Early Friday I ran my errands then headed home to prepare for the party. For the past three days my vivid daydreams of meeting a girl at Kaze’s party filled the womanless void that engulfed me daily.
Thursday I cleaned the common areas of the apartment just in case I got lucky enough to bring someone home. The sheets smelled of fabreze. Dirty clothes were placed in the hamper and the rest filled three large garbage bags so I hid two under the kitchen sink and the last one in the hall closet. In every room a stick of nag champa was burned. After giving it a quick inspection and checking myself out in the mirror I deemed the place, and my attire, acceptable.
Walking down the steps I heard the voice of my upstairs neighbor talking on a cellphone as she walked up. We approached one another at the second floor landing and she passed without taking a glance in my direction so I stifled the hello that I usually say although she always ignores me. She was arguing with someone, something about her waiting somewhere for an hour and a half.
“Fucking asshole,” she screamed from one of the upper landings. Im not sure if she was speaking to me or whoever she argued with on the other end of her phone. As I opened the door leading out of the building I saw a short, curvy latina beating at the chest of her boyfriend.
“…fucking asshole. That’s what you are, an ungrateful, fucking asshole.”
I barely dodged her next swing as I passed them on the narrow sidewalk. Boarding the G train I sat at the middle of the cart to ensure a vantage point so I could be entertained by observing people. Life is so interesting - what people wear, the things we say; the way a dude might tap his foot to a tune playing in his mind or a girl may twirl a lock of hair between her fingers every other minute as she reads a novel. I’m fascinated by our energy as individuals and intrigued by how much synergy we create as we share space. A few feet away a young woman in her early twenties nestled beneath her boyfriends embrace. Her striking blonde hair harshly contrasted the dark shades she wore and her crossed legs brought notice to the grey duct tape that wrapped the tip of her stylishly shabby black combat boot. I admired her sense of style and thought of how much fun they probably have together. Free - yet enjoying moments together. Companionship is dope - fuck what people say. Most people say they’re good all by themselves but are lonely and miserable motherfuckas behind closed doors. That’s a fact. It’s true - life may be a bit easier and stress-free if you don’t have a mate to bicker with but the joy that comes with finding the right one and spending quality time with them is priceless.
Transferring to the A train a group of teenagers entered behind me. They were loud and playfully calling one another names and accentuated every other sentence with artful uses of the word nigga.
I looked up from my seat and noticed they were white.
”Suck my dick,” a short one wearing a backwards baseball cap said to a slightly taller, pallid kid holding a skateboard.
”Hey, chill,” said one to the group, “Have some respect, man. We’re around all of these people and we’re being rude. Have some respect for them or at least have more respect for yourself.”
The dick invitations stopped but referring to themselves as niggas ensued. Noone else seemed to mind or pay attention. The word has been used so frequently it hardly has bite for its teeth have been dulled by rap music, pop culture, and urban kids across America who grow up hearing it so often they find the coolness of it much more alluring than the degrading connotations surrounding it.
Looking at other passengers to satisfy my desire for someones reaction I saw nothing but unconcern on their faces as they gazed, zombie-like, into their mobile devices. I thought back to my younger days when I would’ve jumped from my seat and stepped to all five or six of them. They might’ve kicked my ass but I would’ve done it to show that everything isn’t acceptable in this world; that you can’t simply say whatever you want and think you’re exempt from feeling the repercussions.
For a moment I became those thoughts; I was a fearless teen again. Back in the ’90s and shit. Drinking forties and smoking blunts in the back cart of the train. Back when New Yorkers wouldn’t ride in the back cart because it was too dangerous. Boom boxes blaring, not giving a fuck if you liked what music we were playing - shit, we liked it and if you dared to say something about it this radio could easily be used as a weapon to crack your fucking skull. The window of my throwback fantasy shattered once I looked down and saw my 34 year old pot belly. A far cry from my toned - don’t laugh - abs that I got while doing martial arts as a kid. It didn’t disturb me when I heard the boys cursing and using the n word. Shit, I’m hip to the phenomena of hip-hop cultures transcendence of racial barriers. The weirdness of the other riders noncommittal unresponsiveness was more interesting.
A bespectacled black man, light complected and dressed immaculately in a grey suit, stood to the left of them. His white shirt and ice blue tie accentuated the silver hairs of his beard. I’d noticed him before they’d arrived and even as they stood around him causing a ruckus he remained totally immersed in his New York Times/Wall Street Journal/USA Today type of newspaper. It was the kind of paper that unfolds so enormously you’d think it was a map or something. I shifted my eyes from the kids to the man just in time to see him shift his eyes from the newspaper to them. First he glanced apathetically then his eyes zeroed in on the crew. He probably thought, upon first listen, that the kids were black. I watched as his eyes widened, squinted, then widened again as he went from being annoyed to growing furious in a matter of moments. He furrowed his brow and eyed each one of them conspicuously. I doubt any of the boys acknowledged him standing there. I suppose he thought of the days when it was totally out of line for a white person to use the word nigger.
