Heaven dispels its hoardes of drunken angels.

Outside West Hollywood’s trendy nightclub, buff bodies and their devotees spill out onto the street like wingless creatures, disoriented from the closure of these pearly gates.  Indignant cries rise up to the heavens.  No one, no matter how long they’ve lived in this city, can get used to the fact that the elixirs of rum and vodka stop flowing at two a.m. At this hour, even the city’s ardent loyalists threaten to move to its nemesis, New York. Others throw nettled glances at the lamenters, their hands confirming little plastic bags, vials, bullets -- alternative inspiration -- in their jean pockets. They negotiate urgently through the crowd to the next destination, filled with something akin to a patronizing sympathy for the poor souls who haven’t progressed to Ecstasy or GHB or Special K or some other animal tranquilizer delivering nightclub nirvana.

Adrian’s arm is hooked into mine and we don’t so much walk as sway out in the tide of men.  He asks me how I’m feeling.

“Just like Dorothy Parker, darling,” I drawl.  “Just like Mrs. Parker."

Pleased with my metamorphosis, Adrian guides my hand to a bulge in his leather jacket and throws me a conspiratorial look.  He’s smuggled out a bottle of booze. I start hoping it’s Bacardi with that regal bat, posing spread-eagled -- quite the way one feels after a few -- on the label.  He probably hung around inconspicuously while the bartender boxed up his supplies and nabbed whatever he could reach. We  laugh and Salman, now hanging heavily on our shoulders and propelling us dangerously into the crowd, asks us what the hell is going on and then without waiting for an answer, bursts into a Hindi film song -- something campy that a vamp like Helen or Bindu enacted in some B-grade Bollywood film, nothing quite as tragic quite as tragic as the stuff that appealed to me.  Not something by Lata.  Now, one thing about Salman is that he has no voice, a fault only made worse by his disregard for his limitations and insistence of volume. We ask him to shut up but he’s annoyed that I won’t sing along.

“Come on, sing na?  Forget those melancholy Lata songs, yaar,” he says.  “It’s time for some ‘Dam maro dam, mit jaye gaam…’”

We affix ourselves to a spot where we can stand while others mill around us.  In the flurry of activity, a strange calm, one not unlikely between kindred spirits, pervades Adrian and me.  I have found a reprieve even if I haven’t managed to find Richard tonight. Adrian, one hand still holding the bottle securely under his leather jacket, pulls me down to him with the other and I rest my head on his shoulder while Salman unleashes a medley of other filmi hits.  He has turned his back to us and is now assaulting the poor Mexican man selling hot dogs on the boulevard with his impromptu performance.  As the vendor tosses links and sautees peppers and onions on his mobile grill (the mélange creating a strangely repugnant yet appetite-inducing aroma) he looks somewhat bewildered at being singled out for Salman’s attentions.  This could be keeping customers away.

I can’t hear Salman anymore and I’m quite sure Adrian can’t either.  Dusky horns blow in my mind.  And Lata, that ethereal voice from every Hindi film I’ve beheld as a child, chimes in.  I am content in this state if not happy. With my body slumped against Adrian’s, we must look like lovers to most everyone.  The kind that through years of reinvention, long after the rush of new love has quelled, have found an almost platonic way to stay together, something made visible by a shared sense of style and demeanor.  Many have even asked us if we are a couple but Adrian always relegates the answer to me, like someone uncertain of the mood-driven response -- usually “no, just friends” or, at times when we’re feeling more mischievous, “yes, but only on rainy nights.” We look like the best of lovers precisely because we aren’t that.  Romantic love is savage, vengeful, demanding, rarely the foundation for the kind of calm one mistakes for a lover’s relationship.

With Adrian’s heartbeat in my ear, I envision Richard’s painfully beautiful face during the siesta when I synchronized my breath with his so that our bodies would rise and dip with graceful alternation, our hearts beating in unison.  The frenzy my search for him flared in me only hours earlier, one which sent me goring through the club with no regard for my friends or potential lovers, has been sedated by the administrations of my favorite bartender and Adrian’s pacifying breast.