Violet was having a bad day. She’d awoken to an email from her literary agent informing her that not one publisher in New York was interested in buying her book: Come For Me: a wildly erotic series of personal essays detailing her tempestuous sex and dating life.
“Sorry Violet. The book is a masterpiece but publishers are worried that you being a lesbian is too polarizing/distracting for your average mainstream reader? Maybe we could alter your identity to bisexual? Angelina Jolie is bisexual and it’s very NOW. Let’s talk next week.”
While Violet — unlike *certain* lesbians in New York loved and embraced bisexuals — there was no way in hell she was going to lie about who she was in order to sell books. Violet had morals.
Violet was not only outraged and angry by the tone-deaf note from her agent — she was hurt, too. Somewhere deep down inside of her the sudden, blatant rejection from the literary gatekeepers confirmed that her wildest insecurity was indeed true: That she wasn’t a talented writer. If I’d been a talented enough writer, the publishers wouldn’t care about me being a raging lesbian. The quality of the work would outweigh my “polarizing” sexuality. She thought to herself as she walked across town to her demanding job as a “Senior Writer” for Lint Magazine.
On top of the civil unrest in her inbox, she’d also taken way too much Adderall. She'd lost track of how many she'd swallowed but if she had to guess — she’d probably say she downed at least six 10 milligram pills? Adderall rendered Violet irritable, robotic, awkward, but she took it daily, as an appetite suppressant. Unlike most girls who prefer to wax poetic about their uphill battles with ADHD, Violet was open about why she was always popping those blue pills.
“I take Adderall to stay skinny,” she’d darkly purr to anyone who asked. “I’m actually the most focused person on the planet. HA!” She’d chuckle pulling a bright orange RX bottle out of her tattered Balenciaga motorcycle bag. “Want one?”
But the worst part of Violet’s day wasn’t the upsetting email from her agent, nor was it the ingestion of too many spirit-sucking pills. At 5 p.m., right as she’d turned in her last article of the day, Violet’s ex, Ray, had sent her a nude via text message. After not hearing from Ray for seven weeks, the nude threw Violet into a tailspin. She’d been feeling extra raw and vulnerable to begin with, and the nude felt like an entire bottle of peroxide poured directly into the wound. What scared Violet was that she — a natural born self-harmer — grossly and shamefully ~enjoyed~ the pain of being enmeshed with an unpredictable narcissist. As soon as Ray’s naked body flashed up on her shattered iphone screen, she was suddenly fueled with a relentless desire to drag the emotional razor blade even deeper into her tender flesh. Should I send her a nude back? She wondered, her pupils engorging from the dopamine rush of a self-destructive idea. But instead, she took a long drag of a Marlboro Light and “played the tape” like her therapist was always telling her to do when confronted with a masochistic impulse. Okay. So. If I send Ray a nude we’ll totally end up having sex which will lead to me feeling vacant and dead inside which will lead to more sex to fill the gaping voids in my soul which will send me spinning right back in the same toxic cycle I’ve spent the last four years trying to break free from. She grabbed an Adderall out of her bag, swallowed it down with spit, turned off her phone and made her way down Jane Street, straight toward her sacred place of worship: Dolly’s. The lesbian bar where every dyke knows your name.
Ray, a personal trainer to the stars, was Violet’s kryptonite. She was cold, removed, completely emotionally unavailable; but dangerously good in bed. Violet had spent two years trying to crack Ray open but Ray couldn’t be cracked; she took 60 milligrams of Prozac a day and only cared about two things: Maintaining her infamous six pack and sex. And boy, was she good at both. So good at the sex part that Violet had convinced herself she loved Ray one point, even though they couldn’t possibly be more mismatched. Violet loved to lose herself in brilliant works of literature; Ray thought fiction was a waste of time and only read books about mastering the zero carbohydrate lifestyle. Violet loved to get blackout drunk at brunch on Sundays and then go dance with the gay boys at the top of the Standard Hotel; Ray liked to spend her Sundays meal-prepping a week's worth of grilled chicken and steamed spinach. Violet did therapy and meditation; Ray did push-ups and burpees. Violet tossed back Martinis like they were water; Ray slugged back powdery protein shakes.Violet’s favorite color was electric pink, Ray’s was fucking navy. Violet lived for drag queens and drugs and drama and hookups and messiness and freaks. She drank nightlife like it was the most sacred elixir on the planet. Ray was asleep by nine p.m. most nights. Violet ghosted therapists; Ray ghosted women. Violet adored Dolly’s; Ray adored Barry’s BootCamp.