Their presence echoed even after they exited at West 4th Street. Getting off at the next station I emerged from the stairway and was met by yellow cab traffic heading towards the Friday night fuckery of the Meatpacking District. Back in the 90’s the district was full of warehouse-sized meat boutiques where one had to pass through dingy plastic flaps hanging from the ceiling to enter refrigerated rooms of packaged flesh on shelves or hooks above slippery floors navigated by shoppers and brawny men wearing white coats, aprons, and smocks smeared with the blood of your favorite tasting mammal. Every doorway in the neighborhood led to a similar scene, a strong remnant of the days when the elevated railway of 9th Avenue transported flesh to and from the area. It was a period before Chelsea Piers was synonymous with a bowling alley, sports complex or place to meet your date and smoke a joint as the sun meets the horizon.
Navigating through crowds of people traipsing the sidewalks in a drunken daze I arrive at Kaze’s front door. When I rang the doorbell a woman’s face appeared, mask covering her forehead to the bridge of her nose, on a monitor above the intercom panel and asked ‘who the fuck’ I was.
The screen went blank as I was buzzed into the building. Stepping inside the brushed stainless steel elevator I pressed the button for the top floor then turned to face the door as it closed. A subtle jazz tune soothed my ascent until the bass of a rap song overpowered Marsalis and sent tremors through my body. The elevator slowed and stopped before opening to the saccharine scent of joss sticks burning. I stepped into darkness and soon felt bodies dancing to the rhythm. Brushing past women I kept my eye out for Kaze. Someone passed me a drink. Near full glass. Tequila. Or Devils Springs. I sipped from the same spot someones lipstick stained. Sweet. The drink was stolen from my grasp as sudden as it was placed there. The candied scent of perfumed perspiration teased my senses as someone pulled close to me. A woman, completely nude, placed her small, beautifully shaped breasts against my chest. Her left arm wrapped around my waist, resting her palm on my lower back as her right hand gently cupped and stroked the back of my head. Whispering a distinct, indecipherable language into my ear I latched onto her as another woman snuggled behind her and nibbled on her ear. Another drink was placed in my hand. It was warm but I couldn’t see it because my hands were wrapped around both of their bodies. The stickiness of the warm liquid as it spilled from the glass onto my fingers and their torsos when our bodies swayed only aided in gluing us together for the moment.
I drank. Their bodies were dressed in sweat. Nothing else. Pulling away from them i looked around and began to realize there were no men at this party. Everyone was nude. I blinked once.
My eyes closed then opened. Vision blurred, I blinked again. Clarity confirmed the feminine bodies, masked, all of similar height and weight, dancing seductively amidst the lithe wisps of smoke and brief flickers of white light that came and went every moment or so, enabling brief views of my surroundings.
Reluctantly breaking free of their grasp I made my way through the crowd trying to find Kaze. Girls everywhere relentlessly touched one another. Their movements dreamlike. Every second, third, fourth person I passed I took another sip and every second, third, or fourth person I saw became blurrier. I swam further through the sea of women until I felt myself drowning in their expansive beauty. I was moving but not upright. The tempo of the music slowed. As the beat crawled into my eardrums I found myself crawling on the ground. Somehow. Moments passed at a snails pace as black shoes danced inches from my hands. I crawled forward as supple calves and thighs whirled in front of me, dizzying me more. Two hands grabbed my shoulders from behind and effortlessly swept me off the ground. I turned around and saw Kaze standing there. His mask, twisted in a perpetual smile, jeered at my confusion before I felt his palm strike my face so hard it jolted my senses.
“Welcome, friend,” handing me a glass of water he continued, “I’m pleased that you made it to the festivities.”
I drank from the glass and immediately felt better. “What happened,” I asked as he stared at me, seemingly oblivious to the women’s hands that were exploring his bare chest as he stood in front of me.
“You’re good! How do you feel?”
Taking a moment to gauge how I felt I dubiously responded, “I feel great. Like, amazing. But, wasn’t I just on the floor? Did I pass out? What happened?”
“Yashua,” his voice was calm yet the ubiquitous strength was there, “How do you feel?”
“It feels… It feels like every inch of my body is alive with electricity.”
“Okaaay…” he coaxed.
“I feel like I’m floating on a cloud…like, like what is…”
“Don’t question ecstasy,” he interrupted, “Embrace it.”
The music entranced me. Kaze was there, in front of me, I’m sure, but I no longer saw him. My sense of touch overwhelmed my vision when someone began to suck the nape of my neck while another’s hand traveled under and up my shirt and caressed my chest. We moved with the current like leaves floating along a rivers crest before finding myself being nudged towards a sofa. Sprawled were our bodies as we drank-smoked-touched our way to relaxation.
Light interrupted obscurity. I turned towards its direction and saw Kaze seated on an elaborately crafted chair. A woman, arms draped around his neck and shoulders, stood behind him and slowly dragged her fingernails up his relaxed torso. I imagined his face behind the mask. Smug? Maybe. Smiling? No. He’s probably emotionless - bored even. A replica of this scene could be willed into existence any day he chooses. That’s what Kaze says - he has the power to will anything into existence. I’ve witnessed it - he does.
