Deep in the throes of Summer Madness came one of those lazy Saturdays when you meet up with some friends for brunch and then slowly teach your body to make do with alcohol the way it usually utilizes actual nutrients by starving it of everything except Coors light. Once the trajectory of the day becomes apparent, usually delayed until a hallmark signifier shows itself, like the sun going down or someone brings up eating again, all dreams of self-improvement or skill refinement die a sudden, violent death; you can try and convince yourself that you’ll remember these halcyon days of your reckless youth, except you’re almost 30.
It was around two in the morning and I was leaving a rather swank establishment on Smith Street, and my friend Chandler was on his way to meet my friend and I, but had arrived too late and we were all dispersing to our respective houses. I offered to walk with him back to the subway as my body had grown tired of the sick joke I had forced on it all day. I felt a little remorse Chandler had traveled all this way as I had not been very diligent in keeping him abrupt of the waning situation, so when I heard a lively, rawkus gathering on the third floor of a stately apartment building a block off Smith, I decided it was time to shed myself of this heavy weight of guilt.
It sounded like a respectable affair, drinks clinking, loud guffaws, but enough volume that an omniscient host would err on the side of caution rather than rudeness in singling us out as intruders. We approached the building directory and rang a few apartments to infiltrate the first layer of building security. “It’s Mike!” I would offer, and in a New York first, the resident calmly explained he wasn’t expecting a Mike or Michael or any other variant and perhaps we had the wrong apartment. I’m sure Agent Mulder knew this feeling well. But Mike was determined and explained to another half-asleep resident we had lost our key and were so very tired. The door released and we made our way in. Social engineering at it’s most cunning.
We headed to the elevator, ecstatic at the riches that lay before us, only to find each floor requiring its’ own elevator key. The second layer of security. Hold on, I thought, the night isn’t over. We’ll take the other floor-to-floor transportation mechanism, antiquely known as ‘the stairs’. Guess what else required a key to access? The stairwell. After seeing documentaries such as Dope Sick Love, I understand why staircases might be on lock down to prevent random homeless men and junkies from setting up shop, but we had a party to crash.
We waited a few minutes, loitering in the building lobby, but our momentum was eroding with each moment of chilled silence. We were just about to call it a night, when a portly older woman arrived and made her way to the elevator. Chandler and I made small talk as if we were somebodies doing legal somebody things living nonthreatening somebody lives, and entered the cramped elevator trying to discard any fragrance of menace. “Oh, Four’s already pressed. Great!” I announced to Chandler, slathering the observation with a blithe cadence to convey the appropriate level of familiarity. The portly woman exhibited continuing signs of tension as the doors made their way closed. I always expect an expression of gratitude for not being a depraved rapist when the situation reveals its innocuous nature, but not everyone was raised with etiquette like I was. Chandler and I began talking about a movie, but she interrupted, “Gentleman, you have to put your key in…”, obviously unsure of how to approach the issue. Chandler interrupted back, pulling a DVD out of his bag, “Have you seen this movie? Just phenomenal.” “Just wonderful.” I added, seeing no signs of reclaimed calmness to her face. A few knowing beats while the elevator trudged upward, and opened the doors on the third floor. “Y’know, let’s just get out here, we’ll be fine.” “Gentlemen…” She began but we made our way to the staircase before she could finish.
We arrived on the second floor, and the sounds of the party were all around us. We were excited and began to move towards the loudest door. We agreed on a tactical plan to make our way to the couch upon entrance. People sitting on couches have usually been in attendance for a bit and rarely attract attention to themselves, nibbling on snacks and keeping to themselves, carrying a stigma of stagnation that might repel icebreakers. On three, we’ll open the door. One. Two. Three.
The swarm of voices hit us hard, but the initial impact of our entrance was trumped by the fact someone was laying at the door and nearly tripped us. The third security layer! Attempting to regain composure, we offered a hearty laugh which was quickly extinguished once we raised our heads to assess the situation visually.
A wall of men in white robes, barefoot and faces painted white, chopsticks in hair if it were practical, eyeliner heavily applied, stood as a solid concave mass with the door was the focal point. Not all eyes made their way to us at first, but they all did eventually. We looked for the destination couch, but there were only beds. We decided to shuffle to a corner off to the side. It wasn’t very long at all before a geisha with broad cheekbones and rigid jaw approached us. I could feel the wayward glances of the geishas. Is this Skull & Bones? How many senators are in attendance tonight? Am I going to be setup as a murdered rent boy? “Oh, Jonathan? From the escort service? Yes he showed up for a bit, then disappeared. A newcomer on the scene. Tragic, really”, the geisha would explain to my parents.
“Gentleman, how are we this evening?”, the romanesque host asked us. I tried to ignore the the specifics of the party and adopted a calm, chill demeanor. “We’re good, we’re good. Where do we get a drink around here?” He displayed a look of downward concern, and then turned the tables quickly, “Guys, are you looking for someone here? Do you know someone?” I immediately responded with the name Mike, as everyone knows a mike, and a room full of male geishas must have at least one Michael, Mike, Mikey, etc. “Okay, well I’m Mike,” the host explained with a puzzled, pained face. “And I don’t know you two. Do you mean that Mike?” the host offered with a point behind us. I was ready to pull the trigger with whoever this Mike was going to turn out to be, merely talk over him for a few second, lose the original Mike, and explain the confusion. But the Mike behind us was a balding older man with his geisha robe opened wide and his hand rubbing his chest. Chandler and I averted our gaze and I abandoned my plans of knowing the Mike behind us. “And what’s your name?” Mike the Host asked, to which I responded Mike as my well of popular first names wasn’t running particularly deep at this point.
Mike the host seemed a little taken back by our brazen laziness and had enough, “Gentlemen, I think you have the wrong party, sorry, you have to go.” I turned to Chandler and expressed confusion just to diffuse the situation a bit, checking my phone for the fictional long lost text with the address in it. Mike the host was losing his patience, I made one last visual sweep of the room, and was unnerved by the light giggling and accusing eyes. They were probably making fun of our non-geisha attire and joked how gaijin we were and how far removed our lives were from their penthouse male-only themed parties. That’s what hurt the most.
I flirted with the idea of taking a picture but my Blackberry at the time was notoriously slow and the cops might have been there by the time it took. We graciously excused ourselves, took one last glance at the senators, celebrities, kingpins, and titans of industry hiding behind their geisha makeup, closed the door behind us, and laughed all the way home.