— Euphoria
I was never born for greatness. The Chosen One trope was a fine fantasy; a means to sell people on a cheap hope that they were special or gifted. Monetize the idea that the trauma one went through meant something, or even worse, that it made them stronger. A false hope that basked the pretty few in golden light atop a marble pedestal; they were written to succeed from the beginning. The rest of us, whose scars weren’t pretty enough, were left in shit to gaze up and dream that we’ll be the next lucky one.
This never bothered me. Chosen Children were nothing more than puppets to those who reigned them in. The ones who idolized these heroes would fall just as us all, and yet I knew I was bitter. I wanted nothing more than to feel the warmth of the sun upon my bare skin, and the taste of seawater to rinse the bitter sewage I had confined myself to eat. Nothing would bring me greater peace than to feel the rush of the world as I plummeted headfirst, from amongst the clouds into the raging sea, yet I knew this was not my fate.
I did until now, before I felt the closest to divinity. My reflection depicted a different person. She was me, and yet I knew it was only a mirage. It was not possible, yet she was there, and she gazed upon me bitterly, as if I were the one holding her back. I opened my mouth to apologize, but her expression softened to a smile.
I reached my hand out, but the reflection rippled into dissolution. I was left staring at the feral face of one who had recently attempted suicide and decided a hazy disassociation was better. Her face was sad.
The walls, Euphoria had built, did their job just fine. I was still alive, and now the world stood before me. I could do nothing, but step forward
I ran weightlessly across the bricked streets. The lights danced around me as I twirled across the sidewalks and into the alleyways. In this darkness I felt free from prying eyes. My body roared through all cylinders as I felt pure bliss trace the air from where my fingers flew. An overlay of yellow tinted my vision.
Bourbon street pulled returned within my line of vision. Behold, riff-raff; I had rallied. The prodigal daughter had returned.
The streets had not ceased its nightly movement. Lights tumbled from barred, club windows. Drunk kids laid on the streets. Some were calling Ubers, while others waited for their friends to finish their bodily expulsions in the alleyways and storm drains. Vomit and piss ran as water through the city’s waste canals.
Two boys fought within the green lights of an Irish Pub. They circled around another as a one of their girlfriends called for a peaceful resolution. Her tone shifted to swift reprisal as the taller one, her boyfriend, I mused, swung. He had favored surprise over timing and his balance suffered. The swing connected, but the shorter kid ate the impact and then some as he tackled the aggressor to the ground. The crowd’s noose tightened as the bouncers watched from the side, unphased by the whole ordeal.
After a grimacing moment of fist connecting with face did two cops flash the sirens on their golf cart. Last minute insults were thrown, and the girlfriend rushed to her partner’s side. The short one bolted through a gap in the crowd before the police could reach him. The bystanders dispersed as an array of camera-lights shut off one after the other.
I found myself within a club called Xans, renewed with vigor. I showed the guard my stamped hand and was hit with the heat of the club. The music boomed to a point of incoherency, but I felt the drums rumble through the wooden beams below my shoes. Buuummm… Buuummm… I heard the speakers buzz against the wooden beams that held them in place. The lights flashed through my eyes just as I turned to the mirror that was nailed behind the bar. My shadowy-self led me through the crowd to the front of the bar.
Luck had turned to my side tonight. A bartender approached me as I rested my elbows on the counter. She could not hear me, but she certainly read my lips as a Grapefruit Crush was placed in front of me in exchange for my card, which I left open.
Desire overtook me as a surge of electricity. My essence, my being, the fibers that held up my physical projection to the world weakened. Shame had been slaughtered. Its entrails laid hung up to dry as a warning to Depression and the rest. Euphoria would not tolerate their presence.
I danced freely. The rhythm of the music tremored through my legs. The entity of shadowy silhouettes no longer projected terror. I moved with it. I embraced the singularity of the music and dance. We embodied something greater than debauchery and waste. I was born to grieve the world; I was nothing more than a scribe, witnessing the darkness without the ability to help. Nothing changed, but in the darkest crevices of the most shit-stained sewers, I can say that for a night I did not exist. I was not me; I was a pulse of life in a tiny, hot bar in the center of nowhere- or, everywhere. I had made my mark through the torn-rubber soles of my shoes and the sweat that dripped from my skin onto the wooden floor beams. The stomps of boots echoed the beat.
I felt a rush of hands shake me violently as I was besieged upon by Claire and a few of her coworkers, “Alex!” She screamed followed by incoherent noise. I smiled and hugged my friend as well as two of her other coworkers, Zach and Dakota. They joined my impromptu dance circle.
I went from the deepest depths of my sorrow to this, and I had no time to process anything other than the rhythm of the club and the flash of movements from Claire. My reflection carried with her an energy that I felt now; a freedom breathed new life from my movements.
Claire must have noticed this too. It was not long before she took my hand and we twirled one another beneath the club lights. The dance floor had opened up slightly, and we took advantage of this newfound space. I had never danced as I did now. I felt as if I only just now realized how little I had to lose.
