Detective Acevedo put her hand on the small of my back and led me down a dimly lit, utilitarian hallway that could have been a middle school corridor, but which is, in fact, located within the New York Police Department’s 25th Precinct in Manhattan, on East 123rd Street. Our progress was hampered due to the fact that I was bent in half like a snapped branch, sobbing uncontrollably.
Acevedo and her colleagues were in the process of charging the man who sexually assaulted me back in October, but before they could do so it was my responsibility to definitively identify him, first in a photographic lineup and then, two nights ago, in person.
I was steered inside a small, dark room stuffed with filing cabinets and two ancient-looking chairs. On the right hand side of the room was a large pane of one-way glass covered up by the kind of shutters you could pick up for $29.95 at Target. “Are you ready?” Acevedo asked firmly. She had already explained the rules. “Yes,” I choked, crying. Another detective, a man I didn’t recognize, pulled sharply on the shutters and the hidden place was revealed: five men were seated side by side on a bench shoved against the opposite wall. Each one was dressed in a black sweatshirt and baseball cap and was holding a number. Despite my efforts to calm down, I started to cry harder, wailing so loudly that I was positive he’d be able to hear me.
“Do you recognize anyone?” Acevedo called over my nose. “Yes,” I answered.
“Which number corresponds to the man you recognize?”
“Where have you met him before?”
“He was my Lyft driver.”
It took all of 30 seconds. I thanked the detectives for their time and efforts, visited the bathroom to blow my nose, and exited the building the same way I came in. SVU promised they’d give me a ride to the museum if I needed one, but I decided to take the 5. The man who accompanied me made me laugh on the walk back to the subway station. I sat with my head on his shoulder for 45 blocks. When the train hissed up to the Union Square platform, I kissed him on the cheek and transferred to the L. I arrived at the Whitney Museum of American Art for its annual Art Party at exactly 9 p.m.
Only a few revelers had arrived by then—show up to a party too early in this town and you might as well tattoo “Fake Instagram Model” on your forehead—but my press access absolves me of this particular faux pas. A Saturn-blonde account executive named Trinity confirmed I was on the list and sent me on my way.
The normally airplane-hangar-esque lobby looked positively lush. Dorm room Christmas lights dripped from the ceiling, little black tables commiserated in clusters, and off to the left, Samsung employees lowered VR goggles over the eyes of several very excited middle-aged men. I made a beeline for virtual reality. After a bit of tinkering, a beautiful woman in a black dress lowered the goggles onto my head. “Would you like to see the beginning of time, The Martian, or Stranger Things?” she asked. I wanted Mars.
Suddenly I’m Matt Damon in a spacesuit, gazing out over a heavily pixilated desert wasteland. There’s an iron rod jammed through my bleeding chest, but I’m going to survive. After all, I’m a botanist with a heart of gold.
Before long, the temptation of the funk music and the crowd began to creep underneath the technology wrapped around my head, so I thanked the Samsung girls and started to make my way across the floor. The rapidly growing swarm of guests was almost universally young and beautiful and extravagantly dressed. I liked my pink hair and crop top, but I felt a stab of self-consciousness as I watched Karlie Kloss glide past in a black cocktail dress. She didn’t have time for press tonight.
I spoke briefly with the excessively nice husband and wife team behind Krammer & Stoudt, “an East Coast label with West Coast cool” that “offers a distinct perspective on modern contemporary menswear” (according to their website). The three of us bonded over our shabby civilian streetwear and felt considerably better when we spotted a pair of performance artists, painted red like demons, wearing ass-less chaps.
Excusing myself, I sidled up to a huge table laden down with liquor. The bartender gave me a once-over as he passed me a glass of white wine. “You’re way too cool for this crowd,” he sighed. “I used to see people like you all the time at the Mudd Club.” I give him a wink and wandered away to find Common. The linguistic master and sartorial savant wasn’t hard to spot: he was dressed in a cerulean blue suit that’s causing his admirers to go into paroxysms of giggles.
“I’ve met you before,” Common said, shaking my hand. It’s true: two months ago, I watched him perform with a full band at the afterparty for director Ava DuVernay’s 13th documentary. I ask the rapper why he was in attendance. “No place values art the way the Whitney has,” he purred. “It’s a place to bring people together who have had disparate experiences.” Later in the evening, I spotted him again in the “Dreamlands” exhibition on the fifth floor, wearing 3D glasses and cackling with delight at the images being projected onto the walls of a cozy plexiglas igloo. He was accompanied by André Holland, the actor who portrayed Chiron’s lover Kevin in the critically acclaimed movie Moonlight. Standing together, the two men looked like gods.
As the revelry starts to get increasingly rowdy around 12:30 a.m., my friend Jon departed into the night and I danced my way through the happy guests in the lobby until I was bounced directly in front of Questlove, who was blasting Beyoncé’s “Love On Top.” Honey, honey, I can see the stars all the way from here.