There was one thing and one thing alone the two girls had in common: Their insatiable lust toward one another.
“I can’t wait to make you scream tonight,” Violet slurred into her ear the night they met at Art Bar, a lively downtown staple on eighth avenue. They were at one of Ray’s famous client’s birthday party, a runway model from Egypt named Monifa. Violet was friendly with Monifa because Violet was friendly with most people in fashion. The moment Ray caught a glimpse of Violet’s vibrant hazel eyes and clavicle grazing hair and torn black tights, she felt the inside of her jeans dampen. Once Violet caught a glimpse of Ray’s dead blue eyes and short bleached hair and tight black denim, she felt the inside of her tights dampen. Violet downed two martinis before she conjured up the courage to plop down on the red velvet couch Ray was sitting on, whose legs were stretched open wide, like one of those “man-spreaders” on the subway. Violet ordered more martinis. It was after the fourth that she’d delicately informed Ray that she couldn’t wait to make her scream in pleasure. She lightly traced her index finger around Ray’s inner thigh as the words poured out of her mouth, like drunken honey. Her nails were shiny and painted lavender and how had Ray never noticed that a woman’s hands could be so...sexy?
“I’m going to make you cum so hard,” Violet continued, standing up, and stumbling away to the bathroom (to pop another Adderall, she was getting sloppy — she could feel it). As she teetered away in her signature leopard pumps, Ray’s heart began to furiously race. She hadn’t expected Violet with her tiny, expensive-looking star of David necklace and Prada mini-backpack and frilly little prairie dress with the comically puffy sleeves to be so bold. But Violet, who lived off martinis and amphetamines and the occasional truffle fry from Cafe Cluny, was always bold. Maybe she was born with it, maybe it was the false bravado of speed and alcohol? Either way; Ray had never been more turned on in her entire life. (And she was a diagnosed sex addict.)
They hadn’t even stepped inside of Ray’s Hell’s Kitchen high rise before earth-shattering orgasms were exchanged. They had sex in the bathroom of Art Bar. They had sex in the taxi, right in front of the cab driver who clutched a crucifix in his palm for the entirety of the nine-minute ride uptown. They had sex in the elevator up all the way up to the 38th floor. They had sex on the rooftop of Ray's building even though it was a apocalyptically cold mid January. They had sex in Ray's bed, in her shower, in her closet, on the kitchen table. They screamed in ecstasy. They pulled each other’s hair. Tied each other up. Ripped each other’s underwear. Felt each other explode in orgasmic hysteria. Again and again and again. No matter how many times they came, they were always insatiable, never satisfied, never finished. We all know how addiction works, don’t we? One earth-shattering orgasm is too many and a thousand is never enough. They were hooked from the jump, junkies for each other’s bodies, always wanting more more more.
Addiction works until it doesn't. And no amount of soul-altering orgasms in the world could soften the razor sharp reality that Violet and Ray were a toxic combination.
“You are NOT to have sex with her! Sex is what keeps you stuck in your addiction! You know this. Come on! You’re smart, Violet,” her editor had lectured her over an afterwork glass of wine.
“Just don’t do it. She treats you like shit. She diminishes your writing. Talks shit about your style. She’s a control freak and honestly, Violet. She’s fucking boring. I don’t get it,” her straight best friend Layla told her over the phone. Yeah, you don’t get it. Violet thought to herself. Straight girls never do.
“I HATE HER!” her friend Patra screamed over dinner, pounding her fists against the table so loudly the WASP sitting her left actually clutched her pearls.
“She stood you up on Christmas! You spent Christmas alone doing drugs in your apartment because of her. Why is this even a conversation?” her most revered friend Jose Antonio asked her. He took a giant puff of a joint and released a perfect ring of smoke from out of his gorgeous lips. “I do get that the sex is amazing.” Of course he did. He was a gay man.
After Ray had stood Violet – an orphan — up on Christmas Day, she’d pinky promised everyone in her life she wouldn’t have relapse sex with Ray anymore, that she’d move on and meet someone new, someone emotionally available, someone with a soul, someone who cared if she actually ate food, someone who could comfort her when her distant father came stumbling back into her life only to walk out on her again, someone who would make sure no one stole her purse when she was hammered at a raucous bar, someone who loved her.
Violet swished open the heavy door of Dolly’s and paused for a moment. She loved the smell of Dolly’s. It smelled like...women. It smelled like home. She wished she could bottle up that smell and wear it like perfume.
