The Inner Workings of the Discothèque
Acacia, Janine, and Lexa made sure to smile big for Tyrone when they showed him their I.D.'s. Without much thought, Tyrone looked them over, quickly checked the infamous "blacklist", then let the three ladies in.
"You see," Acacia told Lexa once they were inside, "I told you Tyrone Sykes was an idiot. He's completely oblivious."
"He looks kinda frightening to me," Lexa said loudly, trying to out-do the cacophony of the music.
"Tyrone?" Acacia laughed. "I hear he goes home and cuddles with little kittens. And—if you kick him in the shins—he cries like a little baby. Listen, Lexa, the staff here—they're more melodramatic than General Hospital. Here," Acacia pointed to an empty table, "let's sit, an' I'll give you the scoop."
The three ladies sat down and Acacia began her narrative about the staff of the Pomegranate Room. "Well, I already explained Tyrone to you. Next, we have the owner of the place: Lorenzo Fantini. See him over there—the guy with the wispy, Luke Skywalker-ish hair, and the pink shirt?"
"Him?" Lexa pointed.
"Yeah, with the stupid, little dog in his arms. Yeah, well—he's gay. Gay as a three-dollar bill…"
"Gay?" Lexa had never fathomed such a thing in her entire life. There was no such thing a "gay" in Quail Creek, Alabama.
"But it's okay, Lexa," Acacia explained when she noticed the look on her cousin's face. "He's cool—it's not like he's infected,or anything. Oh yeah," Acacia continued, "then there's Max Beller—the D.J. See him over there, looking soooo enthusiastic?"
"He looks rather un-enthusiastic to me…"
"Yeah—I was being sarcastic. Well, he absolutely hates disco music, but, yet, he works here anyway. That's why he's stoned all the time, because he can only stand Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and the Ramones. If he didn't find some way to make himself a zombie, listening to the Bee Gees screaming at the tops of their lungs might drive the poor man to insanity.
"Then—there's Chanette Dwallgood. She's a real piece of work. That's her—over there—the large woman with the blonde 'fro and the skimpy maroon dress. Yeah, she had me dye her hair that horrid color. If she wants to look like some corner hooker—that's just fine with me. Whatever.
"Then, of course there's Jason de Joorn. He's the bartender—over there with the longish, blond hair. Isn't he just fine—"Acacia paused for a second "—I mean, for a white guy?"
Janine laughed and Lexa looked down at her hands clasped in front of her.
"Whatever," Acacia said. "Hey, Janine—friend—would you mind getting us some martinis?"
"Sure," Janine said as she got up and walked away.
"Martinis?" Lexa asked in outrage.
It had been a long time since Anthony had gone dancing at the Pomegranate Room. Of course, he had just gotten a job there as a dance instructor, but tonight was his first chance to actually go back and dance in the evening.
Anthony gingerly walked up to Tyrone at the front entrance and presented his I.D. to him. Of course, this one was fake, seeing as Anthony was only nineteen. He had connections. Tyrone looked at the I.D. briefly then let him pass. Inside was crowded, like it always was on Friday nights. The music was loud and it hit Anthony like a slap. It was the song "Hot Shot" by Karen Young.
When it's late at night
…the lyrics went between the funky music…
And I ain't feeling right
There ain't no man in sight
I need a hot shot
Hot shot...hot shot…
Anthony fought his way through the thick crowd and the thick music until he had spotted who he was looking for. At a table over in the corner a group of three couples was gathered around. The young Hispanic man in the bright magenta shirt was Chalo Suárez, and his girlfriend with the matching, sparkly dress and the curly reddish hair was Graciela Melendez. Next to them sat Anthony's cousin, Asa Meyers, and his girlfriend Jennifer Coleman, and the young black couple that stood above them laughing at one of Chalo's comments were Darnelle Johnson and Duckie Herbert. Duckie's real name was actually Frederick Douglass Herbert, but he had earned the nickname for an instance in high school where he jokingly placed two Pringles potato chips in his mouth to make himself look like a duck. The rest of his friends never let him live it down, so the name "Duckie" stuck. Duckie was the first to notice Anthony standing there when he had arrived at the table.
"Anthony Meyers!" Duckie exclaimed with a large smile. "You're back! Where on earth have you been!?"
Chalo was the next to chime in excitedly. "Ay! Antonio!" he shouted as he got up out of his seat and gave Anthony a large hug.
