It’s a Ketamine story. The phone rings. I answer it thinking it B, we’re supposed to meet and discuss work and he has packages for me. He’s my first contact in Miami. He is generous to a fault. I never ask anyone for anything, but somehow feel comfortable enough asking him for things.
“You wish it was B. It’s M, B’s secretary.” His voice is brilliant. I feel outclassed.
“Hi M, B’s secretary.”
“We’ll pick you up. We’re outside The Flamingo. Come down to the gate.”
I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with this reality show-calibre place that is The Flamingo. It’s South Beach distilled. All the Miami young and (augmented) beautiful on the hunt for sex and money. It definitely feels like home – but at the same time there’s something deeply disturbing (and moldy) woven through the walls. It’s a luxury slum, impoverished and extravagant all at once.
I jump on the train knowing that I won’t be able to get off, I don’t ask where we are going or what I should wear, I just throw on a loose dress over some tight-legged pants and figure it’s best to be comfortable. Also better too warm than too cold, so it’s the white disco fall jacket and I’m off. The elevator takes forever and they call again as I hit the gate. It’s good they did as I realize I’m a million miles away tonight when they do.
Out of it and fully present all at once.
In the car I meet M, not actually B’s secretary, and N. We’re all veteran Burning Man folk. As per usual these days, I am the queen veteran. B claims to have organized the night to maximize that. B’s driving through the streets of Miami and it’s obvious in seconds that M is 5-star brilliant and insightful. I can’t figure out what I feel about him but am drawn to him like a magnet.
We’re driving South on Alton into the heart of South Beach. M is mumbling a mile a minute and when I ask for him to repeat himself he does so without being self-conscious. Some of the first words out of his mouth are
“Would you like some K?”
I’m out of context and have been traveling so long that I have to confirm “Did you just ask me if I want some K?” I didn’t think this would be a ketamine story.
I pause. I think about it. First time drug experience, here and now? Ketamine story? Not sure.
“No, but thank you.” I am still thinking about the ketamine story.
I can tell that M and N are high, but I’ve never been around smart people on K and have no context for the high. Having no context becomes a theme for the evening. I realize how depressed and reclusive I’ve been. I realize that Miami isn’t bringing out the best in me… I’m not taking care of myself.
There are destructive forces here and I don’t have defenses for them. Yet.
We arrive at Monty’s, where people are eating raw shellfish and other seafood both indoors and out, around a pool illuminated in dark blue. There is a thatched roof on one of the bars and we head there, I drink a double shot of tequila which M buys. He questions my choice of tequila, neat, no chaser, no lime, in much the same way I questioned his offer of K, wanting to make sure he heard me right.
There are many people, burners mostly, the Miami young and creative elite. I talk with all, but mostly B and M. B is advertising me and my Burning Man accomplishments. I am proud and embarrassed and distracted from my other conversations because of his introductions. M notices.
“I want to get in the pool” whispers M. I do too. I want to throw off all my clothes, bare my socially unacceptable body, and jump in with a huge splash. M shows me photos of his motorcycle accident. It’s brutal.
There is a matchmaker. B talks about the Russian ballerina that she found for him for $500. He says he was with her for four months – which is a long relationship for him. She is now asking $1500 for a Thai woman. I smile and ask if she can find me a man – an eccentric genius that treats me both like a princess and a partner in crime. B nods in M’s direction and winks at me. B and I have already had long, loud talks about sexuality at Calle Ocho, straining to hear each other over the blaring music, so, you know, I trust his judgment. I take the hint and open myself.
With some liquid courage I confess to M I said no to the K because of not wanting my first time ketamine story to be here, at this random crappy alcohol-infused place. He lights up at my virginity. He is charming and brilliant and holds my hand through my arguments without pressure – and then holds my nose as he ramps me up on a timer he sets on his phone for every eight minutes. I am tickled by his handling of the situation. He gifts me with care and accuracy.
I haven’t done a new drug in almost a decade. The drip tastes pure.
“Just the tiniest amount” I say nervously as he preps my first bump.
“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you” is his response. I wonder if he knows how intently I am listening to him. I can’t help it. Everything he says shows deep understanding of me. Is it accidental? He seems so much like me. Irreverent. Defended by a huge brain. Above the law. Self-destructive. Distracted. I don’t know whether I like these in myself or him.
K unveils itself as a social lubricant and I feel myself getting high and expressive and outgoing. I dissociate a hair more, but I’m also more keenly aware of how dissociated I am at baseline – so it plugs me in as well as distances me. I turn out to be a hardhead as I am with everything. I wish I weren’t. I hate how needy it makes me seem when I ask for more.
