When I rise in the morning, my alarm sounds like god’s laugh and sunlight is terrorizing my cheeks, bathing my skin in unwarranted urgency. Soon, the glow leaks through my flesh and pools in my mind, dominating my first thoughts with a burning and relentless immediacy that I want to fight off. I can’t tell if it feels like a Friday or if my SSRI’s are just working, because things don’t feel entirely impossible. I kick my sweaty gray sheets off, and stop for a moment to admire Aidan, who is passed out beside me in the fetal position, wearing an open flannel and boxers. I plant a kiss on his forehead and head to the shower, where I attempt to burn the frenetic energy out of me, drenching every curl and every freckle and every inch of my skin in scorching distraction.
I don’t believe in dressing up for Halloween because there are not many things that I am a fan of. I do, however, believe in temporary freedom from my identity – and the ability to warp into a different version of myself. I sit at my desk and get to work on the self-altering ritual – pink wing, giant babydoll lashes, freckle erasure – little black hearts on my cheeks.
“What the fuck are you wearing?” Aidan laughs his way through a yawn, and reaches for his cigarette pack. I roll my eyes and run towards him, planting a giant, messy red lipstick stain on his cheek. “Suck my dick,” I reply simply, rather than letting him know how liberated I feel with long pink hair and how teeming I am with a full-body restless buzz.
He scratches his head. “Someone has serotonin.”
I shrug, and join him in facing the ten am October sun on the balcony for a cigarette.
“Enjoy it, baby,” I say. “Because me having serotonin, is rare.”
“You’re manic all of the time.”
I pout, fold my arms. “This is different.” Although I’m not sure if it is.
We don’t make Halloween plans, mainly because Aidan is opposed to social interaction and large gatherings, and because New York City feels too possible and vast to make a stiffening decision – in Brooklyn we trust, in Manhattan we find admiration, so we let the city make our choices for us. This means stopping at the nearest bodega for a handle of Bacardi and calling a car to Manhattan – no street address, no real destination. I make him take a picture of me on a set of deteriorating steps outside of someone’s darkened apartment while we wait for our ride. He mocks my ridiculousness, I giggle unabashedly – in this moment I am a cotton candy, warm-stomached contrast to the dismalness of everyone who isn’t as alive as my world.
Our Uber barrels over the Manhattan bridge and I gawk at the fact that this intricate, complex structure has room to carry us, tires screaming past lights that melt into each other and skyscrapers that beckon an exciting fate below us. My hands snake into his hair (his run through my wig) and I snap a grainy, black and white photo of our messy tongue exchange cinema in the back of this stranger’s vehicle. We take turns kissing the bottle until our throats are raw and our heads are light, until I’m stumbling onto wet and glistening pavement in platform boots, swinging Aidan’s arm as we hold hands with such vigor that one would think my intention is to rip it off. We sit opposite each other at a statuesque marble outdoor table, in the open courtyard of what is either a museum or a rehab or a hospital. A tall man with a goatee in a white tracksuit approaches us. He is giddy or high or both. “What ya’ll sippin’ on?” he chortles, pointing at the handle we’ve made no effort to hide. He withdrawals a colt 45 from a black drawstring back. “Ya’ll havin’ a good night?”
Aidan, unused to the city, laughs – incredulous. “Yeah man, sounds like you are, too.”
“Oh I’m doing just fine!” the man sings. “What are ya’ll’s names?”
“I’m April,” I lie, smirking.
“Aidan.” Aidan shakes his hand.
“What are ya’ll doing in the city?” the man asks.
“I go to school here,” I say.
“Oh, what, NYU?”
I shrug. “yeah, sure.”
“Do you two want to trade me a shot of that good stuff for this here brew?” he asks, swinging the beer over us, seeming so unsteady on his own legs that I worry he may drop it.
“We’re okay,” Aidan laughs.
“Are you visiting her?” the man presses, gesturing at me.
“Yeah, yeah, uh….APRIL is my girlfriend.”
“Real pretty girl,” the guy says, as if I”m not even there. “You know what ya’ll should do while you’re in the city? You should get on one of them Mega Bus tour things. Fun view drunk.”
Aidan’s face lights up, I feel mine growing warmer from the liquor.
“I bet,” he says, and stands up. “Thank you, sir.”
