In that narrow street they stood, every business was either a club or theme bar, and music became a confusing potpourri made of different styles played too close together. It looked like many people couldn’t decide what they preferred, because the street was full of little groups of people like theirs, and a few bigger groups too.
The Elephant had a sign on its door with the drawing of a pink elephant with humanoid traits wearing a top hat, and sliding down a rainbow. “One point for this place,” Cesario said, pointing at the it.
“I was told the music gets pretty good too,” Feste said, shrugging but not entirely able to keep a straight face.
“And I was told I’m not paying for drinks tonight,” Cesario reminded Orsino, who followed them silently, like he was already regretting coming.
“Sure,” Orsino agreed, in another one word sentence, like he had been doing the whole way.
“Did someone force you to come or something?” Feste snapped at him, sick of his act.
“My worst enemy forced me to come,” he answered, and it was his longest sentence since they had left home.
“Hey!” Cesario protested, after all, they were the one who made him go out.
“I don’t think he meant you,” Feste shook their head and held back some laughter as they spoke.
“It’s not you,” Orsino confirmed, trying to keep a neutral face.
Once they finished climbing up the stairs to the dance floor, they took in the space and headed to the bar. Feste introduced themself to the bartender, and as soon they had a drink in hand, they left to assume their position as dj.
“There’s no one here,” Orsino complained.
“Of course not, it’s too early.” Cesario shrugged. “Let’s see how it goes when Feste gets started.”
People arrived slowly. After a few beers, Cesario got bored of standing by the bar, and invited Orsino to dance, giving his shoulder a little push of encouragement. “How do you even dance to that?” he protested, not moving.
“Come with me to find out.” They didn’t really expect it to work, but surprisingly, Orsino followed.
Cesario did some goofy moves just to help Orsino loosen up a little. He laughed, and mimicked everything. It didn’t last long though. He waved his hand as if to say it was enough. “I can’t do that, it’s too dumb,” he gave up.
“A little more,” Cesario insisted. “I didn’t even feel it.”
Orsino’s head tilted a little to his left, and he narrowed his eyes. “Is that makeup?” he pointed at Cesario’s face.
“Me? Wearing makeup?” they faked outrage. “Can you really call a little eyeliner makeup?” they added, pretending to think aloud.
Cesario smiled sheepishly, hands before their body, palms up. “You caught me.”
“It’s weird,” he declared.
“I think it’s cute,” Cesario disagreed, trying not to show how pissed they were at his unsolicited comment on their looks.
“I think you weren’t bullied enough in school.”
“I’m being bullied right now, and it’s not stopping me.” They shot him an annoyed look they hoped would warn him to stop.
“It’s not bullying if we’re friends,” Orsino argued, smiling so smugly he obviously thought there were no flaws to his statement.
“If we’re such goods friends why can’t you be supportive?”
His smile disappeared. He tried to work an answer but all he came up with was: “Oh, come on!” A protest, that failed to get across whatever he was trying to say. “Let’s do shots,” he shrugged and turned back to the bar.
“No shots for me,” Cesario decided, following him. “I don’t want to repeat last night.”
“All I know is the video I have in my phone.”
“Is it funny?” Orsino asked, suddenly looking very interested.
“My drunk face is pretty funny, but it’s not embarrassing, if that’s what you mean.” Taking from his disappointed face, that was exactly what he expected.
Drinking relaxed Orsino enough that he was the one who invited Cesario to dance this time. But not so much that their dancing could be anything other than funny, it reminded Cesario of dancing with Sebastian, something that always made their friends back home laugh endlessly. At least, no one in the Elephant cared enough to laugh at Cesario and Orsino, so they continued doing the world’s least sexy dancing. And even so, every now and then Orsino would start laughing self consciously.
They didn’t notice the girl who came their way with purpose, followed by two of her friends. “Hello, Cesario, good to see you here,” said Olivia, standing right next to them.
“Oh, hello!” They smiled back and lost their ability to think for a second: Olivia always wore her dresses well, but they were never so revealing. She was taller than they were in her high heels, her cleavage made them wonder how the picture went from there, same as the long legs on display. Cesario couldn’t get over how hot she looked. Their whole body was suddenly charged with electricity when she kissed them on both cheeks. “It’s good to see you too,” they finally managed to say.
“Isn’t this place great? ” she went on, one hand still on Cesario’s arm. “I didn’t think you were coming.” She leaned slightly closer.
