No one has discussed who is going to pay for the bottles tonight. When Sophie was hanging out with the married couple, the husband tended to pay, but ever since that relationship sputtered out, she and her friends have scrounged together cash from their allowances. They don’t pay with credit cards, because at clubs like this, you have to show I.D. when using a credit card, and the moment you do that is the moment the artifice crumbles.
The girls are dancing to House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” a song almost older than they are, when one of the D.J.’s makes his way over to Lana. Outside of clubs, Lana is shy, even a little clumsy. She looks younger than the other girls, although that didn’t stop a 27-year-old from asking her out on her 15th birthday. “I wouldn’t have been into the whole going-out thing if it weren’t for them,” she says of Sophie and Audrey. More than club life, Lana likes sleeping over at Audrey’s apartment, staying up all night listening to Stevie Wonder and mocking Audrey’s taste in corny movies. But inside a club, something shifts and Lana becomes one of those dancers who is disturbingly confident. She stretches out her arms, leans back, shakes her shoulders—“That’s her move,” says Sophie—and the men jockey for position. The D.J. is a hell of a dancer—handsome, too, in a personal-trainer sort of way—and probably somewhere around 25. It’s an age Lana has developed a theory about. “It’s like the whole quarter-life-crisis thing,” she likes to say. “Guys in their twenties, they feel like they’re getting older. They’re starting to look back. So they come to us, wanting to feel a little younger, a little more free-spirited and lighthearted.”
In theory, anyway. The reality is more complicated. Lana recently had a bad experience with a guy that age. It all went down at the prom, of all places, the whole debacle an unfortunate reminder of the pitfalls of growing up in a city where no one acts their age. Three weeks ago, the girls made what in retrospect proved to be a poor decision: asking some twentysomething finance guys they were seeing to be their prom dates. The guys did everything they could to get out of it. They didn’t have tuxedos, they said. Didn’t know where to buy corsages. One even confessed that he was being seriously chastised by his friends. And so the girls did everything they could to ease the discomfort: paying for a private table, renting an Expedition instead of sharing a limo with their classmates. But the illusion was already infected by reality, and the night was a disaster.
“It wasn’t a good idea to bring them there,” says Audrey. “It just made everything too concrete, the fact that we are still in high school.”
It was Lana’s date who had the crisis of conscience. He left in the middle of the dance. That he and Lana had been sleeping together for a few weeks made this all the more intense. Lana thought everything was going to work out when they met up after the prom at PM, and she found herself on the dance floor with her boyfriend. He was kissing her neck and whispering in her ear, “You’re so sweet, you’re adorable, you’re perfect, and, you know, we have really great conversations. Really, you’re everything I want.” For a moment, Lana thought he was simply apologizing for acting like such a child at the prom and started kissing him back. That’s when he said it, the part about not being sure it was going to work between them.
“You know,” she tried, “I don’t expect anything from you.”
Then he said something that’s been ringing in her ears ever since: “But whenever we do stuff, I just feel guilty about it afterward.”
Guilty! He’d just pawned off his shame on her! How . . . juvenile!
Lana ran outside to the Expedition and had a drink in the backseat. It was 5:30 in the morning. She wanted to go home, but just then a limo pulled up next to her car—a limo that had nothing to do with the prom. Things were blurry. Somehow Lana and a friend ended up in the limo. Just dumped by a guy in his twenties, now she was riding around with a bunch of “Euro-trash guys in their forties and fifties.” One of the men put a dollar bill in her purse that turned out to be filled with cocaine. Another did a line off her friend’s hand. Lana doesn’t do coke—none of her friends do, they’ve seen too many of their classmates go through rehab—and couldn’t figure out if what was happening was comic or tragic. When everyone started talking about going back to the hotel, “to party,” Lana hailed a cab.