In Washington, DC on October 29, 2016, this actually happened.
It was Adult Halloween and U-Street was crawling with anthropomorphized creatures and sexy versions of mundane people. If biology or history could be rewritten with pumps and fishnets, it was. I saw sexy Einstein.
The costumes offered a notorious anonymity: everyone knew who you were, nobody knew who you are. For once, people behaved like they wanted to.
Josh spoke to a hobo named Carlos. I saw Carlos's bloodshot eyes and rolled my own. This was both predictable and indicative of Josh's magnanimity. We're immersed in sexy cats and he seeks the condensed memoirs of the invisible man by the garbage bins.
Carlos, two thirds asleep, shuffles towards the fork where he'll ask for money. I would go on about how I was short on cash, about how the opioids swirling in Carlos's bloodstream tonight had dissolved the concept of money into a reflexively outstretched hand, but four women passed by--abruptly and dangerously close.
They suddenly stop about 10 feet away. A sexy leopard, a sexy bat, a sexy devil, and normal Frida Kahlo. They halt under the pretext of a navigational crisis, but they stand and glance expectantly.
We’re intoxicated to the point that lights truly glow. I glance at Josh and Carlos once more before walking towards the women and vomiting a predictable question at their feet.
"Where's a hip place around here?"
"What are you?"
"Your hat. Your friend has one, too. What are you?"
The sensible explanation would've been that the coonskin caps were part of an accidental but convenient costume.
Instead: "There's this band... from Spain--"
"Never heard of 'em."
"Well, we've just left their show... they play a song... "Davey Crockett"... Wikipedia... same birthday... Portland... sporting goods store... friends buying shotgun shells... long story... bought these instead... didn't know the band yet, actually..."
Yes, the coonskin caps aren’t related to Halloween, but rather the voluntary weekend attire of two adult males.
Sexy Devil, the main interrogator, says "weird," with a flatness that's impossible to convey.
Sexy Leopard is 1,000 miles away, filling in the seating chart for her wedding with That Man Interviewing the Hobo.
Sexy Bat stares at me with the surreal expression of someone watching a wildfire approach a neighborhood on muted airport television.
Normal Frida's simply confused.
Josh must've seen Frida's brow wrinkle into a W because he's just materialized by my side. This is fortuitous. One man wearing a dead animal on his head is a good reason to cross the street, but two is a punchline. Within four minutes, we're all en route to a party around the corner.
It's a new building. There's a door man. It's an expensive place to live, but the acoustics betray the cheapness with which it was built.
The six of us cram into the elevator. The tension's almost unbearable. Later, I'll learn that almost all of it stems from Josh's terror that he'll fart at any moment.
We careen down the hall towards the muffled sounds of a good time. The door swings open to reveal the host, an impressively drunk woman dressed as Khaleesi from Game of Thrones. After the inevitable squeal of well-educated white women reconnecting with each other subsides, Khaleesi introduces herself to me with a twirl worthy of daytime television. She then introduces herself to Josh--who is perhaps ten inches away from me--in precisely the same manner.
The party room, as it would come to be known, is actually three rooms--a useless foyer, a central room with a pool table and depressingly empty bookshelves, and a bar room. It's dim, green, and paneled with imitation wood. The only possible explanation for its existence is that someone was given $200 and asked to convert a hotel gym into an Irish pub.
But Khaleesi--who will introduce herself to us at least three more times--has apparently paid to rent it and even hired a bartender. He's ancient and, because I don't have a fucking clue what his real name is, now known as Antonio. He bears a striking resemblance to Clint Eastwood, if Clint Eastwood once encountered happiness.
Apart from Antonio, Khaleesi, and the initial group, there are two overdressed and sheepish men on the periphery, plus a dozen more women. The women are all between 25 and 35 and they all do very official things--dentistry and diplomacy.
You'd think it'd be fun: two out-of-towners, outnumbered at a ratio of six to one by attractive, successful women in far fewer clothes than usual.
It was hell.
Immediately, they closed in on us, then pulled us apart.
Suddenly, there were six names and six stories to juggle--to say nothing of the immense difficulty of maintaining enthusiasm as you shout your abridged autobiography over yet another shitty pop song. As it turns out, being the center of attention is exhausting.
But there was an open bar and, if we simply accepted that Khaleesi would continue approaching us to say "Khaleessssiiiii" and twirl around until she died of alcohol poisoning, we'd probably get a good story out of it.
And then it happened.
Through the din and desperation, between the sexy mammals and the sexy birds, came a booming voice: "upgrade to Spotify Premium for just $9.99 a month."
Across the sea of oblivious people, over the deck of Sexy Noah's Ark, I locked eyes with Josh. One glance, returned with inorganic speed, said it all:
"Oh god. Oh god. Why? It costs two grand a month to live here. She hired a fucking bartender. She can't spend another $9.99 per month?"
Within 20 seconds, we're pacing behind the frosted glass bathroom door.
"We gotta get out of here, Josh."
"I know. I know. But Frida. Frida's cool. She's into art. I've gotta say goodbye to her."
"I know, buddy, but you can't. They'll either beg us to stay or chase after us. Besides, how would we explain our reason for leaving?"
He splashed water onto his face. We hadn't said a word about the Spotify ad, but as he dragged the paper towel down his face, his eyes met mine in the mirror and he admitted "you're right, they'll never understand."
We quietly slipped into the hallway, but the careful movement soon gave way to a headlong sprint. Two big, brown, bushy tails sailing behind us as we raced for the elevator.
In the morning, before we fought our way to the airport through blinding hangovers and an actual marathon of road closures, we made time for coffee. Josh waited for the cortados while I staggered outside and sat on the ledge overlooking the canal in Georgetown. A moment later, he came out and passed me a glass. They'd written my name on the side in temporary hot pink paint.
It said "Camren".
If we ever crack the mystery of time travel, I'll return to this point, but let Josh dangle his feet over the water while I wait for the drinks.
And when I come outside and pass him the glass, it'll say "Khaleeeesssiiiiiiiiiiiii" on it.