I Almost Got a Drink | Our Town | Chicago Reader

I Almost Got a Drink 

At Limelight's Third Anniversary Party

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The invitation said black tie optional; I must have missed the line that said underwear optional. The guy standing next to me at the bar was wearing jeans with so many holes he looked like a pornographic Advent calendar. The woman behind him, wore no blouse, no T-shirt, no halter, just a black sport bra that was so tight it mushed her breasts into rectangles.

All I wanted to do was get a drink. No complicated order, no Blue Hawaiian or Screaming Orgasm or Ruptured Esophagus. Just a beer or a Coke.

But I was at the Limelight's third anniversary bash. The music was pumping so loud that you had to be a lip-reader to conduct a conversation. If you wanted to use the toilet, you had to squirm your way past thrashing couples dancing to a rhythm that only they heard, push your way past hulking linebacker types who were standing along the walls, flexing, and then wait in line. If you wanted to dance, you had to contend with all the would-be Terence Trent d'Arbys swishing their buttocks into yours--and you had to avoid being maimed by the skinhead who seemed to fancy himself a combination of John Travolta and Muhammad Ali.

Getting a drink was next to impossible. I was standing in one of two lines that were supposedly moving toward the center of the bar, where three bartenders were pouring drinks. But I'd been standing in the exact same place for five minutes and hadn't moved an inch.

One of the bartenders was screaming at a couple of toughs in their 20s who had tossed a drink in his face. The drink tosser had one of those "What'd I do?" looks on his face. The drink was all over the floor, and those waiting in line along the bar were trying to maneuver away from the ice without slipping or losing their places.

The sound of pounding drums and screamed flirtations slammed through my skull.

"So what's your name?"

"Huh?"

"What's your name?"

"What?"

"So what's your name? Your name?"

"Bernice."

"Patrice?"

"Bernice!"

"Oh. How's it going, Bernice?"

The short-haired bartender had disappeared. The other two were now at the other end of the bar. I stood there, waving my ten-dollar bill hopefully.

A tough wearing a black leotard and ballet slippers shoved past the woman standing next to me, and her little silver purse and its contents went flying. Her rouged face turned redder as she scrambled to pick up her cigarettes, marijuana pipe, and three Trojan ribbed condoms.

The bartenders were still quickly pouring drinks for the big guys at the other side of the bar. The line on my side still hadn't moved. So I stood watching the white smoke billowing out of a spigot above the bar.

The music stopped, and the Buddy Guy blues band took the stage. The resting dancers, now looking for a drink, started to pack into the room. I couldn't even see the stage. Only the smoke, the lights, and the sweat marks on the shirts of the businessmen who were mashed up against me.

Suddenly the woman with the silver purse tripped. Her arms flew backward and hit a big bouncer type. He whipped around and lost his balance, and then slammed into my shoulder. I landed practically across the bar.

"Please give me a Coke," I yelled at the bartender.

He nodded and picked up a glass.

"Hey! What's that on his shirt?" the woman next to me said.

At the bottom of his shirt were two bright red splotches.

"He's bleeding," somebody said.

The bartender didn't look up, but wiped his hand on his shirt and then continued to hold the glass firmly while blood dribbled down his palm. Just a minor gash.

"Lemme get a Bloody Mary," shouted someone.

"I'm not thirsty anymore," I said, and turned around to leave.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steven D. Arazmus.

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