Gentle Reader, this Sunday is September first. I have a number of friends whose birthday falls on that date, but the one I’ve known the longest, Ms. Capere, is often called my sister; I love her like one. On her birthday, a few years ago, she planned an evening with two layers; we would begin at Tacoma‘s première lesbian bar, the Tempest, to have a light meal and a cocktail or two, allowing locals and people from points further south to participate. Afterward, we’d set out for Seattle, towards the Mercury, the underground Goth club to which we belong.
The theme at the Merc that evening was something to do with children’s stories or fairy tales – naturally, I resolved to dress as the Marquis de Carabas. If you’re not familiar, he’s the nobleman that poor Puss-in-Boots is saddled with, as well as the rather cannier character from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. After work, I dressed myself – complete with make-up – and rode the bus from Bremerton to Tacoma – 27 miles by highway if you’re driving yourself, or two hours and twenty minutes on my trusty public steed. I looked like this:
And no one harassed me or started a fight or caused any problems at all*. When I arrived at the terminus, I walked a few minutes up to a local coffee shop, where the birthday girl and her beau were to collect me. They were most appreciative of my harrowing ride, especially as I could have just taken the ferry into Town and met them at the Mercury. We headed to the Tempest, and I was very glad of it; I had been three hours in my 18th century makeup, and it needed refreshing.
The Tempest – rest its soul! – is no more, but at the time, it was still as it was intended to be, for the lesbians, by the lesbians, and of the lesbians†. Well, and their friends. As familiar faces from out of the past assembled, we chatted, mingled, had cocktails and tapas, and generally a pleasant time.
The first tier of the evening went quickly; as we were preparing to relocate, the Colonel was outside, joining his wife, K (not to be confused with Miss K) and I for a cigarette. This was the first of a series of unfortunate events‡. You see, the Colonel has a severe allergy to Marijuana – if he gets even a whiff, it aggravates his ever-present anxiety. If he gets more than a whiff, it’s time to call the hospital, because that’s when the physical reactions set in. It’s an unpleasant sight. Naturally, because the Tempest is across the street from a park, in Tacoma – well, I’m sure that you can deduce what happened next.
The Colonel threatened to walk home, as the breeze blew the smoke directly at his face. He was talked back inside, briefly; he was to take their car, and K (not to be confused with Miss K) would come up to Seattle with the party going up for the second tier. Unfortunately, no one else on the Tacoma side of things was planning on going – one by one, they all made their goodbyes, and exited into the mild and pleasant night. Ms. Capere and K don’t speak at all now – at the time, they tolerated each other quietly. As the Colonel had taken their car, and I don’t drive, the only available driver for Capere’s birthday night was Capere herself. She sighed, and got behind the wheel.
The chat en route was routine, uneventful chat – the sort that fills a drive of about forty-five minutes. Nothing really invigorating, but substantial enough to carry you through the distance. Despite slight early warning signs of tension, the ladies played nicely; I am passive to a fault, myself. The drive, itself, was innocuous, and then – well, there was some traffic. A great deal of traffic. At ten o’clock in the evening? Well, it was Saturday – perhaps there was a ballgame, or something?
When we hit the first underpass, heading into the city, we saw the reason: There was a corpse, in the middle of the highway. There had been some sort of accident with a transient crossing the eight lanes of weekend traffic, and the body bag had not yet been zipped up. Gruesome. I have never seen a corpse more mangled – and I’ve seen a number of them. Our car dragged on; we were in Seattle, and tried to ignore the crime scene we crawled past. We eventually exited the freeway, parked, and went into our club.
We danced; we drank; we had an evening typical of any at the Mercury; luckily, it’s a private club, not a bar, so I was able to smoke inside. Our mismatched group separated, explored, reconvened; I would like to think that A had a good time dancing, because up until then, her evening had been a burden of stress.
It was a burden of stress afterward, too. When we left the Merc, we found that the driver’s side window had been shattered; A’s phone had been stolen. Luckily, all purses were in the trunk – the phone and the window were the only casualties. Nonetheless, the birthday girl had been stolen from, been vandalized, had been stood up, and had had a rotten evening. While we called the police on a borrowed phone, I couldn’t help but sympathize, and plan a replacement birthday evening – it would clearly need a do-over.
*As though I’d admit that to the birthday girl. Please. Nothing Happened.
†Since, the Hipsters took it over, and the Proprietresses took it in good stride, and marketed to them; thereafter, they found it too pandering, and as the lesbians had left long before, they went under.
‡ It’s a good phrase; that franchise can’t monopolize it forever.