December 27, 2015
Perspective must be one of the most uniquely powerful and yet underexplored art forms. There are a million ways to view any one thing in our world. Watching like this, as unknowns, behind the curtain as the dancers snapped on animated expressions, running past us, launching themselves onto the stage, energized as the light hit. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was my turn to go, my whole body remained tense, like I had to piss really bad, although I was 90% sure I didn’t. Look at them out there, becoming their animals.
Paula giggled like a little girl in ballet class, not that I had ever been to a ballet class. Virgil stood there with a suspicious grin. I forgot the name of the other guy, he had been sitting in the pool most of the time. Lucy had left the party for work, despite our best efforts to convince her to skip, including some random offers to pay her more to stay. A few of Paula’s Margarita’s later and I was best friends with half the roof, and content to explore the course of the night with this new batch of wanderers.
It’s one thing to be a voyeur – half hidden in the shadows, but as the show was finishing, we were being ripped from the fantasy, with no shelter to suppress the ridiculous attacks of laughter – they had struck earlier and would likely come again. The crowd came to their feet in applause, now the makeup and costumes would come off, totally new characters would emerge. The four of us, like lost children, looking to Virgil, our guide had a new look of enthusiasm, this was his time to perform.
It was Virgil’s idea to come here, I’m not sure who had suggested the acid, following his lead we moved through the backstage area, catching the eyes of various creatures and congratulating them on the show.
“Virgil, you have returned to us!” A woman in a hairnet and stockings gave him a hug and us a slight glance.
“Darling, so good to see you, fantastic as always. Look we brought the champagne you all like, but I gave it to a nice man when we came in, he said he would chill it someplace?”
Zebras sipped champagne next to fresh faced humans, bronzed bare legs and hair nets – man tights and spandex.
Zebras sipped champagne next to fresh faced humans, bronzed bare legs and hair nets – man tights and spandex. Eyes locked directly on mine, the anonymity was gone, now I would have to interact – I wasn’t entirely comfortable with this, observation had suited me just fine for the last couple hours. We were the new spectacle and I cautiously surveyed the setting, perhaps overestimating our presence as all the performers rushed to transition back into regular life.
Paula poked me in the back and grinned stupidly, one of those looks you get with friends that share scandal-filled life-long secrets that only you could ever laugh about. But I’d just met her.
Shadows darted and spun among the black curtains, sensory overload, a small crunching in my stomach suppressed my usually consistent appetite for booze. The long haired friend who had provided the squares looked like I felt, eyes wide and an excited panic to him. I swiped a tiny water bottle from his hand and he looked at me with shock. He had been clutching it for at least an hour. We continued further backstage.
Virgil made more introductions as we joined a small group of couches, I opted for the alertness of a fold out chair, watching as costumes were slowly added to a bar running down the brick wall on one side. They checked themselves in the large mirrors as helpers removed large horns, feathers and body paint, all with the ease of routine, backstage jungle law.
“Virgil, finally you return to us!” a lioness said. I had decided to abandon my congratulatory lines, they didn’t seem to have a lot of impact. These people were doing a show every night, perhaps no longer aspiring for the performance of their lives. Virgil dramatically introduced each new arrival. The Champagne made my mouth tingle, I tried not to concentrate on it, which was solved almost immediately by what looked like an antelope standing about fifteen feet away, majestic horns and beautiful hind legs.
“Mason you must meet my good friend Piero. He is an inspiration direct to us from Vernazza, the most beautiful place in Italy.” The guy uncrossed his legs and jumped up, giving me a hug before I had a chance to fully stand up.
“Paula where is that champagne we brought?” She headed off somewhere.
“Amazing show guys, wish you could stay in your costumes forever.” I said, considering simple and seedy it sounded.
She wore a black leotard, no arms, the bottom half cut a V down into her crotch, layered over full length tights.
Someone from the backstage crew sat next to me in jeans, while directly across the whites of a woman’s eyes shone under dark makeup. She crossed her arms over her knees, arching her back to sip from her plastic cup of wine, glancing up like a cat. I watched her body move, half expecting her tongue to dart out and lick at her hand. She wore a black leotard, no arms, the bottom half cut a V down into her crotch, layered over full length tights. She raised one cheek, then the other, finally aligning and re-crossing her legs. I took a large clumsy drink, music was playing from one of those Bluetooth speakers, I’m not sure when it started. I felt awkward, like something was behind me. My face craved fresh air.
Outside was refreshing but still intense, a Broadway crowd of tourists and Friday evening society buzzed about. I quickly smoked, thinking about things to talk about with the dancers like they were from some alien race. I’d been to one Broadway show a couple of years back, but I’d never thought of taking acid at one. Being in there, in their world, half of them still in costumes, it reminded me of what Hunter S Thompson said about Vegas, that it wasn’t a good place for psychedelics, that the reality itself was already too twisted. The full show was amazing, but this half life was more than a little uncomfortable. Usually in this scenario I would drink until it felt natural. An honorable strategy, one that rarely failed to break down boundaries, but which I’m sure had failed me in other respects.
I’d always loved the Lion King and felt like I was going to cry at one point in there. Back when I was a kid we used to sneak into this crazy overgrown backyard down the street and take turns being Mufasa, Simba and Rafiki. One of the dancers lit a second cigarette, we chatted about bars where Broadway people liked to hang out, I knew none of them apart from Marie’s Crisis, the piano bar in the West Village. They said you have to go early in the week or it’s just full of tourists.
Champagne, coke, vodka, cigarettes.
With so many substances and states in the world, I wondered how many feelings existed. Was there any way to measure, were we still discovering more.
Other non-performers had arrived, there seemed to be a penchant for deep tongue kissing in front of people. I got a SnapChat of a girl and guy grinding on a coffee table and a message chain about a party over in Brooklyn. That was a different life, this was my tribe now, no-one outside here would understand my level. Here is where I belonged for now. There was a rule that when you took acid you must do everything within your power to remain with your fellow trippers. I did not intend to break it, more due to the fact that this weird scenario was a lot of fun, and not due to moral obligations.
A zebra tried to escape, springing around corners, but I was sure on my feet, growls and grunts escaping through my mouth and nose.
I did a long second take after catching myself in the mirror, bright blue and red makeup covered my face, feathers adorned my head and a long tail was attached around my waist. I took chase. A zebra tried to escape, springing around corners, but I was sure on my feet, growls and grunts escaping through my mouth and nose. We shuffle down the wings until she emerges onto the stage, dimly lit, looking out to darkness. I mostly just float around, prancing, swinging my hands. This Zebra can actually dance pretty well, pulling out moves from some form of training. She dashes back off the other side and I take up after her again, almost knocking over someone and stopping for a second to receive the crunched nose of a judging scowl.
I had Paula caught in a corner, whimpering and scanning for a way out. I have her now, unsure with what part of me to proceed, I raise my arms like claws, suddenly conscious of myself. She wriggles and leans into me, curving into my body and rustling around a little. We grasp, kiss and bite in the spirit of the chase.
Back at her place in LES we play some more. Mediocre sex. The hunger had been left on the stage. She looks at me kind of blankly as her eyes slowly close on the pillow. My eyes felt tired, but instead I inspect the paint blemishes on the ceiling as light finds its way in. I close my eyes for a bit. I think of Lucy & Virgil, then decide to leave quietly and walk home over the bridge. Anxious. The need to sweat, and toil rolls around inside me. “You have to tease them, make them hunt you down.”