I’m the only girl at the party which isn’t that unusual for me, but what is unusual — highly unusual is seeing gay people in the daytime. We are notorious creatures of the night and I haven’t seen gay skin sparkle in the sunshine for (what feels like) a decade.
But none of that shit matters because now I’m in the legendary Fire Island Pines for the first time and truthfully: I’m Not Sure If I’ve Ever Had This Much Fun™.
And I haven’t had many things in my life (higher education, consistent orgasms) but I’ve had fun.
I’m with Owen and we aren’t ready to take our shirts off yet, even though it’s one thousand degrees and it’s a pool party and everyone around us is practically nude. The teal/blue pool is swarming with the hardest boy bodies my eyes have ever borne witness to. It’s the first weekend of the summer season but thanks to the endless tanning salons strung across the streets of Chelsea everyone is a seasoned, mid-August tan. The women’s publication I write for is always warning the masses about the long-term horrors of exposing young flesh to ultraviolet light but we gays don’t fear the wrath of artificial sun. We live on the edge. We have an insatiable thirst for beauty and we aren’t threatened by the possibility of leather skin one day, in the faraway future. We want to be pretty now. Because we fantasized about the now we’re living in for the entirety of our youth. What do you think kept us alive during those lonely teen years we collectively endured trapped inside of sun-less closets in sad suburbia? Our dreams of this moment.
It’s always harrowing to take your shirt off the first weekend of summer, isn’t it? Maybe not for evolved, strong,
uniquely privileged politically correct entities who grew up with a surplus of body positivity somewhere gentle like I don’t know — Northern California — but that’s not us. Owen and I came of age in time when teen magazines were still chock full of diet tips (Drink water between every bite! Tape pictures of Kate Moss on your fridge! Your mantra: Food never tastes as good as skinny feels. Etc.) We’re generation: TRIM SPA, BABY.
“Why do you care about taking your shirt off? There are no lesbians here. There are no girls here.” Owen asks stamping out a real cigarette because this is the year before vaping replaced smoking.
“If I were with lesbians I would be far less afraid to take my shirt off.”
I notice a guy wearing a hot pink sequined hood and a hot pink sequined speedo not-so-discreetly doing a bump right out of the filter of his Parliament Light. I swear I can see a sprinkle of bright white powder stuck in his coarse nostril hair, but I’m all the way across the pool from him and have the kind of big imagination that borders on hallucination, so it’s hard for me to trust my own eyes sometimes. Regardless, the whole scene reminds me of high school on the gulf coast of Florida. Lots of pink hoods, lots of sequins, lots of scantily clad girls at house parties sniffing powder from the filters of their Parliament Lights.
“Why?” Owen asks.
“Because if a lesbian shows up to a party without abs everyone is still nice to her. Gay men will toss you in a van and deposit you in some scary-looking parking lot in West Virginia and won’t pick you up until you’ve grown pecks.”
We both snicker, darkly.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” Owen says.
“Do you want me to come with you?” I ask.
“No, I’m good, Z.”
“How quickly my status dwindles when you’re amongst hot men,” I say this like I’m pissed but I’m not pissed. I love being in the presence of beautiful people even if it means I’ll inevitably get ditched for sex.
When Owen comes back from the bathroom both of our shirts are off. We smile and without speaking we pad into the kitchen to refill our drinks.
The house we’re partying at is amazing. It’s all shiny glass windows and spiral staircases and double high ceilings with big, wooden beams and unexpected skylights and big glossy bathrooms. It’s a house designed for glamorous orgies. New York Magazine in the 70s once said: “Orgy is a grand old tradition of Fire Island.”
It is indeed, NY Mag.
I’m wearing a long white tulle skirt and a tiny ruffled white bikini top. The bottom of my skirt is soiled from the beach and the ferry and the Long Island Railroad. My hair is in two extremely tight dutch braids that Owen styled for me on the train ride to Sayville, Long Island where the ferry to The Pines sits like a generous princess, patiently waiting to whisk her queers to their homeland.
