I’m in SAKS Fifth Avenue in Sarasota, Florida and I’m 22 and I’m desperately searching the shop floor for a cool leather jacket.
It’s 6 PM and the store is teeming with plastered women clumsily clutching champagne flutes while hungrily pawing at expensive apparel. I’m at one of those genius shopping events where stores get their customers Nice & Hammered before encouraging them to drop 2k on a handbag made in China that’s already two seasons too late.
“Do youu thinkth this is chic?” A sun-fried woman slurs to another sun-fried woman. They both have short haircuts. Not cool lesbian short haircuts. A Kate Gosselin circa 2001 haircut.
A “may I speak the manager” haircut.
A “my son would never” haircut.
A “isn’t fun?” midwest chop.
I can smell their hair gel. It smells cheap and toxic. Just the way I like it.
“Honey, I think you destherve it.” The woman slurs back to her friend. The garment in question is a black and white striped maxi dress with long sleeves.
I think it’ll look nice on the sun-fried, short-haired lady so I tell her.
“You should totally get it,” I vocal fry even though I don’t know the women and no one has asked me for my opinion. I say this with great authority as if I’m fucking Rachel Zoe — not a 22-year-old with pitted acne scars and ratty clip-in extensions bought at Sally’s Beauty Supply for under a hundred.
The women warmly smile at me and we clink champagne glasses and for a moment I feel a deep swell of sisterhood. “You deservth the dress,” I slur in solidarity to my new friends.
I wink and walk away.
My eyes zero in on a black leather jacket with shoulder pads that look like arrows pointing toward the sky. THUMP THUMP THUMP pounds my little heart. I set my champagne on a little shelf peppered with Juicy Couture perfume and tear the jacket off its hanger. I feel like a dog biting into the flesh of a raw elk.
I slither like a snake into buttery leather. I don’t need to look in the mirror to know it fits but I do my due diligence out of moral obligation to the council of Department Store Etiquette. I might feel like a savage but I don’t act like one.
I walk like a gunslingin’ bull dyke toward the mirror. The lights are florescent and age me a decade but I look more myself than ever before. I feel more myself than ever before.
“YOU HAVE TO BUY THAT JACKET! YOU HAVE TO BUY THAT JACKET!” A boy’s voice bellows behind me. There’s sexy Mexican swag to the sound of his voice.
I whip my head around. The boy looks like a fawn. His eyes are large and brown and Bambi-like and his skin looks like it’s been lightly kissed by the Swiss sun on a skiing holiday somewhere bougie: Gstaad, St. Moritz, etc. He’s wearing a sky-blue button-down and skinny black dress pants and shiny black loafers. His legs are long and lean: Deer legs.
He extends a bronzed hand toward me.
“I’m Eduardo,” his eyes twinkle like a gay Santa Clause.
“I’m Zara.” His hands are soft like the buttery leather jacket.
“I know your mom.”
“Yes. She’s a client at the salon at The Met. I work at the salon at The Met.”
“Oh shit.” I twirl a lock of damaged hair self-consciously. “I know who you are.”
Eduardo smiles so brightly the room vibrates.
“She talks about you all the time,” I say shyly.
“Shall we grab some more champagne?” Eduardo purrs. The subtext of Shall We Grab Some More Champagne is want to be best friends for life?
“Fuck yes,” I say to the champagne and the best friendship.
I buy the jacket. It’s the first time I’ve ever spent big girl money in my life. It’s worth it. People stop me in the street to ask me where I got it. A model I know buys it too and I feel like the most glamorous girl in the world because a model has copied me.
Eduardo and I go out every single night to a dive bar downtown called “Smoking Joes.” We start calling it “Smoking Lows” because it’s a dark crowd. It’s all heartbroken misfits screaming into buckets of gin. I like it because you can smoke inside and cigarettes are my life-force. Sometimes I carry little bright orange packets of powdered Vitamin C in my fake Chanel bag and sprinkle it into our Vodka Cokes.
“This will stop you from getting a hangover in the morning,” I always lecture with great pride. The truth is we don’t get hungover. We’re 22 and naturally rail-thin and obnoxiously healthy and have no idea how good we have it and how bad the hangovers and the bloat and the anxiety will get.
By 1 AM Eduardo is always wearing the leather jacket. It looks good on him.
“We’re the only people who can fit into this jacket,” I meow into his ear which isn’t entirely true though it is a size XXS.
Eduardo always laughs wickedly when I say that. If only we knew that ten years later we’d be on the streets of Soho lamenting so loudly about our COVID-19 weight gain that a man thinks we’re talking about sobriety and yells to us that he’s been in AA for ten years and that we should try it. We didn’t know then that I’d scream back “thank you!” and we’d laugh about it over $19 glasses of Sauvignon Blanc at a restaurant called “Antique Garage” on Mercer Street. We didn’t know then that I’d be wearing red lipstick almost every day and he’d be contemplating buying platform boots by Alexander McQueen.
We didn’t know anything in those days.
That’s why they were so much fun. We lived for the night. We lived for the wild nightlife characters we’d be magnetized to like a moth to a flame. We didn’t know any better than plastic bottle liquor and our bills were eerily low at the end of the night.
At 3 AM Eduardo would not only be wearing my jacket but also my bag and we’d stumble into the streets and call a cab. We’d tell the cab driver we were fraternal twins as I drew freckles across the bridge of Eduardo’s nose with a brown wet n’ wild eye pencil from the drugstore. We’d hold each other up as we attempted to sneak into my parent’s house gracelessly like whatever the opposite of a Ballerina is. I’d hush the barking dog and Eduardo would sit on the counter and we’d binge on hunks of Swiss cheese dunked into cream-cheese wrapped around deli sliced ham. We’d eat till there was no room left in our young bellies and then we’d crawl up to my bedroom and pass out in our makeup.
In the morning we’d have giant cups of tea with my mother and fill her in on all the gossip.
“I think the guy is gay and has a crush on Eduardo,” I’d say breezily.
“Oh, Eduardo! Do you fancy him?” My English mum would ask her long cool blonde hair dancing past her clavicles draped in a satin pink robe.
“He’s not my type.” Eduardo would say firmly. Case closed.
One time we asked a sweet red neck we met at the dive bar to take us for a ride in the bed of his truck.
“I’ve always wanted to ride in the bed of a truck,” I exclaimed.
“Me too!” Eduardo gasped placing a manicured hand against his unmanicured heart.
The red neck was down so we skipped down the street and hopped in the back of his truck. I felt excited like I was going on Safari in East Africa. We bounced around in the back of his truck as we observed main-street from a whole new lens. We had no idea how much danger we put ourselves in back then. Guardian angels had to retire the next year from so much exhaustion. We took shots of adventure and washed it down with cheap champagne. I was happy back then. I had my leather and my best friend.
My debut book GIRL, STOP PASSING OUT IN YOUR MAKEUP: THE BAD GIRL’S GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR SH*T TOGETHER is available NOW on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, AUDIBLE, and BAM! If you send me a screenshot of your order, I’ll send you swag!