You reach the party at a little after one a.m. You don’t know if this is fashionably early, or unfashionably late. Or vice versa. You don’t very much care by this point. You’ve been out all night doing straight tequila slammers until the barman decided to call a permanent last orders on you and so, staggering drunkenly out onto the streets, you searched for a party. Over the phone, Ray’s dealer mentioned this thing that might be happening about half an hour’s walk away from where you are. It’s raining, but there’s too many of you to fit inside a cab. Besides, if you spend your money on a taxi, you will have nothing left to buy drugs with.
You reach the party at a little after one a.m. and it is already in full swing. The party isn’t difficult to spot. On a quiet, residential, backwater street a little north of the middle of nowhere, the booming blast noise from about a hundred different speakers all blaring out into the blue night sky is the only compass that you need. The first thing you notice when you reach the innocuous looking semi is that the garden has been re-designated as an impromptu toilet by about six partygoers, all standing in a row. The man at the end of the row looks down and offers up the contents of his stomach to a sickly looking rose bush. When he looks up again his eye catches yours and you realise, faintly, that you recognize him.
‘This is totally underground’ he says to you, and you shrug, lighting another cigarette. You look at him – scruffy, long hair, faded jeans, and think that maybe he looks like something out of a magazine. He might even look cool, if only his Converse All-Stars weren’t flecked with vomit. But then you think sure, why the hell not? Maybe he’s right. In an oh-so pretentious middle class way, maybe this is what passes for the underground. It’s not like the rest of the world gets up to this shit in the early hours of the morning. They’re all tucked up in bed, with their wives and children and mistresses. You’re waking up suburbia. Party til dawn. The world ends this weekend – why not?
But you remember that nobody ever draws attention to this. There is a tacit understanding that we assume we’re normal, that this is a normal thing to be doing. This is just another party. So you nod your agreement, and you head inside.
The party is predictably massive. You count about four, maybe five sets of decks set up in different rooms, three hundred people packed into a four-bedroom house. Wall to wall drugs, dancing, making out, vomiting. You count drum’n’bass, grime, jungle and, surprisingly, what could well be house, maybe even of the much loathed funky variety, before giving up and letting the music melt into a background blur of night-time tequila and heavy-handed nonchalance. Fuck it, you say. Go with the flow. Some people seem to swim through the crowds, their movements the liquid slinkiness of the recently arrived, of the up. There are pills in the air and you decide that if you’re going to do this thing right, you’re going to have to take drugs. A lot of drugs.
‘Evening mate’ you say to someone in a baseball cap who looks vaguely familiar, as he walks through the front door. ‘Evening’ he replies, perhaps knowing your name, perhaps not. ‘Want to buy some pills?’
You can’t say no.
Predictably, surgically, chemically, it takes a little longer than half an hour before the tequila-pit of your stomach vibrates into some kind of nameless explosion, a surging which grows throughout your body, building from the base of your spine and pulsating into your trembling fingertips. Your body resonates with the growling sub-woofers that seem to have suddenly sprung up everywhere, the room shakes in an orgy of bass driven sound. You think, though you can’t be quite sure, that you’ve started smiling.
An hour or so passes without you really noticing. You’re taking a break, smoking a spliff with Ray in the loosely-knit chillout room, taking time out to get your bearings. At the door there seems to be some kind of altercation with the neighbours, and afterwards you’re sure that the volume of the music actually goes up. You consider starting a rousing chorus of ‘let’s all have an asbo’ before deciding that such loutish behaviour would almost certainly wreck the room’s cosmic chillout vibe, and besides, you’re stoned – so why bother? Ray turns to you and offers you some cocaine and you do a bump and then chatter aimlessly about easy subjects, nothing too intense, soaking up the ambience, the background noise rustling like the wind blowing around you.
Suddenly, your peaceful reverie is shattered when a girl, wired out of her mind, half staggers, half dances, half skips into the room, clutching a half-drunk bottle of wine with a clumsy, careless, drunken elegance. This girl is really something else. You think she’s beautiful. You also think she’s staggeringly, mind-blowingly fucked. Like a reverse-polarity magnet scattering iron filings across a table, the girl winds her way through the chillout space, causing chaos wherever she goes. She ruffles the hair of hippies, bumps into a semi-lucid girl who’s been trying to roll the same joint for half an hour, scattering it all over the floor, and then, finally, she walks up to you. She’s about to stand on you, so you stand up.
