December 27, 2015
Open fires and heavy red curtains were set against starched shirts and shiny oxford shoes in what could be described as something based on a medieval hall, the oversized mantelpiece would have been at home on a Game of Thrones set. Dotted around four pillars were small groups, waitresses in black cocktail dresses weaved between them – not obvious servers, they could sit down at any second, cross their legs and discus upcoming Hamptons plans with the rest of them.
I’d been here once before with Viv, we bumped into an Australian girl she used to work with, the girl had upgraded her boobs and possibly nose, courtesy of the older Englishman who proceeded to cover our drinks for the night. After a quick google he was revealed to be a Venture Capitalist involved in African energy projects and still fighting a fraud conviction from a few years ago, but he liked to introduce himself as an explorer due to his recent Antarctic expedition.
They had changed most of the art but there were still four huge contemporary pieces, one either side of the fire, the Andy Warhol above the red felt pool table remained along with another bright work down by the end by the bar. I couldn’t see Charlie or Alex and had trouble deciding where to sit, finally opting for something with a view of the fire but not in the main thoroughfare to the bar. Taking in the attire around me I felt conscious of having my bare legs, regretting going for my A Wang shorts but a blazer and shirt gave it enough of a professional yet funky vibe, appropriate for an evening meeting with investors at a cocktail bar.
Flashes of champagne, dancing and the decadent spacious bathrooms came back to me of our last night here, memories selected like the heavily filtered Instagram shots that accompanied them – back when I had a little bob that had almost proved impossible to grow below my shoulders. New York knew how to do a hotel bar, there was always a great lobby version for a cocktail and most of them harbored a darker spot as well, somewhere the wealthy visitors could slink back and drink smoky scotch, rendezvous without being far from their selected abode, a place where people indulged their undersides, their other selves – new personas meeting false promises with shiny white smiles and glimpses of black credit cards.
I caught Alex walking through the curtains, gave a smile and a signal, then tried to look relaxed as he covered the remaining distance. I didn’t want to be too smiley, there was no way there would be a repeat of the last encounter. He looked around the bar, breaking up our eye contact then returning it just before he reached the table.
“Em, how’s things?” he kissed me on the cheek, leaving slight traces of recently applied aftershave.
“Good, looks like we were lucky to get a seat.”
“Yeah, it can get pretty busy here. Listen Jeffery can’t join tonight sorry, he had a bunch of stuff come up.”
“No worries,” I said. “That’s fine, thanks for catching up again, I know you all have a lot on and this is a relatively small project in comparison.”
“Rubbish. This is a great opportunity, lets grab a drink.”
We ordered cocktails. I went for something with Gin and Pear in it, him a Vodka Martini. A band began to setup in front of the fire place, it seemed like an odd spot, but there wasn’t really a whole lot of other options I suppose.
“I’ve got to say, we are still getting some amazing notes from the party, those photos are next level, everyone has them as their profile pics. Stephen even has it as his photo on his company website. Actually I need to grab the contact of the photographer if that’s cool,” I nodded at him. “I hope you made a bit off the night, you earned it.” he said.
“That’s great, yeah, thanks, I’ll send you over his number, he can be a little random but his work is awesome.”
I would have made over five grand before the fine from the government for staying overtime and getting caught with alcohol down there. I was lucky to get away with losing a couple of grand. I wasn’t going to tell my potential investors that I stuffed up the first gig, I needed to present effortlessness.
“Is Charlie going to join us?” I said, nervous to move things to an update on the business. Over the last few weeks there had been a lot of back and forth – excitement from the party that had finally turned to a potential investment from a group of five of them, mostly spearheaded by Jeffery. Conference calls, Google hangouts, updated slides, excel sheets on projections and investment breakdowns, it was all crazy but it was actually happening.
“Actually, they aren’t going to make it either, Emma. So, about the deal. The joint investment is probably out, Jeffery had another project come up and his partners got a little cold.”
“Really? But he said he saw some real growth prospects, and a new market for..”
