this is Thursday night art space station

"Enough," I say to myself. It's a waste of energy to think about doing something, remind yourself constantly to do that something, formulate procedures and protocols for making that something happen, and then berate yourself for not actually doing that something. I've had enough of this: thinking about writing, planning out when I am going to write and what I am going to write, and then not actually writing, an exhausting meta-exercise that no one should ever put herself through.

Last Thursday night I went to an art show in the Mission, one of those art shows that has a two-word name: a generic noun followed by "The," which is archaic and singular and abstract all at once, brief enough to be cool, mysterious enough to be edgy. I arrive three minutes after it starts, which isn't fashionable, isn't cool. Showing up early means that the event is a priority, or at least that you planned on going; it's clearly not an afterthought. Promptness can be read as eagerness, or overeagerness, and neither are fashionable. Earnest people can be unnerving.

One hour before the show starts, an email goes out to the entire guest list, which is a bounded list, without wiggle room, or at least that's what the email says. The email includes directives about where to smoke (the assumed object of this directive is cigarettes, not marijuana) and how to act towards the doorman (compassionate, respectful). Please don't bring friends, it says. The message is welcoming but firm; the word "private," not "secret" is used; the only capital letters are reserved for the name of the space itself  (all caps) and other proper pronouns, a stylistic choice I've always thought represented aloofness, quietness, discreteness.

The space, which is a warehouse loft, is marked with a light green balloon. I stroll as slowly as I can to the front gate because I have again miscalculated how long it would take me to walk from my apartment to this location. I had intended to be prompt, but not this prompt. I check my phone, and then think myself silly for trying to use my mobile device to loiter, so I go in. After I tell the doorman my name and he checks me off the list, I reciprocate, asking his name. "Gary," he says. "Nice to meet you Gary," I say, even though I'm confused. Didn't the email call him Polly?  I walk upstairs.

The warehouse is dark, not a single open space but a series of contiguous compartments, the first compartment being the sink and the kitchen and a misplaced couch; around the corner the larger gallery space, and behind that, a back area where drinks are being served. I walk up to a tall blonde who is wearing a short turquoise dress. She is in the far right corner, hanging up a piece of art. From behind, she looks like one of the Sweet Valley High twins with generic long yellow-blonde hair, leggy. I know she must be frazzled, just moments before the show, but this is the girl who invited me, who I'm supposed to meet, so I tap her on the shoulder. She spins around, and from the look on her face, it's clear I've caught her at a bad time. "I'm Natalie," I say, "but I'll let you do your thing. You look busy. Let's talk later." "Sorry!" she says, "we'll talk later."

I turn back around, and in front of the food table, there is an Asian guy with a boyish grin, with his hands folded across his chest, standing and watching as people are scrambling around trying to put finishing touches on the show, setting up the food, draping large pieces of cloths on the walls, moving equipment. "Hi," I  say to him, "I'm Natalie, I don't know anyone here." (Earnest people can be unnerving) I know who he is, but I pretend I don't. I want to hear him reveal himself. The day of the show, I realize I've read about this kid before, so I know who he is, the host of this party, the proprietor of this space. He introduces himself and welcomes me to the space. "Well, now you've met one of the hosts," he says, "and there's Alex," he says, as another guy walks by us." He also lives here."

Alex comes by and introduces himself. He has tanned olive skin, big eyes, a sharp, long nose, and he's wearing nothing under a buttoned up suit-vest, like a Chippendale playboy. Later, Alex invites me up to his room, which does not interest me as an innuendo, but as an artifact of the space itself, which I'm curious about. A gaggle of his friends are gathered in his room, which is a lofted space, with a low ceiling, no more than three feet in height. The ceiling is splattered with colorful paint, the floorboards painted white. Alex shows me some photographic negatives that he's working on, which are scattered like detritus on the floor and on an old light box. Two guys are sitting on the floor, one trying to melt plastic candles, which isn't really working, another on the couch, sitting next to a brown-haired girl wearing brown boots. They're passing a pax around, and they don't acknowledge me, even when I plop onto the couch next to the girl, whose name I find out is Brittany. I don't know what I'm doing here, I pass the pax along but don't partake, this is a situation I have been in more times than I can count: overwhelmed by a situation most people consider normal, trying to make sense of all the stimuli around me, made uncomfortable by the sheer number of things going on, but too intrigued to escape, as is my foremost impulse.

The night passes quickly. I've strategized ahead of time: I will talk to people for at least twenty minutes at a time, and in between the long conversations, I will recede into dark corners and rest. Besides Alex, I talk to Schuyler or Skyler, who is a film director. We talk about horror movies, and how much I hate them. "You know, I have this theory," he tells me, "that people who don't like horror movies are pretty cool. They're more sensitive." "I'm a highly sensitive person," I reply. "I hate sci-fi too, but I don't have a good reason for that." I talk to Brian from Lansing, Michigan, who now lives in Korea and tries to speak Korean to me because I am Asian. I stare blankly at him and tell him I have no idea what he is saying. I talk to Laura and Chris, who are a vocals-bass duo. That night they are the first to perform, Chris wearing an atrocious mask, Laura in her black bat-wing shirt screaming into the microphone while staring into the eyes of random people unfortunately exposed in the front row. They seem so different onstage (terrifying, bold) than in person when I talked to them (docile, gentle). Later I run into my friend Amy, a skinny, skittish redhead who knows her way around this place; I can tell she is more comfortable than me but less relaxed, a product of expectations and experience, of which I have none. Later, as Amy is dancing in the middle of the gallery space, I fill up my plastic cup at a sink full of dirty dishes, over and over again, trying to drink as much water as I can, trying to avoid the crowd, the noise. I spend ten minutes staring at a collage of C-list celebrity faces, a multivariable polka-dot formation, before I decide I am tired, and I walk home, but not before saying bye to Gary the doorman.


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