Last weekend, I found myself milling outside a darkened club in the early morning. Earlier, a crowd of partygoers had filled the club. They had danced to popular music tracks while the wallflowers among them traded conversation and pushed their hips into each other. I had paid roughly 1.6% of my paycheck to attend this event.
Now outside, the crowd grew restless. One man vomitted incessantly onto the sidewalk. Several men struck each other in the genitals with their fists. Another man pushed a police officer. Everybody had to clear out.
In a private residence several blocks away, I sat on a couch next to a musician while a man played music on a record player. Earlier, this musician had handed me several fliers promoting his band. The musician suggested that the man with the record player play a particular record. “If you do not play this record,” threatened the musician, “I will punch you in your face.”
A friend of the musician joined us on the couch.
“Guess how old I am,” demanded the musician’s friend.
“No,” I replied.
“Guess how old I am,” he insisted.
“Twenty-seven,” I guessed. I had intentionally lowered my estimation of his age so as not to offend him.
The man seemed satisfied. “Actually, I am 33,” he informed me. “Though most people guess me to be 29 years old.”
“Often, people will intentionally lower their estimation of a person’s age so as not to offend them,” I explained to the man.
“I have accounted for this,” the musician’s friend assured me.
The musician turned to the man playing records. “If you do not play that record,” theatened the musician, “I will kill you.”
“Are you all right?” I asked the musician.
“No,” he replied.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Everything,” he replied.
I left the musician. In an adjacent room, a man ate tortilla chips and medium spicy salsa. I joined him, and the two of us consumed the chips and salsa with a strange urgency. We did not speak.
Soon, the musician entered the room. His eyes struggled to focus: on what–me, the other man, the chips, or the salsa–I could not be sure.
“Hello,” I said to the musician.
He closed his eyes. “Oh, fuck it,” he said.
“Is everything okay?” I asked after him.
Later in the morning, when this gathering too cleared out, he would be unable to locate his vehicle. Hours later, he would awake, alone, in a stranger’s bed, surrounded by fliers of his own design. Everything was not okay. Everything was wrong. He was not all right.