Wednesday 28 October 2015

The Virtue of Being a Nobody in a Sea of Somebody's

It's a curious conflict of ego, when you enter a situation and immediately realise you're the least important thing about it.

A year ago it had rendered me awkward, a little desperate even. But - while it may seem laughable to get so deep and philosophical about just an event - there was something remarkably different about this year, and certainly not because I'd become any less of a nobody.

Yeah, it might be just a Halloween party, but you'd be a fool to underestimate the colossal magnitude of precisely just what gathers in that room each year.


My footsteps clack across the marble floor of the deserted lobby and I wince as the sound reverberates endlessly, echolocating and announcing our arrival simultaneously. A couple of burly men in black suits eye us warily, check our credentials and suddenly we're in a mirrored lift hurtling 28 storeys into the sky.

My mind wonders as we ascend, and I muse at this time last year, when those mirrored doors had slid open and an unmistakable wave of terrifying importance seemed to ripple across my skin just like the pounding music and ambient, dangling cobwebs.

This year, I don't feel that, but I turn to my guest and watch as her eyes light up, and I know that she does. Leaving the lift, we weave through the throng of spectacularly-costumed characters until we can see the room clearly. It's a beautiful contemporary loft bar, all exposed brick and laminate flooring, decorated with subtlety yet effectiveness to give the illusion of a dingy, haunted crypt. Panoramic windows provide the most breathtaking 28 storey-tall views of the midnight city. Hypnotic beats pulsate from the speakers, and glancing around I can't make out a single face I could recognise, which I find strangely liberating. A year prior, I'd strutted straight from the lift and collided with arguably the most famous vlogger on the planet to which I could only utter 'I like your face...make up' and smile, whilst kicking myself internally.

We head to the bathroom, tackling our way through an army of gauze, feathers and wings to do so, and push open the door to a suffocating cloud of airborne hairspray and dry shampoo. I smile when I greet a girl I've met multiple times, and hope her subsequent reaction is because she doesn't recognise me, as she musters a half-hearted grimace before turning away, and my smile fades quickly. I have to interrupt an intensive description of the precise constructional process of someone's costume to wash my hands, and dart out of the door as an explosive symphony of impeccably-timed 'So nice to meet you's!' erupts into the air and showers down upon everything like fresh snowfall.

A little disoriented, we head to the bar and sink an alarming amount of free alcohol in a short space of time, and I gradually begin to recognise those familiar faces beneath their costumes.

I know everything about all of your lives...  I ponder as I look around, and you know absolutely nothing about me. It was a fact that was as daunting as it was uncomfortable last year. But now, in a sudden and unexpected wave of what I can only describe as rebellion, it suddenly thrills me to the goddamn core.

Having plugged my mind and life into the internet for near 3 years, it's been a long time since I've felt anonymous. And now here I was, in a room of strangerfriends with all the anonymity I could possibly want, and curiously it felt quite a lot like freedom.

The music is loud enough to be amazing regardless of the song, and we singularly twirl our way across the well-avoided dancefloor without a care in the world, because try as we might, we'll never be noticed anyway. 

Around us, odd groups of cats, witches and zombies stand, cross-armed and bored-looking, or gather huddled under the gaze of cameras with smiles that drop as soon as the shutter button does, and I watch as a seemingly jovial girl snapchats her pal dancing, turning the camera to herself until the light goes out, to which she then instantly drops her arm and stands to one side with a face of stone while she carefully selects the right filter and caption.

I suppose I find it simultaneously funny and sad, but just as my cynical mind gears for a sigh, I bump into a familiar face I expect to dismiss me like previously, who suddenly throws her arms around me and squeals my name.

I loved your latest post! She gushes, and I'm stunned. You... you read it? I can only respond, to which she replies with a beaming grin, Of course I did! Agh all your New York pics looked amazing too! And it's safe to say I'm suitably elated.

Drinks are replenished and finally the music slowly begins to tantalise more bodies to the floor. We bump into a sibling duo dressed as zombie bikers and strike up an instant friendship. This is all a bit surreal, huh we all agree but smile, because it was clear that we were all nobodies here, and that perhaps was a bit wonderful. Mid-sentence, an arm is thrown around my shoulder and an unknown boy twirls me on the spot pulling me into a tight hug, kissing me on the cheek. I'm quite drunk and he's clearly VERY drunk, but facing him, I know instantly who he is. I'm pretty sure half the country do.

Ummm thanks, I smile, a bit bewildered and he grins. I love your costume he says. I can't help but laugh in his face, as stunningly graceful beauties glide between the crowd and I'm stood here dressed as a fictional male wizard.

We fall into easy conversation in that magical way mutually drunk people are so innately able to, and gradually his group of friends venture over to investigate. We're joking around when suddenly it sharply takes a darker turn and his smile drops.

