I used to call them Velvet Ropes. And by this I meant the pretty ones.
I called them Velvet Ropes because the pretty were always chosen. Meanwhile, the average or below stood on the outside looking in.
After the spinning lights and smoke-filled rooms with loud trance-like music in a Midtown nightclub, and after the New York City freak shows with painted faces or transgendered influence, we decided to head further downtown.
We were called Bridge and Tunnel. We were called this because our only way into Manhattan was either over a bridge or through a tunnel. This meant we were not of the city, but part of a wanting crowd that lived elsewhere.
It meant we were eager to fit, but we were unfitting because of our geographical difference. In other words, we were a nuisance to the local culture.
Walking down Houston Street, we stopped in some of the bars. One of which, seemed odd because of its crowded but quietly candlelit tables.
I was first to push through the door. Next were Dave and another Dave behind him. Then Adam walked though; then Greg, and then three girls we met somewhere else and for some reason, they followed.
The room was dark and the only lights were the white fixtures at the bar, which shined upwards and illuminated the faces of two bartenders in tight white shirts. One of them was male and the other was female.
The female had thin eyes like the shape of a narrow almond. Her light brown skin was flawless and her hair was sprouted with short strands of dreadlocks with white shells tied at the ends of different dreads. She had a somewhat large silver hoop pierced through her nose, deep brown chocolate lips, and bright white teeth.
Her deep brown nipples poked through the thin material of her tank-top shirt. She moved quickly but not overly so.
The male bartender was chiseled. He looked like something from a magazine. However, his skin was the opposite color of his partner. His hair was flowing with long bangs that hung around the sides of his face and dangled at his chin. The back of his head was shaved; the back of his neck was tattooed with set of eyes, and same as the other bartender, he moved quickly but not overly so..
As I walked through the door, I was hit with the aroma of clove cigarettes. I stopped after moving three steps because the room was so quiet. In fact, I stopped so abruptly that Dave walked into me and the other Dave walked into him.
“What the fuck?” asked Dave.
“What the fuck is this?” asked the Dave behind him.
Then Adam came in with the three odd looking girls and asked, “How come everyone is so quiet?”
Amidst the silence, our loud intrusion was met with an onslaught of hushing noises.
Then I heard man speak out in an angry feminine voice, “Why don’t you go back over the bridge where you belong.”
We left quickly and found ourselves on Broome Street. We waited outside of a small place with a tall bouncer dressed in all black. He stood beside a tall thin man with frosted hair and tight, short sleeved shirt. The tall thin man was the club’s promoter.
He stood on red carpet and on the opposite side of velvet ropes with a clipboard in his hand. The promoter never looked directly at anyone on the entrance line. He only addressed the good looking or familiar faces. He allowed single women and the pretty people. That was it.
Each time the promoter saw someone as desirable; he unhooked the latch of the velvet rope to its pole, lifted it, and allowed the chosen people to walk inside.
There were nights when I made it through lines like this. There were times when I was accepted and times I was not.
On this night in particular, I was not.
At the time I was still young. I was so confused about who I was and who I was supposed to be.
I used to believe, “It’s not what you did; it was how you did it.”
It’s not what you drank; it was how you held your drink, or carried a cigarette in your hand.
Everything was about the pose, or the strut.
At the time, someone I knew had a shirt that said, “It’s not who you are… it’s what you wear.”
And beneath that read, “I mean, who really cares who you are anyway?”
That shirt made sense to me.
Awareness is not always an instant thing. It took a long time for me to learn about my own beauty. Age set in and the need to fit or belong to a crowd lost its importance. I came to the realization that real beauty is more than skin deep. Beauty comes in different shapes and sizes; beauty comes in different ranges too and regardless to the flawless exterior, and ugly inside can make even the most beautiful seem average or worse.
Every so often, I see some of the old faces from the old crowds.
I see some of the velvet ropes, as I used to call them.
I guess age is not always kind…