By the time we arrive at the club for our weekly bout of binge-drinking and scream-singing along to that week’s top hits, there is already a line wrapped around the outside of the building. The corners of my mouth tug downward into a grimace, but I push forward and claim us two spots in the queue anyway. The time on my phone reads 10:52 and we’d left our house no later than 10:25 in the hopes of arriving early enough to get in for free- but, the bus had been late by nearly twenty minutes and stopped at every station along the way and our chances for enjoying a night away from the ticket line were dwindling by the second. If the line moved quickly, we could still hopefully get in by the skin of our teeth. I express as much to my friend. She does not respond, already looking through her wallet for spare coins to give the cashier at the top of the steps. I don’t blame her. Optimism is my weapon; realism is hers.

We reach the bouncer at 10:56 and show him our IDs. He gives them a cursory glance and then waves us through quickly; partially, I think, because the line is still building behind us and partially because we’re there every weekend. We ascend and duck through the line with just enough time. Inside, music is already playing over the loudspeakers. I can’t tell which room it’s coming from yet, but I can feel the bass rattling through the floorboards, feel it thrumming in my chest. We’re here and I’m happy, even if it’s just the two of us for now. The others will come later, but the party waits for no one. They’ll be here soon enough, but not soon enough for me. We ascend the second set of stairs out of the lobby and onto the main floor where the lights are brighter and more people are milling about, smiles wide on their faces and drinks in their hands. They look happy, bright and joyful in their own way. Any joy they can find is worth having, even if it is manufactured with the help of Ketel One.

The bathroom is always the first stop, to chug down the remnants of whatever we managed to bring with us from home and sneak into the club. I never buy drinks there, preferring to let others do it for me. We head to the room where they’re playing hip hop music and begin our first dance of the night. I like the beats here; it’s familiar to me even if the songs are different and I find a face a recognize: I’d met him on the night of my twenty-first birthday and he’d spent the evening bouncing back and forth between pouring whiskey into my mouth and warding off any other man who made even a half-serious pass at me, but he’d done nothing himself. I see him frequently enough to smile and wave. He does the same and watches me dance. I feel comfortable under his gaze. This, for once, is male attention that I don’t hate.

My friend and I spin around the room in time to the heavy drum beats and once, when we turn, I find him moving to the back corner of the dancefloor with his friends. He’s staring again and holds his hand out toward me. I offer him my own, palm flat for what I think is a hi-five, but he wraps his fingers around mine and presses a kiss to my knuckles before disappearing back into the crowd. My heart starts in my chest. I cast a look over at my friend, but she hasn’t noticed and I decide that for at least tonight, I’ll keep the moment to myself, hold it close to my chest. I don’t want to say it out loud and make it too real. I keep running back to it for comfort for the rest of the night. When someone laughs at me, or shoves me out of the way to get closer to one of my better looking friends, I hold on to it. It’s sad, I know, but in this space that belongs to everyone, it’s nice to have something that’s just mine.

The night wears on and my friend grows tired far before I do. Her movements are reluctant, the dance she’d thrown herself into whole-heartedly before has grown fatigued. I still myself and ask her if she wants to leave. She does, and I follow without regret. The music still bumps insistently and the crowd above us roils together still, as if trying to draw us in again even as we descend back to earth. But, the spell is broken, the ball is over, and it’s time to go home.

Outside, the night is quiet and cold against my skin. I look around for him, half hoping I don’t see him so that the moment remains locked in time. I can’t get a good look; there’s too many people crowded around the smoking area and I let it go. I turn back to the front and start the hike to Cornmarket street and the bus that’ll take us home.

“McDonald’s?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she replies.

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