In the summer, New York City loses both her beauty and her charm. The heat melts her sparkle and the sunlight strips away her glittery facade. In the winter, New York City feels like theatre and art and glamorous brasseries and eccentrics in fur coats. In the summer, she feels like sadness. Drugs. Desperation. Kids sleeping on the floors of Penn Station.


New York City without the soft blanket of snow, New York City without her Radio City Music Hall glow, New York City without the fragrance of Spring, is ugly and uncomfortable. Sewer rats skitter across the scalding hot pavement wishing they too could be in the Hamptons. The sunbeams decide to gleam on the trash bags that pile up on every street corner and — “oh my god how have you never noticed how fucking awful 17th street smells?”


New York City in the summer will make you bitter. You’ll say “fuck this place!” as you drag your heavy limbs up the stairs to your six-story walk-up apartment, swollen and sweaty, drained and dirty. Your air conditioner will punish you for neglecting her all winter and will stop working in protest. The only wave of relief you’ll feel is when a subway car whizzes by and gives you a fleeting burst of a polluted breeze.


The one percent flee to Sag Harbor. The Jet Set do Amagansett. The Upper West Siders prefer “the cape.” The WASPs go “the vineyard.” The small subset of Manhattan Republicans (all from the Upper East Side) clutch their pearls in Nantucket. Jersey transplants stick to what they know and get their aerobicized bodies spray tanned before hopping a train to “the shore.” Your Jewish grandparents have a house in “the Catskills.”


The gays?


The gays go to Fire Island.


The untouched jewel with no cars and no cares.


The unkempt beauty and her beach.


The sunken forest and her fawns.


Gay boys with deep pockets and visible abs like to stay tucked away in “the Pines” where they never have to fear being confronted with an oh-so-tempting carbohydrate — but the rest of us go to the Grove. Cherry Grove.


The beauty of the place? You don’t have to be rich to go. It’s one of the few places that doesn’t detest a lesbian on a budget.


Knife was a lesbian on a budget, as was Violet, as was Jack. Really, they were all on a budget of sorts, such is the usual state of affairs for New Yorkers who aren’t multimillionaires.


On the ferry, they’d all been in a drunken haze gazing wordlessly into the foggy sunset — but suddenly the sky was stark and clear. Fire Island was near.


“Jacky how fuckin’ good does the air smell?” Gianna squinted into the blood-orange sky.


“What, you don’t like the smell of rat piss and used condoms back home?” Jack cackled. The small stretch of wildland framed by marsh and docks and dive bars appeared


Rainbow flags flapped in the distance. The entire boat clapped their hands in child-like delight.


There are two places in which queer New Yorkers feel the most at home: The gay bar and Fire Island. One serves booze, one serves sand. Both greet you with a rainbow.


Once Violet caught a glimpse of the rainbow flags waving wildly on her favorite tiny island, her tears dried up. She sobered up. An authentic smile stretched across her face. She turned to Patra and crooned: “Babe, we are fucking here.”


*


Besides the steamy train ride they had shared to Sayville where they'd spent the entire time feverishly making out — Knife and Catalina didn’t know each other all that well. And even though Knife had once gone down on Patra in the bathroom of Dolly’s after slugging back six pickleback shots — she didn’t really know Patra, either. And even though Patra partied at Dolly’s at least three nights a week — she didn’t really know Catalina, the bartender, who was notoriously frigid to pretty girls. And even though Violet had split a bag of coke with Knife at a bougie invite-only lesbian party in Southampton last summer — she didn’t really know Knife. And even though Knife incessantly lied and told all of the young girls she tried to sleep with that she and Violet (the sex columnist!) were as close as sisters — she didn’t really know Violet, either. And Catalina who saw everyone all the time didn’t really know anyone because she was cripplingly shy, despite her bold cleavage and forward-facing job.


But they all knew Dara.


Everyone knew Dara. Dara was one of those East Coast lesbians who knows every lesbian not just in New York — but in the entire tristate area.


Dara was not just outrageously friendly — she was refreshingly resourceful and organized, unlike the rest of the messy Dolly's crew. It was Dara who had arranged their share on Memorial Day weekend, one of the most coveted weekends of the summer. She’d booked the house back in October and had invited a hodgepodge of dykes from all five boroughs to join because she loved bringing unlikely characters together. Even though she appeared even-keeled and as sweet as can be — Dara loved lesbian drama. She lived for it.


This is how Catalina, Violet, Patra, and Knife all ended up in the same house.