Claire took my hand and dragged me up the second flight of stairs, “Where are we going?” I asked as the music became muffled behind the staircase.
“Didn’t want to be alone. Come on, you’ll see.” She said.
We approached the women’s room, “Woah, Claire I don’t know…” I said. The picture threatened me, her dress moved sinisterly with the intent to hold me against the wall and scream about a troll entering the woman’s restroom.
“It’s cool” Claire said, “This city is superlibbed, no one’s going to say anything; watch.” She grabbed my hand and together we walked into the chamber that had given me so much hidden anxiety.
Claire led me to the first stall and locked the door. I leaned against the metallic toilet divider, while she divvied up a few lines of coke on her phone screen.
We left the bathroom and snuck out past a group of girls, who passed only the briefest of interested glances before moving on. Was it really that easy? I thought.
The drugs rushed through my system. My flames had reached their peak. They burnt bright amidst the sea of darkness. We went to bar after bar. The places changed, but it was all the same. We danced and raged and roared against the dying night sky.
Then all at once, the lights of the bar we found ourselves at turned their lights on and began shuffling people out. Zach left us then, but Claire, Dakota, and I jumped to the last remaining bar.
People, who were too wired to go home, found themselves at Dominic’s. We sat at the bar, nursing our sore feet with three vodka waters to ease us down. We stayed for a while longer until they too turned on the lights and kicked everyone outside.
Another group of boys were fighting outside. Dakota walked along the street with us before turning down the street to her apartment, “Good night friends.” She called to us. We waved in return and continued to walk forward with no apparent goal in mind.
Claire and I walked by ourselves down the street until the bar distract was a distant light behind us. The city stood as a silent giant, rising higher than comfort would allow me to see. I could feel the pain in the heels of my feet, but the drugs kept the actual feeling away just as it did for the anguish, and the sorrow, and the self-hatred- Christ, I needed to get my shit together…
“Hold on,” Claire said at last, “I need a break.”
I did not state my disagreement. My energy was soaring out from the tips of my fingers, but I forced myself to sit in spite of my shaking fingers.
The steam bristling through the vents felt like a warm sauna spring. The blood circulating through my body began to nibble its way through my chest and down into my toes. I moved my hands to the ground and began to center myself once more.
“You good?” I asked, leaning into the drug more. The kaleidoscope vision began to soothe itself away as the world came back into focus. The ground vibrated in vibrant waves of color as I tapped my fingers on the asphalt.
“Yea, I’m just fucked, and my feet hurt. And I want waffles.” Claire replied.
“I need something.” I said half mindedly trying to place my finger on what it was my body needed. Sleep would not have done me any good. The coke was working alongside the combustion of Euphoria to keep me jittered.
“We need to do something.” Claire said finally.
“The bars are all closed” I pulled myself up by the window sill. With some weight beneath them, my legs were now semi-operable. With on hand stalwartly placed on the brick sill, and my feet squarely planted on the street I felt confident pulling Claire up. I reached my hand down having to snap a few ties to get her attention.
“The city never closes!” She yelled jumping to her feet.
I sighed and pushed myself up only to collapse back onto the jewelry store window. God, I hoped they don’t have security cameras, which they definitely did. I looked up and saw one staring at me. Yay, I thought.
Claire’s eyes turned up to mine. I momentarily paused. Her pupils dilated as she looked up to me like I was some celestial being apparition in front of her flock. “Hey, Alex?” She said.
“Yea?” I replied.
“Anyone ever tell you, how beautiful you look?” Claire said.
I knew it was a weird thing to say, and I knew how a normal man would react to being called beautiful, but the word broke something within me. “Thanks.” I stuttered.
“I just want you to know that.” Claire said as we continued our trek.
The world had never stopped moving since the drug first touched my tongue. Lights would dance across my vision. The ground would shake and the wind could be seen for once whispering secrets in my ear. My face was still. My face was not my face. It was beautiful. If this was madness then I’d let it stay.
My eyes saw the world as it had never appeared before. My hair, which I had always neglected to cut, fell past my ears lightly- cutely. Euphoria gifted a chance to feel the way one would if they loved themselves. I was certain this was what that felt like. My movements were comfortable and smooth, no longer did I walk in a body that felt dissimilar to the mind that occupied its skull.
“I feel so lost.” I said to one in particular; I wanted to speak the words and that was all.
“Come on.” Claire said quietly, taking my hand.
We walked through the streets for what seemed like hours. Cars slowly drove through as the busses continued running for most of the night, but the town center was closed off. We walked through the open streets. No music played, but we danced, and laughed. Shadowy strangers would pass, but none paid us more than a passing glance.
Claire and I wandered beneath the closed, artisan shops among the main district; then, she took me hand and dragged me through a claustrophobic alleyway. The bricks shifted and moved as we contorted our bodies around the crevice.
