Mexican Nights: A Short Story

We had come to Mexico City for New Years in a bid to save our relationship. I was feeling ungrateful, depressed. After a year of abundance, good luck, and careerist accomplishment that spiked bitterness upon my enemies, I had fallen into a vicious fit of anhedonia because, it turns out, wanting something you don’t have makes you feel more alive than actually having it. When I texted this to D, he wrote, “Go do some jumping jacks.” So when I told him that his neglect to show his own boyfriend basic care had triggered thoughts of breaking up, he had a bouquet of roses and lilies sent to my Brooklyn apartment and we had passionate sex and for a while our problems went away. We had been together nine months. What had begun with an eagerness so bewildering it got me to say, unironically, “Meeting you makes me believe in God,” had since gear-shifted into—for him—a reasonable mix of tolerance and lust, and—for me—the tradeoff of normalizing orgasm-optional sex in exchange for having a sensible social teammate.

“I’ll pay for the hotel,” D decided, and I felt like a princess.

Our first night in the city, we went to a dinner party in Condesa hosted by a muscle queen with distracted eyes and a cropped sweater that showed the strip of skin across his V-lines. He looked like a himbo. Except I had just read his Wikipedia, on the car ride over, that said he was the AIDS activist and investigative journalist who broke the story that the Sacklers were pushing Oxy throughout the opioid epidemic. His two-bedroom apartment, whose doorman photographed each of our passports before letting us up the elevator, had a balcony, not “furniture” but “pieces,” and a wall made almost entirely out of glass.

“Can I tell him how much you pay for this apartment?” my friend asked the journalist, standing in his office. On the lacquered credenza was a family-size bottle of fish oil.

He looked at me. “I pay $1000.”

We probably shouldn’t have been there. We weren’t bad people. We were a despised class of self-despising freelancers: artists who got into MacDowell but had no gallery representation, or the kind of writers who would never get into MacDowell, but wrote “copy,” or subsisted, as one dinner guest put it, “entirely on the favors of others.” He was an American from Colorado, living off the money an advertising consultant based in Berlin paid him to read an entire year of the Angelicism Substack and report back his findings. Many of us were on Medicaid. We could not honestly tell you how a mortgage worked. We each knew precisely one celebrity, but probably not two.

At dinner, it was someone I'll call Chloe, like Chloe Sevigny if she were trans. She sat along the couch under pink-tinted lights, legs elegantly arranged like sliding book spines on a shelf. Her hair, stark as redwood, and her black dress gave her body the character of a cello. If you made eye contact, she knew how to lower her gaze and smile demurely.

The situation was a marginalized people searching for a mainstream aspirational icon, and the story was Chloe. Socialite of the demimonde, she had risen from DIY nightlife and climbed her way to the Hollywood big screen. She was easy to root for. Assumed in her biography, regardless if it’s true, is an empowerment narrative of being forced to question at a young age, like a baby on acid, every premise of reality and safety, down to the facts of one’s flesh and bones, called to remake oneself in the image of inclusivity and self-determination at a moment when, excuse me, universal access to transition care is the single, most urgent civil rights fight of our era. She made being queer look dignified. Like Jesus, she had suffered, suffered so that her struggle could pinkwash the exploitation and sexual excess of a globalized queer generation made complacent after marriage equality, out here doing the gentrification tour between New York and Berlin and now Mexico City. As we were microwaving our brain cells, Chloe's face was beamed across the world to kindergarteners in Cincinnati, or ravers slinging Telfar bags watching American TV with Turkish subtitles.

After dinner, we all split up into cars headed to Brutal MX, a weekly queer party in Centro. At coat check, I could only admire the pragmatism of the fat, bored attendant shoving my mohair sweater and blue Balenciaga parka into a yellow plastic bag. We found Chloe by finding not her, but the group of friends huddling around her, as if protecting a Fabergé egg slowly rotating in space. Her voice projected at a touch slower when everyone else spoke a touch faster. Every line was treated like the wit of scripted dialogue.

“You’ve never been to Burning Man?” I asked.

“I’m only going if someone’s flying me out on a private jet,” she said.

“It’s the third pillar of rave culture: Berghain, Ibiza, and Burning Man.”

“The three genders,” she said.

D and I decided to snort ketamine in separate trips to dodge security. I walked past the woman guarding the door to the bathroom, and accidentally caught her eyes. I knew she wanted me to know that she knew. Without D, I stole the chance to snort two bumps instead of one. In New York, I stopped buying ketamine, and no longer carried it on me, and I could not remember the last time I had it. I also could not remember the last time I had ejaculated. Back from the bathroom, the edges of my vision began to blur. The venue had sticky, black-and-white tiled floors and an elevated dance floor made of plywood, which muddied the sound. On either side of the DJ booth were shirtless go-go dancers with vacant eyes. I never got the set times so I didn’t know who was playing, but she knew how to speed up a room, when to slow it down, and when to serve the room the basic four-to-the-floor they came to hear. You either do or don’t need this sound. It can come from portable speakers, a Funktion-One, or even a laptop, but when you really need this sound, it doesn’t matter where you get it from. I thought of Warhol’s Marilyn paintings, sequenced one after another in endless repetition; no matter how many times her face deteriorates, her essence remains. Like a kick drum. The icon of a kick is indistinguishable from the kick itself. Form is essence. The sound always arrives whole and sovereign, becoming for me, at this moment in time, the only reality. I and my desire were but an extension of that conception. Knowing that I could find this warm thump, this beat, in essentially any city I decided to fly into, swaddled me in a sinister comfort. Even in Arcadia, there I am. 


