“What are you doing?” Regina said over the music.
“I’m watching the purses,” I shouted, “this place makes me feel uncomfortable.”
“Are you scared of being in a gay bar?”
“No I don’t like clubs that much. The noise, it’s killing me.”
She grabbed my arm and mouthed I’m sorry.
“Come on,” she said pulling me. “Let’s get back with Ri!”
I tried to point to her purse again but at this point it didn’t matter. She pulled me in close to her and brought her hands against my back, before yanking them away.
“Why are you sweating so much?” she asked.
I didn’t realize I had. I touched the back of my shirt and felt the sweat drip from my clavicle to my lower back. If my back felt like a torrent, my forehead must’ve been worse. I muttered some apology but she was already shaking her head, dancing to the music and swaying along. I tried to say something else but already she wasn’t listening. She was somewhere else in a trance with the music. At one corner of the club, Ri grinded with a tan boy with chiseled abs and jelled blonde hair. His friends made a semi-circle around them, cheering him as he took his t-shirt off and twirled it around in the air.
I looked away and swayed with Regina, keeping up with her movement and the heavy beat. My eyes darted back and forth between Regina, her purse on the table, the DJ, and the flashing lights. I wondered how long I could keep this up. The liquor had flown out of my head a long time ago and the darkness engulfed me, like pebbles streaming down my head. I closed my eyes to turn away from her. When I opened them, I spotted the Soldier in the crowd dressed head to toe in full battle rattle. He was late but at least he showed up, as he always had for times like this. Nights like this. Same guy for five years straight. ACH with the PASGT attachment, body armor, combat uniform pants, and standard issue boots. He stood there with his rifle on both hands, rifle pointing down, flush against his chest. He looked at me and I looked at him. His face was ashy, caked with dirt and spots of blood that stuck out from his normally pale, pink, skin. Part of his sunglasses was broken to the right side and I could make out his blue iris. He lifted his head at me and I nodded back.
Regina grabbed my arm and dug part of her nails into my skin.
“What do you want to drink?”