The first night is an event because it has gone public as a spectacle. What does or can or did meet par is brought to life by patrons, donors, and critics both professional and couch alike. Stars stud.
Paparazzi huddle in a staccato chorus of discordant clicks. The background is always alive. The lead would not be as convincing without the help of the lesser roles being fulfilled with passion.
Red sky at night — and the stars float over the carpet. Every photograph is framed to exclude the context of a simulacrum.
The party does not start until the day is nearly over, and by the time it’s not unfashionable to be on time, the day is done. We gather in his apartment to swap gossip before changing into our evening, a knit tie on him, my ugly dress. I have chosen this occasion specifically to premiere in chartreuse, a sickly chiffon with long sleeves and a longer hemline. I am a vision of sheer neon, like a highlighter that was rubbed over with a beige crayon.
We are inside Central Park at midnight dressed to début ourselves as invitees to the reception. We are ushered to the side of the list. I give my name to the digital scroll. “She’s with me,” I gesture to my guest in all black. He gives his name with no plus one. The three of us are inside. The three of us split into two and one.
She speaks to me in one ear as I slide my eyes from face to face to face under the string lights. Industry eyes meet mine and tilt down to take in my chartreuse bodice, my ruffled collar like a harlequin. A charlatan harlot? Flashbulbs and loud laughter spotlight the presence of one of the actors from the night’s film premiere. I turn around and think I see another actor who died a few years ago. I can’t stop staring at him; perhaps this is being starstruck, wondering how somebody can be at all. But then I realize I’m not seeing the dead and that I do not know the name of the popular celebrity in front of me.
Former employers, past interviewers, acquaintance coworkers, people recognized from the circular parties and premieres — the crowd is a mix of strangers and people soon to not be strangers. Soon they too will see me for an industrial category of schema. One day we will all be like the dead actor whose likeness causes you to do a double-take. Do I know you? Have we met?
And then I cannot speak.
We are making a lap, squeezing between people and servers and photographers, champagne trays and buffet tables. Each time I come close to anything I feel as though my insides are turning rancid. Unmistakably, I am about to throw up.
The chartreuse charlatan harlot dressed as a harlequin.
We find a table by the edge of the green. Central Park is vast in the extended shadow beyond, the smell of horses and lawn manicures.
Several loud people stroll over to join us and light up by way of avoiding introductions. The cigarette smoke is pungent in the stale and ugly way, like adding char to the curdle my nerves are churning in my stomach. I put my hand over my mouth as I abruptly stand up from our table. We move to the patio out back which requires an odyssey through the throngs of more scantily dressed women, excited plus ones, and of course, photographers. I keep one arm clasped around my waist, my other hand around my throat.
There are more smokers in the back. Their craving is uglier knowing they have probably come out here to escape the socializing; their nerves are made more pungent by their transparent need to assume distraction with occupation. I feel the bottom of my belly slithering up my throat. I reposition my hands around my chartreuse body.
Our original three has become one and two. But I am unable to stay still, like a vibrating particle heating up to change its state of being. I had been solid but now I am melting. The two find a gate in the back, shrouded by bushes, for me to take my leave. Farewell, my lovely. I walk around the reception, empty Central Park on my right, the half-over party on my left. I arrive back at his apartment around 1am. Is now a bad time I inquire and receive no response. I disrobe my chartreuse so that I won’t wake up in the same state of being.