I think of the descriptions that people have given me for the ketamine story over the years. None of them apply.
I watch myself analyzing myself analyzing. Who is this M? Is he good news? Is he bad news? Does he like me? Do I like him? Do I want to fuck him? Does he want to fuck me? Could I marry him? Does it matter? What about this drug? Do I like it? Is it making everything slightly non-linear?
And what about Miami? What about this place of constant celebration? What about these party people? What about the complete lack of consideration, the rudeness, the oppressed mentality? Could I live here? Could I live here for part of the year? Is this just a vacation spot? Why am I drawn here?
Viva la fiesta!
But what goes up must always come down. As with the ketamine story, as with every story.
I am stretched. M asks me if I have taken a walk yet. I walk to test the process of walking. It doesn’t feel much different from having some alcohol in my system. It takes some concentration. My muscles feel relaxed, but the connections aren’t dissolved. I am glad for yoga and my trained meridians, and I walk over the hole without falling in.
I watch B leaning on a post. There is something open in him that was closed before. I want to give him a hug and thank him for all he’s done for me, but I know we’re bros and that’s not cool. He confesses he is high as fuck. I wonder if he wants help. I don’t want to be his helper. I tell him that I’ve heard it’ll all be over in an hour and that I couldn’t have told he was that high if he hadn’t told me. I watch him relax. He doesn’t want these cool Miami people to know he’s out of control. I understand that.
I’m a little out of control. I spout off about illegal drugs in ways I shouldn’t, not to strangers, not in Florida. It feels good to pull myself out of my cocoon and be loud and opinionated and unapologetic. It feels like being a teenager.
For a moment I am unconscious of myself.
All too soon the ketamine story begins to fade. The rest of the night is sad and sinister, and seems as though we are chasing something. We are invaded by the timbre of Miami – everyone on the move for the next parade, the next party, the next pussy. We head to a Ted’s Hideaway for no ostensible reason. I don’t think they are drunk enough to chase their buzz. I am not drunk at all. I’m not high either. I want to be.
The bar is loud, and useless. It’s a dive bar in South Beach, but not divey enough for me, nor classy enough for me. It inhabits that uncomfortable mid-zone where I can’t enjoy myself.
It’s full of the runoff, not the riffraff.
B and I talk about work and money and investments and real estate and Miami. We walk there and cab back, just blocks. We compete for the cab against a group of women in high platform heels. M says they are called “Bambis”. I chuckle. I am unsure why we are doing any of what we are doing. It would be more fun to be in a comfortable place, nestled in conversation, or on a dance floor covered in sweat. That’s not what they want though. They want to chase the dragon. It’s the weekend, it’s the WMC, it’s Spring Break.
Soon enough we are back in B’s penthouse on floor 15 of The Flamingo, where your floor number determines your status. I stop on the 8th floor and bring up my vaporizer and have some weed for the first time in weeks. The weed is nice. It wrings the vulnerability out of me. I’m back behind the wall.
N goes on and on about my Burning Man contributions. I accept the flattery, smiling. I don’t know what else to do. He’s drunk and high, and a nice man. It feels like Burning Man. All I get there is praise. I don’t even hear it anymore.
Instead I chase the ones that don’t praise me.
N leaves and it’s me and B and M. They talk of The Flamingo and buying vs. renting and vacation rentals. Real estate is a common topic in Miami. Landlords and ladies abound.
I have no control or say and don’t try to voice any. M wonders about a female friend of his. He brings it up until I can’t help but have heard about it, then he gives it context by saying “I’m not invested”. I get it. He doesn’t want any ties and wants me to know that. There is talk of women. I see they want to fuck the women they can’t talk to.
B talks about double booking any arrangements with women because we can’t make up our minds. I mull that over and realize that he’s right, and that it’s profound.
I want to pick that apart, but the conversation moves on. They talk about meeting up with two young women M has been texting at a strip club. M feels guilty for discussing them like objects. I remind him that feeling guilty for being honest won’t get him anywhere. M asks me to accompany them. Twice. I decline the invitation.
“You guys can go though, have fun”
“Oh, can we? Thanks for the permission Zoe. Will you stamp my pass?”
M’s teasing shocks me. It’s not gentle. I like it, I like that he gives me shit, stands up to me, but at the same time I don’t like what it says about my personhood. I’m not one of the guys, nor am I a young slim girl they would design an evening around. I’m extraneous. I’m a novelty, I’m not a priority.
I want more of the drug just to get more personal attention.
Fuck that. I’m out.
Stories about the big city:
2: Los Angeles
4: Las Vegas