Dispatch 33 (December 31, 1998)
"Are you two, like, roommates?"
The tall one, Ill call him Trevor, is wearing a
baseball cap (Oakland As) and drains his plastic cup of Shiner Bock in about two swallows. His buddy (lets
call him Chad) is a little chunkier with a Longhorns sweatshirt and pale blue eyes that
would burn if they didnt look so dead and numb.
"Yeah, we live together," Gina said, holding her
own cup of beer that she sipped from occasionally. When we arrived at the party, Gina had
led me straight to the bar, or what passed for it: a makeshift counter with about eight
bottles of the Old Standards tequila,
rum, vodka, Kahlua, Jack Daniels, Tanqueray gin and a no-name bottle of vermouth for those
swingin martini-drinkin cats in their velvet Hef robes smoking $7 cigars.
Wed each had two tequila shots and a White Russian.
The outside balcony area was huge for an apartment,
accommodating about 15 people. We were enjoying the cool night air. Having emptied out our
White Russians, wed gone for the Shiner-filled keg. My buzz was a pulsing pleasant
thing, having edged past the Land of Queasy to reside in the Avenue of the Floating
I still didnt know who Gina knew at this party and
she hadnt introduced me to anyone she hadnt just met herself. We made our way
from the makeshift bar to the back patio doing the little meet and greet handshakes and
small talk maneuvers that are par for the course at college parties. "What was your
name? What are you drinking? Whats your major? Do you want to stay in Texas?"
Id been asked close approximations of those four
questions by the dozen or so people Id met tonight.
Gina was being asked the same questions, but the men
asking them were a little more intense, looking at her a little more closely, leaning in
and listening with a little more effort. Rather than blurring my perception of this, the
alcohol was making it sharper, slowing things down to an RPM (flirtatious Rhetoric Per
Male) that I could follow, even from the distractions of my own conversations.
Gina had just gotten back into town that morning and
sometime during the course of the day, somebody from her co-op had given her a flyer for
the party, complete with directions.
Gina called me at noon, told me that we were going out for
New Years and that I should dress up in case we went somewhere fancy.
I dressed up, black hose and all, and here we were at an
admittedly nice apartment, but watching little more than like-aged students getting as
drunk as we were. Inside, a group of friends we didnt know was watching a Jerry Springer tape, exploding into gales of
laughter every time a fight broke out.
My buzz was starting to wear off a little when Chad and
Trevor approached us. Gina was already starting to play with them.
"How long have we been living together?" Gina
asked me. "A year and a half? We finally had to tell our parents during
"Tell em what?" Chad asked, tipping back
him plastic cup, emptying the contents.
"That we were living together," Gina said. She
put an arm around me. I stuck my face in my own beer cup, hiding a smile.
Chads pale cheeks were flushed of red. It looked as
if the beer was boring crimson holes through his cheeks. The keg was right next to him
he pumped and poured as he spoke. "Your parents didnt want you to have a
"They have a problem with our relationship,"
Gina said. Ginas hand was stroking my hair and all of a sudden it was too much. I
knew what she was doing and it must have been the drinks because I knew if I stuck around
I was going to burst out in an explosion of laughter.
"Oh," Chad said. "Oh, okay."
I excused myself and headed for the bathroom. When I came
back, Gina had disengaged herself from Chad and Trevor and was looking out at the hills.
The apartment, which probably ran over $1,000 a month, had a balcony that faced the West
hills. Here at night, you could see the lights of the houses near the MoPac Expressway
shine through the thick-leafed trees. You couldnt see water from here, but the trees
blanketing the rolling hills looked like black cotton in the night, fluffy and lush.
"Do you want to stick around?" Gina asked me.
She was leaning against the wood rail of the balcony.
"Not really," I said. "This isnt how
I really expected to spend my New Years."
"Me neither," Gina said. "Except for the
"And the latent lesbianism," I said.
"Ay, Heather," she said. "That wasnt
"Im kidding," I said. "I know you
"They kept asking questions after you left,"
Gina said. "Like how long have you known youre, you know, into other
"You probably made their night."
"If thats all it takes, I feel very sorry for
them," Gina said. "So where do you want to go?"
"Can you even drive? Youve had as much as
me," I said.
"I can drive. Where are we going?"
"Downtown," Gina said. "Lets
* * *
I thought we were going to miss midnight when we
couldnt find a parking space. We circled from Second Street all the way up to the
capitol. We ended up paying $5 for a space near Fourth Street and walking near the
We went to Polly
Esthers. Gina and I were both feeling trashy. We were dressed up with somewhere
to go, fitting right in with the overdressed, fake-IDd waif naifs in black who were
just happy to be getting in the door.
It was already 11:30 when we got there. The music was 70s
funk and disco classical ("I Will Survive,"
Gina and I began dancing, losing our identities in the mass of swirling bodies and
mall-bought clothes. The lights, the liquor and the music disoriented me until everything
was a spinning ball. Ginas face came and went, like a visage in a dream.
The D.J. stopped the music later and the countdown was
coming. "You guys ready for a BRAND-NEW-YEAR?" he asked. Everyone, including me,
cheered loudly, giving in.
"Lets count it down!"
Gina was next to me and we smiled at each other. We
counted it down, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6.
My body clenched in an anticipation I hadnt expected
to feel. Another year, another countdown. I wasnt expecting to feel anything
special, even in the pre-Millennium hysteria of the 1999 date.
5, 4, 3, 2
All movement seemed to stop. It was all
about numbers, about getting there, about surviving another year together.
People hugged and cheered and laughed. Glitter and
balloons dropped from the ceiling.
"Its 1999!" the D.J. screamed.
was playing and people started dancing within the first few notes. They knew it was
coming. Their bodies were ready.
Gina hugged me. "Lets go outside!" she
screamed into my ear, the only way I could hear her.
We went through the front doors and watched throngs of
people moving up and down the street, shouting, laughing, walking drunkenly arm in arm.
"Everybody thats out like this is really
living, determined to have a good time," Gina said. "Theres some people
that live like that all the time, but very few. Dont you wish you could feel like
this all the time?"
"It wouldnt be as special if I felt like this
all the time," I said. "All my memories would be the same."
"I guess so," Gina said. "This will be a
"Really?" I asked. Id assumed that Gina
was having a good time, but I didnt imagine this rated very highly on Ginas
scale of fun evenings. I thought something on the order of a night of salsa dancing at
Miguels was much more her preference.
"This took me out of myself," Gina said.
"It made me forget about a lot of things for a little while. I didnt think
Id have too much fun tonight."
"I understand," I said.
"So thanks," she said.
"Wanna go back inside?" I asked. The truth was,
I heard more music inside. "Jungle Boogie." I wanted to dance, right now.
I dragged Gina by the arm and we got back in to Polly
Esthers with our hand stamps. We were dancing again, our rhythms vastly different,
but similar enough to the music that it didnt matter. We were creating memories,
however disjointed and blurry theyd appear later, and Gina was forgetting about some
of the pain in her life for just a few minutes.
They were good minutes, the first ones of the new year.