Anthony gave Chalo a brief, strange glance before saying, "Hey, you guys, I'm back."
"You know," Asa began, "I think we're all dying to know why you fell off the face of the planet, well, after—after—er—" Asa remembered the tragic event and became tongue tied, trying not to sound insensitive "—after Amy's funeral—I mean."
Anthony looked at his cousin for a second before saying, "I was—um—in Manhattan for the past few months. I was—ah—getting help."
His friends paused in near suspended animation, giving him confused looks.
"Help with what?" Darnelle asked.
"Like, a shrink, or sumthin'?" Duckie added.
"No," Anthony answered, "more like a rehab clinic…"
Chalo, Duckie, and Asa all three exchanged sidelong glances.
"Oh," Chalo said.
There was silence between the members of the group now. All that could be heard was the crowd and Karen Young's song continuing on.
I need a hot sho--t…
The song then went into an electronic, and rather ear-piercing instrumental. Chalo began to speak.
"This place es un revolú," he said. Chalo loved to speak in Spanglish so he could confuse people. He thought it was hilarious.
Duckie, obviously, was confused. "Es un what!?" he asked.
"Un revolú! A mess!" Chalo explained. "Look at all these people. Where did they come from? They're everywhere. This place never used to be this crowded."
"That was until the Village People decided to do a performance here in August," Asa said.
"What!?" Anthony asked. "The Village People performed here!?"
"You missed it," Jennifer said.
"And look at Lance Upton over there," Chalo continued, pointing to a handsome young man in a brightly colored leisure suit getting ready to make a move on a random, pretty woman. "That bastard. He thinks he's just sooooo sexy, doesn't he? I think he's overrated. He needs to crawl under the rock he came out from."
"Yeah," Asa said, "who does he think he is? Look at him, reeling in his girlfriend for the night."
"Can he everstay with one person?" Duckie asked.
"I give her two days before she's old news," Darnelle said in cynicism. "She's stupid for acknowledging him anyway. I wouldn't."
Duckie looked at her. "I sure hope not."
"Who is this guy, anyway?" Anthony asked. "Where'd he come from?"
Asa rolled his eyes. "He's just some rich boy who swooped in like a bat out of hell after you left. Everybody loves him."
"At least," Graciela said, "everybody but us…"
"What?" Anthony asked in shock. He was stunned.
"I think Mr. Upton done and took your place, Anthony," Duckie said in disappointment. "You gotta do something to get it back."
Meanwhile, as Acacia, Janine, and Lexa sat at the table with their martinis, Acacia was busy pointing out all the single black men to Lexa. Lexa's martini had yet to be touched.
"…that's Quentin Cox over there. He just broke up with his girlfriend, so he's free. Even though he shaves his head bald and has bushy eyebrows, I still think he's kinda handsome. Then there's Jeffrey Otis. It's he just fine? Ah—I love his pants—they show off his cute, little booty—" Acacia paused when she noticed Lexa was looking at her strangely. "Anyway—then, of course, there's Rodney Langston. I dunno what I think about him. His hair is a little too big…"
Lexa rolled her eyes as Acacia continued to ramble on, and on, and on. She turned away from the table and looked around the club. That's when a young man over in the corner caught her eye. An interesting creature he was, with his brown, polyester leisure suit and his reddish-blond afro. His smiling face was handsome and noticeably Jewish looking, and he had a pair of light crystal blue eyes. There was something about him, something intriguing, that Lexa couldn't put her finger on.
"What about him?" Lexa asked Acacia, pointing to the young man.
"Who? Him? The white guy with the reddish 'fro?"
Acacia giggled. "Oh, that's Anthony Meyers. I had no idea he was back in town."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Lexa asked in curiosity.
"Well, he sorta vanished out of thin air after his girlfriend, Amy, died. He used to be the most popular person here."
"Why? What's so special about him?"
"He's a hell of a dancer—for a white guy—I mean."
"Anthony was the king of this place," Janine added in.
"That is—until Mr. Man-hoe Lance Upton swooped in from the Hamptons—or wherever he came from," Acacia explained. "Now he's the one everybody loves."
"Is that him?" Lexa asked after she had spotted Lance Upton in the crowd.
"Yeah," Acacia said in sudden disgust, "that's him. Just another chauvinist, narcissistic, self-interested, egocentric ass-hole that this world has too many of."
Lexa shot her cousin an appalled look. "What?" she asked.