We emerged in front of the wharf. The drugs remained steadfast within my system; they kept my blood pumping and my eyes from falling. It was as if I could feel the very night sky. The moon above pulling away from the grips of the city. I was high. So, so, so high, yet my movements were controlled and graceful. It was the world around me that felt high. The world brushed around me as I turned to face Claire. Her face illuminated the street. Lights danced out of her green iris’s in waves. “Woah.” I said closing my eyes just to fall into a pool within my mind. Claire grabbed my hand and electricity flowed once more.
They city watched over me as a boastful protector. Shouting warnings to all outside his domain. The boats would occasionally sound three short blasts, indicating their departure.
Claire and I ended up separated from our pack. We made our way to the wharf. We found a seat on the granite sea wall watching the crew finish unloading their catch. The sun slowly revealed its light in the distant skies. Another sleepless night. I wondered how long I could last.
I laid my head on Claire’s shoulder. We sat and watched the men work, holding hands until the sun had fully emerged in the distance. I had few friends in college, and none were able to comfort me as one who had known me since childhood.
Now, I had to tell them their friend had deceived them from the beginning. I was a liar and a fraud, and I asked for the world to comply with my insanity. I asked for my friends to accept that there was a mistake somewhere down the line. The doctors were wrong; my parents were wrong; the gym teachers, and summer camp counselors, and every teacher, and government official, and every God above the sky and below my feet were wrong. They were all wrong.
How could I ask that?
“Waffles.” Claire said before getting up from the dock and walking toward the city Centre. My legs were jelly, but I bounced after her. We stopped near a park, outside a stand-alone building called, “Wendy’s Waffles.” Beside it a group of kids were playing a piano that looked like it had been shipped from Woodstock. It was painted yellow with bright flowers as a pattern. The wood was ragged and dirty, but the keys all sounded right. The music flowed out of the piano in reckless jumbles. The player was not very good, but the notes by themselves tickled my ears in a soothing way. My phone was long dead. I had no idea what time it was, but the waffles smelled delicious.
We headed back to Claire’s apartment with our waffles wrapped in a paper dish. Unsurprisingly, we were not the only ones who had a late night. Most of the people who were in line were dressed in tight black dresses or stained jeans and wrinkled shirts.
We laid together in bed, while Claire’s tv played music. String lights surrounded the room. The sounds of the city buzzed outside of her window. I looked into her eyes and saw the same glittering waves of light as before. Claire moved her head closer to mine in a gentle embrace. I resisted. It was only a moment, but that was all it took.
“I did not want to bring this up. Especially not at the end of a night, but can you not see it, Alex?”
“See what, Claire?”
“Two years ago, before you cut us off.”
I again opened my mouth to protest, but she shot back quickly for someone just as high as me, “Before you cut us off. I’m not blaming you; I’m not mad. It is okay to take time for yourself, but before that I think it was after Christmas, I was driving you home from Sam’s dad’s place. Do you remember what you said?”
I thought back to that time and came up with nothing. I had tried to kill myself at the start of that semester, but I was stable by Christmas. “No.” I said moving my head from her shoulder. She looked at me. I saw my reflection in her eyes.
“I’m not surprised, but I was genuinely curious if you did.” Claire cleared her throat and continued, “You told me that you wished you were a girl.”
The weight returned yet again. “I don’t remember saying that.” I blankly said searching Claire’s face for any sign of disgust. She wore her smile sadly.
“Is that why you have been so distant? Do you see it?”
“I don’t know, Claire.” I whispered.
Claire tenderly reached her hand towards mine “Are you going to hide it forever?” She asked.
“As long as I’m alive.” I said, attempting to laugh off the seriousness of Claire’s tone.
The edges of her mouth pointe upward in a faux smirk, yet her eyes showed her true exhaustion, “I’ll never push you. I just want you to know I am here. All you have to do is reach out.”
I stared at the ceiling, until, the words I had dreaded for so long managed to rupture through the gap in my lips as vomit burning through an esophagus. “Claire, I think I’m a girl.” I said as one might have said they were feeling a little snackish.
“Okay.” Claire smiled as if the relief was hers to depart with. I supposed there was relief to find from her perspective. “Are we sticking with Alex?” She asked.
“I don’t know.” I said still too shocked that I had spoken the truth.
“That’s ok too, just don’t make it Emily.” Claire said laughing.
“Never.” I said.
The buzz turned to lethargy. Claire and I stared at each other for a few minutes. I sneezed; Claire laughed and began to yawn, which caused her momentarily choke on her own breath, which caused me to begin laughing. Sleep fell upon me viciously and without prior warning. Euphoria dragged me away to the sweet comforts of warm sheets and loving friends that lied safely near. I barely felt the mattress below me; gravity had lost its influence. The drugs dragged me slowly to sleep with my hand still resting in Claire’s. Tonight’s victory only paled in comparison to the battles of tomorrow. Still, I deserved to celebrate.
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