I gulp, gasp, look around. They glow, twirl, flip their hair. I breathe heavily and hear my heart hammering within, rising above the clink of glasses and music. I grasp my purse tighter, my unpolished nails clawing into the brown leather of my purse, clearly an alien to the shimmer of sequins and soft of fur. A forty-five year old in the midst of a club to hang out with myself, I sidestep trains of beautiful dresses on dainty young girls sashaying past. Scornful glances hurriedly thrown my way only worsen the panic that claws at my throat. Suspicious ones make it tighter. I make my way to the bar. The bartender shoots me a look in which he mixes incredulity and pity to make the perfect blend. A blend that makes me want to throw up more than nine shot glasses full of Vodka could. I stammer, I stutter, I stop. They sip their drinks, throw back their heads and laugh. They daze, they dazzle, they dance. I wish I had listened to the disapproving voices in my head. “You wouldn’t fit in there!” they’d screamed in whispers. “So?” I had retorted, safe and brave in the quiet of my home. The retort doesn’t rise to my throat now. Only bile does. And a stone cold fear. I turn around. The exit is too far away. Too many trains of maxi dresses to sidestep, too many twinkle toes to avoid. I turn around again, feet firmly placed in square one. Take a deep breath, smile. I look the bartender and gasp inwardly as I hear myself.

“A Cosmopolitan, please.”

Illustration by Reya Ahmed

by Rushali Shome

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