The night was dead like only a freezing Monday in February after a few consecutive days of relative warmth can be. There was no traffic, no honking; the usual meathead crawl had slowed to a trickle. Even those girls in sparkly, floaty tops had their coats on for once.

It seemed like the only patch of life in the city was this one little party in the back of a taco stand. Chances, a “lesbian/gay/bi/queer/trans/intersexed/hetero dance party” that’s held at Big Horse Lounge the third Monday of every month, was raging, as usual. The place was almost uncomfortably packed with the best-dressed and most interesting-looking bunch of people I’ve seen in one place in a very long time: there were gold roses tucked into boots, evening gowns, Ace-bandage chic, big hair, jockstraps, gym shorts, short shorts, undershorts, cross-dressing, and androgyny. Miss Teena Angst, mistress of ceremonies, was dressed as an aristocratic hussy in a powdered wig and white lace. Everyone was freaking everyone else on the dance floor, regardless of looks, parts, or sexual preference. Organizer Latham Zearfoss, a reproductive health care assistant at Planned Parenthood during the day, thinks it was the best Chances yet. “There was a kind of euphoria,” he says. “Everyone was on.”

Zearfoss started Chances six months ago with Art Institute student Bruce Wiest and Web designer Davey Ball. “We wanted to have a place where any kind of queer person or queer ally could come hang out and not have it be so segregated,” Zearfoss says. Boys Town is a drag: “There’s no good music and it’s not comfortable enough,” he says. “It’s not my kind of crowd and it’s not as much fun or inclusive as it could be. We think of Chances as a community builder via dance party.”

It was nearly a week after Valentine’s Day, the most horrible holiday of them all: when you’re single you feel like a loser, then when you find someone you feel hypocritical for suddenly liking it, and the extra insult comes when he doesn’t get you anything anyway. No matter what, you feel embarrassed for caring in the first place. But there was something sweet about the big table piled with gay magazines, construction paper, markers, glitter, glue, and scissors for making valentines. If you think about it, a week after the holiday is the best time to send a card–when you no longer have to.

After dancing for a while I took a seat at the bar, where I found an acquaintance, a 22-year-old graphic designer in ripped jeans. Turns out a friend isn’t all we had in common: I’d been arguing with my boyfriend; she’d recently broken up with hers. We decided to dance.

We were well matched: both kamikaze dancers who’ve developed an overly enthusiastic style that wards off men. Together we looked like total spazzes. I’d try to lead and she’d fling me all over. I’d switch to the passive position and she’d seem disappointed.

I tried kissing her, but her lips were tense and I backed off. Then a voluptuous black-haired woman in a too-short red sweater and a tiny pink skirt with black tights approached me. “You’re hot,” she said. I told her the feeling was mutual and asked her to dance.

The music was too loud for me to catch her name, but I understood she came on a flight from Austin in a tracksuit with four other friends, also in tracksuits. “Five homos together,” she told me, one hand on her left hip and the other on her right shoulder. “It was awesome.”

I haven’t danced with a real lesbian since an unfortunate encounter with some ladies a few years ago that I’d rather not go into. Pink Miniskirt whirled me around, wagging her hips, just short of grinding. We danced so hard I broke my favorite necklace but didn’t much mind. We danced until I’d burned off a day’s worth of calories and was ravenous. My jaw clenched; I stared in her eyes so long my contacts kept drying out. I suddenly felt possessive, like I wanted to grab her by the neck. When the lights came on I was panting like a dog and sweating like a pig. I could’ve had a heart attack and it would’ve been the perfect ending.

The stakes always feel higher when I’m dancing with a woman who might want to go home with me. I want desperately to impress her, to be as hot as she wants me to be. But then something strange happens: I stop feeling like a girl. I feel clunky, hard, and masculine in all the wrong ways–not adorably butch but dominating like a caveman.

Just before I went to fetch my coat Teena Angst handed me a folded-up piece of lavender construction paper. “This is the last valentine delivery of the night,” she said. “But I can’t say who it’s from.”

On the cover of the card was written, in dark purple crayon, “shit that’s hot.” Inside was a crude drawing of a human who shared an arm with a weeping deerlike creature. A small blimp or meteor or possibly a flying tadpole zoomed by above their heads. “Oh, you,” it said.

To whoever sent it, thank you. And to Pink Miniskirt, wherever you may be, I’m sorry.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Andrea Bauer.