Four hands explored my body while I laid my head back and conjured up fantasies of myself sitting on the throne. Next to Kaze, on my own elaborately crafted seat, not all the way over here. I’m sure those women were beautiful but that one - the one on Kaze - possessed beauty unparalleled.
I inhaled exotic smoke from a joint before letting someone slip it from my grasp as my mind spiraled down a vortex of sensuous elation. Something was in those drinks. I’m sure of it. I sipped from a glass that was placed at my lips before sinking into blackness.
Relentless sunlight begged my eyelids to open. Giving in, I opened them - squinting as they adjusted to the brightness. Looking around I saw women everywhere, their sleeping forms strewn across the floor. Perched atop a counter in the kitchen way across the room was Kaze. It was around 8am. I know because Kaze always reads his newspaper at 8am and he was reading it then.
I stood with ease - no hangover or lingering effect from the herb. Walking towards him I sidestepped and tiptoed through the erotic obstacle course of beautiful women. I reached him but didn’t interrupt his reading. He wouldn’t have acknowledged me anyway. He likes to read entire articles without any breaks so I silently hoped he hadn’t just begun reading a 2000 word editorial. Folding the newspaper abruptly before dropping it to the floor he hopped off the counter and offered his hand.
“Yashua, I’m glad that you made it,” he sounded as if he were smiling, according to the mask he was but I really couldn’t tell. Maybe.
Gesturing to the ladies on the floor, chairs, and any other surface sturdy enough to carry their bodies, “I needed this. I needed this release, kid. You know, being around all of this. The women. You. It was dope, homie.”
His head tilted incredulously, “Whaddya mean you ‘needed this release’? What about the women?” He turned and walked. I followed him into another room, sparsely furnished with an oversized bed against the westernmost wall. Strangely, Patience, his long-term girlfriend that accompanied him to the Halloween party, was resting peacefully amidst a billow of white sheets. I now noticed by her toned arms that she was who stood behind Kaze as he sat on the chair last night.
“Yep, she’s still around,” he said, referring to her after seeing my lingering gaze. “Now tell me about this release of yours.”
“Well, it’s been a long time, homie -“
“Let me finish, man,” I sat down in an immense office chair parked in front of a desk and swiveled clockwise towards a window that faced the rising sun above an eastern view of lower Manhattan. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been around that type of energy. The sexuality. That raw sexuality. It’s just been awhile…”
“You mean, since Diana,” his tone held no judgement yet a sensitive impulse from hearing Diana’s name almost made me react as if he held a gavel and wore a black robe.
“Yeah,” I whispered. Stifling my anger; confused if it was towards her for not being here or towards Kaze for mentioning her I continued, “Yeah, Kay. It hasn’t been the same.”
“Well, it’s not going to be the same, Yashua. It’ll never be the same. You won’t get those moments back. You may have similar moments but -“
“I know, Kay,” I interjected as my anger resurfaced. Was I angry at him for bringing it up or was I really the one who brought it up?
“You know but do you really know? Life continues,” his voice was serenely convincing. I wondered if, sometimes, he slept wearing that damned mask. He went on, “I think, in those situations it’s best for us to work on ourselves. To work on what we can do to make ourselves more viable.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” I tasted a tear as I spoke, oblivious to it dropping from my eye as I watched the rooftops glisten from the suns rays, “You’ve got everything. You have a woman, and if you didn’t have her you’d have another one, or two. You have money. You got it all, man. What do I have?”
“You’ve got you,” his voice grew firm, “You have you and that’s all that you need. I believed that I could acquire everything that I own way before I stepped foot in any of these high end bullshit boutiques in this high end bullshit bourgeois neighborhood. I used to go into the stores around the corner and they begged me to leave. Now, Josh, they beg me to stay but it all means nothing if you don’t believe, kid. All that you need is you, man,” his hand grasped my shoulder, “You’ve gotta get over her. You’ve gotta continue to reach within yourself for the power that you need to propel you further.”
I spun the chair towards him, “I know, man. I know.”
“Besides,” he offered a hand to help me to my feet, “You remember what DMX said, right? ‘If you love something, let it go, if it comes back to you it’s yours, if it doesn’t…’”
“’…it never was,’” I followed him out of the room, “By the way - I think DMX got that from someone else.”
“Yeah, but X immortalized it and that’s what counts,” opening the door for me to leave, “Open yourself to light, Yashua. You’ve been in the dark for too long. Let’s hang out more.”
“Sure, bro. One more thing,” I turned towards him, gave him a firm handshake and half hug before asking, “What the hell was in those drinks, Kaze?”
“Oh, they call it molly. I forgot that you didn’t get an RSVP email for the event. It was a Molly Masquerade. Shit, that’s why everyone is knocked out. You were resting for a whole 24 hours, Josh. It’s Sunday. We partied without you the whole Saturday. Get some rest. Hit me up later.”
The door slammed and I was in a staircase. I walked down to the lobby. Exiting the building I was almost blinded by the light. The sunlight. The light Kaze spoke about - it’ll take some time for me to acquire that.
Whatever it is.