I’m on the subway wearing $3,200 in free clothing, a pair of nubby tights in need of chucking, and a pair of high-heeled boots I paid for myself, holding onto a fold-over clutch that I had to stuff an issue of Travel Magazine into to give some sort of structure. Getting on the subway this dressed up always strikes me as being incongruous – like I’m willing to blow two month’s rent on a dress but not the $20 on a cab to get to Tribeca. I try to pull my jacket around my body to cover the pretentious shine of my puffy skirt, hide the ring Eva gave me from her last collection. If I didn’t model, 90% of my clothes would still be from the Goodwill down the street from my mother’s house.
I scan the tungsten-lit car and wonder if anyone thinks I look as ridiculous as I feel – the guy sitting across from me, big as John Coffey, his lips and chin jutting out from under the hood of a cotton sweatshirt; the older man with the coke-bottle aviators from the 1970s, looking like a blind pedophile. No, no one here gives a shit. That’s the beauty of New York, fashion chicks and lunatics ignored with equal measure.
Forty-five hard-earned minutes and $2.50 later, I’m in Eva and Scott’s kitchen, where the men are wearing suits and the ladies are sporting a healthy amount of sparkly things, politely pregaming out of whisky tumblers.
“We were just about to leave without you.”
Eva sits with me in the back of the car while Ron drives us to The Armory for some charity event. Tim is on the board. His girlfriend couldn’t come because she’s studying for her macro-econ final and nursing a splitting headache. She’s staying in, reading and eating leftovers from last night. That’s why I’m here. Place Filler #2.
Some guy in a generic yellow button-up scans our fancy yellow wristbands with a registered chip in the center so they can keep track of you when you donate money, signing yourself away in the age of modern technology. This feels like Gattacca, I think, minus the whole leg-grafting, murder thing.
That guy I’ve met at Catch is here, looking like a character from Harry Potter, only he’s a multi-million dollar investment banker who, as of the last time I saw him, was casually debating buying an apartment on the Upper East Side with an observatory and a library, priced at $50 million dollars. Tonight, almost immediately, he’s launching into some story about a girl named Martina standing on the terrace while another boy who we all apparently know dives under her skirt and grabs onto her butt (or something). Every time the music gets louder, he seems to lower his voice, as though his story is falling down a well and I’m trying to chase it. Down down down to a bottomless pit of No Fucking Point. This guy may have milked the Dow but he can’t tell a story for shit. I feel my brain dim and my eyes wander, scanning a room filled with very handsome men in very handsome suits.
“There’s a guy with a mustache for you,” Eva whispers.
“I don’t like ironic hipsters!” I yell, “I like extremely thin fashion boys!”
God, I’m an asshole.
Harry Potter iBanker finishes his story with little to no fanfare and I think I walk away without even saying goodbye. Maybe that’s why socialites are so rude and flippant: mundane stories like this, told at charity events and dinner parties, are probably commonplace; I’d be a bitch, too.
Eva leads the way through herds of women dressed in cheap taffeta and body-con cocktail dresses. Eva’s embellished jacket shines in the overhead lights, silver and gold against her blonde hair. Everyone heads to the bar again and I stand by myself until a boy named something I don’t bother catching swoops in and immediately starts playing with the beaded sleeves of my dress.
“Who makes this?” he asks, his hands moving up and down my arms and then around my shoulders to squeeze like an old pal or a gropey uncle.
“It’s really cool. It’s like… beard stubble. Hey, this is my friend [don’t remember this name either],” he says, pointing to a shorter man in a hat who does nothing but giggle and nod his head.
His still rubbing my shoulders and he’s close enough that I can smell a familiar stench on his breath – that cigarettes and cocaine combo that seems so common here in this city. The coke would explain the exuberant invasion of my personal space.
“So what are you doing here?”
Drinking free booze and playing dress-up like everyone else…
Before I have to explain myself, Scott appears and passes me my water and I take this as my opportunity to disappear. I mouth a “CAN WE PLEASE GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM HERE?” and we walk towards a grouping of white club furniture where we play an adult version of I Spy.
I spy someone with the worst posture in the world.
I spy an eating disorder.
I spy lonely guy.
Seth Meyers gets on a square stage, elevated and placed in the center of the room. “This is awkward,” he jokes. Following him is the founder of the charity, a salt-and-pepper thirty-something who tells us a story about being a soulless, usurious club promoter who found God at 28. I do really, really hard to not turn around and make a face at Eva. Now, instead of getting rich New Yorkers boozed up, he’s getting impoverished Africans hydrated. And here we all stand, surrounded by an expensive sound system, wearing designer dresses, holding iPhones in one hand and free drinks in the other, celebrating our generosity. Living the American dream.
Charity dude has the enthusiastic charisma of a televangelist, that oh-shucks earnestness I generally associate with being a little bit dim. He places emphasis on words like FACE! SNATCHED! FAMILY! when talking about the hazards of sourcing water for the people of Africa. We watch a video about a nine-year-old boy getting eaten by an alligator while pulling water from a jaundiced river. I can’t help but feel as though everyone here is being swindled, even if they’re not.
“Stay here,” I tell Eva, “I need to pee.”
Women stand in line wearing their leopard and lace, adjusting the cups of their strapless bras. The bathroom looks like every public school loo I’ve ever had the pleasure of using, complete with the toilet paper rolls that never work and the wooden doors with the faulty brass hardware. Always that same combination of government pink and seafoam green.
On my way out, I get flagged down by a guy who disappeared after two dates. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in a month. “Heeeeyyyyyy,” I say, feeling myself sweat underneath my beaded sleeves. “How are you?” And then we have one of those awkward conversations that makes me never want to date in New York ever again.
After the charity supposedly makes $800k, numbers and names flashing on a screen at a speed that seems implausible, Ron drives us Beatrice, open again after three years, now as a restaurant.
“Oh, I remember this street,” I say, fondly remember chasing after drunk friends down cobblestone and screaming at the type of pitch that eventually got the place shut down in 2009. Eva and I walk down the stairs and through the white door on the right, not the white door on the left that we used to use when it was still a club. “Right this way,” the hostess says and she walks us down memory lane. “This is just depressing,” Eva says. “I feel like a nostalgic old lady.”
Where are all the coked-up, chain-smoking French rock-and-rollers? The horrible Penn State drunks? The sweating, dancing, sexy mess of 2007? I hated to love Beatrice. I was always too tall and too sober for the place. It was the kind of parallel universe that you just had to resign yourself to, trusting that the space itself would carry the night.
Now it’s a combination of well-worn civility, leather banquettes and brass light fixtures. When you drop your napkin, a young man comes and picks it up and replaces it with a new one. The silverware is only meant to be used for one course. The wine comes served with a knowledgable sommelier in a pink shirt. We eat dinner, cutting into our steaks and sides longing for debauchery, instead we just get caramel apple crème brulee.
And, fancy as I ever am, I take the subway home. Again.