Bitter ole’ Jack with her chronic smoker’s cough and Provincetown MA hoodie stared at Violet, standing at the entrance of Dolly's, her preppy peacoat draped over her leopard print dress, falling deeply madly outrageously more in love with her with every passing second. Knife was staring at her too — visible beams of fear radiating out of her cocaine enhanced pupils because for reasons unbeknownst to her, Violet intimated her. She intimidated Catalina too, who was also staring at Violet, seething with jealousy over her ability to pull off both a leopard dress and leopard shoes. If she’d worn leopard on leopard she’d be made fun of for being from Jersey. Again.
Violet was blind to the stares. She’d been getting hungrily devoured by curious eyes her entire life but had never noticed it because she was always too preoccupied with her own complicated thoughts and feelings.
“Violet, darling!” Serafina shrilled, peppering her cheeks with a bevy of red lipstick kisses. Serafina was like an alcoholic, astronomically wealthy, lesbian mother to Violet.
“Serafina!” Violet squealed like a child on Christmas morning. “I’ve missed you! What’s UP? I need all the GOSSIP.” Violet grinned, her pale skin dramatically juxtaposed against the red velvet kisses adorned across her face. She silently vowed to keep the kiss marks on her skin for as long as possible, a reminder that she belonged somewhere.
“Catalina! What are you doing?” Serafina scolded. “Get Violet a drink. Now. Dirty martini with extra olives."
Catalina smiled sweetly, but inside she felt sour. Why was everyone always falling all over Violet like she was some kind of celebrity? But even Catalina had secretly invested countless hours furiously scrolling through Violet’s Instagram, feverishly devouring her old articles, obsessing over her clothes, google searching her shoes, her bags, her nails, her lipstick.
“Hi Jack,” Violet crooned. Jack threw her the classic lesbian head nod. Jack, a notorious loudmouth, couldn't seem to muster up a single word in Violet’s presence. Violet assumed Jack was just another lesbian of a certain age who didn’t like her for whatever reason.
Before Violet knew it, she was clutching her dirty martini laughing hysterically with a hodgepodge of queers, her bad day a faded polaroid of the past. There was Patra; her best friend, a bisexual jewelry designer who’d moved to the West Village from Bangkok three years prior. She had a heavy accent and always had a new shiny Chanel bag dangling off her arm. There was Jose Antonio, Violet’s other best friend, a confident hairstylist with skin so buttery it could make your mouth actually water. No one knew (except for Violet) that despite his impressingly poised manner, Jose Antonio, lived in fear of being deported back to Mexico — a country he hadn’t set foot in since the age of nine. There was Gianna, born and raised in Queens. Gianna was tough as nails; she managed a group of foul-mouthed men in the auto repair shop her family had run for over forty years. Gianna wore crisp button-downs and shiny shoes and made sure no one fucked with anyone. The local lesbian policewoman; every dyke bar has one. There was Bernice, an actual policewoman; every dyke bar has one of those too. There was Imani who’d played college basketball at UConn up until her recent graduation and was currently tortured over what the hell she was going to do with her life. There was Bex, who was in the throes of a very public custody battle with her ex, Lynn, an esteemed news anchor with a top secret Ambien addiction. There was Jesse, who had just shaved their head bald and kept making everyone touch it so they could bask in the smoothness of their naked scalp. There was Nicole, a high-end sex worker in lingerie by day, and a dyke in flannel by night. There was Lorie, who worked in finance and lived uptown and took 20 mg of Lexapro a day to manage her obsessive-compulsive disorder. There was Belinda a go-go dancer who loved to write long-winded Facebook statuses complaining about how no one in the gay community took her seriously because she was so pretty and it’s so hard to be so pretty no one understands. There was Belinda’s boyfriend, a blue-haired budding restaurateur named Finn, who was enjoying his first night out since undergoing top surgery. There was Knife, the delusional model, who didn’t think anyone noticed the tiny bumps of coke she was snorting out of her pack of parliament lights. There was Jack, pretending to hate everyone but actually worrying for the wellbeing of every soul in the bar. There was Serafina, reeking of Chanel Number Five and clean dollar bills and stale cigarette smoke in her stiletto heels. There was Catalina, with her exaggerated cleavage and skin-tight jeans, immersed in a deep fantasy about getting fucked by Jack as she slung cocktails for everyone. And of course, there was Violet, in her leopard heels and leopard dress looking like a pretty little lawn fairy with a pretty little drug problem.
Their paths would never have crossed if it wasn’t for Dolly’s. Dolly’s was like a quilt of sorts, patched together by random yet beautiful works of art, keeping them warm, keeping them safe. In fact, Dolly’s was the only place in the world where Violet believed that she might be capable of being loved.
Illustration by: Tate Eknaian