Cesario decided it was better to make it clear they were taken. “I had to come, I mean, Feste really wanted me to.” They pointed at the general direction Feste was, but the lights kept them from seeing the dj clearly. “And it’s far from the weirdest place I’ve followed them to.”
Olivia laughed and removed her hand from their arm. “Who’s your friend?” she asked, looking at Orsino. Cesario made the introductions and the girl looked like she had no idea she’d met him before. He didn’t remind her of that, which Cesario thought was best, it would probably do him no good if Olivia knew he was the same guy who sent her boring poems (and there was no way she could link him to his Ice Bear profile picture.)
Olivia introduced her friends to Cesario and Orsino. The girls were really friendly and their questions gave Cesario the feeling they had heard a thing or two about Olivia’s French teacher already. So of course they brought Feste up every other sentence.
As they talked, they slowly moved away from the dance floor, closer to a wall. The girls wanted to dance, and asked Olivia to go with them. “I’ll get another drink,” she told her friends. “What about you guys?” she asked both Cesario and Orsino.
“Sure,” said Orsino, finally looking happy.
Olivia looked at Cesario, waiting for their answer. They just nodded and followed the two to the bar. Now the place was getting more crowded, it took them a while to get their drinks. "I’m having one of those,” Olivia pointed at the group who’d just been served drinks topped with blue flames.
“That looks cool,” Cesario said, observing the group with the flaming drinks to see how long the fire lasted. It was less than a minute.
“I’m in,” Orsino decided, with enthusiasm. “What about you?” he asked his friend.
Now, a few drinks later, Cesario didn’t remember their own decision of staying away from anything stronger than beer. So of course they were in for the weird looking drink. They had their phone ready and made a short video of their fiery drink and Olivia’s. Orsino covered his face, making it clear he didn’t want to the camera on him. They touched glasses, saying “cheers”, and found out the drink didn’t taste as nicely as it looked. They laughed at each other’s disgusted faces. “What were you expecting?” Orsino said. “It’s what hellfire tastes like.”
Olivia shrugged, and abandoned her drink. “Let’s dance instead?” she suggested, leaning closer to Cesario, who escaped with a very obvious excuse: “I have to go to the bathroom.” They hoped Orsino took the chance to make a move on her.
The Elephant deserved another point for not having gendered bathrooms. And one more for being the kind of place girls wearing cat ears would go to. They danced with one of them for a little while, and a few other people, whose looks weren’t as remarkable. They caught a glimpse of Orsino and Olivia dancing, and became just a little too interested. There was intention to their dancing, the best intentions, one might say observing their body language. Cesario wondered what they were whispering to each other, and whether it would work.
It was impossible to ignore the thought saying it was none of their business, so Cesario focused on dancing. Feste’s music only got better, even though Cesario’s opinion was probably biased, the club was a lot more crowded now than an hour ago, and people were dancing, making out, and buying drinks, which looked like a profitable night at the Elephant.
Cesario got tired of dancing at some point, and found a corner where it looked safe to sit on the floor, because none of the few seats were available. They checked their phone, and saw Sebastian’s photo: he was standing next to the statue of a rooster three times his size, it was brightly colored, and was very reflexive. He wrote: “The story behind this piece of art is one morning this town woke up and the rooster was here, nobody knows where it came from, but they kept it. I think it says a lot about this people.”
“I think it says a lot about you,” they replied, before sending him the video of the burning drinks.
He replied in a few minutes: “You’re really living the life in the city, aren’t you? Who’s she?”
“That’s Olivia. My friend is trying to hook up with her.”
“Why aren’t you? She’s hot.”
“Because I’m with Feste. And some other stuff too.”
“What’s Feste like?” he asked.
Cesario had some trouble coming up with a description for Feste that felt right, and finally wrote: “A little shocking at first, but really fun and sweet.”
“Sounds like trouble,” Sebastian commented, adding a happy devil emoji to it.
“They sound great, actually,” Cesario corrected, linking one of Feste’s songs to the text. “What about Antonio?”
“He acts all tough, but he’s really sensitive once you get to know him. He’s always telling me stories. There’s a whole lot of nothing out here, so his stories help me keep sane.”
They wondered if a lot of nothing could be dangerous. “Are you being careful out there?”
“Probably not, Antonio always asks if I’m trying to get myself killed. Don’t worry about it, he’s very good talking me out of my worst ideas. But I still think you two are just pussies. Sometimes you need a good selfie with an alligator.”