Acacia quickly changed the subject back to something more pleasant. "So, why do you wanna know about Anthony Meyers, anyway?"
Lexa shrugged. "I dunno," she said, looking off into space, "there's just something about him I guess."
Acacia sniffed. "Yeah, there is something about him, Lexa—it's called: he's white!"
"Acacia! Since when does that have anything to do with anything?"
"I dunno, since well—if you're thinking what I think you're thinking, you don't have a snowball's chance in—"
"That's not true," Janine said. "Remember?"
"Remember what?" Acacia asked. Then she remembered. "Oh that! Yeah. You see his friend over there, Lexa, the guy with the huge 'fro and the girl on his arm—well, that's Duckie Herbert. The girl on his arm, her name's Darnelle Johnson. You see, before Anthony and Amy started going out and before Duckie hooked up with Darnelle, Anthony and Darnelle had a quick little thing going on—so, I guess it's safe to say that Anthony has an open mind when it comes to dating women of color. But, for you, I wouldn't count on it."
"I never said I wanted to date him. I don't even know him."
"Sure…but I can see you want to get to know him." Acacia laughed at this.
Acacia ignored her cousin when she noticed the song that was being played now: "Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry.
"Ah!" she exclaimed. "I love this song!"
Once I was a boogie singer
Playin' in a rock n' roll band
I never had no problems
Burnin' down the one-night stands
"We've been waiting all this time," Janine said. "Why don't we get up and dance?"
"I second that," Acacia said as she got up from her seat. "C'mon, Lexa."
"No," she said shyly, "I shouldn't."
"Because I can't."
"'Course you can! Come here!" Acacia and Janine grabbed Lexa by the arm and dragged her out onto the crowded dance floor. Both of them let the music seize them, but it took Lexa a while to feel it.
Yeah…They were dancin'
And movin' to the groovin'
And just when it hit me
Somebody turned around and shouted
Play that funky musicWhite boy…
When Lexa did feel it, it was as if she had turned into a different person. Everybody was out on the floor now, even Anthony and his gang. The lights were flashing and the music was pumping, and Lexa let the music override her self-conscious nervousness and she got down. It was an exhilarating feeling to be able to let loose and have fun. Everyone around her, even if they were perfect strangers, made her feel welcome. She was no longer the petrified little moth of a girl she had been when she first entered the place. Lexa decided that she liked New York, and the Pomegranate Room—here, in a place like this, you could be yourself, it seemed, and no one would care. The colorful dance-floor melted off all the stress—the fear—the anxiety. It was something almost sublime.
As she danced, Lexa looked over her shoulder and spotted Anthony Meyers and his gang. A crowd was gathered around him, laughing and clapping as he did "the worm" on the colored, light up tiles.
"Anthony Meyers is back in da house!" someone shouted over the music and the crowd's noises. Over in a corner, Lexa could see Lance Upton looking on in sudden confusion and envy.
Hm, she thought. That's interesting.
When the song faded and was over, there was a sudden silence. A new record hadn't been chosen. Max was silently snoring, still standing up, and everybody stared at him. One could almost hear crickets chirping or a pin dropping in such a silence as this. Suddenly, Max woke up after feeling a multitude of eyes boring into him.
"Oh," he uttered. Quickly, he bent down and hunted for another record. He set it up and it began to play. It was ABBA's "Dancing Queen." When it started, the sound of the dashing piano seemed to run down from one end of the speakers to the other. Pretty soon, Max was back asleep and those who hadn't retired from the floor were dancing.
You can dance
You can die
Having the time of your life
See that girl
Watch that scene
Diggin' the dancing queen
Anthony and his friends were just walking back to the table when he saw her up there, dancing. There was something about her that made him stop dead in his tracks. She was beautiful, the way the dim light shined on her honey-brown skin and the way her soft, tightly curled brown hair bounced about with her movement. Her hazel-gray eyes met his for a second and something stunned his senses. He forced himself to look away for fear that he might explode from the awkward butterflies that jumped around in his stomach. He wondered, as he began to examine her shapely body, why such a gorgeous creature would be dancing all alone.
Anthony reached out and grabbed Duckie by the sleeve, stopping him.
"Hey, Duckie," he said, "do you know who that is?"
"Her?" Duckie began. "That's Acacia William's cousin. She moved here from Mississippi or Georgia, or something like that. She's been in the Bronx for a few weeks, I think. I don't know her name."