You know... it's fucked me in the head man, he says, tapping at his temple and suddenly gazing into my eyes with alarmingly genuine sincerity. This world. If you think about it it's so fucked up. I can't even think straight any more these days.

Despite the alcohol swirling in my bloodstream and swimming in my mind, the sounds of the outside world seem to close in to just his voice, and my entire focus is on his words.

Do you wish you could stop? I ask tentatively and he shakes his head.

I don't hate what I do, I could never hate it. All I ever want to do - all I ever wanted to do - was to be a creator. To be an artist. I just hate that I have to do this to get there. But those numbers, man. They're fucking addictive. You can write any old shit in a tweet but then when you see those numbers pouring in... you can't think about anything else. It's fucked. But I can't stop. Not only 'cause I'm addicted to it though. I can't stop, because the moment I do, I'm nothing.

At this moment, an incredibly influential female friend of his tugs on his arm as if for him to follow her, but he shrugs her off. I don't look away from his face.

We'd not introduced ourselves - he didn't need to know my name to know me, and I didn't need him to tell me his name to know it. What was happening here was elemental, raw, a glitch in fabric of reality. It was that sheer, heartfelt honesty that a Somebody could ever only trust to confide in a Nobody.

But... I know I'm still in control. He says, as the girl he'd brushed off shoots me a glance of venom I can feel even from my peripheral vision, then turns to chat to the others.

You know, those two... say what you want about them right, but they're in control. They're my mates, I know them so well and I know they don't put up with shit. If they don't wanna do something, they won't do it full stop. Nobody is making them do any of it, that's for sure. 

A glint of pride flashes across his expression and I smile.

Do you think... they know how to say no though? I ask, and he takes a moment.

Yeah. He says after a beat, I know they do.

I smile and say, That's what makes stuff like this so important. Tonight. Just getting out from behind a screen and messing around and doing whatever you want and not having to think about anything else outside this room. Like you say, you're still in control, the choice is always yours, right?

Or at least that's what I aim to say, with a lot of drunken slurring and stumbling along the way. He smiles at me, his seriousness slowly fading and the tipsy joy returning, I smile up at him reassuringly, pretty profoundly moved by our conversation, and with absolutely perfect timing, in my peripheral vision I see the influential powerhouse of a girl he'd just brushed off gesture to me with utter disgust and say: Who IS that? - and I'm pretty sure it's the most perfect moment ever.

Then as suddenly as we'd met, we part ways again, him to make amends with the girl, and I to make the most of the free bar. We don't really speak again for the rest of the night, but every now and then he appears and gives me a silent kiss on the cheek as he passes, or hands me a brimming shot glass. By now he's thoroughly wasted, and I know he'll never remember this, but those little gestures make me smile anyway. Later, my friend taps me on the shoulder and I turn to see the girl wrap her arms around his neck and tug him sharply into a passionate kiss. We raise our eyebrows at one another before falling about in drunken giggles.

The rest of the night blurs into a glorious haze.

Any notion of social trepidation vanishes quicker than the liquid in my glass, and I embrace my noble Nobody-ness, approaching every single person I know or know of to introduce myself, and to my delight, near every single person responds with unfounded joy. I even see the girl who'd previously shunned me and she explains I'm so sorry about earlier, I didn't recognise you at first! And whether genuine or not, it still means a lot.

Strangerfriends and mutual follows become hugs and excited babbling, a direct correlation is evident between alcohol consumed and the disappearance of phones and gadgets, and gradually the Somebodies and Nobodies mingle into a whirlpool which reveals that actually, we're all just  Everybodies. 

As the night draws to a close, the air hums with laughter, alcohol and warmth, and ultimately I realise that we're so used to being considered as numbers next to names, that we've forgotten how important moments like this are. These numbers mean so little to our humanity yet define us, rank us and determine our fate in the outside world, but here, they just don't matter. We've successfully transitioned from URL to IRL. The power and influence of the people in this room could probably control half the planet, but it means so little tonight. 

Because we're all just humans having fun. 

We'd danced and drunk and laughed in the safety of those who just get it, and with delight I found each person I spoke to was genuinely lovely, interesting and interested. Hierarchy no longer alienated and divided, instead we all seemed united in this common understanding and appreciation of just how big and scary and crazy and exciting it all actually is.

We merrily stumbled back to the station and I run to catch my last train, a skip in my step, a reinvigorated perspective and new-found appreciation of just how wonderful and liberating it can be to be irrelevant. 

And this is all, of course, is not to say there's any harm at all in aspiring to be a Somebody at all. Hey, that's all we really want, right? But that single night, being surrounded by so many, was a perfect little education in the perks of the journey, and a reminder of  just how good it can actually be, to remain the nobody.

facebook twitter | instagram