Patra liked speed. Though she wasn’t one to turn down an expensive bump of coke — Patra liked to speed in her sexy, sparkling-white Porsche 911 Carrera S. People liked to gossip about Patra and claim her dad paid for her life but it wasn’t true. Patra had been modeling since her thirteenth birthday, launched her own jewelry line at twenty-one, and by twenty-seven Glamour magazine had deemed her the “queen of the high-end dog tag.” Patra specialized in creating deluxe 14-carat gold dog tags that spelled out provocative words like: “Bitch” “Babe” “Grrrl” and “Fuck” in tiny Swarovski crystals. Her jewelry was exorbitantly expensive for the average person — they ran a lavish 2k a pop — but Patra wasn’t interested in everyday people. Patra was only interested in pleasing her glamorous, glittery, celebrity clientele. I mean — Gwen Stefani wore her dog tag. As did Tinsley Mortimer, the biggest socialite in all of Manhattan. As did Lindsey Lohan, the hottest mess since the Topanga Canyon fires. Even the Bush twins were rabid fans of her work — which secretly made Patra beam with pride even though she’d been a vocal critic of George W.
Violet didn’t notice that Patra was going at least forty miles over the legal speed limit; she was too excited to get the hell out of Manhattan and spend the weekend in Fire Island’s Cherry Grove. Cherry Grove was Violet’s favorite place in the entire world. It was her haven of hedonism and she loved everything about it: The snarky Drag Queens who charismatically lip-synced pop songs into booze-soaked microphones whilst clad in glittery gowns, poolside. The roaring East Coast ocean, too temperamental to swim in, but fabulously dramatic and sexy, like a tropical storm. The tiny little houses that smelled like sand and sunscreen, lifetimes of beach days embedded into the old, creaky floorboards. She loved that there were no cars so everyone could get as hammered as they desired without worrying about how the hell they were going to catch a cab on Seventh Avenue at 2 a.m.? She loved gazing into the twinkly stars in the sprawling blue-dark sky, they made it seem like New York and her problems were worlds away. She loved sharing a rental with nine other girls, it made her feel warm and protected, like she had sisters, like she had a family, like she would never feel lonely again.
But mostly, Violet loved the ferry ride there.
Patra peeled into the Sayville ferry parking lot like she was auditioning for The Fast Furious: Long Island.
“Hey! Slow down! There are children here!” A middle-aged dyke with a crew-cut and Bermuda shorts shouted, flailing her hands in the air.
Violet stuck her head out of the open window of Patra’s car and looked around. Her instincts were correct: There wasn’t a child in sight.
There were, however, lesbians. Lots and lots and lots and lots of lesbians.
Violet stepped out of the car and fished for a Marlboro at the bottom of her beat up Balenciaga bag and lit up. Something about being by the water soothed her. Maybe I’m finally crawling out of this god-awful FUNK I’ve been in. She thought to herself, haphazardly flicking ash right into her designer purse. Maybe I won’t even take Adderall this weekend.
“Violet!” Patra whispered, which wasn’t a whisper at all, it was a stage whisper because Patra couldn’t help but belt no matter how hard she tried.
“What?” Violet asked, rolling her eyes. Violet was starting to get annoyed with Patra. Her manic Manhattan energy felt out of place in sleepy Sayville.
“Ray. Ray. Is HERE!” Patra whispered (shouted).
“No way! Ray hates Cherry Grove. Like, hates it. She won’t even come for Lez Volley, and she was a volleyball star in high school —”
“TURN AROUND!” Patra demanded.
Violet slowly turned her head toward the bar. There stood Ray, in all her skinny-jeaned glory comfortably leaning over the bar like she owned the place.
“Holy fuck.” Violet whispered. And then, “I need a fucking Martini. Now.”
“We’ll have two vodka sodas,” Ray demanded to the bartender. Ray never drank anything but vodka with soda water because you know...calories.
“I love vodka soda! How did you know?” Amanda squealed in delight, twisting a lock of shiny hair around her forefinger.
“I have magical powers,” Ray smirked, feeling pleased with herself. Amanda and Ray had only met three days prior (and by days I mean nights), but that didn’t stop Ray from inviting her to Fire Island as her weekend-long date. It was true, Ray wasn't exactly besotted with Cherry Grove, she claimed it was too “too crass and too loud” for her liking — but the truth was she only had two issues with the island: 1. It disrupted her rigorous workout schedule. 2. The grainy texture of sand kicked her obsessive-compulsive disorder into high gear. She felt far more sane in her Hell’s Kitchen high rise with its built-in gym and spotless toilets. But it was Memorial Day weekend and one of her most important clients, an up-and-coming actress named Nia Green had begged her to come and stay with her in her beach-front mansion.