“Thanks,” I echo – and we hastily shuffle away, leaving this weirdo in his colt45 white tracksuit lonesome glory.
“You wanna go on one?” Aidan grins at me, devilishly.
I scoff. “You’re serious?”
He takes a swig of our booze. “Why not?”
“Okay,” I laugh. Holding hands, we sprint around the corner, following signs for the megabus city tour. I don’t even bother to GPS it. When we arrive at the bus stop, a large navy blue bus decorated by obnoxious bannered advertisements for some amusement park pulls up. I make a mental note to later use that in a piece of writing, because the city is our amusement park, ba dum tss. I climb on and in a thick Spanish accent, the stout bus driver says, “No more rides tonight.” I pout. “You guys are closed?” I repeat the question in Spanish. His eyes glow. We carry on a Spanish discourse for about ten minutes before I thank him and dutifully hop off of the bus, and collapse laughing into Aidan’s arms. He kisses me on the forehead.
“What was that for?” I say, and playfully wipe it off.
“It’s just crazy that you’re mine – that you can randomly do that – just go up to some dude and talk to him in fluent fucking Spanish like he’s your grandpop or something. I don’t know. It’s crazy that you’re mine.”
“You’re drunk,” I say, but I’m grinning so hard that my eyes are watering.
“Drunk enough to know who my lover is!” he screams and grabs my hand, pulling my entire body forward as he breaks into a sprint again.
“Where are we going!!?” I cackle.
“It doesn’t matter!” he calls, without looking back. And we carry on like that – drunk out of our minds and running at what feels like the speed of light through 5th avenue and then what becomes the blindingness of Times Square. We’re about to turn fast and hard around a corner, and my heart is pounding in my chest when I notice an office chair, with wheels, abandoned and cast away on the corner. “Aidan, look,” i say, breathlessly.
“Huh?” I point a sharp black fingernail at the gem I’ve discovered.
His eyes widen.
“OH, NO WAY!”
I giggle, and take my seat in it, holding my feet up a bit so that they don’t drag on the cement.
“Are you ready?” he asks. I nod.
Completely oblivious to the world around us, we soar through seas of people, past bars and restaurants, smokers and loiterers, Aidan running and pushing me in the chair as fast as he possibly can. We’re going so quickly that I begin to laugh out of pure adrenaline, strands of pink hair sticking to my dewy cheeks, limbs extended and electric. Gaggles of students outside of bluelit bars gawk at us, and I couldn’t give less of a fuck. I don’t care who I am or who I’m not, I’m mer and I’m april and I’m autumn and I’m drunk and I’m in love and nothing could matter less, nothing could matter more.
“Be careful!” I scream, just to say it.
“Careful’s my middle name, baby!” he calls, as he almost loses his balance – which would consequently cause me to topple out of the chair and gain a face full of New York sidewalk crack.
When we’re dizzy and tired and drunk enough to stop chasing a rush on wheels, we pause at the corner of seventh, – we’re all heavy breathing and dilated eyes. I standup and push the chair into the street, where one of its wheels gets caught in the sewer vent. “Good riddance!” I wave at it. A shop called “Monticello’s Pizza” looms gold and smells right behind us. “Do you want a slice?” I ask Aidan.
He lights up a Red. “You just did all that fucking leg work..I can run in.”
He laughs. “Leg work?”
“Yeaaah, leg work,” I slur.
“Okay, bes,” he claps me on the shoulder.
When I return with two larger-than-life slices of plain, which are drenching the plates they’ve been provided on with grease, I see Aidan caught up in an animated conversation with a tall man in a purple, velvet suit.
“Mer, come here!” Aidan takes my arm, and I sit beside him, biting into the cheesy poison.
“This is Ali.”
Ali waves. “It is good to meet you,” he says. “I was asking this man if I could smoke one of his cigarettes.”
He has a thick, foreign accent – from where, I can’t discern.
“And I said, go right ahead.”
Aidan is only jovial when he’s liquored up like this, and I can’t complain.
“I can buy the two of you a drink, in return for this Marlboro,” Ali offers.
“You don’t have to do that, man,” Aidan says.
“We’re not 21 yet,” I point out.
“This does not matter. I will bring you to a place where they know me.”
I raise my eyebrows at Aidan. He shrugs.
