2024 Melinda Wyers
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Party’s Over

Gaia Patience Veenis

My friends Jade and Ember finally convinced me to go to my first rave on a Saturday in December of ’98. I’d refused multiple times before—said I was definitely not into that sort of thing. But get me high and buy me a ticket and I’ll agree to go to a lot of places. Or at least … that version of me did.

Pretty much all I had were punk clothes, so I had to step out in something borrowed that night. Jade’s blue Kikwears with tri-colored stripes down the sides paired nicely with the blue, shell-toe Adidas I’d bought for the Beastie Boys concert the three of us went to together at the Oakland Coliseum that September. My disabled father had waited on the phone for hours to get us those tickets while we were in school. I can never say my parents never did anything for me and my friends. 

On the night of my first rave, my friends and I went the whole nine yards. Body glitter, party drugs, N95 masks coated with the menthol essence of Vicks VapoRub to enhance our chemically induced bliss while we danced, and all the glow-in-the-dark accoutrements. I was ready to party once I had my costume on and got a sense of the ground rules. Then we made our grand entrance at the same old-theater-turned-all-ages-venue 20 minutes south of my hometown where I had gone to my first punk shows. 

Shortly after arriving I met a boy with big, curly, ginger hair and a girl with straight, brown hair in a bun. 

“It’s her first rave,” Jade said to them proudly like she was my rave-mother.

“No way!” the boy yelled. 

“That’s so cool,” the girl added. 

I was sitting in a row of old theater seats with Ember when I felt a brand new sense of euphoria coursing through my veins and realized the ecstasy we’d purchased had kicked in.

“Can I tell you a secret?” she whispered into my ear in a childlike voice.

“What?” I responded in a similarly childlike voice.

“I really want to kiss you right now,” she giggled behind a cupped hand.

“Okay,” I giggled back in a moment of pure joy.

We hit the dance floor upon hearing a remix of “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode and I forgot any misgivings I had about being a raver. All those drunk punk shows that had offered me solace at this very same venue never felt so fucking good, man. Never mind how horrible I would feel in the morning. When we danced, our eyes were closed, except for when we smiled at each other until our eyes started rolling back in our heads again, so we closed them again. We just felt the music vibrate through our bodies in waves that spurred arms and legs and torsos to move without conscious thought. I assume it was like that for everyone I was with in those perfect moments.

The boy with big, curly, ginger hair and the girl with straight, brown hair in a bun who I’d just met also kept running into me all night. Each time they would ask how I was doing and give me water and other nice things and make sure I was having a good time. I even have a picture with them. Never saw them again in my life and have no idea what their names were. But I figured, if this is how people are at these rave things, it can’t be so bad. Or so I thought.

At some point during the night I wandered off from the group and ran into my old friend with the pretty blue eyes. The one with the well-lit bedroom with French doors and an ensuite bathroom where he flushed the condom before he stopped returning my calls for a while in the fall of my freshman year. That one. We danced in the drum-and-bass side room. He made the shape of a heart with his hands and directed it towards me. Then we walked together to the carpeted lobby, where he put his arm around my shoulders and pointed out Lilli—the girl who convinced me to run away from home at the end of ninth grade and turned my whole world upside down for months—in a crowd near the closed concession stand.

“Look who it is,” he said with a nod.

We made eye contact. She walked over and said “hi” and gave me a drag of her cigarette. It was one of those fancy cigarettes from a specialty tobacconist shop, wrapped in thick brown paper and flavored with vanilla. It was the last time I would ever see her. The night had a strange end. 


At least my new life as a raver was fun while it lasted. The boy with the pretty blue eyes was already ensconced in this scene by the time I found my way there. And I hadn’t thought I’d ever see him again. Not after the time when my mom called his parents and threatened to call the cops to stop him from making me a runaway for the second time while he was home visiting from college that one year he went.