My eye-makeup is smudgy and black and I’m wearing giant cheap sunglasses I bought on the street at St. Marks Place. I’m disheveled and sandy but I feel prettier than I have in a long time.
Owen is talking to someone cute so I grasp a hunk of tulle from my skirt and brave the spiral staircase. I’m champagne buzzed but not even close to destructive drunk but still, I worry about slipping through the giant chasms that exist between each step.
I find a group of boys I know from New York nights huddled together on the roof deck.
“Hiii” I purr trying my hardest to smile but my braids are too tight, I can’t move my face. I begin to undo them.
“Z!” Sanders squeals. “I haven’t seen you in forever.”
“That skirt is everything.” Luke slurs.
“Looks like someone stepped on it” Cody whines even though I know he’s not whining his voice just does that.
“Want to do a popper?” Sanders asks graciously.
“Yes,” I say because I’m a fucking lady and when you’re on gay boy turf it’s extremely rude to turn down a popper.
I sniff in the sweet, medicinal popper smell and suddenly I’m laughing and the sky is spinning like a dreidel and it feels like fireworks are exploding inside my brain. Electric green dots pepper my blurry vision and suddenly I’m living in that tight space between a panic attack and euphoria. Right as I’m riding the seesaw of acute fear and wild orgasm of the senses — it’s over. I’m stable. I can feel my feet pressed into the ground and a great wash of clarity showers my brain clean. Maybe it’s not so much clarity as it is sobriety. Poppers knock you on your ass for under a minute but when you “come to” the difference is so stark you can mistake not feeling like lightning bolts are firing through your brain, for great, profound clarity.
“It’s time for tea!” Sanders suddenly bellows and I witness a flock of boys collectively gasp: “So soon?”
I sneak away because I want to catch the sunset alone.
I sit on the dock alone in my filthy tulle skirt with a red solo cup of white wine and watch the most magnificent sunset of my life sprawl itself across the sky. It’s a soft sunset. Pale blue, baby pink, creamy clouds. There’s a gold cast to the light and everything looks like it’s glittering. Everything glitters in The Pines. I take my cheap sunglasses off and touch the water with my fingertips. It’s cold and fresh and reminds me of being a kid on Long Island. I turn around and look at the crowd of landlocked boys in their tight shirts and tight shorts who are closely gathered around a patio bar clutching vodka sodas. They’re engaging in the Fire Island tradition of Low Tea and High Tea will soon start and that’s a whole different vibe but I don’t know that yet because this is my first trip to The Pines. I see Owen in the distance and feel airy inside. I’ve felt dark inside for so long but today I feel like someone has opened the curtains in my heart and these pretty streaks of light have rendered my insides golden. When I experience moments like this all the bullshit turns to dust. I’m not beating myself up for not being a more talented writer or the beach-y blonde I’ve always longed to be, or for ruining so many opportunities when I was younger. The voices that taunt me constantly have been silenced by the sedative that is the sea. The anxiety and dread and regret that make me feel so heavy it’s hard to get out of bed — let alone move through the wold — go away. I remember how light I am. How free. And it doesn’t feel like anything. Except for complete forgiveness.
I stare at the water, entranced. I stare at the sky and realize the sun has set and there is a tiny sliver of moon making its way through the smoky clouds. The moon looks holographic. Even though I can hear chatter and glasses clinking and the sweet hum of boat engines revving up in the distance — there is a stillness in the air. The water is the color of gun-metal, the color of oil, the color of the sky after the sun sets but the before the nighttime has crept in and has completely stolen all the daylight. I exhale and my breath makes a tiny ripple across the water. The outline of my body is reflected in the mirror of the sea and I’m very aware that I’m alive, that I’m here, that I live in this body, that I’m home. A flock of birds squawk into the sky which is now black. And I swear I can hear ’em say:
You’re going to be okay.
You’re going to be okay.
You’re going to be okay.
My debut book GIRL, STOP PASSING OUT IN YOUR MAKEUP: THE BAD GIRL’S GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR SH*T TOGETHER is available NOW on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and BAM! If you send me a screenshot of your order, I’ll send you swag!