The Zoo

We have a problem, Kalas told me. I had just arrived at the place he told me to go: it was an expensive neon bar in a palace filled with pretty young faces. They all looked like rich kids — you could look at any one of them and know that they smelled good. What’s the problem? I asked Kalas, worried that, this time, he might be serious. The problem is — he handed me a shot glass and poured freezing, sludge-like liqueur in it — the problem is that you look depressingly sober. Drink up, my friend.

This was how Kalas partied. He was generous with his money, but I didn’t know where it came from. I didn’t really care, at least he was paying for my drinks. All I knew was that his job at the time was networking: he told me that he didn’t need to drink, but it made the job easier. During those days, Kalas had a party every week, and he invited the same set of people — I was part of this group. We sometimes brought along with us some new people, our own friends, and the circle grew bigger and bigger. Kalas was quick to build rapport: he looked at people the way a person would with their long-lost friend. There was thick chemistry between him and anyone he spoke to. Kalas was magnetic, and although he was most of the time a tactless asshole, he was a forgivable fool.

I took his shot begrudgingly, and he laughed at my sour face. Another one, I said, coughing. That’s my man, Kalas said, pouring me another shot. After I took it, he introduced me to the other people there — I only remembered the names of two people, but I remember there being around twenty. So, I asked, what are you celebrating tonight? Kalas shrugged and said, Do we need a reason to drink? I thought, Usually, yes. But I suppose, to Kalas, drinking was just second nature.

I noticed, seated on the couch, a timid doe-eyed youth who looked too young to be in a bar. They looked around like a lost child, nursing a bottle of beer. I met their gaze, but they immediately looked down. I felt bad for them. No doubt this was one of Kalas’ naive, androgynous victims: he brought one almost every week. He always had someone to corrupt. There were even times when he brought more than one person. I’m not sure where he got the energy, but he always went home with them. We never really wondered — or cared — how Kalas sexually identified himself: all we knew was that there was always someone with him. We started calling him the Ho-verlord — like overlord, but a ho.

I later found out that Kalas was in a relationship that whole time: he had a girlfriend. I’m in an open relationship, Kalas told me. That means we can go out and mess with whoever we like, as long as we go home to each other. Honestly, it sounded to me like cheating with extra steps, but if that made them happy, and if they were honest with each other anyway, then I guess they weren’t betraying each other’s trust. It still seemed to be a complicated arrangement, though I knew Kalas was good at compartmentalizing things. He was often so aloof that problems just seemed to slide off him. The downside to that is that he didn’t really seem to care whether he hurt anyone as long as he was having fun.

I sat beside the young person. Hey, I said, how do you know Kalas? We just met on a dating app, they said, smiling with tightly met lips. I hope you don’t mind me asking, I said, but are you old enough to be here? They looked at me and said, I’m eighteen. Damn, I said, you’re so young. Kalas was, at the time, twenty three, but I’m sure he passed off as a twenty-year-old. So you’ve met my friend, Kalas said, sitting beside them. He placed a hand on their thigh. They placed their hand on Kalas’ hand. The youth seemed really into Kalas. I sighed and decided to let them be.

Let’s play a game, Kalas said. Hey everyone, let’s play a game. The crowd gathered around him. Let’s play… never have I ever. People groaned, and others laughed, and everyone passed Kalas’ bottles of tequila, gin, and rum to fill their glasses. There were soda bottles and energy drinks too: people made rum cokes and other mixes. I made myself a quick cocktail with the energy drink. So, Kalas said, you all know how this game is played. We go around and everyone gives a scenario that starts with the phrase never have I ever. If you have done it, you drink. Simple, clear, got it? Everyone nodded. I’ll start with something mild, Kalas said. Never have I ever made out with someone of the same sex. I thought, That’s mild?

The questions got more and more ridiculous: when someone couldn’t give a scenario, Kalas gave one for them. He made sure most of the people there drank. After a few rounds, people were already tipsy — just the way Kalas wanted them to be. They danced and told stories. People broke off into groups to gossip and share jokes. Some people smoked in the balcony overlooking another club. At one point in the night, I needed to get some air so I went to the balcony. There I caught Kalas and his date making out — it was actually obscene how sexually-charged their kissing was, and I was so maddeningly jealous. Kalas glanced at me and whispered, I’ll get you one tonight, trust me. At that point, I’ve learned to trust Kalas, because for some reason he always knew exactly what you needed, whether it was a drink or a warm body. I forgot how it happened, but Kalas had organized a make-out circle: going clockwise, people would make out with whoever was beside them. For sure it was a great way to get mononucleosis, but it seemed fun. Kalas knew how to keep to his word.

At around two in the morning, the party devolved into a zoo. Pretty people were sweating and gyrating on each other; others were puking on the floor. Some were asleep on the couches. Kalas, as usual, had disappeared. He always disappeared in the early morning. I decided to go out and order breakfast from a nearby fast food restaurant. As I was walking the empty streets, I saw Kalas and his date walk my way, holding hands. Hey, you, Kalas greeted me. What are you doing out here? I said, I just went out to grab some food. Why are you out here? Shouldn’t you be at your party? Kalas shrugged and said, We wanted to get some fresh air. Do you want to walk with us? I said, Sure. We all walked back to the bar. The bouncer greeted Kalas by name, saying, Are you alright, sir? You look like you’re having too much fun tonight. Kalas smiled at him, saying, Yes, yes, yes I am. We went back inside. The manager stopped him and said, Sir Kalas, some of your friends have been puking on the floor. I’m sorry but you need to pay for that. Kalas said, Sure, no worries. Put it on my tab, thanks. Kalas’ date whispered to him, I’m sleepy. Can I crash at your place? Kalas kissed their cheek, saying, Sure, baby. Kalas paid his tab, then booked a cab and left. He didn’t even check on his friends.

I looked at the scene, the remains of the evening. Everything seemed to slow down. The lights flashed, disorienting me. For a moment I thought I saw beasts with glowing red eyes. They bumped heads and rolled around: it was a thick orgy of drunk, sweaty, horny animals. It was a mess in there. I felt sick.

Now, if it weren’t for the splitting headache I had in the morning, I would’ve thought that the night before was a bizarre psychedelic dream, and that Kalas was the malevolent spirit that put me under a spell. Parties like that are good for a night, when you really need to purge. I’m not sure what heavy, repressed trauma Kalas was carrying that pushed him to purge every week, but what I can be sure of is that it definitely took a toll on his mental health. Eventually, he became a depressed alcoholic, and, when he quit networking to pursue a more stable job, people started to fade away. The revolving door of lovers he had also left him one by one.

His parties were vibrant, floating worlds; Kalas granted every wish. Admittedly, I sometimes remember those nights fondly but I reel when I remember how sloppy and frightening these party animals can turn out to be. I never understood what Kalas needed to prove with his weekly parties, but when I think of him I remember the drunkard in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novel.

The little prince asked what the drunkard was doing. He replied, I’m drinking. The prince asked, Why? The drunkard said, To forget… The prince asked, To forget what? The drunkard looked at him, annoyed, and answered, To forget that I am drinking!



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