Barnard College's Monthly Magazine
And so the clock struck midnight, and little Miss Cinderella was just starting to wander and meander, dance and clack-clack-clack down the streets of New York City. Donning a fabulous pair of black patent leather sling back stilettos, a backless dress that classily fell just two inches above her freshly shaved knees, a vintage pair of medallion stud earrings, and a beaded 1950s Japanese clutch, she happily strutted down the street with Prince Charming securely fastened to her right arm, en route to the biggest ball of all: The Heights. Or so my, shall we say, somewhat inebriated mind pictured as I walked down the street shivering on that cold January night. Ah, the sweet scent of birthday was in the air, saturated with the lingering taste of room temperature vodka chased with mouthfuls of a strawberry cupcake and the wailing notes of Nicki Minaj. The night was young, and indeed I was headed straight for the Heights with my boyfriend in tow. After a not-sosurprising lackluster atmosphere (read: stale scent of spilt beer with a slight undertone of old weed) at the well-known, well-loved, and very well-worn Heights, we tilted our heads back and let the last few drops of Heineken slip down our throats before we slipped out the door.
All of which, I know, is very trite for a birthday being celebrated in Morningside Heights. At this point, I was teetering on the edge of sleep and boredom, feeling a bit jaded by the same seven block stretch of restaurants and bars. Steering clear of the deathly 22 ounce chocolate milkshake with a side of heart attack at Tom’s, we shivered all the way back down to 109th and Amsterdam, which happens to be the home of Roti Roll, a deliciously affordable, anytime-snack, which is greatly enhanced by alcohol. It is somewhat akin to an Indian food burrito.
So there we are, shoveling mouthfuls of paneer, spinach, fresh onions, and tomatoes into our mouths, nodding affectionately towards one another. Yes this, this, is what we had been looking for all night. Not a place to buy overpriced beer and watch people drunkenly shuffle around a dance floor, never mind the fact that those people may have been us… But, yes. We had been in desperate search of this savory taste of Roti Roll. We were the only diners in the entire hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and, as such, we were wildly spinning around in the restaurant’s spinny bar stools. We also happened to be singing along to the music: Backstreet Boys alternating with Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. It was almost as if someone had read our minds. Yes! We wanted all of the Roti Roll we could buy. Yes! We wanted to sing our favorite shitty songs. Suddenly, after the initial warmth of our newly fed bellies wore off for just a moment, we both had a realization.
It wasn’t Lady Gaga singing, nor was it Katy Perry, nor was it Nick or AJ or Howie or Kevin or Brian. I stumbled up to the cashier and urgently motioned for him to come closer. I had to ask him a very pressing question, and it had to be done in secrecy. Is there a karaoke bar INSIDE of this restaurant? He smiled without saying anything and beckoned for us to come closer. He waved his arms like a magician in front of a skinny yellow pocket door just to the left of the counter. He pushed it open and gestured for us to enter. The whole thing was très Lewis Carroll. At this point it was nearing 4 am on a Thursday night, and the bar was essentially empty other than the four bartenders, and three drag queens. When we entered, they cheered. I was pulled onto the stage by a Queen who began serenading me with Teenage Dream.
I told him it was my birthday, and suddenly I assumed the role of Center of the Universe, as planned. My night ended up with a Roti Roll in my right hand, my boyfriend’s hand secured in my left, one Queen behind me grinding, another in front of me shaking, and one on stage belting it out. At the close of the bar, we walked out into the stinging cold of the night.
With my head resting on Prince Charming’s shoulder, I let my eyes close and began zombie walking back to my apartment. I opened my eyes and there were at least ten or fifteen rats rushing frantically back and forth across the sidewalk, a mere foot in front of us. Shrieking out of sheer panic, I yanked my boyfriend backwards and across the street, running back to the safety of my apartment building.