Less than ten minutes later, we’re following Ali into what appears to be a very classy, purple-lit Hipster bar. Everything is made of glass and everyone is wearing glasses. The energy within is almost vaporwave retro – think, like, a sunset is trapped inside of a video game. An unassuming bartender doesn’t bother to glance at us twice as we take a seat at a clean, purple high top table. Most people around us are wearing two disguises – their intoxication and their overpriced garb: the truth of the matter is that even the Manhattan adults who’ve figured out how to wake up at 8 am and regularly consume avocado toast don’t have it all together.
“A round of shots for myself and my friends, please,” Ali gleefully runs up to the bar.
He returns with three overflowing double-shot glasses and places two in front of Aidan and I.
“You like tequila, I hope?”
Where the fuck did we find this man? There’s something so wholesome about him, like a puppydog who would do just about anything to ensure the success of a night out with, well, complete strangers.
“Cheers, man, I’ll drink anything,” Aidan lifts his shot and I do the same. The tequila on top of the Bacardi I’ve already consumed should be an unwelcome visitor in my stomach, but the warmth only burns hotter, and more comfortably all-consuming.
“Thank you, Ali,” I laugh, and (being drunk enough to ignore social cues) pull out my phone to snap a picture of our blurry new friend.
“What do you do for a living, bro?” Aidan asks.
“I manage a Subway restaurant,” Ali says, proudly. “One in Queens.”
“And you just came to Manhattan for the night, yourself? No Halloween plans?”
“Manhattan is fun,” Ali shrugs, and I let it be.
The night is warped, in a funhouse mirror, where did I leave my keys way by the time it’s eleven PM. Ali orders us more shots. My mouth is numb and my cheeks are burning, but I feel butterflies of joy in my stomach at the very prospect of continuing to be alive and in this whirl. At some point, a scruffy-looking, middle-aged man staggers towards our table, nearly decking me with his beer.
“You good, bro?” Aidan asks the man.
In response, the man smiles, a knowing, drunk, Frank Gallagher smile – “Never been better.”
He sets his beer down at our table as if Aidan’s inquisition were an invitation. “May I?”
“Sure,” Ali cried, drunk and gleeful to be joined by another patron.
“How’s Halloween treatin’ the three of ya’s?” the man asks.
“Oh, you know,” I shrug, and then almost fall off of my chair, laughing into Aidan’s shoulder. “Fun as shit.”
“Super fun,” Ali echoes.
“It seems like you’re on our level,” Aidan tells the man. “Cheers.”
They clink glasses.
“What’re you kids doing in Manhattan, huh?”
“Halloween shit,” I slur.
Aidan catches my eye and can’t help but cackle at my ridiculousness. He kisses me on the cheek. “Yup, Halloween shit.”
“It seems like your Halloween shit involves quite a lot of alcohol,” the man says, He extends his hand to me, then Aidan and Ali. “I’m Bruce.”
“Hi, Bruce,” i say stupidly, as if we’re at some kind of AA meeting. (we probably should be.)
“I have a real nice airbnb rented down the street, if you kids wanna come back there for the after party,” Bruce offers.
My eyes widen. “Like, a fancy one? With a balcony?”
I’ve always had a fetish for the possible-ness of balconies.
Bruce nods. “It has a balcony, yes.”
“I don’t care,” Ali smiles. “I really am so drunk that I will be fine to do anything at this point, I think.”
“What kinda liquor you got?” Aidan jokes.
And then, like four deranged, intoxicated peas in a pod, we’re shuffling down 6th ave towards the promise of booze and a balcony. I swing Aidan’s hand in my mind, paying attention to nothing but the way the cold air seems to be the only thing capable of separating us, drifting through the cracks between our knuckles. We follow, um fucking BRUCE, through a steel door that requires a key fob, then up a set of dusty, but regal looking stairs, with red velvet cake carpeting. He uses the key fob a second time and the door beeps unlocked, welcoming us into an immaculately clean, modern kitchen with big windows offering a view of Manhattan’s glory. I spot the balcony immediately, a rickety black one, perched over an alley decorated by vine overgrowths, with cute little tables beneath. “FUCK,” I breathe – momentarily distracted by this aesthetic porn.
“We can go out there, go on you guys, I’ll grab you some drinks,” Bruce insists.
“I needed a smoke, anyways,” Aidan says.
“I too, would like another Marlboro,” Ali chimes in.
Part 2 coming soon.