We went there in the same mood we always do- jubilant, high-spirited, energetic, and ready to dance. The others had preloaded. Ibrahim, after not having had alcohol for several months as a nod to his observant-Muslim homies, decided to celebrate the end of Ramadan by breaking his sober streak in a big way. He drank almost a fifth of vodka immediately after the bottle arrived in the apartment, brought by my boyfriend, H. We quickly confiscated the bottle so the remainder could be put in a drink for H. As H poured his own drink, Ibrahim began dancing around the apartment, singing made-up songs. H and I eyed each other. It was only 8 o’clock and the others hadn’t even arrived yet.
H sipped his mixed drink slowly and rolled several spliffs at a leisurely pace. We planned to bring these out with us and smoke them at intervals throughout the night. There would be no smoking at home because, we concluded, that would just make us sleepy. When we smoke before we go out, we never end up going out.
Ayman, Shaddi, Khalil, and Francisco arrived, and after greetings, we decided to go.
We hadn’t been to Medjool in maybe six months. A couple members of our regular crew had gotten married, others were traveling abroad, and it just wasn’t the same. But with the core group back in town and ready to party, we decided our old haunt was just the place to go.
Ayman parked the car around the corner from Medjool and we passed the joint around. Everyone had some, even Ibrahim, who clearly was in need of no further inebriation. Even Shaddi partook, something he rarely does. And then, only sparingly. We strutted into the club like we owned it, danced like we picked the music, and drank like it was water. H started spinning me around and doing all that crazy stuff that happens when a man with a bunch of muscles has been spending too much time indoors. It reminded me of how my dog acts when he doesn’t get any exercise for a few days- when I finally take him to the park, he runs frantically in circles with no regard for any of the known rules of our social contract.
My shoe clipped someone during one of these spins, and some security goon stepped in to tell H that he can’t be doing shit like that. There will be no lifting up of his dance partner.
I think that’s where it all started.
First, let me say that H has issues with authority. He came from a country where authority figures are all up in your business 24/7. You can be just walking down the street when a soldier will come up to you and tell you to take your clothes off. So in the land of the free over here, he damn sure expects to dance any way he pleases. But he said “yeah, ok,” to the bouncer, grumbled to me about how he’s never going back to that place again, and we go back to dancing.
Now, unbeknownst to me, at this time, Ibrahim, Shaddi, and Ayman are still outside. Ayman is playing babysitter because Ibrahim is doing somersaults on the sidewalk and Shaddi is sitting on the curb having a bad trip. He’s convinced there was something besides weed in the joint. Ayman, out of boredom, does nothing to convince Shaddi otherwise. In fact, he suggests that perhaps H and I switched joints after we smoked from it, and gave him a different one. You know, like a conspiracy. The paranoia just takes off from there. Shaddi lights up a cigarette and Ayman says, “No man, you can’t do that! If you smoke a cigarette after a joint you could have a stroke!”
Shaddi immediately flicks his cigarette away into the street, as if it was toxic.
“Thanks Ayman,” he says. “You’re a good friend.”
Finally they make it inside and I see Shaddi moving his arms up and down a little in an alternating pump sort of motion. I can see he’s trying to dance but have no idea why he’s so clueless about it. Ayman says to him, “That’s good man. Dancing will make you feel better.”
“Am I doing it right?”
“Yeah, but more like this,” Ayman responds, and pumps his arms a little higher in the air as an example.
“Ok I think I’ve got it.” The paranoia seemed to be fading a little.
We all thought this would be a good time to go up to the roof and smoke another joint. It’s a little cold, but that’s mitigated by the booze, weed, and exercise-generated body heat. We huddle in a circle, all seven of us, and tell stories about old times, good times. Shit the guys did in Vegas, close scrapes, near-arrests, people we miss who weren’t there that night.
I become aware of a bouncer at my elbow and through my stoner haze I gather that H is arguing with him about the joint. Ah yes, the joint, I think. Riiiiiight, that stuff’s illegal. Well no matter. But H’s voice is getting louder. The bouncer leans in close and says “You know I’m gonna have to take that away from you, man.”
It’s then that H has had enough authority for one night. He bellows, “You don’t tell me what I can and can’t do and you’re not taking shit away from me!” Another bouncer at bouncer #1’s side gets on his radio and says something. Immediately, an army of black trenchcoats spills from the stairwell door. They surround us. Bouncer #1 smiles smugly and says, “It’s time for you to leave.”
Everyone except H agrees that, indeed, it is a good time to leave. Look at the time! We must be getting home! But with six of his friends gingerly pushing, pulling, and suggesting that we should go, progress is still slow. He stares down one bouncer at a time and his eyes shoot wrath-darts.
By now the substances have affected his foreign language ability and he begins yelling things that don’t make sense in English. For example, in English we would say “I’m gonna fuck you up.” In Arabic, the same thing would be phrased “I’m gonna fuck you.” So as we make our slow progress down the stairs, H is yelling to one bouncer after another “I’m gonna fuck you, man!”
We’ve finally made it to the bottom of the stairs and are literally three steps from the door when H decides to make his last stand. He plants his feet and stares down at the instigating bouncer, a man who clearly has a hard-on for H personally, since he’s the one who gave us shit about our dancing and then, there is was again, on the roof. Somehow, at this time, Khalil escaped our bouncer escort and went to the bathroom. I’m pulling as hard as I can on H’s arm but he’s like a statue. It’s on lock and it doesn’t even move from his side, not even an inch. His fists are balled, but he’s not a stupid man- he won’t throw the first punch. But I know how bad he wants this security guy to hit him so he can break. His. Shit. Off.
They’re nose to nose, H and bouncer, a very intimate relationship, when H growls, “You want me to fuck you?” Security guy blinks, says nothing, looks at our friends in confusion. The guys suggest to H once more that leaving would be a good idea but H has had enough suggestions for tonight.
Just then Khalil comes out of the bathroom, arguing with a bouncer who has just now realized he escaped to there.
“You have to leave, dude,” the bouncer says.
“I don’t even care, my brother,” Khalil says casually as he strolls confidently to the door. “This place sucks anyway, and y’all are assholes. If I even come back here after ten years I’m a BITCH!”
And the whole group of us spill out onto the sidewalk simultaneously, in a burst of hyena-like laughter, and make our way to the place we always go when it’s after midnight and we’re drunk: the corner taqueria.
In the car on way home, with five of us squished into Ayman’s sports car, H says to Ibrahim, “Man, I told you not to drink so much. Why the hell are you acting so stupid?”
Ibrahim responds, in Arabic, “You know I act like a donkey when I’m drunk. What the hell do you want from me?”