It wasn’t just them, either. Imani, a former college basketball star in the throes of an identity crisis, was staying in the house too. As was Belinda, the go-go dancer who loved to bitch about how hard it is to be pretty. As was a set of androgynous identical twins from Astoria, Queens, Lane and Lilly, who were both rocking matching asymmetrical haircuts


"Is that Tegan & Sara?" Patra loudly whispered in Violet's ear.


"I think it's their ghost. Remember their song 'Walking with a ghost'?" Violet giggled under her breath. "It was definitely about them."


The three-bedroom little wooden house all nine girls were staying in was named “Mermaid Melissa” and sat at the edge of Cherry Grove — right by the Meatrack — the notorious gay cruising dune that connects Cherry Grove to the Pines.


“I love this area. I call it —” Violet took a long theatrical drag of her Marlboro light — “Cherry Pines.” They rolled their suitcases up the walkway that led to the house.


Dara twisted the key into the door. Right as the girls set foot in the house, Knife chuckled, “I’ve stayed here before.”


“As have I.” Violet purred, as memories of previous summers flooded her brain. “It’s one of those houses that teems with girls and tampons.”


Catalina looked at Violet knowingly. “Right. Like you arrive and every girl in the house gets her period at once?”


Violet raised a well-endowed eyebrow at Catalina. "You've stayed here too, I assume?" She batted her lashes and reached into her famously ratty $2600 canary yellow Balenciaga and popped a sky blue pill into her mouth. “Want one?” she asked the group.


“Yes,” they all answered in unison, opening up their palms, like a druggie lesbian chorus in a Broadway musical.


Catalina tossed the pill into her purse and flashed Violet a shy smile. "To answer your question, Violet, I have stayed here. It's a bloodbath." And with that, she dashed into the bathroom, her giant Juicy Couture weekender bag slung across her shoulder. There was a leopard-print bikini tucked into her bag that was begging to be on her body.


“Anyone bleedin' yet?” Dara asked, attaching the house keys to the belt-loop of her denim shorts. Even though she was only 28, she was an old-fashioned lesbian who’d been wearing her keys around her belt-loop since the eighth grade.


“I am,” said Lane.


“Same,” said Lily.


“Started this morning,” said Patra.


“Three out of nine are already bleeding? Oh well, then we’re all fucked," Knife sighed. She eye-sexed a bottle of Vodka sitting pretty on the kitchen counter. Her mouth watered. "Can we start drinking already?"


"I think I just got cramps,” Violet lamented, throwing her bony body melodramatically onto the sofa. She glanced down at her smocked white mini dress, which covered up her new white crochet bikini. “Of course I’m wearing white. Ha!” she guffawed, turning to Knife. "I want whiskey and I want mushrooms. I have both in my suitcase."


Knife, who could’ve sworn she felt an ache in her uterus, and happened to be wearing low-slung *white* distressed jeans over *white* Calvin Klein men’s underwear suddenly found herself — for the first time — attracted to Violet. She’d always been too intimidated by Violet to even catch her eye, let alone breath in her haunting beauty. There was something about Violet's energy that made her want to be bad. Whiskey and mushrooms. Cocaine and ketamine. Poppers and other party favors.


A dumb smile slowly crept its way across Knife’s face as she gazed at Violet’s creamy pale thighs clumsily strewn across the weathered couch in the living room of “Mermaid Melissa.” She envisioned Violet’s body on top of her body — when Catalina suddenly twirled out of the bathroom in a leopard print thong bikini looking like Miss New Jersey if Miss New Jersey was cool enough to be a Puerto Rican lesbian bartender. Oh, the things she’d do to Catalina. The things Catalina would do to her.


Her eyes darted toward Violet who was twirling her clavicle grazing hair, while sexily smirking into the distance. Oh, The things she’d do to Violet. The things Violet would do to her.


When was the last time I wasn’t on top? When was the last time I scissored? Knife wondered, fishing in her jean’s pocket for Violet’s pill. The self-proclaimed “straight girl addict” felt a rush of electricity pulsate inside of her Calvin Kleins. While she got off on the power trip of being a girl’s first Sapphic experience, she was suddenly overcome with a primal desire to have sex with an out and proud, experienced queer woman.


Speaking of experienced queer woman, little did any of the girls of “Mermaid Melissa” know — the queer matriarch of The West Village, Serafina — right in that moment, was landing in Cherry Grove. Not by ferry. By seaplane.


Suddenly the Island was bathed in a cloud of Chanel Number #5.


*


“Where’s Violet staying?” Jack asked Gianna, trying to sound as disinterested as possible.


“Violet’s staying with Dara and seven thousand other kids. You know the kind of house we used to stay in? The kind that’s full of estrogen and tampon wrappers? Mermaid Melissa is the house, you know the place? Over by the Meatrack?”



