Experience New York City in 1978—complete with a trip to Studio 54—by reading Amy Margolis’ immersive personal essay from The Iowa Review.
The bar is in a narrow street behind a door with no sign. The music is so loud and percussive, it makes the long, low building’s tenuous roof jump. Outside, the cracked sidewalk trembles underfoot.
Paul and Philip install me on a stool at the bar. Men in leather pants and white muscle shirts, the shirts we call wifebeaters where I grew up, rush to pet and embrace me. I’m the only woman here. I wish I had taken more care with my outfit, with my face. The men stroke my hair. One leans in close and says, “You’re flawless.” He gives me the softest kiss on my forehead, like the kiss Glinda the Good Witch gives Dorothy.
The men lock elbows with Paul and Philip and dance them away, into the crowd of other men.
I’m so painfully shy, it’s a misery for me to speak, but here I’m not expected to. The bare-chested bartender brings me sweet drinks—the kind no real drinker drinks—and I perch demurely, fishing for cherries and pineapple chunks in my frosted glass. I nod along to the music. I enjoy my rich interior life.