Can’t repeat the past?…Why of course you can.
Do you remember reading The Great Gatsby in High School? The book is about Mr. Gatsby, a sullen brooder who attracts admiration by his seeming success in achieving the American Dream during the 1920s. It is now 2020, one-hundred years have past since the roaring twenties and history is repeating itself before our eyes.
Moral ambiguity and the American Dream. This is the theme of the book. This is also a pervasive theme in the world again today. To be fair, it was also a major theme in the 60’s, the 70’s, the 80’s, etc, but I feel like “the roaring twenties 2.0” embraces moral ambiguity and the quest for the American Dream with extra pizzaz.
On New Years Eve I went to a party in a penthouse apartment on the 13th floor – the top of the EiffelTowers Condominiums, the same building where Alex lives on the 9th floor – my heartthrob turned best friend. It felt strange being on Alex’s turf while he was kicking off the new year in Tel Aviv.
Little did I know that the 13th floor was a portal to another dimension. The hallway looked like Alex’s hall. Grey and dismal. Then the door opened. Immediately, the sound of clinking glasses and animated voices assaulted my ears. I stepping into a room full of gorgeous, model-like people. The women wore glittering skin-tight dresses, and the men, expensive sports jackets with small bags of white drugs tucked away in their breast pockets. This was another echelon of society. The aristocrats. A New York City microcosm in this unfashionable college town.
I had gone to the party with my neighbor Lilly and her boyfriend Riley.
Lilly had brought Molly, the drug. We disappeared into the bathroom frequently, licked our pinkie fingers and put small amounts of the unbearably bitter white powder under our tongues. I don’t do drugs. Like ever. But we were kicking off a new decade, and tonight was to be one of total debauchery. Tomorrow I would re-join the nunnery.
Lilly introduces me to the host – Mr Gatsby, as we’ll coin him. I shook his hand. I attempted to start up a half-baked conversation about music after noticing his guitar and keyboard in the living room. The conversation was tepid and his face registered no interest.
I know him now. Well, know is a strong word. Does one ever really “know” Mr. Gatsby? I’ll share the things I have gleaned from the dozen or so times I’ve seen him since that party.
On the surface, Gatsby constantly presents an air of being disinterested and cooly ironic. This is alluring to many, as it leads them to believe he is the cool cat on the block. Too cool to smile at a party. In fact, too cool to allow his face to contort into the telltale signs of any emotion other than perhaps boredom.
Physically, he contains a sexual charisma that isn’t recognizable at first. He’s short and slight with sandy brown curls. His nose is delicate and effeminate and slightly turned up. His voice is sultry and melodic in a mid-baritone range. His eyes are dark and deep-set.
In fact, even his eyes look unremarkable until you stare into them and realize that they glow with something that only artists and musicians have – a melancholy that has been fostered by realism. I don’t know how else to explain it. The look of the proverbial tortured artist. It turns me on. Errant goats. People who don’t rely on societal blinders to live happy, normal lives. He plays keyboards in a post-progressive rock band. That’s his side-gig, so the artist analogy is legit.
There is always a little sadness around the emotional vestiges of an artist, a musician, a realist. And, there is sadness in his. But there is something else in Gatsby’s eyes too. Vulnerability. A little boy staring out of a grown man’s face asking for love.
Secondly, Mr. Gatsby’s very identity (as perceived by himself and others) is in part the material possessions with which he owns. His penthouse apartment is a bachelor pad-and-a-half. Apparently it was built by Nike for company parties, passed through a few owners, then sold to him for 1.4 million.
The kitchen resembles a bar with a large backlit counter and overhead neon lights. The floors are a modern grey concrete. The walls are made entirely of windows that overlook the ant-farm city below. His penthouse is a glass castle in the sky.
Outside there is a balcony with a Jacuzzi where he has been known to soak in the nude with large-breasted exotic looking women. With a wine glass dangling non-chalantly in one hand, he has perhaps discussed the wildly successful company he co-founded, which began as an idea on a bar napkin. And, he has probably gotten a little action of the sexual variety after his lofty diatribes of how he achieved the American Dream.
The American Dream – how easy it was to transfer from bar napkin into fruition. And you really known you’ve made it when you drink your morning coffee naked while looking down on the world from your glass castle in the sky – or so he tells the women.
Back to New Years Eve. I flirted with a hot Asian boy from New York. He offered me coke, which I declined. I obligatorily pecked a boy on the lips when the ball dropped at midnight. I had met him at the gym a few weeks prior and had invited him to the party, only to realize while there at the party, that I was already finding him blasé. I was relieved when he left early.
Then, when the Molly was really kicking in, my crew decided to head to a dance club. I threw on my black, puffer ankle-length, mammoth jacket and approached Lily and Riley making out while Gatsby dryly, jokingly reprimanded them for the PDA.
Apparently they had retorted that he was obviously “jealous” and that he should find his own lady to make out with. The Molly was now kicking in full force and I was too far gone to really register the conversation.
Allegedly, I was standing in front of Gatsby with my back turned to him. “Kiss her,” Lily had suggested, motioning to me. Perhaps there was a gentle hand on my shoulder. Perhaps I turned. Perhaps an inquisitive face inching towards me like a question mark. I’m not really sure. I just remember the kiss. The momentary glee of soft, tentative male lips on mine. “I’m going to stop this now though because I’m not into PDAs” he has said with awkward abruptness.
Then, without remembering how I got there, I was in his room still wearing my black puffer Eskimo jacket which he began pealing back to reveal my skin tight black top paired with my black leather mini skirt and chic knee-high boots. I had dieted for a week in an attempt to achieve the illusive “concave” shape to my abdomen, an almost-achievement which could quickly dissolve if I were to eat, for instance, dinner.
Damn,” you’re hot,” he had said. “I really like what is going on under that jacket.” I recognized his enthusiasm as being alcohol-induced. His previous disinterest had dissipated in the vodka monsoon that was flooding his persona. He was honing in on me – the random chic with the blond ringlets.
A group of giggling party-members burst in – a man with a goatee wearing a leopard-printed shirt who was locking arms with two happily dazed young women on either side of him. They approached us with animation.
Gatsby sighed. “Call me…please” he had said in defeat. He typed his number into my phone, and I floated out of the room and into 2020.
To be continued…