“Please! We can work out together!” Nia Green had pleaded after a particularly harrowing squat session.
“I don’t think so,” Ray had said sternly as she stretched out Nia Green’s long legs.
“You can bring a girl,” Nia Green cooed
Ray thought about watching the sunset out of a giant glass window in a million-dollar mansion with sultry Nia Greene on one side of her and flirtatious Amanda on the other. “Fine,” she smirked. “I’ll go.”
Amanda wasn’t your typical smoke show. She was sexy in an ethereal way. She looked more mermaid than human with her wild mane of sprightly red curls that cascaded down to the small of her back. Her face bore a set of round, mint green eyes. They were the kind of eyes that seemed to have never borne witness to pain. Amanda was the perfect antonym to Violet, who had the saddest eyes Ray had ever seen and was so thin her pointy hipbones left bruises on Ray’s body after sex. Like Jack, Ray was typically drawn to brooding brunettes but after Violet had the gall to ignore Ray's (very sexy) nude text last week — she’d decided it was time she shook her addiction to mentally ill artist types. They didn’t serve her rigid lifestyle, even if their unpredictability and wild imaginations rendered her irrepressibly horny. She’d vowed to meet a sweet girl who was easily satisfied and didn’t disrupt her routine. Violet was always disrupting her routine, demanding nights out at some pricey downtown “bistro” where she’d force Ray to drink wine and talk about her “feelings.”
So far Amanda was proving to be everything Ray had hoped to find. She laughed at Ray’s jokes — even the extraordinarily stupid ones. She wore a triple D bra. She could cum in under three minutes. And most importantly, she didn’t call Ray “controlling” when Ray took it upon herself to order them both vodka sodas without asking Amanda what she wanted to drink. Amanda trusts me. She knows I’ll order what’s best for her. She thought to herself. So what if she squeals instead of speaks?
“Hey, come ‘ere,” Ray growled, grabbing Amanda by the waist. “Let’s have a good fucking weekend, okay?”
Amanda melted into Ray’s arms. She smelled like saltwater taffy — the kind Ray hadn’t indulged in since she was a kid on the Jersey Shore. She breathed Amanda in and set her long-repressed, inner-sweet tooth free for the first time in over a decade.
“We’re going to have, like, the best weekend of our lives!” Amanda cheered, smearing cherry-flavored chapstick across her lips.
Ray felt a small flame flicker deep inside of her gut. She suddenly felt confident and alive. She felt in control. She felt like herself again. She leaned over and kissed Amanda right there at the seaside bar awaiting the Cherry Grove-bound ferry in plain view of every lesbian in the tri-state area. Fuck it. She thought. Fuck who sees. I’m back.
“Excuse me, I’m gonna need a credit card.” The bartender called out behind her in a charming New York accent.
Ray slid her fingers into the pockets of her skin-tight jeans and pulled out her Amex. “Here ya go.” She winked at the cute bartender who instantly blushed. Is it bad if I ask her for her number? Amanda is so chill she won’t even notice, plus we’re not like dating, dating. We’re fucking.
“Extra olives, pretty please.”
It wasn’t a particularly loud voice and it was definitely coming from the other side of the bar. But it was a voice that shot a bullet right through Ray’s heart. It was Violet’s voice. And it sounded like velvet.
Her heart accelerated at the speed of cocaine as she furiously scanned the room for Violet. She couldn’t see her.
But she could smell her.
She didn't smell anything like a saltwater taffy. She smelled like old books and rich tobacco, leather and jasmine, cinnamon and cognac. She smelled like a spinning vintage globe in a grand Manhattan Hotel, like a piping hot molten cake, like a freshly lit match, like a night of orgasmic sex on Egyptian cotton sheets.
“Are you okay, Ray?” She heard Amanda squeak behind her. In comparison to Violet’s breathy purr, Amanda’s voice sounded like a little kid.
“Yeah,” Ray murmured, staring straight ahead. And then, “Waitress, can you make us the strongest shots you’ve ever made?”
Knife and Catalina took the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station to Jamaica, Queens where they transferred to a Sayville, Long Island bound train. Knife and Catalina weren’t particularly close but had made a plan to travel together after downing shots of Tequila at Dolly's the night before.
Also, Knife had decided this weekend she would sleep with Catalina. Catalina was like a lot of girls who choose to wear hyper revealing clothing: Notoriously chaste and coy. And her rare selectiveness only made Knife want her more.
They silently stared out of the window watching the dirty city metamorphosis into the sanitized suburbs in a speedy blur. After about fifteen minutes of silence so palpable, it was loud — Catalina finally blurted: “Knife. You wanna drink?”
“Does a bear shit in the woods?!” Knife hooted, her body flooding with relief, relief, relief. Though they would never dare to admit it — they both heavily relied on liquid courage to lubricate their naturally awkward social skills.
