No Pants Required


by Kim Karr

MAKAYLA

JUST THE MERE SUGGESTION OF karaoke gets everyone’s heart pounding. Whether it’s out of excitement or pure, blind panic depends on the individual and that person’s frame of mind at the time.

The truth is that most people sing karaoke for the same reasons they go bowling—it’s a fun activity and they can drink while doing it.

With that being said, perhaps some of the people that are here can get up and confidently belt out their most favorite song in the world with no concern for the eardrums they are perforating or the notes they are destroying. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.

To be honest, I can’t believe I even agreed to do this.

Then again, Bar On is not where I thought I’d find myself tonight. This Chinatown lounge may be packed full of eager-to-sing regulars, but my friends and I are not those people. We are here on a whim after a few too many drinks at a restaurant down the street.

Shuffling through the crowd, I stop when someone taps me on the shoulder. Thinking it’s one of my friends, I turn around to see a tall, leggy brunette with the most vibrant green eyes staring at me. Her face is stunning. She looks like Megan Fox. For a second, I wonder if she is.

She steps closer and right away I can see this woman is a bit younger, though—my age, I’d say. “Do you mind if I get by?” she asks with one of those affluent tones I know all too well from my days in private school.

Definitely not Megan Fox.

Without waiting for me to answer, she pushes past, and in her rush, steps on my open-toed pump.

Ouch!

I glare as her red Louboutin soles make their way to the front of the lounge.

“Come on,” my coworker tosses over her shoulder, not at all bothered by the woman who brushed past her, too. “Sandra found us a table.”

India leads the way, and I follow, making sure not to step on any toes in the crowd. Finally, she stops at the only available table large enough for our group, which just so happens to be right in front of the stage.

Fantastic.

The white leather banquette is awash in the neon light emanating from the human-sized letters that spell the establishment’s name across the back wall. The light is nearly blinding. I look at Sandra. “Are you sure you want to sit this close?”

She hands me a menu of songs. “Yes, this is going to be great.”

“Pour Some Sugar on Me” is coming to an end and once I’ve slid all the way across the bench, I look up to see a group of very pleased guys jumping off the stage in unison. The Def Leppard wannabes are staring at us.

This must have been their spot.

All clean-cut, all fuck-hot, all about my age. Immediately, I can tell by their walk that they are definitely Upper East Siders. Prep school, riot club types turned Wall Street wolves would be my guess. You know—the kind of guy your mother warns you about.

The type I should have stayed away from.

The guy closest to me is wearing a red tie and has his black jacket slung over his shoulder. The others are dressed in dark suits too. Hmmm . . . either dressed up for an occasion or still dressed up after the occasion. Not a wedding, since it’s a Thursday night. An office party maybe? Or perhaps this group of drunken men is here for a going-away party like mine. Who knows? Anyway, the guy with the red tie gives the eight of us girls a quick glance and a smile but doesn’t stop.

He’s cute. Really cute.

At least he doesn’t seem to mind that we took their table. Then again, he’s too focused on the guy without a jacket farthest away from me. “Cam,” he calls out. “Don’t bother with her.” His warning is too late, though, because this Cam, whose white, rumpled shirt and dark hair are all I can see, is already allowing himself to be dragged away from his group by that Megan Fox look-alike who practically ran me over minutes ago.

Fascinated by her assertiveness, I watch the two of them. I have to crane my neck to catch sight of them, and soon, too soon, they disappear into the crowd. Squinting my eyes, wishing I’d changed my dirty contact lenses, I search for them.

In a matter of seconds, though, it’s not my poor eyesight but Sandra who prevents me from locating them. She stands in front of me with a huge-ass smile on her face. “What song did you decide on?”

Giving a cursory glance at my choices, the perfect one is the first I see. “‘Total Eclipse of the Heart,’” I blurt out and point excitedly at the same time. This song I know, and know it all too well.

Sandra is my neighbor and is more than aware of all my woes. That sad smile she gives me borders on pity.

Not wanting to be that girl anymore, the one who got her heart broken, I grab Sandra’s arm before she heads toward the karaoke booth. “You know what, forget that song. Why don’t you pick one that represents the change coming in my life?”

At that her eyes light up.

Minutes later I’m being dragged up onstage by my friends and coworkers, and according to the screen, I’m about to sing a group rendition of “New York, New York.”

Okay, I can do this.

I know this song. Not as well as “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” but at least I know it. Besides, how hard can it be? I’ve sung it a million times—although admittedly mostly when I’ve been drunk.

Then again, I have had a lot to drink tonight.

The pressure is on. The eight of us gather around the microphone. The audience lights dim and a spotlight shines on us. I kind of feel like a star. No, I feel like Frank Sinatra himself without those penetrating blue eyes. But when the karaoke jockey asks, “Are you ready?” suddenly, I’m petrified. There is no way on God’s green earth I am going to be able to hit the high notes.

The music starts. It’s too late to back out. First, it’s just the piano, but then the trumpet and clarinet join in. It’s odd, but the familiarity of the sound eases my nerves. When the lyrics flash in front of me, all my worries are gone and I don’t care anymore.

I let all of my hang-ups go and sing.

This, what I’m doing right now, is a glimpse into the old me. Somewhere between college and the real world, I lost that fun-loving girl, and I hope I can find her again.

Don’t worry. I have a plan to do just that. Not only am I leaving the city I have loved for so long, but I’m also going to be moving far, far away, with no idea if I will ever be coming back.

It’s how I hope to find myself.

My friends squeeze my shoulders, and we continue to sing the lyrics. Unexpectedly, they alter the words, and instead of talking about making it in New York, they tell the story of making it anywhere—in my case, California.

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