Because We Never Made It To the Front Row That September in San Francisco

San Francisco, the town made as corporate as Lana Del Rey made flower crowns. The town where she naturally flocked to so as to showcase her hippie-dippy folk singer nature in all its glory. The girls flew in from different corners of the land to join forces in cultivating the ideal concert experience. Something that would bond them together forever. Not that they weren’t already cemented in their friendship as it was, having endured all manner of relationship traumas during their time together in New York. New York: source of all pain and according PTSD. Gloria was the only one with the stamina to continue remaining in that town without losing her will to do anything, much less function at all.

Fiore had decided to flee to Mexico City to join the growing number of expatriate artists attempting to re-create Paris in the 1920s, while Cherry (real name: Sherilynn, as she was from the South originally) opted to drop down to Miami to pursue her long unfulfilled dream of trying out her nickname as a stripper. For if she was going to do it, it was surely now or never (as tended to be the case with most things). So it was that neither of them had had occasion to see one another for the past three years. A period during which they had kept in touch but had largely restricted their communication to the cursory, limited to the types of gifs and emojis that assured nothing and no one had really changed. Of course, they had all changed in their own subtle ways. That was the cruelty–the sad reality–of time. It didn’t deepen relationships (as 80s movies would have one believe) but instead made them more tenuous, more prone to falling apart with one wrong word or misunderstanding. Because being away from someone long enough inevitably severed the thread of connection that close proximity made secure. A thread that became increasingly snappable the longer it was forced to stretch across the expanse of physical distances.

And oh how it had been stretched between the distances of New York, Miami and Mexico City over these past three years. The only person who seemed concerned enough to do anything about this deterioration was Gloria, who could one day suddenly feel the crippling loneliness of New York closing in on her all at once as she dressed for work in the early hours of the hot summer morning. She needed to get back to some semblance of how she felt–who she was–when she was more carefree. During her days of dissent with Fiore and Cherry. When they would prowl the streets and bars at night in search of scandal and debauchery. It was the last time she could remember not feeling bogged down by the responsibility that the past few years had anchored her with. A combination of being jealous and inspired by the more free-spirited paths Fiore and Cherry had taken prompted her to reach out to them with a long overdue plan to get together. Knowing neither would be able to resist the sentimental strategy of being offered tickets to Lana Del Rey (“Brooklyn Baby” had been their anthem well past 2014), she instructed them to meet her a few days before the show in San Francisco.

Fiore, despite being the closest to California, was the most hesitant to oblige. Something about seeing her old friends again gave her a pang of anxiousness, as though it might send her back over the edge of the cliff called addiction. Having been able to throw herself entirely into her work in Mexico City (with, granted, a tequila shot here and there for good measure), she feared a trip to San Francisco (and therefore the past) would derail her. Set her down a dark path again. For, upon reflection, she had to admit that New York was not about “good times,” so much as coping with the many-splendored demons she had accrued in her “situationship” with Dave (Dave the Dastard, as she would ultimately come to refer to him). Dave who was all affection one minute and verbal abuse the next. It was the perfect recipe for alcoholism, further fueled by her friends’ urgings for “nighttime adventure.” She was spurred by Gloria and Cherry, each wrapped up in their own never-ending series of dalliances. Monogamy today, pansexuality tomorrow, as it were. When it was the latter, their benders together could be epic. And then devastating depending on what one woke up to.

It was the morning Fiore awoke to a text from Gloria saying she was at Woodhull and needed someone to come collect her–that she had broken her leg somehow–that Fiore decided it was time to hatch an escape plan. Things were becoming untenable, and if she stayed much longer, she reckoned she, too, might not only break a limb, but lose one entirely. She broke the news to them a few months later over pizza at Paulie Gee’s–their haunt even after it became overrun by the stroller set. But maybe the pervasive presence of screaming children merely added to her case for leaving. A case made even stronger with each passing year in New York. Gloria was the most offended by the announcement of her departure in spite of the fact that the city had done Gloria the dirtiest (even if it had been unkind enough to bring Dave the Dastard into Fiore’s life), therefore she ought to have been the most understanding.

“What? You can’t ‘do your art’ here?” she hissed.

“No, actually. I can’t. It’s impossible to do it here. The city is designed to make it so you can’t. So that your entire focus is on working and surviving–and then getting blackout drunk to ignore how miserable you are. I can’t do it anymore.”

Up until now, Cherry had been silent, as though weighing the options for an appropriate response in her mind. What came out was, “If you’re leaving, I think I might as well tell you both that I’ve been plotting an exit strategy to Miami.”

Gloria slammed down her wine glass. “What the fuck is wrong with both of you? Thinking you’re actually going to find better than New York.”

Cherry sighed. “Gloria, literally anywhere is better than New York. Try to be a little less subjective. Gloria gulped the last swig of her wine. “What the hell am I supposed to do if both of you leave?”

Fiore placed her hand on top of Gloria’s. “You’ll figure it out.”

***

Of course, she never really did. For all we can do when people leave us behind is pretend to move on. So she did. Finagled herself a job in the ever-less rewarding industry of fashion photography, spending her time staring at twigs through a lens all day–which definitely didn’t improve her body dysmorphia. And in the eventual absence of both of her friends, she seemed to lose all sense of herself, dipping into the bottle for solace and comfort.

But it was no longer comfort enough. She needed her friends, ergo Lana Del Rey. Their grand binding talisman. Yet Gloria had failed to take into account that it had been at least five years since she had been to a show (for Fiore and Cherry, just slightly less). What’s more, she conveniently forgot that, for the most part, the intensity required to enjoy the music of Del Rey required a certain armor of youthfulness. For only young people could be naive enough to believe in the spouting of loving one person “till the end of time.” When you’re young, you fail to realize how effortlessly a man will fuck you over, which effectively makes loving him “till the end of time” virtually impossible. But Gloria, Fiore and Cherry were all still sentimental enough to imbibe of the Del Rey Kool-Aid espousing the merits of tragic love.

Surely, there had to be some benefit to enduring it, otherwise what was the point of such severe heartache? It couldn’t all be for nought. And this is clearly what Gloria, Fiore, Cherry and every other die-hard tween in the audience believed. The audience that practically overpowered the trio with the brute force of their lust for Lana. It wasn’t exactly making for a pleasant acid trip.

Nor was the vehement twink that kept shouting her name and shoved his way past them to the front row, already teeming with devout psychotics. As she segued into “Cherry” (which, yes Cherry often danced to at the strip club), the fever pitch of the crowd’s ardor reached a crescendo, with everyone pushing left and right, backward and forward to attempt to claw their way closer. As Gloria, Fiore and Cherry all did their best to make eye contact in the sardine can-like conditions of the tightly packed space, it was as though they telepathically communicated: “Let’s show these zygote fuckers what ‘fandom’ is.” It was thus that they corralled all of their strength together to heave themselves toward the stage. As though putting to the test the brawn of their friendship by seeing if it was potent enough to get them to the front row. Alas, it was not, the hordes of youths suddenly enraged at their gross misconduct. They, in response, banded together to oust the ineffectual coven, banishing them practically all the way to the back half of the floor where general admission meant “every person for himfuckingself.”

And because, as Gloria put it, “We never made it to the front row that September in San Francisco,” it seemed to signify an unavoidable lack in the friendship they all once assumed could move mountains (which, one supposes, in this case, would be the Sierra Nevada). That it was ironclad in its mightiness.

In the end, they were just another dumb bitch crew rendered irrelevant by the years, and, more than that, the geographical divisions that proved friendship was not anymore transcendent than the romantic love Del Rey sang of.

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