Catalina felt her mouth curve into a smile. She reached into her giant Juicy Couture bag and pulled out two water bottles full of rosé. “You like rosé?” She asked shyly.
“I love rosé.” Knife gushed. It wasn’t exactly a lie because Knife didn’t discriminate when it came to alcohol. She liked anything that lowered the volume of the voices in her head.
Catalina batted her lash-extensioned eyes at Knife and handed her an unglamorous plastic bottle full of liquid the color of a dusty pink rose.
“Cheers!” They clinked and giggled joyously.
“Can I ask you something?” Knife asked after downing half the bottle in a single gulp. She noticed tiny goosebumps peppered across Catalina’s dark olive forearms.
“Ask me anything,” Catalina said simply. “There’s nothing I can’t handle.” Which was true — so long as alcohol was around.
Knife lightly grazed her long, slim fingertips across the top of Catalina’s bare thigh. “Can I kiss you?”
A heat radiated between them.
Catalina downed half of her rosé before answering: “Yes. Fuck. Yes.”
“Jacky, you gotta get back on the dating scene. It’s been years, buddy. Years.” Gianna lectured, stamping her cigarette into the cement parking lot.
“G, I just don’t find anyone interesting anymore. The girls my age I’ve either dated already or are not my type. The older ones are all married, or again, not my type. The younger ones drive me nuts with all the vacuous bullshit that flies out of their mouths. Did ya see what Knife posted on Facebook the other day?”
“You know what, Jack? You’re gonna meet a great girl this weekend. Maybe a nice girl from Jersey or Long Island! You gotta get the hell outta the West Village. Look —” Gianna pointed to the left where wolf-packs of girls primally stalked the bar. “If you can’t find a girl in Cherry Grove, you can’t find a girl nowhere.”
Without speaking, the two Fire Island veterans elbowed their way through the crowd.
“Antonia!” Gianna hollered at the bartender.
Antonia swung her head around. “G! I missed ya so much! Oh my god, is that JACK behind ya?”
“Yeah, yeah it’s me,” Jack mumbled flatly, though her smiling eyes gave her truth away. Her truth was that she was happy to be going to Cherry Grove with one of her oldest friends in the world. And she was happy to see Antonia who’d been bartending at the Sayville ferry for the last fifteen years.
It was nice, she thought to herself, that some things do, indeed, stay the same.
“Can you get us old dykes a drink?” Gianna asked, fiddling with the buckle on her new Hermes belt that held up her sleek black dress pants. She looked like she was going into an investor meeting, not to the beach. But Gianna was one of those women who never compromises her style even if it meant getting sand in her $600 Tod's loafers.
“Who ya’ callin' OLD?” Jack snapped, playfully socking Gianna in the arm.
Gianna hadn’t seen Jack act so carefree since before Deja, her ex-wife had left her for a (male) real estate maven, two years ago.
Within minutes, two Long Island Iced Teas were plopped down in front of them, a drink they only ever indulged in when waiting for the Cherry Grove ferry.
“Be careful. These are strong.” Antonia warned like she always did. “You know what I say...the only girls that can hold their Long Island Iced Teas are —”
“Girls from Long Island” they both answered in unison.
“Except a dyke from Queens,” Gianna added.
“OR a dyke from the Bronx,” Jack added back.
“Okay. A dyke from the Bronx and a dyke from Queens can probably take ‘em too. But lemme tell you I refuse, refuse, to make a Long Island Iced Tea for any girl born outside the tri-state area.”
They clinked glasses and took a generous gulp of the most dangerous tea to ever exist.
I will not sob into my martini. I will NOT sob into my martini. I WILL NOT SOB INTO MY MARTINI. Violet coached herself as she stumbled her way back to Patra.
HOW DO I SHUT THESE FEELINGS OFF? Her anxiety pleaded with her apathy.
I don’t need to tell you how to numb your emotions, Violet. Her apathy sneered.
OH YEAH. DUH. Her anxiety whispered back.
With shaky hands, Violet fumbled through her purse. Once her fingers found the bright orange plastic bottle of pills, the shaking subsided. Adderall didn’t just keep her thin. It kept her numb. And for that she was grateful.
She washed down the sugary blue pill with her briny Martini and took a deep breath. She could handle this. She could handle anything, so long as she had her pills. “Patra!” She called out.
Patra galloped toward her with her long racehorse legs. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fucking fine!” Violet laughed a little too loudly. “Let’s get fucked up before we get on this ferry, shall we?”
“I don’t know, Violet. I’m a little worried —”
“Oh, stop. I’m amazing. In fact: I’ve never been happier.” Violet’s eyes were stretched open so wide she looked like Joan Crawford in "Mommy Dearest."