“Are you out of your mind?”
“I didn’t do it. But I still think it would’ve worked. It was smaller than me.”
“Please, don’t get yourself killed,” they asked, aware it was useless worrying about Sebastian, but not feeling any less anxious.
“I won’t. You’re showing me those places in person when I’m back.”
A hand on Cesario’s shoulder brought them back to the real world with a start. “Why you’re sitting here?” Orsino offered a hand to help them up.
“I didn’t find a better place to sit. I thought you were with Olivia.”
“I was, but she left with her friends. Let’s get something to drink,” he placed his arm over Cesario’s shoulders.
“How did it go with Olivia?” they insisted curiously.
“We were dancing real close together, and then her friends show up, one is completely drunk, the other says they have to go. So she kissed me and told me to get her number from you.” He laughed and looked like he didn’t entirely believe what had just happened.
“That’s great!” Cesario said, though they didn’t really mean it. But that was just a stupid, however persistent fantasy, and it would be easier to let it die once Orsino was officially in a relationship. “You may need a new number to text her from now on.”
Orsino laughed. “I know,” he said, nodding and looking the best they’d ever seen him .
Some of the bar stools were finally free, so they sat there for a while, Cesario having soda, Orsino beer. Slowly, the club was getting emptier and the remaining people were losing their energy. “Are you happy now?” Cesario asked, comparing his present face to what he looked like earlier. The answer was laughter.
A few drinks later, the only sofa in the club became available, so they moved there. Cesario sat and Orsino laid back with his head on their lap and his legs hanging off, too long to fit the couch. “This always happens when we party,” Orsino noted, sounding very amused by his own observation.
“What happens?” Cesario didn’t know what he meant.
“This,” he insisted, making a gesture that encompassed both of them.
“Not always, just two out of three times.”
“Good enough, there’s room for surprise.” He sat up, still very close to Cesario, his arm around them again. “I have a confession to make,” he said, his face inches from Cesario’s. “I was wrong,” he went on, looking persistently at their eyes. “That black stuff on your eyes looks good. What’s it called?”
Cesario laughed, relieved now they knew what Orsino was looking at. “Eyeliner,” they said, still uncomfortable with all the touching.
“Do you think I’d look hot with eyeliner?”
First they laughed, only then they admitted: “I think so.” Orsino held their face in his hands, examining the makeup, making Cesario even more uncomfortable. “Let go,” they protested.
“I wanna see how you did it. Close your eyes.”
Having their eyes closed only made the feel of Orsino’s hands more unnerving, but Cesario was convinced this feeling was a product of absurd fantasies, they didn’t think there was any real reason to feel like that. They were proved wrong when Orsino kissed them. Cesario had imagined it more times than they cared to admit it, but it happened so unexpectedly they had no reaction.
Orsino backed away a few inches, his warm eyes meeting Cesario’s still shocked stare. “Very cute,” he whispered, caressing Cesario’s cheeks with his thumbs. His second kiss was more predictable, but they didn’t stop it. Kissing Orsino was something they were too curious about to pass on. They gave into his lips and tongue, eager to find out what they felt like against their own. They liked his kiss, his smell, his hands felt great in their hair, and even better feeling them up, they enjoyed every delicious bit of it.
Then it was over, and Orsino stood three feet away looking worried. “I’m sorry,” he said, his palms open before him saying it was an honest mistake, but also telling Cesario to stay away. “I’m drunk,” he explained. Cesario wasn’t convinced, but it made no difference, they didn’t have the chance to say anything, Orsino just left.
They sat alone in that couch as the club got more empty, hating how much they’d enjoyed it. Why it had to be so hot? Why couldn’t Orsino be a bad kisser, or smell wrong, or something? It would’ve made things much simpler. But no, of course he felt just perfect. Things were never simple. And there was the question of how they were supposed to be around each other after that. Were they just going to pretend it never happened? Thinking about it was making them panicky. Cesario closed their eyes, concentrated on breathing, and ended up nodding off.
“Hello, there,” Feste woke them up, placing a hand on their shoulder gently. “Have you been sitting here all night?” they worried.
“No, I had fun. I danced with a cat girl,” they said, getting up.
“Cat girls are hot, but it’s always revolution this, and Karl Marx that, I’m sorry but I’m too shallow for that shit,” Feste said, taking Cesario’s hand and guiding them away from the Elephant.