“Sometimes when you’re on K, you’re so high I’m like, Why am I even here?” D said at the hotel.

We were getting ready for Jeppe Ugelvig's New Year’s Party, on the occasion of his thirtieth birthday. Packing for my flight, I had flung clothes all across my couch and bed. I thought I might wear head-to-toe Raf Simons to the party, in honor of the late menswear line that had taught me everything, until D had said, “With those boots?”

Jeppe is the editor of Viscose, a fashion journal that has published the best fashion criticism in the last ten years because it has zero fashion advertisers. Legend has it that when Martin Margiela exhibited his first foray into art at Zeno X Gallery in Antwerp, he was in talks with a European museum that was interested in acquiring his sculptures. But after the board read Jeppe's pan of Margiela’s show in Frieze, they declined to buy a single piece.

For the weekend, Jeppe had rented out a villa with two pianos, a mezzanine, and an erect setup of aristocratic armor by the fireplace. Jeppe swiveled around to appear in each conversation circle for exactly seven minutes. The way he smiled close-lipped seemed to say “Well, hello” and “Who did you think I was?” and “We’re in on this together.” 

On a caramel couch, I got locked into a conversation with a neurologist who was studying the long-term effects of ketamine, about which he could tell me basically nothing. He had a strange affect: skittish, impatient, as if eager for the conversation to end, which made me want to end it, except he kept talking. More than once, he said, “I’m so glad I met you,” which overcompensated for what, exactly, I wasn’t sure. We went upstairs to do a bump of coke, and about a half hour later, I felt distracted and impatient and was waiting for each conversation to end.

Everyone here was an editor of a magazine. Document Journal, i-D, PIN–UP, BUTT. I was about to say I felt out of place, except I forgot that I’m also an editor of a magazine. Up in Jeppe's bedroom, we all did lines of mystery coke on a generous silver platter, grinding our teeth til midnight. Sitting to Jeppe's right on the bed, D was offering around our remaining bag of ketamine as five or six magazine editors dipped their keys, and I knew D was doing this so we wouldn’t have any left at the rave.

We were all going to Por Detroit later, a queer party that our friend who was DJing earlier that night had recommended to us in the group chat. On the car ride there, D asked, “Who was that white guy you were talking to earlier?”

“Some neurologist,” I said. 

“He seemed into you.”

“That’s definitely not what was happening.”

Or was it? When we arrived, we extended our arms as we were patted down. It was a good thing they didn’t search our wallets because I hadn’t bothered taking my ecstasy pills out of mine, something I never forgot to do when I lived in Berlin, which meant I was getting sloppy.

The party was at Ex Fabrica—“ex-factory” in Spanish—a flour plant from a century ago. It’s an open-air building with two floors: the first had a massive dance floor with light projections above the DJ booth, playing big-room techno. You had to wait in line to get to the upstairs floor—smaller, gayer, music not as good—which is where all our friends were, because New Yorkers just love hanging where you have to queue to get in. On the far side were large bean bag benches, where I sat next to an acquaintance—some rumored millionaire—while he dosed milliliters of GBL and coke, reclining like a satyr. “He was like, ‘Just because you’re bored of Bushwick doesn’t mean you get to colonize Mexico,’ and I was like, ‘Watch me.’” He waved an imaginary wand in the air.

I thought of Maria Full of Grace, when she has to swallow, one after another, packets of white powder to smuggle on the plane. “Bolivian Marching Powder,” is what they called it in Bright Lights Big City. I thought of Rotting in the Sun, but my brain short-circuited. The ecstasy was hitting.

Back on the dance floor, my eyes fixated on a Mexican raver boy who wasn’t at the party earlier, but I could tell he knew everyone in our group of thirty or so. He had large ears, and thick, sensual brows. I spent most of my life using my own ugliness as an excuse to feel sorry for myself, which led me to think I could gawk at the bold and beautiful as long as I wanted, convinced they don’t see anyone except those who look like them. Fashion was a way to get people to look at me back, and the rave was an excuse to wear the most extravagant looks. But old habits die hard. I kept staring at the raver boy, until he caught my gaze, and I looked away. D, beside me, was dancing with his eyes closed. Where was the neurologist? Back in New York, I had brought up opening our relationship—wouldn’t that be the gay thing to do?—though D had emphatically declined. Scanning the dance floor, I caught eyes again with the raver boy, who I realized had been watching me, and as my eyes darted away, I thought, I could have this. If I wanted. I looked back at D, whose eyes were open now, and I had the sudden urge to pull him closer. Perhaps for the first time, he looked distinctly cute to me, if not because I discovered I had the ability to hurt him.