“I know, and he was lined up to come along tonight and to buy in, but I got a call from him, he has some other deals on and was a little worried about scale.”
I finished my drink as a rock in my chest slipped down into my stomach and felt like it was pulling me from the bottom of the seat. It felt like a massive effort to keep my spine straight, I just wanted to crumble into the chair. He had come to break the news for them all. Now I wished I didn’t have my legs out, every time we dropped eye contact I could feel his eyes on them, this tiny table doing nothing to hide them, he put his glass down and I pictured his glance trailing back up. But I was probably flattering myself.
We ordered more drinks, I did my best to bring up the points from the ten page pitch deck, and feedback all the positive points they had shared over the last few weeks.
“Look, it’s not over,” he said. “Jeffery did say he is still really keen use you for some regular events, like an extension of this event he hosts.”
“I’m not an events company Alex, we want to be a marketplace, this is meant to work as a platform, I can’t spend all my time organizing events.”
“No, but the type of people you are working with – hey have some major money, great contacts that could eventually lead to something.”
Frustrated, I got up and went to the bathroom, down a hallway covered with celebrities that had hung out and partied here. Prince and Mick Jagger sitting next to Pamela Anderson . The cocktails were strong, I teetered from one heel to the nex, flashes of Charlie in my head, I needing to chill. I was angry, but it wasn’t Alex’s fault, he had done nothing but favors for me. This wasn’t exactly how I had foreseen the night going, but fuck it, things were still happening. It was all too easy, these things took time, startups took forever to fund, and I’d keep at it. The bathrooms were comfortable, the clean marble black and white tiles relaxed me, I went quickly, wanting to get back out there and show him I was still thankful.
<Michael> Hey babe, missing you, staying at mine tonight? xx
Ugh. From nowhere Michael had a new found clinginess. By the time I got back out the band had started, an authentic jazz four piece, sax, guitar, drums and the singer also slinging a trumpet. They were dressed in the 40s styling, slicked back hair, pocket squares, playing up beat Sinatra covers. The bar was filling up, Alex sat back, legs crossed and drink in hand, meshing with the new escapist vibe as women and men flooded in and started feeling the tunes. Another cocktail sat on the table.
“These guys are great!” He said, the blend of cocktails, music and my vulnerability giving him a new confidence. “Did you know they were going to be here?”
“Yeah, I figured we might be ready for some music after talking business, or there is always the restaurant next door.” I had no idea the band would be on, but made a note to come again on a Thursday.
“Brilliant call. A shame the others didn’t get to enjoy them, these guys have class, I love how they embrace the characters. I can picture us here in New York, the end of the war, this place alive with new opportunity. Can you imagine the stories?”
“Ha, maybe. Those soldiers must have done pretty well. How long do you reckon they kept wearing those uniforms for?”
“No wonder there was a baby boom,” I said, “Back then men were gentlemen.”
“You think so?” he said, nodding at the singer. “I reckon a lad like this would have taken a lady upstairs every night, steal kisses from young girls around the corner while their older husbands slept – a soldier parked at the bar, a sharp uniform, drinks flowing and a head full of heroic tales to draw from – he would do the same.”
I can’t decide how to sit and I’m overly conscious of my legs again, sounds from my night at their place sneak into my head, quick glimpses of skin and faces, flashbacks jumping out at me like figures from alleyways – I shake them away. To the right of the band I watch a beautiful older woman, maybe forty-five, not old. I’m jealous of her fitting suit, tight around her crossed legs, the composure it allowed her, the freedom to wear a low flowing top by surrounding it with order. She laughed at the world, as if they shared a constant inside joke, smiled like she knew the secret. A large ring floated with her hand to her glass of bubbles. She made me feel simple and I wished I could swap outfits with her, how silly she would look in these shorts with her legs naked to the world, but then I suspect she would tell me to enjoy it while I could. What did she think of this girl bouncing her legs along to the band, a good looking married man next to her signaling another round of drinks? I wished Charlie was here to break my cliché.
