Everything feels so romantic when it’s just outside of your reach, the particulars of clubbing especially. That unnerving feeling of your shoe clinging to the sticky, beery floor. Gobs of 3 AM shawarma and warm bread jabbing at the sides of your throat because you forgot how to chew. The boozy exchange of compliments and I-love-yous between strangers over a bathroom sink that feel more sincere than sober ones. I want it all back.
It goes without saying that in ten months of well…shit, the loss of club culture feels like a drop in the ever-teetering bucket. But there’s comfort in reliving the familiar, especially when that familiar has become the ultimate COVID-era forbidden fruit: throngs of sweaty bodies collapsing into each other, scantily-clad liberal arts majors sucking down drinks while a bartender pours them more, strangers tonguing in corners, sore throats that aren’t a symptom of anything other than a good time, the intimacy that comes with a crowd (no reader, I will not be quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald here).
Four writers have taken turns penning their most memorable outings/ordeals/adventures for the sake of vicarious clubbing. Read responsibly.
Fever, Formalwear, and Borrowed Trainers
Fever: a place where swathes of sweaty students jostle on a multicolored luminescent dancefloor, flailing their bodies while scream-singing the lyrics to “Come on Eileen,” VK in one hand, a friend’s (or stranger’s) moist palm in the other. It’s an aptly named club given that every night I’ve spent there has felt like a fever dream, little to no ventilation inducing sweat from every pore of every body. But the night I’ll never forget (despite hardly being able to recall many of the details) involved going to Fever—not with a group of friends, but with the boy I was seeing at the time. I pulled up wearing a full-length red dress and swapped my black heels for a pair of trainers loaned to me by a girl I’d met that night. A bottle of wine and several pints down, I remember little other than “If You Wanna” by the Vaccines coming on—which made me and all the other indie kids lose our shit. The aesthetic combination of the red dress and borrowed trainers reflected the feeling of decadence and debauchery juxtaposed with sticky floors, velvet walls, and a playlist that couldn’t be further from highbrow.
More than anything else, I miss the absurdity of clubbing—the nonsense of it all. I miss making friends with total strangers, I miss jumping around to dated British bangers, I miss the 3 AM conversations with friends on the walk home. I miss cringing at my own drunken Instagram stories, the sent messages, and styrofoam boxes the morning after. — Alice Garnett
“Ouzo tastes like licorice! You’ll love it!” She said, lying.
Ouzo does not taste like licorice. Let’s start there. Everybody will tell you that the anise makes it so, but it just felt like hot, fennel-infused water coating my insides. I had only ever drank vodka but my friend was peddling it to me like it would clear my skin and take my virginity twice. My first time clubbing was on a trip to Montreal with three new friends, a belly full of that Greek drink, and a top that looked like it had shrunk in the wash. It was wonderfully unspecial as all clubs are: overpriced with watered-down booze, bright lights that soak orange into your clothes, and teensy platforms that will elevate you a few feet above the crowd if you’re feeling brave. I disappeared to the bathroom a few times just to watch the color-changing orbs on the ceiling melt pink into blue, like an infant mesmerized by the mobile above their crib.
After hours of migrating between the bar and dance floor, we did the little “should we go?” four-way nod. I slid the coat check ticket out of my back pocket and that was it. On our way out, we posed beside a mural of a half-naked woman with seven heads; one of my friends tumbled over while taking the photo and for two long minutes, I couldn’t think of anything funnier in the world. Residually tipsy, we let the cold air gnaw at our earlobes until we could duck into a shawarma shop for warmth and thickly sliced meat. My friend cracked an unfunny joke about onions and we, the cashier included, laughed until our hunger pangs exploded into something else. We ate each other’s fries and calculated the Uber trip “home” four times before we could get it right. It was one of those moments when real life seemed to live up to the movies.
