“Nights at the Milk Bar”

Milk-Bar

She parks the silver van a block away on a low-lit street that is cold and quiet. So is everywhere else there, the main intersection of Haight especially, but it’s not too bad with scattered people tracing the sidewalks or standing in with the chill in front of dark bars.

            We’re going to make this Thursday the first of Saturday nights. We don’t plan on drinks, having settled our fix back at the apartment with Vodka Redbulls lasting seven rounds of Apples to Apples. We’re not really feeling the cold, we’re not really sure how it’s going to go, crossing the street. It’s a matte pavement and the only gloss comes from few stars in the sky and the metal beads on my shirt. And then there’s also few signs along the Haight lit up in green or white neon, despite being closed.
            The Milk Bar’s lit, and open.
            The sign juts out from the cemented venue in illuminated red—he points at the sign and asks me if they got the name from Corova in A Clockwork Orange. I want to say yes, but I really don’t know.
            None of us have been here, and once inside we’re not that excited it’s the first time. It’s dark and warm, and plain white walls drape into the couches and tables which are equally pale. Above the mirrored bar hangs a red and green mural of a Vietnamese child soldier—it’s the only visible piece of this place anyone put effort towards in making a statement, to try and stand out from the other dance venues with overpriced drinks.
            There’s also the back room, the dance floor where from the DJ booth echoes a strong tribal beat that’s moved along electronic waves for a sound so experimental, but expected. It’s my friend’s music. He’s been looking forward to this set all week.
            There are four of us girls and a boy. He goes to buy me Coke and amaretto, my signature. Either to make the $11 it cost worth his wallet or the liquor was a sting, I stay latched to the glass and the brim is still high the whole night. The girls take sips, and there seems to be plenty for all of us.
            Faces of girls from freshman year stand along the bar top downing yellow beers and try not to look at anyone beyond themselves. I want to say hi—I haven’t talked to them in two years. In a second thought I stay standing on the dance floor.
            The walls are still plain and the back room’s spinning a disco ball that does nothing but entertain the static.
            Girls in lace and mint dance in heavy boots and unintentionally captivate fantasies of older creeping Latinos.
            I stare at one man and try to tell one of the girls about him. She can’t believe it so she gets closer and disappears among whirling bodies. She comes back shaking her head, and laughing because no, the tall black man is not wearing a white jumpsuit.
            It’s only a neat, saggy two-piece with Burberry across his shoulders in a scarf.
            A new set is introduced by two young men in black tank tops and white wayfarers.
            Their stuff is slower—racier.
            And none of us can feel it nor when we try to.
            After the amaretto’s watered down and the girls from freshman year try to swerve and nod towards the disco ball, I ask my friend if there’s time to head to Fell Street. The same nights on a Thursday there offer better sounds and swathed walls of red velvet.
            No thanks, she tells me. I have work in the morning at ten.
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