In a post-Covid world, we joke, the first thing we’ll do is go to a techno show. Yeah, like the kind in someone’s basement that smells of bathwater or underneath a freeway pass for better acoustics—remember that last show we went to? Where we had to slink ungracefully through a doggy door in the fence and squish through ferns that tickled our palms before we came across the path, illuminated by Carla’s bright-pink hair. There will be a Halloween-store fog machine, a drumline of clanging pots and pans, and those little umbrellas in everyone’s red Solo cup. Most people are just huffing down straight gin. Your ex’s new girlfriend is the one DJing, and you suddenly feel very petty and small, even though this is the ex who inhaled paint thinner and said your calves were horsey when he was high. But still—you look around for his signature shaved head and are relieved that he’s not here. And if he is, you couldn’t care less. So yeah, at this techno show, everyone is wearing a slick black mask in some intersection between goth and UX designer. In the bright darkness, we k-hole as if we aren’t terrified of being near stranger bodies, wrapped in tender-damp heat, after almost two years of only talking to low-res avatars on a screen. We suddenly have nothing to say. No one brings up how Jay would have been the first one shuffling up a storm, except his parents took him off the ventilator a month ago. None of us could go to the family-only funeral. Or how Tony has to sit down for most of the set after getting sick in the first wave. But we sit down with him in the middle of the dance floor, watch the crowd bob nervously and grow old. We leave after an hour. On the way home, Carla drives because she’s doing some alcohol detox, and we mouth off about how the music was whack, no, the people, no, it was the general vibe and like, what the heck was up with those little umbrellas? It’s all very predictable, you know, this idea of an after, as easy as getting used to a ghost. And Jay laughs at this like a donkey in heat from the backseat, as if to remind us that he’s still here, still kicking. By the time we turn back to make sure, he’s already gone.
Lucy Zhou is a technical writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her writing has appeared in HAD, Barren Magazine, Rejection Letters, and elsewhere. In 2020, she received an honorable mention for the Felicia Farr Lemmon Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets. You can find her on Twitter @lrenazhou.
Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower