The Bad Project

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Chapter 27. Clubbing in Los Angeles/Marianne

Marianne had talked the entry women into taking a trip to the Temple Club in Silverlake district, on a Saturday night in early November. Crystal had been dubious, but Marianne told her she had a perfect ID, might as well use it. And she did want to have some fun. She had been working very hard. Marianne hadn’t invited Mandy. The six were all dressed up and they dazzled the driver of the college van she had booked to take them and pick them up. The driver tried to flirt with the women on the ride over to the club, and they exchanged a little bit of conversation with him, but basically wanted to save themselves for the club crowd.

Marianne thought it was amusing that the group had nicknamed her “The Social Chairman” after her high school friends had called her “The Bookworm.” But she was ready to run with it. She had gone on the internet and researched clubs using Cityguide. Then she had asked around about ones that looked good. The one that emerged with a lot of positive comments was the Temple, sometimes called Little Temple, a branch of a Santa Monica club near the eastern edge of Hollywood.

At the Temple, Marianne said, “Oh, lord. I thought this place was a club, but it looks like a bar.”

After they had entered and looked around at the décor, Elise said, “OMG, this is just like a Buddhist Temple!” Marianne knew Elise had never been inside such a thing, but she agreed that it definitely had an Asian atmosphere. Some of the walls were covered in bamboo, there were small rock gardens and Chinese lanterns with long red tassels. There was a raised stage in the main room. The women wandered around looking at the décor and scoping out the men who leaned on bars and lounged on couches.

The DJ played with a big black board of sound controls, but the music was just background. He hadn’t started his show yet. The crowd was sparse and mostly male except for their group. They felt the eyes flick over each of them as they walked to and fro, talking about the décor and thinking about what to order.

Marianne said, “I’d like a ‘Little Temple Connection.’ I think. What’s in it?”

The bartender said, “Grand Marnier, Hennessy, sweet and sour mix, and 7 Up. You’d like it if you enjoy sweet drinks.”

“Oh, yeah, sweet is good,” she said.

When it came, she said, “Oh, no. Look at the size of that thing.” She swirled and sipped. The citrus taste was refreshing. It was $10, but she thought she’d probably be able to make it last a long time. Some of the other women ordered cokes or beers. Marianne had warned them all about the way the van driver would monitor them to make sure they weren’t drunk when he came to pick them up. She whispered to Crystal, “I hope no one goes overboard.”

Crystal laughed. “Give me a Mango Margarita, please,” she said. When it came, she said, “It’s just as big as yours.” She winked at Marianne and mouthed, “Don’t worry, I’m not thirsty!” But they were going to dance. That could make everyone thirsty. Marianne crossed her fingers that nothing would go wrong.

The DJ started into his routine, playing some Hip Hop and music with an AfroLatin beat.

“C’mon here, let’s dance,” a thin man in a striped jersey, with wild ginger-colored hair, held his hand out to Crystal. She hopped down from the bar stool and walked to the dance floor with him.

As time went on, all women were asked to dance, and everyone wanted to dance with Crystal. Marianne was invited to dance last, but her dancing was hot, so after that, she never lacked a partner. The drinks were forgotten as they danced.

Marianne finally looked at her watch and saw it was 11:30. The van was coming for them at 12. She circulated around, yelling in the ear of each girl over the loud music to say that the van would be out front in a half an hour. Crystal nodded. Elise pushed the hand of her partner off her behind and made a face. Some of the others looked like they were having trouble with their partners too. The men had drunk enough that they were hard to handle.

Marianne said, “Come on, let’s show them some great woman-moves!” The six women threw all of their purses and keys into the middle of a circle and danced with abandon. The men around the edges catcalled and whistled as they moved their hips. The bartender whistled through his fingers, and then snapped his fingers along with the beat. His lips moved along with the words, but they couldn’t hear his voice.

At the witching hour, nothing went wrong. All six women came out to the van and loaded in. The suspicious driver didn’t make anyone get out and walk a straight line, even though there was lots of giggling.

“That was stupendous. I’m delirious,” Elise said. “Thank you, Social Chairman.” She mock-bowed to Marianne from her seat in the back row of the van. All the women applauded and said, “More, More! Speech!”

Marianne was embarrassed. She finally said, ’Thanks, everyone. You all made it a special evening. I loved the dancing. I’m sooooo tired but happy too.”

She whispered to Crystal, “I only drank a couple of swallows of that $10 drink. What a waste.” Crystal laughed and said it just meant she’d had fun dancing. On the trip back, Marianne fell into a doze. Crystal shook her awake when they arrived. They went inside. On the ground, leaning on their door, Liu sat waiting for Marianne to return. Her eyes narrowed.

“Liu, I told you I was going out with my entry tonight,” she said, trying not to make too much noise, but feeling very angry. “What are you doing here?”

“I just wanted to see you,” he said. What’s wrong with that?”

Crystal unlocked the door to their bedroom and went in, but Marianne and Liu sat down on a couch in the living room of the suite. “Nothing, but…well, I’m ready to go to sleep. I slept all the way back in the bus.” She couldn’t help yawning.

“That doesn’t look like a girl-party dress. And you smell like smoke.” Liu scowled at the floor.

“Are you cross examining me?”

“Where did you go? You’re all dressed up. You didn’t visit some library.” He cracked his knuckles. Marianne had always hated that when her uncle did it, and she made a face. Liu was so uncouth sometimes.

“Liu, you and I aren’t going together or anything. Hell, I don’t have to tell you everything I do.”

“Marianne, where were you?”

She felt like the stone on which too much water had dripped. It was easier just to answer him. “We went clubbing. Now I’m going to bed.” She got up. Liu sat for a minute, acting stunned. Marianne thought he was acting; he must have known it was something like that from how they were dressed. As she walked toward her room, Liu jumped up from the couch and faced her from about fifteen feet away.

“I don’t like you going to clubs looking for men. What kind of message is that for me? I could take you to a club. But no, you go looking for trouble with a bunch of white women. And one black one.” He hit the back of the couch with his fist and walked closer to her.

“My entry wanted to have fun together, not go off one by one with men. We don’t think white—black—Asian American. Are you a racist? Get over it! We went, we danced, it was really a wonderful experience for us all,” Marianne said. For some reason, she couldn’t go in and close the door. Liu walked over and stood a foot away, looking right into her eyes.

“Don’t you even care that you hurt my feelings? Is it all about you?”

“I don’t want to hurt anyone. But I need some freedom, and Liu, you want to control everything I do. Shit, I can’t deal with that. I just…” She shook her head.

Liu’s spiked hair looked sharp enough to cut. He reached out and touched her cheek with the index finger of his left hand. “You’re such a baby, trying out bad words. Things can go wrong. I just want to protect you.”

“I’m no baby. Damn it, you better get over thinking that.” She felt her heart pounding, rushed inside her bedroom, and slammed the door. Then she leaned on it for a minute, trying to calm down. She thought over what Liu had said and done. She felt like even his soft touch on her cheek had invaded her self-image. She just didn’t want to be the person he wanted her to be. It was so awkward to deal with him when she was such good friends with his sister. She sighed, slowly undressed, put her things away, and got into bed. Crystal was creaming her skin.

“Crystal, do you think I’m immature?”

“No, why? You haven’t had much experience, but you’ve read a ton of books. In some ways you know too much.” She smiled and Marianne felt encouraged to go on.

“Well, it’s Liu. He thinks I’m a baby and he has to protect me.” Marianne’s voice crackled with anger.

“He just wants you for himself. I was wrong about him, thought he just wanted sex and might even force you. Maybe he’s ready to make a commitment. I’d bet you’re not so ready.”

“Not with him, anyway. He wants to treat me just like my parents, keep me so protected I can never do anything risky at all. But I want the opposite. Risk is exciting. I find out about myself. Whether they are ‘nice’ things or not, they are new and different and I want to know them. But Liu, he won’t leave me alone. I don’t know what to do.”

“Can’t you tell him it’s all over between you?”

“No, well his sister Sharon is my mentor, you know? So I don’t want to be rude to him.” Was that shallow? Shouldn’t she be focusing more on how she felt about Liu?

Crystal might have been reading her mind. “Isn’t it rude not to let you be yourself?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. It’s confusing. It’s easy to give in to Liu. But it’s not Liu I dream about. It’s a man I can’t quite see. He’s the one, but I haven’t met him yet.”

“What will he be like? How will he be different from Liu?” Crystal got into bed. Marianne turned out the light and got into her own bed.

“He’ll want me to think, not just be a baby and let him make all the decisions. He and I will discuss things, enjoy reading and art and music together. I’ve never seen any relationship like that in my family. Chinese men tend to be very traditional. And I’m not.”

“Well, there’s plenty of time. No need to settle on anyone now. You’ve got years.”

“Not if my mom has anything to say. But I have a little time, while I’m here, to look around. She’s in my face so much back home, and she keeps me away from non-Chinese men anyway. Why shouldn’t I dream about a blond? Someone like Dr. Sandstrom, my philosophy professor, now, that kind of man would fit better into my dreams.”

“Well, I am falling asleep. See you tomorrow.” Crystal rolled over.

Marianne meant to dream about her perfect man, but she found herself thinking about how much fun she sometimes had with Liu. If he would only relax about her trying new things, she thought she might feel quite differently about him.

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