Night at the Theater

This one was a writing prompt – write a scene from a picture, which happened to be three girls walking into a building. It’s also a work in progress to be sure.

I hate Yolanda.
Not only have I been sitting here twiddling my thumbs while she has spent the past thirty minutes making her hair look “totally ridiculous” – which to be honest I’m not sure whether that falls into the category of good or bad – but she is making me go out to this stupid bar in the first place. And on Thursday, of all nights.
Thursday was our night. Aaron and I.
Notice how I say was. And how I am instead going out with Yolanda and Emily, who is also late, but not because she is making her hair look ridiculous but because she is trying to decide just how short her dress can be without creating potential for getting arrested.
I say was our night instead of is our night because it was the night where he didn’t have night class and I wasn’t working a night shift. Because he would hop on his drums and I’d bust out my saxophone and we’d jazz up his tiny garage to our hearts content then order Indian food, falling asleep to some obscure black and white movie on Netflix until we woke up the next morning and had to fall back into the rhythm of regular life, school or work.
I say was our day because I found out that on days that were not our day, when he didn’t have night class, he was waking up in the morning with some other girl.
So that is why on Thursday, our day, I am sitting twiddling my thumbs in my favorite red pumps waiting for Yolanda to make her hair ridiculous and for Emily to find the happy medium between sexy and porn star.
I think about three hours later they both emerge from their respective bathrooms in our apartment, Emily teetering on white platform shoes in a yellow cutout dress and Yolanda’s blonde hair looking admittedly ridiculous, in the good category.
She says, “You hoes ready yet?” which I know is an endearing term because Yolanda only calls people she hates nice names like sweetheart. She steps out the door and is calling us a cab almost before I can grab my bag and hop in. Emily teeters right after us and closes the cab door just as Yolanda is yelling, “To Vanderbilt’s!” followed by a bunch of “woo!”s. Emily follows suit. I think she might already be tipsy. In fact, I think I might have never known a time when Emily wasn’t a little tipsy.
Vanderbilt’s turns out to be this trendy little club built where the old Vanderbilt Theater used to be before they demolished it, according to a little plaque outside the door. It was built during the Great Depression. I find this oddly fitting. I am starting to warm up to Vanderbilt’s.
We are going here because Yolanda’s father hates this sort of place, and Yolanda likes to do things her father hates. Her man friend is also meeting us here, and Yolanda likes to do her man friend. Her man friend, Bobby, likes to go to bars. When he actually does show up.
However, from the outside looking in at Vanderbilt’s, I’m not entirely convinced they ever finished demolishing it and building a new one. It kind of just looks like back in 50’s when they were tearing it down someone just shrugged their shoulders and left in the middle of the job, then fifty years later someone decided to stick a nightclub in it. Still, no matter how beaten up it may appear from the outside, and how much I don’t want to be here, I can’t help but notice it’s still beautiful. Seashell blue paint peels on scalloped balconies, Victorian era reminiscent columns scale the walls. The entrance gate is made up of spiraling steel bars. I’m just thinking that maybe we’re all a little like Vanderbilt’s, beaten and bruised blue but beautiful if you look close enough, when Yolanda drags both me and Emily out of the car and arm in arm we walk through the spirally steel gates. Then the only thing I can think is this is probably the kind of place where chainsaw murderers hang out.
It turns out that the inside of Vanderbilt’s does at least not seem to the untrained eye like the kind of place where chainsaw murderers hang out. It seems like the kind of place where twenty to thirty somethings who all have an advanced degree in art history or peace studies or just looking really cool all convene to talk about cultured things. I run my fingers through my hair. The most cultured thing I can think of are the cheese sticks in my fridge.
I turn to Emily because I predict I will need a drink soon and Emily is the expert, but she is already in the corner chatting up some guy who is a cross between a college art professor and a model. It took her all of ten seconds. The swanky interior must have thrown her off her game of the usual five.
So I turn to Yolanda but she is just staring at her phone waiting for Bobby to text her.
The song in the room ends, the music sweeping out from some circular speaker contraptions on the walls that remind me of traffic lights. The next song is Saturday in the Park and as the notes spread across the floorboards I can’t help my fingers from playing, my leg the imaginary keys of my saxophone. Maybe in my head I will always be playing the saxophone on Thursday night.
The walls are lined in velvet purple and there’s a couch in the corner and at the bar there are shelves so full of all different bottles of alcohol in so many shapes and sizes I can’t decide if it’s the world’s greatest sculpture or an avalanche waiting to happen.
Yolanda is doing that thing where she flicks her fingers, so that probably means Bobby stood her up. While I stare at a man wearing an actual beret, I say, “Bobby’s got some interesting taste.”
“Mhm. The sweetheart just texted me he’s not coming,” she says, then turns around and orders three shots of vodka. This is usually the way that Yolanda deals with this.
So I sit on an empty stool at the bar which by the look of it most likely came from an antique store. I watch Yolanda take shots while I think about how I still hate her for dragging me here on a Thursday night of all nights,
Suddenly another art teacher film director type is sitting there too, buying another round for her. I think that some man come up to me and offers to buy me a drink but I’m too busy listening to the ending of Saturday in the Park and wondering if Yolanda is ok, that I don’t even pay any attention to him.
The song ends and changes back to some techno beat. People start to dance. Emily is talking to a different guy now – well, less talking and more recreational activity if you catch my drift – and I’m only watching her for one second, but when I look back Yolanda is gone from the bar.
I scan the room of swaying people and cool mood lighting, and catch a glimpse of Yolanda’s blonde ridiculous hair in the back of the room going around a corner, following art guy. I get up from my antique stool and follow.
“…tore it down in the fifties but they kept a little in the back here if you’ve got a key…” Art guy is whispering a little too close to Yolanda’s ear. He has some kind of accent that I can’t put my finger on but want to describe as “upper class.” Yolanda laughs a tinkly drunk laugh and they both push through a green door that blended into the velvet walls and shadowy lights.
If Aaron were here he would tell me that if this was a horror movie, going into that room would ensure that I would be the first to die. But it’s Thursday night and Aaron isn’t here to tell me that, so I got through the door too.
The door shuts behind me and the pulsing beat of the techno music stops instantly. Heavy silence fills the room.
There is no light but the little that is seeping through the crack under the door. When my eyes adjust, my mouth hangs open. It was right thinking that whoever demolished the Vanderbilt didn’t do such a good job. Because I am looking at what’s left of it.
One wall that now makes up the bar on the other side splices the room in half, but there are still rows of weathered sloping seats, half a balcony. Thick red curtains drape over the dusty half-stage, and I can see it when it was alive, full of applause and music, ringing with laughter. Even the ghost of something can tell the story of what it once was if the thing was great enough.
Then I remember Yolanda.
“Yolanda?” I call out. It almost feels like a violation, to cut the silence of this place.
There is nothing. My voice unsettles the dust in the air. The empty seats stare at my in the dark.
I stare back, thinking they might be the saddest things I have ever seen, once so full but now empty forever, while also thinking that I’m not sure I’ll be hating Yolanda so much anymore, because I’m not sure Yolanda will be around to hate.


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