I have funnier stories. I’m quite bad at everything. I’ve fallen off of stages and down staircases, blacked out in bathrooms and woken up to pretty girls bringing me cups of water. I’ve been dumb! And I can’t wait to be dumb again. Rubbing red into my cheeks that nobody will notice in the dark. Curling my lashes back until my eyes don’t look like my eyes anymore. Ecstatic. But nothing really matches the sweet naivety of teenaged me clubbing for the first time. When everything felt new and I was stumbling around, spilling into tighter grooves, sipping Ouzo and expecting liquid candy. — Saffron Maeve
Nights Out: An Anti-Love Letter
Glitter. The stench of beer-soaked denim jackets. Cold hands fumbling lit cigarettes. The faint sounds of cackling laughter and slurred football chants echoing through the cobbled streets. The smoking area provides sanctuary from sweaty bodies and aching feet, from pounding bass and alpha males. I always embrace the stark sobriety of the smoking area. Cars beeping their horns. Drunk girls skinning their knees. Bloodied knuckles and splashes of sick pepper the pavement. I check the time, mumbling to myself, “why am I here?”
A tug on the sleeve, followed by the infamous words: “Our favorite song is playing!” My friend grabs my wrist, pulling me through the waves of leather jackets and mini skirts. The doors swing open to a rush of humid heat. I breathe, check the time, and order a strong drink.
We dance to “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” mesmerized by the strobe lights ricocheting off the walls. My shoes stick to the floor. I smell stale smoke, cologne, and sex. I feel rubbing shoulders, grazing limbs, and the male gaze. Beneath the music, I hear bickering, glasses smashing, and shoes squeaking. I take a sip, close my eyes, and pretend I’m the only person in the entire fucking world. It works for a few moments.
A tap on my shoulder. I turn around. It’s The One Who Always Wants To Leave Early. “Come to the bathroom with me?”
The bathroom is a revolving door of wide eyes and hoop earrings. Lip gloss and clacking heels. White powder and rolled-up banknotes. The One Who Always Wants To Leave Early pulls us into a grimy bathroom stall. I’m met with running mascara and tearful gasps. I embarked on this spontaneous night out with a cluster of personalities: The Obnoxious Drunk, The Weeping Drunk, The Horny Drunk, The One Who Always Wants To Leave Early, and The One Who Gets Weird After A Few. It appears that the personalities have been fighting.
“Can we get a taxi home?” she whimpers. “Proud Mary” begins to play. I check the time. The last few swigs had me ready to twist and shout. I was ready to scream slurred lyrics and wrap my arms around my friends. I was ready to succumb to my weakened senses. I was ready to empty my bank account and smile at strangers.
I remind myself that there’ll be more nights out. We walk out into the drizzle. I check the time. She holds onto my arm, sniffling as she struggles to balance herself. I turn and say “I’m here.” — Anonymous
East Slope Never Dies
The majority of my drunken antics in my first year of uni were contained within the grimy, beloved East Slope Bar on campus. On Tuesdays, the bar hosted Skint—a night of cheap pints and bargain booze. It was the prime place to meet other first-years, bond with your flatmates, and chat up strangers in the smoking area (even if you didn’t smoke).
I’d start those evenings squashed against sofa arms with friends from my block. We’d usually begin with a game of Ring of Fire to get things going and eventually we’d all be ready to go, cradling cans to accompany us on the five-minute walk. If you couldn’t sneak in through the back you’d have to wait a while, but that was always entertaining anyway.
East Slope meant sticky floors, hearing “Mr. Brightside” at least twice, and sneaking into the boys’ bathroom when you couldn’t hold it. Standing at a humble height of around five feet, it also meant struggling to get a drink at the crowded bar. Whenever I did get served, I’d tactically order three drinks for myself. After downing the first, I’d shuffle through the crowd with two in my hands.
I found myself at Skint pretty much every single Tuesday for nine months, and while the nights themselves may blur together, the general atmosphere was always quite distinctive. There was always something warm about it. Everywhere you turned you’d be met with a familiar face—someone from your seminar, that guy you spoke to on the bus last week, the girl with the cool jacket you kept seeing around campus. Eventually you’d get an idea of the people you liked to talk to and the friendships would build from there.
One of my favorite memories of the bar is meeting three of my good friends. Everyone always jokes about making friends in the toilet, but sometimes it really is the place to be! Slurred small talk actually got the four of us somewhere and we exchanged social media info. A year later, we were hanging out constantly, and some of us even ended up going on holiday together.
Sadly, the bar was knocked down in the summer of 2018. It was a big heartbreak. I went to Skint one last time and spent much of it shoulder to shoulder with the people I’d met that year. The last photo I took in the bar was of my face pressed against a toilet door, scrawled next to me in white: EAST SLOPE NEVER DIES. — Yazz James
Illustration by Gabriella Shery