Jennifer MacNeil / QSL

Indonesia is a Basement on King Street

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I’ve been trying new things. I’ve been trying to put myself out there and open up to new experiences. It’s like a hip, edgy Eat, Pray, Love thing. I recently channeled my own collegiate Julia Roberts the only way I knew how: by putting on an ass-hugging pair of jeans and a pushup bra and following my friends to “some house a few blocks away. I don’t really know. Whatever Jen.”


It’s freezing outside, so my glasses fog up as soon as I walk in to this huge, dark basement that is at the bottom of a seriously narrow set of stairs—Cosmo has referred to glasses fog as a sexy party look, #2015. A single red light bulb hangs down from the exposed ceiling, which is how you know the house owners are trying way too hard. I don’t know whose house I’m in or who half the people around me are, but occasionally people around me smile at me or wave from across the room. A remix of a remix of a song is pounding through a set of speakers at the back of the basement where three guys stand “mixing” (monitoring a Spotify playlist) and it is so totally not fresh.

Everyone (literally everyone) is drunk off their asses and I’m fucking sober.

The entire room is packed wall-to-molding-wall with bodies. Everybody is grinding on everybody and the air reeks of weed, alcohol, and sweaty millennials with self-esteem issues. I get short glimpses of people I know—a girl who lives down the hall, the bearded guy from my writing class, that one dude who is just everywhere. It’s so dark and so booze-filled that I wonder if I can get drunk from the odor of rum, or coke, or whiskey.

I follow my friends to the center of the basement. Everyone is dancing and somehow everyone looks okay doing it, as if they all went to the same class to learn how to properly dance in a crowded basement. As if they’re all pursuing a B.F.A. in Basement Dance Performance with plans to one day get their M.F.A in Looking Not Really that Bad At All, Actually. Fighting the feeling that I look dumb, I dance too—Julia Roberts would want me to dance.

My friend grabs my arm. “You’re not dancing!”

“I completely am dancing,” I shout over the music.

“No, no, no. You gotta dance like this. You gotta, like, touch your hair and put your arms up. You gotta just… feel it. You know?” She demonstrates for me, running one hand through her hair and holding her bottle up with the other, eyes closed, face tipped toward the ceiling.

The song changes and she screams out, “The DJ’s playing Gambino! I fucked the DJ! I made this happen! This is playing because of my vagina!”

The music shakes through the house and layered underneath the music is the sound of all of the voices attempting to shout over the music. There are groups of girls in fringed crop tops dancing with each other, sipping Bacardi raspberry rum in half-full bottles of Hawaiian Punch (they’re dancing with their hands in their hair). Couples are scattered throughout making out, despite the fact that the strangers around them are close enough to join in if they wanted to. A bird’s-eye snapshot of the crowd would show fifty percent top-knots, fifty percent snapbacks, one hundred percent solo cups and cheap soda bottles held proudly in the air.

In my collegiate Eat, Pray, Love, this basement is Indonesia.

I feel drops of something land on my chest. A guy a few people away from me threw his beer in the air. He gives me a look that says “sorry bruh” and continues rubbing his crotch into the ass of the girl in front of him. I shrug. It’s cool, man. We’re cool.

I wonder how people have parties like this. It’s past midnight, aren’t their neighbors pissed? How did so many people find out about this party? How did that one quiet, weird kid from CORE find out about this party? I’ve literally never gotten a Facebook message talking about sweaty basement parties and I don’t think house parties are advertised on the Stall Street Journal. And who was the first person to get here? Was it just a couple of people and the DJs just chilling in this basement? Literally, who the fuck was the first person who got here? I have to know. Why does everyone pay five dollars when all you get for it is admission to a crowded basement in which you drink your own alcohol? Why don’t I drink, again? Why didn’t I smoke first? Is this what I missed out on in high school?

How is it that I think I’m having fun and having a shitty time all at once? Fuck. I don’t know any of the answers, but I know why I don’t know: I’m fucking sober.

Regardless, I dance with my hands in my hair. Julia Roberts would want me to.

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