Art Basel is a roughly weeklong batch of events in Miami that mostly take place downtown, right near my apartment, and I’ve considered going to one or two shows but my ex is apparently volunteering there so I’ve kept away.
But my friend Arthur gets in touch last week to say that his girlfriend, E., is putting on an event and I should go. I interpret the invite as a request. Like maybe they’re concerned about nobody showing up. So I go. And it sounds interesting, won’t be pricey, it’ll get me out and around.
Party’s on like the seventh floor pool deck of a hotel about a mile away, near the water. I’m wearing jeans and a redcheckered shirt cuz unless you tell me to dress nicely I will show up looking terrible.
Now suddenly I’m at the event and not only is it packed with people (and hence I was apparently invited for friendlier reasons than I thought) but everybody’s dolled up in formalwear. I feel ridiculous waiting in line. I’m holding a big novel and a notebook cuz I came from a coffee shop. I worked up a sweat on my way over and I’m wondering if I smell. It’s not my first time wearing this shirt since I last washed it. I look homeless.
Trying to avoid eye contact with the people around me, I look at my feet. Each of my sneakers has a small hole in the mesh where my pinkie toe chafes, so I wear black socks all the time in hopes of hiding them but I’m noticing, now, that this effort at camouflage is, in a word, inefficient. I’ve been wearing this pair of jeans for four days and they’re rumpled-looking and the right knee has a faint brown hue as though I knelt in something.
Lesson: I need to ask questions before I go to things.
Arthur gave me an online code that gets me in for free. I show the stub to the gatekeepers and they paste a green stripe around my wrist and I step out onto something like a huge patio. Stone floor on the perimeter, surrounding a patch of fake grass that leads up to the stage. There’s a DJ up there.
To the right of the stage is a slender woman in heels and a salmon-colored dress painting a racially ambiguous portrait on a large green canvas and she stops every couple minutes, smiling wide, to field the questions of wealthy-looking people who approach and, from what I can overhear, are more interested in flashing their knowledge about the painter’s own practice than they are in asking a question.
I walk around. People are having fun. Schmoozing, mincing. Bangles and limp wrists and cocktails.
One of three bar tenders in a see-through top with black stripes running down over her breasts says that a vodka cranberry is $9 from the well or $11 with Grey Goose. I order it from the well and she pours it heavy and gives me a smile onto which I project some things I’d like to believe about myself and then I walk away. Take my drink and two books to a glass table with no chairs and watch the painter do her work.
I trade some texts with Arthur and finally he arrives and we go toward the balcony, overlooking the train, and we talk about the music he’s working on, the album he’s releasing.
After a few minutes my drink is done. I go to the bar for another and, uninhibited, ask myself if there’s really much difference between $9 and $11.
Back at the balcony with an $11 cocktail Arthur and I go on talking and drinking and after a half hour or so my cup is empty again and I’m feeling tipsy but, reasoning with myself that I don’t have to drive, I decide to spring for one more.
Arthur’s girlfriend, E., pops over for a chat and then whisks him away for something and when I’m there by myself I start blinking a lot, realize I’m drunk, and figure I should probably leave. The Uber’s there waiting when I hit the curb. At home I sit up with my roommate over ramen for a while and then go to sleep.
The hangover is rough. I walk to Starbucks for a bagel and coffee and I do a little reading and then, back at the apartment before work, I’m a zombie. Useless. Shower and brush my teeth and swipe through Bumble and read some news and leave.
At work I sit with a colleague for twenty minutes before my shift and she asks how the party was and I confess to having spent more money on booze than I should have.
“Didn’t you do that like a couple nights ago?”
I squint at her. “Remind me?”
She tells me back the story of my Friday.
“And then at your date on Saturday.”
“Seems like you’re drinking a lot.”
“What’s up? You OK?”
“Think so, yeah. I feel fine. Feel social.”
“You’re not still on the Rosie thing?”
She blinks at me.