Watermelon Juice and Other Peach Colored Drinks
He wasn’t a typical Club Rat ...
... not like the rest of them. There was never a drink in his hand or a cigarette at his fingertips. He never touched the little white capsules that everyone so discretely popped into their mouths as the music got louder and the crowd grew restless, pumping their fists in the air to the mysterious beats of a bass so low it was hardly detectable. He wasn’t like them, and yet he was everywhere.
He danced alone, moving with the rhythm without hesitation as though the music pulsed through his veins, predicting the next beat as it came to play one step ahead of the DJ. The music became him, and he was immersed in a unique experience of his own creation.
He was distracted… always. And addicted - ofcourse. Although not your conventional addict; it wasn’t drugs or alcohol that kept him high. It was something much more treacherous. Simply put, it was Girls. Not even just them; he got high off the crowd, the vibe, the atmosphere and the vitality that vibrated effortlessly through the room. He moved swiftly across the dance floor, stopping at every table, greeting people whose names and faces would become part of an endless blur that made up “that night”, “that month” and eventually “that year”. It was ceaseless; a vicious cycle he reveled in.
Step 1: A web of lies. Only the foolish are led to believe that escaping to a late night party in the capricious streets of Cairo is a simple task. It is a mission. One that requires planning, precision and a specific set of skills that wire down to an acquired and uncanny ability to bullshit your way through any and every obstacle that blocks your path. Admittedly, keeping track of the lies is a must. Moreover, formulating more than one story is also vital as a fallback plan is essential to every full-proof outing.
On this particular night the plan was as follows: Dina would leave her house at 6pm with a bag full of clothes, preparing to sleepover at Reem’s house. I would leave my house at the same time, reciting the same fib that I too would be sleeping over at Reem’s. Dina and I would meet at Starbucks at 7pm, leave our bags in my car and go over to Rawan’s where we would change and prepare for the night.
A week earlier as we were putting together our plan, Dina pointed out, “My mother would never think to call Reem, but she would definitely call your grandmother to make sure we got home on time.”
“True,” I nodded. “My sister will know the whole truth just in case anything does go wrong, and they need to know where we went,” I added, checking the time and location of the event on my cellphone. We agreed, texted the appropriate people and activated a web of lies so intricately spun that we saw no points of weakness or foreseeable failure.
It was the opening event in a series of alternative parties; the best DJ’s and lineups were set to play until sunrise. The theme was ‘Halloween Horror’ and everyone was decked out from head to toe in extravagant costumes ranging from the gothic corpse bride to the fairy princess and from a sexy Batman to a geeky nerd in overalls and matching plastic glasses; regardless of your choice of attire the idea was to make a statement. To make sure that your presence would be remembered, that people feel it essential for you to be there at their events. It was always intriguing to be able to spot those specific individuals who arrived with that goal in mind. The most captivating part is that by the end of the night, they achieve it. They are remembered.
The problem was that no one knew where the event would be until a week before the set date. When the location was announced, the battle for reservations began. I am not referring simply to the tickets or tables; the preparations meant hotel bookings, elaborate sleepover arrangements and of course the all too important ‘ride’.
The reality is that each event is more expensive than the last, and in an attempt to make the crowd as elite as possible, club owners gamble with their customers’ inability to refuse the elusively addictive party scene. Age was never an issue in Cairo; despite the fact that many claim to have difficulty entering these types of places the ultimate ticket to any one of them is simple and obnoxiously obvious: Money.
Standing at the top of a staircase looking down at the eager crowd of adolescents waiting to enter the most highly anticipated party of the season: this was where I first saw him. The music was roaring with a promise of endless R&B tracks. An open bar, an attractive venue and of course an extravagant crowd of exclusive partygoers engaging in their regular weekend hype. He was wearing a plain white T-shirt and navy blue jeans with casual black converse, talking to the bouncer, the party organizer, the guests and on his phone all at once. Shouting and pointing, gesturing to the guest list while adding and removing names. I was instantly fascinated.
“Who are you staring at?” Dina was looking at me, attempting to trace my glance and connect it to the correct boy. She instantly knew it was a boy.
“Him.” I nodded my head in his direction.
Dina frowned, scrunched up her face and strained her neck to get a better look over the crowd of unfamiliar faces.
“What’s so special about him?!” she demanded once she spotted his clearly casual appearance. He was tall and thin with a clean-shaven face, not buff or rugged or even remotely attractive. Basically, he was not her type and so I could tell she was unimpressed by my revelation.
Eventually, she’d see what I meant.
