Kicking in: sudden impact, maximum volume, serious sensory overload. A rush so obscenely keen, so seductively intense, so abuser-friendly that my feet buckle in my ruby slippers.
I try walking to the bar - "Order lots of water" mantra voices chant - and my legs wobble like something new born. The pill, snow white and dwarf tiny, had tasted sour in my mouth (I bit it, rolled it around, let it dissolve: it reminded me of aspirin) yet the effect is, as promised, sweet. A grin spreads out over my face and refuses to recognise the natural boundaries; it's off my face OFFMYFACEOFFMYFACE OFFMYFACE and rippling down through my body, coursing through each vein, unblocking clogged arteries, colonising every cell; LETJOYBEUNCONFINED.
I feel it. I feel everything. The dark, the lights, the men, the music.
Especially the music. Pounding through speakers as tall and mysterious as the 2001 monolith, music profound and primal, music about the necessary, the vital, the essential. Music about reaching out - "Don't ya want/Don't ya want? Don't ya want my love?" Music about the inescapable urgency of desire - "Don't make me wait/Don't make me wait/For a moment more". Music about buying retail: "Get out of my way/I'm here to shop/Here to shop."
I want to dance with somebody Iwanttofeeltheheatwithsomebody. Friends surround me. "All right, John?" Sweep me away. I'm on the floor, beating my head against a wall of sound, andmyfeetmy legsmylifearefine. Just say yes. Paul smiles. Austin smiles. Robert smiles.
T-shirts off. Everything about them is smooth. Skin, teeth, tits; their torsos too, identical, worked on, worked out, THETHREEBARES, less human flesh, more precision engineering. And when I look around, into the gyrating crowd, pressing so close, as close as a blade or your money back, these bodies are not only uniform, but the uniform andandand my T-shirt is gone. WHODIDTHAT? Suddenly I'm merging into all those laughing bodies, into the collective consciousness. Fusion. Pores pop. Sweat. Drink. And drink. Thirsty. HEADACHES. EARSRING. KEEPMOVING.
Everything's bigger, wider, clearer: Cinemascope. 3-D. Pop-up books. Virtual Reality. Drink. Drink it all in.
I don't mind that I'm taking drugs because - well, why not? - my friends do. Because they thought it lame that I - well, why should I? - wasn't. That I have succumbed to what you might call queer pressure. Not since I was a teenager have I felt such a sharp need to belong and THISVERYMINUTE, as this guy, this clean-cut, hippy dippy, peerlessly happy stranger with pec implants and child-bearing lips lays his hands on my waist, and whispers into my ear DON'T TALKTOMEABOUTLOVE I suspect, no, I know, that the gay brotherhood thing, the elusive grail, is not cultural, not political, but chemical, a fleeting, perishable phenomenon ANDITMAKESSENSE.
Unity is a one night stand ANDITMAKESSENSE.
As the eternal tribal throb of the music makes perfect metaphorical sense, at once familiar to the point of repetition, yet always apparently produced by another new name THESAMEONLY DIFFERENT. Loveland, Rio and Mars, Exotica, Hi-Lux - the known quantity forever packaged as the new experience, because the new, the next thing, is always better than the old. It may even, possibly, be the answer. WHAT'STHE QUESTION?
Crushed into place, I'm yawning, can't stop. Austin leans over, pupils as shiny and large as pennies, damp ringlets plastered to his forehead, a curly-haired martyr from a religious painting (something papal, something pretty) and says: "Don't worry. It'll pass."
WHATMEWORRY? No fear. NOFEAR. I've abandoned my sense of time, but not my sense of place. This isn't the anxious Eighties, this isn't the first flush and then the second wave of Aids and the hatred that went with it. This is me brought full circle to the Seventies when I went dancing with the friends and companions who would die, one by one, in the decade to come, GAYHOLO-CAUSTAHEADNOTURNINGBACK.
This is a willed Arcadia, a mock-up of Paradise, an amplified echo of a past many of these proud young beauties can't possibly remember. But I recall, and I recall, right now, OFFMYFACE without the hot, sore, piercing pain of nostalgia and without a printout of those missing in action. It's not that I don't want my friends back, because every single day ISAYALYTTLEPRAYER FORYOU. It's just that they feel. They feel ... not gone. This is where they would be if they could be. So they are.
Paul's lover, Steven, died a few weeks ago. And Paul's dancing. And I can't begin to tell you how much I love and admire him for it, how proud I am. How good all this is. So though my throat is parched and desperately I need to pee, I stay where I am, SKYHIGH ready to ride the next wave. I belong hereherehere, it is, the music, the energy, the answer: "I'M ALIVE/I'M ALIVE/BABY I'M ALIVE."