We hadn’t intended to go to the party, but a last-minute decision followed by a rallying of spirits saw us taking an uber out onto the highway and away from the Las Vegas strip. I was the one who was initially reluctant and I was the one that decided later that we would go, changing my tune when the others seemed to be giving up on going without me. I sat in the front seat and watched the lights from the strip fade in the mirror as we pulled away from them. Athena and Frankie sat in the back, chatting about the night as we coasted along the empty roads. It was 20 minutes before the driver turned down the dark private street where the house sat and we knew as soon as we pulled up that we were at the right place because of the people gathered around outside.
A quick check by the woman sitting at the door confirmed that we were on the list and we were invited to go inside, through the inconspicuous house, past the pool and across a gravel yard to the separate building where the party was being held. We could hear the music before we even reached the building and when I turned the handle on the door, sound and light poured out into the night. It enveloped us like a mist, swallowing us as we walked through the doorway and seemingly into another world.
The room that we entered into was open like a warehouse; it had a cavernous feel to it with high ceiling and metal walls. The red lights that bled through the darkness painted everyone in a lustful tone and all around us people were engaged in acts that were befitting of it. Crossing through the room toward our host, we didn’t have time to take it all in before being led upstairs to the private part of the party. We stopped in the first room to grab a few drinks and were shown other rooms in which we could indulge if we felt so inclined. Finally we came to the main room of the upstairs floor where people were starting to gather to tie one another up. We spoke to friends who watched the show, but I sipped my drink and was distracted by the knowledge that Wren was somewhere close by. I watched lips move, but most of the words never made it through the waiting for her to appear and my contributions to the conversation consisted mostly of polite nods.
Wren and I had spent a lot of time together over the previous few days while attending the same conference, though we’d met a few months before and texted each other every now and again. I’m very good at anticipating what people will say or do, so the fact that she often catches me off guard is fascinating to me. I don’t know what to make of what’s happening between us sometimes because of that, but there is certain kind of happiness that can come from not having all the answers when you are accustomed to.
I felt her coming down the hallway through the dark, I knew it was her before I could make out her face. Her long dark hair was split into two braids and she wore a black dress with a white collar. She gave me a hug before being beckoned over to the lap of the man she was there with. She made eye contact with me as she sat on his knee and I drifted away to join my friends who were watching the scene that was starting to take shape in front of us.
We sat quietly and watched as a man worked rope around a woman, whispering into her ear as he inflicted both pleasure and pain. He took out a knife and dragged it lightly across her skin as conflict crept across the faces of those in the room and a smile crawled across the woman’s face. Athena seemed anxious at the sight of the knife and she wanted to leave; Edgeplay isn’t for everyone and we headed back downstairs hoping she would be more comfortable. I turned to see if Wren was still there, but she’d already slipped away.
Downstairs there were many different things to draw your attention: people fucking in a cage, a woman dominating a cis man and a transgerendered woman, people in various states of dress and undress and we drifted from one show to the next as we made our way through the room.
I stole glances at Frankie and Athena to be certain that it wasn’t too much; too strange for us to watch together or too intense for people who work in the adult industry but who usually have a screen between themselves and the sex.
‘This is a very unique team building exercise.” Frankie said to me through a smile. Later that night he would tell me he was glad that I’d dragged them out.
It was getting late and the two of them wanted to head back, so we made our way slowly back toward the street. The other two having gotten a head start on me as I moved slowly, searching for a glimpse of Wren, hoping for a chance to say goodbye. Athena and Frankie told me I had a few minutes before our ride would get there, so I told them I’d be back and I headed back into the fray.
I stepped through the door and stopped to look around the room, feeling her presence as I had before; the crowd parted and there she was, standing looking back at me. She gave me the smallest little wave and a smile that matched it and it made me happy, and it made me ache. I don’t remember what song was playing, but in my memory it’s Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’ that runs through my mind when I think of the last time that I saw her.
I slipped out into the night and rejoined my friends as they made their way toward the street. The music faded into the background, broken up by the sound of crunching gravel under our feet. The stars shined over head, throwing a little light onto the barren yard and empty road. During the winter you can smell the earth a little more crisply in the desert and breathed it in deeply so that I could use that part of the memory to help find my way back to that night when I wanted to.
When our car arrived we stepped into it and I closed my eyes after shutting the door behind me. I listened to Frankie and Athena talk, the sound of their voices helping me break the orbit of the party, of the night, of the ache that her smile left.