Now that all of the teacups have followed their flying saucers from the cupboard to the shattering floor, the books broken their bindings to make birdlike haste from the shelves and into my head, the music and movies clattered together into a sightless, soundless blur above the middle of nowhere — now that everything that used to have a place is somehow overextended, morphed and placeless, left for blight and, later, summary by some outside party (likely to be introduced with an Elizabeth Taylor sigh of "What. A. Dump") — it's time to figure out exactly who the fuck I am.
The red eyes glaring back from a smudge in the floor-length closet mirror don't help. The burnt-orange suede drooping from my over-shrugged shoulders betrays only a hint of what was: some sour citric acid before the fires of rage rushed in. Real identity escapes me. I'm just the sum of some particularly sharp parts rattled through the passive aggression of an iPhone speaker, a mess of side-effect words concealing their actual meanings, effluent from a marital spat. And, oh, look, it's time to go out.
"I think I have a hateful target." Taylor's text message is like an embossed invite to my pierced and plucked mood.
"OK, I'll be at your house in 10 minutes," my dirty fingernails clack back.
Turns out that Taylor's dealing with identity issues tonight, too, only his aren't quite as self-importantly noxious as those stewing in my own cauldron of post-romantic apocalypse. Somehow, they're even worse, though they don't seem to be at first.
In my car, on the way to gay-bar-strip-mall Tuesday danceteria Lucky at Rain, Taylor explains just how unlucky he's been lately. Apparently, the promoters of the night have co-opted Taylor's first and last name for use in advertising, a suspicious move considering that Taylor's been slinging hooch at queer competitor Parliament House for 600 years. From this tidbit of nonsense grows the hook for tonight's creepy episode of the Hardly Boys, wherein Taylor dons a hoodie covered in Tim Burton skulls and says things like, "I'm going to steal his soul with my finger." At first blush, it's a fine premise for the tragic escapism of a middle-aged nightlife column: We'll go out looking ridiculous, say ridiculous things, giggle manically and end up having a confrontation with somebody named Taylor who happens to have a lazy eye.
"There's no lazy eye in Taylor," Taylor's left eye rolls.
But then it gets morbid.
"I'm going to steal his soul and give him my life." He pulls his skull-hood up over his hair horns. "Then maybe he can make my dying dad happy. Maybe he'll be the Taylor that my dying dad actually likes."
Actually — and unexpectedly — it is. Lucky has come a long way since the last time I was there for its grand opening, a sparsely populated wallflower situation last fall that felt, at least to me, like an extended version of the end of the world juiced up with treble and lighting. Tonight, it's a little more populated and a little less mall-gay, although there remains a preponderance of tattoo-patterned T-shirts stretched over budding 20-something bellies. Whatever. We're not here for the scenery. We are here for a dark purpose.
"Is Taylor working? Where's Taylor?" Taylor starts his inquisition with the door staff, who would really rather not deal with our current level of synaptic degradation. Taylor — my Taylor — has it on good authority that bizarro Taylor and his lazy eye might or might not have bumped uglies with our joint adorable secret bartender boyfriend Tadpole (a "swimmer," we both agree). Tadpole, when faced with our crumbling countenances scavenging for thematic prey, barely wiggles his tail.
"I don't know what you're talking about. I do know a Taylor, but he doesn't bartend here," Tadpole frogs. "Come to think of it, maybe I did see one of those ads, though. That's weird."
"We're serious," we aren't, in unison.
"Well, then … it's on!"
Except it isn't. After a few futile flits around the billowing beaded room, we softly land on the conclusion that, whether this Taylor exists or not, he's not here tonight. Also, we're stupid. How about that scenery?
"You think that's a real tree?" I tilt toward some shrubbery in a dark corner.
"Yeah, a real tree that loves cigarettes and darkness," Taylor calls me a tree. "It's made from petroleum products. We love petroleum products."
"You know, us gays need our petroleum products," Taylor lubes up his punchline. "Except those times when one petroleum product eats through another petroleum product and two negatives make a positive!"
And that's exactly what we end up doing: scratching Taylor's Southern Gothic father issues against the scabs of my own Southern Gothic relationship issues until the Northern Lights bleed out bright colors that distract us into the kind of carefree ebullience that used to make going out to gay bars a career worth pursuing. Within about a half-hour, we're crafting Gaga wigs out of beaded curtains and snapping digital photos of ourselves in various states of blissful decline, bouncing and bleating through mazes of nameless men just for the sake of getting nowhere. Or somewhere. Or anywhere that feels like a speck of purple glitter glued high up on a shattered mirror wall. In the end, that's where I'll always be.
"You need to go soon, don't you?" Taylor's wild-eyed smile starts to show a little downward curve, while my brain cells start sprouting shoots from their pumpkin seeds. "But I'm having so much fun!"
"Yep," I dust the front of my party dress. "I've got a real mess to clean up."[email protected]