I was standing, uncomfortably, in a rubber corset. It was laced so tight that I was able to feel all 52 of the grommets which held the black ribbon across my back, dig into my ribs. Breathing was an event.
I don’t think my breasts had ever been so close to my chin.
My floor length, pinstriped skirt hugged every exaggerated curve, from my now absurdly tiny waist to my not so tiny behind, skimming close to my legs and ending in a fishtail hem, with black tulle spilling out behind me. Sitting was not an option. I am not sure I remember how I drove to the club. Tiny butterflies, made from real feathers, swirled up from the hem, through the pinstripes of the skirt, the ribbons of the corset, across the bodice and ended up in a halo around my ponytail. Long, black, pulled back severely from my face and sitting high on my head. Curls spilled out in ebony spirals down to my waist interspersed with tiny threads of curled black ribbon and feather butterflies.
My lips, fingernails, and toenails were all the darkest shade of red that flirted with black, but sparkled like ambrosia for the pseudo vampires that danced around me. One could only see the tips of my big and second toes through the peeptoe of my 1940’s high heeled leopard print shoes. A large opal set in a white gold spiderweb, perched on my right index finger.
It was my 22nd birthday, and I was the belle of the ball. My best friend, in leather and black tall and full of rhythm, held my hand and lead me to the dancefloor. Just me, and a room full of beautiful gay men, in varying shades of club attire. Pulsating, glowing green, then red then blue. He disappeared for just a moment, and the lights all changed to pink, my favorite color, as he came back to my side to dance for my favorite song.
I never paid for a drink, was told I was beautiful. I danced with more men in one night than I had in my entire life. Beautiful Paulo, small, compact, with dark skin and green eyes danced with me next, I noticed his eyes seeming far away. I turned to ask Ian for water when I heard a scream.
Paulo had collapsed.
The waves of men split at my feet, as I still held Paulo’s fingertips. Sinking to my knees, my hair falling over him, I put my ear close to his mouth to hear him breathe, there was nothing. I didn’t know what to do, as foam spilled from his mouth. I began to scream for someone to call 911. I was afraid to put my mouth to his, but I turned his head to the side and watched the foam swirl into my hair.
I was short of breath myself, as I tried to pound on his chest. Someone pulled me away as the lights came up, and the paramedics came. They wheeled him away, one of my black ribbons trailing from his hands.
Standing in the middle of the dancefloor, all of the pretty men suddenly looked so fragile, so wounded with the houselights up. No pink light to soften the drug habits, no loud music to undulate away heart attacks had while dancing with the birthday girl. They all looked like what they were, a cascading sea of wounds and beauty. I stood in the middle of all of those graceful bodies, all of that flawless tragedy and watched my little butterflies scatter across the distance between me and them.
It felt endless.