Of course Jack knew the house. Of course! It was a lesbian’s rite of passage to stay in Mermaid Melissa at least once. “That place would get filthy. Dirty dishes, underwear littered everywhere, and you’re right — so many tampons. We’d all get synced on the same cycle and fight.” Jack paused for a moment. “And fuck.”


“The schedule at Mermaid Melissa: Bleed. Blackout. Fuck. Fight. Repeat.” Gianna opened up her luggage and carefully removed her Louis Vuitton pour homme toiletry bag. They were staying at “The Pink Oyster,” a new women’s-only bed and breakfast with a stunning view of the bay and a sparklingly clean, electric blue swimming pool. It was owned by a small, frenetic woman named Camilla from Bayshore, Long Island.


Camilla had greeted them on the boardwalk wearing a glittery rhinestone baseball hat. “Welcome to the ‘Pink Oyster.’” She’d croaked while hacking up a lung. “House Rules: No guests. No flushing the toilet unless it’s a BM. Complimentary happy hour starts at 4 sharp and ends at 5 sharp,” she’d ordered militaristically.


“Rhinestone cowboy over there is a real pile of fuckin’ smiles,” Gianna had whispered to Jack as Camilla led them to their suite.


Jack had laughed so hard she choked on her beer.


Despite the staunch rhinestone cowboy in charge, the inn was stunningly beautiful, full of modern art and wild daisies. Plus both Jack and Gianna were perfectly happy to put up with an old New York Italian woman’s rules if it meant supporting one of the few lesbian operations on the Island.


Jack pulled a clean sweatshirt out of her bag and pulled it over her head. It had the words “BEAR WEEK: ASPEN, CO 1997” stitched across the chest. Gianna thought briefly about suggesting she throw on something a little more refined — like, say, one of those button-down shirts Jack bought in the male section at Macy’s and wore during weddings — but decided against it. Jack was in a rare good mood and it felt good to have her old friend back.


Gianna lowered her eyes and smiled at Jack like she was about to set free a long-imprisoned secret. It was a specific smile that Gianna was famous for. It was a smile that makes you drop your guard and spit out your deepest truth.


“What is it, G?” Jack asked cautiously. She detested when Gianna gave her that smile.


“Nothing, Jacky,” Gianna sing-songed. “Just wondering why you care ‘bout where Violet is staying? I’ve never even seen you glance in her direction.”


Just hearing the name “Violet'' made the hairs on the back of Jack’s neck stand up. “Just making conversation, G.”


“Violet’s a good kid, Jack. A lonely kid, though. I think you’d be good for her. Especially now, that’s she’s done with that fuckin’ animal she was dating before. The trainer chick?”


“G, I’m not interested in some party girl sex blogger, ya hear?” Jack spat.


“Alright, alright,” Gianna mused, although she couldn’t help but notice an unmistakable twinkle in Jack’s eye.


Then the scent of Chanel Number 5 filled up their entire room. “Hunnies! Darlings! Loves!” a voice boomed from outside.


“Serafina!” they cheered, rushing to the door.


*


Knife and Violet were passing back and forth a bottle of whiskey, laying on the floor of the living room, while their housemates napped in their respective rooms.


Violet knew Knife was a liar because Violet had a nose for liars. But Violet didn’t care. Today there was a vulnerable charm to Knife that she found sweet and charming.


“So, um, yeah, as I was saying, my agent was calling me earlier ‘bout this fragrance gig,” Knife stammered. For reasons she couldn’t understand — her steady lies were shaky around Violet.


“Let’s not talk about work,” Violet purred. “Let’s do something...fun.”


Knife turned her head and stared into Violet’s warm hazel eyes. Violet blinklessly met Knife’s arctic blue gaze. There was a sparkle glimmering inside of Knife’s eyes that made her blood pressure rise. It was addictive like a slot machine but familiar like her oldest pair of Dr. Marten boots.


They saw each other.


Both their eyes were like unpredictable animals; ever-changing in energy, shifting from sweet to sultry, hot to frigid, open to closed with every exchanged glance. Both girls oozed an intensity that scared normal people away. But Violet and Knife definitely weren’t normal people. They were intense people.


Violet subtly shifted her hip toward Knife’s hip. Knife slowly wedged her knee between Violet's thighs. Their eyes and bodies were locked together like a stubborn arm wrestle and their breath was heavy and staggered. Neither dared to blink.


TO BE CONTINUED.





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.”


"KNIFE."


"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.


Knife froze.


“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.







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