Anthony sniffed, and then began to walk back towards the dance floor. Duckie watched him in interest.
"A-Anthony? Where are you goin'?"
The question was ignored as Anthony reached the dance floor and gingerly made his way towards the beautiful young woman. He came up to her and she noticed him, the light of the overhanging disco ball glittering in her eyes.
"Care to dance?" Anthony asked her as he held his hand out to her.
Her face softened and she said, "Okay."
They both took each other's hands and began to move about the psychedelic floor together.
"My name's Anthony, by the way," he told her as he twirled her around.
"So I heard," she said.
"You must be Acacia's cousin."
"That's right. My name is Alexis Cane—but you can call me Lexa."
"So, are you really from Mississippi?"
Lexa laughed. "I'm from Alabama," she explained.
"Alabama—Mississippi—same thing, right?"
"I guess you could say that—by your northern standards."
Anthony smiled. "Do you like New York?"
"It's a lot more exciting than Quail Creek, Alabama," she said as he dipped her down then swung her back up.
"I'm sure it is," he agreed. "Where'd you learn how to dance, Lexa?"
"I guess I sorta taught myself. What about you…Anthony…where'd you learn to dance?"
"By wasting my weekends away at this place. Actually, I teach lessons here during the day."
Lexa gave him a coy look. "Oh, is that a fact?"
Now the song was over and Max woke himself up to pick a different record. This time it was "Instant Replay" by Dan Hartman.
Anthony and Lexa both looked at each other as a whole bunch of other people crowded the dance floor to dance to the song. Together they both followed each other off the floor without even being aware of the fact that they were following each other. It just happened. Anthony got a look of sudden shyness on his face.
"Uh—Lexa," he said, "it's getting kinda hot and crowded in here. Do you think you'd want to—er—go outside for a couple minutes?"
She looked at him for a moment. "Ah—sure," she said finally.
Anthony gave a small smile and they both made way for one of the back doors. Once they were out in the back alley, they both leaned up against the bricks of the wall and looked at anything but each other. The night air was cool and the sounds of the city at night merged smoothly with the music playing inside the club. Anthony looked down at his platform shoes.
"So," he began nervously, "what brings you to New York, anyway?"
"My mama wanted me to come up here," Lexa explained. "She said I had more of chance up north than back in Alabama. Since my cousins, Acacia and Kate lived up here, it just seemed convenient."
"Ah," Anthony commented, still looking down at his shoes.
"What's wrong?" she asked. "Why can't you look at me?"
Anthony looked up finally. "What?"
"You heard me. What's wrong?"
"I was—um—just, you know, thinking. Thinking about how I should probably tell you that I think you're a really good dancer."
Lexa gave him a surprised look. "You really think so?"
"Yes. I—er—I think that you are—um—really pretty—" he stopped when he realized how stupid he probably sounded. "What I meant to say is—ah—that I—uh—I think you look really nice—I mean—your dress—it looks really nice." Anthony winced. "I ruined it, didn't I?"
She gave him a smile that he wasn't so sure about. Was it a smile of pity? Or was it a bad girl's smile?
"I think you got your point across," she said.
"C-Can I ask you a q-q-question?" he inquired.
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
Lexa looked at Anthony for a long second. She wasn't sure if he was being serious or if he was just being forward with her. Truthfully, she had never had a boyfriend in her life. The thought sounded nice, though. Anthony looked at her, waiting for her to answer (or to slap him), and he randomly felt like kissing her. He tried really hard to fight back the impulse, because—first of all—he barley even knew her, and—secondly—she probably would slap him for this if not for the previous question. The impulse was about to win him over when someone opened the back door and pocked their head out. The face was silhouetted, but Anthony could by the large afro and the bulky earrings that it was Acacia Williams. "Lexa?" she asked. "What are you doing out here?"
"I was just getting some fresh air," Lexa said, "but I think I'll come in now."
"Hello, Anthony," Acacia said. "Where have you been these past few months?"
"Oh, I was—er—in Manhattan. But I'm back in Eastchester now."
Acacia smiled at him briefly. "C'mon, Lexa." Lexa obeyed and left Anthony's side to follow her cousin back into the club. Just as she was about to go in the door she turned around and said, "Oh yeah! The answer to your question, Anthony, is no—I don't."
With that the door was closed and Anthony was left out in the crisp night air, looking up at the dark night sky, dreaming of Lexa.