I guess I let myself get drawn in again. Drawn back into his world. He introduced me to his girlfriend the next time I saw him after reuniting at my first rave. She was a year or so younger than me, much more petite than me, and he told me she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever been with. But at least he brought me and Jade and Ember to some cool parties. Like the one at a co-op in Berkeley when ‘98 turned to ‘99 and Prince’s song played as the clock struck midnight. The living spaces were closed off but occasionally someone would emerge from a well-lit bedroom and return to the dark open spaces serving as dance floors punctured with neon and strobe lights.

Some months later, when the boy with the pretty blue eyes showed up at the big red box store where I worked, I thought for a fraction of a second he was finally going to confess his love to me. Until I saw his tired and sunken eyes. He waited outside until I finished my shift at 10PM.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said, shivering in the yellow tee-shirt and slightly askew yellow baseball cap that he wore all the time back then.

“What is it?” I said, not wanting to know.

“I owe these dealers some money. I don’t know what they’re gonna do to me if I don’t pay. Can I borrow $150?”

I agreed like a goddamn fool and we drove to my bank’s ATM.

“I’ll pay you back, I promise,” he said before driving me to my parents’ house.

The next time I saw him, around his 21st birthday when he threw a motel party, he paid me back. With a check. A check that bounced and caused me to incur a fee on top of losing the money I’d worked about 20 hours to earn. Like a goddamn fool, I didn’t even mention it when I saw him again, many months later, eyes more sunken. And seeing my old friend become so desperate wasn’t enough to scare me away from those party drugs. Seeing ambulances take people away in the early morning hours of practically every massive party I attended also wasn’t enough.    

I just kept on raving through high school graduation and a few different retail jobs and semesters at the community college. When Jade and Ember and I made it to a massive warehouse rave about an hour away in Oakland or San Francisco after getting instructions at a map point, dressed in fantastical glittery style, then felt the euphoria of party drugs and hit the dance-floor, I felt like a different person for the night. Someone less detestable.

Once I ran into a friend from middle school at a rave. He’d gone on to be valedictorian of his class and got a scholarship to Berkeley. It would have been my graduating class, too, if I’d stayed at that first high school after the whole runaway incident. I was at a popular Oakland warehouse venue when our eyes met through flashing lights across the dance floor. He sauntered over, perfecting his fabulous walk, probably covered in glitter, clearly living his truth now, and clearly on the same kind of high that I was on. He hugged me and said he was happy to see me.

“I still have every Christmas card you gave me,” he leaned in to say with a big smile.

My mind flashed back to jokes in my seventh-grade yearbook and shared classrooms where I must have handed him a card from a small stack of greetings for those I called friends. I’d forgotten I used to do that sort of thing. 

I realized that people I knew from that darker time were rooting for me from afar and maybe I’d lied when I convinced myself everyone from that school hated me. So, I rooted for them back, also from afar. And luckily, just like my friend who I ran into that night, I would also eventually quit raving when it seemed things had gone too far.  

One night in the new millennium, some new friends and I bought bad drugs at another massive warehouse party. Drugs that made me lay against a wall in agony and vomit all over the floor instead of moving my body all over the floor in ecstasy before melting into a cuddle puddle with whoever’s nearby. The raver ethos of peace, love, unity, and respect (PLUR) was nowhere to be found that night.

I remember a group of white-gloved break-dancers striding over to the open space next to me. I looked up and managed to say, “Sorry, I just puked there,” while pointing at the floor where they were standing. They looked down at me like I was gross and walked away to find another place to convene. I felt grosser than gross.

Later I heard the guy who was selling those bad drugs got stabbed in the head at the end of the night. At least we had a “sober” ride home who’d only been smoking weed all night. 

That seemed like a good time to give the party drugs a rest. Because not everyone makes it out of the party alive after leaving in one of the ambulances sure to be seen in the early morning hours. I know a couple of people who didn’t survive their last party. I might have wanted to join them once, too. But I’m still here. And at least it was fun while it lasted.


Gaia Patience Veenis is a prose writer from the North Bay Area currently residing in San Francisco and working on a memoir about her chaotic adolescence during the late 90s/ Y2K era and how she found the strength to save her own life. Her nonfiction and fiction prose has been featured in places like Airplane Reading, The Bicycle Review, and Writing Without Walls. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and has taught English in Northern California and Northern Ireland.

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