from Annie.
– You’re pathetic! – Annie screamed, trying to sound louder than the music. – You’re predictable and ignorant. Nobody take your opinions seriously. Nobody believes a word you say. We all know how phony you are, and we’d be all laughing at you on your back, if only you were relevant enough to be remembered by any of us when you’re not around, squeaking your bullshit. We’re only here because of Suzie, and she’s only here because she feels sorry for how lousy you are. But hopefully one day she’ll get tired of you too, than we won’t have to tolerate this excruciating, annoying experience that is to be around you.
Liz’s eyes went wide open. She was speechless, incapable of any reaction as Annie let go of her grip and walked away.
– Happy birthday, Liz.
Liz didn’t deserve the revenge she has planned. No. Liz didn’t deserve not even another single second under the spotlight. She didn’t deserve another anecdote to tell, about how Annie went all off her way trying to teach her a lesson. All she deserved was Annie walking away on her.
But Annie felt she herself deserved more. Yes she did. She’s been waiting for the moment that would now never come for way too long. Annie owed herself, to leave a mark one would never forget, but not one in the likes of Elizabeth Lowe. Her last few days were entirely built among the certainty of making that a night to remember, and to wash away the stink of Johnny with a flashflood of alcohol and insults.
She needed her catharsis.
As she approached the young man, his smile faded away. She could see in his eyes a thousand questions overflowing his mind. Annie strode through the dance floor feeling like a giant, shaking with every step the ground that young man was standing on, coming to crush him to pieces. Now he didn’t looked like Johnny anymore.
Annie grabbed his face, bringing his ear next to her lips. She whispered something he would never forget and never be able to repeat with the exact words. Then, she kissed him. She kissed him tenderly, she kissed him roughly. She kissed him like she loved him, like she hated him. She kissed him because Johnny was not there, and long enough for her to forget about this completely, only if just for a brief moment.
She kissed him like he was Johnny.
Before the young man could react, it was over. He didn’t even have the time to touch her. Annie pushed him sideways, walked towards her three friends and said goodbye to them.
Then, Annie went home.