Let me set the scene.
We’re at Kalani’s New Years Ball and it’s the first week of 2020.
Thereʻs loud, trendy music. Colorful, flashing strobe lights. Dancing bodies. Boys in black. Girls in black. Deep, plunging cocktail dresses. Boys in fancy suits. Remixes of Cardi B’s Bodak Yellow.
People paid $60 to be here. I should enjoy it, dance and abandon my inhibitions, but I don’t.
I think there’s something tragic with trying to be happy. Happiness is bubbling, warm, and enjoyable; Of course, everyone wants it.
When you donʻt have happiness, you feel hollow and something else fills the absence. For me, I think I become jaded and apathetic.
I sit on a dark sofa with a cool Sprite. I stare at the flashing dance floor. I see people I do and don’t know. Memorably, there are the girls in heels who stand in a circle with their friends, they bob slightly and canʻt catch the beat and there are the boys hyping up two others in a mini dance battle, they scream and cheer. And there are the couples dancing in each others’ arms.
During a particularly peppy, bouncy song, people are everywhere; hopping and weaving to the beat.
I suppose I should be laughing and jumping around too. There’s something wrong here, something wrong with me, maybe. it feels like I’m missing something; especially during the times, I’m in a crowded room.
I think there’s something especially tragic about everything when you stare at familiar faces smiling and laughing and cheering, and you smile-grimace back at them while you feel blank. Empty. Boring. Just wasting time.
Stuff comes to me and I react. I donʻt do things on my own, and I donʻt think Iʻve really ever managed to put much effort into much in my life.
I feel the seconds clock down. Remix time. Stop the beat. It’s time for another song. It’s trendy, I guess or maybe the DJ’s millennial vibes just creep into the song choices.
Whenever I’m chasing happiness, apathy just seeps into the night or day. I think sadness, or loneliness, or melancholic feelings love to chase me. I know they chase others but a lot of people just shrug it off.
To be honest Iʻm quite jealous of that. I feel so tired and Iʻm not even sixteen. I hope itʻs just “teenage angst” like what my parents tell me but I doubt it. I have it good, I know, but is being physically present enough?
I asked my friends, my acquaintances, and occasional strangers how they felt. Maybe itʻd good Iʻm doing something on my own for once. I miss being curious and adventurous or whatever I was a while ago.
When I slide into a couple getting some appetizers in the food line I ask them about this crowded “ball”. The couple just glanced at each other with smiles in their eyes. I guess they felt pretty good.
I don’t know them but I’m glad they have…happiness. Relived, I guess. There are good things out there. It works for them and thatʻs great. For me, a relationship would be interesting but my last “serious” one didn’t work out well for me.
Some part of me is okay enough, to not have a relationship with anybody. It would be best not to bring a bag of issues into something fragile like a high-school relationship.
I asked my friend about how everything felt. She was blotting her face with matte makeup powder. Getting ready to go back to the dance floor. “It feels great. LOL, why are you asking me this?… Don’t you feel it too?”
I smile and tell her, “Just asking.”
Others tell me, and others show me. One of my friends brings his camera and we pose with different people with the Waikiki sunset glowing on my gold sequined dress and their posed bodies.
People say I look really nice…and that makes me rapid-fire something back at them. I take genuine compliments and it adds to my own ego.
I think I cling to my own ego but Iʻm pretty sure it’s just a facade.
Someone grabs my hands and spins me like we’re doing the tango. We don’t mind the beat. I humor my friends and some newly introduced friends-of-a-friend. I play the part. I dance, I weave, I breeze through the crowd.
And then I leave to hide and lounge in some less-loud area.
I don’t think it’s because I’m tired.
I breeze through the crowd, I saunter across the balconies outside, and then I look to everyone I know. Is it enough to breathe? Is it enough to be physically here, there, or somewhere? Is there some magical life formula that I’m not quite getting?
I feel like a fuse, or a pretty, crackling sparkler. A fuse is a device that melts when too much electricity flows through it. It does its job to protect something more important and then it’s thrown away.
A sparkler looks good on your Instagram. Itʻs simple, full of energy and light, and then it’s gone. After it loses its brief spark, itʻs disposed of.
Is life a gigantic puzzle in which my edges aren’t quite fitting in? I ask myself quietly as I take off my fancy 5 ½ inch heels. Out here in the club night air, I feel the tug to chase normality again. To feign a sense of unity with the other dancers, dancing away the night.
I move back-and-forth to the dance floor, like a moth to the light. As I act and play my part, I remember everything. How to match my steps to the beat, what smile suits the song and setting, what person to drag away and dance with, et cetera.
This is a simple equation: I know how to dance and spin to some beat. I like to think that I’m that sparkling, on-beat, obnoxiously cheery teenager. And then the night ends and I count the days left until school starts again in my mind, one day closer.
The night ends at 9:30 p.m.
As I hold open my car door to let my two friends in, I smile blankly. Forty-five hours and thirty minutes until the second semester starts and I go back to being sassy, bright, and social.
In the car ride after my friends have been dropped off, the car is silent. My father and mother humor me and my songs play. As the songs drift off into the background, the city lights look hazy.
Iʻve barely learned the difference between a credit and debit card and yet I feel so exhausted and weak.