By midnight the dance floor was packed, costumes were falling apart and empty glasses dripping with leftover booze were scattered around the room. Smoke and heat filled the air, as the wilder attendees began chugging from bottles and waving their hats/scarfs/tiaras in the air. Everyone was either tipsy or wasted, or working on getting to either state of mind before the night was over. I held on to my glass of Red Bull, dancing in my Devil costume alongside Marilyn Monroe, Prince and Three unnaturally buzzed Angry Birds. Blue, green, red and purple beams highlighted the artificial fog that encompassed the crowd. Rays of florescent lights streamed across our faces creating masks of color that glowed in the darkness.
I didn’t see him again that night, but somehow I knew it wouldn’t be the last time.
Step 2: The outfit debacle. Dressing up for the night out is a two-step process. The party outfit is planned out days before the event, followed by the cover up outfit. The basic rule here is to maintain discretion. By this I mean minimal skin exposure, low hemlines and of course no cleavage. The idea is to create an illusion of being appropriately dressed, at least until you leave the house.
Stockings are essential, so is a black blazer or jacket of some sort, and maybe a scarf or two. The unspoken dress code entails that one never enters the house after having been to a party looking the way they existed. Pictures from the event are surveyed and analyzed before being posted - only on Instagram of course in order to avoid Facebook family from discovering the reality of our enigmatic lifestyle. It’s a paradoxical method, however it comes to work very conveniently for parents who wish to remain in utter oblivion and children who cherish the secret identity of their alter egos.
Our second encounter, was different, because this time he saw me too. We were never introduced officially, he just knew who I was. The same way I knew who he was. Social networking has made it almost impossible to remain anonymous forever; eventually the person you are looking for will pop up in a picture or a tag. You’ll click on it or they will, and boom the connection is made. It’s instantaneous.
This was the Spring After Grad party, and since festivity was in the air it was difficult to socialize with anyone other than the graduate you were attending for. It was there that this connection appeared - a mutual friend. I was standing in the middle of the dance floor waiting for my girlfriend to return with our drinks. That night I wore my favorite LBD - little black dress - and glossy beige stiletto heels, my hair was tied up in a neat ponytail that reached the small of my back. Looking up I could see the Cirque du Soire Sky dancers hanging from the ceiling on their shimmering silver and gold bands. They moved with such ease, swinging above our heads with rainbow feathered headdresses swaying from side to side. I was starting to feel restless, I couldn’t find my party companions and the crowd was beginning to thin as people spread out to their tables. He caught me off guard, I felt someone hold my hand and before I knew it I was spinning. And Spinning and spinning. I couldn’t stop so I started laughing as the hem of my dress spread out into a perfect ballerina tutu around my waist. Everything around me turned into a blazing pinkish red blur of people, lights, music and camera flashes. It felt like an infinite moment - all my senses could feel was the tight grip of his hand as he twirled me round and around. I looked up unconsciously, catching a glimpse of a beautiful Sky Dancer flying over me head. I could see her smile. And suddenly I stopped.
Feeling dizzy and elated I leaned on him, he was grinning and staring at me.
“What was that for?” I asked trying to steady myself.
“You looked like you needed a spin,” he grinned. I couldn’t believe his audacity … it impressed me though I have to admit.
Looking up I spotted my friend Karim coming toward us, he walked straight up to him, and they shook hands firmly.
“That was pretty impressive,” said Karim eyeing me curiously. “How do you guys know each other?”
I looked at my mystery man and we both answered almost simultaneously.
He walked away after that, letting go of my arm gently and turning around without uttering a word. I watched him disappear into the crowd. Probably off to woo his next victim of the night, I felt anger and attraction all at once.
Karim could see it in my eyes, he hesitated before speaking, “It’s none of my business of course but I’m just warning you to be careful with him. He’s not the serious type. Not even close… You look beautiful by the way.”
I watched as Karim walked back to the table, feeling the cold, hard texture of glass being shoved into my hand. Dina had returned with drinks thank god. At that point I just wanted to dance, and so we did.
Step 3: Stay sober, or die trying. This isn’t an essential part of the process, and it is one that can be replaced by the exact opposite depending on the views of the individual. However, for the purpose of accuracy lets jut say that I was attempting to stay sober. The trick is to watch your drink, who pours it and how. I love the party scene as much as the next person but entering means agreeing to an absolute disregard for any ethical or moral obligation on behalf of pretty much anyone who attends. The downside is being bombarded with cigarette butts burning into the delicate fabric of your favorite satin blouse, returning home with hair that smells like a chimney and heels covered in stains and bits of confetti. Drink offerings and the occasional proposal to ‘take a puff’ of whatever drug-infused paper the person may be holding on to are a regular routine. With time though the offenders grow tired of pushing their clearly unwanted favors, and your defense grows stronger.
