T’was the night we were on the loose, and Joey believed he could charm our way into Talk of the Town.

He’d done it before, he said, with a fake ID his cousin got him. Fifty bucks later, he got me one, too. I put it in my front pocket, instead of my wallet, so I wouldn’t accidentally hand them my real license.

“You look good,” Joey said, as our footsteps echoed down the stairs of the parking garage, “don’t be so nervous.”

“I’m not,” I lied, ashamed he could tell so much from so little. I had one nice button-down shirt, and it felt way too tight and way too pink; but Joey, being the preacher’s kid, fit into his collared royal blue and straight slacks as smoothly as he did his basketball jersey.

The square downtown was almost deserted. Joey told his parents he was staying at my place, and my parents didn’t care how long I stayed out, as long as I was with someone like Joey. Down an alley, with a speak-easy style entrance, Talk of the Town remained a hidden gem, frequented by those whose tastes were less mainstream and often louder than the music itself. Outside the door stood three bouncers, all in black. Two were skinny and had long, point-y beards, but the tubby middle one was clean-shaven. He wore a beret. “Cerberus,” I whispered.

Rubbing his fingernails down my back, Joey approached them with his own special brand of aplomb, crooked grin and hand poised for a shake or bro hug. Still, Cerberus probably, totally knew our IDs were fake. 

“Weren’t you here last weekend,” he said, when Joey handed it over.

“It’s his birthday. Twenty-one. So, had to come again.”

Cerberus returned Joey’s ID, then motioned for mine. I reached for my wallet, which didn’t have the ID. “Sorry,” I said, squirming because digging frantically in my pocket probably gave us away.

A group of girls emerged from the club, and one of the skinnies held the door open. Across the threshold, I could see the low lights, the wooden dancefloor, smoky DJ stand, and all the writhing, sweaty bodies in between, as well as hear the uhn-uhn, dst, dst, and feel the throbbing baseline in my core. In my memory, Joey and I look about thirteen, but that must’ve not been how we seemed. I now know how blurred the lines between seventeen, eighteen, even twenty-one can be. I now know so many things, but what I couldn’t see, or know, through that doorway then was how many drinks Joey would consume, nor how many shirtless guys would rub against and put their hands on our shoulders, chests, and lower backs, asking loudly between songs for our phone numbers, nor could I imagine how fine Joey would seem in the face of such drinks and solicitations, when later he drove us home on I-75, late into the morning, the two seconds it would’ve cost to jerk the wheel from him and keep us on the road.

Cerberus took about three full minutes with my I.D., staring and angling and applying delicate amounts of pressure around the edges—all of the things one prays, at that age, for someone to do to his body. “It’s new,” I said and smiled at him as sweet and light and flirty as I could manage.

“We call him Flip,” Joey added, noticing how he kept bending the ID, “because he goes both ways.”

When Cerberus gave it back, the blood redistributed throughout my body. “Happy birthday,” he said, stepping aside, and in we went.