Two friends philosophize at a party while under the influence.
They fall through my fingers, stickers without backings. I peel them off of my skin one by one as the party roars on around me. It’s one of those freaky raves where people believe they’re vampires or ‘furries.’ Then again, I probably look just as odd, with hair like pink cotton candy and stickers tiling my skin like scales.
As I pick off an orange popsicle sticker, I stare at it a moment. Maybe it’s the drink I’ve downed tonight, or maybe it’s the last of the weed brownies still running through my system, but something tells me to eat the stickers. The first legal substance, considering my age, to enter my body for weeks. I don’t count the brownies since they were more drug than pastry.
I slowly lift the sticker to my red-stained lips, licking the vague chemical from the back. Most of the stickiness already came off on my skin. Shredding the sticker in two, I slide half into my mouth and attempt to chew.
“What are you doing, Lu?”
I look down the flight of stairs at my friend, Kate, who is hiking up to meet me. She tilts on her stilettos a bit, obviously drunk but good at playing sober. When she reaches the step before the landing, I grab her hand and steady her as she sits down beside me.
I shrug as an answer to her question. “It looked...yummy.”
“Yummy?” she giggles, hiccuping a bit. “What are you on?”
“Nothing,” I say, only half-kidding. Lately, I’ve craved non-edible things to eat. Subconsciously, an article I read screams at me that when eating disorders get serious, the body begins to cry out for anything that will get it the nutrients it needs. Whatever stickers provide, I don’t know.
“Well, I’m on just about everything,” Kate says, laughing like a hyena, then produces a cigarette from her jacket and lights up. She lies back on the landing and stares up at the ceiling of the club, which is lit up with the reflections of all the dance floor lights.
“Must be nice,” I mutter. The club must be like Wonderland to her, hopped up on drugs. When she comes back down to Earth -- like I did half an hour ago -- she’ll see the same things I do. The dingy, dirt-encrusted floors and stairs. The sweaty bodies dripping with cheap makeup or covered in cheap fabric. The flimsiness of the streamers and banners that hang from the balconies like cobwebs. All these things must be glamorized in Kate’s mind’s eye right now, sprinkled in fairy dust.
"It is nice. I can hardly feel my tattoo.” She smiles dreamily, closing her eyes and rolling her head a bit, to the beat of the music. If I didn’t know she was high, I’d think she was severely mental.
“Tattoo?” I arch a black eyebrow at her. I drew them on thick tonight.
“Didn’t I tell you?” She swings her torso up into a sitting position and then twists her head in the most uncomfortable-looking way, pushing her hair up from her neck and revealing a little design. The sign for infinity, a fallen figure eight.
“Why?” I ask simply, only snapping my gaze away when she drops her blonde locks back into place. I take her cigarette in my bony fingers and puff.
“Why not?” She does that weird hiccup-giggle again. Kate’s a happy drunk. Not to mention the drugs rushing through her veins, ecstasy definitely one of them. “It’s a beautiful number.”
“An impossible number,” I say, feeling pessimistic against her drugged optimism.“Nothing lasts forever. Shit happens. People die.”
“It’s not like that,” she says, pulling clips out of her hair and shaking it out. Now she has a frizzy afro, appearing to be a dandelion. Her build is even stem-like, which I secretly envy. “The sentiment is beautiful. The idea of going and going and going...not letting anything get to you. Not anyone, either. Being so strong.”
She sighs, leaning against the rail of the staircase and staring down at the party below. She lifts an arm and blatantly points to a grinding couple on the floor, just little dots from up here. “Strong and beautiful so he’d want me back.”
“Guys don’t like strength,” I point out, staring down at the party through the opposite railing and letting out a deep sigh. I press my forehead to the cool metal. “They like girls to be weak and dependent. Skinny. Fragile. Vulnerable.”
“You’re wrong,” Kate singsongs, flopping back down onto the landing, unable to sit in one position for long. She kicks her legs up into the air, revealing her panties as her dress falls down. “Infinity means going, going, going. That means being strong. And infinity is beautiful. So, strong is beautiful. Easy.”
I sit up a little and peel off a sticker, a neon pink cake. Contemplating, I begin to shred it between my fingers. Paper cake, paper food, is for paper dolls. I’m a person, not a doll.
Strong is beautiful. Easy. Is it?