Suddenly, there was a commotion. Something had caught D’s attention, and I glanced to see what it was, what everyone was looking at. Across the crowd, he tops of everyone’s heads, at different heights, swerved up and down, like a wave agitated by a great storm—but there was a parting in that wave. Ravers were gyrating to the beat, but as if in slow motion, a group was proceeding elegiacally across the wooden floor, very slowly. There were three or four, heads bowed in intense concentration. Carried on their shoulders was Chloe. Her body lay limp, arms around the others’ backs, head leaned back to show the curved line of her pale neck looking bluish in this light. Her eyes were closed or half-lidded, and as her friends cleared the path before her, her head lolled down. People cupped each other’s ears, whispering. D is usually good about being discreet, except he was blatantly staring now, so I was, too. Chloe's friends carried her down to the side, across one of the bean bags, and then gathered around her, closing in to the point where I could no longer see her body.

Considering how addicted I used to be to ketamine, it’s shocking that I have only been carried off the dance floor once in my life. It happened at Nowadays. Two big bumps of that New York shit, and I had slipped into a K-hole, a galactic dimension so far out I could not command my muscles, and I did not even feel the arms of my friends carrying me; I felt like I was floating, until I woke up on the couch upstairs where someone in clown makeup was trying to get me to drink some pineapple juice. Did you even know Nowadays has an upstairs?

This was during a phase when, twice a month, I could burn through a gram and a half by myself in my bedroom on a weeknight, and just eat the $150 I sometimes got paid for writing an entire piece. After I started dating D, my ketamine cravings evaporated—that unannounced 8pm itch to obliterate myself to the same Soundcloud mixes I played forty, sixty times for this exact purpose. I was no longer visited by that aching, humiliating loneliness I had felt, but for years convinced myself was “solitude,” and therefore good for me. 

I looked at D now, his hair clamped on his scalp as his hair product dripped down his sideburns from sweat. I had always had a superiority complex that we hadn’t met on an app. We were at the private afterparty for a mutual friend’s film screening at the Roxy in New York, and we locked eyes across the room. Before we were officially dating, he moved upstate for a one-month writer’s residency. He didn’t ask, “Are you coming to visit me, but “When?” We had the entire house to ourselves: a small cottage, beside a renovated chapel that had been broken up into a workshop and art gallery. Lying on my back, having just woken up from an afternoon nap, he climbed onto me, fully clothed, and kissed my face over and over again, like a guppy, and I could not stop smiling because I knew that at last, my loneliness was ending. 

On our sixth-month anniversary, we decided to get dinner at El Quijote at the Chelsea Hotel. “Should we get a room?” he said, winkingly. Instead, we went to his apartment in Chinatown, and we clumsily fumbled out of our clothes, our teeth still tasting of garlic. We fucked for an hour. “Hold on, can we take a break?” I said, my body suddenly shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t tell why. It’s not like we were trying anything new. “Sorry, I think we need to stop,” I said. Naked, I scurried to the bathroom, heart racing, and as my feet pressed on the cold tile, I was mortified that I had ruined this night. The next afternoon, the birds who usually sat on the electric wire were gone. D was peeling clementines when, apropos of nothing, he blurted, “Did I do something wrong last night?” I looked up from my laptop and saw his face, crestfallen, bruised by the tape reel of last night that had been looping in his mind ever since. He looked devastated that he could have done something to hurt me. Except all I could think of at the moment was, Do you still want me?

D was dancing with his back turned to me, but then I grabbed his shoulders, turned him around, and made out with him, sloppily like a dog. He smiled, surprised. “Hi,” he said. On his face was straightforward, uncomplicated joy. I was so, so happy. I wanted him then, his joy, his thick dick, his chirpy voice, his exasperating need to always be right, or his compulsion to mock everything as “corny,” excepting the time he gasped in awe when I showed him the new Phoebe Philo collection for the first time. It was so fucking cute. Even the bickering, I wanted. All of it was all I ever wanted. Even if at times I hated him, I loved the hate, but I did not hate the love. It was all love, all the way down.

I heard a voice I recognized. I turned around. It was Chloe, standing directly behind me on the dance floor. "What should we do now?" she asked the tall, statuesque filmmaker standing beside her. He shrugged: Literally anything. Anything we want. Everyone around me had this stupid grin on their face as the sun rose. People were starting to put on sunglasses, key-dipping on the dance floor. How long was the party going until? We would keep dancing if we had to, rotting in the sun like a pack of wild dogs. It was 2024, and Chloe had risen. We were all going to be okay. She had resurrected, and all of our sins would be forgiven.