Seth is used to it by now, that thing where Stefon somehow gets Seth to invite him along to almost every major friends-and/or-family-gathering holiday. It's not so bad, really, he's kind of grown to enjoy sitting back and watching what happens when Stefon engages Seth's mom in a conversation about this amazing fourteen-year-old Cameroonian pan flautist he knows; or when he insists that Seth's girlfriend order a Dudey Valentino and smirks knowingly when she asks him to explain.
Seth is a man of observation. Sometimes he wants something a little different to observe. Something more interesting. And who knows more about "interesting" and "different" than Stefon, right? It just makes sense.
So when Seth's girlfriend finally has enough of all that "interesting" and "different" conversation and dumps him after a Thanksgiving spent considering the aesthetics of cinderblocks, charm bracelets, and carnies, it's actually a pretty welcome thing to have Stefon invite himself along for Christmas.
"Are you going to take me home to New Hampshire with you again?" Stefon asks from between his fingers.
"No. I think I'm going to stay in the City this year," Seth says.
"Do I get to come in your apartment?"
"To my apartment," Seth corrects.
"No, that's not what I meant." Stefon looks away and tugs at his sleeves.
Seth thinks for a moment, and decides he wants to see something different. "You know what, Stefon? I'm going to let you decide where we go." It's a good idea, he thinks. No family, no girlfriend, no normalcy. Just forget all that for once. "Yeah," he says with a shrug, warming to the idea. "Why the hell not?"
Stefon gasps, and his eyes go wide. "I know exactly the place that answers that question."
It turns out that place is New York's hottest club... and, well, Seth doesn't catch the name, but Stefon makes a noise that sounds like a goose in a knife fight with a capuchin monkey, so it's something like that. Stefon doesn't really tell Seth much about it on the cab ride to SoBoNoBro. For once, he holds back on the details, only saying, "There are some things that even I can't describe, Seth Meyers," with a satisfied little smile and his eyes wandering over Seth's body.
Seth doesn't know what to make of that. He looks out the window and tries to figure out exactly where he is, and why he's never heard of this neighborhood before, when suddenly the cab jolts to a stop and a man wearing a torn burlap sack bangs a polka-dotted bag on the hood of the cab, his matted hair flying in clumps around his red, raging face.
"SoBoNoBro hobo," Stefon explains.
He pays the driver and takes Seth's hand and pulls him past the line of bored and colorful people snaking around the block. A disintegrating leather boot whizzes past Seth's shoulder just as Stefon takes him through the unmarked door. The man cackles behind them like some kind of ungodly hellspawn.
"Aren't they amazing?" Stefon sighs.
All Seth can say is, "Um..." and then, when his eyes still aren't quite adjusted to the light (or, rather, the complete and total lack of light) inside and all he can hear is an unusual amount of silence, he says "So... what is this place, Stefon?"
"This is—" and then he makes that sound again, which is about a thousand times scarier when heard in pitch darkness, "—the last next best thing from club owner Ted Screwgent, and it has everything."
"I can't really see anything—"
"It's got jivers, boxers, floor tiles, plastic fruit orchards, Tall Vern Troyer, Bryslers—"
"You know, it's, like, that thing where control freak brides finally snap and convert their dresses into functioning vehicles and race to the death, fuelled by their own desperate perfectionism."
"Uh, okay... and... why is it so dark?"
"You can't see anything?"
"Oh," Stefon says. Seth feels Stefon's hand slip into his again, and then hears, close to his ear, "That must be the 'tude lighting."
Seth sighs. "Do I want to know?"
"It's, like, mood lighting that works like a mood ring and runs off your attitude... You have a bad attitude, Seth Meyers."
"How can that possibly be a thing?"
"See, like that!"
Seth thinks he rolls his eyes. It feels like he does, but since he can't see anything, it's a little hard to tell. "What's the light like for you?"
"Right. Of course it is." Seth chews his lip and convinces himself that nothing is going to jump out at him like some half-assed haunted house. "So... is it going to be like this all night?"
He feels Stefon's breath on his neck, and an unexpected shiver spreads from the point of impact. "That's up to you."
"Close your eyes."
"What's the poi—"
"I'll do it for you."
Despite his claim to having full use of his shiny, shiny vision, Stefon's hand fumbles over Seth's face, and Seth really doubts that the finger that slips into his mouth is there by accident.
The hand finally settles over Seth's eyes and Stefon nudges him forward.
Seth stumbles, and holds his hands out in front of him like a zombie on a brain-seeking mission hindered by a club kid clinging to his shoulder. "Where are we going?"