To avoid being a hypocrite there is something I need to confess, something that perhaps bothered me most of all about the party scene.
I was addicted too. To this lifestyle I was starting to worry I could no longer maintain, I couldn’t pinpoint my infatuation with this kind of scene but I couldn’t stop any more then he could. We were very similar, and yet completely different. I’m not saying that this should make any sense to any of you, but when I sat with him for the first time and I mean really spoke to him; I finally got it. To quote a line from a Jay Z song “All I need in this life of sin is me and my girlfriend.” He wanted this lifestyle to lead him to success and happiness regardless of the cost, and somehow he knew it would.
I was flipping through the cocktail menu looking for the non-alcoholic section. It was our third outing; this time we had actually planned to meet. And to be honest sometimes I wish we hadn’t. He chose the place, a quiet breakfast lounge by the River. Even Dina was surprised, she’d predicted our first official outing would be to some sort of unknown bar downtown. We weren’t alone though, it wasn’t a date and I should’ve known it wouldn’t be.
His friends were there and so were mine, he was leaning toward me and we talked the entire time. He was considerate and kind, making sure I got what I wanted and picking us up beforehand. He was even intelligent when he wanted to be, talking about business plans and future ventures. But again he was distracted, and that was his downfall …
“Mya!” He got up suddenly, turning around to embrace a punk rock-looking girl with a nose piercing and a single strand of aquamarine in her hair. I turned away. He took his time speaking to her, and I took my time eating the crepe I had ordered. Dina was watching me, I could almost feel her gaze and so I chose not to look up. Mya wasn’t the first girl either, she was followed by Karma and Hadia and Neveen and Tala. The process was systematic, and I found his acting skills quite impressive. He’d greet them the same way, say the same words but always give a different reason as to why he was out so early at such a calm place.
I got up then, making a point to pass in between him and the girl of the moment. I went to the bathroom, called the driver, returned to the table, paid and walked out with Dina who was rushing to keep up with my sudden hurricane of actions. He didn’t look away from the girl; I could see him pretending to keep up conversation. Resisting the urge to follow me, and he didn’t. And so I never looked back.
Step 4: The Pretense. Keeping up a solid poker face for the duration of any one of these events is absolutely essential. You can never look to eager, too impressed, too interested, too lively or too bored. You need to look cool – that’s it. The most important thing to remember is that you’re there to contribute to the overall energy of the night – the vibe - if you don’t add something to it there is no need for your presence. The harsh truth is that usually you will have no further conversation or interaction with most of the people you meet at these events. Being part of this game also means that you have to know all the players. Who they are, and who their friends are. You need to memorize the years’ roster of elites, who made the cut and who failed to. And perhaps the key to entering this scene and staying there is making that roster, being on that list, and staying known for as long as possible.
He tried to contact me afterwards of course. He called, texted, Snapchatted and did everything short of showing up at my door. He was pretending at the time, keeping up his all too precious pretext of nonchalance. Feigning indifference and trying to prove a point – girls are nothing, they don’t matter, they’re everywhere and I could care less. The problem was that the girls he spent time with were groupies, fans, and club rats like him. He’d never cared about a single one of them before and now that he did, he had no idea what to do about it.
He was the most eccentric party animal; he did everything he wanted to but nothing that meant compromising himself. He wanted stability and safety, but at the same time cherished his freedom and wandering lifestyle. I didn’t know how to react to this, and he didn’t know how to stop. He couldn’t.
He tried explaining all this to me and frankly I was no longer interested enough to listen - I had guessed it. He was predictable and thought himself unique.
See the thing is, he had broken the number one rule of pretense. Never let your opponent discover your kryptonite.
The last time I saw him, he was surrounded. I had no interest in intruding on this overwhelming artificial façade of ‘fun’. A tall brunette was hanging off one shoulder and a short blonde on the other; he was flirting with both of them giving them equal attention and yet no attention at all. His best friend was lurking in the background as always along with his unusually shy girlfriend.
It was the opening of a new bar in a smaller, quieter district of Cairo. The event was top secret and details were released the night before to those select few who were connected enough to be able to keep up with the raving social outbursts that occur on a radical basis. He was one of them. He had texted Dina the night before, “I wrote down your names. Be there.” That was it, we hadn’t had a single conversation since that day. All I ever knew about him was his location. Of course. That was the most important aspect of any socialite’s identity, where they were and possibly even more importantly when and with who. We didn’t speak that night or even interact. I looked at him and walked away. I felt his gaze follow me, and my heart was beating faster and faster. Despite all of this, he was irrelevant to me at that point.
This is an original story.