The girl has short, brown hair and wears a white lace skirt over a black body-suit, looking like some kind of nymph or sprite only, you think, with mdma powder instead of pixie dust. She wears the most enormous pair of gold-brown seventies style sunglasses you have ever seen. ‘Hey,’ you say, ‘watch where you’re going!’ Then she looks straight at you, and you can see the shadow of her big, round eyes behind her sunglasses. She gurns massively at you and, at around this time, it dawns on you that you yourself have just taken a rather large bump of the Bolivian wake-up juice. The girl has stopped. She seems to be waiting for you to say something. You grin widely, irrepressibly. ‘Let me guess… somebody sent you all the way from boho-pixieland to steal my heart.’ You realise that the cocaine has quite a hold on you. The girl laughs. Ray laughs. You laugh too.
‘My name’s Jordan,’ she says, ‘like Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby,’ You feign confusion for a moment.
‘Is that your real name?’
‘No,’ she says, definitively.
‘Well my name’s Jay, like Jay Gatsby,’ you say. ‘Coincidence – maybe.’
She giggles, air kisses you on the left cheek, and then she runs off. Ray offers you another line of coke. You shrug, acceptingly. You both burst into paroxysms of giggles. Your mind feels a little distorted.
You grab a couple of balloons of nitrous for you and Ray and do them on your way to the dancefloor, raising your hands in the air as you go, some kind of twisted salute. You dance for a few minutes, a few minutes being the usual number you need to remember that you don’t actually like dancing, no matter how high you are, and you start looking round the surging mass of bodies for a place to sit down and maybe smoke a joint. You notice a couch pushed up against the far side of the room and then, at a second glance, you notice ‘Jordan Baker’ lying on the couch, only now she’s a write-off, completely toasted, burned. Her body twitches frighteningly but nobody else seems to notice. When you move over towards her she seems to sense your presence, even though her eyes are shut and she reaches out for your hand. You clasp her hand inside yours and ask her if she’s okay. She says something you can’t quite understand. You give her the once over and figure she just needs to cool it for a bit. You tell Ray to look after her while you go and fetch a glass of water for her. The dancefloor is solid, you can’t get through. An idea, not a new one, forms in your head. ‘Get out of the way! I’m going to be sick!’ you say. The mass of bodies parts.
The girl gulps down the water and sits up slowly on the couch, then rapidly returns to lucidity as the blood drains either toward, or possibly away from, her head. You don’t know. You’re not a doctor. You sit down beside her and offer her a cigarette, but she shakes her head. Then she starts giggling again and she swivels round, grabbing your torso with her legs and holding you in a vice-like grip. Your mind is delirious from the pills and the coke and a brief thought flashes into your head – what brought this girl here? What the hell is she doing, this far out into the desert? – then the thought melts away and you’re looking for your lighter again.
After ten minutes or so a couple of girls come by and ask if she’s okay, but she doesn’t answer and you just shrug. You tell them that you don’t mind. After all, you hate dancing anyway. You hold her in your arms and sometimes her eyes open and she stares at you, tries to say something but none of the words come out right. You whisper ‘shhhh, cool it,’ as soft and sibilant as you can. This goes on for about half an hour until the girl suddenly snaps to, jumps up, and grabs you by the hand, leading you into the dancefloor. She stomps with you for maybe five minutes then, cocking her head sideways, looking at you as if your head is on slightly wrong, she smiles and, silently, she waves goodbye. She disappears into the dancefloor, and when you look for her, she’s gone.
You find Ray. He shrugs, and offers you a spliff. You can’t say no.
The drugs run further through your system. They reach a thunderous peak, start their downward slide. You wonder if there was some way, somehow, that you could find the girl again. You wonder, briefly, if she really existed. You make out with a blonde girl who tells you her name but you can’t hear her and you feel too embarrassed to ask her twice. Then you leave the party, dawn, breathing in the fresh morning air. You don’t know yet that you will meet the same girl at another party in six months time. She will not remember you. In time, you will wonder what you were ever doing here, out in the desert, yourself.
But not yet. You walk home with Ray. You share a joint and watch as the bright but still cold sun swells up on the horizon, beginning another new day. To pass time on the walk home, you tell stories, but leave out the names.