"That's not the question you asked, Seth Meyers," Stefon whispers. "You asked 'Why the hell not?' And now you're going to find out."
Yeah, well. He did ask that.
So he lets Stefon push him along, the jittery drumming of his fingertips against Seth's arm playing out the beat of some song that Seth doesn't quite hear yet. His shoulders feel tense where Stefon's fingers keep time, and so he takes a deep breath, and relaxes, a little bit.
"Okay," Stefon's breathy voice makes Seth shiver in the darkness. "Keep going."
He can hear the music now, kind of, a steady, rhythmic, thumping wail that is just audible over the shuffle of his stumbling feet.
"What is this music?"
"Do you really want to know?"
"It's Dubby Checker. Dubstep Chubby Checker remixes, mashed up with authentic recordings of Belgian children playing at the bottom of a well. All placed on a heavy bed of Enya samples. It's the best thing."
Seth keeps his comments to himself, and he soon sees light peeking between Stefon's fingers.
"Can I look now?"
"You can see?"
"It's working! Yay, Stefon cheered you up!"
"I guess so."
Stefon stops his forward movement with a squeeze of Seth's shoulder. "Okay, here we are."
The music seems to swell just as Stefon moves his hand and Seth's eyes are assaulted by light and color and movement and just everything.
A woman in a hollowed-out wedding dress being driven by a man with boxing gloves slung around his neck and a small white dog on his lap. A six-foot-eight-inch bald man in a grey jumpsuit. Uniform rows of dusty plastic trees stretching to the walls, shiny, waxy apples and oranges and peaches dropping from their branches. The light shifting color and intensity as patrons pass under it, from total darkness to a deep rose-pink to blinding, bright fluorescence.
All set to a skittish, heavy bass beat and the word "Twist" repeated over and over and over under echoing Belgian laughter.
"So," Stefon says excitedly, his hands fluttering around his jaw. "What do you think?"
"It's, uh..." Seth shakes his head, trying to clear it, or maybe trying to wake himself up to find he's actually alone in his bedroom with a high fever or a poor choice of late-night snack food. "I think... I think I know now why the hell not."
"Yesyesyes, I told you!" Stefon shakes Seth's arm, his hands sliding down Seth's sleeve until his hand is sandwiched between Stefon's, his skin hot, his grip tight. "Come on. You need to drink, Seth Meyers."
There's a fish tank in the bar, but instead of bright tropical fish, or even your regular run-of-the-mill goldfish, it's filled with model airplanes and tiny plastic toy soldiers with no apparently consistent historical theme. Seth stares at it, watching the battle between a tiny confederate soldier and a tiny green army man caught together in a bubble stream. He's so hypnotized that he's startled when Stefon squeezes his hand and draws his attention to the bartender.
"That's Bree Harvey Oswald," he says, pointing to the short girl with even shorter hair, parted in the middle and straight over her ears. She wears a blue work shirt buttoned up to her throat and a scowl. By the tone of Stefon's voice, Seth figures that he's supposed to be impressed.
"Uh-huh..." he says.
"She's really good with shots."
He almost groans at that, he wants to, but then Stefon is pulling him to the bar. He doesn't order with words, or even sounds. He kind of flicks his head and raises one eyebrow, crosses his eyes, and then does something like finger jazzercise with the hand not holding Seth's. Bree Harvey Oswald gives Stefon a nod, her eyes darting sideways to Seth, before turning to the wall of bottles behind her.
"Turn around," Stefon says. "Nobody is supposed to know what she does."
"Is that safe?" Seth asks as he turns his back to Bree and the fish tank, his eyes taking in a row of shiny apple trees and a speeding Brysler.
"Trust me," Stefon says with an exasperated groan. "It's going to get dark again if you're not careful."
"Okay." Seth swallows. His ears pop and the music gets louder. He squints into the light and looks over at Stefon, who is looking back at him with wide eyes and a mysterious little smile. "This is fun. I'm gonna have fun."
Stefon covers his smile with his hand, but Seth can still see it. It's catching. He smiles too.
Bree clears her throat behind them and slams two shot glasses filled with something red and orange on the bar.
Seth does the shot. It tastes like cinnamon and pennies. The room spins a little bit, the apple trees and the orange trees and Tall Vern Troyer all merging together. It feels like his bones are made of air.
He does another shot.
Stefon keeps holding his hand.
"Why do you keep asking me back if you don't like my City tips?" Stefon asks with a pout.