“I don’t believe you,” Patra said, tears springing up in her eyes. She was one of the only people in the world that loved the real Violet — not just the idea of Violet.
“Please. Please. Get fucked up with me. I’m begging you. Patra, please.”
“Fine. But we have to talk about this when we get back to the city.”
“We will talk about everything when we get back to the city. But for now, we’re the Princesses of Long Island where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.”
Knife and Catalina had spent the entire train ride drinking and kissing. Knife had kissed thousands of girls in her lifetime but there was something uniquely different about kissing Catalina. Kissing her never got monotonous. Her kisses had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Kissing her was akin to having mind-blowing sex. For there had been light, teasing, foreplay-style kisses. Then had come the slow sensual kisses. Followed by quick, aggressive, breathless kisses. Followed by orgasm kisses: kisses that were connected and deep and accelerated and accelerated and accelerated in pace until their tongues finally lost steam and collapsed into the warmth of each other's mouths — only to start over again.
By the time they stumbled off the shuttle bus that escorted them from the train to the ferry — Knife’s face was covered in hot pink lipstick.
“Oh shit! The ferry is here! RUN! The next one doesn’t leave for two hours!” Knife shouted, grabbing Catalina by the hand. The two girls laughed hysterically — the way only two girls can when they're in the throes of newfound lust. They ran, hand in hand, toward the ferry, their weekender bags flapping behind them in the Long Island wind.
They were standing on the dock waiting to board when the shouting started.
"KNIFE," screamed an irate voice.
Knife whipped her head around. It was Louisa.
The girl she'd said "I love you" too after taking too much molly at a warehouse rave in Gowanus. Knife, who was terrified of confrontation, had naturally ghosted her after professing her undying love.
“You have lipstick on your face,” Louisa placed her hands on her hips.
“Yeah, yeah, nothing to say Knife. You know what?" Louisa's voice was getting hysterical now. "Go fuck yourself.” And with that, she threw a plastic red solo cup of vodka right into Knife’s face and stomped onto the ferry in her black patent leather Dr. Martin boots.
Knife felt like someone had poured peroxide into her eyes, the burn of the booze was so acute.
“What was that?” Catalina asked, bewildered. She knew Knife had a reputation for being an insufferable player — but this? This was something out of the L Word.
"Don't worry about it," Knife said.
And for a reason unbeknownst to her, Catalina didn't worry about it.
There are two kinds of people who go to Fire Island. People who sit on the first floor of the ferry, indoors, and people who brave the small flight of stairs and sit on the open-air deck on the second floor.
The Girls who hung out on Jane Street were the latter.
There was Ray hidden away in the last row of seats, her sinewy arms fiercely wrapped around Amanda, silently praying to a God she didn’t believe in that the stench and sound of Violet had been a mere mirage of the senses.
Gianna and Jack were sat smack in the middle, drunk and howling with laughter with a group of gay guys they’d known since the 80s.
A vodka-soaked, lipstick-covered Knife sat next to Catalina in the left-hand corner of the boat, nervously pushing her platinum blonde hair around; wishing, wishing, wishing they were back on the train, safe from the lesbian drama that seemed to follow her around like an unforgiving shadow.
Violet stared into the sea robotically, holding her breath, because breathing meant feeling and she desperately didn't want to feel the heartbreak of Ray. Patra unclasped the dog-tag necklace off her neck, it was a custom-made one she’d designed exclusively for herself. It spelled out the words: TDL. She’d once overheard Jack roar at Dolly’s: “I’m as queer as a three-dollar bill!” Right before she traveled back to Thailand to see her parents for the first time in years, she'd created it. She could never tell them that she was bisexual — they wouldn’t understand — but wearing the necklace in their presence reminded her of who the fuck she was.
Patra wordlessly hooked it around Violet’s neck.
As the grand ferry ascended atop the regal East Coast waters the blue sky exploded into a brilliant, vibrant pink. Little splashes of seawater splashed up onto the bare limbs of the shivering girls gazing into the distance.
And for a moment time stood still. There was nothing but the tangy ocean air, clean wind, and the glittery water sparkling beneath them.
Ray closed her eyes and let herself drift into a nap. Violet let floods of tears spill out of her eyes and into the water. They weren't sad tears. They were tears of relief. From what? Who knows? Jack and Gianna stopped howling with the boys and basked in the feeling of the wind gently blowing against their faces. Knife forgot all about Lousia and the drama and the sting of the liquor piercing her sore eyes. She was lost in the glow of Catalina and this bizarre feeling of wholeness. Catalina was mesmerized by the sky which was now revealing electrifying streaks of burnt orange.
The sun was setting and for a moment, no one thought about anything at all.