Grant Me Chastity and Continence, But Not Yet

Us Twentysomethings Know

There is a man in the rafters.

He is inching his way across a wooden joist, ten feet beneath a roof of corrugated metal and fifteen feet above a potential disaster. From below, he looks foreshortened and strange—large feet dangling, spindly arms clutching the beam, and, far above, a tiny head grimacing in concentration. He is focused on his task. We do not know what his task is.

“I can’t watch this.”

The crowd disperses beneath him. No one wants to watch the fall, but it doesn’t feel appropriate to look away either. He is sitting up now. A smile spreads across his face as he notices his audience. He waves.

I realize I am yelling at him to get down. There is a chorus of us now, disturbed by his stunt, frustrated but powerless, selfishly wishing we could keep dancing. We are angry hundreds and we are loud. For the first time tonight, the music has vocals; in spite of myself, I am grateful for the voices that break up the DJ’s monotony.

Yet before we know it, the man is inching back—suspiciously more lithely than he did in his advance—and, grabbing onto a cement column, he swings to the floor. He is swept back into the anonymity of the mob that is more than happy to reclaim him on firm ground. We are glad to forget the man on the rafters, and how he made us afraid.

We don’t crave a good story as much as we used to.

That’s why, two hours later, we are huddled in The Diner, knees awkwardly pressed together under a tiny banquette table. A few years ago, we would have been ashamed to leave a warehouse party in favor of fries; tonight, it strikes us as audaciously hilarious.