"It's always good to see you," Seth says with a shrug. "I don't know, you're... you're not like my other friends. I'd never get to see you otherwise, you know, I'd never get the chance to invite you along for holidays and stuff."
"Yeah. Yeah, I mean... of course we are. I like you, I like spending time with you, and that... I don't know, that's like the only time we can. Spend time with each other."
"Oh," Stefon says, sounding disappointed.
"But," Seth adds, gesturing to the room, "This is, this... I can kind of see the appeal now. I mean, don't get me wrong, I still think you're way off base giving this out as a family tourist destination, but... but for the right kind of people, I get it now."
Stefon chews his drink garnish, a little purple plastic sword. "Are you the right kind of people, Seth Meyers?"
Seth laughs. "You know what? Tonight, I think I am."
Stefon nods. He touches his hair and checks out the room.
The music fills their silence until Seth clears his throat. "You know I broke up with my girlfriend, right?"
"Really," Stefon says, feigning disinterest. "No, I didn't know that. That's sad."
"She, um... she was kind of tired of me bringing you along on stuff, but, you know... I have to admit, I think I'm having way more fun here than I should be."
Stefon turns back to him with a surveying look, and pokes him in the chest with the plastic sword. "Good."
"I wanna dance."
Seth is buzzed, but not that buzzed. "Go ahead. I'm good here just... people watching."
Stefon pouts. "Awww, come on."
"I'm... reaching my limits."
"You're not fun anymore."
Seth laughs. "Okay. Just... gimme a chance to work up to it. I'll catch up to you later."
Stefon pouts some more. Then he smooths his hair down and walks—no, slinks—away, tugging his sleeves over his hands darting a look back to check if Seth is watching him.
He sees Stefon bite the inside of his cheek with a satisfied smirk, and merge into the crowd.
Stefon dances kind of like a cat occupies a patch of sun on the floor.
He's lithe and blissful, taking everything in just because it's there. Seth can't help but watch him, he just looks so comfortable out there compared to the way Seth is used to seeing him.
Stefon catches Seth looking, and he looks away quickly, hiding his smile and his eyes behind his hands, flattening the wedge of his bangs down.
Seth looks away too, laughs at himself. He's seated at the foot of a plastic apple tree, on a patch of floor tiles made of slate and marble and ceramic. He looks up through the branches at the bright light shining down on him, glaring off the artificial leaves.
He stretches. It's almost warm. If it weren't for the beat and the twist and the plaintive wails of Enya and the slate tiles under his ass, he could believe that he's spending a delightful afternoon of apple picking with his boyfriend—
Whoa. Wait. What?
Yeah, it's nothing like that. Not that that's a bad thing. It's just... different.
Seth laughs at himself again and looks down at the drink in his hand, the latest thing he didn't see Bree make. It's blue and cold, in a highball glass, not as good as her shots, but still. It feels like his brain has been carbonated. He thinks he gets the appeal of all this now.
His gaze drifts back to the dance floor, to Stefon, who is taking his turn to watch Seth.
He doesn't look away this time. Neither of them do.
The lightness in his head pulls Seth up, up off the ground and out onto the floor. Stefon claps in time with the music and bounces over to Seth.
"Hi," he sighs.
"How are you?" Seth asks.
"You tell me."
Seth laughs again and shakes his head, his arms open and raised to the light. He dances, and he can feel eyes on him, the brides with their automobile dresses and the boxers and the jivers and Bree Harvey Oswald. They're taking note, thinking that this club does have everything, including a preppy guy with a loosened tie who can't dance to save his life.
"You're dancing?" Stefon says.
"I guess so!" Seth answers. "I figured why the hell not?"
"So your question has been answered?"
"Yeah. It has. One of them, at least."
Stefon catches his arms, holding his hands again, bringing them back down to his sides.
"What was the other one?" he asks, hopeful, loaded, testing him as always.
Seth grins at him before darting forward to catch his lips.
Stefon makes a surprised noise, kind of like a goose in a knife fight with a capuchin monkey.
"I think that's all of them now," Seth says.
"Why didn't you ask that one first?" Stefon says, his fingers at his lips, like he can't quite feel if they're real anymore. "I know a better place to answer that one, Seth Meyers."
Stefon takes his hand and they head for the door like the place is on fire, bright, shiny light following them all the way out.
Seth invites Stefon to spend New Year's with him.
"I know there are probably a thousand more fun things you want to do, but I thought, I don't know, maybe... you'd like to come in my apartment?"
"You mean to your apartment?"
"No, that's not what I meant."
In some ways, the year ends quietly.
In many other ways, though, it really, really, really doesn't.