“The art is a nice touch.” he said, making conversation clapped for the over the top sax solo.
“Yeah, that’s a Warhol which they have here most of the time, that’s a XX and I’m pretty sure the one over there is a XX.” I had read the breakdown in the back of the cocktail menu while waiting for him.
“Wow. The rooms must be great.”
“I haven’t been up, a friend went to a party in the penthouse once but..”
I googled an image of them on my phone, had a quick look then put it down, worried it appeared simple. He leaned behind my ear, not too close, just close enough so I could hear.
“So I think we have another way to move forward. I know Jeffery and his lot are out for now, but Charlie and I are still really keen.” My body sparked but I couldn’t turn to look at him as his head was tucked in behind me on the chair. “We would like to propose we come in with a little seed money and help develop a proof of concept.” He sat back and tried to look like he wasn’t observing my reaction. “That’s if it’s something you are interested in? I know you have been working towards a larger funding round.”
The scenario had suddenly twisted, I felt myself blushing a little as I ran possibilities.
“Wow, yeah. Of course I’m open to discussing it. You know that. What are you guys thinking?”
He slapped his hand down on his thigh, placed his drink just left of the napkin and leaned back in like a masculine cherub fluttering around my shoulder.
“You know those people I mentioned that work in the hotel business, well I think we line up a couple for a concept pilot, split the funds between some basic tech infrastructure and doing what we need to do to get these locations to the point where they qualify as truly ‘unique’ experiences – anything like your dinner the other night will blow people away.”
He sat back again.
“I think that’s smart, it wouldn’t take too much to get them there. Especially if we are working with a couple of primary contacts, a few quick trips, shoot some photos and create short videos, enough to fuel the PR side.”
“We are thinking a ceiling of 400k, but I think we can get to that early stage with that, easily enough to head into a strong second round on the back of pilot conversions and the establishment of an early marketplace.”
I nodded along while trying not to let a stupid smile take over my face, images of travelling to all these places, telling my dad that someone just invested in my business, and the Facebook post, that was going to be out of control.
“Alex, that sounds amazing, thanks so much. I really think we can make this happen, and I actually think this is the smarter way to do it.”
“Let us draw something up anyway, I’m sure Charlie will want to chat about some more specifics but I think we should celebrate none the less. Champagne?”
The band ripped into Fly Me To The Moon, doing Sinatra proud and fleshing it out with an abstract trumpet solo featuring several notes blown as the lead arched his full body. We drank and talked hastily about our next steps, he seemed to feed off my energy and was ever eager to yap at each sentence. Towards the end of the bottle we were joined by the table next to us, which naturally led to another bottle. The band finished to strong applause and a DJ emerged. The lights had been slowly going down over the last few hours and the place filling up, transforming it into more of a nightclub, complete with red ropes and a doorman. I noted that it would be a great date location, a cocktail and chat, a band to ease the pressure on conversation and the option of a dark club if it goes well. The group that had joined us was out to party. I watched one of the guys run a hand around the front of the girls stomach and pull her back into him. I wondered where Charlie was, wished she could have joined us. I felt a fizzing in my shoulders, sparks were popping off in my head of what to do first, next, now. One thing was imperative, I wouldn’t let the end of this night be marred with the confusion of the last. I gave Alex an excited but quick farewell, his questioning look telling me the night was obviously getting started and to ‘look at all the new friends’ we have made. There was a token offer of my almost maxed credit card to split the bill, which he waved off – a quick kiss to the new crew and I was out in lobby by the fireplace.
Taking a moment to take reference, checking my phone I found myself admiring the crisp lines of crossed legs in white jeans draped over the couch. Was I swaying? Perhaps I should get some white jeans. My struggles to drop a pin in the Uber app confirmed I was as drunk as I felt, green juice not providing much of a platform for this type of celebratory drinking. I’ll take this victory and confirm it with a taco and a sleep.